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Surveillance

Passengers

Woefully inept, on-the-nose sci-fi romance. A reasonable concept executed in the worst way possible.


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10th Sep 2017

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Bad Moms

B-list, mis-cast, low-ball girl gang comedy. Weak.


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19th Jun 2017

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Absolutely Fabulous

Effortless retread of a show that survived well past it's sell-by date.


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29th May 2017

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Suicide Squad

Codswallop that's as indecipherable as every other recent DC movie. Terrible script, hammy acting.


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22nd May 2017

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Monsters Dark Continent

Money grabbing sequel that ups production value and bypasses the charm of the original.


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9th Jun 2016

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San Andreas

Even The Rock can't avert this disaster. Earthquakes have never involved such little jeopardy.


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21st Mar 2016

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Get Hard

Paper thin movie from Will Ferrell on autopilot. On the wrong side of borderline offensive.


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15th Jan 2016

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Attack of the Clones

Brutally incompetent, all-Easter-egg sequel that only makes the @StarWars universe smaller.


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29th Aug 2015

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Lucy

Nonsensical, badly cast Euro-Actioner, from a director long past his brief prime.


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12th Jun 2015

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Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

Mind-numbingly slight dramedy, with a vintage turn from Keira Knightley.


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18th Jan 2015

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Brokedown Palace

Poorly directed 90s teen version of Midnight Run. Tension free and utterly forgettable.


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25th Oct 2014

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Only God Forgives

Hilariously superficial art house twoddle. 'Style' turned up to 11, content down to zero.


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17th Nov 2013

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Trailer Park: Tuff Turf

"They can't shut him down. And they can't cool him off." Got a solid 1.5 stars in 1985 from Roger Ebert, who noted 

"Tuff Turf" is the worst teenage exploitation movie since "Where the Boys Are". It even has an equally wimpy hero, a young actor named James Spader who seems so laid back and introspective and sensitive and zonked that it is occasionally all he can to do rouse himself to the level of speech.

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8th Nov 2013 - Add Comment - Tweet

The Lone Ranger

A bloated, wasted opportunity of a western, played for Jack Sparrow-esque gags at every turn.


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10th Jul 2013

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Jimmy P (Psycho therapy of a Plains Indian)

Amateur direction and abysmal acting sink this painfully slow turkey.


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18th May 2013

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Contraband

Effortless smuggling thriller with Marky Mark on auto-pilot. Not #TheOtherGuys.


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8th Feb 2013

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The Sitter

Lame attempt to modernise the brat pack movies of the 80s. Light on LOLs.


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29th Dec 2012

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Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Tepid dud, sacrificing tension for coincidence and cheap laughs via Simon Pegg.


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21st Dec 2012

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One Day

Trite, superficial Harry Met Sally update, with laughable beards.


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14th Sep 2012

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Killer Joe

Ugly, over-hyped exploitation movie from a past his best director that plays out like a 90s video nasty.


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10th Jul 2012

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Arthur

Staggeringly unambitious reboot of an over-rated 'classic'.


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11th Jun 2012

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A Little Bit of Heaven

Weepy chick flick that plays like an animated @Pinterest page. Alan Dale plays a doctor.


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4th May 2012

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The Change Up

Gosling and Bateman swap lives. Everybody learns something.


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2nd Apr 2012

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The Ghost

Clumsy, inefficient thriller. Was going to say wannabee-Polanski, then I noticed Polanski directed it.


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1st Feb 2012

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The Green Hornet

Dull big screen outing for a second rate superhero - wasting considerable talent and money.


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7th Jan 2012

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A Christmas Carol

Another lifeless motion capture animation from a flagging Robert Zemeckis.


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9th Dec 2011

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Skyline

Inept, D-list (Milo from 24) sci-fi, playing out unexplained global alien invasion as sexy-teen horror.


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15th Oct 2011

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Eat Pray Love

Tedious, expensive, offensive plod through world cliches, with a self-absorbed Julia Roberts.


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10th Sep 2011

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Monster-in-Law

Romcom by numbers with J-Lo. See 'Maid in Manhatten' for details.


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14th Aug 2011

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Knight and Day

Big, expensive, contrived, noisy action comedy - that's light on comedy. Sub par from James Mangold.


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17th Jul 2011

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Iron Man 2

Stupid, lazy, rushed, shapeless, underdeveloped sequel - sacrificing style for pure volume.


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26th May 2011

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Robin Hood

$155m of utterly shapeless shambles as an occasionally scouse Robin plods through a revisionist Sherwood


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26th Mar 2011

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Did You Hear About The Morgans?

