Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tall Guy

After a long time, I finally watched The Tall Guy today.

It's a very simple movie I'd heard about after reading the Wikipedia entry on Suggs. Jeff Goldblum and Emma Thompson star in this 1989 film about an actor who falls in love with a nurse.

The plot is simple and something everyone's heard of: an actor (Goldblum) who's the straight man in a comedy act dominated by a very belligerent leading man (Rowan Atkinson) has chronic hay fever, goes to see a nurse (Thompson), falls in love with her, and they start a relationship. He is fired by Atkinson's character shortly thereafter, and wins the lead in a show called 'Elephant!' based on the Elephant Man. Unfortunately, he falls for the advances of one of the other actresses in the play (Kim Thomson) and his nurse girlfriend leaves him after a few subtle clues. In the end, he impulsively leaves his show right before the curtain opens, steals Atkinson's car and sees his ex to give him another chance, which she does.

Probably a better-written and more simple outline would be the Wikipedia article on it.

What I find funny in similarity with the character in this film and myself is how he hates Atkinson's character, Ron Anderson, because Ron gets a lot more attention, is more successful, and every time he turns his TV on, there he is in some sort of promo ad or awards dinner. What makes him abandon his role in the show at the last minute is his viewing of Anderson getting an award on TV, and then kissing his ex girlfriend after receiving it. Where do I see myself? I hate a particular Canadian city west of where I live because it seemingly gets way more attention, seems more successful, and, like Anderson kissing Goldblum's character's ex girlfriend, that city attracts my loved ones away from me.
Goldblum's character, Dexter King, groans exactly like I do every time I see some aspect of the city, or the city itself, on television or in the news or mentioned just about everywhere. I laughed out loud at his reactions because they were my reactions.

It was interesting to see a much younger Emma Thompson...she looked a lot more fresh-looking. Goldblum didn't really look any different than he does an any other movie I've seen him in, none of which were from this past decade. I was under the false idea that the movie was directed by Mel Brooks, but actually it was directed by Mel Smith. I guess I can separate them further apart by saying Smith is British and Brooks is American.
Typical scene of the movie - some naked guy, Goldblum as King, and his 'nymphomaniac' landlady.

I will admit, yes, that it was an aspect of Madness that interested me in this movie. Reading the Wikipedia article on Suggs, I read 'Suggs has acted in films such as The Tall Guy...' and then it further interested me when I saw that it starred Jeff Goldblum and Emma Thompson. Suggs has a cameo appearance singing 'It Must be Love' and a montage of the actors in the film also sing parts of the song.

I think it's a pretty good movie, and really shows the reality of things, although I do find that the plot line is so over used in too many movies. Guy falls in love, but then has an affair, loses his girlfriend but tries to get her back and succeeds. That's what I meant before I described the plot above when I said it was 'simple.' There was a lot of funny scenes in it that had me laughing (and I don't laugh at normal humor). He asks Thompson's character's name, she says 'Kate,' points out it's not great, and he says, 'no, it's great. It could be worse, it could be Hitler, or tampon...' the tampon joke is used several times throughout the film.

The only thing that was crazy was the scene in which they properly see each other the first time - which consists of meeting in Kate's apartment and destroying it while having sex. Geez. It's their first date and it's the most physical first date I've ever seen on screen. Don't worry, you don't see any extremely revealing stuff...the most nudity that's shown are their buttocks and breasts (as perfectly illustrated above). I never thought I'd see Emma Thompson topless, or Jeff Goldblum's rear end, but now I have. The room looks like something blew up in it afterwards.

It's available to watch on YouTube in ten parts. To my surprise, certain people like Jason Isaacs and Jonathan Ross appear briefly in the movie. It was the first movie Isaacs was in (he portrays Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series) and he was credited as 'Doctor #2.' As for Ross, I mention him because he pops up everywhere I look at things. I first saw his show on TV a few times, then I kept running into him on Wikipedia, and now he's in this darn movie. He's a British television presenter and comedian.

It was a pretty cool movie, and I'd give it a B+ (I give a lot of those). Atkinson's portrayal was fun as well, he used a lot of odd words in his statements.

Justin C.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mid-September, there was a Green Telephone

This great song by Madness was a little B-side on their single 'Uncle Sam.' It was called 'Please Don't Go.'

No, don't assume I'm writing this in the wake of an emotional blow. I just want to write about a song I like, a song I've liked for awhile.

I don't understand why it was just a B-side. It's way better, in my opinion, then 'Uncle Sam,' a tune that was apparently about the U.K.'s view of the American's view of the U.K. (confused yet?)

It sounds more real and less polished than 'Uncle Sam,' and just more fun. It's a simple song about a singer pleading with his girlfriend or partner not the leave him.

Yeah, we've all heard those, but this one's good.

It's largely an upbeat guitar-driven song. It uses the popular D-C-G opening, a bass line used in countless other songs (notably 'Sweet Home Alabama' by Lynyrd Skynyrd). It's much more fun or bright than their other B-side 'Memories,' which is simply about the same thing, but told from a much more sad point of view.

The lyrics are more specifically the singer explaining that he admits his faults, but he wants the girl to know that he loves her. 'It used to mean so very much.' Him walking her home, then walking back alone, are very prominent memories in that song.

I'd say it's a great accomplishment for the band without Mike Barson. This was recorded in the days of their final album, under a different label, after Barson left and they resorted to drum machines (disappointing Woody) and using different keyboardists. Now I can't say the band wasn't half as good without Barson - they were still a working, competent six piece - but I mean that Barson was the big musical director, and was probably the most advanced musician aside from Bedders (bass) and Woody (drums). They really did well with this song, and I'm sorry it's only a B-side - but then, there's another great example that other than their singles and album songs, their B-sides were just as good, if not even sometimes better than the promoted single. I'm not the only one who thinks 'Please Don't Go' is probably better or more interesting - I've read a few reviews and articles on the album that suggest that the B-side is better than 'Uncle Sam.'

The demo of the song is also kind of interesting, although over-produced. It has different lyrics. Wondering about my title of this post? The proper song begins like this:

'I used to walk you home, then walk back alone
as I remember - I just can't remember.'

