Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Moombahton: what's that all about then?

It's early 2010, and Dave Nada is in a tight spot. The Washington DJ been roped in to play at his lil’ cousin's skipping party, a Daily Mail-friendly invention whereby a bunch of kids slack off school and have their own impromptu, unanounced cop-bothering house party. Anyway, Dave, top Washington DJ and producer that he is, has been helping out with this whole Ferris Bueller scene, dropping a reggaeton set, but as mentioned, he's fucked: he's out of tunes. All he has left is a bunch of Dutch techno, which they aren't going to go for. His hand forced, he slaps on the Afrojack’s Moombah remix and tries to avert a disco-lynching by pitching it riiiiiight down, hoping that they won't notice. Then it happens: the track's rolling percussive rhythm enters a breakdown, the vocal hollers "t-t-t-t-t-turn up the bass!" - and the kids go absolutely fucking batshit nuts. He follows it up by repeating the half-speed trick Sidney Samson’s Riverside. Bang! Another winner. Like the eureka guy in the bath, Isaac newton getting apples on a Bosman from gravity and more pertinently the DJ who invented Belgian New Beat after accidentally playing an industrial track at 33 instead of 45, Dave Nada had his own moment of divine intervention - Moombahton was born.

In under a year Moombahton's gone from that house party to worldwide buzz: from America to Japan via Holland and Israel, from Canada to the UK, we're all getting on it, with the likes of Diplo, XXXChange, Toddla T and A-Trak all jumping on board. Nada, along with scene-shapers David Heartbreak, Munchi, and other DJ/producers like A-Mac, DJ Melo, Sabo, Apt-One, Wyld Stallyns and Skinny Friedman, quickly laid down the Moombahton template: a percussive 108bpm two-step reggaeton rhythm, met with crisp tweaky electronica, truly humungous breakdowns and equally sizeable drops, creating a hybrid that will connect with anyone with a passing interest in electronic dance music - acid, techno, even dubstep, it's all in there, but with far greater warmth, thanks to the rump-friendly Latino underpinning. If I’m being a spotter I’ll flag up a precursor in the mid-90s UK compilation on Fused & Bruised, This Is Latin Amyl, which shoved a tab of acid down the neck of an entire carnival, metaphorically speaking, you understand.

But the accessiblity continues: it also shares DNA with Baltimore Bounce, Crunk, Brazilian Baile Funk and AV8-style hip hop bangers, all outgoing, party-minded genres, miles away from the mardy face of much of the current UK scene – I’m looking at you, dubstep and witch house. But if it has a template, it’s a broad one that’s already allowing the genre to grow and develop, adding bits to see what fits – some of it leans towards the more traditional cumbia style, while others have used it to renose dubstep towards more energetic dancefloors, while over in the UK, Smutlee has taken it in more of a dancehall direction, while London label Mutant House have added a garage feel. Plus, Munchi and Heartbreak have already taken the sound into tougher, gnarlier spots, resulting in the far darker sub-genre Moombahcore. That’s all without taking in the raft of edits that would endear it to both the UK market and more mainstream ears – from Justice, Chemical Brothers, Count & Sinden, Josh Wink, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Drop The Lime to the more obvious pop edits of Lady Gaga and Rihanna, Moombahton's tentacles are everywhere. Jesus, even The Doobie Brothers get a look in. What's fun is watching the whole thing shape up, branch off, develop and grow.

And for a UK crowd now plenty used to tropical and two-step electronica, it's all set up to welcome Moombahton into their clubs in 2011 - and to get you started, here are some mp3s to whet your whistle...

Dave Nada - La Gata (Moombahton edit)
Hyper Crush - Ayo (Wyld Stallyns Moombahton edit)
Crystal Fighters  - I Love London (A-Mac Moombahton edit)
Kid Sister - Pro Nails Ruska remix (Ivan Rankic Moombahstep edit)

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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

And today's film that I'm glad exists, but not enough to do anything more about it than watch the trailer is....

...Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives.

Thanks to Film Drunk for bringing this doozy/useless piece of trash/curio to my attention. I think it's safe for everyone to draw the line at watching the trailer. Excuse the fact that the clip's cropped on the right-hand side - though it's not like you're really missing much.

As you were...

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Monday, 6 December 2010

Tron: Legacy review

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Old-school geeks the world over will soon be put out of their misery and discover whether the Tron sequel will be able to reclaim computer game chic from the legions brought up with the likes of Call Of Duty, GTA and cinematic CGI spectacles such as Avatar, and put it back into the hands of those of us who weren't cool enough to sniff glue and instead had to make do with sitting in a bedroom waiting an hour for Daley Thompson's Decathlon to load, and whose only claim to supremacy would come when we were able to enter those three magic letters in an arcade game's sacred hall of fame. 
PCCP sent Anthony Crossby along to see how Disney's Christmas gift to nerds stacks up...

