Saturday, November 15, 2008

New York Dolls check into another personality crisis with Todd Rundgren

Word broke earlier this week with the news of the New York Dolls being reunited with legendary record producer and rock star Todd Rundgren.

Rundgen will produce the Dolls' new album in January 2009. This is the first time in 36 years since Rundgren originally produced the New York Dolls eponymous debut album "The New York Dolls" which included the timeless classics "Personality Crisis", "Trash", "Jet Boy" and "Private World".

Rundgren will be reunited with original Dolls founding members, David Johansen (vocals) and Sylvain Sylvain (guitar, vocals).

"We're really excited to be working with Todd again," says David Johansen. " We're hoping to recapture the same magic on the forthcoming album."

The album, which is yet untitled, will be released on the Atco label through Warner Brothers. The Atco label has been specially re-launched. The New York Dolls are one of the first signings to the label.

The Dolls will follow the release of the new album with a world tour in 2009. Meanwhile, Todd Rundgren is currently on a European tour promoting his latest solo album "Arena". Todd plays two more UK gigs later in November, including the Norwich Waterfront (Nov 22) and London Kentish Town Forum (Nov 23).

The forthcoming Dolls album will become another chapter in Rundgren's vast list of prodution credits which include albums for Hall & Oats, Cheap Trick, Meatloaf, The Pursuit of Happiness, the Psychedelic Furs, XTC, Patti Smith Group, Tom Robinson Band, Grand Funk Railroad, Badfinger, and many more.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Zombies announce the final UK concerts for their 1968 album Odessey & Oracle

The Zombies, Britain's legendary psychedelic rock band is set to perform the entirety of their 1968 album ‘Odessey & Oracle’ in the UK for the very last time during April 2009.

The band will play the following four UK concerts – Glasgow ABC (April 21), Bristol Colston Hall (April 23), Manchester Bridgewater Hall (April 24) and London Hammersmith Apollo (April 25).

Tickets for the go on sale from 9am on Thursday 25th September. Ticket Hotline: 08700600 100,

After receiving rapturous critical acclaim from performing the 40th Anniversary of ‘Odessey & Oracle' over three sold out concerts at the London Shepherd's Bush Empire during March 2008, original Zombies members, Colin Blunstone (vocals), Rod Argent (keyboards, vocals), Chris White (bass, vocals) and Hugh Grundy (drums) will get back together again to perform the album that the NME recently described as "British psychedelia with a kaleidoscopic vision that rivals even The Beatles.”

When the Zombies originally performed the 40th Anniversary concert for Odessey & Oracle at Shepherd Bush Empire earlier this year, the concerts were attended by Britain’s rock elite including Paul Weller, Robert Plant, Robyn Hitchcock, Snow Patrol and Garbage.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bruce Dickinson plays Todd Rundgren's 'Strike'

On Friday 19th September at 22:45, Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson played Todd Rundgren's song 'Strike' (one of the new songs featured on Rundgren's forthcoming new studio album 'Arena')on his BBC Radio 6 Music Friday Night Rock Show in the UK.

You can play the show back online via BBC iPlayer from the following link - until Thursday 25th September.

Here's the transcript of Dickinson's intro to 'Strike' -

"Speaking of The Hermit of Mink Hollow, I did say Todd Rundgren, and I meant it, too. Todd Rundgren...vetran rocker and producer who's turned 60. He must have been given a school boy's outfit. At present this next track does sound a little bit like AC/DC. On the other hand AC/DC are probably close to turning 60, and they're still wearing school boy's outfits."

"Typically we've had no AC/DC for seven years, and then Airbourne turn up, Todd Rundgren does this, and AC/DC re-emerge. Could this be a sign? Could the Routemaster be on its way back? Oh yes, I do hope so (I hate those bendy things)."

"Anyway, from his new album called 'Arena', it's a sort of homage to arena rock. It features a bunch of tracks the rock suprisingly hard."

"The Routemaster of course was a very famous red London bus. For those of you who don't know what a Routemaster bus was, you could walk on and off the back without getting caught up - and it didn't run cyclists over, which is why we like it instead of bendy buses, thank you very much (Public service announcement)."

"It's a nod to Ted Nugent, ZZ Top, Rush and AC/DC. Check it out. This is Todd Rundgren with 'Strike'."

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Everything but the Girl: The only way up is down

Everything But the Girl are one of those rare bands that keep coming back to haunt us with their infectious dance club sounds. How much longer do we have to wait for a new album? It's almost been ten years since 1999's "Tempremental".

EBTG originally started off as an acoustic-based duo. When they released their 'Amplified Heart' album in 1994, Todd Terry remixed the track "Missing", and it was this song that propelled them into dance music.

When EBTG released the remix as a single, it became a huge international hit. It hit the top of nearly every chart around the world, and charted in the U.S., a feat that had previously eluded the band. The track reached number two and stayed in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for well over a year.

The success of that track, along with a collaboration Thorn did with the bands Massive Attack and Deep Dish, saw EBTG move into a more electronic sound.

Having completed contractual obligations to WEA, they were free to shop their recordings and had full ownership of their future recorded works. They signed licensing deals with Virgin Records for the United Kingdom and Europe, and Atlantic Records for the United States and Canada.

Their subsequent albums "Walking Wounded" and "Temperamental", showed the band's musical progress as well as established Ben Watt as a cutting edge dance music producer. In 2007 Tracey Thorn released her second solo album "Out Of The Woods".

It's surprising to think it will be ten years since the "Tempremental" album was first released. The opening track, "Five Fathoms" brings back the memories of partying in London's Soho at night.

"Five Fathoms"
by Everything But The Girl (from the 1999 album 'Temperamental')

I walk the city late at night.
Does everyone here do the same?
I want to be the things I see,
Give every face and place my name.
I cross the street, take a right,
Pick up the pace, pass a fight.
Did I grow up just to stay home?
I'm not immune - I love this tune.

I wanna love more.
I just wanna love more.

I drag the city late at night.
It's in my mouth, it's in my hair.
The people fill the city because
The city fills the people, oh yeah.
I cross the street, avoid the freeze -
A city's warmer by a couple degrees.
The smell of food. The smell of rain.
I'm not immune - I love this tune.

I wanna love more.
There's a river in my head.
I just wanna love more.
There's a river in my head.

The only way out is down.
The only way up is down.

The days roll by like thunder
Like a storm that's never breaking,
All my time and space compressed
In the low pressure of the proceedings,
And they beat against the sides of my life,
Like fists against the sides of my life,
And the roads all lead behind me,
So I wrap the wheel around me
and I go out.

There's a river in my head.
I'll take you home and make it easy.
Love more.

Copyright (c) 1999 Everything But The Girl

Katy Perry kisses a girl and the USA goes crazy

Here comes the most hyped song of 2008 in America; "I Kissed A Girl" by Katy Perry. Currently making it's way to Europe, there's probably no telling how many times this song will get played on radio until the general public gets sick to death of it.

The song's already topped the US singles chart for seven weeks. If you check out the comments on YouTube, people are either love or hate it. For me, Katy looks like some deranged actress from The OC or One Tree Hill. It's way too early to say that I am convinced.

Live, Katy Perry is another thing. Her live performance on US television leave a lot to be desired. Vocally, the song seems to display a lot of studio trickery to make Katy sound better than she actually is.

Hell, singing out of tune never seemed to be a problem for Madonna.

'I Kissed A Girl' could be the only song that Katy Perry will ever be remembered for, and like most one hit wonders, this could have dramatic impact on her future recordings. But something tells me there's more to Perry than this one particular killer teenage anthem.

