Lawless film review.

 

Lawless is set in 1931 towards the ending days of the Virginian Prohibition and is based on the real life story of the three troublesome Bondurant brothers. With starring roles played by Shia LeBeouf, Tom Hardy and Guy Pearce the instant appeal for the film is intact.

 In 2005 John Hillcoat’s and Nick Cave’s release of western The Proposition struck audiences as visually impacting through its violent aesthetics and infliction of fear however, Lawless does not. The film moves slowly through the struggles between the Bondurant trio and bad guy cop Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) as long sections of the film lack excitement and short outbursts of visceral violence is used in others to make an impact on the audience, or at least attempt to.

 Reserved tough man Forrest Bondurant is a well-acted role played by Tom Hardy and is the centre of the extraneous violence. Jessica Chastain plays a tough but vulnerable woman who works in the diner as a front to the illegal and corrupted business ran by the Bondurant brothers. The romance that sparks between her and Forrest is the sole reason to why the audience find his violent actions both acceptable and justifiable and concludes in the audience routing for him against enemy Charlie Rakes.

Jack Bondurant played by Shia LaBeouf is a weak and nervy character determined to step up into the frontline business but is constantly belittled by his two older brothers Forrest and Howard (Jason Clarke); the more traditional hill-billy type. This alongside his secret romance with the beautiful Bertha Minnix, (Mia Wasikowska) the Priest’s daughter makes the audience sympathize with him, as well as making bad guy cop Charlie Rakes even more despicable than his thinning hairline. The pure hatred for this character arises in a dragged-out sequence of extreme violence and fist fury towards weak younger sibling Jack; the only scene in which the violence truly has an appropriate hard-hitting impact.

The film is a well-acted piece and in whole fairly entertaining, but the perpetual gore and violence is its downfall as it distracts from the plot and becomes the dominant focus of the film. John Hillcoat’s The Road is far more impacting as the emotion created is intense and the suspense is ever-present, whereas Lawless lacks creativity and ultimately becomes a show down to who has the biggest pair of balls, that said the acting is flawless and the characters intriguing.

Joe Gawne.

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Audio, Video, Disco – Song by Song

Finally, the hype-train has arrived at the station. The doors hiss open, and as you step out you are greeted by two peculiar looking French fellows. One sports a rather fetching handlebar moustache, whilst his partner looks more like a Brazilian Cillian Murphy. It’s Justice, wearing questionable black-leather biker jackets and tight jeans. Without a word, they hand you a copy of their new album – “Audio, Video, Disco” and a pair of large headphones, just before disappearing in a poof of smoke for another few years. Tentatively, you slide on the headphones and press play; the dulcet horns of Genesis echoing in your memory, as you briefly reminisce back to when the original album swept you away to a nocturnal land where the earthrumbling bass of ‘Waters of Nazareth’, otherwordly synths of ‘Let There Be Light’ and the infectious child-vocals of ‘D.A.N.C.E’ led you on one of the most memorable electronic adventures of your life.  You await a similar experience to that of ‘Cross’ of course; why fix what isn’t broken? You glance down at the new cover art-work, and notice (as you are particularly attentive) that it is identical to ‘Cross’, yet it is lit up and bright rather than dark and grungy. Does that perhaps indicate a change of sound and style, whilst still staying true to the core of what made the original album great? (Yes, yes it does.) Continue reading

The Fruit Tree Foundation – ‘First Edition’ review

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of super groups in the music world, such as Them Crooked Vultures and Chicken Foot, but that world has always been missing one thing – a super group with kilts, beards and a particular taste for Irn Bru. That’s right, we have our first ever Scottish super group.

The Fruit Tree Foundation is a project to raise awareness of The Mental Health Foundation which contains members of Idlewild, Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, Sparrow and the Workshop and more. With such a talented bunch of songwriters from some of my favourite bands collaborating on the one album I was desperately excited to get a listen, and it did not disappoint.

So many different musicians working together guarantees one thing – diversity, and this diversity is demonstrated immediately in ‘First Edition’. The opening track, an acoustic guitar number featuring delicate piano and the vocal talents of The Twilight Sad’s James Graham, is followed by a fast paced, ridiculously catchy tune entitled ‘Forgotten Anniversary’ which would make even the best of us want to dance.

The third track on the album, ‘Favourite Son,’ is a particular highlight in my humble opinion. A simple rhythm guitar section combined with a heavy handed drum beat gives the song a strong basis to build on, and it is built upon superbly with guitar parts, which would not be out of place on an Arctic Monkeys’ record, and the powerful vocal back up of both Emma Pollock and Jill O’Sullivan.

