Sunday, 1 May 2016

Review: Book of Opeth

This is a review of the brand new Book of Opeth by my friend and massive metal fan, Jodie Fairfax.

Book of Opeth Banner

When I was asked to review this book, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the formation of Swedish metal stalwarts,  Opeth, I jumped at the chance. But I will admit to being mildly concerned. Having been a fan of their atmospheric, beautiful music for a number of years. I was a little nervous that a biography would not be enough and that seeing their story in print would be a disappointment.

I need not have worried... The book encompasses not only the story (albeit in a fairly short form), which is honest (Mikael admitting to liking the less trendy bands like Van Halen and the Scorpions, to the more cult bands of the time like Sepultura and Necrophagist) and humorous at times. But it also includes personal photographs of the band through the years, and perhaps most importantly to an Opeth fan, the gorgeous, Turneresque artwork of the highly talented Travis Smith. It contains content from Mikael Akerfeldt and co, in their own words and pictures.  It lacks the sensationalism and scandal of some metal biographies, but it's a good, solid, visually beautiful archive of a much loved band

At £40 for the classic version, (and an eye-watering £250 for the Signature edition) I thought it would be a bit pricey, but having read the digital version, I find myself reaching for the plastic to pre-order it in its full glory. I particularly can't wait to hear the transcendent 'Atonement' acoustically and on vinyl! The Book of Opeth won't necessarily convert non-fans, but it's a great insight into Opeth over the years for the devotees. Well worth the money!

The Editions:

The Classic edition  -  £40

  • Limited to 3,500 copies
  • A large format, 208-page full-colour hardback, printed on heavy-weight art paper
  • Over 300 images, many of which are rare and previously unseen
  • 7” record exclusive to the book
  • Wrapped in silk cloth with foil detailing

The Signature edition  - £250 Book of Opeth Signature Edition

  • The Classic edition with a black-on-black cover
  • 7” record exclusive to the book
  • Limited edition of 500 hand-numbered sets - signed & numbered by Mikael Akerfeldt
  • Each set signed and numbered by Mikael Akerfeldt
  • Also includes three limited edition fine art prints by Travis Smith, hand-numbered to match the book
  • Presented in a clamshell box covered in black cloth with foil detailing

Book of Opeth, published by Rocket 88 Books is available to order now exclusively from opethbook.com

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Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Must Have: Game of Thrones Pop figurines

Life is a funny thing. Barely a week ago, I had no idea what POP figurines were and now I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I have to have them. How cute are these Game of Thrones POP figurines?

{With the sole exception of character name’s, I can certify this post Game of Thrones spoiler-free!}

Melisandre – The Red Woman

The Night King – Leader of the White Walkers

Jorah Mormont

Queen Margaery Tyrell

Daenerys & Dragon

Game of Thrones Pop Series 6 Dany Riding Drogon

POPs are available from www.hboshopeu.com from £9.99 for the standard sizes.

Do you collect POP figurines? Which series do you collect for?

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Saturday, 23 April 2016

Blog Has Got A Brand New Look

The big news in the world of Emm in London and Addicted to Media is that the blogs have got a brand new look this week! And in the slightly embarrassing tradition of a mother dressing her twins in the same clothes, I’ve made the decision to roll out the same template across both blogs. While I fix some of the settings and settle into the new look(s), let me tell you a bit more about why I’ve done this.

New Addicted to Media Template

Mobile

One of my proudest achievements over the years, especially over at Emm in London, was how I was able to design my own templates completely to achieve the look I wanted. The only part I could not do, no matter how often I tried to figure it out, was a customised mobile template. With mobile readership across the two blogs hitting 40-50%, I decided it was time to give my mobile readers a prettier and better experience. I got in touch with Pipdig and they helped me roll out my new design.

Judging from the mobile look now, I have definitely made the right decision. The only thing I need to fix is the centred text and it will look exactly how I wanted it to look.

