Sunday, 29 January 2012

FIREFEST 2012 LINEUP ANNOUNCED

Firefest 2012 has been announced in full by Kieran Dargan on the Steve Price Rock Show on ARFM, and it's absolutely spectacular. 18 brilliant melodic rock acts over three days (October 19-21 at Nottingham Rock City). The full details are available at The Firefest website, but here to whet your appetite are the bands playing, which have been revealed tonight by mainman Kieran!

If you like your rock melodic and have a taste for some names that stir up an entire era, then feast your eyes on these:

FRIDAY: 
LIONVILLE, DANTE FOX, TEN, TYKETTO 


SATURDAY: 
JOHNNY LIMA, WORK OF ART, ROBIN BECK, SANTERS, XYZ, MITCH MALLOY, GOTTHARD 


SUNDAY: 
FARCRY, FIONA, ROYAL HUNT, BRIGHTON ROCK, LILLIAN AXE, STAGE DOLLS, DANGER DANGER 

Now THAT is a rock festival bill. Time to start getting excited again!!! For me as a music fan, and particularly a melodic rock fan, this bill sees a LOT of dreams come true. Brilliant, one and all!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Underworld Awakening: "Heavy Prey" featuring Lacey Sturm of Flyleaf

I went to see UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING on Monday (my review is over at Diary of a Genre Addict), and now I can't get this song from the soundtrack out of my head. It's the perfect sort of song to go with the movie. Looking forward to picking up the soundtrack CD once it's out over here!

THE CROW REMAKE – NEW WRITER, NEW DIRECTOR, SAME BAD IDEA


The Crow remake has yet another writer and director attached to it. Look, Hollywood, put the remake down and walk away from it. We know you can't stop messing about with things that are already fine and dandy as they are, but seriously, this remake of The Crow that you seem to be obsessed with making, no matter how many people quit the project and how many people deride it and cry out against it. I think you're all mad.

I can understand the interest in remaking it – there is money to be had thanks to brand familiarity from the wider audience and a diehard core audience who love the original so much, but seriously, this is one film you should leave alone.

Yes, there were sequels and a TV series, and while they were largely awful, they did nothing to diminish the power of the original movie. Plus, the original film carries such poignancy due to the sad circumstances of its production and completion following the death of star Brandon Lee on set.

It stands as a bittersweet and beautifully realized legacy for him, very much an icon of the era that the film was released into, and no amount of slick CGI and slow-motion shots in the rain are going to change that fact, no matter how much money you throw at it.

Just leave The Crow alone. It is what it is, and it does not need to be sullied further by a remake with none of the heart, pathos or impact of the original. Bad Hollywood. Naughty Hollywood. No biscuit for you.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Tips For Bands On Creating Your Bio Sheet


I'm currently finishing up my reviews batch for an upcoming issue of the magazine, and something has been bugging me. There are a lot of new bands out there who are trying their hardest to get some recognition, which is admirable in the current musical and financial climate, but who are going about one key aspect all wrong.

The bio sheet, or Press Release, depending on how seriously you take yourself, is an integral part of any promotional package that is sent out to magazines (and thus journos such as myself), and it's easy to get carried away with what you put onto it.

I, like many other rock journalists, really don't need most of the stuff that a lot of bands like to include in their press material, and thus here is a brief guide to a professional – and useful – bio sheet.

What we need:
Information presented in a clear and uncluttered manner, so we can help YOU get to where you want to be.

What we DON'T need:
Background images behind the text, fancy fonts, several pages of what your mates think, lots of photos. Flashy doesn't equal good.

The length: 
One sheet is preferred, but two sheets is acceptable if it is completely necessary (which it usually isn't). Using one sheet of A4 minimises waste, maximises the content you're showing us and helps to keep your postage costs low. Printing on both sides of the sheet is a good idea too, if you need the extra space.

The essentials: 
The following things MUST be on there (and don't scoff at some which seem basic – people DO miss them off...):

Band name 
Band members 
Contact details (email, phone, postal, management, website, twitter etc) 
Title of the release being promoted 
Release date 
Record label (or listing as 'Independent Release' for unsigned acts) 
Song titles 

The rest:
Then there are additional things which come in very handy for people reviewing the material too:

Brief biography (100 words or so – include where the band was formed, influences and history) 
Relevant quotes 
Discography 
A picture of the band 

It is very possible for all of this information to be included on one piece of A4 without too much of a squeeze, making it easier for you to get your point across and easier for us to write accurate reviews of your music.

