Sunday, 30 December 2012

Betwixt times…



'Tis the season of betwixt times, you want to be jolly but you’re kind of bored, you crave normality, then you don’t. It’s the festive mood swings and for me it starts around 4ish on that day after Boxing Day. It’s not that you’re miserable exactly; it’s more that you feel a bit intense. What have you done? What did you want to do? Will you do the things you didn’t do in the coming year?

So watching ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, although a classic, didn’t help. Nor did ‘The Elephant Man’ funnily enough. ‘The Snowman and the Snowdog’ was light relief (nothing I like more than kids crying and burying pets) There was no extended family to distract from intense times due to a plague on their house and my immediates love me well enough to let me crouch in the corner and just get on with it.




Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, it’s just this festive no man’s land which leaves me a bit like a coiled spring or, more sinisterly, a praying mantis.  So I watched ‘The Girl’. 





Was Alfred Hitchcock really that horrid? I assume someone checked. A tale of a man's vanity and obsession with beauty, there were bits I liked and bits I squirmed at. It seems ‘hell hath no fury’ when it comes to an overweight movie mogul; he ruined the beautiful Tippi’s career. It’s still on iplayer and I think it’s worth a watch. Sienna Miller’s wardrobe was a feast for the eyes. Aside from that it was predictable.


So honey traps and cold war later (keeping it jolly) ‘The Hour’ was marvellous, but seemingly I procrastinated far too long on whether to review it, it’s now not available on iplayer.







I enjoyed this so much more than the first series, mostly as the three characters I liked but felt weren’t explained got more to say in the second series, the beautiful fakery of the Maddons’ marriage and Lix Storm. Hector Maddon went full circle from a darker side right back round to a husband prepared to accept his wife’s pregnancy from another man, the said ‘Marnie’ was much more her own woman and far less the dutiful 50s housewife.


 Lix Storm (did someone do that ‘what’s your porn name?’ conundrum to name her character) who’s personal life and tragedy was hinted at in the first series by her claim, ‘I have not danced since the 40s’, and her excessive smoking and drinking produced a heart breaking scene in the final episode that stole the show for me.



Amazing what you kind find on youtube, here’s the clip. If you don’t feel teary, you’re clearly a robot.   A massive applause please, for Peter Capaldi’s obsessive-compulsive Randall Brown and the wonderfully un-duckface performance of Anna Chancellor as Lix in this scene.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00wkh12


And to really uplift us, Pulp has a new song (but kind of not), all smartened up by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem into a veritable booty call at many supermarkets.  That Jarvis knows how to glam up a pop song. What does it sound like? Kind of catchy, maybe don’t put on Disco 2000 or Common People straight after so as to give you time to acclimatise.




In other news, I nearly forgot about this one earlier in December. I love Tiga ‘very very’ when he does funny. How did they manage to avoid the giggle loop doing this, it’s a fruit pastel challenge to not watch it to the end people. Biggup to Kraftwerk too.




2012 is coming to a close ladies and gents. xxx

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Ultraista – Relay, London Bridge


What do I love about Ultraista? Definitely Laura Bettinson’s voice, the tracks are a mix of Moloko and Massive Attack in spirit and all put together by Nigel Godrich (of Radiohead) and Joey Waronker.








Relay is the newly opened sister live venue to Cable nightclub, and although getting in felt like going into prison, I.D, scanned and bags searched by very grumpy security, once in, the bar staff were friendly and everything amounted to an intimate gig and probably the nicest venue I've seen a band in so far.

So a stylish and intimate venue and I love her voice; why have I stalled doing this review?  I had a good time but what was bitterly disappointing was the vocals I’d been loving and eager to hear were mimed to the point of vintage Top of the Pops ‘you’re singing and your mouth is closed’.

In my opinion, Bettison was singing about as much as anyone would do along to a record and sometimes singing backing rather than the main part which just looked kind of odd. Now don’t get me wrong, I still love the debut album and the show was good if that’s a minor detail for you. Bettinson’s stage presence, her faux Marilyn Monroe looks all works; she’s kind of quirky and full of energy, probably because she’s not bloody singing without a huge amount of help. The joy of an intimate venue is that you can see everything that's going on.


I'm not keen on what looked like a ventriloquist pop act at times, her voice beamed from a machine and actually ‘live’ for me is the tweaks and changes made to album tracks, the odd imperfection or missing a note gives it that live feeling I enjoy. If you want to just go and see Ultraista and dance around a bit, they deliver the goods just fine though, the sound was ‘perfect’.




So are they cheating? Godrich is a big producer man, he should know better, I’m assuming Thom Yorke didn’t mime at Radiohead gigs. And why have they been cancelling so many shows? Let’s speculate. Maybe she’s saving her voice for a BBC session, maybe she had a cold, maybe she can’t sing, and maybe she’s not even real, or Godrich or even Radiohead?


Now we were right at the front so maybe more bands than we realise are doing this but I’m not so sure. Just a few weeks back Lauren Mayberry was singing with Chrvches, it was imperfectly good, Jonna Lee of iamamiwhoami slipped up once in her show but that one is by far the best performance I’ve seen, Katie Stelmanis belts out the tunes with Austra live.



I’m in two minds as to whether I want to see Ultraista again with the vain hope that it was just that one night due to some venue or technical ‘issue’.  Or maybe they were just tired after touring so much. Whatever the reason, I don’t think it’s too much to expect a live gig to be ‘live’, at least the vocals please.

We got some fabulous photographs though; she’s a great frontwoman with lots of kooky presence, if only she was brave enough, or whoever pulls her strings was brave enough, to let her sing unaided on the night.

Best tunes:





Friday, 16 November 2012

El Perro Del Mar – Pale Fire (album review)



Having eagerly awaited Pale Fire, it’s finally in my hands and very much a unique and bewildering 90s party. Sarah Assbring’s ‘Lykke Li-ish’ melancholy cosies up with some Saint Etienne style backing. It springs back and forth essentially over two decades, shies from four to the floor predictability yet ’To The Beat of a Dying World’ flirts unapologetically with West End Girls and Mad World while ‘ I Carry The Fire’ has a similar energy to fellow Swedes Niki & The Dove.




‘Love Confusion’ has echoes of Kate Bush and then the album jumps solidly back to 90s with the beats of ‘Walk On By’. ‘Love In Vain’ has Specials blended with dub reggae running through it, sprinkled with more Sarah Cracknell-ism. It’s an album where you wonder at its familiarity without resigning to that feeling you’re not hearing anything new; pop gems that don’t leave a sickly aftertaste.