Disney have returned to the digital grid and the adventures of Kevin Flynn in their new blockbuster Tron: Legacy. The original Tron was a huge risk when it was released in 1982. Built around the then-emerging computer generated effects, it attempted to mix the new method of special effects with real action to create a unique sci-fi adventure. Costing a reputed $17 million dollars to make, Tron was seen as a box office failure and a risky venture which ultimately didn’t pay off. What it did do however was open the door to the possibilities this new technology could bring.

Twenty eight years later we return to the adventures of programmer Keith Flynn (Jeff Bridges), and once again it is a risky move. Disney are trying to capitalise on the cult status Tron has garnered over the years by making it their big Xmas blockbuster. Is there a big enough box office pull for a sequel to a film that, though influential, was hardly a break through hit? More importantly, is it any good?

After taking over ENCOM at the end of the last movie, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) has been busy at work, creating a whole new digital world on his personal server. Flynn believes that he has made breakthroughs which will aide and improve humanity, and after declaring this to his young son Sam, he promptly disappears. Without the guidance of Flynn over the next 20 years, his company ENCOM turns from an idealistic computer company into a profit-guzzling corporation.

Like all fatherless sons in movieland, Sam (Garrett Hedlund) has grown into a thrill-seeking, responsibility-shunning adult. He base-jumps of buildings, rides fast motorbikes and sabotages ENCOM’s latest attempt to make more money. After a distress call from Kevin received by his fathers old buddy, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner reviving his character from the original film), Sam discovers his father is in the digital Grid.

Sam follows his fathers and is thrown into the computer world through the portal his father used. He soon discovers that his father created this new world with the help of TRON and his own programme doppelganger CLU. CLU soon rebels against his creators’ vision and becomes the all powerful ruler of the Grid, intending to use the portal to invade and take over the real world as well as the Grid. Distraught by CLU’s treachery, Kevin has been hiding away from his nemesis, holding the key to the portal, which CLU needs to fulfil his plan. Rescued by Kevin’s protégé, Quorra (OLIVIA WILDE), Sam joins in the fight to scarper CLU’s plans and free his father…

Visually, the film is stunning. The screen bursts with today’s technology whilst still holding close the design concepts of the original film. The update to the light cycles looks great and introduction of the familiar games is superb. The soundtrack by Daft Punk is probably one of the best soundtracks in years and complements the visuals perfectly. Bridges brings a warmth to his character in his usual imitable style, Wilde looks fantastic and brings a heart to the film, and even Hegunland is suitable as the wayward son.

It is a shame that the plot lets this all down. It feels paper thin and convoluted at the same time and the emotional beats in the film feel empty, plus TRON, our previous hero, is hardly eluded to and feels slightly shoehorned in when he does appear.

The main problem maybe the plot but the biggest distraction for me is the villain. CLU is a digital recreation of a 25 year-old Jeff Bridges and looks like a computer game character. Every time he is on screen you feel as if you are in a cut scene and it diminishes the spectacle.

Ultimately, it is an enjoyable film despite its flaws, but with a little tightening of the story by writers Kitsis and Horowitz, this could truly have been a classic.

Tron: Legacy is released in UK cinemas on December 17th.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Machete: The Grindhouse Endures

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Lovers of trash/B-movie/exploitation/whatevs cinema will notice a stirring down below today, as Robert Rodriquez's guts-and-girls opus Machete finally opens in the UK. It's the director's second overt homage to the piss-soaked grindhouse era and the kid brother to Planet Terror, the zombie flick that formed half of his and Tarantino's sadly ill-fated Grindhouse project, and the same excursion that teased Machete into being as a faux trailer.

While Grindhouse fizzled out - to the point that the recent release of the as-God-intended version was met with little more than curiosity - the fleapit aesthetic of the 42nd Street scene has endured, from the loving homage of Black Dynamite through to the hot-curry-eating-endurance contests offered by A Serbian Film and the torture porn films - fittingly including the I Spit On Your Grave remake - and documentaries such as Jake West's recent Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide and Elijah Drenner's excellent American Grindhouse. Though remake nostalgia is ever-present in cinemas, this ongoing exploitation chic offers a different, less commercially driven and arguably more legitimate thrust - a hankering for primal film-making and a shift away from the multiplex-aimed slick production process. Obviously, it's fucking stupid to argue that we don't live in an era when the mainstream isn't offering classics in its own right, perhaps rather it's that the exploitation scene had a mad spontenaity which afforded directors and producers who often didn't have a clue what they were doing the chance to create happy accidents, a tone that is perhaps less apparent today, and a sense of discovery that is missing in the internet age; though the grindhouse's obvious rep is for setting the tempo on sex and violence, it was also way ahead of the curve by giving the fringe cinema of Europe and Asia a platform - would Bruce Lee have broken through if Jimmy Wang Yu hadn't become a grindhouse fave first? Would Blair Witch exist without Deodato's cannibal flicks' faux-docu framing?

The release of Machete, and the upcoming Hobo With A Shotgun - another fake trailer to make the conversion to a feature - and the rash of midnight movie schedules at festivals around the world show that the need to hang around on the periphery of acceptability and love of unfettered film-making endures. Now, all we need to do is persuade Edgar Wright to make his Don't! trailer into a feature...