For the moment, Katy seems to display a certai amount of fun and sexiness in her videos, and I guess us Americans have been missing out on some commerical rauch for some time now. This is like the Brady Bunch and a porn wet dream in one.

What's next, I kissed an German Shepherd?

In the 70s, Cyndi Lauper was singing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", but now Katy Perry's singing about kissing girls. Some things never change.

Or do they?

This is pop music at it's most risque, even though the music is calculated formula supermarket pop. The perfect comeback single for Britney, but this time the brunettes are taking over - and it's about time!

Even more entertaining is Katy's video for her other song "Ur So Gay" which is a play on Todd Haynes' film about the late Karen Carpenter (the first film to tell the story of the rise and fall of Karen Carpenter re-enacted by Barbie Dolls).

The first line in "Ur So Gay" is classic deviant pop at its best. Katy sings, "I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf, jacking off while listening to Mozart."

Katy Perry - "I Kissed A Girl"

Katy Perry - "Ur So Gay"

Warren Zevon; the Excitable Boy lives on

Sometimes in this crazy world of rock and roll, certain rock stars need to rob the grave to get a hit single. Case in point is Kid Rock with his infectious song "All Summer Long", taken from his current album "Rock N Roll Jesus".

The songs also samples Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" (which has a similar chord progression).

When it comes to the original,you can't top Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London". With the line, "Better stay away from him, he'll rip your lungs out, Jim - I'd like to meet his tailor," you know Zevon was up to something way beyond the confines of conservative American music.

'Werewolves of London' was taken from Zevon's 'Excitable Boy' (1978), an album that's right up there with any early Steely Dan album. Essential.

Similar in many ways to his fellow Southern California outcast counterpart Randy Newman, during his early career Zevon achieved moderate fame, but as time progressed, instead of writing songs on par with the likes of Dan Fogelberg and Jackson Browne, he opted for tunes about getting your lungs ripped out. The general public could relate.

Obsessed with corrupt anti-heroes, Zevon penned songs with the trademark of a down and out pulp fiction writer who created stories about mutilated mercenaries ("Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner"), mereciless city boys who will do anything to get ahead ("Lawyers, Guns and Money"), cowardly deviants ("Excitable Boy"), and, of course, losers with appetites for beef chow mein ("Werewolves of London").

Excitable Boy's 1976 predecessor (Warren Zevon) may be a stronger album, but this is the one that put Zevon on the map, and still holds a pop hook in the world's consciousness. Kid Rock's "All Summer Long" is a perfect exmaple.

"Werewolves of London"
by Warren Zevon

I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain
He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook's
Going to get himself a big dish of beef chow mein
Werewolves of London

If you hear him howling around your kitchen door
Better not let him in
Little old lady got mutilated late last night
Werewolves of London again
Werewolves of London

He's the hairy-handed gent who ran amuck in Kent
Lately he's been overheard in Mayfair
Better stay away from him
He'll rip your lungs out, Jim
I'd like to meet his tailor
Werewolves of London

Well, I saw Lon Chaney walking with the Queen
Doing the
I saw Lon Chaney, Jr. walking with the Queen
Doing the
I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's
His hair was perfect
Werewolves of London
Draw blood

(c) 1978 Warren Zevon, from the album "Excitable Boy"

Patti Smith's original album review of Todd Rundgren's 'A Wizard, A True Star'

In 1973, the then rock journalist and poet, Patti Smith, reviewed albums and interviewed rock stars for the legendary CREEM magazine (aka Boy Howdy).

CREEM was no ordinary monthly music magazine for the uninitiated. It also gave the world the literary prose of Lester Bangs (the No.1 Iggy Pop and Lou Reed rock critic immortalized in Cameron Crowe's movie 'Almost Famous').

CREEM was home to Iggy Pop, Todd Rundgren, the New York Dolls, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Mott the Hoople, Kiss, Roxy Music, The Runaways, Cheap Trick and beyond. If you wanted to find out what was happening in the world of glam rock, CREEM was the bible of corruptable pop salvation.

CREEM effortlessly bridged the gap between 16 magazine and Rolling Stone. It's foray into glam rock was pre-punk. CREEM was 10 years ahead of its time. It made Blender and Spin seem like cheap immitations.

Who could ever forget that pull out poster of a wacked-out, bleached-blonde Iggy Pop burning a pile of vinyl albums with lighter fluid?

The following editorial is a reprint of Patti Smith's original review of Todd Rundgren's ground-breaking 1973 album 'A Wizard, A True Star'.

Six years after Patti reviewed A Wizard, A True Star, Rundgren produced her 1979 album 'Wave' that featured the hit single Frederick, and the song Dancing Barefoot, plus So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star, a rock song originally written by Jim McGuinn and Chris Hillman, and first recorded by The Byrds for their 1967 album Younger Than Yesterday.

by Patti Smith
[from Creem, April 1973]

A Wizard, A True Star
Todd Rundgren

Ya know where Greaser's Palace ends? That solar burst. The zoot suit Jesus returns to light. Physical atomic end. Well that's where Todd's record begins. Side one is pure brain rocket. Rock and roll for the skull. Todd Rundgren's season in hell.

Put the record on. Internal voyage is not burnt out. Thank the stars for that. Now you got your system of brain travel, Todd got the plane. You're gonna zoom but beware. What he does is very tricky. Mildly sinister. But I give you the satisfaction that all pain on his ticket is well spent. It beings glowing enough. Like a sacred drug. "International Feel." Very Baudelaire. Very godhead. And when he moves to "I Know I Know" you know. For one ecstatic moment you've gone beyond the point of pain into the realm of pure intellect.

I know, here is where I got caught. Not prepared for a transition like "Neverland." Brutally nostalgic. I got that era under my belt. All about toyland. Once you leave no turning back. Well, why did Todd pull us back? The terror of beauty makes one momentarily bitter. First star to the right and straight on till morning. "Neverland" permanently poisons and sweetens. Gives a subconscious aftertaste. Tinges the whole record with Walt Disney. Also torments and slides you into journey a little weak above the belt. As side one progresses you age. There's hair on your fingers.

Tic tic. Like the crocodile alarm that pleasantly ticked away Captain Hook's lifeline, goodie good is wearing off. The move is maniac. Screeching monotone which eliminates mouth, limb and crotch but exalts in brain power. MIT science fiction. The next religion.

Even more ear-itating is "Rock'n'Roll Pussy." Autobiographic as a brainiac. "I'm in the Clique" comes back as "Shove it up your ass, I'm the clique myself." Sexual power is moving up the spine into the skull. It's manic it's magnificent.

Am I getting abstract? It doesn't matter. Music is pure mathematics. And what is more abstract than trigonometry? Todd is further mystery than Greek. You can't plot out his journey so easy. Marco Polo was a natural. Electric exploitation is never predictable.

But beauty is just that. The flamingos that wave you into "Zen Archer" leave you breathless. Happy death. And "Zen Archer" is full of wonder. Beautiful. I'm almost embarrassed to get so worked up over its brilliance. An elegy. Very German. Who did kill Cock Robin? An expression of his guilt? It makes one dizzy. Uncomfortable. He exhibits certain powers, certain confusions. Naked emotion is very frightening. It's extended by Dave Sanborn's saxophone. Elegant and moving as a high and spiraling tombstone.

His language is getting more sophisticated as is his humor and anger. Moving in a very valiant poetry.

