Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Nao Of Brown Review


Glyn Dillon
Self Made Hero


Quite simply, this is one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. I’m putting that grand statement at the start of this review as you may see those words ‘graphic novel’ and find your head saying ‘click away, click away!’ through fear that I might be about to talk about capes and super powers. Forget it. This is a great book that happens to use pictures to draw you in to its wonderful world.

The story revolves around the character of Nao, a half Japanese girl in her twenties living and working in London. She works in one of those quirky adult toy shops that have weird robots and all kinds of imported things in them. She attends Buddhism classes and shares a flat with a friend. And that’s about it.

Over the course of the story we see her meet a large, bearded washing machine repairman who reminds her of a character from the Japanese stories she reads in her spare time (and at work). We also see her dealing with some deep mental health issues that cause her to have wild and violent visions and this is great example of using the right medium to express certain ideas within a story. In film it would seem contrived and if it were just written it would lack to dramatic impact displayed here.

It’s a tricky book to sell really because there is no great epic arc. It’s just a richly detailed story with a very underplayed but naturalistic script. The artwork is immensely beautiful and, with its rich images in watercolour, is clearly a real labour of love. There is a vivid reality to the London locales, but it is the character details, especially of Nao, that elevate it. Moments when a downward glance and some subtle piece of body language say more than words ever could are expertly used throughout.

A second story runs amongst the main narrative that tells something akin to a Japanese folk tale, which is perfectly introduced a couple of pages at a time and involves a completely different style of writing and art. Images of giant robots roaming fairytale landscapes are an excellent counterpoint to the main story. It’s just so beautiful.

I’ve recently interviewed OK Comics in Leeds, from where I purchased this and one thing I asked about was whether the decline we are seeing in physical sales for music and books is mirrored by those of graphic novels and comics. Quite rightly, I was told that the experience of reading a comic or graphic novel is not as easy to replicate digitally (though it has been). The Nao Of Brown is absolutely an example of why physical books WILL survive. It’s the kind of book you would happily build a shelf from scratch for, just to have it in your house.

 Dean Freeman

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Clive Continuum


Clive Smith has been around for an awful long time. Awfully long. An enigma, a maverick, a pioneer; he has described himself as these things and many, many more. Now, with the weight of experience crushing his increasingly fragile mind and body, he has begun developing The Clive Continuum, a series of works that act as his passing of the flame to younger artists and visionaries. Learn from his mistakes, for if it could ever go wrong, it went wrong for Clive

"Touring" (see also: "Side Projects" & "Lyrics")


Britain has one of the best Motorway and Road networks in the world, meaning being on tour is one of the most exciting parts of being in a band. The efficient and well monitored network means travelling around is as great a pleasure as arriving. In fact, sometimes the motorway part can feel like the holiday after especially bad gigs (lol!)

Large stretches of the British Road Network are lit through the night, making late travel much safer. Strong CCTV coverage on the main routes and a mass of orange ERTs means if you get in to trouble, someone will come and look after you. That could make the difference between a soundcheck and a linecheck; essential.

The strict 70mph speed limit means you are less likely to be victim to a tourbus crash whilst the small size of our grand island means air travel is not necessary, making you less likely to be victim to an airplane crash. Unless you are a fan of clich├ęd rockstar death, these are good things.

Britain also has some of the best motorway service stations in the world. You might not think it. Sure, the food can be poor unless there's a KFC (a problem quickly being rectified by the Colonel) but compare the vast toilet cubicles of this country to the holes in the floor in France and you will soon be happy your band has no following whatsoever on mainland Europe.

The major motorways can make for dull touring, especially the M1, with its long stretches of bland embankments and Birmingham. But some are wondrous and when planning your tour routes, an Atlas is essential. I often plan tours with certain motorways in mind; a trip up and down the M6 is a distinct pleasure, especially as it turns into the M74 in Scotland. Even the M4, major though it is, has plenty of surprises and points of interest. Careful planning can make your tour full of treasured memories.

There are certain essential items required for a tour. A quality pack of sweets in the glove compartment can help pass the tired mornings after a lacklustre attendance at an otherwisely excellent gig. A good range of cassettes is essential too, though it is important to follow the 'driver picks' rule, especially relevant when the driver is the singer#s wife and the singer is me and she doesn't own any tapes, except the ones I made. I also find it useful to listen to your own music as you travel around, to stay focussed on the job in hand.

A good way to save money on tour is to not bother with accommodation. During my tours of 91-93 we used a rotation system where one band member would opt out of the gig to sleep. Then, once the show had finished we drove through the night and slept in the car as we travelled, the sleeper taking the wheel. It led to some odd gigs, especially when it was my turn to drive and the band had to do an instrumental set. Though they got such good reviews they ended up leaving and starting their own group! But it did keep the costs down and meant I could schedule the tour to include lush eight hour motorway drives every night. Otherwise we'd have got there way too early, which would have been pretty embarrassing!

I've written many an album whilst on tour. I find it invigorating. The journey, the camaraderie, the sense of purpose, the idea I’m proving all my doubters wrong, those who never thought I’d be playing a three night run in Cleethorpes. I once drove all the way to Hamburg for a gig only to find out the offer of the said gig had been a sarcastic one. But I didn’t mind, because the two days it had taken me were bliss. Though the lack of a gig was rather upsetting, the thought of a two day journey home, by myself, was enough to pull me through. And on the way home i recorded my lo-fi dictaphone masterpiece Hamburg, Your Time Will Come which was loosely based on the events I have just described.

A funny tour story is one of mine from the mid ‘80s when I supported Status Quo on their UK tour. Officially I wasn't billed as support. But the way I saw it, by following them around and blagging afternoon slots in pubs near the venues, before their doors opened was a way of supporting their ideals, and drawing more of a crowd for them. The heavy politics of the In The Army Now album sat beautifully alongside my angry attack on Wakefield council's lapsidaisical approach to pothole repair Holey Moley! (still as relevant now as it was then). So I was supporting them in the truest way. The funny part is that I'm now friends with Rhino Edwards, their bassist, and he's about as poor as me now. Ha ha!