An understated grandeur flows through each track, a dark and sad infusion of pop that works for me anyway; pale fire that kind of smoulders. As is usual of late, the album winged its way to me and then I see she played in London just a short train ride away, this keeps happening! Two gigs coming up in the next week or so though which I will no doubt share with you.

Must Listens:

I Carry The Fire
To The Beat Of A Dying World
Dark Night



And now for Crystal Castles III (so knew that would be the ‘minimalist’ title), on first listen, the only word that springs to mind is fizz. Will keep you posted.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

iamamiwhoami – Live UK debut at the Southbank Centre, 10th October





On recovering from an awful bout of horribulous flu, I sniffled my way to the Southbank Centre to see iamamiwhoami. I’m so glad I did though, it was brilliant even foggy with cough mixture. We arrived with excited anticipation, really not knowing what to expect after so much mystery and hype surrounding this ‘project’.  All I can say is, if iamamiwhoami are your ‘thing’, make sure you see them if you get the chance.

Not wishing to unashamedly gush, but I will, the venue was rather nice (despite over zealous security pouncing on your cameras and a seated auditorium), the audience were gorgeous, the atmosphere was anticipatory with excitousness.  Jonna Lee gave a beautifully eccentric performance, flawless, quirky and bewitchingly charmed her adoring fans, even almost knocking one out when her microphone stand fell into the audience. She concernedly paused to check they were okay of course.



The set list shuffled unordered through Kin with the gems 'Good Worker', ' Drops', 'Kill', 'In due Order', 'Sever' and included older tracks that got a committed army of iamamiwhoami followers out of their seats as the lovely Jonna danced up the aisles to delighted gig goers. I say ‘gig’ but it felt very different from the usual and everything about the evening felt strangely intimate and surprising and very much more ‘performance’. Not that I doubted the music couldn't stand without the film shorts but it really was hard to know what to expect.


The huge cube was lit in different colours, visually simple yet everything worked, even the slighty sport themed costumes from Jonna’s body suit to her entourage of baseball cap wearing hybrid cricket/tennis playing backing musicians? It sounded great, it looked a treat, especially Jonna's courtship of a fair amount of fabric furry demon, and it tied in with the infamous videos without repeating what we've already seen. Even the pre show viewing of the film (DVD with album my blog friends) in the bar beforehand seem to set the atmosphere of iamamiwhoami love that proved unmistakable.

I do often feel that once you've seen a band, you've seen them but I’d definitely go to a  iamamiwhoami show again because it’s overall quite a delight, musically and visually.  The audience really did feel passionate and not like they’d just wandered in on the off chance which is how a recent gig I went to disappointingly felt.






So massive love for Jonna now, I will resist making a crown out of tin foil though. Below is the first single to release from Kin, this is probably the simplest of the videos but easily my favourite. Her dancing alone sells it; I don’t even hear the Bee Gees now.
















Saturday, 13 October 2012

El Perro Del Mar new video and more Labyrinth Ear…



I have ‘Walk on By’ on repeat right now, it has a bit of *ahem ‘90’s’ feel, a lot are saying The knife meets Lykke Li which is true but it’s for some reason making me think of Saint Etienne too with this particular one. El Perro Del Mar is Sarah Assbring (Swedish of course), I have already blogged ‘Walk on By’ minus video and her super excellent ‘Innocence is Sense’ earlier so please jump back to view the video, it’s very Ashes Bowie era like visually, for me anyway and quite spooky. I can’t wait for Pale Fire out on November 13th, which will mean I can stop wearing out The xx’s Coexist.

Related Post: El Perro Del Mar: Innocense is Sense




Labyrinth Ear: Urchin/Apparitions

Now for the lovely ghostly melancholy of Labyrinth Ear.  Again, there’s some jumping about needed as I blogged ‘Urchin’ a few weeks back which is available to download now but with flu and nothing much else to do, I started digging about for more and gave their EP ‘Apparitions’ a listen.




Now the stand out track on this ‘ice disco’ as they tag their sound, is definitely ‘Humble Bones’, which is very New Ordery, but with female vocals, so what do you think? There are echoes of Purity Ring, The Golden Filter, a little Niki & the Dove percussion moments. This can be downloaded here.




Another must listen is  ‘Amber’ off the EP and this rather cutely creepy video for Snow White which has something a bit Depeche Mode going on in it in places. Eyes wide open for more from them in 2013.




And in more exciting news: iamamiwhoami at Southbank Centre on Wednesday! I was recovering from a horribulous flu thing and by the end of it, had a teeny tiny bagpuss mouse voice but it was brilliant. Review to come.




Thursday, 20 September 2012

I like this...

Dark Doo Wop.

MS MR have released an EP 'Candy Bar Creep Show' and its very hard not to like. It has the energy of very early Florence and the Machine before they got all mahoosive and choral. They are from New York and are currently making some chilled waves over here.

I did hear 'Hurricane' a few weeks back and it was kind of okay but this new one did stick a bit more. Enjoy below, it's one of those songs that builds and builds. Gorgeousness.

Dark Doo Wop from MS MR on Vimeo.<


Jump here for more information http://www.msmrsounds.com/



Also loving 'All Your Gold'.


In other news, Bat For Lashes have made another track from The Haunted Man available to listen to before its release on the 15th October. I like this one a lot. 'Laura' was melancholy loveliness a few weeks back, 'Marilyn' I could take or leave to be honest. Listen and watch, 'All Your Gold' below. Adore.







http://www.batforlashes.com/

Related Post:

Bat For Lashes: Laura


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Melancholia – directed by Lars von Trier (2011)

Spoilers! Step away from this review now if you do not wish to know what obviously happens.




A film that leaves you with an overwhelming awareness of melancholia…

This was an apocolyptic disaster movie with a calmness that was quite beautiful. Absent of all the humankind hysteria and alarmist bonding in a crisis you normally get, the three main characters deal with it in a solitary way. It's a film that reminds us all how small and possibly alone we are, as did Malick’s 'The Tree of Life' in places.







Naturally, I loved it…depression and destruction are my fascinations and Kirsten Dunst was brilliant in it as was Charlotte Gainsbourg. Of course this will never happen, planets don’t hide behind the sun, flirt with passing by, start to move away and then burn burn burn you into teeny tiny burnt bits of nothingness. But what do we really know? *said in doom mongering voice*.

It has an overwhelming sense of sadness you can’t escape, something is about to happen and will change everything.  There are no heroes, no damsels in distress, nobody is rescued, Superman or Will Smith does not appear; it just calmly happens. And it shows how, as we fear the unknown and come into full knowledge, we all Zen out, well the women do and even the horses finally accept it. Justine is the melancholic, fully prepared for everyday disaster, and her sister Claire is the one who looks after everyone, so of course is in fearful acceptance wanting to run to other people in the village.

