Author Archives: nealjwallace

World’s End Girlfriend – Seven Idiots

Damnit Mario, put that crack pipe down, Yoshi’s come over to see you. Mario! MARIO! Stop licking the walls, what the hell is wrong with you?!

Japan’s World’s End Girlfiend’s tenth offering is like being stuck inside the most difficult level of Mario 64, which I was always pretty rubbish at, but set in 2051, with Jeff Bridges’ Tron character shouting at you in a cowboy drawl, so you’re at once confused, excited and frustrated because you can only parse every other word.

Dense, complex and, at times, remarkable, Idiots goes from layered guitars to drawn out funk (Decalogue Minus 8 sounds like early Chilis, upside-down and underwater, produced by avant garde jazz troupe Polar Bear), with more twists and turns than a stray pube.  Highly recommended.


You can follow Neal Wallace on Twitter @nealjwallace


Renegade Brass Band – Radio Rebelde

Following on from the likes of Youngblood, Hypnotic and Hot 8, Sheffield 12-piece Renegade Brass Band enter the fray with their blistering debut Radio Rebelde. Yeah, yeah, brass band, sounds like a day out in Southport, drinking tea and geriatric breath, but right from the Latin-infused open Barrio, Rebelde just makes you wanna dance, damn-it!

Centred around the highlight Junktion, each track on Rebelde brings in something new – aggressive rhymes, tight horns: it’s riotous, raucous and uninhibited. With 12 players going at the same time, the sound can become a little crowded at times – Vex’s words get a little lost. But, frankly, when you’re having this much fun, who cares?


You can follow Neal Wallace on Twitter @nealjwallace

Haddow fest preview

Alas, Edinburgh’s not a city known for its thriving music scene, with the bigger (and smaller) bands usually opting for Scotland’s second city when they make the trip north of the border. In fact, it’s a bloody nightmare trying to find a good gig to go to in the capital. But, now in its second year, Haddow fest is looking to change that.

Spread out across Edinburgh’s finest venues, Haddow fest is shaping up to be a worthy rival to Glasgow’s Stag & Dagger festival, with some of the biggest names on the British lined-up. Razorlight, The Undertones and Edinburgh favourites Broken Records are all set to play, along with some of Edinburgh’s and Scotland’s lesser known bands.

As part of Samizdat’s coverage, we’ll be interviewing hotly-tipped pop-rock troubadours Everyday at 10, along with the festival’s organiser Hamish Jolly (watch this space). Some 60 bands will be playing, so, in the meantime, here are a few of our recommendations:

Matt Norris & the Moon

Apart from having an ace name, Matt Norris & the Moon have got some frankly lovely songs in their repertoire, with Nick Drake-style guitar picking mixed with swelling strings and traditional folk melodies (and a trumpet). Norris himself sounds a bit like Marcus Mumford, but without the air of an heir to a large fortune, and without all those fucking hoe-downs.

Little Doses

Treading the Edinburgh music scape since 2006 (yeah, a cliché music metaphor there), Little Doses’ no frills garage rock sound is refreshingly lifted by the soulful crooning of singer Kirstin Ross. Their sound is simple, and satisfying to listen to, like David Attenborough but with more distortion.

Any Colour Black

You are not part of the answer / you are not part of the cure / you are everything that fucks me up”. Electro-pop, semi-aggressive, Ting Tings style, catchy-as-hell hooks, man/woman line-up Any Colour Black (Andy and Louise) have got the Skins party sound nailed, and that’s definitely a good thing.

Cancel the Astronauts

Ahhh, another party band. Great synthy-riffs that sound like they’re from the future, pounding drums and a lot of energy, Cancel the Astronauts just sound like a lot of fun. A lot of fun on a stage in Blade Runner.

White Heath

Recently signed to Electric Honey, former label of Belle & Sebastien (and Biffy, but I don’t care about them), White Heath offerings are a little slowed down, with Fargo-esque strings, dark, brooding vocals and strangely hypnotic trombone.