Thursday, 25 November 2010

So, What's XXXchange Been Up To Then?

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Spank Rock twiddler, hip-hop renaissance man and PCCP fave XXXchange is a busy man. After sprinking his party-hued beat magic over the likes of Kele, The Kills and Amanda Blank, and remixing countless others up a gear, he's now announced another project: Win Win, a collaborative joint with longterm associates Devlin & Darko and video artist Ghostdad. Hot Chip, Andrew WK and Gang Gang Dance.

The Fader have Releaserpm, their first single, on their website in a highly grabbable form. Get on it, I say.

While you're at it, here's a particularly swell remix of his:
mp3: Make It So (Xxxchange remix) - Daedelus

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

So When LCD Soundsystem Said No More Albums...

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...they should have put a little asterisk next to it with the words '*apart from this live album recorded at the Ally Pally' in tiny 6pt text.

Not that I'm moaning. Bag it, along with the Hot Chip set from the same night, here.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Review: Carlos The Jackal DVD (Movie Version)

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Making terrorism sexy since 1973

As Mrs PCCP and I recently sat watching news reports of the thwarted terror business at East Midlands airport, we got into a nice middle-class chat about the ongoing Middle East situation, which, as I'm personally more geared towards weighing up which is my favourite disco edit or how irritating Roy Hodgson is, my contribution to the debate was intellectually and politically assured as a drunken teenager faced with a bra strap.

Coincidentally, a few short hours later I was watching Carlos The Jackal, Olivier Assayas' much-oohed-over opus on the activities of said Carlos, the David Bowie of terrorism, who theatrically ushered in the game-changing era of the setpiece terror attack, bold statements of aggression that plopped the Palestinian-Israeli situation into the laps of the world via the media.

Watching both the live events and the Assayas' take in the same day made me realise the following:

1. This situation has been going on for a while now, and not a great deal has changed.
2. Fuck going to the Yemen for a holiday.
3. Carlos' terrorist template sadly stands the test of time.
4. Being a Middle-Eastern terrorist doesn't mean you have to stop you getting your jollies.
5. Germany in the 1970s was an even more impressive place than I originally suspected - krautrock, Kraftwerk, Beckenbauer, Bowie and Iggy in Berlin - and if Carlos is to be believed, a seemingly endless parade of sexy Baader-Meinhoff revolutionary hipsters.

Points 4 and 5 are the key ones here. Carlos was a terrorist, no escaping that, but one who wore shades, smoked, drank, partied and got to make out with highly politicised lovelies - he's basically Don Draper with access to Che Guevara's humidor. But rather than rendering the situation in that simplistic, Mesrine-chic way, this superb ambitious drama instead highlight's how one man's action, and in many cases, his ignorance, served to provide a painful legacy that stretches for decades, leaving unbearable scars.

Filmed as TV mini-series stretching over nigh on six hours, Carlos leaps straight into the man's ascent in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, where his efficiency was overmatched by his determination and his balls. Finding a fan in Saddam Hussein, Carlos is sent to kill a minister who's blocking an oil deal the tyrant wants to go through. After leading a squad to storm a meeting at OPEC, the situation escalates, with Carlos taking sixty ministers hostage, before it unravels, leaving him to try to salvage the situation by flying the captives to Algiers. Forced out of the PFLP after the failure of the mission and the damage his decisions caused, Carlos ultimately becomes a gun for hire, flitting between volatile countries keen to get the rub from his notoriety.

Despite being cropped to 159 minutes, the movie version shows no sign of suffering from such a hefty edit. Neither Carlos or the viewer has the full benefit of the bigger picture, so the gaps feel organic, creating a naturalistic narrative that doesn't lean on exposition, in the same way the season breaks work in Mad Men. Intriguingly, we're offered nothing in the way of background, no reason why Carlos is so passionate about the cause. This means we're thrust in the middle of the drama, finding direction solely in his actions. With his understanding of the intricacies of the situation seemingly sketchy, his passion for the cause becomes little more than that - raw passion, of which there's plenty on show.

Smartly, Assayas allows you the option of learning the political intricacies of the situation or simply taking Carlos as a work of entertainment, cannily balancing the two - it's both a document of a pivotal moment in recent history and a character study with intrigue, action and women erotically licking live hand grenades. It's stunningly filmed, edited and directed, with a even-handed willingness to portray a string of probable bastards as simply people who are simply faithful to their beliefs - the judgement comes in hindsight as we count the long-term cost of their deeds. There's also a robust performance from Edgar Ramirez in the lead, making him an almost noble klutz, more full of bombast than canny wit, and always compelling and human throughout.

A success on plenty of levels, Carlos The Jackal is ample proof that you can actually be big and clever.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Singer Rihanna 'To Star In Battleship Potemkin Remake'

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Poppy RnB delivery operative Rihanna has been confirmed to star in the upcoming remake of the early Russian classic The Battleship Potemkin, slated for a 2011 release and very probably a critical slating around about the same time.