Staggeringly unambitious, dream-team rom-com.


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16th Jan 2011

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The Book of Eli

Derivative, post-apocalyptic drivel. Denzel and Gary Oldman should know better.


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15th Jan 2011

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The Punisher: War Zone

One of the thinnest plots I've ever seen. Like Neighbours does superheroes.


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20th Jun 2010

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Transformers 2

All the confusion and chaos of Transformers 1, but amped up to 11 and still stretched out to 150m.


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1st Apr 2010

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Armored

Security guards stage a heist. Nimrod Antal directs. Don't hold your breath for Predators to be any good.


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1st Apr 2010

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Confessions of a Shopaholic

Unadventurous rom-com, with no surprises.


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22nd Feb 2010

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Post Grad

I was on a plane and it was on. Empty first-job rom-com with odd casting including Burton's Batman.


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18th Feb 2010

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A Serious Man

Ethan and Joel Coen

A Serious Man? A seriously boring film.

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30th Dec 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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You Don't Mess With The Zohan

Mass stupidity with the occasional chuckle.


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5th Dec 2009

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Pens

Hey Friend What Are You Doing?

De Stijl

Pens are three girls from London, channeling lo-fi riffs through the usual mix of irony and nostalgia, even going so far as to re-create the awfulness of 80's VHS video on the promo for single High In The Cinema. Opener Horsies sets the scene, with layered vocals leading into a some furious drumming - which turns out to be the one trick of this pony, as witnessed on 1-2, Networking and more. There are some nice ideas and moments in here, but they tend to be just that - moments.

The majority of reference points that spring to mind all to easily here come from the past two years worth of DIY noise pop that has enjoyed something of a phenomena in terms of excitement. However all these bands have a pop hook around which to structure much of their abrasion. Whether using the surf rock template of Wavves, or the rockabilly charm of Sic Alps there was a hook buried somewhere and the thrill was digging for it and finding it. Times New Viking piled up all kinds of sonic rubble, but the reason you came back for another pummelling was the hook. Even Eat Skull's Sick To Death had me asking for more after receiving apparently so little, but Hey Friend What You Doing? fails to do this most basic of things on nearly every level.

Sure, they might be fun live - but if I want to see people jumping around there are already many outlets to fulfil that need. At the end of the day, music needs to work on many different levels. Much to be said for just getting on with things and doing it - as it's easy for me to sit here and slag this off, but with so little to actually engage the listener and barely a drip of originality of craftsmanship it's hard to do anything else.

The whole reality-TV induced message of 'anyone can do it' has a lot to answer for. Enthusiasm, wacky clothes and some toy instruments just aren't enough - bands need to start taking their time, getting things right and then releasing them. This casual effort has marked their card and Pens are one band who will certainly struggle to catch my attention again.

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25th Sep 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Over Her Dead Body

Even the excellent Paul Rudd can't save this turkey.


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13th Sep 2009

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Shoot 'Em Up

(dir. Michael Davis)

New Line

The clue is in the title here, in fact most of the script is even in the title. Lone gunman Clive Owen attempts to save a baby from a well-armed arms dealer, as a series of set-pieces run one after another - seemingly contrived around the simplest of premises. Scene 2: gun drops in toilet before hand dryer heats bullets just in time to shoot bad guy. Scene 14: bad guys interrupt Clive getting jiggy, so he keeps at it by multi-tasking. Monica Belluci also stars - dressed down as a lactating wet-nurse hooker. Don't ask.

The plot is thinner than a video game and the action even more pointless. Characters can be a crack shot one minute then run through a hail of bullets unscathed the next. With Paul Giametti hamming it up more than Groucho Marx, and Clive Owen doing little to overcome his one-dimensional reputation, the action is all that's left to sell this film and unfortunately that's not exactly deftly handled.

While John Woo or Xiang Zimou might use too much balletic slow motion, there's at least some thought behind it all - where as this is just a blurry mess. Like a Van Damme movie without 'plot' and Clive Owen in the driving seat, 'Michael' Owen could have done a better job saving this turkey.

Soundtracked like an installment of Guitar Hero, the likes of Wolfmother, Motorhead and Nirvana make up the never-ending stream of rock music (the baby loves it apparently), which attempts to smooth out the faux emotion and misogynistic, sexist, shocking, dull, cartoon violence.

