Monday, 8 September 2014

Routine Vs. New Things :S

          It’s mental that there is so much content in the world, there was once a part in Dara O’Brein’s stand-up routine were he talked about how he once had a night free, free from work, from his wife and has child, and he wanted to play music… then watch a film… then read a book… then play a video game… and ended up watching the last half of Robocop. This is an experience I’m sure most of us suffer at times. But I think because there is genuinely so much content and literally so much to do and learn, it has become a detriment to peoples live.
           What on earth am I talking about? Well basically it’s like this, I’ll use an example of television series. I watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation almost religiously. I’ve seen all seven series of both so much that these days, even my not persistent self can recognise an episode by its title. A big feat for me. And I continue to want to watch more television series, I’d like to try and watch Voyager again, but I’d also like to watch Hero’s, Prison Break, Boardwalk Empire, and other series that have a really high acclaim. But for me the investment I’d have to make in that is huge. Not financially, as fantastical as it sounds I have a loose weave method of thinking when it comes to consumption. I however am a lot more rigid when it comes to emotional attachment.
          And when it comes to long series with lots of episode’s that is what tends to put me off, to start watching say, Dexter from the beginning, that would mean 8 series and 96 episodes… Not a massive undertaking, but there lies my dilemma, and the initial point of writing this… while watching one of those 96 episodes, I could be in fact, watching an episode of Game of Thrones… Or watching a documentary, which was my initial plan for tonight, before I thought about playing Assassins Creed…and after I decided I was going to spend the rest of my night reading.
          It seems that with so much consumption available and at times at such a cheap price, you can really be at a loss for what to do and at what time. And I've found that once you've made a decision on what your actually going to do, you become at odds with yourself again by having to choose exactly what you want to so within that decision. I go walking sometimes and I decide while I’m walking I’m going to listen to music. But I never know what to listen to, usually my initial thought is to listen to something up beat while I’m walking, but as I finally choose my favorite pop-punk albums, I decide that maybe this walk would be the perfect time for masterful Prog… while at the back of my mind I believe that while you’re walking, there is no better time to listen to some brutal metal.
          Maybe the answer to this is just planning and scheduling, and I can do that to a degree. I plan to get up for work, I manage it. I plan to schedule plans with my friends and meet them. On my days off I decide and plan to go round town and look for stuff I need… but when it comes to actually investing myself in something it becomes a lot harder. And another thing, how stupid is it and how hard would it be to enjoy something that’s scheduled in? In uni every Sunday morning when I woke up and Wednesday before my lecturers I used to watch a film, every week without fail. But that wasn’t so much scheduling as it was enjoyment. Back then I watched a film by day, did my uni work and then at night played a game and probably watched an episode of a tv series I was watching, so since the period I am talking about three years ago the availability to watching and consume has bettered itself and upgraded the viewing experience.
          So I think maybe the solution is just moderation, actually committing yourself to something, I have for example committed myself to watching Game of Thrones, and home to get through it… I have however, already developed an interest in America and have a string urge to drop everything and begin reading and writing about America again… which will with no doubt end up with me watching documentaries by Michael Moore, or Errol Morris… or some other liberal like that. And so the endless circle of not doing anything new or constructive repeats.

Monday, 1 September 2014

The Parrot

            So I’ve just had what was a mini holiday from work, and with my four days off I decided to fill it by doing the things that I love to do the most, so on Thursday night I went back home to my mum and ate home cooked food, went to the pub and met a few guys I don’t get to see enough. Friday was spent in Swansea, exploring then going to see my friends band in the night and Saturday was going to be spent watching the football, but before the kick-offs at 3.00 I would have plenty of time to do what I did whenever I had a day off.
          Except this time it was not possible, firstly the comic book that I had a loose connection to had closed about a month ago, which was a sad loss to the many people who found a home there to talk basically ‘nerd’ stuff and forge friendships. So I had to miss that destination and move onto another. This time I was able to enter. But as I did the usual rush of excitement and nostalgic sense creativity was replaced with humbling sadness. It would probably be the last time I would walk through the small double doors of ‘The Parrot’

          Since its beginning three years ago The Parrot has been written about countless times, from locally in the newspapers and on social networking sites, but has also gained acclaim from a wider and broader audience. Many people have described The Parrot’s closure as a defeat stating that everyone involved ‘tried’ but ultimately has ended in a saddening failure. This however is complete bollocks and the lasting effects of the parrot will live on and show that The Parrot has had and will have more victory’s. It’s just that its closure is merely crushing blow.