It's the realisation of a lifelong dream for the singer, 22, an unreliable source with no discernable link to her said two seconds ago just as I typed it: "It's a dream come true," the source repeated. "The stories about it being an ill-advised big-screen adaptation of the boardgame that I'm not sure that anyone actually plays any more are wide of the mark. Rihanna went for the role because she has long been a fan of early 20th century Russian propaganda, plus there has always been a Bolshevik element to her music – Umbrella was her way of tackling the problems between the workers and the owners of the means of production."

The possibility of working with director Peter Berg was also a draw for the star: "Rihanna is a such a massive fan - after watching his film Hancock she went out and bought all the original Hancock's Half Hours on audiobook. She's always doing The Blood Donor sketch with Jay-Z – that's helped her get into top thespy shape for the part," her 'friend' claimed.  Berg himself is delighted that the singer is on board: "It's great news. I think that many cynics were assuming that this project was going to be a total dog's dinner that sums up the paucity of imagination in Hollywood at the moment, but by announcing that a singer with no relevant experience is the first name we've announced, they'll be eating their words. After a few casting meetings, we discovered that we're both massive admirers of Zombieland star Jesse Eisenberg, who directed the original. Although the Odessa Steps sequence is a seminal and poignant metaphor for the struggle against imperial oppression and human suffering, we both agree that it can only look better once we film it in 3D," the director might have said if we had actually asked him if we'd gone to the trouble of getting clearance from his people.

Sadly not everybody shares the pair's enthusiasm. A spokesman for Sergei Eisentein's estate was unable to muster the energy to give more than the barest of damns about the whole thing, but was somehow able to roll their eyes down the phone at us.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Harvey Pekar 1939-2010

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"Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff."

Sad news. Harvey Pekar, the writer of the comic book series American Splendor, sadly passed away on Monday. While comics have understandably long struggled to shake the juvenile-fantasist tag, few did more to dispel that image and open up the possibilities of the medium than Harvey.

Though the Sixties comic counter-culture led by the like of Robert Crumb pushed the envelope taboo-wise, the sex and drugs schtick of The Furry Freak Brothers and Crumb's Fritz The Cat still showed an underlying immaturity - Pekar took this supposed maturity and replaced it with the real deal, using himself as his subject, Pekar rooted his comics firmly in everyday life, detailing with a wry observational eye his personal problems, his day job at a hospital, his struggles with his success as a writer and even his on-going battle with cancer.

As well as helping comics to grow up, Harvey himself was impressively obsessed with remaining true to himself and not getting artistically compromised, in fact he was loathe to quit his job as a file clerk, despite his success. This quest for purity was neatly captured by the 2003 movie adaptation, which played the real Harvey off against Paul Giamatti's film Harvey to ensure that any Hollywood artifice was kept to an absolute minimum. But never was this aspect of Harvey's personality more apparent than during his infamous appearances on David Letterman's chat show. Unfazed by the notion of celebrity and refusing to play the media game, Harvey would go toe-to-toe and give the host considerable amounts of shit, to the point of being banned from appearing on the show after he called Letterman out for trying to silence his criticisms of General Electrics, on the grounds that they owned the TV network that broadcast the show.

God bless you, Harvey, you cranky old bastard.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Go On RZA, Get It Out Of Your System, You'll Feel A Lot Better

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I'm unsure if the kung-fu community has a New Year's Honours List, but if it does, then RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan must be somewhere near the top of it, just below Hong Kong Phooey and a little bit above Cynthia Rothrock.

Having spent lord knows how many years lacing his collective's tracks with references to the Shaw Brothers's movies, helping Tarantino score Kill Bill Vol1, rereleasing little-known kung-fu flicks and trying to get IKEA to introduce a range of 36th Chamber Of Shaolin bedroom units, he's now settled into what may be his ultimate aim - directing his own martial-arts epic, The Wu-Tang Clan Vs The Golden Phoenix, The Playlist reports.

It's been a long-term labour of love, ten years in fact, and there's no scheduled date for it, so it may well slip off the radar. The story is that RZA wants this to show Hollywood that he's capable of handling a movie. Judging by this new trailer, it may only show how many kung-fu films he's seen. Which we kind of knew anyway. Oh well.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Summer Bypasses Physical Plane, Instead Manifests Itself As This mp3

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My inbox seems to be like some kind of info landfill sometimes, with press releases for neatly named indie bands rubbing up against other indie bands with perhaps not-so equally neat names, alternating with teasing come-ons for film screenings that, should I be interested in attending, I'll find the invite doesn't stretch to bloggers who share the same name and URL as me.

Two things will get through my snobbery firewall - the extremely woeful, such as the electric rock violin duo who took time out from fusing classical and pop music for an attempt to break the world violin speed record on the Alan Titchmarsh show, or the truly wonderful.

This week's something wonderful came to me from Sydney, Australia via the never-shit Hole In The Sky Records, home to Tame Impala and HITS founders, The Canyons. New signings Tortoiseshell's first single, This Girl, is proudly influenced by stuff like Talking Heads, ESG and Roxy Music, and is really fucking lovely as a result - a dreamy, winsome, summery Balearic chilled lament, glossed with icy strings and fullsome bass, and a blossoming chorus that has a real summery post-coital glow.