The blessings of the turtles/ the eggs lay on the lawn.

Obscure images in "Da Da Dali." Very painterly. Also very Rodgers and Hart. Oh Jesus where are we on this journey; All adolescence out the window. Fags, fag hags, weaklings, minor visionaries and paranoids caught in the cyclone. For the chosen ones there is one last splash in drug soup and up the yellow brick road to Utopia.

That's how it hit me. Sound you can't describe, only experience. Side one is double dose. It takes the bull by the brain. Another point to be examined. He's always been eclectic. Why didn't he care? The evidence is here. Something very magical is happening. The man is magi chef. His influences are homogenizings. Like a coat of many colors. May be someone else's paintbox but the coat is all his. A Gershwin tone some Mr. Kite solid Motown early Rundgren. Several other colors. Telescoping sounds. All manipulated by a higher force. Production itself a form to be reckoned with. The conductor is often more blessed than the orchestra.

There are two sides to every record. Excluding Second Winter. So turn over. This is de soul side. White boys got it you know. Especially ones from Philadelphia. "Sometimes I Don't Know What to Feel" is eighty per cent spade. It touches. I hope Motown grabs it and pumps it Top 40. "I Don't Want to Tie You Down" touches too. "The balance of our minds together/ The perfect give and take." Girl and boy move to man and woman.

Todd does a soul medley. The way he does "Ooo Baby Baby." I know he's no Smokey but I'm addicted to his throat. Cracks and all. I find Todd's voice very sexy; it makes me feel teen-age. Less than perfect but a bit boozier than last shots. The way he does "Cool Jerk" is genius. Real cartoon. Goofy and Daffy Duck are there. Roller skates, Coney Island laughter, the mad bomber. Jesus, sometimes I think he's crazy. Certainly not an earthling. The way he transforms mundane to miracle.

The motherfucker is "Is It My Name?" All the animal energy is in this one. A song that self-destructs. Dirty joke...flaming guitar...the cunt...the man to kick in your brains. It's all there. I love it. Never has he seemed more like a son of a bitch. In fact that's another move on this album. Not only is the quality of his intellect heightened but his emotions. This is the least predictable. The one closest to sainthood and hatchet murder.

My voice goes so high
You would think I was gay
But I play my guitar in such
a mancock way
You only love me for my machine...
"Is It My Name"

Moving into "Just One Victory." A Rundgren classic. Very much a single. Though I would die to hear "International Feel" on the radio. To cruise at suicidal speed down the great highway with "I.F." at full blast:

International feel
And there's more
Interstellar appeal
Still there's more
Universal ideal...

Each album he vomits like a diary. Each page closer to the stars. Process is the point. A kaleidoscoping view. Blasphemy even the gods smile on. Rock and roll for the skull. A very noble concept. Past present and tomorrow in one glance. Understanding through musical sensation. Todd Rundgren is preparing us for a generation of frenzied children who will dream in animation.

Copyright © Patti Smith 1973 / CREEM magazine

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Todd Rundgren says "I've got a gun."

With the new Arena album along the way at the end of September, don't be surprised if Todd Rundgren's latest platter sparks a little gun control controversy.

On the surface, one of the songs on the new album, 'Gun', communicates social commentary about American gang gun culture; a plea for disaffected youths to put a stop pulling out guns and randomly shooting people.

In America, illegal gun ownership has now become a lifestyle enhancer, something to add credibility and importance in society. In the song 'Gun', Rundgren sings: "This is for fighting and this is for fun."

But if you go back 28 years, the issue of guns took on a larger than life meaning for Rundgren enthusiasts.

On December 8 1980, Mark Chapman (the guy who went on to shoot John Lennon), was a big fan of Rundgren's music.

He woke up in the Sheraton hotel in New York City. After getting dressed, he placed a copy of Rundgren's second solo album, 'The Ballad Of Todd Rundgren', on the dressing table. Next to it he left a photo of himself from when he worked at a Vietnamese refugee camp. He finished this tableau with the hotel Bible, which he had opened to John's Gospel and written the word 'Lennon'.

Chapman was a devoted follower of Todd Rundgren's music. He learned the lyrics and studied the album sleeves for clues and was obsessed with Rundgren's 1973 album 'A Wizard, A True Star'. He was convinced that Rundgren was sending signals to him.

It was then that an interview with Rundgren that was published in Melody Maker by journalist Allan Jones that really struck a chord. During the interview, Rundgren referred to John Lennon as an "asshole"; a comment that Todd made abut John Lennon's behaviour when Lennon was drunk and verbally abusing a waitress at the now legendary Max's Kansas City nightclub in New York City.

The Melody Maker interview also touched on Rundgren's song 'Rock And Roll Pussy', which was thought to have been a critique of Lennon's revolutionary stance. When John Lennon read Rundgren's interview in Melody Maker, he wrote an open letter to the music paper, where he commented:

"I guess we're all looking for attention Rodd, do you really think I don't know how to get it, without "revolution"?"

History has it that Lennon's letter to Rundgren had some kind of emotional impact on Mark Chapman. Just after 10:40pm, on the evening of the 8th, Chapman confronted John Lennon outside the Dakota hotel in New York City and shot him four times.

At the time of Lennon's shooting, Mark Chapman was wearing a Todd Rundgren 'Hermit of Mink Hollow' t-shirt.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Oasis strike back with the Shock of the Lightning

The new single from Oasis, The Shock of the Lightning, is quite possibly the best single they've released in 14 years. The band have recaptured their original sound evident on their first two albums, 1994's Definitely Maybe and 1995's (What's The Story) Morning Glory?

The song is loud, powerful and drenched a rock and roll wall of sound, that's not only dangerous, but it's heavy, psychedelic and relentless. This is totally unexpected and surprising news from a band who were almost close to becoming a paradoy of themselves. If this song is anything to go by, the band's forthcoming album is sure dominate planet earth (but not as we know it).

If you loved their early songs including Rock N' Roll Star, Supersonic and Cigarettes & Alocohol, then you'll feel right at home with The Shock of the Lightning. Sometimes simplicity works, but the groove in this track is undeniable, catchy and highly addictive.

In a recent interview Liam Gallagher said that Oasis had no competition. If this song is anything to go by, he may be right on the money.

The Shock of the Lightning is a masterclass in rock and roll adrenalin. This is pure, class Oasis. The drum break towards the end of the song is a nod to the Who's Won't Get Fooled Again. Accept no substitute.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Too Many Creeps... Yeah!!

There was a time in the early 80s when punk rock and funk collided and gave us some seminal bands that played it for real.

First there was James Chance and the Contortions, and then Topper Headon from the Clash produced some original studio recordings for a NYC band called the Bush Tetras.

At the time PiL were all the rage in New York City, but one band stood out from the rest of the crowd, and they were untouchable. With Pat Place on guitar and Cynthia Sley on vocals, the band were unstoppable.

It was the post new wave funk/punk early '80s stars of the New York club scene, and the Bush Tetras were one of the most popular and exciting groups of the era.

Who could ever forget the original line-up?

Cynthia Sley - Vocals
Pat Place - Guitar
Dee Pop - Drums
Laura Kennedy - Bass

Their collection of songs recorded from 1980-83, produced by Topper Headon and Joe Blaney, hasn't dated. Flash forward to San Paulo's CSS and hear where they got their riffs from.

Twenty-five years later and the Bush Tetras are still the bomb.

Unforgettable songs like "You Can't Be Funky (If You Haven't Got A Soul", "Cowboys In Africa" and the band's signature track "Too Many Creeps", the sound and the fury is relentless but still independently funky.