Sacre Noir

Threadbare, stripped-down trip-hop, with haunting vocals, sort of like early Massive Attack if Nigel Godrich had produced them. Great sounds.

Haddow fest takes place in Edinburgh on the 2nd and 3rd of April.

Samizdat | the Stax edition

Another Samizdat podcast in which we play some Stax records and talk some nonsense.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

1st collector for Samizdat | the Stax edition
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Track list:

1. Booker T and the MGs – Green onions

2. Jean Knight – Mr big stuff

3. Albert King – Born under a bad sign

4. Otis Redding – (Sittin’ on) the dock of the bay

5. William Bell – I forgot to be your lover

6. The Staple Singers – I’ll take you there

You can follow us on Twitter @samizdat_ed


Podcast – Go folk yourself

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Us talking some rubbish about folk music that we like.

Track list:

1. Lal & Mike Waterson – Bright Phoebus

2. Billy Bragg & Wilco – Ingrid Bergman

3. James Yorkston and the Athletes – Shipwreckers

4. Horse Feathers – This bed

5. Anais Mitchell ft. Greg Brown – Why we build the wall

6. Villagers – Meaning of the ritual

Follow us on Twitter @samizdat_ed

Fern on Film – The Social Network

Thesocialnetwork is a film predicated on very, very fast talking. You know those bits on, says 24 or CSI where jargon is shouted across hi-tech rooms while people run to answer incessant phones? That’s how all the exposition is taken care of in Thesocialnetwork. I seriously doubt that Aaron Sorkin’s script had any spaces in it.

Of course a better TV show to compare it to would be Thewestwing, which Sorkin also created. It was the programme that brought walking briskly down corridors to the masses, which made me squirm because I was always expecting the cameraman to bump into something and fall down. But for the less neurotic, it worked, and Thewestwing has a legacy of adoring fans. Basically, Aaron Sorkin is really, really good at writing that urgent-talking thing, and luckily the director of Thesocialnetwork was David Fincher.

Lucky because he knows how to direct the urgent-talking, and lucky because the script also relies on some disorienting timeline changes, jumping between two separate court cases about Facebook as well as, mainly, the time when it was created.

Much like The King’s Speech, Thesocialnetwork’s goal is to make a lot of people talking exciting. The King’s Speech films some of its scenes like action scenes to accomplish this, while this film turns most of its scenes into tennis matches. Between robots. On fast-forward. I spent the first scene bolt upright, terrified I might miss something important. But everyone working on this film knew what they were doing, and the plot is easier to follow than some of the cuts in the first half hour suggest.

Those cuts do make it interesting though, and as it turns out the structure is as much a game to keep the film dynamic as it is an attempt to fit all the major points of the book into two hours. I can give you the closest thing to a guarantee that this film will win best adapted screenplay.

Of course it’s favourite for Best Picture too, but I’m not giving out any guarantees on that. I already said a few days ago that The King’s Speech had the perfect formula for the Academy, and it won at the Golden Globes, so it will be a close run thing. In a lot of ways they are evenly matched. Alongside their success at making dialogue-heavy films exciting, they are acted almost equally well. I’m giving that round to The King’s Speech just on Colin Firth alone, but that takes nothing away from Jesse Eisenberg, who is playing his perfect role here, and more importantly the supporting roles are more fleshed out than in The King’s Speech. Andrew Garfield is the Next Big Thing (I can’t think of the movie without hearing him shouting “MAAAAAAAAAAAARK”), and Justin Timberlake is a wonderfully refreshing different angle when he turns up as the hard-partying, tricksy founder of Napster.

The movie is an incredibly well done biopic, and it captures and critiques the mood of the moment and makes some wider points about Facebook through this view of its founder. But whether it’s more than that, whether it is worth the Oscar for best picture, only time will tell. Whether it wins or not. But at least when Aaron Sorkin wins the award for his script, theacceptancespeechwon’toverrun.
You can follow Michael Fern on Twitter @popmikey

Fern on Film – The King’s Speech

The Oscars are coming. You can’t escape them. Your only solace is that whether you love, hate, or really, really don’t care about them, the media can back you up.