The demo starts off like this:

'You had said you'd leave in mid-September
as I recall - I just can't remember

You showed yourself the door, and left me alone
with Lee Parry,* and a green telephone.'

I don't know why, but I often love it when days or months are mentioned in music or song. I tend to feel good for some reason. 'Mid-September' was a good thing for me to hear for some reason (prior to my actual good mid-September, so this is not derived from that). But then I hear 'green telephone,' and it just gets either wacky or fun and I end up smiling or chuckling at it. It sounds like a random, odd thing to throw into the lyric. I've only ever seen one green telephone before, and it was in my former friend's basement. It was a very old military telephone (and it worked).

Synesthetically, I get a lot of yellow from the guitar in the song, as well as the bass during the chorus. I often think of hayfields. As well as late afternoon, and certain material things. One of my paternal uncles appear at the beginning of the second verse. The pool at the Nepean Sportsplex appears at the beginning of one of the later choruses. My ex-girlfriend, and this began before she was such, I tend to evoke out of how the word 'really' during the beginning of the last chorus is sung - with a lot of emphasis that sounds like either passion or he really means it.

The song maintains its excitement and sounds good. It's a good thing they switched from the purely synthesized demo to the real guitar sound. 

Proper version:

Unfortunately 'Sweetest Girl' is included on it, sort of like extra baggage. And I've already talked about 'Sweetest Girl,' and how weird it is, on here.

The drums are also fun too - I like the rhythm and pattern, it's fun to play.

Music: B+
Lyrics: B+

I must also mention Suggs's singing: If you slow it down and actually listen to his vocal inflections as he sings 'please don't go 'cause I really know...' you really get the sense of proficiency and awesomeness of how it sounds. 'Please don't go-ho 'cause I reeeaally know-how....'

Other great B-sides of Madness that happen to be about the same kind of thing:
'Memories' (much more sad-sounding and reflective, sung by Chas Smash)
'Shadow on the House' (this is more about how someone feels after his girl left after finding out he cheated on her)
'Crying Shame' (same kind of vein, but the girl in this tale left the singer because the girl is more of a tease type)

Quite a bit of Madness's great B-sides seem to be about break ups. Very ironically, 'Shadow on the House' is the B-side to 'It Must be Love' (and sounds like a slow western country song, unusual of Madness). I can't think of a single they did where the A-side was break-up themed. In the case just mentioned, quite the opposite.

To my chagrin, I also discovered that they covered that song 'For Once in my Life,' which to me is apparently about finding true love or something similar. I have never heard their version nor knew they'd done a cover...everyone's apparently done a cover of that if Madness has!

Anyway, 'Please Don't Go' is fun, fast, and well-done. I listen to it all the time, regardless of my circumstances.
(Update: There is actually another green telephone - on Gmail, there's a 'call phone' which is a free service that Google has to let people call others on their phones via the Internet. The icon is a green phone handset).

*Lee Parry is something I figured out via the Madness website under Chris' Cupboard; I'd asked him what that lyric was, and while Foreman  ignored that part of the question to answer another aspect of it (it was a long question) another fan supplied me with the Lee Parry name in a comment.

Justin C.

Friday, November 26, 2010

What I Thought of # 7

Last Saturday I went and saw Harry Potter 7.

It was almost a day of self-indulgence. With some money from the bank, I went straight to the theatre and bought a ticket (over ten bucks) for a 4:30 show. Then I went straight to Indigo (where I heard that 'Into Something Good' song I'd write about on here). It was only half-past two when I bought the ticket so I had a couple of hours.

I ended up spending something like forty minutes in the book store, then went straight for a meal at Wendy's. Forgetting that it was at 4:30 and thinking it was actually at 4 o'clock, I was startled to figure that out after walking back to the theatre, and then all the way back home.

That was five minutes to four.

Before arriving at the theatre again, I decided to get a quick blizzard at Dairy Queen. Wasn't a good idea, even if it was a small. I ended up walking my bike and trying to finish the treat, throwing out the last quarter in a waste bin outside the doors to the theatre with just two minutes to spare. I expected not to get a seat by this time.

I did, but it was the topmost row, way at the back and over everyone else. That was okay. Soon I was joined by two teenage girls who weren't satisfied with the seats above the entrance to the room (seats I'd tried out first and found that they were awful myself).

As for the film, I was excited that, because they were devoting it to two parts, it had a lot more time to be more faithful to the novel. 

I was happy with the beginning. The Dursleys had one last little scene, which I liked because they should at least have some part in the last film.
But two things irked me: The very first introduction of the Bill Weasley character (played by Brendan Gleeson's son Domhnall) which was inconsistent as Harry had known him in person ever since the fourth novel, and the very first introduction of the Mundungus character, who had been present since at least the fifth novel. But they were very small things that didn't bother me that much, so it was still fine.
Actually, the introduction with the three main characters was interesting, and although it isn't in the book I like its addition. Although Hermione's obliviate spell sure is a sad affair as the young girl in the photographs is wiped away.

The film, though, really illustrated something for me: Moving around, living in a tent and just relocating places while being bored with no inspiration doesn't necessarily transfer to the screen super well.

I won't dampen everything down. Just say, for instance, in the book a chapter opens by saying, "the next three weeks passed by with..." Now imagine that on the screen. It doesn't illustrate every day, but you can see the mundaneness of the whole thing properly. The book has a lot of space in time in which the characters simply sit around and wonder about things and get restless while apparating to new locations. The difference here is that in the book you are constantly aware of what the characters are thinking and wondering and there's some revelation usually around the corner in the midst of all that boring thought. The movie itself doesn't exactly have nearly the amount of power to recreate all of that - you don't see what they're thinking, you can only assume it through what they say and feel - there's a difference to reading what Harry is thinking about, and visually watching him lie in a bunk, staring at the ceiling in thought.

I thought Ron would be a little more aggressive in his argument, instead of standing there speaking slightly above normal speech. But the makeup department really did a number on him - his eyes have big red lines around them, he looks extremely distraught and sorrowful, and quite ungrateful.