Todd Rundgren signs to Cooking Vinyl and gets interstellar appeal

The Wizard, A True star (Todd Rundgren) has licensed his new studio album "Arena" to the British indepdendent record label Cooking Vinyl. The UK edition of the album (rumoured to come with a free pair of edible rasberry flavored paper thongs) will be released in the UK on Monday 29th September.

"We are delighted to be releasing Todd's new guitar rock album in the UK," says Cooking Vinyl MD, Martin Goldschmidt.

Former Utopia bass guitarist, Kasim Sulton, is confirmed to play guitar, keyboards and sing vocals on Rundgren's forthcoming American and European "Arena" tours.

Sulton, who recently was the musical director for Meatloaf's North American and European tours, will join Rachel Haden (bass), Jesse Gress (guitar), former Tubes drummer Prairie Prince and Todd Rundgren (vocals, guitar).

Rundgren is currently getting rave reviews for the new guitar led album, with the rocker "Strike" getting considerable airplay on various radio stations in the UK, most notably, Planet Rock Radio, who recently interviewed Rundgren from New Orleans last week. Planet Rock played the songs "Strike" and "Gun" from the new album.

A spokesperson from Planet Rock Radio said, "We've received tons of calls and emails from listeners who thought we'd just played the new single from AC/DC. They were amazed to discover that it was "Strike"; a new song from Rundgren's new album."

"Arena" will be followed by a UK tour in November, with Rundgren playing dates at Manchester Academy 2 (November 6), Edinburgh Picture House (November 7), Norwich Waterfront (November 22) and London Kentish Town Forum (November 23).

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Same Old Fucking Story, and it's a new album from Cyndi Lauper

"Bring Ya To The Brink" is the name of Cyndi Lauper's 11th album, and shows the American singer in a powerful light. What I like about the new album is, lyrically, Cyndi still in a thought provoking mode.

There's been cheap candy talk about Madonna and Lauper being rivals in the eighties, but I've never seen the musical connection between both artists. The only thing I see is bad journalism.

Before you shy away from the new Lauper album, thinking that it's just another comeback album from a fifty something Diva, looking at the Gay market to re-estabish her place in the pop palace of Gwen Stefani gimmick grabbers, hold up for a minute.

There's enough eletronica, soul, disco and plenty of big bouncy tunes here to fill up your girlfriend's swimming pool, however, although the album does has the odd predictable dancefloor filler, there's just too many great songs on this album to put a damper on anything.

The album really gets cooking with track 3, the brilliant electro ragga, Japanese friendly dance ditty "Rocking Chair". This is Lauper doing Gwen Stefani doing Cyndi Lauper.

This is the song that proves that Stefani's always been a Cyndi Lauper impersonator. In so many words, Cydni sings "Romeo boys they'll be dancing with the Cha Cha girls," while Gwen is treading water in her annoying Hekiru girls bubble.

But Lauper isn't really striving for postal natal depression Studio 54 drivel. Even the most minimal of electronic beats, evident on the track 'Echo', can't take away from Lauper's wonderful vocal stylings.

Cyndi's swansong has to be the disco belter, "Same Old Fucking Story". It's like a hip now generation of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive", but it's more direct and it's got a million times more attitude. Deep down inside Cyndi's always has been and will remain a punk at heart, and this song is no diffrent.

"It's the same old fucking story
With your two differnet sets of rules
It's the same old fucking story
One for me, two for you"

The next six tracks are a masterclass in pop perfection. "Raging Storm" talks about the world's obsession of celebrity. "There's a raging storm in a troubled sea, but you're clouding my mind with celebrity. You can fight for the right to be, but you better not do a bad show on MTV."

One of my favorites, "Lay Me Down" could possibly be the best electronic chill out dancefloor classic of 2008. Lauper has perfected organic dance music with feeling and meaning. This is a far cry from her last magnificent album "The Body Acoustic", but then again, there are also a lot of smilarities. In a strange way, these songs could be played with acoustic guitars. Drop the big beats and Cyndi's vocals could still make the songs shine.

As with "The Same Old Fucking Story", the track "Set Your Heart" is another big beat dancefloor belter that's positioned as an optimistic dance monster track. Lauper's vocals soar high like a raging eagle. This is a skydiving kick drum delight, the perfect showcase to the woman with the biggest lungs in showbiz. This is Cyndi Lauper, larger than life, taking flight and conquering the world.

Cyndi makes a confession on the second last track, "Grab A Hold", and backs it with her trademark emotional Cyndi vocal delivery. This is undeniable Lauper, and features all the ingredients that has always made her so important in the current hollow pop landscape. Sings Cyndi, "If you want grab a hold, let it go."

Lauper ends the album with the ballad "Rain On Me". It's an electronica nod to "Time After Time", the kind of song that gets played at a disco when everyone's packing up to leave at 6am, or perfect for when you're driving home in your car when it's raining. It's Lauper at her most spiritual.

Check out Cyndi performing "Into The Nightlife", the second track from the new album, "Bring Ya To The Brink" on the Jimmy Kimmel Show.

The Mail on Sunday Hails Martha and the Muffins' 25th Anniversary Edition of Danseparc

An insightful review of Martha and the Muffins' recently reissued 25th anniversary edition of 'Danseparc' was written by rock critic David Bennun in today's edition of the UK's Mail on Sunday Newspaper. Bennun comes up with some interesting observations about Toronto's best loved rock band.

Says Bennun - "The under-appreciated Toronto New Wave outfit Martha and the Muffins are nowadays known mainly for their jaunty yet curiously haunting 1980 hit single Echo Beach. Perhaps the reissue of Danseparc will help rectify that."

"By the time of its 1983 UK release, prime movers Martha Johnson and Mark Gane (aka M+M) were making the best Talking Heads records not actually created by Talking Heads themselves."

"But M+M were not simple copyists. While their sound was deeply indebted to the New York trailblazers, Danseparc has a character of its own; lyrically less abstruse - indeed, often precisely observational, with the unforgiving focus oif a documentary camera lense."

"Walking Into Walls, Danseparc (Every Day It's Tomorrow), Several Styles of Blonde Girls Dancing, and Boys in the Bushes all merit a place among the treasures of their time, and still burst with life and energy."

"Now, if only whoever owns the rights to what may be the band's best album of all, 'This Is The Ice Age' (1981), would do us the favour of making it available again."

David Bennun,
The Mail on Sunday
10th August 2008

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sharleen Spiteri injects soul into Melody

Over the past twenty years Sharleen Spiteri is mostly associated with the Scottish rock band Texas. Intererstingly, she's just released her first solo album, 'Melody' and the accompanying Northern soul single 'All The Times I Cried'. The album is a masterclass in singer/songwriting and makes Duffy and Adele sound souless.

Spiteri not only wrote and produced all the songs on the album, apart from one track which was co-produced by ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler at Edwyn Collins' London studio. Now, at he age of 40, Sharleen says the album was her response to the recent split with her longtime partner Ashley Heath, the father of her daughter Misty Kyd.

The collection of songs sound genuine and steeped in authentic soul power. The influences are there, with shades of the Supremes, Shangri-las, Dusty Springfield, Nancy Sinatra, Jackie De Shannon, and even Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin.

The title track, 'Melody', is based on 'Jane B', the b-side of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin's 1969 'Je T'Aime Moi Non Plus'. "It's about me finding salvation through this record," explains Sharleen. "Coming out of a long relationship, made me rethink my life and the one thing that kept me going was music."