Clive Smith

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Plays & Pints



Ever keen to get involved with things new and interesting, Rhubarb Bomb has resurrected Taproom Theatre Productions, with which we organised a (sell out!) theatre production a few years back. Run in conjunction with our good friend Paul Bateson (whom some will know as The Passing Fancy and occasional Bomb contributor) and Hywel Roberts, Taproom is now presenting a theatre all-dayer or, as we prefer to think of it, a theatre pub crawl.

I think a lot of people have a very specific view of theatre, and sadly it is a misguided one. A trip to Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and many events like it can really open your eyes to the possibilities and sheer variety out there. Myself and Paul are very lucky to be good friends with Gareth Nicholls (see the most recent issue of RB) who is a theatre director in Glasgow. That friendship leads us to visit him often and see some very exciting things. We wanted to bring that freshness to Wakefield whilst also engaging with people who might not think theatre is for them.

So what are we doing? Plays & Pints takes place on December 1st in Wakefield. It kicks off around 2pm at The Hop. We'll enjoy some drinks and a performance or two. Then we'll move to Henry Boons for some shorter, twenty minute pieces, mixed in with some pie and peas. Finally, it's over to The Orangery for the headlining performance, more beer – maybe cake – and finally a bit of DJing from Rhubarb Bomb itself.

It is intended to be very sociable with short performances across the day, with plenty of time to drink and chat. Who’s performing?


A solo performance by Gary McNair, who created the show. Taking the role of a motivational speaker, Gary discusses the role and importance of money in our everyday lives and the value we place on it and people. The show is currently touring the UK and has received glowing reviews across all kinds of media. Plus, I saw it at Latitude and it was bloody brilliant. I like it so much I nearly burnt all my money (there wasn’t much to burn though).

Hitch

Keiran Hurley tells the autobiographical tale of him hitching a lift to the G8 summit in Italy. Asking questions about compassion, a desire for change and the power structures of the world, this funny and heartfelt piece has recieved glowing reviews for it's engaging but thoughtful approach.


London based comedy duo who performed a successful run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe and originally met at Bretton Hall. They mix sketch and character comedy in very interesting ways and, in their own words are influenced by “The League of Gentlemen, accidental comedians; their Nans and Grandads, American physical duo; The Pajama Men to name but a few.”


The local and incredibly well respected theatre company have created a piece especially for Plays & Pints.


Astounding puppet theatre. Yes – puppetry in Wakefield. Really special; I’m sure Henry Boons has not seen anything like this before. Invisible Thread formed after the split of the very well regarded Faulty Optic, which toured the world with its work.

Pie and Peas

We do not want you going hungry... so there will be a teatime serving of Pie and Peas available at Henry Boons.

Interactive Poetry

Yes! We will skilfully involve you in creating some poetry at the event too, to be displayed and shared with others. Don’t worry, you won’t even realise it’s happening…

We are still planning out who will play when and where, and there are more acts to be confirmed, but the day will run from 2pm onwards, til around 22:30 including the afterparty.

Tickets are £8 and are limited to just 100. That £8 will get you access to all the performances on the day, a programme and a lovely little badge. You can buy tickets through our We Fund campaign which is HERE. See Twitter and Facebook for more information. 

Try something a little different – it’ll be a great day!

Dean Freeman


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Hands That Make The Paper



A month or so back, Leeds music magazine No-TiTLE turned a distinguished six years old. Much like Rhubarb Bomb, it is created purely by the passion, excitement and dedication of volunteers and has spent over half a decade celebrating the unsigned music of Leeds, and further afield.

They’ve taken this landmark as an opportunity to show-off the work of said volunteers in the form of a month long exhibition in Dock Street Market in Leeds (near The Adelphi), which is completely free to look round. In typical zine style, which I hope they see as homage to the type of never arriving copy they must be well accustomed to, I have left it until almost the last minute to post this and visit myself. The exhibition, titled The Hands That Make The Paper, comes to a close on October 28th.

So if you are heading Leeds way, be sure to pop in and marvel and what the No-TiTLE crew have been up to all these years.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Selfless EP review

HIMSELF

Adam, main-man and Twitter account singer/chatter/guitarist of Leeds based rock band Himself, recently asked his Twitter followers to review his bands latest EP, as the majority of music related press don’t deal with download only content. Being a fan of the band, I agreed to give it a go. What follows is my first attempt at reviewing music so please be patient with my average writing skills and (probably) biased opinions. I am but a simpleton.

I really, really like this EP. But the thing is; I’m not sure why.

Ever since I got the first EP (Herself, also available on the band’s Bandcamp page), it took me a while to get into. The first thing that strikes the listener about this band is the vocal style. Adam, who sounds like a North-Easterner, often ‘talks’ instead of singing, which at first, took me a while to get into. It doesn’t sound like poetry recital like you may find, for example, on The Van Pelt or Enablers songs. These passages are more akin to an (intelligent) friend talking to you in a pub. This takes a bit of getting used to. But used to it I am.

It isn’t as arrogant as I’m making it sound either; in the first song on this EP, the wonderfully titled Are You Sure You Want To Cancel This Wizard?, Adam takes it upon himself to explain parts of this prog tinged eight-minute-plus songs musical directions. It’s all done with its tongue in its cheek, and for me, it works.

Throughout the EP, at various points in each of the four songs, some big riffs pop up. I LOVE Himself when they put their foot down and I think it’s fair to say it happens more often on Selfless  than on their previous recording. Usually these monolithic segments take the listener by surprise, continue to twist and improve, then leave as abruptly as they arrived. These are my favourite parts of Himself. The musicianship is absolutely top notch. Three guitars nicely compliment each other and the rhythm section is as tight and inventive as it needs to be without taking the centre stage too much.

These constantly surprising riffs, varied vocal styles (harmonies are also abundant through the EP, and sound great) and sense of humour make listening to Selfless a very unique and original experience that I would encourage everyone to get involved in if you enjoy rock music. Stick with it. It rewards.

Basically, Himself sound like a band that live and breathe rock music, learnt how to play it, got bored with it, re-invented it, and fell in love with it all over again. It challenges the listener whilst not insulting them, and won’t cost you a penny. If a band that complex, inventive and brave can keep a simpleton like me interested, they must be doing something right. It also features the line ‘did we piss on your chips?’.  Just so you know.

