Jane Doe

Today’s record: Jane Doe by Converge (2001)

I resisted this!

It will shock you to learn that I can be contrary at times. (Right?) By 2001 I was a bit annoyed with metal. I joined, and was thoroughly disappointed by, the “rock soc” at university. Metal was everywhere, in the shape of Limp Bizkit, Disturbed and Linkin Park, and non-metal people were wearing Motorhead and AC/DC t-shirts. It was over.
So obviously, any metal that came out in that time couldn’t be good. I resisted this.

My man Rich Bee made me a MiniDisc compilation around that time (I think it was called “I like being thanked). On it, among other delights, was ‘Concubine’, by Converge.

I remember being on the platform at Manchester Piccadilly station one Saturday morning, on the way back to Leeds. During the wait, I played ‘Concubine’. When it finished, I skipped back to the start of the song. It was quite a long wait, and the song is about 90 seconds long. I listened to it many times.

Still I resisted the album.

But it is amazing. I think it won a few plaudits for best metal album of the noughties, and I probably wouldn’t fight that. It’s about a very messy breakup, and not only is the singer very upset, but it sounds like the rest of the band is upset for him. Like REALLY UPSET. But still able to articulate the upset, for the most part, and in a really technically accomplished manner.

Every song is insane, and heavy and noisy, but in different ways. you’ve got the hardcore fury of ‘Concubine’, you’ve got songs of almost white noise, you’ve got the epic, bizarrely melodic ten minute dry heave of anguish that is the title track.
But my favourites are when they just put the pedal to the metal, and rock more than you ever thought anyone could. ‘Homewrecker’ and the beautifully-named ‘Heaven in Her Arms’ are just unfairly good, especially when the latter gives you a false finish before lurching into reverse to run over your prone body like in the Righteous Gemstones.

Music has the right to children

I wrote this on my facebook, but I liked it too much just to have it there.

Today’s record: Music Has the Right to Children by Boards Of Canada (1998)

Just look at that damn cover art. I don’t feel like I need to say anything when you see that, but I’ll try (though I am tired). Has any album ever had a cover that conveys so succinctly what it’s all about?

I got this back in 2000, when I was new to electronic music. I was so new, in fact that when I went to the Warp Records site to look it up, I felt like I shouldn’t be there! I felt like a spy in the house of love. But I persevered and I got this. (I also got UF Orb, but the tale of me playing that while learning to fly in Mario 64 will have to wait).

This was a good intro to what was then called “electronica” (is it still?!), as it wasn’t really clubby music, despite what The Face said about it replacing Moby’s Play as the post-club 4am chillout album du jour. I liked how BoC themselves described it – music for lying down in a field on a sunny day. Beach Boys for a parallel reality.

I won’t bang on about hauntology, but there is something about that sense of nostalgia for a past that’s not necessarily yours; of the warm synth tones and fat hip hop beats being ever so slightly effed-with so the incredible beauty of the music sits alongside a sense of uneasiness. I just remember listening to it one night and feeling like I was going into space.

Devs episode 2

I still love the visual tone of this show. For the most part, the light is beautifully relaxing; ethereal. A perpetual autumn evening. A frozen moment. It’s got that dreamlike feel that reminds you of Tree of Life, in as much as you’re not sure that this is really happening, or happened.

This second episode’s emotional tone was overall less serene than the first. Probably intentionally, considering it detailed the fallout from Sergei’s death. Grief-stricken Lily tried investigating his phone for clues: other than a mysteriously password protected, self-destructing Sudoku app, there were none. That must be the key. She even leaned once more on that poor, rejected ex boyfriend to help her hack into said app.

In this episode, we also learned who Forest is, and the mystery of the giant child watching over the campus: she is an avatar of the real Amaya, Forest’s daughter who passed away. Forest is the charismatic cult leader-style head of the organisation, and we now have some insight into why he is so intense.

I like that the writers withhold key bits of information, drip-feeding it to us on a need-to-know basis. In the first episode, we took it as read that Forest was senior to Sergei and Lily, but that was as far as it went. We also knew that he was incredibly protective of his company’s data – to the point of murder – and that personal background helps us to understand why. Sort of.

