Tag: London

MUSIC REVIEW | The Clash – The Clash (1977)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “One of the most important records in rock and roll history.”

Clash 1
When people talk about the origins of punk rock, bands like The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Clash are usually pretty quickly mentioned.  Here’s the thing, I like the Ramones, but I think they basically just sped up and turned up classic 50s rock n roll.  And I think The Sex Pistols were basically nothing more than a manufactured boy band, not much different to New Kids on the block or One Direction.  But The Clash, they’re a band I can get on board with being hailed as pioneers.  Not just in punk rock, but in rock in general.  So, I decided to make my way through their catalogue for Bored and Dangerous, starting where they did, with their eponymous debut, 1977’s The Clash.

With its urgent, impatient drums and Joe Strummer’s just as urgent vocals, Janie Jones is a pretty amazing way for a band to kick off their debut album.   It might not be as loud, or fast, or heavy as punk would become, but that doesn’t mean it lacks any of the attitude or energy.   It sets such an urgent tone, Remote Control comes off as almost restrained and pretty in comparison.  In two songs, this fledgling band pretty much justifies being the revered icons they have been for almost four decades. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***DIRECTOR DEBUT WEEK*** Hitchcock: The Pleasure Garden (1925)

Pleasure Garden
As far as directors with household names go, the top two would have to be Spielberg and Hitchcock.  And while Spielberg gets to remind the world he exists every year or two with more massive budget blockbusters, Hitchcock’s enduring notoriety hangs in there, despite the fact that he’s been dead for more than 30 years and hasn’t made a movie in almost 40.  In fact, his name is so enduring and has been around cinema for so long, the first time it appeared with a director’s credit, it was on a silent film, The Pleasure Garden.

The story of two young chorus girls, Patsy (Virginia Valli) who is wide eyed and Jill (Carmelita Geraghty) who is wide legged.  They both work at The Pleasure Garden, a theatre in London, and live together in Patsy’s small studio flat. Jill’s fiancé, Hugh (Joh Stuart) stops by on his way to a two year stint on an overseas plantation where he’ll save the money to finally marry Jill.  With Hugh is his boss, Levet (Miles Mander), a possible love interest for Patsy.

Once Hugh is out of the country, Jill is happy to accept the affections, money and gifts of a horny prince and Patsy heads to the far off land where the plantation is to discover Levet may not be the top bloke she thought he was.

While Hitchcock may have become a name synonymous with suspense, horror, intrigue and twist endings, The Pleasure Garden has none of these things.  If this story was any more simple, straight forward and predictable, it would be a Kathrine Hiegl rom com.

There’s acting, and the then there’s silent film ACTING!  It seems like film makers back then were worried that the title cards weren’t enough to get the story across.  They wanted to make sure each massive eyebrow raise, cramp inducing scowl, frustrated fist shake and whiplash causing eyelash flutter did all it could to propel the story.

I’d like to say there are signs of the director Hitchcock would become, but there really is no real directorial flare.  Then again, being made in 1925, when feature length films were still in their infancy, the fact that he was able to tell a coherent story at all is probably amazing enough.  And a sign that Hitchcock was someone who would go on to much bigger, and much, much better things.The Pleasure Garden
Directed By – Alfred Hitchcock
Written By – Eliot Standard

MOVIE REVIEW | Oil City Confidential (2009)

OIL CITY POSTER V SMALL

Have you ever heard of the band Dr Feelgood?  I hadn’t, and it turns out they were pretty big at their peak.  Oil City Confidential is the story of the formation and early years.  It’s also the story of their bizarre home town, Canvey Island, Essex.  It was directed by Julian Temple who has built a reputation as the go to music documentarian, beginning with his Sex Pistols centric The Great Rock ’n’ Swindle in 1979.  And like Swindle, I just don’t get Temple’s style of film making.  But more on that later.


Canvey Island is only technically an island.  A small creek you could walk across without getting your pants wet is all that separates it from the “mainland”.  But as one local in the documentary says, “It’s an island, you can sail right the way around it.”  Since the inhabitants really do live in a depressing, ugly, soul crushing place, I guess we can let them have their island status if it gives them even the smallest hope to cling to.  Canvey Island really is the kind of “England” you imagine when thinking about its worst stereotypical features.  The beach is all mud, the town sits under a towering oil refinery and it seems inhabited with people who never left, not because they love it there, but because they don’t even know it’s an option.

Canvey Island does however offer the most interesting aspects of Oil City Coinf9idential.  Its proximity to London’s East End made it a popular holiday and weekend getaway spot for full blown geezers.  The stories in the film’s setup, talking about the cockney, likely lads and the affiliations they brought to the island made me wish that was the subject of the documentary.  Instead, this story isn’t interested in the visitors to Canvey Island, it’s interested in its most famous export, Dr Feelgood, a band of four locals trying to bring Mississippi rhythm and blues to 1970s Britain.

The majority of the talking head footage is dedicated to original Feelgoods (that’s what fans call them) guitarist and song writer, Wilko Johnson.  I assume the majority of talking heads footage is dedicated to Johnson because Johnson is an insufferable show off.  Poor old Julian Temple must have used so much film indulging Johnson’s mugging, extreme close up lunges to the camera, small-child-with-a-full-bladder-fidgeting and self-conscious, self-imposed weirdness, I guess there was hardly any left to shoot much with the other members of the band.  Just in case I’m not being clear, Wilko Johnson is the kind of guy who thinks he’s the life of the party, but really, everyone thinks about turning off the lights and pretending no one’s home when they spot him on the way to the front door.

Almost as self-conscious and “weird” as Wilko, are Temple’s choices as director.  I hate to fault a film maker for trying to be original and attempt something different, but like The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle, most of those attempts just seem like he’s trying a little too hard.  One interviewee is filmed in a phone box.  But if that’s not “interesting” enough, Temple has him speak into the phone and avoid eye contact with the camera or Temple, like he’s actually having the conversation on the phone.  The band’s manager at one point speaks from the driver’s seat of an old, wrecked car.  Is it a ham fisted comment on the decay of Canvey Island and the inhabitant’s acceptance of that decay?  Or is it just the kind of thing a film school student might do because they think it’s a subtle comment on the decay of Canvey Island and the inhabitant’s acceptance of that decay?  There is trick though that does work amazingly well.  Some of the interviews with ex-band members take place in front of a huge, forty foot oil refinery tower at night, with old footage of the Feelgoods at their 70s prime, projected onto the tower.  And it just looks amazing.

Dr Feelgood update, they still tour today, even though they haven’t had a single original member since 1993.  What’s the point?

Directed By – Julian Temple