Oh, and a rule for coming across as a professional prospect: MAKE SURE YOUR SHEET CONTAINS NO SPELLING MISTAKES OR GRAMMATICAL ERRORS. While this last part is not absolutely essential (especially when bands are from other countries), it does help to present yourselves and your material in a good light. Good luck, you talented guys and girls.

The world is out there for the taking. Just make sure you do it right.

Your humble busy rock writer,
Andrew

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Watching... 'Watching The Detectives'

I've had this 2007 film on my radar for a while. The premise appeals to the film geek in me, and I can always use something to fill the void left by there only being one High Fidelity and one Clerks 2 in the world. Cillian Murphy plays the owner of a video store (remember those?

I certainly do, and I miss them lots) who lives his life through the films he watches (this is kinda too close to home, really). Then Violet (Lucy Liu) walks into his life and starts making him live life for real through a series of pranks and very endearing exchanges.

It's drawing me in, and making me yearn for the days of having a local video store nearby. There's something about it that brings to mind the films of Kevin Smith and John Hughes without directly copying them. The High Fidelity aspect of it is of course the film nerds, and that's the part I relate to far too much. That aside, I do recommend you watch Watching The Detectives sometime, if only to keep the spirit of video shops alive, even a little bit.

Sigh. Being a nerd can be bittersweet.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

SISTER SIN - "SOUND OF THE UNDERGROUND"

I've had this song stuck in my head for almost a week now. Sister Sin are a superb band with no bullshit to their sound - just raw, mean and melodic hard rock with a metal edge. This is from the album 'True Sound of the Underground', which rocks just as hard as this the whole way through. Buy it.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Simon Pegg: Speaking to the nerd in all of us

I'm currently reading Simon Pegg's awesome autobiography (awesomography?), Nerd Do Well, and am kicking myself for not reading it sooner. I've been having a bit of a geek-life crisis of late, after being unable to indulge my inner nerd much lately due to free time and money issues (i.e. not much of either), but now the chaos of the Christmas period has been reduced to flickering embers (like those you see in the background of any post-apocalyptic SF film), I can feel the nerd rising once again.

This is nice, as I've been pining for my days working in a comic shop lately. Not the job in itself, but more the people I used to work with and the customers we would enjoy and endure in equal measures. In fact, I'm writing a book about my nine years in a comic shop, which I'll tell you more about soon. What I have been missing the most is that sense of camaraderie, that sense of being comfortable with making jokes about the way Rob Liefeld would draw legs without being stared at as though I'm a lunatic.

Simon's honesty and enthusiasm in Nerd Do Well is a joy to behold, and remarkably life-affirming where many autobiographies seem to depress or frustrate. Mr Pegg comes across genuinely as one of us, and that's one of the many reasons I enjoy his work so much. I mean, as well as putting out some excellent performances, he's clearly having a blast ticking off every boyhood dream possible. I mean, come on, he's been a Starfleet officer, a zombie killer, a badass super cop, a Doctor Who villain and a bunch of other things the big kid in all of us wishes to try out sometime.

During my years behind a comic shop counter, I was frequently compared to his Spaced character, Tim Bisley, thanks to my dress sense, questionable facial hair, love for 2000AD characters and my hatred of Jar-Jar Binks. It was a comparison I had no issues with, as it was all true. Granted, in the comic shop I worked at I didn't get to work with Bill Bailey or fight with a Bat'leth, but I did get to rant about back issues, put rows of graphic novels into chronological order and draw comic characters on signs. I even tried to be a comic artist at one point (which made a resurgence last year when the Galleries of Justice Museum commissioned me to draw the comic images of Robin Hood and the gang for an exhibition which is still running now).

I'm finding this book very reassuring and very inspirational, and after a few months of feeling rather lost and blank, I have reconnected with the things that have given me so much pleasure for the past 21 years since I properly discovered the world of geek at the age of 12. I'm halfway through the book right now, and already am feeling the geek reawaken in me.

With some very geeky projects coming up this year (including the birth of my son in a few months and his subsequent indoctrination into early geekdom via the medium of subconsciously humming the Doctor Who theme to him and suchlike), I am most pleased to be back where I belong- with my head full of spaceships and four-colour heroes. Cheers Simon!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Endeavour: A suitably subdued origin for Morse


I'm a big fan of the Morse novels by Colin Dexter, and of course the iconic TV version starring John Thaw in the lead role as our Wagner-loving, ale-supping hero, and thus it was with a little trepidation that I approached watching Endeavour the other night on ITV1.