I would have been happy enough with that, but there's a dub by the Canyons in there too *does agog face* This Canyons dub is a thing of serious beauty, and reinforces the idea that these are people who have very special powers, powers that have rightfully earned them deals with both Modular and DFA.

Stripping away the 80s gleaminess and renovating it with cavernous depths, it becomes a heartbtreaking and warming moment of transporting bliss, not unlike those happy/sad old Charles Atlas ads where some sap is having a great time on the beach before some thug kicks sand in his face - only this time you realise you don't need to go to his gym to bulk up, as you have a cold beer,  a stunning sunset, a good woman and five minutes of Canyons heaven to see you through.

First listen may not do it, but that chorus will return to elevate you when you least expect it...

Download: Tortoiseshell - This Girl (Canyons Dub)

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Kele Bloc Party's Record and Tape XXXChange

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Upon reading the sentence 'Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke launches solo career' in this week's NME, I had the kind of reaction I get whenever there's a news story about a president being elected who'll end civil unrest in some troubled country that's had a spot of strife – in theory it's no bad thing, just nothing that is of any great immediate concern to me.

Then my eyes happened upon the fact that Spank Rock's XXXChange was on board. Now, Spank Rock on their own are perfectly fine, making stout electro party hip-hop that stands about 2ft to the left of almost everyone else. But XXXChange, whose passport should have his real name Alex Epton on it, is shaping up to be a fuck of a producer and remixer in his own right, as his work with the likes of The Kills, Amanda Blank, Bjork and Thom Yorke have proved. Mad prolific, he's also super-adept at genre diversity – he's just as home with a shirt-stuck-to-your-back tribal acid freakout (see his remix of Make It So by Daedelus) as he is with dinner-party Eric Bristow-pinky finger out gentrified electro (his mix of Thom Yorke's The Eraser), cheap lager scrunchy indie disco (Cheap And Cheerful by The Kills) or screwed up oddball hip-hop (Amanda Blank's album, I Love You). He's still at one with the B-More club thing – he's also involved with the Kid Sister album, which should also find its place in a meritocracy.

For those reasons alone, I'll be be keeping my mouse hovered over Kele's MySpace page.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

A Good Week part 2: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

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Kick-Ass has barely had time to get to first base with movie geeks, but already they're being offered a cheeky feel from another brassy Brit flick - Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, directed by Edgar Wright, him what did Spaced, Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. It's looking as if it'll be a total riot, packed with Wright's usual dynamic and playful style, with a ridiculous attention to detail.

A Good Week part 1: LCD Soundsystem return

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There is a big vat of regard for James Murphy here at PCCP, so new LCD Soundsystem business is a cause for giddy schoolgirl rejoice.

The forthcoming album - supposedly the last, said the New Yorker unto Zane Lowe - is getting the default rosy feedback, with The Quietus hinting that it's all you could hope for, though this time the everso beloved disco-kraut-punk-acid has had the edges sanded down, making it more mass humanity-friendly – you can kinda hear that in Drunk Girls, which appeared over the net and can be streamed over here at Pitchfork.

Murphy already seems to be looking over the horizon: as well as his LCD business, he's scored the new Ben Stiller / Noah Baumbach film Greenberg, which has Murphy scooting off into gentler, more pensive climes, filled with the kind of Seventies comedown rock, an expansive west coast sound, where the bitterness of the failure of the hippy generation is expressed by blissed-out rich men recording at the bottom of pit of disappointment. Don't worry, that makes sense in my head.

Does this help?

Monday, 22 March 2010

PCCP reviews Kick-Ass, comes off second best

Comic-book film adaptation shark-jump update: initial suspicions were that Watchmen would be the moment when normal people, the ones who don't give a shit who Jack Kirby is, stopped paying good money to sit in a cinema and watch blokes with a keen eye for colour-coordinated tight-fitting outfits getting physical with each other.

It's all a bit irrelevant now, as Kick-Ass is about to make every superhero film that follows it redundant. Based on the mini-series by the ridiculously talented British writer Mark Millar and industry legend John Romita Jr, Kick-Ass finishes the job Watchmen started and dismantles the genre by applying the superhero cliches to the real world to see how they stand up. On one level, Kick-Ass is deconstructivist evaluation of an art form that has struggled to come to terms with its own identity, but more importantly, it's a traffic-stopping, highly savvy claret-soaked action-comedy tear-up, and unquestionably the most fun you will have all year - unless you happen to end up at your local Odeon getting tromboned by the entire Brazilian beach volleyball team after having set loose a gang of howler monkeys in the Daily Mail offices.

After wondering why everybody wants to be Paris Hilton and nobody wants to be Spider-Man, high-school no-mark Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) decides to mask up as Kick-Ass and take on bad guys - armed only with good intentions and a geek's knowledge of comics. Despite getting his ass handed to him in the worst way while on his first foray, Dave persists and finds fame after a clip of him taking on some thugs winds up on YouTube. Being a viral sensastion leads to a kind of noble glory, so he sets up a Kick-Ass MySpace page to help people in need, including Katie, the girl he has such a crush on that he's willing to pretend he's gay just to get close to her.