The one whose calm did break was the main man John (Keifer Sutherland), once in full knowledge of what’s going on in a planetary way, he does the unspeakable, but quietly. Lars von Trier's optimist cannot handle the inescapable end, a challenge too far for that kind of hope centric mind. The women build a magic cave with sticks and hold hands. So many will hate it for its blurring of science fiction but I think that’s what makes it, a story of humanity and its frailness where suddenly planets hurtling towards us are the subplot.



The film is structured as two chapters named after the sisters 'Justine' (Kirsten Dunst)  and 'Claire' (Charlotte Gainsbourg). It starts with the impending doom of a marriage that shouldn’t be and a bride who is instructed repeatedly ‘just be happy’, implored to be by everyone on her happiest day. Apparently Lars von Trier wrote this after a bout of depression and you can tell it's personal, the reckless detachment and feelings of adverse love coupled with cold physical expression of that consequence jump at you with Justine’s story. She will not undress on her wedding night for her husband preferring to lift her white dress to have sex with a guest, but later in the story, lays naked gazing into the light of the planet Melancholia as if it is her lover.

In her story, the second chapter, Claire becomes the vulnerable and frightened carer for Justine, yet while Claire says ‘sometimes I hate you’, Justine remains aloof with detached acceptance of doom. And calm, always calm. Claire has panic attacks and is instructed to stay offline and stop tracking ‘Melancholia’ by her idealist and stargazing husband, while Justine refuses to bathe, walks under the night sky and promises her nephew a cave. She also says she knows things. We are alone and Earth is evil; ‘There’s nothing to grieve for’. An existential crisis or the inner workings of a depressive who can embrace disaster? All to the sumptuously dark and dramatic sound of Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde'.

It’s not a ‘feel good’ movie unless you see a ‘Carpe diem’ moment in it, however I didn't leave this story feeling depressed or despairing. Watch and see what you think. It’s a portrayal of destruction in a beautiful and haunting way, not melodrama, just melancholia as it is. I love the ending.





Related Post:

The Tree of  Life - Terrence Malick





Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Artist- directed by Michel Hazanavicius






This is a quite lovely film, stylistically homage to silent movie, who would have the cheek to attempt this with a modern audience? It does feel strange at first as you stretch out your arm to turn the volume up (just me?) It is a little bit of filmic history with its portrayal of the transition from silence to ‘talkies’.




 It's a tale of a man averse to talking…in film and to his wife, Jean Dujardin as George Valentin is brilliant as the older man in crisis with the attentions of his younger guardian angel, Peppy Miller played by Berenice Bejo. The opening scene shows him being tortured into ‘talking’ on the set of ‘A Russian Affair’ which he stubbornly refuses to do and sets the tone for his defiance to embrace what he thinks is the faddy ‘talkies’, the laughable future of film. George Valentin is dashingly ridiculous, he has a dog that could out ‘mug’ him to the screen and as watching it you know his claim’ if only he could talk’ doesn’t ring true and the romance of George and Peppy, and a golden era of Hollywood, will seize the day.


The silence and the ‘mugging’ (exaggerated facial expressions that is) is the artistry and this is the comment perhaps?  As much as I love words, what this film does reveal is our reliance on body language and facial expressions to communicate. Think of what is lost in a text, email or a microblog like twitter? How many of us use emoticons, smattering them all over the place to help us communicate our words. Try not using that wink or confused face and see who starts to misinterpret your words, not get your joke or miss sarcasm. It’s fun. *wink*

So is something perhaps lost with the advent of ‘talkies’?  The Artist does settle itself into a happy compromise of progress and the up and coming star Peppy makes sure there is room for the stubborn fallen star of silence. It’s moving movie stuff people.  I particularly like the shot when George walks dejectedly away under the ‘Coming to theatres soon…Lonely Star’ billboard and his own ‘Tears of Love’ directed and starring himself, funded by himself shortly before the big crash, shows him disappearing into quick sand as the empty theatre is cut to Peppy crying at his demise.


George’s nightmares and panic at progress are in contrasting sound, it doesn’t sound (boom, boom) much but you do jump at the surrealist moment when watching it. Who could know putting a glass down or someone laughing could sound soooo loud? You see a broken man breaking further and on his discovery of Peppy’s ‘collection’ towards the end, it crackles with film noir elements.




The dancing was absolutely enchanting and bonkers. Please see it, if not just for the way George can swagger downstairs and smile at a life size portrait of himself. Never have I liked such a narcissistic fool, Dujardin does this brilliantly. And that dog? No words. All set against rather brilliant music from Ludovic Bource, there are too many moments to list where this film can touch you.

I have failed miserably to sell it to most people in my life (the sound crazy bunch) but perhaps you lot in blogland are more daring? I wish, I wish I had seen it in the cinema.




The Artist (2011) IMDb

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Labyrinth Ear - Urchin

This is gorgeous. I was supposed to be working on my other blog but this track has distracted me with its ghostly loveliness. Labyrinth Ear (What's that all about? Do some interviews and explain yourselves prettily please) are a duo from London and with the new single 'Urchin' remind me of a bewitching blend of Keep Shelly in Athens, Purity Ring and pre - Visions Grimes ... so mahoosive excitement for them then.

Have a listen below, lovely layered beepy spellwork on a resonating bassline that reminds me of something from The Golden Filter's 'Syndromes'. Eyes wide open for more from them.




I dedicate this post to my sister who probably won't like this song but will appreciate the sentiment. Sweetiedarling x

Heard this track first on the brill tumbly  http://nydmusic.tumblr.com/ 



Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The xx - Chained

It took seeing The xx live to really feel the love for them, their strength is definitely the unusual yet compatible vocals of Romy and Oliver backed by Jamie. This new song 'Chained' is using the same tricks as the likes of  'Islands' and 'Crystalised' from the super successful debut in 2009. More lovely chilled out melancholic tunes to come from the long awaited Coexist.



Jump here to hear Angels which is also gorgeous. Coexist is out September 10.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Crystal Castles: Plague





I love this. I'm so glad they are back with their ravey brand of catacombic screeching techpop. (Those might not be real words but you know what I mean)  'Plague' is a  free download to give us a taster of the long and complicated wait for a third album.  And if Alice and Ethan are in a cooperative mood, they are brilliant live; it was raining and muddy so it was in a strained Wellingtons clad situation I saw them, but they definitely can pull it off with a clashing air of facile and trouble.