The album closes with a sentimental tribute to the 60's singer Francoise Hardy. Explains Sharleen, "It's saying, 'You tried to take something from me, you maybe took it for a second, but you never really stole it'."

This is a wonderful sounding record with a authentic sounding sixties sound sung by a real torch singer with plenty of emotion, heart and soul. Not only does Sharleen sound sexy and sultry, but she displays buckets of emotion and makes each song sound like a memorable timeless modern classic.

She's not faking it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Martha and the Muffins: It started in Echo Beach and ended up in Danseparc

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a French Canadian blogger who swore blind that Echo Beach was a make-believe place that never existed (except in song). I always thought the beach existed, but now, with an interview that was recently published in Canada's National Post newspaper, I think I was bang on the money.

"The song was inspired by a trip the Muffins' guitarist, Mark Gane, took with his pal Harvey to Sunnyside Beach, a soft-sanded cove on Lake Ontario in Toronto's west end. On that fateful summer evening 30 years ago..."

Here's the National Post story in full (published on July 14 08)

Song's creator goes back to 'Echo Beach'

Craig Offman on Martha and the Muffins' guitarist, Mark Gane, who was inspired by a trip he took to Sunnyside Beach in Toronto.

In the late '70s, when walrus-moustached rockers in hockey jerseys ruled Toronto's stodgy music scene, an aspiring guitarist named Mark Gane helped change all that with a hit called Echo Beach.

The song was inspired by a trip he took with his pal Harvey to Sunnyside Beach, a soft-sanded cove on Lake Ontario in the city's west end. On that fateful summer evening 30 years ago, Mr. Gane may or may not have smoked the sweet herb, soaked up the Impressionistic lights flashing in the evening fog and dreamed up lyrics about this isolated retreat, where "waves make the only sound" and "there's not a soul around."

Echo Beach, as the chorus goes, was "far away in time." So far away, in fact, that it can't be found on any map. Legend has it that Martha and the Muffins made up the whole damn thing.

Over the span of about six weeks, Mr. Gane cobbled together a larger narrative about an office clerk remembering her summer idyll. "The only thing that helps pass the time away," she laments in the chorus, "is knowing I'll be back at Echo Beach some day."

Sung by Mr. Gane's future wife, Martha Johnson, and performed by their band, Martha and the Muffins, the jazz-inflected tune quickly became a CanCon classic in 1980 and cracked the Top 10 on the U. K. charts. At the time, this was a rare coup for any Canadian band with arty pretensions.

"The year before, we were playing at the Beverly Tavern," said Mr. Gane, sitting at the Sunnyside Cafe, metres away from where the inspiration hit him. "Then all of a sudden we're on top. It was all very surreal."

A one-time student at the Ontario College of Art, Mr. Gane was part of an era when many art-school kids minored in rock. Many of them flocked to the Beverly Tavern, a hangout that helped pioneer alternative culture in a white-bread city. "It was where weird bands like ours could have an audience without people calling us faggots and throwing beer bottles at us," he recalls.

Bans like the Diodes and the Dishes hung around there. So did another act, Oh Those Pants!, led by Martha Johnson, who with Mr. Gane and four other musicians would form the Muffins in 1977.

A year later, the band snagged a record deal with Virgin Records, which signed them up partly on the strength of their song Insect Love, which was about a lovelorn man who falls in love with a moth.

That summer, Mr. Gane took his fateful trip to Sunnyside Beach.

Three decades later, Mr. Gane's recollection of the creative process is a little hazy. At first he suggested that pot might have assisted in the songwriting craft, but then wasn't sure. "It's not out of squeamishness. I just don't remember."

Other details are equally hazy. The song's name occurred to him subconsciously, he said, as did one of its signature lines, "My job is very boring/I'm an office clerk." For several summers Mr. Gane was a wallpaper-quality checker. In hindsight, he speculates that he could have been channelling Ms. Johnson's brief experience as a provincial ministry worker. "Martha would finish her work, and when she offered to help out the others they refused because they wanted to drag it out. They wanted the overtime pay."

The song also cites a surreal building, but from our vantage point on Sunnyside Beach, I couldn't really see anything except a wind turbine.

"I actually haven't come back here to look at what I was actually seeing," he said.


"I probably have been here," he replied ponderously. "But not in the analytical sense. Not to analyze it."

After Echo Beach took off, the band headed to London, where they dodged spitgobs from adoring punk fans at such venerable clubs as The Marquee and The Electric Ballroom. They also won a coveted appearance on The Top of the Pops, only to be ridiculed by disc jockey Steve Wright while they lip-synched. "Strange to see that the singer of such a cool song had hair like Auntie Iris and dresses like Lieutenant Ohura," he scoffed.

Mr. Gane recalled a lot of sniffy reaction from the Brits, not least of all from the New Musical Express. "They hated us: The mewling muffins and their crappy little song."

At the same time, fans recognized them in chip shops and in Scottish hamlets. An audience in Paris bowed to Ms. Johnson as she sang.

Following the initial success, there were other memorable early-'80s CanCon gems, notably Women around the World at Work. The band then survived many intra-band hookups and breakups, teenage stalkers, critical praise, a name change (M + M) a brief commercial resurgence with the single, Black Stations/White Stations, and then a slow slip into obscurity.

After a 16-year hiatus, Mr. Gane, now 54, and the rest of the Muffins will release a new album in November, mixed by Grammy-winner David Bottrill. In the meantime, the band has just reissued a remastered version of Danseparc, their 1983 album produced by the legendary Daniel Lanois, brother of Muffin bassist Jocelyn.

Despite the band's absence over the years, the song's mystique has not waned. Fans from all over the United States e-mail Mr. Gane, wondering where they can find Echo Beach. There are hotels, hostels and boutiques all over the world named after the song. There is even a namesake drama series in Britain.

Ironically, Mr. Gane believes that Echo Beach does not represent his band's best work, but he is not about to disavow it, either. "I don't like taking anything for granted," he said. "I don't."

Okay, but what's the story behind "Danseparc", Martha and the Muffins' 1983 studio album, produced by Daniel Lanois. Danseparc, a far cry from Echo Beach, is like a distant cousin. First the obsession with beaches, and then parks? What's the connection?

Danseparc is one of those songs that has this hypnotic bassline, played by Jocelyn Lanois (sister of Daniel), enhanced with Martha Johnson's sexy Karen Carpenter vocals, backed with some weird keyboards and King Crimson-like guitar rhythms.

The album is getting a 25th Anniversary release on August 4th via Cherry Red Records in the UK. The album's been digitally remastered by Peter J. Moore (the dude who produced the Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Sessions album) and includes 3 bonus tracks including a 12" inch dance mix of the blessed Danseparc.

What's next for the Muffins, Smells Like Teen Spirit?

And for those cynics out there that said it couldn't be done, think again.

How to destroy a classic in three easy steps.

1. Choose the wrong singer.

2. Film the video as if it was a cross between a Jane Fonda workout video and a piece of soft porn.

3. Watch as the singer attempts some really naff dance moves.

The result?

Toyah slaughters Martha and the Muffins's classic Echo Beach.

Be very afraid...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Madonna says "Don't stop me now, don't need to catch my breath, I can go on and on and on."

Give It 2 Me, the dancefloor stomper produced by Pharrell Williams, is quite possibly one of the best tracks from Madonna's chunky funky album "Hard Candy". What's incredible about the video is how amazing Madonna still looks. The woman is aspirational to 50 year olds who should know better. When Madonna shakes her ass, she's definitely putting out the right signals.

