Friday, April 28, 2006

May Day! May Day!

The sun is streaming through the window and onto my back. It's Friday afternoon and Monday is a bank holiday. Great.

I'm very much looking forward to an extra day off and the resulting 4-day week. In a hop-pop and dance to another topic, I was internet surfing last night and came accross the most extra-ordinary video. Bloggers are characteristically "early-adopters" but in this case I'm running to get on the train as it pulls out of the station. This guy has been making internet waves for years, and they have finally rippled their way across to Ireland. His name is David Elsewhere and he dances like you never thought possible. You've probably seen him, or his body at least in the singing in the rain VW Golf advert.

He seems able to dislocate every bone in his body, form a blob of liquid and then move as a robot. I watched it and involuntarily shouted "no way, that's not possible".

If, like me popular culture is passing you by, take a moment and watch this video. It's on You Tube and Google video if you click here. Quite incredible, you can get more information here. The video of Ronaldinho training is amazing too if you can find it.

Have a great (long) weekend.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Religious super heroes

Continuing on from the last post, as you may not have read the link, there exists a site called "Comic Book Characters Grouped by Religious Affiliation". Very dominational, but interesting. The assumptions are backed up by large essays referencing psychological studies and particular church characteristics. It appears that Batman, like the Hulk, is a lapsed Catholic (or Episcopalian), and Superman is probably Methodist.

I had no idea people spent their time in this way. check out the site here.

A couple of things

I haven't had much to post about of recently, but today I've stumbled across a couple of things. Firstly Built to Spill, the seminal indie-rock group have a new record out and you can stream a video of "Goin" Against Your Mind" here in 56k .asx format, 128 .asx format and in .mov format.

Secondly, MSNBC has an interesting feature of God in comic books. It turns out that Peter Parker, aka Spiderman, is a believer, and most likely Protestant.

"Comic books from edgier alternative publishers and adult-oriented graphic novels have explored explicitly religious ideas for several decades, but what’s striking is how often such themes have been appearing lately in the most mainstream of publications. For a character you can’t even see, God does seem to pop up all over the place in the comic book universe." Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Live Review - Jenny Lewis and the Watson twins

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
20 April 2006
Mandela Hall, Belfast

Johnathan Rice, fresh from his cameo appearance in Walk The Line, provided witty, intoxicated support to what would prove to be an intimate seated gig with the Jenny Lewis and the 'lovely' Watson Twins. His Scottish/Californian accent and bird-flu jokes amused the audience but in comparison was little more than a diversion before the main act. Drawing exclusively from her debut solo album, 'Rabbit Fur Coat' and omitting her critically acclaimed Rilo Kiley material, Jenny beguiled and charmed her way into the hearts of all in front of her.

Opening with the acapella "Run Devil Run" and moving, as the album does, straight into "Big Guns" she was polished, tight and very professional. The Watson twins, in identical black dresses, swayed, sang and made every song sound beautiful. Even the Sex Pistols would sound good backed by the Watson Twins.

Jenny earned her name with Rilo Kiley, proved another string in her bow with the Postal Service and at 30 has taken a further twist to become a country-soul chanteuse. Before long Lewis was being berated by offers of marriage between songs. She had us taking out our change, singing, clapping and eating out of her hand by the time she left the stage to a chorus of wolf-whistles. And she deserved it. Even mediocre album cuts when reproduced live flourished with the great rhythm backing of Rilo Kiley's Jason Boesel on drums and Michael Runion on bass.

The fervour with which Jenny was revered seemed to take her aback, as during a doo-wop cover of the Shirelles' defiant old girl-group song, "I Met Him on a Sunday," the crowd shouted obscenities at anyone who think of not showing for a date with her on a Friday. Hopefully it won't be long before Belfast can have another date with Jenny Lewis and the Watson twins.

CD review - The Working Title

ARTIST The Working Title
ALBUM About Face
LABEL Universal/Cause for Alarm
PR Cornerstone Promotion

Rating 6/10

Following on from their 2003 EP Everything Here is Wrong, South Carolina's "The Working Title" release their major label debut, "About Face". It's well produced mainstream emo-rock. The guitars are big, the vocals melodic and the songs pity me about bad relationships and dying before tasting true love. The opener and Glorious bear the handiwork of the experienced Brad Wood (Smashing Punpkins) and David Bryson (Counting Crows) production. Musically The Working Title bear similarities to Switchfoot and other emo bands like Jimmy Eat World, but lack the instantly accessible hooks or grittiness of Hell is for Heroes and Hundred Reasons. The group are marketable, and probably have enough quality to be successful, but it's debatable whether they add significantly to the teen-angst soundtracks already out there.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

CD review: Kelly Stoltz

Artist: Kelly Stoltz

Album: The Sun Came Through EP

Label: Sub-Pop

Rating: 7

The Sun Came Through EP is Kelley Stoltz's Sup-Pop debut. The title song is from his forthcoming full length album and the EP features four more new compositions. Stoltz has put out a couple of records in the past, including his own recording of Echo and the Bunnymen's Crocodiles entitled Crock-O-Dials. He writes simple, pithy pop songs, often with a Beatles-esque, psychedelic element of shimmering guitars and trailing reverbs.