The Parrot was split into two, upstairs is the Tangled Parrot and downstairs is the cafĂ©/bar/music venue area. And these two worked with each other almost in perfect sync. The friendly and welcoming atmosphere allowed you to wonder in and have some food and if you wanted, wonder up-stairs and be mesmerized by the vast amount of CD’s and Vinyl that was on display. 
           The Tangled Parrot’s musical footprint on my life alone has been at times inconceivable. I first walked through its door when it was attached to the castle sometime in January of 2008 making my first purchase of a Napalm Death’s ‘Order of the Leech’ it would be the first of many purchases from that location. At that time and being a 16 year old just starting to taking what Mat once described as the ‘horse blinkers off’ my musical knowledge was firmly in the world of Metal and the ’Emo/Screamo/ Post-Hardcore scene’ that was big at the time.
          My best recollection of this was once we were having a discussion about Fugazi were Mat told me about this new ‘Hardcore’ album he’d had in called ‘Shame’ from a band called Trash Talk and I don’t believe I've really looked back. Since then Mat has recommended me albums that I believe are still among my favorite purchases, Such as Fucked Up’s ‘Chemistry of Common Life’ and Crass’ ‘Feeding of the 5000.’
          As the years have gone on and the use/need of Cd’s is almost non-existent, and probably because of some consequence from my parents, I started to work on more of a vinyl collection. One that, much like the remains of my CD collection is built on purchases from the Tangled Parrot. And one again that has followed my continuing music progression.
          Basically from the beginning the Tangled Parrot has been aiding my listening experience and progression, and as I’ve grown into different tastes of music, the Tangled Parrot has always been there  for me to find an album that fits in my lifestyle at the time. And it is a dramatic difference from that Napalm Death album to my last Billy Bragg purchase. And I’ve talked with people about the Tangled Parrots influence on their lives and have over heard conversation in the store itself from people that I believe the world is a better place with the Tangled Parrot in it than without.
           Communities were built in that store, but there were also friendships formed downstairs during the gigs that were put on from the varying amount of promoters that put on shows. Again on a personal level, since my return home from university about a year and a half ago I have attended a number of shows and become a fan of things I never thought I would ever hear in my life. (Fasta benji is still bat-shit mental)
Before the End's Poster from the 6th
June. Headlined by Acres
          But it’s the diversity of the shows put on by The Parrot that shows the true class of the place. Nothing was ever too ‘out-there’ or different or weird. It is through these shows that I met a number of people and even became closer to the friends I already had. The Parrot has also formed the groundwork for promoters to grow and expand. My good friend Rhys who’s promotion company thing ‘Before the End’ for almost two years and consecutively put on Hardcore/punk/metal nights at the venue attracting some big names of the underground circuit. Through his work with The Parrot he has been able to expand to try and promote shows in clubs in Swansea.
Truth Seeking Conspiracy Logo
          The Parrot has also been able to push local bands such as ‘Fatal Desire, ‘Without Shores’ and the ‘Truth Seeking Conspiracy.’ Bands that have been able to practice in a live environment, improve and put on some great shows. This is just a small and a personal account of the influence and impact that The Parrot has had on myself, my friends and on Carmarthen. The announcement of its closure has becoming a talking point in many circles, a true tribute to the overwhelming success that has come out of the expedition. Overall The Parrot was a success, it started when not only the future of the economy looked bleak, but also when the future of music itself was obscured by ‘talent’ shows and digital downloading. But The Parrot rode that wave and stood proudly on the shoulders of people who loved music and loved to interact and exists within it.