The apathetic normally get a rough time about now, but this year offers them a few crumbs. The best example so far is the Guardian’s online series where its writers talk about which film they think should win best picture, which was improved immeasurably by their chief sports writer Richard Williams, who made the case for Black Swan while emphasising how much he wasn’t particularly bothered by the film or the awards. Essentially his impassioned plea for the film was that “it should win because, why not, the Oscars aren’t very good.”

This blog is aimed at the more unintentionally apathetic, however. It’s for those who guiltily feel they ought to care, or who want to convince people that they know what exactly is going on but never quite got around to actually watching the films. It will also be of interest to people who enjoy disagreeing with someone else’s opinion.

Over the next ten days leading up to the awards ceremony on February 27th, I will be supplying summaries of each of the best picture nominated films, one a day, in no particular order, except that dictated by the fact that I have yet to see two of them. We’re running a professional outfit here.

So we start today, after a quick eenie-meenie-minie-mo around the nominations, with The King’s Speech. You may have heard that it won every Bafta going last week, but that’s not true at all. There was that “outstanding contribution to British cinema” thing they created especially for the Harry Potter films. It narrowly missed out on that. But anyway, just because the British Academy loved it doesn’t mean the American Academy will. So lets consider why both would choose it to win.

Average Baftas Judge: “It’s British, the Americans seem to like it, and it’s British.”
Average Oscars Judge: “English people are so backwards, hah! Oh and he’s a King! Kings are awesome. And mom enjoys that Colin Firth dude.”

This simple piece of 1980s stereotyping summarises more or less all you need to know about The King’s Speech. It is a relatively humble British film made for £10 million about a future king (Colin Firth) with a stammer who is helped by a rough-around-the-edges Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush), leading to a climactic speech in which he tells the nation it is going to war.

The film spends the majority of its time in slightly cramped, fairly bleak rooms, which does wonders for its tone but doesn’t quite lend itself to blockbuster status. Yet blockbuster status it achieved. So what happened? Well, there are a few things going on. First, Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter have both the global appeal and the talent to broaden the film’s horizons – especially Firth, who equals his remarkable performance in A Single Man here, taking on all the mannerisms of a stammerer without coming close to parody or impressions.

Second, the script is structured perfectly for Hollywood. People have already talked about how the therapy scenes are filmed as action scenes, breaking the film up so it doesn’t come off as all dialogue, and around this is built the story of personal triumph which, while predictable, provides enough pitfalls and barriers in all the same places a properly done romantic comedy does. Basically, there are enough familiar signposts in the movie to point any filmgoer in the right direction. All leading of course to the climax, which is the third point in itself.

A film like this stands or falls on its climactic scene, and it was a delicate job to make sure it worked. We are, after all, supposed to be cheering on the bearer of some pretty bad news here. But it works absolutely perfectly, pushed on by a swelling orchestra and backed up by the past hour and a half of sympathy the movie worked to build up. Everyone remembers the first scene, a horribly embarrasing, awkward failed public speech, and everyone wants to see a triumph over it. Avoiding awkwardness is a great motivator – people are going to will on anything if the alternative makes them squirm as much as, say, that bit in About A Boy where Nicholas Hoult starts singing. You can’t watch something like that without desperately wanting it to be put right afterwards.

The fourth point is simply that the Academy loves a story on British class and British royalty. And almost all of the humour in what is a surprisingly funny film comes from the class system – it plays perfectly for an American crowd.

So that’s it. The King’s Speech is a good Oscar nomination because it has an excellent cast, a well constructed script, the best climax of the year, and a fun view of the ridiculousness of 1930s Britain’s class system. It was unexpected, but it really is a winning combination.

So: should it win? Sure. Can it win? Yes.

You can follow Michael Fern on Twitter @popmikey