The movie does a good job, though, of turning quite a bit of long thinking and sitting into something that feels like it's shorter and on a smaller scale than described in the book. That's how I saw it, anyway. And the places, the settings they set up camp in, are quite beautiful and nice, especially the setting with the rocks.

They removed Lupin and Harry's argument, though, and seemed to downplay his marriage to Tonks to just one little bit there where they mention it at the beginning. The wedding was completely removed as well, just cutting to the reception, and I don't know why Harry wasn't disguised as someone else. Xenophilius was cool, though, and Luna was quite fun to watch again, and she looked quite amazing in the reception scene. But that's just my fondness for actress playing her speaking. Rhys Ifans was a good choice to portray Xenophilius. Though I was slightly disappointed that it wasn't pronounced 'Xenauphilis.' I thought it sounded funnier that way.
I liked the return of Dobby though, he wasn't any different from the second movie at all. I don't see why they got rid of the scene where they're on the coast and they overhear Seamus and the goblins speaking. They go to Xenophilius and figure out what the hallows are, and I'm sorry his house collapses after they escape. I thought it looked like a lighthouse in the book, though in the movie I got the idea that it partially looked like a boot (without the rest of the foot). Unfortunately though, the movie eliminated everything that happens after that and goes straight to them being captured by snatchers. I found it to be predictable after that, and the ending to be very soon (snatchers - Malfoy Manor - escape - Shell cottage - Voldemort gets wand - end). I knew before hand that the movie finishes just as Voldemort gets the want, which would be at Chapter 24.

Bellatrix was frightening like usual, though it was very chilling to watch her torture Hermione. It wasn't easy to watch her sobbing her responses to Bellatrix's demands, and then hearing her scream in agony. That was almost painful, and it really shows Watson's amazing skills in acting. You get a real feeling of horror and sympathy and dread in that scene.

Not that this has anything to do with what happens to Dobby, but the way it goes in slow-motion as the knife flies through the air and then disappears in the swirl of the elf disapparating kind of looked funny to me. Of course it actually gets him, unfortunately. I don't know why Wormtail didn't get strangled in the cellar like in the book, he just gets knocked aside by the elf's powers. Voldemort himself seemed a little less crazy in the movie than he does in the book to me.
I forgot - the way Bathilda disintegrated into the snake was one of the more frightening scenes.

They make it to the cottage, though Dobby dies, which is said. To my delight Luna appears in frame and closes his eyes (I remember smiling all of a sudden at that moment). The three bury the elf and stand over the grave, while, meanwhile, a couple of blocks roll off a tomb and Voldemort breaks it open to retrieve the Elder wand. The last thing you see is a big tower of light flash into the sky, causing lightening and chaos.
Then it's the end.

For me, it's slightly a bit mundane with the travelling, but it's still a great movie and there are some exciting aspects. I like how Ron saves Harry underwater - or, rather, like how you first see him, from under the ice. He looks big and like he's someone who can fix things for some reason to me. A big tall guy walking above who knows what to do. The way the Horcrux showcases Ron's inner fears is quite thrilling. I'd read how that was filmed - Radcliffe was overwhelmed with the lust that Watson's kiss was full of, and both had been topless (Watson had something to cover her chest). It really gives a sense of them being forcefully close, just for Ron to see. Grint wasn't there to see them act that out, his reaction and subsequent destruction of the Horcrux was filmed separately.
I expected him to be a little more overwhelmed than he looked in the film though; he seems to break down for a second in the novel, though Harry doesn't hear him or interrupt.

Anyway, any things I missed are always quite small, and when you leave those out it doesn't really matter much because the movie as a whole is pretty good. Not super great to me, above average, but still quite faithful to the novel and overall a good job. It's too bad you can't always portray proper thoughts on screen to make it as exciting as in the book, but the dancing was a good thing to liven it up, and again, the makeup department did a great job.

Oh, yeah, one more thing - the adult actors who portray the characters as transformed into Cattermole, Runcorn and Hopkirk did amazingly well assuming the reactions and expressions of the characters. That was something I was really awed at. They had to react and assume expressions and feelings teenage characters with different personalities wore on their faces, and they did it unbelievably well - you could tell right away that those characters weren't their actual adult selves, just from their expressions.
One thing that exemplifies this is the wedding scene in the book, where Luna knows the red-headed person Harry is impersonating is actually him, and when he asks how, she says, 'oh, just your expression.' Exactly.

I give this one an A-.

Now there's one more thing I need to say about this: It's about the split. Originally, fans accused Warner Bros. of being greedy because splitting the movie would generate a bigger profit. Warner Bros. took this and said, no, they just wanted to be faithful to the novel because it would be easier to do it this way.

My impression is that I believe in their interest in keeping it faithful, and I agree that they should split it up. But - they don't have to release it eight months later.

This is where I think they are in fact quite greedy: They will release the second part next summer. Why the heck then? Why so many months later? This is why: Summer is the time for hit movies. Summer is where you get blockbusters, summers is where the big movies are released. You have a bigger market for movies in the summer. And if you schedule a huge series finale of one of the biggest Hollywood money makers smack-dab in the middle of summer movie blockbuster time, you're going to make an unbelievable profit. You're going to make fifty times more money in the summer with a movie like that than you are in the Winter.

If the studio wasn't nearly as interested in marketing and money, they'd release part two in December, a few weeks later. Or they'd release it in January, or they'd release it around the time they'd be pulling part one out of theaters, which would probably be late January. Not all the way the heck into July.

It keeps people in suspense for a long time, eager to see it, and when it hits next summer, it will be a huge knockout - especially for the fact that it's during a time when all the usual popular movies come out. Because of this, I doubt we won't be getting the movie, both parts, on DVD until mid-2012.

I say that because do you think they'll release part one separately from part two, and then release part two on DVD? Or will they be smarter and put them into a DVD package of both parts? I haven't heard of a movie that was released in two parts separately, and then released on DVD in two separate parts. Maybe it will be. I don't know. I see it as more convenient to release part one on DVD next year and then part two when it comes, separately, but I also see is as more normal to release them together on DVD. I don't know.