Prequels are rarely much good, no matter how wonderful the source material is, but while this initial story for the young Morse felt a little slow in places, it did seem to capture a young Morse quite well in his formative years. The little nods towards the man he would become in later life were a delight (such as the start of his love for pubs and driving Jaguars), and Shaun Evans put in a valiant performance as the young Endeavour Morse.

He got a lot of John Thaw's mannerisms down perfectly, but seemed a little too physically slight and vocally gentle to really capture Morse's spirit. He did well, but perhaps it's a case of a part being so ingrained in popular consciousness as being played by a certain person that no matter how good he is in the part, he will never escape being compared to the original. That's to be expected, but it's also a shame as he's a fine actor who takes the material here and puts in a strong showing.

At first I did feel like I was watching a mash-up of Sherlock and Heartbeat, but that subsided once the story did hit its stride. The main issues I had with this one-off special (which is surely being seen as a pilot for a series) lay in the pacing of the story and the script itself, which seemed a little stretched in the feature-length format.

There did seem to be a little padding here and there, but nothing that really spoiled it. The plot was classic Morse, especially once he started finding his feet with the officers he was assigned to work with and once he started picking out clues that literally everyone else missed.

Special mention must go to the character of Fred Thursday, played by Roger Allam. He's the perfect archetypal hard-boiled copper, complete with hat at a jaunty angel and a fine line in telling Morse to leave the room while he 'extracts' answers from potential villains. Allam clearly had a blast with the role, and Thursday's influence on the way Morse works in later life is clearly apparent.

It can't have been an easy production to write or make, considering how loved both the novels and the TV version of Morse are, but thanks to a largely strong script by Russell Lewis, it was a most watchable drama. I do hope it becomes a series and we get to see more of the cases that shaped the icon Morse would become.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

SHERLOCK – Series 2 is here... TV is great again!


On New Year's Day, the BBC gave us a late Christmas present with the first episode of Sherlock's second series of three feature-length stories. “A Scandal In Belgravia”, the episode in question, was a joy to behold on every level for myself and my lady, not to mention millions of other people. It warms the heart that such an intelligent, sumptuously made piece of television drama is able to draw such attention to itself via its quality alone.

Thanks to the teams of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (two of my Doctor Who heroes) behind the scenes and Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman on the screen, this particular incarnation of the Sherlock Homes mythos is sure to be seen as one of the best ever.

This first new episode had everything that made the first series so spectacularly good in it, along with a new-found confidence and swagger that in lesser hands could possibly come across as showing-off. With Sherlock, it's not a case of 'look how amazingly clever we are', it's more a case of 'Isn't this fun?' Sherlock himself is as eccentric and maddeningly difficult as ever, Watson is once again our window into Sherlock's mad world, and the mythos of this version of the sleuth is having more layers added with each passing minute.

I loved the addition of The Woman in this new episode, and while there have been complaints about her nudity at the pre-watershed time it was shown, it wasn't gratuitous and fitted with the character. There's a difference between treating a person like a piece of meat on screen and an actor playing a character who is a dastardly, massively intelligent person who likes to play psychological games with her foil.

I am not that well-versed in the lore of the original Homes stories, but my lady is, and was most pleased to witness many nods to the original tales mixed in with this new episode. That's one of the many joys of this new vision of Sherlock Holmes – it is very respectful of the source material while taking a brave step towards modernizing the elements surrounding them.

At its core, the show is a very faithful adaptation of the characters and their dynamic, even if they are using mobile phones, the internet and suchlike. It is very clearly a labour of love for the cast and crew, and thanks to beautiful additional performances from a wonderful cast (including Mark Gatiss himself as the beautifully enigmatic Mycroft Holmes) it is a genuine treat to watch.

“A Scandal In Belgravia”, while being an extremely good piece of television in its own right, hints at the delights and horrors that are yet to come this series, and also reaffirms faith in audiences that TV can be witty, intelligent, engrossing and exciting all at once. It's like those Moffat and Gatiss blokes have done this gripping TV thing before with some other show. Oh wait, they have. Long may these people continue to be so utterly wonderful.