There's something rather brilliant about this Canadian duo who seem to do nothing much to promote anything but are always on the radar, despite Alice's occasional stage tantrums and storms and refusal to answer or explain anything they do or even give their album defining titles. The music does it of course, reverb building around something a bit *ahem* Tardis-like that metamorphose towards the end into something sinister and alien sounding amidst Alice cooing melodically and shrieking banshee impression.

So to Crystal Castles III then? Unless of course they do give this new album a defining title. Can't wait.

Free download via Soundcloud

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Bat For Lashes: Laura

The long awaited return of Bat For Lashes. 'The Haunted Man' is out on 15 October.

Bat For Lashes are known for their subject titled tracks and 'Laura' is a subject of beautiful tragedy. It all sounds desperate and melancholy, dancing along to a lonely song, more than superficial stardom for Khan's current muse.




There's something very David Lynch about it all. Who is Laura? Drape your arms around me and wonder, 'you're the train that crashed my heart'. 

Also interesting read over at Spin about the apparent band hangout Twin Peaks Roadhouse.

Mysterious is in and always will be. I don't like the artwork for this release, not sure why but I will let you know when I've had more time to think about it. The song is fabulousness though; dance upon the indie folk lore-ish tables again.

http://www.batforlashes.com/

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Purity Ring- Shrines (released on 4AD 24th July)



Every now and then Shrines evokes feelings of shadowy paranoia, spiders’ legs on stilts sat in corners, Groove Armada wearing a pointy chillwave black hat waiting to pounce with their long synthesizer fingers and weird bleep ‘shizzle’ gift wrapped in pretty ribbons. What’s not to like exactly?  Especially Lofticries. Here’s the latest offering 'Fineshrine'; strangely sweet and disturbing all at once.




Parts of this album remind me of Crystal Castles but with more melody, very occasional Bjork quirk blended with indie dubstep-ish qualities, admittedly the first track does sound like a PC start up but be patient.

I’ve run out of words for popglitch and button’ so rather than drag our pop sensibilities through all the tracks… just jump on the album stream here. The guy sings sometimes too, he shouldn’t though, not with that RnB intonation; perhaps it grows on you? Overall Shrines is a goody and Megan’s vocals sound like that of a sugarcoated murderess.

Must Listens:

Belispeak


First Listen: Purity Ring 'Shrines'

Little reminder: purple words are links...jump on them.  x

Angel-A (directed by Luc Besson)



Always tell the truth and know that what’s on the inside matters more. Did Luc Besson swallow a self-help manual? This film was funny and airy enough to hold my attention and captivate with the ridiculous. It was shot in black and white and Paris looked ethereally quiet throughout. With lots of symbolic dark and light, this suited it well and gave it a film noir twist with its lustrous femme fatale like angel and dark oddball sidekick.








Add desperation, attempted suicide, debt, low self esteem, throw in a beautiful angel that chain smokes and makes you look in a mirror and say ‘I love you’ and you have a brilliant film with a message, one that often no ones wants as it assumes some responsibility for ‘shit happens’ and most want to blame everything and everyone for their downfall.

The dialogue intrigues blithely and the film noir humour hits and misses with a shadowy off balance of male/earthly and female/heavenly dynamic; overall it succeeds in its effervescent way. Perhaps the critics are more the disgruntled that don't like art house movies being too commercial or Americanised and particularly led by a supermodel with questionable acting ability. I thought everything about this was unclouded fairy tale entertainment; I liked Angela (Rie Rasmussen) and Andre (Jamel Debbouze) and that is most important for me. He was a short man with many failings and she was his beautiful angel set on a mission to rescue him.



Yes, some shots were a little fashion house but of course they were with a super attractive angelic flouncing around Paris. At no point was anything gratuitous or voyeuristic, her beauty there as a polar opposite of the likeable but compromised proportions and life skills of Andre.

A princess that kisses a frog, an angelic and mortal love affair; shot beautifully in the most romantic city of the world, it amounts to something very pleasing to look at with a message of speak your truth and recognise your own worth.

It also reminded me of being told I was comically tall (how rude!) in a bar once but actually now I see why, especially in the shots of Angela and Andre walking over Parisian bridges at twilight; the director plays well on this. There is a lot of comedy to be had by simply putting a very tall lady next to a short man.

Give it a go if you missed it the first time and like films with angels (clue: It's a Wonderful Life and Wings of Desire)


Saturday, 14 July 2012

Shame- Steve McQueen/Abi Morgan



Warning: spoilers and rude words.

I joked about watching this film a few weeks back, too many hilariously unfunny jokes about Fassbender’s manhood put me off; however, having watched it now, it was deeper than I expected. Note to self, trailers and reviews ‘best’ bits are often the worst bits. But please keep reading here of course.



This film was realistically brilliant; seedy, depressing, unromantic, lacking in intimacy, occasionally (the running scene) reminded me of an action movie, then it had hints of Sex and the City (naturally), some humour, some uncomfortable points but mostly humanity and relationships and its failings. And Carey Mulligan was au fait with messed up, such a dimpliscious lovely, and this with only a hint of an English accent, sat on a sofa once, slightly cracking up then (SPOILER) slashed her wrists. (She also sang for a bit too long)

Meanwhile Brandon (Fassbender) wanks, pulls, wanks, watches porn, wanks, uses prostitutes and so on and so on. Throughout there is an overwhelming sense of tragedy and loneliness to which dismally, he exercises control over, spiralling out of control when his sister ‘Sissy’ turns up and creates havoc with her contrasting haphazardness and emotion. We see men and women, people generally, deal with unyielding love so differently, to cut off completely or hang on to desperately.  Both in this situation cause promiscuity, physically and emotionally. Dystopic love.



Don’t expect a journey with this film; it’s a repetitive pattern of bad behaviour that comes from something purer that most will judge. If you want a comfortable film and happy ending, this one isn’t for you.





Its interesting and surprising though…and not just about sex. Its about patterns of behaviour to cover up old patterns of behaviour while not really dealing with what’s causing the pattern of behaviour in the first place, you know when people talk of magic realism, this one’s real realism. Good old-fashioned shameful carry ons.

Perhaps the answer is not to feel shame.




The Secret in Their Eyes- Juan Jose Campanella (adapted from a novel by Eduardo Sacheri)


Spoilers!