Readability

A slightly strange phenomena happened over the years with Emm in London and Addicted to Media. Emm in London became brighter, more colourful and less cluttered in order to focus on my photography and the stories I was telling. Addicted to Media became darker to reflect the world of cinemas, concerts and the dramatic themes in the books I was reading. To be honest, I still think a darker theme suits Addicted to Media better but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the white text on black background made the blog less readable. When I was deciding on a new theme for Addicted to Media, I decided that I had to focus on reader experience and I hope that you enjoy a more traditional black text on white background more.

Brand

Or, to be more specific, me. With such vastly different looks and content, Emm in London and Addicted to Media began to have two very different personalities but at the end of the day, it was still just me writing the posts. I’m Mandy and I’m as mad about music, books and television as I am about long walks and exploring London. For a long time I considered combining the two blogs into one blog but I figured that with such vastly different topics and schedules, that might be unfair for existing readers. Addicted to Media can feature up to four posts in a week and Emm in London is usually one per week, two at the most. If I were a subscriber, I wouldn’t like that to change dramatically either way.

But I hope that by combining the two blogs into one brand, my readers from Emm in London will feel comfortable here and that I can tempt Addicted to Media fans to pop over to Emm in London from time to time. As we all know, all a blog needs to run is a little passion and a lot of love.

So please bear with me while I settle into my new brand and definitely let me know if something doesn’t work for you.

Some of the more astute of you may have noticed that the title of this post is an allusion to my enduring love of cheesy 90s dance music. May I present this morning’s earworm: “Reach Up (Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag)” by Perfecto Allstarz.

That's all from me. I'm off to go dance around my kitchen making breakfast.

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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Vinyl - 70's Music on Film

Once upon a time, in the bad old days, record company men were drunk, violent maniacs who murdered each other, felt up every woman within reaching distance, and had their assistants keep drawers full of narcotics to keep the bands in line. So goes the premise of Vinyl (available to download from April 19th after its run on Sky Atlantic), a gluttonous and giddy look into the machinations of the industry through the eyes of chauvinistic label boss Richie Finestra, a man with the Midas touch and, simultaneously, the uncanny ability to fuck it all up on a titanic scale. Mercifully - for the sake of feminism, the crime stats and everyone's livers - things have changed significantly. Like the recent adaptation of John Niven's Kill Your Friends, despite the hedonism, Vinyl looks back on these outdated times with something of a shudder. Starting with a feature-length episode and maintaining a cinematic feel throughout, Vinyl is, in many ways, classic Scorsese - dark, violent, unabashedly over the top, and a celebration of the mania of the seventies - a time when, briefly, anything went. It's also a love letter to one of the richest periods in musical history, and laced with phenomenal sounds, from soul, Motown and disco to the ongoing transformation of rock and roll and the genesis of punk.

Here, then, are ten films - contemporary or modern - that cast an eye across the 1970s in all its loony, creative, musical, questionably dressed glory.

1. Almost Famous

Still of Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous (2000)

Cameron Crowe’s semi-autographical rock ‘n’ roll road movie from 2000 is about as nostalgic as it gets. 15 year old budding rock writer and “uncool” kid William Miller (a prodigious Patrick Fugit) finds his way on tour with a band and muddles his way through a riot of stadium shows, in-band rivalries, lovestruck groupies, badly executed drug binges, and all the mundane, exhausting day-to-day stuff in between, as they drive across the wide, romantic expanse of America. It’s a highly rose-tinted view of the sunny seventies, but it ably captures the heady feeling of being part of the in-crowd, the bewitching glamour of music, and the band’s sense of having the world at their feet, if only they can figure out what the hell they’re doing. Kate Hudson shines in a breakthrough role as the mesmerising Penny Lane, a mysterious and adored groupie who, it turns out, is just as lost as everyone else. But where Almost Famous succeeds most of all is its soundtrack, almost a collection of characters in itself; Crowe’s films are reliable in their musical excellence, and this is a perfectly curated who’s who of 70s rock and roll.

