Category Archives: Recommendations

My first… Digital album

Further to my recent blog post on CD’s Vs. Digital music, I recently made a startling discovery.

I have never bought a digital album or song in my life.

I sort of guessed I had at some point, given I listen to so much digital music, but I definitely haven’t. It’s all streaming services or ripped albums from my own CD collection.

Now, I have kept a keen eye on the bootlegs for the recent Pearl Jam Euro Tour where I seen them live for the first time in Manchester. I am super keen to source the bootleg for the performance I was at. This is a rare artefact.

Looking up the prices though.. I have worked my way through my decision making process and decided to purchase the digital version of the recording.

Why? It’s cheaper. Markedly cheaper, as the delivery from the United States elevates the cost considerably. I would no doubt rip the CD immediately and rarely listen to the CD version of the performance anyhow, merely enjoying the physicality of the CD itself. Money is tight just now, and I’m moving flat so I have more room (presently small flat plus clutter, mainly DVD’s and CD’s really).

I think this is a ration decision making process, as reluctant as I am to ‘shift’ to digital music. This is not a major studio album release, it’s an official bootleg. I can live with that.

Additionally, I could burn the digital copy and make a funky personalised sleeve with increased value.

I’m still sort of amazed I’ve went so long without buying a digital song. That it has come down to this, a live official bootleg.. I find amusing.

As mentioned previously, I am warming to the concept of a clutter-free flat. This is the only real advantage I can settle on for digital music over CD.

For now, a great live performance of the Riot Act cut ‘Thumbing my way’

Tweets that don’t land me in jail @meltedpigeon

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Guest blog post on Live Music Exchange: Anatomy of a gig

Click the Link or copy the following link into your browser http://livemusicexchange.org/blog/anatomy-of-a-gig-2-roger-waters-the-wall-steven-brown/ to read a guest blog post on a live performance I saw last year in London: Roger Waters performing The Wall.

In the post I go into more detail than your average concert review, discussing the business of live music along with notions of value, authenticity and nostalgia. The post concludes on motivations on live music attendance, concluding that technology may not necessarily be a good thing..

Please also check out the website also. A great resource for anyone interested in live music.

Enjoy!

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Review: The Dark Knight Rises

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Praise

TDKR is awesome. But not a conventional kind of awesome. It’s BIG. Inception big (I was actually waiting for Leonardo Di Caprio to wake up..).

If the first film was about Bruce Wayne, the second about Batman, then this one is definitely about Gotham. Gotham finally finds itself standing up for itself, which only in hindsight is more satisfying than the Batman taking care of business again. Initially, I was a bit miffed that so little screen time is given to the Batman.

The origin of Bane is fantastic and this is my favourite incarnation of Catwoman. The stellar cast are all put to good use, with new characters being particularly exciting, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character of Blake.

The action sequences are immersive, there’s alot of heart (thanks to another wonderful performance by Michael Caine) and a genuinely satisfying ending. The film also does a great job of tying things together from the previous films.

It’s more like a Bond movie, than anything else, complete with Bond women. The climax is also very Bond, where the structure of the film more or less follows the recent blockbuster format of building up to an epic final hour. The most Bond-like elements of the film are the themes. Bond movies always deal with the zeitgest of the times, the big worries. TDK has often been considered an allegory on the war on terror, where TDKR very much works in themes surrounding the bankers crisis/recession along with climate change/sustainability issues. There’s also hints towards privacy issues.

Bane’s plan (cannot say much without spoiling) is perhaps the most terrifying imaginable, as it is within the realms of possibility in the real world with such a great imbalance of power/wealth. Oppression – resistance – freedom. Chaos into order.

Like Bond, the movies are only as good as the villains and therein lies a main issue for me (see below).

I could go on with the positives (think ‘cellphone’ and ‘rope’), where it ranks highly on my top IMAX cinema experiences.

But it’s not all unconditional praise.

Criticisms

There are a few plotholes and the emotional centre of the film is lost entirely with Alfred absent for much of the film, where the middle section was so grand it was hard to follow. There are a lot of characters here, with various threads all weaving into the overall story (but it does all come together). Like I said, Batman is absent for alot of the film which is difficult to swallow, given it’s a Batman movie. I could not engage with the character of the Bane at all, without being able to see his mouth. His voice doesn’t particularly sound like it’s coming from his mouth (which it won’t be), which is an issue. Not convinced about his fate being befitting either (can’t say much here, in spoiler-free form). Conceptually, the opening of the film is also equivalent to TDK.