The Secret in Their Eyes is a film of mystery.  Its beauty is blurry, a love story thrown in a blender of oppressive and corrupt politics flicking from Argentina of 1974 to now-ish. Ignoring the oddly misplaced football CGI bit that was its stand out point for looking oddly misplaced, I liked this film for its fairy tale format muddled into a thriller with sporadic violence. Indefinable even with a broad world cinema tag, it tells stories of passion, obsession, and memories, lost opportunity woven into a crime that the main character can’t let go.






Benjamin Esposito, a retired crime investigator and wannabe novelist, requests the reopening of a case that has haunted him for 25 years; the brutal rape and murder of a young, newly married school teacher. While befriending the devastated husband Morales, he’s sees love in his eyes that will never die with his young wife’s memory. This haunts Esposito and parallels his growing feeling for his boss Irene Menendez Hastings. While he obsesses over the young Morales loss opportunity of a love filled life, he fails to see his own happiness and fulfilment slipping away until he starts his novel; his cathartic journey with a typewriter that’s malfunctioning 'a' key drives him to distraction.

It’s a simple story really, a story of love and how men deal with it. The women are mostly bystanders for their angst in this one. The tragedy of Morales and his wife is that he doesn’t continue to live, he (SPOILER) imprisons her killer and lives a life as gaoler of misery, a recluse with photographs of his young beloved sitting on the side as he ages alone in a turmoil of guilt that he could never ‘rescue’ her. The tragedy of Esposito is he loves, and undecided as to whether to challenge social convention, backs away, wastes time while Irene ‘waits’ and meanwhile marries and has children with someone else. It gets complicated (which sounds so much better in Spanish) and she continues to wait…then he finally makes a decision, after many affairs. This slightly annoyed me.



Meanwhile Irene notes the main suspect of the murder (a biggie on the sub plot factor) looking down her top, goads him into a confessional using the age old tactic of humiliation and questioning his manhood. Where was Irene’s daring with Benjamin; professionally Irene is formidable, personally she is unfulfilled and passive.





What is also apparent in this film is that men don’t forgive easily; retribution and suffering can only make their peace, whereas women forgive to make peace, even in extreme violence (The Crying Tree, Room…books where women forgive in extreme crime but men posture and seek vengeful peace). There are exceptions to the rule, this film could easily be compared to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, (especially re the use of photographs to solve a mystery)  yet the character Lisbeth Slander, the victim of crime is more active, more vengeful and her waiting for the man of her affections is less passive than the subdued passion of Irene in this story. The story of Liliana Coloto is merely beautiful food for worms, possibly the more depressingly realistic outcome in a film centred on the violation of a young woman.

So this film does offer a pallet for both sexes in that it has intrigue, romance, violence, revenge, passion, sport and art… clever Campanella really. Not enough women in this for me personally, there’s three; a dead one, a beautiful one and a batty old one with a dog.  And in two hours of film, I would have liked to have seen Isidoro Gomez’ build up to the ultimate crime of rape and murder. From the little I know about killers is they build up to it, and this build up to Lilliana’s death was not covered, in fact she let him in, which is the more interesting story in my opinion.

However, the love stories were told, parallel, without gush and over sentimentality. Not a perfect film but a good one…where’s the fun in perfection anyway?





Monday, 9 July 2012

Frida-directed by Julie Taymor




It’s been so rainy for summer and I have a teeny tiny person to sit and feed for hours so I’ve been watching films, new and old. A biopic of Frida Kahlo, the surrealist painter was just perfect, via lovefilm, one of my new favourite things. Famously, she had a monobrow and more than your average upper lip hair for a lady; more importantly though, she was an amazing artist, woman, lover and participant in life, hers being short-lived at only 47 years.








Frida Kahlo’s self portraits were her trade and breath along with her love of Diego Rivera, who in Liz Taylor fashion, she married twice despite his infidelity, of many amongst whom were her own sister. Frida’s affairs with many women and Leon Trotsky, interestingly that one was politically and scandalously documented, she eventually led a life of free passion; some might say promiscuity, her only loyal lover, her art.


A life tinged with tragedy that filmically, it was easy (although took forever to get to fruition); already crippled in childhood from polio, then hit by a tram, then married to a creative and complicated older man who could not stay faithful, then gangrene dramas later, an amputee, left bedridden, Frida ordered her bed be carried to her final exhibition; that is a story.




Of course she then became a feminist icon of the status that even Madonna wanted her part, had a scrap with Jennifer Lopez over it, then eventually, the very lovely Salma Hayek (of stripper vampire fame From Dusk Til Dawn, the worst film I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch) landed beautifully in the part. Why this film took so long is a mystery. I guess probably as Frida Kahlo was just a bit tricky for Hollywood protocol to take on.




Kahlo celebrated her difference by exaggerating it in her self-portraiture, her monobrow, her moustache, her withered leg, in reality were barely there in the life of a woman that shone with vivacious animation. This film did that sort of energy justice in my opinion, faithfully accurate yet wary of realistic boringness; Frida could not be anything of the sort and triumphantly lived. Magical and real, so it was fitting.
                       
It’s a good film if you missed it...blog love x

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Funny Electronic Ladies...



RYAT - HOWL

So first off let’s get the Bjork thing over with; she, that is Christina McGeehan, is a bit Bjorkish in that she’s a bit Bat for Lashes but with more buttons and less strings and possibly Glasser like…if you bought Biophilia and felt a little confused, you might like this.


Her album ‘Totem’ is based around spirit animals, take a guess with ‘Howl’ then. I like it. I’m undecided about the video as I like cute animation but I kept thinking of Albarn’s ‘Gorillaz’ and then it all became far too animal ‘point making’ centric. I like horses, where are the horses? The last horse I saw in a video was in this one. I also love Santigold.

The album ‘Totem’ is out now, jump to the BEEB review for tasters.

http://ryat.info/RYAT/RYAT.html

Planningtorock- Patriarchy over & out

And then Planningtorock  came out with a new single 'Patriarchy over & out' which in a demographic of people around me has mean't  I've been sentenced to headphones...indefinitely. But I love this. Yes, her vocals are a little uncomfortable for some, but just listen again. Her album is amazing as was her contribution to The Knife's electro opera. Said track is soundclouding here as the upload to youtube was a static I needed more time to think about...

 


http://www.myspace.com/planningtorock

Gazelle Twin- When I Was Otherwise


Meanwhile Gazelle Twin who is very funny, a lady and electronic (funny weird, not funny haha, although I'm sure she is witty) clearly has a naughty favourite friend with a button and a new video for her album ‘The Entire City’ (not a euphemism for anything, honestly) and this sounds like Depeche Mode’s beautiful step sister rather slowed down.