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15th Jul 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Mr. Woodcock

(dir. Craig Gillespie)

New Line Cinema

After an over-weight childhood of bullying and lack-lustre sporting achievement, John Farley (Seann William Scott) has made a name for himself as a self-help author - thanks to his best-seller about "Letting Go". On returning to his hometown to pick up an achievement award, he discovers to his horror that his widowed mother (Susan Sarandon) is dating the sadistic gym teacher (Billy Bob Thornton) responsible for much of his childhood horror. Much hilarity ensues.

Billy Bob Thornton continues to water down the comedy highs of Bad Santa and Bad News Bears with this pedestrian comedy. Unfortunately this seems like it's made up of out-takes from the already lame School For Scoundrels remake, with Thornton's bullying gym teacher Mr Woodcock sharing the unflinching nasty streak of Dr. P, with a script that shows none of the sympathy of Bad Santa.

Seann William Scott has never showed any promise beyond his cameo as the donkey wrangler in Old School - and his performance here does nothing to upgrade his status. Susan Sarandon, you should know better.

At 87 minutes you'd expect things to whizz by, but with a plot this thin it drags and drags before finishing ungracefully and being immediately erased from my memory.

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16th Jun 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Red Red Meat

Bunny Gets Paid

Sub Pop

Being that I'm neither of a superstitious persuasion or a 9 year old boy I do not have a favourite number. If I was to do so however it would be 45. Being a history geek it resonates with 1945. It constitutes one half of the beautiful game. But really it is a happy conjunction of the fact that classic albums were moulded for the 45 minutes of space on vinyl and that 45 is the number of minutes it takes for me to walk home work. 45 minutes of blissful private head space and immersion music.
 
Working as a music reviewer can reap rich rewards and found gems have always rendered the before mentioned 45 minute walk a pleasure. Red Red Meat made it tortuous and tedious in equal measure. Bunny Gets Paid was the third of a trilogy of albums from the Chicago 'post grunge' band, first released in 1995. The omens are good as Sub Pop proclaims it as 'easily one of the high points of the entire Sub Pop catalog'. With stiff competition that is quite some accolade and prompted some excited anticipation.
 
To my mind it seems there's a perfectly adequate reason as to why Bunny Gets Paid failed to sell first time round. Because it's not that good. The necessary ingredients are all present, with fuzzy guitars and outsider ethos, but it fails to inspire. At the time it would have sounded much like everything else and sadly it stills does. There's no sense of kicking oneself and cursing 'damn how did I miss out on this first time round?'. By some accounts Red Red Meat have turned out to be quite influential but I doubt they will acquire Velvet Underground status as a band feted after the event. To be remembered as significant requires more credentials than that the band were present at the grunge banquet with the obligatory slacker attitudes and a penchant for flannel shirts.
 
Apparently what makes Bunny Gets Paid stand out is that the band decided to play around with form to create a more loose sound. They succeeded with this, whilst also jettisoning melody and coherence. It sounds like a sound check from when Beck had a devil haircut; a sound check at which he couldn't be arsed to boot. The mid nineties obsession with rejecting over-production means that there is almost no quality control. Main man Tim Rutili recalls of the record "when I bring in a song it's usually not that good until other people fuck around with it, and there was a lot of fucking around this time". Somebody should have pointed out that broths that are stirred by too many cooks get spoiled. Red Red Meat lyrics are oblique, something to normally be encouraged, but instead of prompting intrigue, reflection and personal interpretation just lead to bemusement and a shrug of the shoulders.
 
Die hard fans will be pleased to know that this release of Bunny Gets Paid is also accompanied by extras- B-sides and out-takes - but passing trade may find it all utterly tedious. I dare say a handful of listeners may love this cult offering but, much as it would pain my 1995 persona to have to hear me say so, I think Sub Pop is wrong. This is not a Sub Pop high point. 

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7th May 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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The Hunches

Exit Dreams

In The Red

Portland band The Hunches have been pounding the road for several years now, and Exit Dreams marks their third full-length record - out on label indie In The Red. Opener Unraveling defines the band well, combining a Punk Rock sensibility with something of an epic rock ambition, illustrating best what the US contributed to Punk Rock. The band maintain that early 80's disaffection with the mainstream and charge on with their battle-cry cranked up past 10.

Unfortunately the production falls way short of the ambition and the record sounds like it was recorded on an ansaphone. In the 80s. DIY bands like No Age have harnessed both the limitations of their available technology AND their lo-fi influences - and turned them into something extra, but here the production just makes me not want to bother listening.