2. Dazed and Confused

If Almost Famous is about a kid escaping real life for a rock and roll fantasy, Dazed and Confused is the opposite – a one-night-only look through the keyhole into what ordinary suburban kids got up to in the 70s. This 90s gem follows a varied cast of Texas highschoolers on the first day of the summer vacation, as they bomb around in fixed up cars, flee the alarming initiation rites inflicted on them by over-excited seniors and seek fun wherever they can find it. Obviously, Dazed and Confused owes an enormous debt to American Graffiti, but it maintains a freshness of its own, in no small part down to the cast who, for the most part, were recruited locally – including a young and helmet-haired Matthew McConaughey as a local, lovable sleazeball. Again, the film’s soundtrack is the glue of the movie, completing the mise en scène and tapping cannily into the sense of teenage freedom which is the overriding theme here. Can't sleep? Put this film on at 4am, and let the sun come up outside and onscreen as the stoned, bleary teens leave behind a deserted football field and a furious football coach for a trip into the city – “Gotta get those Aerosmith tickets, man. Top priority of the summer.”

3. The Last Waltz

Still from The Last Waltz (1978)

It’d be sacrilegious to list movies about music in the 70s without including Scorsese’s elegant concert movie about roots rock heroes The Band’s legendary1976 swansong performance at San Francisco's Wonderland ballroom. No ordinary gig, the great and good of rock and roll (Dylan, Clapton, Joni, Ringo – no-one you’d have heard of) take turns onstage with them, interspersed with interview snippets with the band and intimate little performances and jams. The Band had been playing and touring for 16 years - “I don’t think I could live with 20 years on the road” (singer/guitarist Robbie Robertson) - and while their exhaustion shows, there’s guileless warmth between them onstage and off as they reminisce and play with friends and heroes. Scorsese’s eye is sharp but generous, and this lovingly shot portrait of a band delivering their own eulogy will send you running for your record collection to replay it all again - much as they did when they reformed in 1983.

4. Detroit Rock City

As daft as they come, Detroit Rock City nonetheless accurately distils what it is to be an obsessive teenage music fan. The story of four boys who want – no, NEED – to see shock-rock heroes KISS, and will stop at literally nothing to achieve their goal, it’s crude, funny and occasionally heart-warming. It also nails the way musical tribes battle each other despite sharing a common love of music, as the four grungy rock kids wage war along the way with a group of disco kids who are on a similar pilgrimage into Detroit to scratch their own musical itch.

5. Saturday Night Fever

Still of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (1977)

One of the quintessential movies of the 70s, it's hard to watch Saturday Night Fever with anything like the same perspective as contemporary audiences would have had. On a surface level, of course, there's fun to be had howling at the disco suits and dance moves; on a deeper level, it's a sobering story of a working class Brooklyn kid's dissatisfaction at the bleak and limited future he sees ahead of him - work in a local shop, weather his family's perpetual disappointment in him, try to dodge marriage with any of the local girls, and live only for the hedonism of the Saturday night dancefloor when he briefly gets to feel important. The soundtrack is disco gold - one of the Bee Gees' better cinema moments (let's not talk about their ill-advised collective turn as the Beatles in the Sgt Pepper film). Like Vinyl, it's also a pretty damning indictment of misogynistic 70s attitudes to women – the men that dominate the story, including John Travolta's immature Tony Manero, are no PC standard bearers, and the female characters are routinely petitioned for sex and verbally insulted by the same guys. That's before you even get to the disturbingly casual and "asking for it"-toned rape scene. Yet, 40+ years on, many of its themes remain relevant, particularly the universal and youthful desire for escape from a dull life into another, brighter future.