But his exploits also put him in cahoots with fellow masked avengers Big Daddy and Hit-Girl (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz), whose brand of ultra-violence lets Dave know that he's in well over his head. Drawn into their battle with local crime boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), Dave discovers what he's really let himself in for - and that he needs to seriously man up if he really wants to do this for a living.

Anyone who's seen the trailers already knows why Kick-Ass is point-blank essential viewing: Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl. Obviously, sizeable tittering comes from seeing an 11-year-old schoolgirl dropping F- and C-bombs, but the truth is SHE IS UNQUESTIONABLY INCREDIBLY GOOD IN THIS, which bodes well for anyone fearing the Hollywood remake of Let The Right One In, as she's been cast as a lead in that. The wee sod truly owns this movie; as well as nailing it as an Early Learning Centre death-dealer, she also never loses sight of the naive innocence of her character, ultimately as fragile as much as she is a brutal fucker. In fact, virtually the whole of the young cast are impressive - Aaron Johnson has the perfect Peter Parker bland everyman charm, while Clark Duke will probably be able to get any role that Jonah Hill turns down after his effortless turn as Dave's smart-arse mate Marty. Fan favourite Christopher Mintz-Plasse is in too as D'Amico's son and bandwagon jumper Red Mist, but his presence feels more of a marketplace signifier, rounding up the Superbad demogrpahic.

What's slightly confusing is that the performances of the experienced cast members jars against this lot. Both Nicolas Cage, channeling Adam West as Big Daddy, and Mark Strong as crime boss D'Amico are both too mannered and over the top in comparison - it's like they've popped in from a lesser film to see how the kids are getting on. It's this sense of disconnection that is the basis of Kick-Ass' major flaw. It has plenty of neat points to make, from redirecting the apathetic nature of modern society, with its facile social networking and meme culture, to breaking down the observational character errors of superheroes - Dave wants to be a superhero to be cool as much as to be heroic. But it trades it off against some overly broad passages that drag it down in places - D'Amico and his goons are just cartoon cliches, while the films excessive nature veers slightly into self-parody at moments in the later stages, when a key aspect of Millar's comics was that, unlike Spider-Man or Watchmen, all this could feasibly happen.

But that's just me being a picky sod just to look smart. Kick-Ass is a ceaseless riot of smart ideas, snappy dialogue, wanton bloodshed and potty-mouthed ridiculousness that starts awesome, gets awesomer and ends awesomest.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Competition time: who wants a night out with the Plump DJs at Matter?

Morning all, should this Friday the 19th feature an evening hole that needs a little Dutch kid sticking his finger in it, then you're in luck.

We have two tickets to the launch night of the Plump DJs new residency at Matter @ the O2, with the genially exceptional electro-house gents being joined by the likes of Hot Chip, Vitalic and some other people who we can only assume have passed the City & Guilds in record playing.

For your chance to win, send your answer to the following question to us by 3pm Friday 19th March. Funniest answer win.

If PCCP didn't already stand for Pop Culture Care Package, what could it stand for? Example: Pat Cash's Colostomy Problem or Please Chastise Cher's Parents.

Chuck your answers in this electro post-hole...

Monday, 15 March 2010

Has Pineapple Dance Studio torn the fabric of reality?

It started out innocently and smugly enough. After reading Charlie Brooker's agog review in the Guardian, I tuned into Pineapple Dance Studio expecting some of those middle-class water-cooler moments, where we dispense with the pretense of empathy that producers use to appease commissioning editors, instead honing in on the laughs that we're really being sold in shows like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and those glorious Tourette's documentaries.

"It's like a high-camp absurdist version of The Office," was my initial response. Then I realised that I had badly misjudged it, and that rather than a garish stream of curiously bland flamboyance, it is in fact a highly meta inter-textual dissection of reality in all its forms - plus an incisive analysis of modern society. Honestly. It flirts with reality and shifts perception like nothing I've seen since The Matrix, Memento or Synecdoche.

Oh, of course, to the passing eye it's a frothy documentary about a famous dance studio and its inhabitants. This is ratified by the presence of owner Debbie Moore and dance teacher Mark Tattershall - the studio is their reality and they adhere to the guidelines of that existence with ponderous dilligence. But then alternate realities start to reveal themselves. Behind the construct of the accepted parameters of the studio is the crushing dullardity of everyday, real life in the form of the gent who carries out tedious bureaucratic staff appraisals with his painfully tired demeanour, which serves to remind us that, no matter where we are, we can never totally escape from the humdrum.

Then, as we dig deeper, we find a third strata: the modern reality bequeathed to us by Big Brother. This is the one only where you only exist in terms of media validation; it has its own standards, delusions, demands and forms of representation. This is encapsulated by dance teacher Andrew Stone, who's using the show to promote his fuck's-sake awful band. He embodies the voguish notion that an ability to adhere to the reality TV template of unfounded self-belief and a grating willingness to behave like a tit are more worth more than effort, merit, talent and application. With his amply apparent misguided shitness, this loon also straddles a fourth reality, the close neighbour of reality TV, the mockumentary. His sheer woefulness steers him into David Brent territory, and when he loses his bearings, his band's fetal manager chips in with with some Alan Partridge moments of his own to keep him on track.