Jarv



Monday, 22 October 2012

Appetite For Chivalry Review

Club Smith
Tri-Tone


I like Club Smith: I’ve seen them live and now I’ve heard their debut album. Why do I like them? Well, that’s a difficult one to pin down exactly, but it goes a little something like this.

There are some meaty tracks on this album, there is a sense of continuity across it; anthemic sing-along moments mix into quiet, more introspective vocals, harsh guitars and electronic sounds dance together with measured skill with the overall effect that the album leaves you with a feeling of familiarity even from the first listen. Now that for me is the mark of quality, ‘instantly familiar’ simply means well crafted song writing.

In a world where you look at the top 40 and despair, where sales of back catalogue outstrip new music sales one despairs for the future; despite these depressing facts, this album comes out in advance of a November tour and so, while bands like Club Smith keep doing what they’re doing, maybe there is hope. That’s why I like them so much!

Matthew Rhodie


Moonraker Review


Moonraker
Ian Fleming
1955


Much like the films, the James Bond series of books really hits its stride with its third entry. Although I expect it will be an anomaly in relation to the rest of the series, these differences set it aside as a book I would recommend on its own merits, the first  about which I could make such a statement.

The story is fairly pedestrian and low key and, tellingly, not one major element of it has ever made it into the films, bar the name of protagonist Hugo Drax. Fans of the ridiculous film version may be sad to hear they won't be reading about Bond fighting Jaws in space but it makes for a curiously underplayed story that is enjoyably slow burning in its reveals.

It is the only Bond story to be set completely in England. Essentially split in two (though set over five days), the first half sees Bond doing a favour for his boss, M down at his local bridge club. In a move that later resurfaces in the films (one of my favourite old-england touches: Bond uncovers that his supposedly English fellow spy is actually Russian, by virtue of the fact he orders the wrong type of wine to accompany his fish dish, something an english man would never do.) we see Hugo Drax, all round man of the people and toast of British Establishment fall under suspicion because he cheats at cards. What kind of man would do such a thing? In tense and well structured scenes, we see Bond slowly outwit Drax: a development of the card playing heavy sections of Casino Royale, and performed with much greater panache.

Drax himself is an intriguing villain here and his complex characterisation drives the book. Although sense dictates he must be a bad 'un, our journey mirrors Bond's as he tries to uncover what is going on, especially in the second section, during which Bond poses as a security expert at Drax's headquaters. See, he is a genius and has developed a new type of rocket, called the Moonraker, which will place The British Empire back at the centre of global politics once more. Drax is at turns, calm, manic, rude, focussed. Is he simply a dedicated man or is there more to him? For the majority, Bond believes the former and spends a lot of the story simply admiring him, making the final reveal all the more shocking.

The structure and pace differ because, unlike previous books, in which Bond is given an assignment and a target and simply has to investigate his way to the man at the top, Moonraker adds an ambivalence that makes for an interesting read. Although it certainly won't take a genius to figure out what is going on, the different style is welcome.

Elsewhere, we have Fleming's usual attention to detail regarding the food Bond eats and the clothes he wears. There's is also a notable increase in the violence inflicted upon Bond. He is crushed, his car crashed and even has his skin burnt by a steam hose, graphic scenes of his skin peeling off, his every movement an agony. It's something that has been there since the torture scene in Casino Royale, but here Fleming seems to revel in it, much in the style of Licence To Kill, the only 15 rated Bond film. It makes for a rougher, more satisfying journey.

A final anomaly is that this book features the only Bond girl Bond fails to have his way with. In fact, approaches to female sensibilities are notably improved upon. An early chapter, where Bond's secretary ponders her role within a highly male environment is surprising in its unflinching honesty and perhaps marks a sea of change taking place in the '50s. The closing exchange between Bond and his Bond girl is oddly downbeat, yet triumphant for the girl. Odd, because you are glad she made the right decision, and rejected Bond.

The contrast with the globe trotting of Live And Let Die couldn't be more marked. London gentleman's clubs and the Dover coastline act as a setting that is very much about Cold War paranoia, the legacy of empire and the spectre of World War II still hanging over England. The Brosnan / Craig era has often referenced modern England as being post empire, yet that was already in use fifty years prior. It may be because this had no elements later recycled, but it felt fresher than previous entries, and more than capable of standing up on its own two feet, aside of the James Bond legacy.

Dean Freeman

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Twilight Sad @ The Hop


The Twilight Sad
The Hop, Wakefield
19th October


St Gregory Orange open the evening, tonight as a three-piece. A notoriously difficult band to get the sound right for, tonight is pleasingly vocal heavy and the set focuses on the fullest sounding songs from their Midnight At The Sycamore Lounge album, as opposed to the stripped back acoustic and keys version from their last appearance with RM Hubbert. It sounds good, but there is a static element in the crowd and on stage, at odds with the wonderful and layered sounds we are all hearing. Their long awaited full band lineup is almost upon us, which should solve this problem, recreating the special chemistry evident on the records and representing the tracks and the band in a way that finally does them justice.


RM Hubbert returns to Wakefield after wowing us on his joint tour with Emma Pollock a few weeks back. As ever, he is magical. It's the third time I've seen him this year and he just gets better. His music is largely instrumental, just him and his acoustic guitar. A couple of tracks have vocals which vary the set but it is the third element; his 'banter', which adds so much more. To cheapen his stories and admissions with such a tag is wrong of me, but it’s that frankness and heart on sleeve honesty that astounds. Hubby’s is music of the soul, laid bare and it's impossible not to love him, as much as he says 'cunt' and talks about death. The songs themselves, delicate as they are, have more character and emotion than pretty much any 'full' band you can think of. A brilliant, beautiful set.

The Twilight Sad are back in town after gaining loads of fans at June's Long Division. Like all great bands there's an ambiguity to what they are about. In a similar style to their countrymen Mogwai, they appear to combine gutsy, heartfelt, complex and arty rock with a down to earth, working class grittiness. That whole sentence is likley complete bollocks, but that's how it seems. Hubby does however confirm that his tour with Twilight Sad is certainly more rock and roll than his previous with Emma Pollock. "I'm knackered' he tells me 'and it's only the second date of the tour." I believe him; I had to load in their rider for Long Division...