I could go on, but it would be petty points. I’ve said my bit.

Conclusion

No film is without it’s flaws, even TDK. I do however believe that on repeat viewings, I will be able to come to terms with the negatives, all of which really stem from the fact Nolan is the fucking man and made a massive movie with balls, relying on his audience being up for the challenge. I can respect that.

A satisfying conclusion to the series and one I’m keen to watch again.

And again.

SUPER SPOILERS-GALORE REVIEW

 

 

 

 

 

 

As per above, with the following additions.

How the hell did Bruce Wayne get back to Gotham?

Why spell out Blakes’ name as Robin? And after continuous promises that the character would not appear in the franchise? It was a Marvel-franchise sort of in-joke. Early on in the film when Blake revealed his backstory I was already putting together the pieces of the puzzle for myself. This could be the next Batman. Later, he was a natural and fearless leader with some of the exchanges between Batman and, erm, Robin, being very, well, Batman and Robin. Not sure I needed to hear his name.

Not happy with how Bane died. So much was made of his physical prowess over Batman that from a writing standpoint, the only satisfying outcome would be for Batman to beat him to death. Not for Catwoman to shoot him. That’s just not a satisfying arc. Kill Bill made the same mistake, letting Elle Driver kill Bud, not the Bride.

I anticipated Catwoman to be a romantic interest as there is always one, but it was unnecessary. The romance was always between Bruce and Alfred, never more so than in TDKR. At least little was made of it, not woven deep into the fabric of the movie. This is a plus and minus, as it makes the conclusion a little underdeveloped. Not sure what Catwomans backstory was either, to feel Bruce could let it go. I guess she is match for him in a way. I bought it.

As mentioned before, I think Alfreds absence for much of the film was a bad call. It did however, really help give the climax a really big punch. My missus of course called it, because she is good at that. I didn’t. It was perfect. I was expecting an Inception style shot, where I think Nolan used this expectation to his advantage to manipulate the audience and then give them the shot they wanted to see, after the pause. Well played, Chris.

My missus also called Marion Cotillard as the villain. I did not see that coming. Was too distracted by Matthew Modine in a minor role. Another great sleight of hand, but all too late in the film for me.

‘3 months later’. Really?

Dr. Crane. Why?

Auto-pilot. Genius. Also, didn’t see that coming. Well played, Chris.

Fan of Luther? Blink and you’ll miss it: Ripley is in it! So is Tom Conti, who is fantastic in this film.

Bruce Wayne got laid. Awesome. Also very Bond-like, sleeping with the (at the time unknown) enemy.

I could continue with minor criticisms but the main overall problem for me was the middle section being so grand it was hard to follow. I like to think with repeat viewings I will learn to get over any difficulties I had where I am still looking out for more on Catwomans backstory. I feel like I missed something.

Looking ahead, two key questions emerge:

Will Batmans identity be revealed?

Will Robin become the new Caped Crusader?

It was a bit strange to have so many people know Batmans identity in this film and not make a big thing out of it, given it was such a big part of TDK. We know Gordon doesn’t like to keep his secrets hidden.. what do you think?

If the answer is no, and I like to think it is, then it links nicely onto Robin adopting the persona, so that Batman can be immortal, as per the League of Shadows training and continuous mentions throughout the movie about what it means to be a hero, what Batman can be etc.

Overall, I feel satisfied. I wan’t to see it again. But not on the second row of an IMAX screening. Looking up for 3 hours is nae fun.

4 out of 5, if I had such a system.

*

Will make no mention of the US shooting in this review, as I believe it to be too early to fully understand what went on. Tragic doesn’t even begin to cover it.

*

13 minute preview below:

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A tribute to The Chemical Brothers (part one of three)

It was recently brought to my attention that a friend of mine (and passionate music lover) ‘didn’t really know The Chemical Brothers’.

This cannot continue!

Easily one of my favourite bands, it is with pleasure I set out to compile six 5-track compilations showing off various sides of the dance duo in the hope of winning him over, and perhaps some of you blog readers too.