6. The Filth and the Fury

This standout rockumentary charts the rise and fall of the Sex Pistols and the wider British punk movement. The second of Julian Temple's documentaries about the band, this one tells the story decidedly from the band's point of view. Unsurprisingly, Malcolm McLaren doesn't come off well. It's a searing piece of filmmaking, capturing the truly bad old days of life in bleak 1970s Britain, and the electrifying effect of the Pistols on fans and appalled detractors alike. What comes across is a band who were too embattled from all sides to ever really have much fun with their music or fame – San Francisco's Wonderland's second appearance in this list is an ignominious one, as the venue where it all fell apart. It paints a truly saddening picture of Sid Vicious; in John Lydon's eyes, a kid too young to handle what the music business, New York and Nancy Spungen threw at him. Lydon not being known for displays of anything other than contempt most of the time, it's uncomfortable and disarming to hear his voice crack as he relives his friend and bandmate's sorry end. Even if you’re not a fan of the Sex Pistols, this is essential viewing.

7. The Runaways

Still of Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart in The Runaways (2010)

In the wake of recent revelations about what it was really like to be a Runaway, this one makes for disjointed viewing. Jackie Fuchs (aka Jackie Fox), estranged from former bandmates Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, has said that manager and producer Kim Fowley sexually abused and humiliated her, and that the rest of the band failed to support her.  Jackie is nowhere to be seen in the 2010 film, having refused permission for her name to be used, and Michael Shannon's sweary, randy Fowley is cast as harmless, eccentric and useful, selling the take-no-prisoners teen girl band on their sex appeal but directing his own libido elsewhere. Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart bring equal parts naiveté and nonchalance to the teenage Currie and Jett; and watching the girls, with their fractured home lives, set out on the road at 15 years old is a jolting reminder of how much more careless the music world was forty years ago. Based on Currie’s book Neon Angel, The Runaways is full of heady, hopeful teenage excitement, charting the band's shitkicking rise to stardom and Currie’s substance addictions which brought it all crashing down.

8. Velvet Goldmine

Todd Haynes' gorgeous, gaudy dissection of glam-rock was unfairly written off by critics on its 1998 release. A shame, because this bold, campy piece of filmmaking is a dazzling sonic and visual treat, and bears repeat viewing. Very loosely pinned around the relationships between David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, Velvet Goldmine follows Jonathan Rhys-Meyers' fame-hungry Bowie-alike Brian Slade, his ill-fated marriage to an Angie-esque Toni Collette and his obsession with Ewan McGregor's drug-soaked, unhinged Curt Wild - and Slade's fall from grace after faking his death onstage. It also marked an early role for Christian Bale as a fan/tens-years-later journo trying to figure out where it all went wrong. The glitter, glory and mayhem are twinned with something more troubling - a sense of insanity, oblivion and destructive ambition fuelling it all from underneath.

9. CBGB

Still of Stana Katic in CBGB (2013)

This odd Alan Rickman outing is less than successful, but it’s worth watching purely for the music. CBGB's owner Hilly Kristal took a dead little bar in Manhattan’s seedy Bowery and turned it into punk’s mecca, the launching pad for the likes of Television, Talking Heads and Blondie. CBGB tells the improbable story of how a collection of chancers, addicts and oddballs managed to somehow combine their non-talents and build one of the most influential rooms in New York's crowded musical landscape. The late Alan Rickman is a peculiar choice for the role, not least because he struggles with the accent – and unfortunately his unmistakable Alan Rickman-ness rather overshadows the character he plays here. The frequent comic book style graphic interludes also intrude on the story.  Still, it's a treat to delve back into the rich pickings of the 70s NYC punk scene, and like its characters, this is a film that has heart, if not a firm grasp of its ambitions.

10. Honourable mention: Enter The Dragon

Though not about music, we can't omit this 1970s pop culture landmark, the first and last Hollywood production to feature kung-fu king Bruce Lee, who died shortly after its release. Look out for its appearance in Vinyl during one of Richie Finestra's more fucked up moments. None more 70s, Enter the Dragon is a roundhouse-kicking, heroes and villains triumph with a firm nod to that other huge cinematic franchise, James Bond. Exotic islands, an evil genius with his own private security and underground lair, troupes of glamorous women and a "spy in search of revenge" plot - oh, and a Jackie Chan cameo; Enter the Dragon has it all.

Vinyl is available to download from April 19th

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© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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