It's no surprise that the video medium was made for Madonna (or was Madonna made for the video medium?). Either way, put her in front of the camera, Madonna's musical persona becomes larger than life.

A welcome cameo appearance from Pharrell adds to the funky celebrations, making this the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid party video of the year.

It comes to no surprise then, that Madonna's clock was probably ticking, and it was time to ditch Justin for the real deal.

Snazzy, groovy, stylish and fun. Madonna chalks up another winning pop video to add to her candy store shennanigans. The one goes out to all those bitches out there (who still haven't forgotten how to dance).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Todd Rundgren strikes gold with 'Arena'

In 2004, Rundgren wowed fans and critics alike with the mind blowing return-to-form retro modern album "Liars". Expect the unexpected from the Wizard, A True Star. Todd's back, but this time he's not asking "can we still be friends?"

Rundgren's new album, "Arena", is a stripped down, back to basics collection of guitar rock anthems. Nuances and nods to vintage ZZ Top, Ted Nugent, RUSH, Robin Trower and AC/DC, make no mistake, this ain't no Salvation Army, formula rock dime store, digital plastic fantastic or a throwback to AOR radio. This ain't distant relative to the likes of REO Speedwagon, Foreigner and Journey.

Todd's got something to shout about. This time around he's really got his trip together, and the process is very entertaining. Like Neil Young, Rundgren continues to push the envelope.

The once-upon-a-time boy wonder who always reinvented the rock landscape with every new album he released, now, at the ripe age of 60, makes bands like the Strokes and the Killers sound redundant.

On his 1975 album, "Initiation", Rundgren once echoed the sentiments in the song "The Death of Rock and Roll"... "The critics got together and they started a game. You get your records for nothing, and you call each other names."

Twenty-eight years later, the former Hermit of Mink Hollow, continues to wave the rock'n'roll rule book in front of the noses of all those cynics who never even knew how to rock in the first place. It's a delightful display of self-recognition and an affirmation that he still holds all the cards close to his chest.

What you get on the new album is a one-way ticket into rock'n'roll salvation. Marvel as you listen to these gorgeous collection of songs. Not only do they evoke an emotional impluse, but, collectively, they also represent a rock mindset that doesn't date.

The album kicks off with the rock humdinger "Mad", followed by the lush mid-tempo power ballad, "Afraid." Make no mistake, on "Arena", Rundgren makes no concessions. This is a guitar rock album, simplified, potent and direct.

Third track in, TR hits the nail on the head with "Mercenary", a song that sounds like it could have stepped out of RUSH's "Moving Pictures" album. "How do you like me now?," screams Todd. No doubt, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson fans will love it.

Are you just lookin' for some "Tush", or is that that the same riff TR's executing in the song "Gun"? The latter starts off all retro sixties electric guitar and then if flash forwards to Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" with Utopia backing vocals. This is a bluesy guitar rockin' track that blasts Hendrix and Gary Moore. "This is my rifle and this is my gun. This is for fighting and this is for fun."

When you think there's no stopping the harder edged rock riffs, Rundgren, takes two steps back and introduces one of the best rock ballads of his career. In "Weakenss" he epitomises the human experience. The song starts with a lazy Hendrix guitar riff that sounds it was just ripped out of Electric Ladyland. Todd comes on with a bluesy, gutsy vocal, and literally sings his heart out. Shades of "The Last Ride" from the "Todd" album, and you suddenly find yourself in some kind of post hippy psychedelic acid flashback.

"Are you ready to rumble?" So, asks Todd in the AC/DC electrified song "Strike". Raise your fist in the air. FM radio, smoking dope in your best friend's kitchen, getting so drunk that you can't even remember your name or your home phone number. Remember that scene in Cameron Crowe's movie "Almost Famous", when the guitarist from the band "Stillwater" jumped off the roof of the house, into the swimming pool?

"Pissin" sounds like it was performed by a bar band straight out of David Lynch's "Blue Velvet", and then gradually morphs into some southern fried slide guitar anthem. Perfect for driving down Ventura Highway with the top down, drinking a beer with the car radio blasting.

"Today" begins with a shimmering keyboard intro, sneaks up and subjects you to a masterpiece in pop perfection. It's also quite possibly the only song on the new album that sounds like a distant relative to 2004's exquisite "Liars" album.

As you dig deeper into the album, the song "Courage" rears its head, and suddenly, you find yourself thrown back into Side 1 of "Faithful" where acoustic and electric guitar interweave into a hypnotic flurry of stunning melodic hooks, enhanced with beautiful vocals and glorious harmonies. This is Rundgren's shining moment; the key song that establishes the man as one of the greatest singer/songwriters of our time.

The song that illustrates Rundgren's genius as the ultimate songsmith is celebrated in the thumping, grunge electro guitar rocker, "Mountaintop". Here, Rundgren borrows the riff from Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit In The Sky", and then turns it into a radio active guitar anthem, featuring one of the catchiest choruses you're likley to hear this year.

"Arena" is Todd Rundgren's masterclass in pop perfection. This is the Wizard's gripping return to the guitar rock album. It's a remarkable achievement.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Lou Reed: "I Dunno, What's The Difference?"

In 1974, Lou Reed flew to Sydney to perform two sold out concerts. As part of the trip, Lou was forced to endure a ridiculous press conference where he was cross-examined by a group of Australian news reporters.

The interview is done in a style reminiscent to the Warhol school of deadpan "show-no-emotion" answers. Lou turns the tables on the redneck Australian journalists, and comes off cooler than Marlon Brando in a scene straight out of the "The Wild One."

Reporter: "Could I put it bluntly... parden the question, but are you a transvestite or a homosexual?"

Lou: "Sometimes."

Reporter: "Which one?"

Lou: "What's the difference?"

Peter Gabriel champions Emmanuel Jal at the 46664 Nelson Mandela Concert

I was fortunate to attend the 4664 Nelson Mandela concert in London's Hyde Park on Friday June 27th.

The low points of the concert included Amy Winehouse, the Sugarbabes and Leona Lewis. And why was Gerri Spice standing beside Nelson Mandela when he made his speach?

The highlight of the show was totally unexpected, and went to the former Sudanese child soldier turned rapper, Emmanuel Jal. He blew the 50,000 strong crowd down, with a lovely introduction by none other than Peter Gabriel, who proclaimed him as “having the potential of a young Bob Marley.”

Jal's Mandela performance was timely, as it dovetailed his forthcoming digital download single, 'Emma' (keep checking iTunes), released from 22nd July.

Featured on the Sudanese rapper's new album ‘Warchild’, ‘Emma’ is dedicated to the British Aid worker Emma McCune, who rescued Emmanuel Jal from a continued existence as a child soldier.

Emma adopted Emmanuel and smuggled him to Kenya to begin a new life, where he could grow up safe and get an education. A few months later Emma died in a car accident.

“I met the next artist about 3 years ago and was enormously impressed with this young man from Sudan,” said Peter Gabriel, as he introduced Emmanuel Jal at the 46664 Nelson Mandela concert.

“His brutal childhood as a 7 year old child soldier taught him to be a mindless killing machine. People expected Mandela to come out of 27 years in jail calling for revenge but he came out calling for forgiveness, compassion and collaboration.”

"This next artist came out of the horror of a brutal war, a brutal childhood with a clear voice calling out against violence, hatred and materialism. He’s gonna have a huge influence in the world way beyond his music."