I’m experimenting with minimalist blogging again. I also love this tumbly for heads up on music. I dedicate this post to my readers in the county of that big space around Greater Manchester, mostly as that's where Planningtorock was birthed...and to anyone that gets the children's televisual metaphor going on. There are times when I am tempted to merely say 'This sounds good so listen to it. End of' .

http://www.gazelletwin.com/



Links related:

TOTEM on Brainfeed
http://www.last.fm/music/Planningtorock
http://nydmusic.tumblr.com/



Friday, 22 June 2012

El Perro Del Mar - Innocence is Sense



Those Swedes just make too much weird and wonderful noise. El Perro Del Mar is Sarah Assbring and she's now taken the darker path with her music. Strange hat, creepy hotel room and some stylised camera shots reminding me of Bowie's Ashes to Ashes video, although that could simply be the application of thick blusher on alabaster skin circa 1980.



Towards the end, the layered instrumentation brings forth Tales of Musical Unexpected. Weird dancing in flame fakery reminds me of a strange children's annual of unexplained phenomenon my brother had that used to scare me, particularly a spontaneous combustion photograph comprising a charred slipper *shudder*. Bonkers, sorry innovative daaaahlings.

Her vocals are distorted and other worldly but it all amounts to something quite memorable and catchy and Knife-esque (yes them again) in its art pop sensibility.  Have a listen above, the album Pale Fire is out soon and Innocence is Sense already promises more haunting beepy noises to come.





Thursday, 14 June 2012

Sigur Ros: Varuo


I’m running a little behind again, the  Sigur Ros album 'Valtari' was out at the end of May but thankfully this beautiful noise arrived in my peripheral when I needed it most.  After a stressful week, and now with most of that lifted, this track matched everything perfectly. Music plays a big part. Ranging from the everyday incidental to the most moving with huge significance; it is the quiet, the excitement, the anticipation, the desperate and at its most superficial and light, equally as important.

Mostly music reminds me of something specifically; a time or a person. What Sigur Ros do is remind me of a feeling, a place internally and hard to explain. Rarely do not understanding any words bother me, the music makes it unimportant in this instance; all in Icelandic, beauty in gobbledigook.


The video is heavily coded and ethereal. I love it. I’ve shared my love of Sigur Ros with friends, most notably one said I find it hard to listen Jonsi’s voice, it makes me want to cry’. Yes. The other said. ‘Everything’s suddenly gone a bit Coldplay’ (I did poke that person in the eye of course) Listen and decide for yourself. I equally love the mystery film experiment going on with the tiny figures coming out of the rock to transcend to another realm. And the codes.

Heavenly and grounding simultaneously, this track just lifts everything. I was similarly overwhelmed reviewing Sigur Ros front man Jonsi’s album ‘Go, especially after seeing him live, too amazing to even make a silly joke about and that’s serious. Gorgeousness.


Get the album here. You will be overwhelmed from Overwhelmsville. If you’re not, I can’t be your friend *wink*


http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/

The Tree of Life- written and directed by Terrence Malick





So what on earth was all that about? There will be small spoilers in this review but I wouldn’t worry as they may help to decode what is a bewildering narrativeEpic in all its proportions, Malick used possibly every cinematic trick in the book, fearlessly experimental yet clichéd in places, much too long, a huge soundtrack to keep those awake that really aren’t interesting in the big question; existence. I think it’s a film you will either love or hate but definitely make you think, whether it’s profound preoccupation or ‘what a load of dross’.

This film is an existential wandering through everything from the beginnings of the universe through to the love and demise of one too young to be lost and the main character, Jack, trying to makes sense of life and death.   The Tree of Life comes with oceans of imagery, biblical references and good old-fashioned angst ridden deciphering of the meaning of life.

I watched this, strangely enough, unknowingly in early labour with my daughter, seems pretty apt looking back. It might also mean I go off track a bit attempting to analyse this one, I’m comforted by being in good company in this ‘going off on one’ with Malik himself who seems prone to wander from the path most taken at points in this work, most notably, the point where I thought I might have sat on the remote control and flicked over to ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ by accident. You do honestly sit wondering if you’re in some drug-induced daze where an Attenborough may pop up at any moment.



The film opens with a quote from the Book of Job and tussles of nature over grace. An angelic light (perhaps) offers a guiding hand as it cuts to idealistic scenes of nature and a beautiful home receiving bad news. The mother (Jessica Chastain) seems to symbolise grace and the father (Brad Pitt) nature while the story tells that of Jack, a meditation on his memories and issues within this theological/existential/spiritual dilemma. Sean Penn plays ‘Jack’, looking back on his childhood and the long ago premature death of his brother who in heat, he proclaims to miss every day.

We are thrown back to 1950s small town America and see through Jack’s younger eyes (Hunter McCracken) the dynamic of his family; a nurturing mother and brusque overly strict father. The mother sees goodness and joy everywhere and the father wants to prepare his sons for life’s cruelties amongst scenes of a childhood friend drowning and one being disfigured by burns, the beginnings of Jack’s rebellion smouldering into his adolescence. Confusingly shot scenes of this include an incident with a nightdress that ends up thrown into the river, water being the major symbol throughout, I suppose as the ultimate in beginnings. It is hard to know whether this film lies compatibly with creationism or Darwinism at times.

There are banal materialistic preoccupations touched upon but on the whole the film dances a meditation in questioning, a tranquil calm interposed with spiritual bafflement. It all ends in enlightenment, unconditional love and forgiveness. It could be a hard one to swallow for some and the biblical references can sit quietly confronting an agnostic mind throughout. Definitely one to watch again to get to grips with the spiritual pressings of Malick’s mind, it could bedevil or feel like prayer but to dismiss as merely pretension would be a pity.


*Handy hint: watch twice unless you almost died of boredom the first time.  The use of music is bloody marvellous and the acting, particularly the children, was brilliant.*

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Dreams of a Life- A film by Carol Morley


Guess what…I’m probably not going to watch Prometheus even though Fassbender was a great Rochester in last year’s Jane Eyre (jump here for my review) and I may one day watch him playing a sex addict in that film called something or other with Carey ‘in absolutely everything’ Mulligan. Sorry if you landed here expecting that review. I’ve only just joined Lovefilm after a brief flirtation with Greenwich Picturehouse.


Instead I'm going to share a moment a few months back in which I watched Channel Four’s ‘Fresh Meat’, had many hilarious flashbacks to being a fresher at Uni, momentarily felt a bit old and then really thought Zawe Ashton was the best and funniest one and then stumbled upon a docufilm she was in around the same time. Are you still with me?