Their second last album Forget The Night Ahead forged their now signature wall of sound approach which was messed with / expanded upon on the most recent No One Can Ever Know. There's a greater variety in the set than I previously recall, especially towards the end as bare bones, borderline acapella, brings a hush to the room. They command the stage, with supreme confidence in what they are doing. Frontman James Graham is the focus, without a doubt, though he doesn't exactly try and outdo his bandmates in the statuesqe stakes, more the way he is completely inhabiting the songs. Or, 'he's proper in to it man' as I'd more normally say. A cheer is raised by the announcement of I Became A Prostitute - still one of their best songs - which results in his reply "Don't cheer that, I really did."

It's hard to know if the crowd are enjoying the show. I'm sure they are, but it is difficult to know how to react at a Twilight Sad song. You can't groove along, or dance or do much but bop your head in enjoyment. The noise just hits you clean in the face, a gorgeous wave, like the joy on a dog's face as he sticks it out of the window on the way to the seaside. That's a widely inappropriate simile, but y'know, that's what it felt like. The sound is huge and for the first time ever, i can hear The Hop's already overloud PA straining it's limiters. You feel Twilight Sad could play through speakers the size of mountains and it still wouldn't be quite as loud as you feel it should be.

So: another faultless lineup, another under-attended gig. Once more Wakefield is predictably awesome and predictably ignored.

Words: Dean Freeman
Photography: John Jowett

Red Dwarf: Present From The Future




This month, after a 13 year absence, Red Dwarf returned to our TV screens. And to the surprise of many, myself included, it wasn't awful. In fact, with its focus on irrelevant conversations between characters and little action, it felt like an attempt to return to the inconsequential style of the first couple of series, with the writing put to the forefront.

After the decline since series VII in 1997, it seemed unlikely that it would return to its peak. That is probably still the case, but the not unsuccessful return has made me think about my relation to the programme and a possible theory I came up with some time ago; in retrospect was Red Dwarf a better Sci-Fi show than it was a comedy?

Red Dwarf holds a special place in my heart but I’m not really a hardcore fan. My first memories are of watching it in my bedroom, probably when I was around ten. A 9pm bedtime was never argued when Red Dwarf was on; I would go to my room and put the TV on at the end of my bed, on the lowest possible volume. The opening bars of music would stir and Holly's face would flash across the screen: “This is an SOS distress call from mining ship Red Dwarf. The crew are dead, killed my a radiation leak…" But I had to keep the volume down, because sometimes they said “smeg” which sounded like it was surely a very naughty word. I kept half an eye on the frame of my door, watching for the landing light flickering on, so I could turn it off and feign sleep if my parents came upstairs.

A friend at junior school - fat nicky - was a compulsive liar and once claimed that, as he was known as being the naughtiest boy in England, the producers of the show had approached him in need of a 'brand new swear word'. After some thought, he had supplied them with aforementioned 'smeg'. He also claimed his Dad could do non-handed wheelies round corners.

But there was an anarchic quality to this gang of space bums eating curry, dressing messily and somehow scraping through that stood in contrast to the shiny worlds of Star Wars, and especially Star Trek. In a similar way to Bottom, it felt rebellious to be watching it even though I'm pretty sure most of the time I can't have had much idea what was happening.

Periodic viewing continued, but it was only when I went to University and received series 1-7 on VHS to keep me occupied that I approached it all with fresh eyes.

The early series are incredibly character based, with even the most outlandish scenarios being used to reflect the needs and neuroses of the characters. It's a pleasure to discover details of their lives; reveals about the Cat race, Dave being God, Rimmer's general madness. I felt this style reached a peak with the episode Marooned (Series III) which was for the most part a two hander between Lister and Rimmer. It was great, detailed writing and revelled in its own creativity.

Later series developed into a more trad-sci-fi 'monster of the week' format, which felt like the writing team stretching their fan-boy muscles. It was around this time the comedy developed into a more catchphrase based manner or was bypassed (intentionally) for action. Repeated gags (especially in Series VI) and self referencing became more apparent, as well as the simile based gags the show became mired in, i.e. "He's got more hair than... That thing's uglier than..." The kind of thing Blackadder did really well, but was more hit and miss here.

Upon reassessing these aging VHS, the humour did feel less dynamic and anarchic than I remembered – especially in the earlier series still finding their feet, but the Sci-Fi remained tight, and not simply the homage / pastiche it had seemed like to my younger eyes.

The universe of Red Dwarf plays by some interesting rules. The basic conceit; that Lister is the last human alive is fascinating in itself and earlier episodes deal with his loneliness and the pointlessness of his existence. The concept of Holly bringing back Rimmer in hologramatic form, in order to keep Lister sane is a fantastic sitcom premise. The sense of isolation is immense; there are no aliens in the Red Dwarf universe; just human created entities, usually genetic abnormalities or cyborg based lifeforms. As Lister has been in suspended animation for millions of years, all they ever come across are the derelicts of human civilisation which seem futuristic to us, but are centuries old in the Red Dwarf universe, adding a strange pathos to the series.


For me, this universe was severely altered from Series VII onwards. Up until then, a distinct journey from clueless bums to almost heroes, especially in Series VI closer Out Of Time gave the whole thing a lovely sense of dramatic progression rare in sitcoms keen to hit the reset button after every 27 minute episode. Each of the characters had flaws carefully defined over the series and they grew to some extent (Kryten learns to lie and be more human, Cat becomes Starbug’s pilot with a keen nose and even Rimmer saves the day in Out Of Time).

It’s not that the gags weren't sharp, but it was the depth of this universe and the relationships on this 'gang' that was often overlooked. Rimmer, so proud and self important on the outside, secretly blames himself for the deaths of the Red Dwarf crew (Justice). But then also causes a Genocide (Meltdown) and tries to kill a better version of himself (Dimension Jump, all Series IV). The various xenomorphs and parallel Red Dwarfs, as well as the augmented reality games show different sides of all the characters, albeit in humorous caricature. It's nothing groundbreaking, but was inventive use of the Science Fiction within the Sitcom template. The Inquisitor (Series V) was one of the purest Sci-Fi / Action Red Dwarf episodes and that kind of plotting, ambition and mythologising are what makes any Sitcom stand out. Just churning out the ‘gags’ leaves you with Series 23 of My Family and the like.