The song from the forthcoming record is the best, but the rest aren't bad. "Away With the Swans" is about a drummer who gives up on a band in favor of an aimless, pleasure-seeking existence in Amsterdam. "And," as Stoltz stoically observes at the end of every chorus, "who could blame him?"

Stoltz may not hook you the first time, and The Sun Comes Through is not immediately accessible, but give it a few spins and you should get it.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A little off-topic

When completing my degree I took an exam in Development Economics. It was one of the most interesting courses I have ever studied. Joseph Stiglitz, one time Chief Economist at the World Bank, Nobel laureate and current chief critic of the World Bank, the IMF and what he calls the 'Washington Consensus'.

Basically his says is that Washington has a preconcieved view of how other countries should develop. Hard to believe isn't it? And his line is that American muscle in the form of the 'world' bank etc has actually crippled a lot of developing countries. He reguarly contrasts Russia (development along IMF route and failing) with China (ignored reccomendations, did it their own way and doing rather well).

Anyway, this is more appropriate to Oh Thee Rusted Satellite than about the music but The Guardian blog has published a new paper by Stiglitz entitled "Development in Defiance of the Washington Consensus". Read it here .

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why I can't stand the White Stripes

I said yesterday when talking about the Raconteurs that I didn't like the White Stripes. This upset G-man. He demanded that I explain myself, well so be it.

For starters there is the hype. I know that hype alone isn't enough to dislike a band, but for me when I hear a lot of it I have a kneejerk reaction to treat them with suspicion. So I did. I, like a lot of people, first heard them when they released white blood cells, and thought, 'well this is ok but it could do with a bass'.

Then they have the whole press game they play. 'Oh we're sisters' and 'No we're actually divorced lovers' and their red and white clothes. They're very well marketed, and that is to say nothing of the Coke promotions.

But really what gets me is his voice. I hate it. Like I hate Bjork and Joanna Newsom. Some voices you really get, and theirs I don't. I'm not saying I think it's bad to like the White Stripes, some of my best friends like the White Stripes, but they're not for me. Having said all that Seven Nation Army is one of the best riffs of the last few years.

CD review: Vanishing Breed

Artist: Vanishing Breed
Album: Between Arrival and Departure
Label: Pingipung

Rating = 6


Alexander Holmes, aka Vanishing Breed treads the same quirky, happy/sad, chaotic style as Badly Drawn Boy and Mull Historical Society. His merry songs trip over their feet to a dancehall beat before ending up sullen in the corner when the party is over. His folklore tinged tunes tell of the loneliness of sailors and long-distance relationships, the sound of waves lapping at the shore, bustling airports and busy train stations.

Between Arrival and Departure was voted Album of the Year in a German newspaper. While it has wonderful moments the in-between is fraught with inconsistency. The mood changes often feel awkward, spoiling the atmosphere created by some fine songs. In an effort to be a concept album, Holmes has left a lot of filler material which tires on repeated listens. It is a brave effort, but Holmes may have bitten off more than he can chew.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea review

Artist: The Essex Green
Album: Cannibal Sea
Label: Merge

Rating- 6.5 to 7

Despite the name, the Essex Green don't hail from English country gardens eating cucumber sandwiches. The Elephant Six progeny come from Brooklyn via Vermont and create music from a couple of decades ago, filled with boy-girl harmonies and hints of psychedelia.

Cannibal Sea works in that the songs remind you of others. 'Snakes in the Grass' sounds like a hundred American sit-coms, 'Cardinal Points' is reminiscent of great Northern Soul and 'Rue de Lies' is vintage Simon and Garfunkel. More than any of those Cannibal Sea smacks of Belle and Sebastian. As such if you like Belle you'll probably like this. The tracks are graced with choral harmonies and countermelodies and the arrangements are dense and orchestrated. In their retro-pop fashion they don't give in to flower power but aim for something smarter. It's not groundbreaking, it's quite inoffensive but it does remind you of a lot of good records. Whether that is reason enough to buy this is another matter.

The Raconteurs

I'm a big fan of Brendan Benson. Lalpaco and Alternative to Love are in my mind classic pop albums. On the other hand, I can't stand The White Stripes. So it is with considerable interest that I await the debut album by The Racounteurs, featuring both Brendan and Jack on vocals and joint song-writing.

Apparently it's a lot more buttoned up than any White Stripes release but with a much greater rock influence than any previous Brendan Benson record. The boys in the Alternative Ulster office are all rocking out to it anyway. Before the May 16 release, check out an MP3 here.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Originally uploaded by andymanjo.
Thanks to everyone who left comments to my last post, and to those of you who have sent us such kind cards. I've just got back in Belfast tonight feeling a bit bereft.

I wanted to get a photo of us to post but everybody who had a camera seemed to be out of battery! So far, the best we have is from a camera phone.

We're planning to set up a blog to track our progress until the big day arrives.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Diamonds are a girl's best friend

I asked Heather if she would marry me last night by the Bridge of Sighs. The sun was setting, the air was still and she said yes. It's a wonderful world.