The sheer variety of ‘First Edition’ is perhaps demonstrated in its finest form in‘ Beware Beware,’ which would be best listened to around a campfire by a group of people dressed in kilts, truly a wonderful piece of Scottish music.

There is never a point in the album where the listener becomes bored or wants to skip a particular song. The more upbeat songs, such as ‘Singing For Strangers’ and ‘All Gone But One’ have me tapping my foot and singing along without fail. Whereas the slightly more delicate numbers, ‘Fall Arch’ and ‘After Hours’, in particular, contain beautiful vocal harmonies that grasp the listener’s attention to the point where one is staring in awe at the computer screen wondering if the people creating the music are quite as gorgeous as the music itself.

‘First Edition’ finishes as it started, with a quiet acoustic number based around simple acoustic guitar work and delicate piano, with the vocals supplied in brilliant fashion this time by James Yorkston and Jill O’Sullivan. ‘Just As Scared’ proves the perfect finale to a simply brilliant album which, although it has literal highs and lows in terms of volume, instrumentation and pace, stays constant in the superb quality.

The Fruit Tree Foundation have created a truly fantastic album which I would recommend to anyone who likes good music and cutesy Scottish accents. (Maybe not for fans of Them Crooked Vultures)

-Calum Wilson (@_calumMDSN)

Is human behavior increasingly getting labeled as a mental disorder?

This is my first post and I am quite excited to talk about the book I read this week. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson is a New York Times bestseller that uncovers the hidden world of psychopaths and mental illnesses.

 

Ronson is a Welsh journalist that is most famously known for his investigative works and pieces on conspiracy theories. In The Psychopath Test, Ronson’s random examination of a mystery package opens his eyes to the endless world of psychiatry, psychopaths and infinite mental illnesses. Having always been interest in the human mind, especially the ones that are not “wired properly”, I was delighted to get my hands on this book. The high point of this book is Ronson study of the PCL-R (Psychopathy Checklist Revised), this is a rating scale that assesses your level of psychopathy. You can actually look up the checklist online and test your “psychopathy level” by clicking here. I scored a 5 which is a safe score, but had I scored 30 or higher it would mean I was most likely a psychopath. I personally find the use of a scale of any sort to identify a mental illness very unscientific. I respect that the various researchers that compiled this list did it with a good intention but while reading The Psychopath Test we see how this list is often misused by not only ordinary people but doctors.

Throughout his book, Ronson uses a variety of examples to illustrate his points including a very interesting one of a man called Tony. Tony scammed his way into a mental hospital while trying to get away from prison. While he was effectively convincing in faking a “mental illness”, he was never able to convince the doctors of his sanity. Which made me think, it is a lot easier to convince someone that you are insane than it is to convince someone that you are sane. How do you even convince someone you are sane? On his quest to find out more about Tony, Ronson learns from the doctors that Tony was actually diagnosed as a psychopath.

What makes this book great and different in my opinion is how Ronson turns a gloomy, disturbing subject into something light and humorous. The fact that he is a British journalist made this novel not only an enjoyable read but also academically relevant because he would make some analysis of the media industry that were very insightful. One of his points that resonated with me was how the media is always seeking madness, but it has got to be the right kind of level of madness. Not enough madness is not interesting, and if there is too much madness then people cannot relate. He interviews a lady that worked in the production of “The Jeremy Kyle Show” and she bluntly tells that the best guest they would have in the show would be the mad ones. They particularly liked the ones on drugs because it made them “mad enough to be enterntaining”. As horrible as it sounds, that is the sad reality. Normalcy does not sell.

Ronson’s conclusion after his journey through madness is that we need to have a balanced approach of mental illness. We cannot go around trying to “spot and diagnose” everyone we see nor classify every single idiocrasy we witness as a mental illness.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that is interest in the subject of the human mind and mental illness, like psychopathy. Although, beware that he does not always have positive things to say about psychiatrist but I think his overall tone in the book is relatively balanced.

Aline Siekierski (twitter:@alinesieks)

We Have A Ghost music review

We Have A Ghost are an instrumentalist based band, mixing between slow and fiery paced songs and verge on reminding me of a ‘chilled out’ Crystal Castles. The use of synthesizer gives the band an electric feel, but they use it in an unconventional manner as their songs ooze ambience and offer an elevating feel as a pose to an upbeat vibrant one, most electrical based bands and artists tend to delve towards.

The first song of the album – The Secret – has a well-constructed blend of drums, electrics, guitars and piano that give you an initial idea of what the band is about and acts as a befitting introduction for a decent ten song album.