The stylistic changes for series VII and VIII were not the real issue for me. The former was an attempt at a more cinematic approach, which given my previous comments wasn't a bad idea, though with funding for an actual feature film later falling through it was the closest they would come. Series VIII was a confusing mix of early series character work (Lister and Rimmer in their cell) and Monster of The Week Sci-Fi (The Canaries Missions) but ultimately suffered from poor writing.

The reason it fell flat emotionally was its abandonment of the universe it had created. The joke at the end of series VI was that they had a time machine but were still millions of years from Earth. So it was useless. By the Series VII they were happily returning back to earth to collect poppadoms (Tikka To Ride) or leave a baby Lister in a cardboard box (Ouroboros). Though the vision of them future-selves presumably halts them from messing with time too much are we to believe they instead happily stay on Starbug, living out their miserable lives in deepspace? And talking of Starbug, what was once a good narrative move - move from the maddeningly endless space of Red Dwarf to the tight, paranoic and feeble restriction of Starbug was turned on its head when we find out it has 'miles of airducts'. What?

If the concept of returning to Earth was demolished in Series VII, the other key idea: Lister being the last human was pissed all over for Series VIII. In a twist that made NO SENSE, the entire Red Dwarf crew was resurrected by nanobots (what from?) and the whole point of the show was removed. As I recall, no attempt was made to explain the crew's reaction to being dead, then alive, and it being three million years later. And Rimmer was alive again. What memories did he have? Surely he had no memory of being a hologram?

One of the most depressing televisual moments of my life was watching Red Dwarf. I was on holiday with my parents in Wales and I'd been allowed to take three friends. We had our own little cottage, with kitchen and lounge etc. One night I was playing giant chess with my friend and we wrapped it up extra quick to make sure we caught the Red Dwarf episode (yes, I was even cooler back then). We all sat in silence for the whole thing (It was Series VIII, Pete Part 2 I think). It was the end for me.

It wasn't the CGI dinosaur, it was the terrible, lazy, unfocussed writing. Yes, I am one of those terrible people who look for the logic in everything (i.e. a nerd) and the changes sucked the heart out of the programme. I'm not mental; I didn't tune in each week to see if 'the guys made it home'. But the care and creativity of the writing is what made Red Dwarf unique. Messing with the formula spoilt it for me. The experimentation of Series VII was passable but Series VIII was, frankly, unforgivable and a terrible miss-step.

Back To Earth, funnily enough, was largely absent on laughs but was a full on Sci-Fi homage to Doug Naylor's favourite genre staples. The depth and passion of the writers and performers had long since departed the only saving grace being another attempt to at least try something different, even if it failed.

The classic run of Series I - VI perfectly balanced Sitcom and Sci-Fi, and it is telling (and impressive) it took place over a very short and sharp 5 years. The laughs don't always hit in the same way but the layers of care put into the setting and characters means it stands the test of time. That those elements have been since absent is down to many factors; Rob Grant leaving the writing team, actor commitments, experimentation with form, an increasing preference for CGI (urgh) over content. But mainly I now feel it was an overwhelming need to take the series somewhere new. That unresolved desire for a feature film damaged the series for nigh on two decades.

That dream now seems to have been thankfully left behind. With Series X, one thing does at least seem to be clear. Both writer and performers are having fun again. I hear the closing episode does return to cover some earlier ground and help tie the news series to the older ones. But for once, a long absence has helped; the thought that these guys have been surviving on Red Dwarf all these years offers up potential for fresh storylines. They might not be the anarchic bunch I recall from my youth, nor the adventuring chancers of their mid '90s fame; in fact judging by Rimmer’s receder and Kryton's enhanced frame, their days of wildness may be over (the new episodes seem to involve a lot of sitting down). But that doesn't mean it's over. I'm not overly bothered and am content for it to be steady. But there is a niggle at the back of my mind, thinking this could be the start of a serious second wind. I hope so, but if not, I am just glad it finally came home.

Dean Freeman

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Looper Review



Looper
Writer / Director: Rian Johnson

This review hasn’t been written yet. but it will be…

You are a mobster. The year is 2074. The marvel of time travel exists. It’s forbidden but well within your grasp. What would you do? Well, you use time travel as a convenient, untraceable human disposal method, silly! An interesting take on a genre that’s been tackled countless times over the years. It makes a real difference when sci-fi, supernatural elements of a film like Looper sit in a solid foundation of logic; it’s easier to embrace & accept. That’s not to say there aren’t a few time travel questions that’ll crop up in your head when you watch this but honestly, there always are with this genre! If you are one of those that will revel in analysing the intricacies’ of a plot (to death), you will definitely stop yourself enjoying a perfectly good film and frankly miss the point – go with it: I did and found it easy enough to not get hung up on those niggles.
Helping avoid those hang ups further, is the futuristic backdrop which is deliberately not ‘totally out there’. Aside from a few hovering vehicles, basic telepathy being commonplace and the odd totally transparent mobile device, most of the setting & surroundings are not a huge leap from what we know today. It’s easy to relate to which lets you focus on the actual film.

The opening scene grabs you and remains reluctant to let go until the credits. Rather like the unsuspecting time travel victims prepped with bags-on-heads to meet their doom, the opening scene narrated by our lead man, Joseph Gordon-Levitt bluntly dumps you into this reality – (I won’t spoil the detail for you but the opening made me smile in a ‘dark, yet cool’ kind of way). The whole concept is succinctly explained and underpinned by some subtly excellent acting from Levitt which continues throughout.