          From the promoters, the bands that played, the sound guys, the people on the Facebook page, the guys behind the bar, and everyone else that was involved in making The Parrot a success and a great thing to be a small part of, I thank you. 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

X-Men—Days of Future Past

          So here it is, in the space of a week we have two of the most anticipated films of the year, and neither are a disappointment, if anything the exact opposite, Godzilla was more than I expected, and the sequel/prequel/time altering X-Men was a glorious return to form.
          Let’s be honest, we are not exactly short on super hero films at the minute, not even films anymore, there’s now a Flash tv series, S.H.E.I.L.D, Arkham… and that list is probably going to grow. And this is concerning, the complete monopoly Super Hero films in the cinema is a concern, because we are probably at the height at the minute and when that bubble bursts there may be massive repercussions… that said, ‘Days of Future Past’ may be the kick up the ass this genre needs to keep fresh.
           About this time last year I sat in the cinema with total dismay at the whole Super Hero film genre, the reason for this was ‘The Wolverine’ a film which I did really enjoy because it was really different… until the ending when it became every other Super Hero film. Somehow off the edge of a cliff Wolverine is saved and no super hero can die in these films, it left me with no feeling of suspense or surprise nor did it make me want to go back and see any more of these films.
          2013 was actually a poor year anyway in terms of storytelling but 2014 has been a lot stronger, I had no desire to see ‘The Winter Soldier’ but it was enough to make me think about not yet giving up, and while Spiderman 2 became a film with far too much story and far far too many shiny lights. ‘Days of Future Past’ May be the best Super Hero film since ‘The Avengers’, maybe even ‘The Dark Knight Rises’
          It would be unfair to say that the tone of this film is dark, the X-Men franchise has always taken on far darker and more realistic issues than its peers with the exception being Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ series. But the opening shots of the mutant dystopian future with Patrick Stewarts haunting narration is unsettling. The highlights of the opening scenes include a fantastic action sequence which is completely stolen by ‘Blink’ and the way her powers are used against the Sentinels. With the only issue being really that we don’t get a good enough look at the actual Sentinels. And of course the other highlight is the return of Professor X and Magneto.
          Despite the opening part feeling rushed there is a lot of the story pushed forward and the plot is believable and simple enough to just accept. Either away we don’t really visit the future that much from there instead we remain in 1973 and it is the time for the current crop to shine, and shine they do. James McAvoy’s portrayal of a completely different Charles Xavier, a Charles Xavier who you find it difficult to believe is the same man who would dedicate is life teaching Mutants how to control their power. It is a feat excellently done by McAvoy.
          We get many harrowing scenes once Professor X and Magneto are reunited, and during the scene on the plane you realise that these are two huge characters in the superhero franchise and with the wrong actors these scenes could easily become just two men bickering at each other, what makes these scenes great is the fierce way the two men are played by actors who deservedly step into the shoes of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.
          When speaking of the younger talent on display it is hard to ignore the fact that Wolverine is now here in the past and to be honest, the film never really needs him, the storyline does, but at no time do you really get the feeling of ‘ohh if only Wolverine was here’ which is a testament to the story McAvoy, Fassbender and Jenifer Lawrence. This is evident when Wolverine flat out accepts that he can’t help Xavier and instead we get a touching scene between the Charles Xaviers. Lawrence’s Mystique character probably doesn’t get enough screen time as she deserves however you get the feeling that the character is continuing to grow and can play an important part in the future of this series.
          The story never really travels too far away from the actual plot of this film, which is to prevent the sentinel controlled future which started in this time period, the journey takes us to Paris, Vietnam and offers some great scenes President Nixon, Peter Dinklage as Frask and an exciting few minutes with Quciksilver. Which all culminates in a really tense final action scene where again the talents of Lawrence, Fassbender and McAvoy are on full display.
          The films conclusion will have many people scratching their heads as to what happened to the actual story line after these events took place, but there does seem to be a nice resolution. Overall I thought ‘Days of Future Past’ did have some flaws and at times made the franchise key character Wolverine seem redundant, regardless of that the story is so strong and so are the performances from all involved that Bryan Singer can take a massive sigh of relief that here he may have managed to save the franchise that he created almost 15 years ago.  8/10