"He’s still developing and exploring his musical voice, but I think you have the opportunity to see someone with the potential of a young Bob Marley… Please give an enormous welcome to the amazing Emmanuel Jal.”

But this was no ordinary hype. Not even the likes of Queen and Paul Rodgers or Amy Winehouse could compete against the killer combination of Emmanuel Jal and Peter Gabriel. Along with Simple Minds and Eddy Grant, these were the only other artists that truly displayed pure "masterclass" at the Mandela event.

It came to no surprise then when the Daily Telegraph newspaper acknowledged Emmanuel Jal's explosive contribution to the Mandela bash.

"Some of the most memorable moments at the Mandela concert were the least expected. Peter Gabriel popped up to introduce Sudanese rapper and ex-boy soldier Emmanuel Jal, whose vivid and eloquent performance suggested the arrival of a star-in-waiting." - Adam Sweeting, Daily Telegraph

“His story demands to be heard” – Mojo

“Emmanuel Jal was electric (at Mandela).” – London Evening Standard

Emmanuel Jal on tour / Summer 2008:
* July 12th - Rising Styles Hiphop festival in Brighton
* July 13th - Rise Festival in Finsbury Park, London
* Aug 4th - 9th - Afrikadey Festival in Calgary, Canada
* Aug 16th - 17th - the V Festival
* Aug 22nd - the Greenbelt Festival, Cheltenham, UK

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Róisín Murphy: The only woman I know who can turn a chip shop into a disco

Last year Róisín Murphy released 'Overpowered', her second solo album. Murphy used to be one half of the Sheffield based electronica duo 'Moloko'.

One of the songs from Murphy's new solo album ('Let Me Know') had this wonderfully entertaining video accompanying it with the lady in question returning from a night out to her local chip shop, only to turn it into an imaginary disco (you probably have to be a little drunk).

The results are hilarious, sexy and pure knock out. The track is an elegant dancefloor stomper, while Murphy looks like a stylish Grace Kelly with a retro pillbox hat.

"Let me know when you're lonely, baby."

2008 is the year when Coldplay ruled the world

Last week I read a news story in one of the UK newspaper websites where Chris Martin did an interview with BBC Radio 4's 'Front Row' programme, and two minutes into the interview, Chris said something like (and I'm paraphrasing here), "I don't feel comfortable with the questions that you are asking," and walked out.

I sat there and thought to myself, 'Chris Martin guy is not playing the game. How refreshing.'

Along comes the new Coldplay album and everyone anticipates that it's gonna be a load of old cobblers (the American translation: "a pile of crap"). However, not one for name-dropping, but the god-like Brian Eno produced the album (on the liner notes he's also credited for 'Sonic landscapes'), and when you read the credit, you can't help but crack a smile.

Track one, 'Life in Technicolour' starts off all ambient keyboards, then on comes some spagetti western acoustic guitar that's heavily treated. Suddenly you begin to think, 'Wait a minute, isn't this a homage to Simple Minds' See The Lights?'

As the songs unfold, you can feel of a church-like or majestic choir or orchestral atmosphere. The liner notes say the album was recorded in a bakery, a nunnery, a magic shop and a church. It's easy to name-drop other bands like U2, Simple Minds and Pink Floyd, however, this album is more Roger Waters than Bono.

Hold up, I'm now listening to track 5, 'Lovers In Japan/Reign of Love', and it vocally does sound like vintage U2, but the electronic soundscapes are very reminscent of Simple Minds doing session work with Brian Eno. The track has a military ballad vibe to it that is rather beautiful.

This is a lush album, and yet a brave one at that for Coldplay. In the past I've never taken Coldplay seriously, although their last album 'X&Y', did stand out, particularly that Kraftwerk track, 'Talk'.

But back to the new album... Track 6, 'Yes' kicks off with some soothing strings, then wanders into Pink Floyd territory via 'Darkside of the Moon' and 'Wish You Were Here'. I swear I could hear David Gilmore playing guitar on this song. Are those violins I hear? Interesting composition.

"I used to rule world" sings Chris Martin on the stunning title track 'Viva La Vida'. This has to be the knockout track on the album. I first heard this track on the Apple advert and it blew my mind.

Ladyhawke walks the walk and tells us 'Paris Is Burning'

They come, they go, and then in walks Ladyhawke with this infectious new song entitled "Paris is Burning."

What starts off with a lyrical melodic riff reminiscent to Gary Numan's "Cars" (dig it... "Here in my car, I see nothing at all.."), Ladyhawke is seen walking down the street at night, looking sexy and punky, something like Kelly out of Girlschool meets the lead singer of Garbage.

The track kicks off in a suspect way. You think to yourself, "Not another Numan rip off," but then the track suddenly steers off into a New Disco direction, and you're thinking, this is a garage rock attitude Studio 54 disco raunch ditty that really is a lot of fun.

I've read a few things about Ladyhawke, but I haven't checked my facts, however, from what I read, I think she's from New Zealand, but is into Ultravox, Gary Numan and all the early eighties electronic new wave music. She brings it up to date and throws in her own trademark sound.

Where the hell did she get that Snoopy t-shirt?

I think we're on to a winner here...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Martha and the Muffins return to Danseparc twenty-five years later

After 25 years, the wait for the reissue of Martha and the Muffins’ Danseparc is over. Stockhausen collides with punk funk in an aural collage of rhythm and found sound as the second most fan requested Martha and the Muffins album gets officially reissued and digitally re-mastered 25 years after its 1983 vinyl debut.

The fourth album from the Muffins canon, the second of three production collaborations by the now legendary and critically acclaimed producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Peter Gabriel), Danseparc will be reissued by Cherry Red for the very first time on CD in the UK and Europe on Monday 4th August 2008.

The digitally remastered 25th Anniversary edition of Danseparc will be the first of two major releases from the Muffins this year. In November, the band will release their brand new studio album 'Delicate', mixed by David Bottrill (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, Tool).

With songs written and performed by original founding Muffins, Martha Johnson (vocals, inverse guitar, keyboards, percussion) and Mark Gane (guitars, vocals, keyboards, percussion and treatments), Danseparc also features the musical expertise of Daniel Lanois' sister, Jocelyne Lanois (bass), Nick Kent (drums), and the Plunderphonics' John Oswald on sax.

Hailed as their strongest collection of songs to date, this beautifully packaged 25th Anniversary Edition CD edition captures the Muffins at their creative peak.

Track Listing:

1. Obedience
2. World Without Borders
3. Walking Into Walls
4. Danseparc (Every Day It's Tomorrow)
5. Sins Of Children
6. Several Styles Of Blonde Girls Dancing
7. Boys In The Bushes
8. What People Do For Fun
9. Whatever Happened To Radio Valve Road?

Bonus Tracks:

10. Danseparc (Every Day It's Tomorrow) (Original 12”Dance Mix)
11. These Dangerous Machines (B-side to Danseparc 12” EP)
12. Sins Of Children (Live at The Ontario Place Forum, Toronto, July 1983)

“When we worked in the studio,” reminisces Mark Gane, “Dan became the fifth member of the Muffins. Suddenly he’d play a percussion part, and then we worked on a treatment for the sound together. He constantly came up with great ideas.”

The album was digitally re-mastered during January and February 2008 by Peter J. Moore at The E Room in Toronto. Moore is best known for his production and engineering work on the Cowboys Junkies’ The Trinity Sessions album.