Levitt plays Joe, one of several ‘Loopers’ in the year 2044 who have the remit to unceremoniously ‘knock off’ arrivals from around 30 years in the future with the close-range firearm of choice known as a ‘Blunderbuss’ and dispose of the bodies. Joe’s existence appears uninspiring and futile from the start; drugs, prostitutes, murder but all consistently accompanied by an endearing sense of regret, hope and ambition battling to the surface… difficult to imagine how this guy’s life could get much worse, until a bag-free, future ‘Joe’ played by Bruce Willis lands on his kill spot. One pull of the trigger and Joe’s loop is closed but the alternative is a life on the run from the mob, led in young Joe’s time by ‘Abe’ (Jeff Daniels). The film goes on to reveal more about why and how this occurred and specifically more about someone called ‘the rainmaker’: a powerful man in the future who is systematically closing all the loops. 

The script I imagine was a blessing for some of the actors / actresses, with several characters packing plenty of meat to sink their teeth into. So, it’s no surprise that Looper boasts a star studded cast (Willis, Levitt, Daniels, Paul Dano, Emily Blunt…) with some noteworthy performances.

Full marks go to Levitt for what I thought was a subtle and mature performance in a lead role opposite legendary veteran, Willis - another stride forward from his recent role in The Dark Knight Rises. Both manage to straddle the rather crude “goody / baddy” camps which I often create in my head when watching any film (everyone does this, right?....guys?...). You’ll find yourself rooting for both of them at different points, letting the questionable morals of each wash over you.

Interestingly, Levitt has prosthetic facial alterations, to make a more believable younger Willis. I did in hindsight question whether I paid more attention to his performance because of this; a bit like a friend sporting a bad haircut, it’s tough to not stare at the thing! – but then I thought harder and realised I really didn’t care that much: a very good performance in my opinion and it didn’t distract too much for me.
It was also refreshing to see Willis deliver an arguably more gritty character to the screen than the norm – it would have been easy to write & play this role in typical blockbuster-movie-style, as a smooth & assured, highly trained killer or something but there’s a clear sense of vulnerability and uncertainty throughout which I enjoyed. This is definitely amplified purely because it’s Bruce Willis which may have been deliberate casting choice (fair play, why not). More so than any other, Willis is faced with gut wrenching circumstances and decisions, centred around morals vs love (yes - of course there’s love in the plot, every film has a dash of love… it’s all we need, don’t argue with The Beatles).

For the more thoughtful film goers, you can easily pick out a few core themes, one of which is the importance of childhood and what a massive difference this can make to an individual. And what would you say to yourself in 30 years time? What would they (or rather, you…) say to you…?! That’s one of the interesting questions you’ll leave the cinema with. In the case of Bruce & Joseph (Joe), neither are impressed! Perhaps the deeper thinkers amongst us would say this film could be viewed as a useful kick up the ass: life is indeed unfolding rapidly in front of us and you don’t want the future you to be a disappointment, do you? And what would a future you think of you right now? Not good? …so make it better! …anyway, luckily for you, this review is no-where near as deep as that.

Looper sports a healthy balance of intrigue, suspense, action and sci-fi, keeps a fair pace throughout and to Johnson’s credit, it’s easy enough to follow - the whole time travel thing can make your brain hurt at the best of times but with only a couple of moments of self-doubt aside, it was straight forward enough to grasp whilst being complex enough to be interesting.

You should go see this film, but my only advice before you do is: please, don’t overthink it!

Dan Hayes

Monday, 15 October 2012

DeathChess Extra


For Issue 3.3, Rhubarb Bomb played Chess with guitarist and singer from The Spills, Chad. For every piece he lost, he had to answer a question. Sadly (for Chad) Rhubarb Bomb ended up taking ALL his pieces. So a couple of questions didn't make the issue. Here they are! 


Pawn

RB: If you could soundtrack any film or TV show, what would it be?

Chad: I’m trying to think of films I love that don’t have good music. (pause as we return to game) Maybe Brideshead Revisited. That’d be cool wouldn’t it? Battlestar Galactica? The Spills… I don’t think we could soundtrack anything… Maybe Die Hard. First one. That’s the official answer. (later on in game) TV Series: The Twilight Zone. That’d be fucking cool.

Pawn

RB: Which records originally inspired to pick up a guitar?

Chad: I didn’t start playing guitar til I was about 15 so I was lucky in that I had good taste at that age. A few years earlier it might have been Blink 182. It wasn’t necessarily bands that made me want to play guitar. I sure liked a hell of a lot of bands but it was more people around me writing music that encouraged me to just pick it up and try it and I got one for my birthday. It was not long over a year later when The Spills came along.

Bishop

RB: You and Rob clearly put a lot of effort into your fine and fashionable hairstyles. Do you have nay grooming tips?

Chad: Me? I’d like to put on the record that I am the only one out of The Spills that uses no hair product.

RB: So it’s all natural then?

Chad: My hair? I’ve hardly got any hair! Quite a receeder. Grooming tips…

RB: Maybe you’re the wrong one to ask. Are they all pretty vain then?

Chad: They are very vain, actually. Sam looks at his hair when we go past cars in the windows and stuff. The secret to my look is all Chicken Wings. They get you really fat but then you can use all the grease on your hair. (We move to fashion tips) Actually I have a shirt that I bought – well, I’m a bit clueless, I don’t like to go shopping – on eBay. I went on and typed in ‘shirt’. To narrow the search down a bit I put in lowest price and got a shirt. Two quid it cost me (laughing). I hate going to the shops. In fact I haven’t been to a barbers in about five years. I cut my own hair!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Clive Continuum


Clive Smith has been around for an awful long time. Awfully long. An enigma, a maverick, a pioneer; he has described himself as these things and many, many more. Now, with the weight of experience crushing his increasingly fragile mind and body, he has begun developing The Clive Continuum, a series of works that act as his passing of the flame to younger artists and visionaries. Learn from his mistakes, for if it could ever go wrong, it went wrong for Clive

"Lyrics" (see also: "Side Projects")

Lyrics are one of the hardest parts of songwriting to master. But a master I have become. It wasn’t easy and it isn’t a glorious business either. When you write music as good as mine they can often be pushed into the background with only the most perceptive of listeners looking below the surface. But this here blog is my way of sharing my secrets with you, to help make the world a better place.

