Posts Tagged With: reviews

Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game

rufus wainwright album art out of the gameThe new album is a funfair ride of dizzying choruses and dark, bleeding ballads. Mark Ronson’s brass swaggers joyfully through Welcome to the Ball and the bagpipes at the end of Candles are enough to make a grown man cry.

The voice is as pure as a choir boy or edgy and vengeful, depending on which song you’re listening to. Full of verve, if a little frayed by life, Rufus sings about love like a man who’s lost the receipt.

If Rufus wrote great songs before, and he certainly did, then he’s honed his craft, polished the silver and sharpened his walking cane to a deadly tip. Like a slightly debauched party in a glittering stately home, this album feels so richly produced it’s almost decadent.

And he made bagpipes cool.



radio vibes cover artMy new Mixtapes page is here,
with free compilations
featuring Radio Vibes.

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Categories: Music, Random, Vibe Monitor | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tales of the City

28 Barbary Lane Victorian house san francisco

Picture it: San Francisco, 1976. Big hair and hedonism, disco dancefloors and decadence.

 

Armistead Maupin chronicled life in San Francisco in the 1970s in his newspaper column, and then in a series of captivating novels centered around the bohemian homestead of 28 Barbary Lane, high on Russian Hill.

It’s the home of one of the most fascinating and ingenious characters in modern fiction, garden-variety landlady Mrs. Madrigal, the enigmatic Earth Mother who views the world from a unique perspective, embodying both yin and yang. Whether she’s wafting around in a kimono and a cloud of smoke, or out-facing an adversary with the steely gaze of a gunslinger, she shines like a beacon as the disposessed are washed up at the gates of number 28.

Four years ago, one of my best friends gave me the complete set of novels, which became an instant addiction. Maupin was describing a golden age in the first three novels, which are rich, warm and humorous, humanitarian like Dickens, with a dark undercurrent straight from classic Hitchcock. The first great mystery in Tales of the City is Anna Madrigal herself. The name’s an anagram: a key to the door of her secret past…

Arguably the pivotal quote from the entire series is where Mrs. Madrigal refers to the logical family, as opposed to the biological, and here we see how gay people, rejected by their families, adapt in the face of homophobia. This forms the firm foundation on which the wonderful world of Barbary Lane is built. Maupin has talked about emotional reactions from fans at book signings and as strange as it sounds, it highlights the serious lack of positive depictions of gay people in popular culture, and how he threw us all a line. No one was writing about aspirational happy characters, and there were consequently no real gay role models.

He also deals with subjects like racism, and religious zeal with wit and ingenuity, and then he stands back and lets the bigots have it with both barrels. Maupin was the last American serviceman to leave Vietnam and the first mainstream author to write about Aids, as a major character dies in one of the early novels before the advent of drug therapy.

Maupin captures the natural rhythms of speech and observes human behaviour so acutely that he adds a whole dimension of realism that few authors can achieve, one of the reasons for his phenomenal success and the enduring love for his characters over the years.

On May 26th it will be 36 years since the first Tales of the City column appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle and more than a quarter century later, we have e-books, three epic TV mini series and a musical. Stay tuned for more about the Tales of the City series…

Golden gate Bridge san Francisco

Check out my trip to San Francisco

http://www.armisteadmaupin.com/

Armistead Maupin on Facebook

Here’s an update for you: we’ve been visited by the man himself! Scroll down to comments…

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The Avalanches – Since They Left Us

The Avalanches vinyl stack

It’s official! To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the iconic 2000 album Since I Left You, The Avalanches are reissuing their seminal work on blue vinyl.

Two years late.

This has been taken as a sign from on high that long-awaited album number two has wrapped and is waiting in the wings. Tweets from guest vocalists confirm the rumours and a picture of a stack of vinyl is believed to have been actually taken inside a studio! To play nicely, here, SILY was a masterpiece of cut and paste sampling, a crazy collage of musical madness which just glowed with good vibes. It also took a set of unique circumstances to produce, being a private project which was never meant to be released.