There's also the fact that, when you compare how much the movie parts have of the book, part one covers the first 405 pages, leaving only 202 pages left for part two. That's over three-quarters of the book covered by the first movie!
I wonder how long the second part will be? Surely not two-and-a-half hours? There isn't enough pages for that - unless it is faithful to every single plot line and story structure and paragraph and word in those last 202 pages.

Anyway, the first part was cool and all. Can't wait for part two and for Warner Bros. to get their money's worth.

(Update: I apologize for the mix up between Rhys Darby and Rhys Ifans, I always get them mixed up).

Justin C.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Yesterday's Sweetest, Weather-Focussed, Better, Informant

I'm talking about the five funniest music videos I'd count from Madness.

I've wanted to do this for awhile, with all of their videos, but I never found the time or the energy, even though I'm unemployed and at home every day at the moment. I guess I'm just busy with other things at home.

In the end though, another webpage used to exist that took a critical look at every one of Madness's music videos from the 80s, focusing on the music, the video and the way it portrayed the band.
Yes, it used to exist. But I'm not replacing it with my own. I just want to point out the funny aspects of five videos they made during their more joyless era as a band.

When anyone who knows the band well enough to have known more than their hit single 'Our House' would describe the band, you'd probably get this word: 'nutty.' Yes. In their early days they were known as the Nutty Boys, and on their shoulders they carried a particular sound that propelled the same moniker, which was dubbed the 'nutty sound.' 

Their music videos often had, again, the same style. They started out simple at first, being videos of the band playing their instruments and dancing. In the 'Night Boat to Cairo' video, they played on a sound stage littered with sand and had a big, low-tech green screen behind them to create an Egyptian background. Eventually they progressed to bigger ideas and more complicated storyboards, and put some of their zaniness into it, starting with 'Baggy Trousers,' where Lee Thompson hovers above the band in mid-air instead of on the ground with them.
'Cardiac Arrest,' 'House of Fun,' 'Grey Day,' 'Our House,' and 'Wings of a Dove' were the height of their wacky videos, and then it began to become somber. Mike Barson left the band, and they left Stiff Records, their longtime label, for Virgin. It called for different times.

Ironically, in this more serious, joyless time of 'One Better Day,' 'Yesterday's Men,' 'Michael Caine,' and 'Sweetest Girl,' I tend to find the most humor. I don't know why.

I'm going to go from least funniest to most funniest in my list, and I'm going to give a brief summary of what happens in each of the videos. I'll be pointing out why something's funny, and also explain a bit of the background behind the song/video.

5. One Better Day

The video for the song follows largely the same storyline and chronology as the song itself. The song is mainly about two homeless people, a man and a woman, who find each other and fall in love. The song starts with the words 'Arlington House,' and the video opens precisely with Suggs, posing as the homeless man, sitting on the curb outside the actual shelter. Both him and the woman (played by his real-life wife Anne) walk around London, with scenes of the band in its entirety as homeless men on a bridge, around a fire, and playing in a dimly-lit studio. It ends with the band gathered around the fire, as Suggs and his wife dance merrily in front of them.
It was shot in monochrome with only a few parts in color, and was directed by Lee Thompson, the band's sax player, because their usual director, Dave Robinson, also the head of Stiff, didn't want to produce a video so the band had to finance and produce it themselves.
What I largely find funny about this video is what happens in small instances. There's a sudden scene with a photobooth and a pile of shopping and garbage bags next to it. There's a sudden keyboard hit at the same time, just as it focuses at the bottom of the curtains in the booth, showing Suggs' feet.
They're bouncing around frantically as light in the booth flashes, as Suggs apparently dances in a dramatic style within.

Then the camera pans, low to the floor, around the area, passing the booth (Suggs' feet bouncing in and out of the side of the frame a few times as he moves) and up to the pile of bags, where it reveals the woman resting underneath them.
I get my humor from the frantic feet. Not just how they move, but how  the camera focuses on them for a second (not the booth in general, right at his feet). It makes it look like the attention to the feet is crucial for some reason. Then of course the camera passes by them near the floor.
Another kind of odd instance I found funny was how, after the man throws the woman out of the building, Suggs follows and intentionally wrestles through the man to get by instead of just walking by. This is shown from far inside the building looking toward the open entrance, giving it an interesting vantage point.
Finally, just before the chorus begins, the camera focuses tight on Lee Thompson, sitting by the fire. The director of the whole thing notices the camera, stares for a second, then gives it the most perplexing expression ever, and only for a few seconds. I find his sudden knowledge of the camera funny as well as the expression. Why is he being filmed!?

4. Yesterday's Men

I'm not perfectly sure about this song, but I'm mildly aware that it's about someone who overstays their welcome, over prides himself when he was 'yesterday's news,' 'yesterday's interest,' but not anymore. No longer popular. His turn was over, now he's just 'yesterday's man.'
I have a feeling it's about the band themselves, how they've run the course of their popularity, but they defiantly don't want to become yesterday's men and struggle to 'hang on to today.' It was recorded on their last album and at the height of their decline, as they became less on top as time went on. Without Barson, the band couldn't really work it together nearly as well anymore.

The video, I don't know. The band performs in a black studio in a slow fashion, with Chas dancing mellowly and Woody slowly rotating on a drum riser. It's not very fun or happy, not the atmosphere or the song.
It begins with the band going forward in reverse, which I've talked about before, which is one of the first things I find funny, particularly Mark Bedford's introduction. Just the way he suddenly re-inserts his magazine (he really actually took it out and they put it in reverse).
Then the video becomes a series of footage of the band slowly walking along an endless crosswalk, performing on their instruments, and crashing on the ground after falling. There's humor in their surprise when they walk along, and suddenly the lights turn up and they see themselves playing in the studio near them.

I tend to find the scene where Chas is 'ooing' with Woody in the background. Chas looks nice and all, dancing, but why is Woody facing away from the camera? You see the back of his head and back, and a drumstick sticking away from his body, rim-clicking the drum in front of him. Shouldn't he be facing the camera? No, it was bad timing, because his riser had had him turned away as they filmed Chas ooing. Woody must not have been important, otherwise it would be more of a trend to film a music video with the band facing away from the camera. And if Woody was unimportant to the scene, then why have Chas to the side of the frame, so Woody is clearly shown, facing away, in the centre? So I find that kind of funny.