From This Window plods through the fuzz, while any hint of charm is distorted away on Swim Hole. Not Invited threatens to break the curse, but just can't lift itself high enough. I don't know what the deal is with the raft of badly produced records we have seen recently. Is it a trademark sound? With technology where it is, it's hard to believe that you could accidentally make a record sound this bad.

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11th Feb 2009 - 30 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Demons

Episode One

ITV1

Another attempt from ITV to come up with something to plug that Saturday night Doctor Who black hole. 

Here, it's a fairly generic Buffy ripoff, with large chunks of Neil Gaiman's Neverworld thrown in for good measure. Some boyband wannabe finds out he's the last in the Van Helsing family line when his godfather shows up out of the blue with a large mystic gun and a terrible American accent and points out that there really are things under the bed. They chase them a bit together after going to see a blind piano player in London's Royal Festival Hall and then turning a corner and carrying on their chat in London's Spitalfields market* before Mackenzie Crook (Gareth from The Office) shows up with an odd stuck-on beak on his nose and scares them a bit. 

Philip Glenister - so good at getting you to believe in the Life On Mars/Ashes To Ashes time-travel/coma/where-are-we? conceit - is here lumbered with the task of trying to make this work. But as there's absolutely no reason at all why they've made him attempt an American accent, the whole thing struggles from the moment he pops up, simply because you're trying to work out why he's saying things like "let's verily smite these level three entities" all the time, when it would be a lot more convincing (almost) if he'd just been left to say it in his own accent. Maybe they're hoping to sell it to the US? Not much chance really - it's pretty hard to work out why you'd bother taking on monsters from other realms if you're not going to at least try and make it better than Buffy. Might pick up if it can settle down a bit, but at the moment, those London hellmouths don't feel very safe.

*note for non-London chimps: that would take a good 30 minutes to walk in non-TV time

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3rd Jan 2009 - 3 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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The Explorer's Club

Freedom Wind

Dead Oceans

If there is one thing I've learnt as a deck-hand on the good ship Chimpomatic it is not to jump to hasty conclusions. The case of the Explorers Club is a perfect illustration of this truism. On hearing the opening 'be my baby'-esque beats of 'Forever' my snap assessment was 'some-one should call Phil Spector and tell him that he's been robbed'. Which would have been rather premature. From that moment onwards it was clear that it had been wise to defer judgement. It transpired that if anyone needed to be informed that their genius had been pilfered then the only person who should be called is undoubtedly Brian Wilson. The Explorers Club main man Jason Brewer appears to be on a mission to write his version of the mythical 'lost' Beach Boys' album 'Smile' seemingly unaware that Wilson himself had already re-discovered and polished it down a few years back.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then if Wilson ever hears 'Freedom Wind' he will be blushing a profuse scarlet colour. Explorer's Club are less influenced by the Beach Boys than their unofficial re-incarnation. Soaring harmonies. Tick. Orchestral arrangements. Check. Lyrics of love and innocence lost. Present and correct. It would be a wonder if Brewer didn't write his songs on a baby grand piano in a sand pit. The Explorers Club are the ultimate in tribute acts, albeit one that puts out records rather than reminiscing on a revival tours. All of which beggars the question 'what's the point?'. If you were too young to camp it up Frieda and Agnetta or sing back 'yeah yeah yeah' to John, Paul, George and Ringo then a night with Bjorn Again or the Bootleg Beatles serves a purpose. But what's the point of listening to Explorer's Club when the authentic original thing is just as easily brought or downloaded? Does anybody buy supermarket own brand cola when the 'real thing' is selling at the same price? Does the coolest kid at school ask his Mum to buy trainers with 4 stripes when the 'brand with 3 stripes' is on offer? No. And I would recommend that if you are not unfamiliar with this kind of surfing summer sound then check out Pet Sounds and Wild Honey before you even think about listening to Explorer's Club (and even then go check out the Byrds or the Mamas and Papas before you do).

Sadly the thought surfing through my mind when listening to Explorer's Club was of a sit-com I previously thought was rather forgettable. Remember when Nicholas Lyndhurst could walk back in time to the East-End during World War Two? He'd cheekily tickle the ivories of the pub Joanna with Beatles numbers passed off as his own. How we laughed as the regulars marvelled at his ear for a tune and the fresh nature of his music. It seems that Explorer's Club space-time portal has mistakenly jumped forward in time rather than turning back the clocks. Nevertheless they are still trying to palm of music from 1967 as if we'd never heard it before. Except that we have. Consequently in the 21st century these songs about 'going steady' now just sound contrived and slightly ridiculous.

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20th May 2008 - 5 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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