The clearance of over 3000 music samples took a long time, picking up kudos from Madonna on the way and permission to sample Holiday. Mixing took even longer as Robbie Chater and Darren Seltmann perfected their vintage vinyl sound, a bizarre but beautiful mix of old soul records and modern hip-hop, much imitated but never bettered. It follows that creating a record even half as good would take a great deal of time and effort.

Like tuning between radio stations, the album is a timeless mixture of heart-felt nostalgia and pumping party spirit. Originally described by Chater as ‘an international search for love from country to country’ the initial concept was ‘the idea of a guy following a girl around the world and always being one port behind. And that was just because we had all these records from all over the world, and we’d like to use all that stuff.’ But party beats won the day, leaving just the ghost of a broken heart on the dance floor. Since I Left You has achieved classic status, probably due to the fact that it’s such rewarding music which appreciates with time.

The Avalanches - Since I Left You album artworkBlue Vinyl reissue here.The Avalanches - Since I Left You Blue Vinyl Reissue

Watch the title track video here

Hear my Avalanches mix tape, Halo’s and Heartstrings here

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The Woman in Black – the mechanics of fear

The woman in black novel hardback
In the style of Susan Hill…

Illuminated Gothic letter It was with some apprehension that I purchased the book, pretty as it was, with an embossed jacket and the air of a handsome Victorian novel. My life at Vibes House meant some degree of detachment which veiled the world beyond my Internet Web Log, or ‘Blog’ as the youths of the day might call it. But still I heard the name, and the posters would jump out at me on my travels, only to recede again from my sight and thus my conscious mind. I find such intrusions largely annoying, since I prefer to make my own decisions about which spectrum of our popular culture to indulge. The fact that the book had become the most successful film in the British Cinema left me cold and being obtuse of nature I relented and soon found myself in the uppermost turret of Vibes House, reading the tome by moonlight, rather than gracing my local fleapit and watching the film.

To begin, I found the prose stilted and lumpen, striving as it did to ape the style of vintage novels by the likes of Jane Austen, or perhaps Charles Dickens. The lack of action at first held me back but the seeds of mystery are sown early on, and I found myself compelled to persevere. My concern lay with the protagonist whose failure to heed casual warning from his fellows lands him in a mire of pure horror. The hauntings themselves, for it is a ghost story, remain few and are detailed with such unadorned words that I accepted them as reality and was thus swept into a dark world of marshes and burial grounds from which I was grateful to escape.

It is a short tale which can be satisfactorily digested in one sitting, but I found a break necessary as the penultimate chapter reached its unrelenting climax. Twice my hair actually stood on end, a testament to the power of the author, who must have studied the mechanics of fear and fine-tuned her vehicle accordingly. So deeply did I believe in this fiction that I took pause to watch shadows in my drawing room, and listen to distant screams in the night, hoping they would cease and not magnify the torment in those pages.

Never have I been manipulated with such precision by a tale, accustomed as I am to the incontinent ramblings of Stephen King (procure an editor, tedious man!) who never wrote a novel better than his first, Carrie, which similarly is written with restraint and finesse and yet is greater than the sum of its labours. I must address Susan Hill the author of The Woman in Black, as a master of her art, and I should venture next to purchase the DVD with alacrity. I hate popcorn.

To be read accompanied by a glass of good brandy…

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Aurora Borealis Sandwich

Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy character The Audience

‘It’s insane,’ said a friend of mine after watching Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy.

That’s the ultimate accolade for a show which has been described as biting into an aurora borealis sandwich. Known for the phenomenally successful Mighty Boosh, Fielding has created a colourful world of bizarre characters in psychedelic settings which boggle the mind. It’s a kaleidoscope of lysergic humour, which takes in Sgt.Pepper, the most dazzling extremes of glam rock and more than a large dollop of The Banana Splits. Remember them? Andy Warhol features as Noel’s cleaner, with a voice like Stephen Hawking and a laugh that comes as tickets. It’s a hugely entertaining visual wonderland, with artistic and cultural splashes on a canvas of indefinable humour.

It’s about to end it’s first run, so grab the final episode on Thursday 8 March on Channel Four (UK, sorry about that – emigrate) or watch the series on 4 OD but hurry because the episodes are  expiring in order.

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