 Computerrox – the second song of the album, is a vibrant electronic sound that could be easily featured in the background of an action movie car chase. The drums compliment the song justly as they build up all the way into the crescendo of the song and aid it in being dexterously entertaining.

Electric Blanket – has all the connotations of comfort and relaxation the title implies with a perpetual drum beat and rhythm that makes one reposed. The song offers a new way of enjoying an instrumentalist and an electronic based song as you find it, to use the colloquial term, trippy! The introduction of vocals also contributes to the space-y aspect of the song.

The Incident – is more conventional in terms of the style it proposes. With a slow build up and only a slightly expeditious chorus the song lacks in substance and leaves you feeling like it isn’t really going anywhere. Perhaps it is the repetitive format of the song or maybe it is the perpetual sounding rhythms across the album that makes this particular song irksome and tiring to listen to.

Half way through the album now and song 5 – It Is What It Is – brings me back to enjoying the album. With carefully acquainted drums the song seems to make a little more sense. Although the song still strikes you as perpetual you can appreciate and relish it in the same way as Electric Blanket as the unconventionality is both intriguing and titillating.

Walk Away – has a slightly darker sound to it than Electric Blanket but the reintroduction of vocals aid the album in remaining enticing and not falling into the danger of each song becoming same-y. The song again adapts the format of a slow building start leading into an elevating crescendo.

Song 7 – Meadow – for the most part is technically on point. However the real life sounding objects like smashing and pots banging in the background alienates me as a listener as it distracts me from fully engaging with the song and instead forces me to clasp my ears to prevent a visceral effect (okay it’s not that bad but I had to say something funny)! The song has a lot going for it but in the duration of four and a half minutes not much additions or adaptations occur leaving it feeling like a looped song and again becomes a little hard to fully engage in.

Song 8 – To Begin Again – starts subtly in its intro but if catchy where to be used to describe any song on the album this would be the one! If vocals where used in the breaks and bridges of this song it would make it by far the best song on the album. Despite the absence of vocals the song does offer more than the Meadow with my only real criticism being that the outro is way too stretched out.

 Marymoor Park – to reiterate, begins to become again like a looped song. The consistency of the rhythm would become dull if it were not for the usage of real life sounds, in this case dogs barking in the background. Unlike my friend song 7 The Meadow the noises work appropriately and entice as a pose to distract.

The concluding song of the album is by far the most interesting song out of the ten. The song opens like a ballet dance piece with a soft sounding piano based melody as the dominant feature of the song, which I should add, I liked.

After being gripped by the first fifty seconds of the song it suddenly takes a drastic change into a much darker sounding song that is nonsensical to the opening and in my opinion doesn’t really work; especially as the two sets of melodies don’t integrate as you can clearly hear the pause between the two. At two minutes forty the song again changes into a grunge sounding fuelled crescendo which, despite being radical is better than the middle section of the song. The integration of the opening to the song with an appropriate sounding rhythm and melody would have potentially been an epic sounding song.

We Have A Ghost demonstrate a lot of promise in this ten song album through their unconventionality and unique stamp on the instrumentalist and electronic genre. However I felt that the band needed to be more varied in their songs to keep the audience engaged. I also felt like something was missing through the album and strongly think the band would be much more appealing with the frequent use of vocals, however all in all it is a decent album that for the most part I enjoyed.

(http://independentmusicnews.co.uk/wehaveaghost/)

– Joseph Gawne

If you enjoy listening to and reading about alternative and independent music then visit www.independentmusicnews.co.uk and follow me on twitter @JoeGawne.

YouTube Review

By Josiah Whitworth                                                                                                  

YouTube is a predominantly a video sharing website, a way for people to view any number of videos of any topic free of charge. It has become one of the largest and most visited websites on the internet, notching up millions of views every day and becoming an integrated part of life for many internet users. Continue reading

Flickr Review

by Christopher Martin

Flickr is an image and video sharing website used by many millions of web users around the world. In fact the site has over 50 million registered users, who have uploaded 6 billion images, this speaks volumes about the popularity of the site. So why is it such a popular tool used by so many across the globe? Well to begin with the site is completely free and very simple to use. Navigating and browsing the site seems almost second nature to new users. It’s site seems very straightforward, the interface the site uses is quick and easy to negotiate, and that makes the tagging and organizing of photos very easy. For casual users the site is a fantastic tool for sharing images and videos to friends and family, but for people in a professional capacity, such as journalists, the site can be a great asset. It can mean journalists are able to upload content in a matter of seconds and distribute to their audience a link which they are then able to access. Therefore visual information can be spread and shared very quickly. Continue reading