Sunday, October 08, 2006

Opinions Alert!

Hello you lot!

I've not updated for a couple of days, as I've been doing stuff. Well, I did stuff on Friday at least. Yesterday, I didn't get up until well into the afternoon and then just dossed around, occasionally pointing my eyes at the TV screen.

So yeah, like I said, I did some stuff on Friday and here are my thoughts on those things what I did.

FIELD MUSIC @ Night & Day, Manchester (6.10.06)

Field Music are a pretty special band really. In these days of British bands writing three minute punk-pop tunes that, while being occasionally brilliant, often sound so effortless as to be downright lazy. Field Music are that rare beast then, a band who painstakingly build songs from the ground up with an attention to detail that their peers could learn a lot from.

This was my third time of seeing Field Music live and everytime it baffles me just how little respect they get from flaky, attention-span deficient crowds, often waiting for the headline act. Last time I saw them, they were opening for fellow Mackems, The Futureheads and were hamstrung by an anticipant crowd of young kids (seriously, that gig made me feel really old). It's not that what Field Music do is not immediate, on the contrary, they make some very easy-to-like pop tunes, it's just that there's a muted humility about them that in today's rock climate is extremely admirable indeed.

Therein lies the rub, however. Because Field Music don't feel the need to shout their brilliance from the rooftops with their chests bared, it can be sometimes quite easy to miss that brilliance completely. Tonight's gig should have been a lot easier for them than any opening slots they've played before, as after all, they are headlining. That it was the biggest struggle I'd witnessed them face was all down to other external factors.

Tonight's gig was sponsored by Jack Daniel's, something to do with it being JD's birthday. It was basically just an excuse to try and trick stupid people into spending three quid a time on single Jack and Coke's in the name of a promotion. As with all corporate beanos, there appeared to be a lot of people there on a freebie and just as many people there for unimpressive (going off the ten minutes I actually caught) support act, The Zetlands. In the face of this, Field Music did the noble thing; they road-tested a whole bunch of new songs.

The new stuff was almost uniformly excellent, not straying from their debut's template much but with a more danceable side to them that should hopefully see them garner a few more admirers. Of the old stuff, live favourites like 'If Only The Moon Were Up' and 'It's Not The Only Way To Feel Happy' went down best, the latter being a pitch-perfect recreation of the studio version.

There is a problem that I have with Field Music in the live arena and that's that the basic three-piece setup often fails to do the sparkly, multi-layered pop symphonies they create in the studio justice. For instance, astounding new single, 'In Context' loses a little in translation as they ditch the floaty guitar line in favour of just the bass, piano and drums. And of course, try as he well might, Pete Brewis just can't play the drums backwards, so 'In Context' ends up coming across as a little flatter, a little more prosaic and just lacking that certain something that makes the single version fly.

But these are minor gripes when the real, essential greatness of the songs just can't fail to shine through. For all those chatting away at the back of the Night & Day, then shame on you. Like I said, Field Music are a pretty special band and they deserve so much better than this.

Someone asked me a few weeks ago why I don't do any film reviews, to which I replied, "Well, it's a music blog". Well, I have been known to do the odd one in the past and the whole "music blog" smokescreen is just that. There's no hard and fast rules for this kind of thing, other than the major cardinal tenet of Thou Shalt Post What You Want, When You Want. Follow Your Whims.

Anyway, in short, I went to see a film on Friday, so here's a review.

CHILDREN OF MEN (15) (Dir: Alfonso Cuaron. Starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Pam Ferris, Chiwetel Ejiofor)

Children Of Men is set in London in 2027; a civil war-torn hellhole, which happens to be the last vestige of what's left of civilisation. In this pre-apocalyptic London, no children have been born for eighteen years due to unknown circumstances. Clive Owen's befuddled antihero, Theo Faron bumbles into being charged with helping a pregnant African immigrant girl reach safety in the form of the mythical, possibly non-existent Human Project.

If this all sounds like sci-fi guff to you, then you'd most probably be right, but the details are fudged only to help the bigger picture and in this sense, that bigger picture is that if you ignore the underexplained politics and psychobabble, then Children Of Men is an invigorating, surprising thrill-ride with pretentions towards social comment.

The casting, despite being occasionally a bit on the novelty side (Michael Caine as a weed-smoking drill 'n' bass enthusiast. Pam Ferris with crusty dreadlocks), is pretty much spot-on, across the board. Owen has a bedraggled, everyman quality, never showboating when a world-weary shrug will do. Moore is as watchable as ever in a slightly thankless role and Caine takes delight in playing air guitar and tricking people into pulling his finger. Ejiofor adds another solid performance to his growing CV and Ferris blends new-agey Earthmother with mumsy stoicism.

The acting takes a backseat to the story's machinations, however. An episodic, picaresque nature drives the narrative, with Owen and newcomer, Claire-Hope Ashitey at the centre, trying to hide her pregnancy from anyone with an ulterior motive, while trying to navigate the chaos that surrounds them. This leads to some superb set-pieces, which come along at alarming, bone-shaking frequency, adding a few well-timed jumps into the mix. Along with the likes of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder's Dawn Of The Dead remake, Children Of Men is helping to forge a whole new look and design from the standard action-thriller template, one that has as much intelligence as the average dramatic fare and throws in elements of the horror genre to keep things thrilling.

As I said, Children Of Men has a few too many flaws to be considered a possible future classic, but as a white-knuckle rollercoaster ride with an often sharp, Swiftian bite, it's sure to stand the test of time. Do yourself a favour though and check it out now, before the world goes to shit.

That's it for now,



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