Lee's rhythmic jumping to the guitar beeps at one point is funny as well. Then it does show Woody properly, as the camera pans away from the band walking and jumping along to focus on him as his riser spins him around toward (and closer to) the camera. As he starts to turn away, he looks over at it and gives it a smile and a contented head shake.
I find it quite out of character for someone who was disappointed in the whole album due to the fact that he didn't even play on it (they used drum machines for the album instead). There he is, beating his drums and spinning (ever faster), as happy as ever, and acknowledging it. Maybe because while he did not play on the album - he got to "play" in the music video, and that was enough to make him grin and shake his head.

Then there's a bit near the end with Thompson flying towards the camera (he flies again in this video) and just before it fades into the next scene, he glances away, uncertainly. The editors faded the scenes too late, because I can see the suddenly distracted and uncertain look in his face as his eyes look elsewhere suddenly, and it's quite funny in result.
The bits with the band walking are slightly funny as well as some of them look half-asleep, and Bedders has his shades upside down, which really look funny when he wipes his face in the simulated hot summer heat the band walks through near the end.
The song has the great honor of being the first Madness song I evoked that girl out of - the one I often see when I hear 'In the City' - because the string section and the organ made me think of her back in drama class that long time ago.

3. The Sun and the Rain

The meaning of this song is much more simple - it's about rejoicing and being happy and positive while out in the rain.
It's upbeat and has a cheerful, bright and positive sound to it, and the string section really helps as well. It was the last single written exclusively by Mike Barson. Yes, it's quite a bit more cheerful than the other two before it, but funnier than both as well.
The video is more hectic. It has mainly scenes of Suggs standing in a rainy street at night, singing and stomping his feet to the beat, and during the choruses and some of the verses joined by the presence and antics of the rest of the band, which dances around him and assumes different stances and poses. There's a subplot with someone (probably Lee Thompson) being lit up with a rocket on his back, as well as the band, dressed as tiny red devils, playing their instruments inside Suggs' head, underneath his brain. In the end the band in the street are joined by a crowd of fans who sing and dance with them, and Lee rockets down the wet street in his booster.

The first crazy thing to me happens right at the beginning: Mike Barson plays his piano part, and in each successive camera angle, his arms get longer and longer, until his has a ridiculous strained look on his face. Then as the drums start, Chas Smash and an unidentified band member in a red hat and sunglasses burst out of the upright piano in slow motion. The looks on their faces are just priceless.
Then as Suggs looks through a shop window, the lights turn on and Chas pivots almost mechanically towards Thompson, also posed in a funny way, leans in and lights his fuse from the end of his nose. The rest of the band merrily walks out in a single-file manner from another shop. Geez.
Bedder's face is just memorable during the first chorus at the upper right corner of the frame. I find the way the band disappears then reappears funny as well, out from the behind the camera suddenly, giving interested and happy looks towards it.
I don't know if people much notice Lee and Bedders falling down during the guitar bridge.
I don't understand the little scene of the guy in frosted goggles looking into a handheld mirror, but it is kind of funny. Looks weird.
Probably the most humorous part of the whole thing is Suggs sticking his finger in his ear, which results in a giant finger prodding one of the little devil-like characters prancing about inside his head. The effects really are simple and silly, but it's a funny and creative effect. It ends with Lee Thompson frantically running around the street with the rocket blasting on his back, finishing the video with him spinning away into the darkness with a flash. Very funny.

2. Michael Caine

This song was largely about the troubles in Northern Ireland, and it talks about the informers involved. 'Michael Caine' in the song is supposed to be the informer talked about.
In real life Michael Caine is a British actor famous for his starring in films such as the Ipcress File, The Italian Job, and more recently in Miss Congeniality and Austin Powers in Goldmember (that should get you to realize who he was - he played Austin's father).
The actor actually provided his vocal samples to the song, saying the words 'My name is Michael Caine.' They wanted to have him appear in the music video but he wouldn't. He originally refused to provide vocals as well, but his daughter, a fan of the band, changed his mind (prior to that Caine had never heard of Madness).
The music video is said to have similarities to his movie The Ipcress File, and the video plays out like a film, using certain camera angles. A bunch of agents that consist of the band watch film footage of an informer, played by Chris Foreman (the guitarist) and then head out to capture him. Chas Smash plays the lead agent, and Suggs is the one who discreetly calls to give him the lead in Caine's capture. In the end, after questioning Foreman, with Bedders hanging out in the background and Woody flexing his muscles, they ascertain that he'll only say his name, and shred a photograph of the real Michael Caine. The band lastly appears dressed up and standing together to sing the chorus, putting their hands to their chests in dramatic effect.

Most of my humor from that video comes from the camera angles. The first thing I find quite funny is the title and credits - it's extremely serious and exact-looking, and I don't know if viewers notice that it's a 'Maurice J. Micklewhite' Production.
That's Michael Caine's proper name.
The silhouettes of the band running on a track, featured on the back side of the Keep Moving album, is shown as well.
The first real hilarious bit comes when it pans away from a stone charter, which is dramatic to begin with, and pans down to an older man thrusting his finger at Chas Smash. It reminds me of my grandpa doing the same thing to me when he needed to get a point across, and this man is doing just that. This is following the lyrics of course, which go 'the quiet fellow follows, points his finger straight at you..." I end up finding the man's gestures too dramatic and crazy, and exact, which makes it crazy.
Then Chas walks down a hall full of purpose and determination, and it's the camera angle that gets me here. So serious and grim.
Next you get another funny camera pan as it moves forward, past Chas, who is asking the questions, towards Chris, tied up in a chair, Woody, standing next to him and rolling up is sleeves, Bedders leaning against a wall and Lee Thompson just standing to the side. I don't know why, it's just the way the camera moves. Then it pans back to Chas just as Lee is leaning in to point something out, and the lens is wide-angle so you get a distortion from the edge of the frame. Anyone reading this would by now wonder why I find such small and unusual things like camera panning and moving so funny, but I just do and it's why this is at #2. I laugh and giggle more throughout the video than I do the other three.