Of course, just telling you would be too easy. Clive don’t take the easy way out. So, in order to push myself and further develop my skills (I’m living proof of how important that is), I will pass this advice to you through the medium of Song Lyric. That’s pretty clever isn’t it?

So just for you, here it is:

The Key To My Success
By Clive Smith

I was walking down the street the other day
Hopin’ life’ll pan out the Clive Smith way
When I get a phonecall – yes I’m mobile now
Magazine editor needin’ the Clive Smith know-how
“Tell me Clive’ he said in a friendly tone
“How’d y’get a lyrical style that’s all your own?”
I said I’ll tell it to you straight, I’ll tell it to you good
That way there’s no fear I’ll be misunderstood

My flow flows on and I’m sharp as hell
I got an eye for detail and I rhyme real well
My political style will get you under my spell
Where Clive’ll go next, no-one can tell

But the key to my success; I aint eager to impress
Just tell it like it is and tell ‘em I’m the best
A clever metaphor, to prove I’m better or
I use the assonance, when I get the chance
You better get outta town, I’m throwin’ the gauntlet down
Clive Smith is the greatest to ever come around
Coz this man aint a clown, don’t make me beat you down
No chancer gonna take this master’s crown

But you want advice, well I can dish it out
You want a hard hitting lyric, you gotta fish it out
I’m talking intellect, nothing else will earn my respect
There might be a thick pop star but I aint met ‘em yet
The truth is a weapon and the song is my cannon
I like sugar in my tea and my toast with jam on
Sometimes you get a line that don’t make sense
But if it rhymes it sounds cool, and that’s the best

My flow flows on and I’m sharp as hell
I got an eye for the ladies and I rhyme real well
My sexual style will get you under my spell
Where Clive’ll go next, well no-one can tell


Saturday, 13 October 2012

Into The Light / Atomic Arabian Facebuster


Into The Light / Atomic Arabian Facebuster
Runaround Kids/ The Spills
Bitching Cassettes

This bitching cassette is nothing but bitching. Both Runaround Kids and The Spills have developed their sound over the past year and are seriously killing it. If you have any preconceptions of Wakefield music, or if you have been living in a cave for the past few years, you are stupid, you are not a friend of mine and you really need to get your act together. This new split single showcases absolutely everything that both bands have learned, thrown together, and deliberated over since they started.

Runaround Kids I feel have created their best song to date in Into The Light.  Following their earlier releases, tours, drunken debauchery and boyish good looks they have struck gold in a big way. They are 
emulating a very distinct and mature sound and believe me, it leaves you questioning ‘why aren’t they fucking huge?’ There time will come trust me on this. Into The Light is a mixture of clattering percussion, fuzzy bass and lyrics that are literally hurled at you.  A bit like a brick being thrown in your face; you can feel the strain, blood, sweat and effort in the song and believe me, you would rise smiling through shattered teeth and ask for more.

The Spills have made it in my eyes, in terms of song writing, live performance and consistency. This single being released after their incredible album Occam’s Razor does not fall short in any way. The title alone ‘Atomic Arabian Facebuster’ is fucking awesome! Musically it is mouth watering, anthemic and painfully addictive. As a listener you can feel the exertion, the pain in the lyrics and the sheer power that they manipulate so cleverly. It is exciting to watch The Spills grow and develop, whatever they are doing, it is working and I especially am looking forward to future releases and so should you.

Go out and buy this bitching cassette, find that unused tape player, wipe off the dust and wear a napkin, shit is going to get messy.

Jack Falcon

Friday, 12 October 2012

Issue 3.3 released


  

We are very pleased to announce our new issue has arrived. And I think it’s a pretty good one. As ever, you can pick them up for free. They will be available first at our Long Division gig, then distributed to the usual places, and probably some unusual ones too. If you’d like to see it anywhere, or want to take some someplace, let me know and we’ll see if we can sort something. Keep an eye on our Facebook for updates as to where they end up.

I don’t think there is much of a theme running through this one. The same old streak of celebrating the individual I guess. Here is a run down of the contents.

DeathChess” is an interview with Chad of The Spills, conducted over a game of Chess. For every piece he lost he had to endure a question selected at random from my notebook of exceedingly difficult questions. How did he cope? Find out here! This issue’s “Working Artist” is Gareth Nicholls, a Wakefield fella who has been making a living as a theatre director for five years now. And he’s not even in his thirties. How on earth does he manage that? “Beard Brothers” is a heartening plee for greater understanding of that most misunderstood of beast: the bearded musician. How does the beard affect the music? How does it affect the beard-wearer? Dan Hayes investigates. “Post War Glamour Girls” is an interview with James from said band, a mere 48 hours after they left the stage at Leeds Festival. How has this adventure affected this most promising of bands? It’s a lovely interview with a very smart and on the ball chap, was a pleasure to do. “Hip Hop Breakfast” sees Paul Bateson share his love of communal, hungover fried breakfasts, created to a badass Hip Hop soundtrack. “RIP Clive Smith” has the man in question debating the reasons behind the news that old records are now outselling new ones. How did this world get so crazy and mixed up? Clive will tell you. “Anatomy Of A Gig” originally appeared on this very blog. It got such a great reaction, I decided it worthy of inclusion in an actual issue. It’s already got a great response; from the printers when I picked it up! “The Train” is a short story by Helen Rhodes, a celebration of the joys of public transport. “Jazz Club” is an interview with Chris, who runs Wakefield Jazz , which has been going for twenty five years and is regarded as one of the best in the country. He gives me an education in why Jazz is so great and still important. “Follow The Drum” this issue begins with a spam email Long Division received offering us a couple of no-marks from Geordie Shores for a meet and greet. Roland X delves into this world and comes up questioning his own prejudices. “Why I Zine” is the first in a new line of articles written by other zine editors. This one is with Christopher Maclachlan who edits Kind Words From The Broken Hearted which is a Cribs zine. Finally, this issue’s “Endtroducing” is Wakefield band The Do’s.

There you go! That’s Issue 3.3. It was designed by the amazing Matt Sidebottom. The cover was by Step Jones and it also contains additional photography and images from John Jowett, Step Jones and John Sarell. We hope you enjoy it. Issue 3.4 will be out in December.