And it is on that note, I bring you the first two compilations: Hard tracks and Soft cuts.

Chemical Brothers Playlist one – Hard tracks

Chemical Brothers Playlist two – Soft cuts

I have been immersed in The Chemical Brothers since the phenomenal live concert performance Don’t Think was released. One of the best cinema experiences of my life, it captures the live experience perhaps better than any other concert film I have been fortunate to see.

Mega recommended.

Would ramble on about each song on the compilation, but I won’t.

Believe.

Coming soon, vocal collaborations, non-album tracks, album closers and best of the rest.

For now, a rare live video of The Golden Path with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips. Because I can’t imagine anything more summery and appropriate to round off this blog post.

Also, more ‘tributes’ to follow over coming months including Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam and Radiohead.

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Concert Review: Pearl Jam, Manchester June 21, 2012

After a series of false starts, including actually owning PJ tickets and reluctantly having to sell them off (with a considerable financial loss), I finally got to see Pearl Jam.

Only played Scotland twice in 20 years (what’s the deal!?), both before I got right into them. Increasing ticket prices, plus travel and accommodation.. it all adds up.

And so, I had to go to Manchester. Not a big deal. Big music town, like it there alot. Despite the fact they don’t have seats or bins anywhere.

I went the second of the two nights, where a glance at the setlist for night one was particularly heavy on Ten. As much as I love Ten (why wouldn’t I?) I have listened to at least 100 different performances of songs like Black and Evenflow, many of which I have listened to dozens and dozens of times. The set was hits-heavy, almost like a festival set.

Armed with this knowledge.. I had my heart set on a riskier set, heavier on Vs. and No Code. And.. that’s exactly what I got!

Setlist

Really good seats, good acoustics (although Eddie’s voice was a bit muddy at times) with a really cool live black and white video feed helped improve the overall concert experience. A really strong opening trio, where the energy didn’t really let down much over the main set. Really up tempo throughout, with only a few ballads. Banking on Oceans for a set-opener, but instead got Go. Minus the drum intro, it’s actually a phenomenal way to start a set. IN-YOUR-FACE.

Great improv on Wishlist, Better Man, Rearviewmirror and Daughter with some proper rarities in there, including the first ever performance of Hitchhiker. Not sure I have ever seen Better Man included in a setlist as the main set closer, but it worked. Always been a big fan of the middle-eight on RVM. So cool to finally see it jammed out. Eddie also got his e-bow out for Wishlist, on a tight improv. Was really pleased they played that song.

Was particularly pleased to hear Just Breathe (easily the highlight of Backspacer), Present tense (!) and Alive.

McCready was notably lively throughout, with some typical Eddie ‘ramblings’ keeping the atmosphere grounded in the moment. Few fuck-ups, which is surprising given these two performances back-to-back mark their first shows in over 7 months. Eddie got the lyrics wrong to a few songs, but nothing out of the ordinary. Wouldn’t have it any other way, strangely. The solos were especially gripping. McCready never ceases to amaze me. He makes lead guitar improv look so effortless, it’s unbelievable. Eddie’s voice was also as good as it’s ever been, where on the tracks he didn’t don a guitar, he was moving about the stage more than I’ve ever seen.

Perhaps I just never noticed before.

Speaking of which.. I DID notice on the Evenflow improv solo, Eddie slipped away behind Boom’s organ to smoke a cigarette. This got me thinking of the consistent positioning of Evenflow a third/halfway into a main set, perhaps to allow for this break regularly. Also, that’s technically against the law?

I have however heard from a few sources that he frequently pays the fine for the smoking ban up front (can anyone confirm this?) which is very Eddie. Breaking the rules.. politely. Part of me loves the idea. It’s very rock and roll. The other, more sensible part of me thinks its a shameful waste of money, both in terms of the fact he has such disposable income and that an addiction can be so costly. Given that he was hiding away though, and it’s not common knowledge (seriously, can someone confirm this!?) then I have to say I am not mad at him. It’s not in your face. IF it’s true.

I still love you, Ed.

Back to the gig.. and I can honestly say I’ve never sang so much in my life. I was surprised I knew so many lyrics (but not to Lukin..).