But above it all is artistic director Louie Spence (above). He may appear to be an attention-seeking fusion of every possible riotous gay cliche, but if this project is The Matrix, then Louie is Morpheus. Spence is a highly sentient genius who's aware of all of the above planes of reality and exists comfortably on all of them, switching between them with ease. Not only is he the man who physically oversees the day-to-day running of the studio, he also binds the fabric of perception. At the same time as carrying out his tasks, he wears the mask of the Reality TV wannabe - yet he never loses sight of the tepid necessity that underpins life. The clip below was the moment when it all fell into place for me. The key factors here are his respect for fire safety and the presence of a faulty lightbulb...

Rather than mugging, what he's actually done here is fuse the show's stated reality, the theatricality of Reality TV, the absurdity of mockumentary with the banal signifiers of everyday life. In one short, fluid sequence. To a drum track. You have to admit that's impressive.

What's also important to realise is that Louie KNOWS. You can't laugh at him, only with him.

Besides, he operates on four different levels of consciousness, how many are you on, eh?

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Uma: a pot that few are willing to piss in

I've just watched the Coen brothers' A Serious Man again, and the theme of seriously shitty things happening to arseholism-neutral people may very well be a social-realist allegory of the career arc of Uma Thurman. Two Tarantino films, a Gilliam and a Linklater aside, she also has the legendary hummer Avengers staring up at her from her IMDB page, plus her Batman & Robin was recently voted Worst Film Ever by Empire readers. Jennifer Aniston clearly deserves that kind of fate, but surely not Uma?

But it appears even that wasn't enough to satisfy the wrathful god of cinema. Her latest expedition, Motherhood, was released in the UK this past weekend – and took just £88 in its first weekend. Of that, only £9 was taken on the Sunday - meaning just one person saw it that day.

At £9 for an 90 minutes... allowing double time for Sundays... Uma was on the equivalent of just £3 an hour. Jesus, the UK National Minimum Wage is £5.80. This was brought in to protect workers, surely there must be something we can do to highlight this poor lass' plight?

By the way, we need to find the one person who actually saw Motherhood on that Sunday...

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Joy by Primary numbers


OCP gave Robocop four Prime Directives. PCCP is giving you just one: make a hole in your brain for The Blues, a floaty, yet rock-solid little electro-soul number from soon-to-be-cropping-up-in-magazine-hot-tip-nibs outfit Primary 1. It has a heavenly, childlike glockenspiely riff piled on top of brow-mopping synth washes, set off against sweetly flutter-soul vocals, tin-hatted by the neverending sultry bliss that is the vocal chords of Cardigan's singer-lady Nina Perrson. It is nice.

I know precious little about Primary 1 man Joe Fiory. This is partly due to a pre-post-modernist / post-cult-of-celeb stance on my part of not allowing humanising detail to colour my opinion of art, but also because I am ostensibly lazy and the press release gave me no info of note (tho his previous collabo with Riton may suggest an explanation for the Krauty metronomic undercarriage).

What's also an encouraging sign is the wealth of ideas going on in their Mess Detectives demos - a smooth soulful thread passes through scrunched beats, electronic fiddling to Detroit Grand Pooobahsy astoundiness (Ploy - now that's a track, that).

Anyway, here you go...

The New Mods Seen

It's fairly shameful to write about somebody that you know, but when that somebody is a remarkably talented fucker who needs no help from anyone to be even more successful than he already is, then all that guilt evaporates. Said talented fucker is NME photographer, film-maker, DJ and quiff-brandisher Dean Chalkey, whose latest exhibition,  The New Faces, is parking itself at the Book Club 100 on Leonard Street in the capital between 5th March and 29th April.

Focusing on the current manifestation of the mod scene, The New Faces shows how few people are as attuned to the unfuckwithable appeal of youth culture as Dean. His relentless passion for it always shows through; his club scenes constantly nail the messy energy of those throwaway moments, adeptly capturing the embryonic cell division that takes place as timeless memories are formed, as previous exhibition Southend's Underground proved - it paid as much of a tribute to the kids who made up the numbers at the scene as it did figureheads The Horrors. "Music isn’t just about the rock star on the stage," Chalkey told the NME. "It has a deeper effect and significance seeping into the soul of people."

Not only that, his NME cover shots and commercial ad campaigns for the likes of Channel 4 always imbue the subject with optimum depth and character, capturing some small detail or expression that helps the makes the shot exist beyond the frame and define apearance and personality in equal measure, whether it's Simon Cowell's shit-eating condescension or Noel Gallagher's carefully measured insolence.

So you could do a lot worse than getting yourself down there and taking The New Faces in, don't you think?