Dean Freeman

Rhubarb Bomb On The Wireless


Last night (October 11th) Rhubarb Bomb was kindly invited on to Alan Raw’s show, BBC Introducing for a chat about our book The City Consumes Us. We got to play some of the tracks from the record, and talked about how the book came into existence and what it was trying to do. Alan does some amazing work and it was great to have a good old chat with him in his studio.

You can listen to and download the record from our Bandcamp, and you can also order the book through there for a ridiculously cheap price of £10 (plus postage).

And you can listen back to the show for the next 6 days and we pop up about 30 minutes in. 



Thursday, 11 October 2012

October 13th: Long Division Supergig

Yes you heard me: SUPERGIG. To remind people that Long Division is very much on our minds at the moment, given that next year’s dates have been confirmed as June 8th-10th, we are having a bit of an October party. So many things seemed to fall in this magical date of October 13th that it just had to be. Here is the lineup, starting with the headliners.

Johnny Foreigner



Adored by many in Wakefield, Johnny Foreigner are currently on their UK tour which is then to be followed by an extensive US tour. They are, without doubt one of the biggest cult bands around and that’s why (aside from their amazing records) that we asked them to open Long Division 2012 for us on the Friday night. We love JF!

PAWS



Much has changed for PAWS in the few months since they played a mid afternoon slot at Long Division 2012. Their debut album has just come out on Fat Cat Records to rave reviews across the board and has received gushing press from all over the place, including being SPIN magazine ones to watch. Not bad for a DIY band from Glasgow. One of those bands that, despite releasing great records, really make their name through amazing live shows and as such we are thrilled they are back in Wakefield as part of their UK tour.

Runaround Kids



It’s been an exciting year for the Runaround Kids; this gig sees them come close to completing an ambitious and exciting release schedule. Having already released a CD/T-Shirt split, a 12” split EP with We Are Losers and contributed a track to Rhubarb Bomb’s The City Consumes Us Compilation since January, they now release a split Cassette with The Spills at this very show. And I thought the youth of today were idle sods. The questions is, where will they go next?

Playlounge


We are very pleased to welcome Johnny Foreigner’s tour buddies along to our supergig. Their brand of super fuzzy, super poppy punky indie was enough to charm JF, so why not us too? With such a cacophonous noise, its hard to believe there are only two of them. Is that true? I cant wait to find out!

Wot Gorilla?


A band that has massively impressed us this year, with a suburb debut album of complex math-rock meets post hardcore executed with perfection. My only experience of them live was at Beacons, which was great. I needed to hear more! So I booked em for this. And despite not having played Long Division before, if they don’t play it next year I will be eating my hat (unless they are on holiday, or the Letterman show or something).

The Spills


The Spills opened up the Saturday of the first ever Long Division. This year they took The Vaselines support slot. However, no-one is certain for the heavily fought after slots at this festival, so consider this their audition. Aswell as releasing a split single with Runaround Kids at this show, the new issue of Rhubarb Bomb, available for the first time at this show, features an interview with Chad of The Spills as its lead article. An interview conducted over a game of chess. Which I hope indicates how cool this band are and why it is worth getting down early (6pm!) to see them do their thing.

And for all that? Just Seven Pounds. Considering that's the price on the Jonny Foreigner regular tour, it's pretty marvellous god-damn value int it? Doors are at 6pm, so get on down early and bring PLENTY of money for merch; you are going to want to buy everything...




Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Out Beyond The Blue EP Review

Michael Ainsley
Out Beyond the Blue (EP)

Philophobia Music
I first came across Michael Ainsley playing an acoustic set at Wakefield Town Hall as part of the Long Division 2012 festival. Attracted by their name I had made my way to the Town Hall to see the Wet Nuns and, having arrived early, wandered in to Michaels set to kill time. I was only half paying attention as he picked out the introduction to a song and began to sing the opening lines:

“You’ve got chimney pots on your patio
They don’t blow smoke, but they blow”

This is probably the second finest opening couplet* to any song I can recall. The song was Wake when you die.

So, let’s start with the domestic stuff.

Out Beyond The Blue is Michael Ainsley’s first release on Philophobia since his 2011 debut album Slipsmash.

The three track EP kicks off with Only Strike When You’re In The Zone. Opening with a distorted melodic, winding guitar line over insistent drums before announcing its presence with a joyous HEY! A statement of intent…. a wake up call. The track is driven by an infectious, bouncing melody leading up to a power chord chorus “only strike when your in the zone, close your eyes and you’re walking home”. On first listen this is the stand out track on the EP. But there is more to come.

The tempo slows down for the second track; Rainy Lonely Day is a quieter and more reflective number with a piano intro and stripped back instrumentation. It starts well with a plaintive vocal which if I am being honest deserves the stronger chorus enjoyed by the other two tracks. The song is not without its merits but is, to a degree, overshadowed by the two songs which bookend it.

The title track Out Beyond The Blue is a beautifully arranged and well realised song. Musically well crafted, well written and well.......... wonderful. It has great subtlety, both musically and lyrically. The verse is coloured with touches of violin and understated guitar before it bursts into the most glorious harmonies of a chanted chorus. A big beautiful sea of sound as the song kicks off its shoes to dance. This is the stand out track on the EP.

Michael Ainsley, musician and songwriter, has released an EP of real quality. I have gone about my daily chores, work and leisure for the past 10 days with Out Beyond The Blue as my soundtrack. Two points are worthy of note.

Firstly the EP is “a grower”. This can only be true if the songs have enough subtlety to pass you by on the first few listens. Once the harmonies and assured arrangements worm their way into your head the songs reveal their real strength.

The second point is this. Over the last week I have found myself singing both “Only strike...” and “Out beyond the blue” as I go about my day. By way of comparison I have also been listening to Plumb by Field Music and to be honest I can’t remember a bloody line of it.

Out Beyond The Blue can be downloaded on a name your price basis. Buy it. It is joyous!

Karl Shore

*The finest opening couplet I can recall to as song is:
”It was the biggest cock you'd ever seen / But you've no idea where that cock had been”. (Packs of Three by Arab Strap) Let me know if a better one exists.