It was called ‘Dreams of a Life’ and based on the true story of a lady who died alone and wasn’t found for three years in a flat in North London, not a weird loner or outcast but instead an attractive, sociable person. The alluring and mysterious Joyce Vincent would probably never have been on a social network but for some strange reason, this odd film was a stark reminder of the superficiality of facebook every now and then; dilemmas of identity, superficial contacts, surprises, conflicts of personal over professional life,  reminders of birthdays and crappy jobs. Not wishing to feed the troll that is that infamous network, people that think they know you but never really will beyond some surface observation they’ve made or you’ve cooked up wanting to promote via your status update. This woman's life ended in a time before we all muddied our own up with online personas.

So Joyce’s secretive life was prior to mass cyber socialising, they must have had to scrabble about a bit to find people that really knew her (no sarcasm intended) because it was like the filmmaker Morley had raided her ‘Top Friends’. We all know they never really are your friends; they are just the ones most active that can be bothered to add that app. This just highlighted the tragedy; nobody really seemed to know Joyce or understand how she slipped through society and the welfare state, why a woman outwardly glamorous as she was, yet towards the end of her life, was a cleaner and named her bank manager as her next of kin when admitted into hospital. Not a single member of her family were interviewed and the main stay of the cinematic portrayal of Joyce’s life was an ex boyfriend that looked like he might have added her over and over again on a social network.

The film was endearingly clumsy, there were bits where you weren’t sure if it was actors or real people, accounts from minor celebs and an overwhelming sadness at outward appearance over truth. Her life appeared to be a collection of ‘moments’ hiding a lonely and troubled existence with dreams only partially made. And the big mystery was; how could someone die on their sofa, having wrapped up Christmas presents for her friends and not be found or missed for three years?

Well guess what again…I think quite easily. Because this was at the start of an era where friendship has become lazy and modern life is a testimony to loneliness and show. And significantly, she was estranged from her family. And significantly, she lived in a flat in a very transient part of London where people would easily walk past a flat, smell a decaying body and walk on. Her television was on for the entire three years; perhaps if it hadn’t been, someone may have knocked and asked why she wasn’t watching Big Brother. Who knows?


It is a blundering yet beautiful film of morose speculation which does make you think and hangs around in your mind a while after, the beauty of Joyce alongside the horror of decay on many levels, literally in her death and metaphorically in the diminishing web of social contact. If you died in a mysterious way and someone made a docufilm, who would come forward to try and piece your life together? This kept me awake for a while.

It was kind of like watching a Crimewatch reconstruction in places and instilled a need to catch up on old friends and make sure they are alive. It also might make you want to not die in a mysterious way but leave a really long letter or a smart yet devastating blog post at the very least. Nothing narcissistic to see here then.

Watch it and trust me. It will make you think and move you. Then click on 'Fresh Meat' which makes you do nothing of the sort but is brillo.

In a related televisual incident, the beebs Lip Service was also good. Kind of that 90’s thing ‘This Life’ but with lesbians. Phwoaaaaaaar (suddenly need an immature emoticon). More seriously though, it was a detailed portrayal of female dynamics and relationships and (imo)  survived the loss of two major characters.  Here's hoping BBC3 come back with another series. I think HBO may buy it and make it into more of a male fantasy at some point though which would be major pity.


dreamsofalife.com

*Dedicated to the lovely friend who sat through 'Dreams of a Life' and its surprisingly funny 'extras' with me and who’s having a rubbishy time right now…mwahs to you x

Saturday, 26 May 2012

iamamiwhoami - Kill







I've missed a few chapters in this new iamamiwhoami project, spoilt for videos lately, we have been taken from the urban greyness of a tower block, to a car park, through a forest, over a desert, into mountains and finally now we are at the ocean, interjected with Jonna back where she started clad mostly in white but now in black teetering on the brink.  With the news that the album has been pushed back to September, Jonna Lee's creativity continues to mesmerise and capture the imagination in pop art form from conception to no doubt its finale, and is verified with this latest offering.

Video after video merit comment and shouldn't be missed for their discernible quirkiness.  I didn't get time to blog every one but 'Kill' is standing out in its fatalistic, gimmick free minimalism, most notably, minus the hairy creatures from previous episodes in this electro tale of conscious and unconscious oddity. 

Watch above...Jonna is singing of something not being worth it, grim lyrically, outside of that, there's much to take note alongside an instantly memorable and super catchy tune. The album will be worth it going by what's been produced so far; it has a very evolutionary feel, both musically and visually, lots of contrasting imagery including birth and death, beginning and ending. Very simply and most importantly it sounds good, it looks interesting.

So far 'Sever' and 'Kill' have stood out. For me anyway. I haven't checked but here's hoping they are doing some festivals in the UK before the big push with the album in early Autumn.

http://www.youtube.com/user/iamamiwhoami

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Niki & The Dove- Instinct: album review





Officially out on Monday, it’s been no rushed affair getting an album from Swedish electro duo Niki & The Dove. Already two EPs down, the album, ‘ Instinct’ features tracks that have been around since 2010, re-recorded, mostly unnecessarily as the originals were brilliant anyway. For those that followed them prior to all the BBC ‘sounds’ hype, this album already has a ‘greatest hits’ feel, albeit not in the mainstream until now.




Kicking off with latest release ‘Tomorrow’, the album starts with a track that sums them up with a slightly experimental edge decorated with an easy going melodic pop sensibility; kind of starry and other worldly in another galaxy type way. Malin’s vocals really make the ‘kook’ ingredient that seems to be all the rage with artists like Grimes right now. There’s a touch of Fleetwood Mac in this opener in places, a slight haunting of Stevie Nicks which is bearable yet supersedes and saturates overly in track 3, ‘In Our Eyes’; my affection for them only goes as far as Mick looking like my dad so skip that one if you are so inclined.




‘The Drummer’ as track 2 is just fabulousness, seeing Malin channelling her Bush  (yes really, see video), all layered synths and pounding drums makes it all human with a hint of Gustaf’s vocals. The longevity of Niki & The Dove is that these tracks still sound fresh two years later, and some released just last year, can still cut it on a debut album.




‘Gentle Roar’ and ‘Mother Protect’ are two of my favourites, particularly for The Knife feel that they embrace and epitomise in ‘DJ Ease My Mind’. I still think they’ve failed to top DJ for its pure and simple expansionist electro; melody pulsating through technology and nature, dark and light (like Star Wars according to Gustaf). These tracks from the duo really do cross a few boundaries, keeping it ‘furious’ (according to Malin) and make this album so worthwhile despite the odd downturn into 80’s poop.