Monday, 22 February 2010

Archie Bronson Outfit: PCCP fails to think of good-enough headline

After a break that's not long enough to merit one of those stock features that lists how the world has changed since their last album, but long enough for me to adopt an unbecoming giddiness, agreeably listenable rump-friendly guitar-scratchers Archie Bronson Outfit are re-entering our consciousness with a new album, Coconut, out on Domino on March 1, with Shark's Tooth, rendered visually in the square below, as the first single. Kind sods that they are, they're giving that away free here.

After 2006's Derdang Derdang, which saw the band sounding as if Arcade Fire had shifted from whiney to narky but still happy to let themselves have a breather, Coconut offers definite signs of a band getting their shit together. This is in no small part due to the presence of DFA production whizz Tim Goldsworthy, as the man in charge of pushing record on the tape machine and asking them to record summat 15 times before deciding that take 2 was the one to use. That's not to say that it's the DFA pixie dust that makes Coconut so swell - the indie-disco-friendly beats were there in tracks like Dead Funny and Dart For My Sweetheart - but it's more a case that Golsdworthy has wound them up and let them go, rounding out the sound and pushing them further into their craft.

More vibrant and energetic, it also explores sounds they'd developed before, tightly refined garage riffing allied to nagging melody, but with a more refined delivery. Goldsworthy just pushes them into a more accessible territory of ballsy psyche beats, one that Primal Scream parked in circa Vanishing Point and that Kasabian had been rather hogging of late. But tracks like Chunk also show they're also willing to strip it all down to a molecular level, with untreated guitars hanging over cardboard box drums, while Wild Strawberries offers carpet-bombing drone and beats with aggressive aplomb.

And the beards are still there, which is perhaps the most important aspect. So, all told, a job well done.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Run For Cover – The Curious Case Of The Disco Version

It's not a statement that'll win me any points for originality, but it bears repeating: if you're going to cover a track, don't just replace the tyres on it, do something fresh, otherwise you're just an artistically bankrupt, morally deficient commercial hack-whore-journeyman whose only reward should be a fiscal and metaphorical cheeky feel from the bored housewife who works in accounts at Sony.  No offence, mind.

As I was rustling up a list of favourite covers for my good friend Piley - whose Podrophenia podcast with the equally stout Mondo is always worth an ear-shufty - I realised how many of the more inexplicable beauts came from the disco scene. Mindful of the the fact that the best covers are always the ones that recontextualise the piece and eradicate the memory of the original (think Incredible Bongo Band's Apache, then try to picture The Shadows' original, likewise Neil Young after hearing Saint Etienne's Only Love Can Break Your Heart), a number of them are striking reboots, to use that oh-so on-trend hideous phrase.

Four words do it for for me: Boney M's Painter Man. A frothy, predominantly lame, molecularly commercial act taking on a lesser-known single by fringe psyche-rock mods The Creation. How did that happen? Picture Cheryl Cole doing Human Fly by The Cramps and you're almost there. Not only that, Boney M also took on Neil Young, Iron Butterfly's proto-metal opus In A Gadda Da Vida, My Friend Jack by garage bods The Smoke and many others. Maybe their Germanic puppeteer Frank Farian sought to redress the credibility balance. Maybe he had a keen sense of irony. Either way, I don't give too big of a shit, I'm just glad that he wasn't alone – and here are five of the best oddball disco covers to prove it...

5 – 96 Tears by Thelma Houston
Jaunty sixties garage nugget by ? & The Mysterians repositioned using a diva filter to create the most heart-rending bit of plinky plonky I've heard in the last five minutes.

4 – Fifth Of Beethoven by Walter Murphy
Dude gets bonus points for dragging the funk from a bunch of tuxedo-encrusted muso-nerds in this storming live version. And for writing the Family Guy theme. Judging by the static crowd, this was filmed in Maoist China or that town in Footloose where funk is verboten.

3 – Please Don't Let me Be Misunderstood by Santa Esmarelda
What was originally a craggy-faced whinge opus by The Animals is transmogrified into a latino disco joy with enough handclap potency to stop the global recession. Plus you've got Uma in the Bruce Lee jumpsuit, which I'm at one with.

2 – Fire by Lizzy Mercier Descloux
It shames me to use such a woeful YouTube clip, but needs must. Originally a pompous mentalist pantomime from within the heads of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, here it's defanged and made over as a perky percussive tum-te-tum procession with a percussion breakdown par excellence. Speaking of things French, I can't let this pass without savouring Descloux's accent, which appears to validate years of onion-necklace, accordian-playing mockery, and makes Allo Allo look like a work of high social realism. Delightful.

1 – For Your Love by Chilly
Just, wow. Much loved by nu-disco ambassador In Flagranti, this is the size of a house. Set to optimum disco, with its Moroder synth loops, wedding-cake dainty string passages and proto-house 4-4 bass drum throb, Chilly's For Your Love also boats a guitar attack that matches the thrust of The Yardbirds' original. But let's not overlook the best/worst video imaginable - does the presence of the blond paintywaist in the leather dunagrees and some woman who may or may not have been a presenter on Magpie improve or spoil the glory? Both. Enjoy.