1. Sweetest Girl

This one is the wildest and most odd and unusual video and song I have ever seen/heard. I won't try to describe what it's about because I just don't know and will probably never get it. The music is wacky-sounding, and just not something you'd hear from Madness at all.
The song itself was actually written by Green Gartside of Scritti Politti, in 1981 I believe, and sounded even weirder than this cover does (although not by much). While the video lacks any direction or proper storyline, I can't seem to find it in the lyrics either - there are just a bunch of different verses slapped together, but coming from Scritti Politti, they probably do have some sort of meaning I'm unfamiliar with or ignorant of.
"Politics is prior to the vagaries of science" - where does that fit? Okay, so science comes first. Okay.

The video itself is just as odd, unusual, and in result funny and silly. Mainly the band perform in a white studio, which is interspersed with footage of everyone except Suggs, who is positioned to sing, running around an old Victorian-style water pumping station.

This thing is just full of odd bits that make me laugh. Near the beginning someone's feet are dangling in the air above the camera for a split second. I don't get the floating dress that magically appears over a staircase, and in a pumping station. Woody, eternally in the background, sometimes just looks funny. Lee Thompson, for no reason at all, starts rapidly spinning in circles. Someone with a bow and arrow begins to aim for a target, which he begins to do several times before actually letting go and hitting a balloon.

At the beginning, the band are shown in various poses on black, like on the album cover of Mad Not Mad, and as they sing, the scene is constantly interrupted by rapid shots of band members with clay masks on, doing odd movements. The effect is twitchy and odd, and the movements are weird too - one has two thumbs up, another moves his arms in a wavy fashion, another digs at his face, and so on. It's not easy to capture and freeze these scenes to get a better look at them because they happen so quickly. Why they happen at all - I don't know why. It's kind of funny.
Watching Mark (Bedders) in that little black scene, several times it looks like you can tell he finds the whole thing stupid, and I think I even see him role his eyes at one point.

The big suit is a big source of humor in this video.
The sequence in which Suggs walks along the machines at the water station, slowly, with the camera, while singing, is virtually memorable. Someone once said he looked like he'd rather be in Pennsylvania. I don't know, but you can tell in his face that he's not got any heart in this, and he looks rather uncomfortable and unwilling and bored. Lee Thompson pops up next to him, enthusiastically, and as they both walk and sing, Suggs has the most calculated look of disinterest on his face. It's hilarious. Then a dress appears out of nowhere, blocking Thompson, who disappears, and Suggs continues on mundanely.
Most of the rest of the video has Suggs in close up to the camera, bored and seemingly barely able to endure staring at a camera while lip-syncing the lyrics, while the rest of the band run around aimlessly behind him in the water station. A girl in a red dress runs around with them.
There's an odd bit where Suggs spins around with a model of a person based on himself, held over his head. It goes into slow motion, as he lets go and sends it flying. Whoa. Very exciting and like it fits in with everything else. Suddenly, for the most brief second, someone with a clay mask snaps instantly on the screen with one finger pointed past the viewer, then it returns to the original scene, as Suggs picks himself off the floor, dusts himself off, and walks away, apparently being the person he threw.

The dancing scene with everyone in the big suit is another memorable clip. Chas swings with the woman in red as Suggs, on the other side of the suit, flings his arm out like he's at a disco. Then they spin around, Suggs' feet flying up, guaranteeing their collapse. After all, it isn't easy keeping a suit with six people in it upright.

Predictably, two scenes later, the entire six-piece band, still in the huge suit, are collapsed on the floor, their legs wriggling, only one head noticeable. That would be Woody's head, shaking crazily. It's another hilarious scene.

For some odd, ridiculous reason, the band comes up on the girl, who proceeds to slap Thompson upside the head. Suggs remains in front of the camera at all times, blandly lip-syncing the lyrics. As he sings, his eyes become squints as he artificially smiles and appears interested. It's just weird and unusual. That's not all, though, of course. At the end of the verse, in lightning speed, he reaches out to grab something and puts in in his mouth, sort of like a small child would do. I'd have to guess that it's a piece of balloon (they're being shot down in the background).
The ending of the video consists of Suggs and the woman dancing together, with Suggs sometimes covered in that clay mask. Finally, the woman's head falls off and lands on the ground, wires protruding out from the neck, as it sings the last words. The final scene is of four of the band members using sign language to spell out 'Another cheap video.'

I'd have to agree with that. But of course, part of the result of that is creating something that is so odd, unusual, and in result funny, that it's number one of my list of five of Madness's funniest videos. This one had all the uncomfortable singing, the weird and sudden twitchy mask scenes, random scenes of people somehow throwing themselves, and an archer always preparing to hit a heart-shaped balloon (and eventually doing so during the slow bridge). It finally acknowledges that it was silly by confirming itself as 'another cheap video.'
It was Madness's second-last video to be shot before they disbanded.

Anyway, that's my list and my reasons. Now it's two-thirty in the morning, and I've been at this since just after midnight. I have to go to bed to sleep until tomorrow afternoon.

Justin C.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Regatta de Blanc

Tonight I decided to go through the Police album 'Regatta de Blanc.'

One might think that this blog is slowly turning into just a list of song reviews by me, other than posts that have to do with aspects of relationships, and the odd reversed Home Alone segment. Well, I currently have no topics on my mind right now, and this was interesting, so continue I shall.

I've said before that I tend to only like a band for one or two of its songs. It's true for bands like The Go-Go's, Seal, The Tragically Hip, R.E.M., Supertramp (although I do like more of their songs than I usually do of a band other than Madness) Big Audio Dynamite, Hanson, The Philosopher Kings, Michael Jackson, and probably many others. In this case I decided to venture further into The Police and listen to a whole album. Why I did that is probably because they were a ska/reggae/punk band, which is closer to my kind of sound, so it wouldn't hurt to try out their complete album.