‘Last Night’ and ‘Love To The Test’ are two tracks of romantic, love at first sight angst, marrying you on a back seat loveliness, hold someone tight right now and enjoy, it’s no lie, lots of breath being taken away…swoooon. ‘Somebody’ takes that guilty smoochfest pleasure too far, another one to skippity, two out of thirteen isn’t bad though.

‘Winterheart’ catches you somewhere between ‘Mother Protect’ and ‘Under The Bridges’, and brings you back up to speed with ‘The Fox’. Overall ‘Instinct’ is a good album, the foundations for an amazing album in the future? It closes with ‘Under The Bridges’ that does take you back and shows much promise and if there’s one thing their tracks never lack, it’s energy… whether it be in a forest, in space or just plain weirdy popland.


Talking of which, Grimes has a new video out for ‘Nightmusic’. There’s a spurious attempt at a narrative that’s a little muddled in mythology and religious imagery, not too much to read in to especially alongside indecipherable lyrics.

Electro females and forests go hand in hand right now it seems with the comedy of Austra, the quirk art of Iamamiwhoami and now Grimes. Personally, I prefer to see her doing her stuff live but in this latest offering, 'Nightmusic ft Majical Cloudz' sounds great and Grimes looks beautifully otherworldly in an electro sprite kind of realm…enjoy below.








Stream Instinct on NME
Grimes Image: http://www.nydiscovery.com/

http://www.nikiandthedove.com/

http://www.grimesmusic.com/

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Listening to this week...


Dreamy melodies...

Continuing the saga of how to blog and feed a four week old baby for hours on end and huge thanks to a friend that makes slings that makes my hands freer to type, I’m going to blog what I listened to just now. This is about sharing a mish mash of kind of sleepy music in a slightly erratic way. It’s all pretty current (I haven’t time to check exactly) but perhaps not breaking news. Attention to detail will resume probably some time in 2013. Until then, enjoy with me...

School of Seven Bells - Reappear


First is School of Seven Bells, dreamy loveliness is their speciality even since the demise of a third member. I loved 'Half Asleep' which defines me currently.The video for 'Reappear' from current album 'Ghostory' is a bit short filmic-ishly epic; it starts with an angst ridden answer message, skip that bit if you’re short on time like me and can’t be bothered with a sad story, then float away with the melody backed by very low bleepy fli stuff. Nice swirly bubble music basically. The album ‘Ghostory’ is out now, do a googly search via Amazon and buy it.






http://www.sviib.com/

Marissa Nadler- The Wrecking Ball Company


Marissa Nadler with ‘The Wrecking Ball Company’ is from Boston; gorgeousness, beautiful voice and lovely shoes. What more could you ask for? Sometimes only folky dream pop will do, I've been missing Bat For Lashes lately.

Haunting and melancholic, her more recent offerings have earned notice from Mojo and Rolling Stone, don't let that put you off though.  Nadler is not a newbie by any means but her introspective melodies are definitely worth listening out for. Her new album 'The Sister' is due out on May 29th.




http://marissanadler.com/

HTRK- Synthetik


HTRK (pronounced 'Hate Rock') with ‘Synthetik’ are a moody electronic duo, sounding as eerie as a David Lynch soundtrack.You would think they would be from somewhere that lacks daylight but actually they come from sunny Melbourne.

The antidote to this is great songs with creepy odd videos. Jump on this link ‘Love Triangle’ too, a bit icky to view unless you have a seafood fetish… The album Work (work, work)  was out last year and is full of doom laden romantic strangeness.  Growing loooove for them.





http://www.myspace.com/htrk

Very important and creative people probably directed all these videos.  I found them all here, a very nice tumbly upon. I will of course use just having a baby as an excuse to blog music in a rush rush away again. It was very liberating.


Credit to: http://nydmusic.tumblr.com/

Friday, 9 March 2012

Book Review: The Sealed Letter – Emma Donoghue (spoilers)





The talented author of Man Booker Prize nominee ‘Room’ has followed up with ‘The Sealed Letter’, a completely different creation of piquant Victoriana. It’s loosely based on the true scandal of the time involving the divorce case of Helen Codrington in 1864, one of the first women to attempt to counter claim in the divorce courts and her friend and founder of the feminist Langham Group and manager of the Victoria Press, Emily ‘Fido’ Faithfull.





Accusations of rape, cruelty, neglect and complacency reverberate with yet more countering claims of promiscuity, deceit and implied and later substantiated lesbianism; what more could you ask for? It reveals the hypocrisies of the time, the complete lack of power of any woman to gain access to her children following divorce, accounting cases of women ‘sent abroad’ under the unspoken shame of feminine madness (shades of Flaubert’s wonderful heroine Emma Bovary) and extricates the complications and intensities of female friendship and attraction between the plain and intelligent Fido and her glamorous, highly strung and manipulative Helen.

Donoghue has woven characters into the historical documenting of this marriage of the time, the union of a young pretty thing with an older military man and the added complication of a trusted female authority ‘Fido’, who at times concurrently reveals strength and weakness. Interestingly, my sympathies did lie with the husband Harry and Fido who seemed to lay bare in the aftermath of this ruthless bombshell right to the bitter end. Even after all her lies and vanities are exposed, they both tussle with a loyalty and deep felt affection bordering protection, Harry when he wants to shouts inwardly:

I was not a brute, and she was not a freak’ and even after Helen resorts to extortion claiming Fido was no better than her male escorts after their own ‘carnal knowledge’ of each other in their youth, poor Emily Fido Faithfull (what a name!) as she ejaculates:

‘ Oh Helen, Helen, Helen, the name like the wail of a gull. Love found and complicated and lost, found and destroyed again…’

The delicious melodrama circles in a whirlwind around one beautiful and selfish woman, a blank page and the claustrophobic grime of the London pea-souper as Fido gasps daily for breath in all the scandal. A layered interest for me is that you surprisingly feel outraged at the bias towards men in this era, while at the same time seeing Harry as a victim at the hands of a somewhat spirited young wife, albeit one then never really has a voice and is portrayed pretty much by Donoghue as would a tabloid newspaper…perhaps?

And something I love with historical stories, you can catch up on what happened to them once the story ended. Helen died relatively young and Fido went on to have two ‘devoted domestic partnerships’ and never went for a troublemaker again. 

Definitely worth reading and despite mixed reviews on Donoghue’s Victorian jaunt, I think it’s great she did something completely different to her million copy bestseller as it shows an admirable fearless approach to her writing.


Related Post:


Review of 'Room' by Emma Donoghue