Only been to one concert on this scale before, Roger Waters (see pending blog entry) where he physically erected a wall between the band and the audience. It was a ‘show’, with lots of visuals to keep things interesting. It worked.

Pearl Jam, in such a huge arena? Didn’t work for me. Was struggling to engage all the way up in my seats, despite the clear view. Maybe if I was standing down front I would’ve had a better experience.

Overall, so glad I finally got to see my beloved PJ, delivering the goods as always. Crucially, for me, they looked like they were really enjoying themselves. The live feed regularly captured the band members smiling at each other, clearly still enthused to be playing songs like Evenflow – even after 500 or so performances.

A big part of PJ is that they play a different set list every night, throwing in covers and b-sides, with improvisations. There’s a definite positive correlation between people who are into this and the sort of people who spent quality time on the Internet.

As such.. for any PJ nutters out there, find below a few links to some great websites. There’s also a great Twitter presence for Pearl Jam fans. Have a look.

http://www.cometotheporch.net/

http://www.twofeetthick.com/

http://www.theskyiscrape.com/

Also find below a poll (because I just realised that not only can I do this, but it’s alarmingly simple) where I ask which of the Manchester setlists appeals to you best.

Photos of both setlists can be found at the bottom of this post.

For now, a live cover of ‘Mother’ (Pink Floyd).

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Night one (note Marker in the sand was not played, despite being listed)

and

Night two

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Sport and technology

Is technology being used effectively in live sports coverage?

I must admit, I love Hawkeye with the BBC coverage of live Snooker. Hawkeye maps the table and swoops in to show you what’s what from the point of view of the player. It’s useful, in that it clears up debate on whether or not a player may or may not be snookered or have a free ball, for example.

In the recent World Championship, they also started to include stats on how far the cueball has travelled to hit the object ball, and the distance between the object ball and pocket. This is not quite as interesting or spectacular in my mind, where it does, in fairness, facilitate discussion on how good a shot was. The further the distance between the cueball and object ball, the more difficult it is to gain good backspin. In this regard, it more or less does just what the shot speed statistics in tennis does, which is often quoted and always interesting.

We will call this one a justified addition to the technology canon of the BBC commentators, where nothing will ever beat Dennis Taylors amazing digital mapping of where he thinks the balls will go. Where he is ALWAYS right.

In Football however, I have noticed some ridiculous efforts to make the half-time pee-break an event in itself. Rewinding on Sky and Sci-Fi Subbuteo recreations on ESPN.. Why bother? It’s enough to make your head hurt. Just wheesht for 15 minutes and show us good goals or bad tackles. The half-time break wasn’t in itself broken. Don’t try to fix it.

Everyone loves sports statistics but I feel lately that broadcasters have been overusing technology to try and make events more exciting, with often counter-intuitive results. As Charlie Brooker has often remarked, news broadcasters with their over-the-top charts achieve little else but confusion.

I propose technology is better used in sports coverage by attaching tiny cameras to darts, which are then thrown directly into the faces of celebrities, chosen by use of the red button.

Just a thought.

New Music Piracy Research blog

I started this blog so I could ramble on in more depth than facebook would let me, but something else happened entirely..

I found myself writing in a different way on a blog than on facebook.

There’s more room to construct blog entries on a site where you are the boss rather than what feels like more temporary (despite not being at all temporary) and more private (despite not being at all private) posts on facebook. Regardless, the lack of others piling in adding to what you say, forcing you to make updates constantly.. whatever it was, I started writing in a different way and more importantly, about different things.

Onto my point, I have decided to take this further by creating another blog all about all things music piracy based, making research findings available only to a handful of academics accessible to the general public. Much of this blog is music-based anyhow, so I figured if you were interested in that content you might be interested in my new professional blog. It’s not all music piracy, alot of content about the digital revolution in general with good links to other resources.

www.musicpiracyresearchblog.blogspot.co.uk is the place to be, with daily Twitter updates @musicpiracyblog

I will continue this blog, for fun! Got some more ideas up my sleeve to say the least… Expect MUSIC!

Starting to really take to Twitter actually.. @ meltedpigeon if yer into that sort of thang.

Please see video below which blurs the boundaries of the respective aims of both this blog and my new one.

Thanks.

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