Before I start talking about what I think, here's an overview of the album from Wikipedia:

"Message in a Bottle", a Sting-penned song about alienation, opens the album. It is followed by the mostly instrumental "Reggatta de Blanc" (the title being a pseudo-French translation referring to the album's style of "white reggae"), one of the few songs written by all members of the Police. The instrumental piece came from the long instrumental break in the live performance of "Can't Stand Losing You" and earned the band the 1981 Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance
"It's Alright For You" is a driving punk-ish song featuring strong guitar and drum parts. The next three tracks, "Bring on the Night" (about the execution of Gary Gilmore), "Deathwish", and "Walking on the Moon" all have a strong reggae feel to them. "On Any Other Day" features a rare lead vocal from Stewart Copeland, and is a humorous take on a middle-aged man having a horrible birthday. 
"The Bed's Too Big Without You" (later covered by reggae singer Sheila Hylton in 1981, which became a UK chart hit), "Contact" and "Does Everyone Stare" are three songs dealing with the connection, or lack thereof, between two individuals. The hectic "No Time This Time", originally featured as the B side of the previous year's "So Lonely" single, closes the album.

I basically listened to all of them. By the way, when I copied the article above, all the hyperlinks somehow transferred with the prose, so I have Wikipedia links to 'alienation' and 'reggae' up there. It's not my intentional doing.

I've always known and often listened to 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Walking on the Moon' (probably my most favorite Police song) though I never listened to any of the others. It was an interesting experience.

Of all the songs up there, I found 'Contact' to be the best, because the music was probably the best-sounding to me. I loved the bass line in the chorus, and it sounded exactly like something I'd come up with myself - the sound just sounded like something I'd love to create on my own bass. I love how Sting sings, and the lyrics are kind of funny ("I'd come on over but I haven't got a raincoat").

'Does Everyone Stare' is also quite good, with a nice beat and interesting guitar. 'It's Alright For You' has a nice chorus as well, nice guitar.

The rest were all pretty good, not bad, and they all demonstrate the amazing professionalism of the trio - Andy Summers is just amazing at the guitar, filled with so much variety, and I don't think I've ever heard a better drummer than Stewart Copeland, who drives everything with a fast, unrelenting beat filled with hi-hat flourishes and ride cymbal flashes and patterns. Sting's voice is sometimes hard to hear but it is pretty distinctive and he sings quite well on most of the songs. His bass lines are, like Summers' guitar chords and notes, filled with variety and like they have a worldly influence in them.
The only song I found a bit repetitive was 'Deathwish.' Otherwise the rest were just alive with variety, fun, fast sound and wide-ranging influence that make the experience very unpredictable and in result exhilarating and great. The three songs mentioned above all ended up in my favorites.

I think, as a result of this, that The Police will become the next Supertramp - I like more than one or two of their songs, appreciate their sound, and enjoy it, but not nearly to the extent of listening to it all the time and becoming a full fan like I am of Madness. They've got some good sounds, and wonderful influence - I tend to find that the more international and worldy an influence or influences a band has, the better they sound, creating a sort of fusion, instead of just sticking to one genre all the time. That's exactly what The Police did, which is what I find so appealing about them.

I just can't believe Copeland's rim clicks at the beginning of the instrumental 'Regatta de Blanc' or his drumming introduction of the album's closer, 'No Time this Time.'

I'd give the album an A-. It just has a lot of variety as a result of the wide influence the band has, and what's more, it was recorded before they had any pressure from fans to create something just as great, so they were able to freely do what inspired them without worry or self-consciousness, resulting in this great compendium of music and lyrics.

Justin C.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"I'm into Something Good"

I was standing in a bookstore here in Barrhaven reading excerpts from novels when a really nice, pleasurable, intriguing, pleasant, excited and warm chorus played.

Normally I have very little interest in the music that Indigo plays. Often, I've actually found it annoying, and not because I'm trying to read, because just hearing it sounds annoying. Their music selection usually consists of jazz, crooners, and easy listening, which I have nothing against and don't mind, it's some of the particular songs they've put on in the past that just claw at my ears. It's not easy listening for me.

But this was different. A female voice was saying, kind of pleasantly and with an air of delight and excited happiness and expectation, "something tells me I'm into something good."

I kind of felt like the singer right then.

The song, 'I'm into something Good,' was written in the early 1960s by Carol King and Gerry Goffin. It was popularized by the band Herman's Hermits, who recorded and and released the song themselves in 1964. It had been covered a few times since, the version I was listening to being sung and played by an outfit calling themselves 'The Bird and the Bee.'

For some reason it sounded like something I'd heard before, in my childhood, and it was one of those passing childhood memories for sound that was being brought out of the depths of my memory. The only inconsistency was that I'd felt that I'd heard this cover version from my childhood, this female voice, when in reality that outfit only released this cover version in March of this year. And I was 18 in March 2010, not six.

This morning I looked it up on YouTube and listened to it properly. It's a very easy, slow song sung from a girl's point of view (the female singer reverses that dynamic as it was originally sung by a male band, from a boy's point of view) of having a crush on someone (something I'd already guessed at from the chorus). This girl sees this other boy, immediately has an attraction and infatuation with him, and to her delight he notices her himself and reciprocates those feelings. They dance together, walk home hand in hand, and it ends with the boy asking if he can see her again soon. She then reflects, happily, that she's "into something good."

What I notice with this is that it explores and talks about the very beginning of a relationship, but doesn't go further than the first date, or dance. The song ends at the very beginning of the beginning of a love, just at the beginning, letting the singer and listener think about the bright future and see that they're into something good. Sort of like withholding the good climax, only letting listeners whet their appetites, have them thinking brightly of the beginning of something sweet and wonderful, but not experiencing it, keeping the magical, blissful, and romantic suspense.
That is really appealing to me.

The chorus itself, although very simple, has the elements - the giddiness, the hopefulness, the happiness and the expectation. It's practically magical. We've got a good and bright future ahead.

What is also appealing to me is that the voice itself sounds exactly to me like how the Nora character, from the novel Watchers, would sound. Like that's Nora singing the song. I envision a face to a voice I hear, and when I hear that voice I see what I think Nora would look like in the novel. She looks exactly like the person I'd fall in love with myself, so it transitions to the singer in the song. Neck-length, straight black hair, black or brown eyes, slightly pointed chin, etc.