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Avril Lavigne-- So Much for a Happy Ending


           Nostalgia's a funny thing, the last two days have made that blatantly obvious, not only has the passing of 2014's Record Store Day helped people re-connect with some of the music they may have left behind, but non-other than Avril Lavigne has made hordes of young people around their early 20's long for the days when things were simpler, you didn't have to worry about money or jobs, and 'Sk8er Boi' was the coolest thing you could listen too.

          I remember these 'good old days', twelve years ago in fact, so being around the age of ten I could listen to the 'Let Go' album around the house feeling all punk and cool whilst at the same time there was more than enough pop on that album to be completely safe. So even my mum could listen to it. Still that album remains on my Ipod as sort of a nostalgic memorandum as I listen to some of the lesser known tracks on the album such as 'Mobile' and 'Anything But Ordinary' for some epiclly nostalgic pop moments.

          But the point of this is too look at the progression of Avril herself, I don't take what she said about herself as an 18/19 year old self very seriously. I don't take anything an 18/19 year old says about themselves very seriously so we can instead look to how aesthetically she's changed. I suppose anyone who can remember her second album '04's 'Under My Skin' saw and heard the change in both style and substance, whilst there there was less of the pop-punk velocity sometimes seen on 'Let Go' 'Under My Skin' instead seemed wholeheartedly more in the Pop-ish Post-Grunge vein.

          And when you consider musicians such as Josh Freese, Butch Walker and Ben Moody helped on the production on this album this in retrospect should come as no surprise. Visually there was a change in style as well, from Avril's pop-punk 3/4 trousers and slim t-shirts developed into a more Gothic look matching the the music and probably the changes a lot of her younger fans were encompassing too. Despite not really owning the airways like 'Sk8er Boi', 'Complicated' or 'Nobody's Home' had done, Avril still seemed genuine and exciting. And then she seemed to disappear.

          And she petty much did, unless you really went looking for news of her online, she seemed to have evaporated and then out of no-where returned with something no-one really seemed to expect. The next time we saw her in early 2007, everything that was once cool for us young adolescences had long gone. Believe me, I was 17 at this stage and was far to busy being in love with 'Rise Against' too really care. But there was nothing of her former self in the album or singles. If you're looking hard-enough the 'Girlfriend' video show's a visual mish-mash of someone really struggling with their identity.

           Is the real Avril the bleach blonde girl singing, is she the really horrible bully with dark hair used for comedic value but in reality was a big middle finger to the girl who wrote the lyrics for albums on the first two albums. Or is she the poor red dead girl, mistreated and undervalued? the video seems to be a collection of issues where nothing is really addressed but  alot can be looked into. But on the other hand, she is at the time writing at the age of 23/24, obviously brewing with sexual confidence and probably wanting to take advantage of that. Pretty much the same way attractive girls tan themselves up and wear short dresses and muscular guys wear the tightest shirts ever.

          So lets fast forward to 'Hello Kitty' cause there was an album in between but I don't know anything about it except the realize date and the vague memory of trying to listen too it and just not being bothered. Well it certainly has brought more attention to her, but as songs go it is not terrible, and if I'm honest I can see this being a hit, for anyone but Avril. There lies her problem. Probably anyone who still gives a shit about her are going to remember her being the skater girl, and the goth and probably even the girl in the shorts with blonde hair, and the girl we saw grow up on our screens with a piano.

          Basically the issue is that we've watched her grow up from the young skater, to trying different things with her image, to finally becoming a woman all through 12 years of music video's. 'Hello Kitty's' main problem is not completely the lyrics nor the music, it is just the artist who is performing the track. Avril Lavigne is a victim of her own success.