Still very keen. And now I’ve written this up, I can carry on with actually watching the damn thing. I need to maintain some momentum. Not sure I’ll review every episode, but let’s see.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Dave Green (USA, 2016)

I do kinda like the Turtles. I’ve always been into the idea of them, and the comics. I’ll go into length at some point in the future about how much I love 80s alternative/independent culture, from bands like the Minutemen and Hüsker Dü to the Garbage Pail Kids, Troma Films and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. And obviously, given the ease of producing them, comics figure into that in a large way.

TMNT comic started in… 1984? …and it was cool, DIY and pretty dark in its content. One thing I didn’t pick up on when I was watching the cartoon as a kid (I wasn’t cool enough to buy the indie comics as a toddler) was that the evil Foot clan was a parody of the Hand from the Marvel comics. I mainly know the Hand from Daredevil, but I think they also bothered Wolverine:

I’ve not watched the first film in this series, but this sequel popped up on Channel 4, so I figured why not. Plus, I don’t much care for an origin story: to me they’re anthropomorphic turtles living in the sewers of New York City, and that’s all I need. I don’t want to think of them as men, which might be an issue, as their desire to retrieve their humanity seems to be a major subtext here.

From what I can tell, the first film must have detailed how they became what they are, they had a fight with Shredder, and he went to jail. And apparently, Will Arnett had something to do with it. So we join them with Shredder wanting to get busted out of jail, and Will Arnett being a local celebrity, which they communicate to us using a Knicks game, shot from a fun perspective (the Turtles are up in the rafters). For those who love origin stories, this instalment at least tells us the tale of how Bebop and Rocksteady came to be.

We also seem to get introduced to Krang (for those who don’t know, he’s an interdimensional supervillain, somewhere between MODOK and Thanos), when he pulls an escaping Shredder into his realm for the standard “do my bidding and I’ll give you more power” speech. We also get ice hockey-obsessed vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Amell). Now I thought Casey always had more of a basic mask, and that this one looked more like Gladiator (which I was happy with, because then it reminds me of MF Doom), but on further inspection, it’s actually pretty accurate. 

So if all of these standard characters are being introduced in this one, who was in the first film? No Krang, Casey Jones, Bebop or Rocksteady. That must have been quite something…

I like the little touches in this film. Rocksteady is played by Sheamus from WWE. Which is great, because Kevin Nash played Super Shredder in… I want to say the second Turtles movie in the 90s. Way to keep the wrestling link going. And also, Sheamus uses the phrase “twisting my melon, man”, which must be lost on 90% of the audience, a fact that makes me enjoy it even more.

Some of the big touches are fun, too. There was an excellent mid-air mission, seeing the boys go from (their) plane to (baddies’) plane, with the sense of height and speed quite well communicated. As both planes inevitably became history, and the Turtles, Bebop and Rocksteady plunged into the Amazon, we got the best image of the film: Rocksteady sailing in a tank down the Amazon, taking pot shots at the Turtles. Amazing. 

Admittedly, this trailer gives you everything you need, with the possible exception of Megan Fox playing a nerd.

So there you go. 

In terms of flaws… Well, I don’t like the “cool” renaming of the Turtles from the Renaissance artists to merely Raph, Lio, Donnie and Mickie. I mean, come on. I also don’t know why the professor guy wanted to help Shredder in the first place. Maybe I missed some exposition, but he seemed to me that he just was. And that the Turtles just knew about it. Also, Casey Jones spends too little time dressed up as Casey Jones and too much time looking like A Random Guy. Like, the default setting when you’re creating a character in a video game. Almost featureless.

I also don’t know why damaging the warp machine that allows Krang to bring his Technodrome into our dimension deconstructs said Technodrome rather than just closing the wormhole. But I’m not an astrophysicist, and trying anything less convenient would have added an hour to the running time. Plus, we now know what will happen if there is a Turtles 3!

But yeah, it was a fun ride overall, with some amusing bits and good set pieces. I’d not heard of director Dave Green before now, but he did well with $100m+ dollars, no doubt assisted by crafty blockbuster veteran (and producer of this) Michael Bay.