It's just a really positive and happy, bright song. It starts nice and pleasant and just gets better.
It also makes me think of someone's known infatuation with me in grade 12, except unlike in the song, I was shy and didn't do anything until May. But it's not a damper on things, it just contributes a happy memory to the already great and wonderful sound and sights and colors and girl I already evoke out of it (the girl being Nora).

The video was made by the uploader who just put an image of hate in it, which is a bad contrast in my opinion, but it then transitions to a chat that just goes 'I love you very much.' Why it's a chat, I don't know, but it's annoying.

I just wish I were into something good myself. I really wish I were. Maybe, hopefully, I will in the future.

Update: It turns out I did hear this in my childhood - the Herman's Hermits original - when I saw The Brave Little Toaster as a child. Listening to the original by the Hermits, I can vaguely remember the song from that movie.

Justin C.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rehearsals, The

It turns out that Madness is putting together yet another new album.

They officially disbanded in 1986. Then they reunited for a series of Madstock concerts throughout the early-mid 1990s. In 1999, buoyed by the success of their yearly concerts, they produced a new album, Wonderful. It wasn't a super success.

Six years later they released an album of covers under the title 'The Dangermen Sessions.' Four years later, with a tonne of new material created by each of the individual members over time, ten years after Wonderful, and thirty years after coming out with One Step Beyond in 1979, Madness produced a new album called The Liberty of Norton Folgate.

I, like most people, assumed it was produced and released largely out of the celebration and buoyancy over the band having been around, not necessarily always together, but around, for 30 years.

I didn't expect that it would lead to a sort of semi-surge in popularity for them again.

Throughout the past three or four years, the band has been extensively touring throughout Europe and Britain. They even replaced Oasis after they disbanded the night they were supposed to play a big show, and the crowd reacted positively to them. They've been publicly busy for awhile now, and it hasn't really gone unnoticed.

Even the Ottawa Sun had a review on their new album, which I have a cutout of and donated to the Madness Central website's news archives on the band (see here).

With all of this in consideration, it looks like the band wasn't just doing a one-off album as part of their 30 anniversary efforts. 

Earlier this year some members of the band mentioned working on a new album. Some denied it. Others were neutral on the idea. It was a kind of rumor. If they were making a new album though, then this could be the second incarnation of the band's popularity and success. They could potentially make it big again, and get out of the boring, mundane din of endlessly playing old hits like 'Our House,' 'My Girl,' 'It Must Be Love,' 'Baggy Trousers,' and others at their gigs and concerts.

When I first heard of them and started listening to them, I'd never imagined the possibility of them releasing new albums during my lifetime or being known more than just an old one-hit wonder in North America. Yet they released their last new album last spring. And I even won a free copy of their first single off of their album, the day a girl embarrassed the hell out of me by asking why I rode through her neighborhood to get to school. I'd never expected that in my life.*

It's been made certain, though, now, that the band are indeed working on new songs for a new album. Chris Foreman, the guitarist of the band, has a YouTube channel. It's full of videos of the band, from his perspective on stage, playing at concerts, as well as their original music videos and commercials regarding them.

It also, as of this past week, has several new videos of the band rehearsing this new song:

The Introduction

The first verse

The chorus

The solo or bridge

The song doesn't have any title, either the band hasn't got one (but I believe they would at this point if they have the lyrics) or Foreman simply neglected or chose not to add it to the video, but it's basically several days' worth of rehearsing.
The description Foreman wrote was that it was 'Northern Soul' style. It does sound intriguing. Like the lyrics in the song have a point to sort out.

'Ooh lately
I've been wondering about you
and the things that you do
I'm in love
but you drive me mad...'

There's something else but I can't hear Suggs clearly enough to tell what it is. What I can ascertain from the sound and what the lyrics seem to be so far is that the song is about an overwhelming relationship of sorts, where the subject is in love but his partner can be unpredictable, probably overwhelming him with her schemes or activities or even disappearances, driving him mad in result.
Does the band have to rehearse a song that Chris Foreman puts on YouTube that reminds me of my recent situation? Not that it's the same but I am in love, and she kind of did drive me mad, at least first, and figuratively. Even before that...but I liked her for it.
Besides, if she herself returns here and reads this, and sees the song, I'm sure she'd think I drove her mad too, at least after what I did. Anyway.

It's a fun sound, with a nice guitar and a good piano. Mike of course plays an organ as well, which is great because it's one of my favorite instruments. It's the same sound as in the song 'In the City,' that makes me think of that girl in such a positive manner, though I don't think it makes me think of her in this present case.

I can't wait for the song to be finished so I can listen to it on their new album when it does come out. It's pretty cool to watch a band rehearse a new song on many bands do that? They did it a couple of years ago with their song 'MKII,' on the LONF album which is also a favorite of mine. 

With these new songs and albums, they're bound to get their old popularity, or at least most of it, back. When their last album came out last year, my friend Duncan shocked me by favoriting 'MKII' on YouTube and 'Forever Young' (their third single off that album). Since when did someone else I knew liked anything Madness? If that's the result then it can only be great that the band is doing this, because then I'm no longer alone in liking them, and there's a new generation of fans.

Can't wait for more material...I hope Chris Foreman uploads more cool behind-the-scenes videos. I'll make sure to watch everything come together, then I can review the finished songs and album. After all, The Liberty of Norton Folgate got huge, wondrous reviews from all the big newspapers and critics, it was so positive, even the Ottawa Sun over here picked it up and said something.

That's really something.

*The day I won the single, 'Dust Devil,' is not the same as the day I received it; I won the song the day I was turned down by a girl who noted the bad idea of a relationship, and received the CD (and a signed photograph) in the mail on the day already noted above. Chris Foreman had notified me and sent the prize, and he did it with amazingly precise timing (and as an indirect result the guitarist of Madness who co-wrote 'Our House' all those years ago has faint, passing knowledge that I was turned down by a girl who moved away in the first place).

Justin C.