Danseparc 25th Anniversary Edition includes three bonus tracks including the original 12" inch dance mix of Danseparc, plus the accompanying b-side These Dangerous Machines, plus a previously unreleased live version of Sins of Children taken from the band's July 1983 concert at Toronto's Ontario Place Forum, featuring Michael Brook (guitar).

“The songs are an exciting mixture of the experimental and traditional pop,” says Liam Lacey of the Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper.

“The point of view, as Gane has said in the past, is middle class. It shows, not only in the obsessions with privacy and with personal revelation, but also in the concern with such classic Canadian literary themes as isolation and the precariousness of civilization and, at a deeper level, with sexuality and the tension between energy and order.”

“Some people frequent parks to romance each other,” observes Mark Gane, “but for others it can also be a place where you can get attacked and mugged. It’s a synthetic jungle, similar to a dance club at 3am in the morning when some people behave wildly and strive to become primitive, but don’t know how to achieve it. It’s impossible because we’re two million years ahead of the jungle.”

It’s no surprise the songs on Danseparc embody themes from the urban jungle. “When we originally recorded the album, we had an obsession with parks,” says Gane. “The concept of the park is an attempt by urban man to get to a point of naturalness again.”

Says the Globe & Mail’s Liam Lacey - “Between them, the songwriters define a dialectic, with Johnson favouring the songs about breaking down the restrictions of the world, and Gane leaning toward songs that attempt to define another kind of pleasant centre, into the almost infantile consciousness of dreams and mythology.”

“Rene Girard (the author of Violence and The Sacred) has said that cultures anxious about peace and security,” says Lacey, “are those most subject to destruction through violence, and that theme, or something like that theme, is often intimated throughout Danseparc.”

“If Johnson’s songs Obedience and Sins Of Children, delineate the social restrictions and traps,” continues Lacey, “then Gane’s Several Styles Of Blonde Girls Dancing is the song about seeking pleasure through dreams and myths. It was inspired by Gane’s dream of walking through a park, looking at trees inhabited by copulating monkeys, merged with Indian fertility symbols carved on a rock face.

The title track, Danseparc (Every Day It’s Tomorrow), is about people in their native urban city centers: structured and fearful, and imbued with complacency about society that is deliberately evasive.

Johnson’s wry commentary on What People Do For Fun addresses rarely-mined contemporary topics with disarming precision and unassailable musicality. Gane uncovers the existential angst in everyday social situations and ignites them with abstract ideas, accentuated by irrepressibly rhythmic music.

Martha and the Muffins: Official Site -

Cherry Records: Official Site -

Monday, May 12, 2008

Call the cops! Madonna's sugar is still raw!

Amidst the initial media speculation surrounding Madonna's latest platter, you'd anticipate that it would be a dog's dinner. Well, you know what they say, "Jealousy will get you somewhere."

On first play, the album is consistently slick, awesome and downright cool. The album has an infectious minimalism about it which is refreshing, when one would think someone of Madonna's stature would try to throw everything into it but the kitchen sink.

But Madonna's always understood the groove and what gets people moving. Her music is physical and impulsive, and 'Hard Candy' is no exception.

The Neptunes enhanced 'Candy Shop' kicks off the festivities with Madonna singing, "My sugar is raw." And you know something, she just may have a point. But this ain't Brown Sugar. It's a metaphor for Madonna's hidden agenda, which is, ultimately, to make people THINK while SHE does all the entertaining.

It's a simple but effective ploy, and it's done with precision and passion.

'Hard Candy' doesn't automatically go through the motions. If you've been following Madonna from day one, you'll know she hates to go backwards. So, with that said, if she wants to co-write some tracks with Pharrell Williams of NERD and Neptunes fame, Timbaland (the king of cell phone drama in the studio) and Justin Timberlake, Madonna has good reason.

The press would like YOU to think that she was so desperate that she had to rope the same dudes who made Nelly Furtado and Gwen Stefani relevant. However, unlike Stefani, Madonna is cool, and everybody knows it. Madonna doesn't need the Hiruku girls to validate her bullshit.

So, we dive straight into the second track, '4 Mintues' which, I must admit, when I first heard it on YouTube, I went along with the pack and said, "This is Madonna gone Wal-Mart!" But on third listen, it was hard to kick, and that's when the addiction set in. It's also good to see Justin participating in something cool again, because, in my opinion, he hasn't recorded anything this funky since his first solo album.

So, what about the singles? There's going to be many. After '4 Minutes', it could be 'Miles Away' the pretty ballad songs with the infectious chorus, or the dance frenzy 'Give It 2 Me'. "You've done it all before, it's nothing new." Madonna ain't no hypocrite. She just wants you to lick her boots.

Can she pull it off live? Are you kidding? I saw her BBC Radio 1 performance in the UK last night. Madonna continues to own the stage. Her performance of 'Candy Shop', 'Give It 2 Me' and '4 Minutes' (the latter staged with stunning hi-tech video footage of Timberlake choreographed to Madonna's live dance routine). Forget the music, visually, the show is spectacular.

It's an event. It's Madonna. Bring on the clowns.

What's probably putting people off is the crass artwork on the CD inlay. Pictured is your royal badass licking a leather wristband, dressed up in some tacky wrestling bondage outfit and a look that's very reminiscent to Peaches.

Track #5 is the acoustic guitar flavored 'Miles Away' gets a robotic synth treated vibe, and suddenly Madonna takes you back to the sound of the brilliant 'Music' album. Potentially, this could be the biggest hit from the album. For those lazy journalists who have mistaken this song for a hip-hop groove throw-away, think again. This is pop music at it's most supreme.

'She's Not Me' kicks off with some funky hand claps then follows with some timely lyrics - "I should have seen the sign way back then, when she told me that you were her best friend ... She started dressin' like me and talkin' like me. It freaked me out. She started callin' you up in the middle of the night, what's that about? I just wanna be there when you discover, you wake up in the morning next to your new lover. She might cook you breakfast and love you in the shower . The flavor of the moment is she don't have what's ours. She's not me. She doesn't have my name. She'll never have what I'll have. It won't be the same." Pow.

'Incredible' sounds like a electro pop funk dance floor ditty, a grown up fairy tale that's both beautiful and optimistic. It's like the cherry on a vanilla sundae. "I can't get my head around it," says Madonna. "I need to think about it!"

'Beat Goes On' features Kayne West, is both sexy, moody and slick. Great dance track that gives several nods to Chic and hazy memories of Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger and Studio 54. This is a great driving track. And thank god Kayne doesn't kill the song by rapping on it. Instead, Madonna makes good use of his falsetto, "Get down, beep beep, gotta get up outta your seat!" Sassy and classy.

'Dance 2Night', another sexy slow tempo funk workout. Great dance track. Meanwhile, the folks in South America and Spain will dig the flamenco enhanced Pharrell Williams co-written track 'Spanish Lession' (for hardcore Madonna fans only).

Madonna saves two thought provoking ballads for the end of the album, the piano driven 'The Devil Wouldn't Recognize You' and the Massive Attack influenced 'Voices'. Both are spiritual in nature and shows Madonna at her most mature, musically speaking of course. What's more, she still looks gorgeous, sophisticated, and most importantly, in control of her destiny.

This candy just got outta control. Sugar, sugar.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Emmanuel Jal knocks some cents into 50 Cent

Emmanuel Jal, the Sudanese hip hop prophet/messiah, and possibly the next most important artist to come along since the great Bob Marley, is just one of many artists to perform at Nelson Mandela's 90th Birthday concert in London's Hyde Park on 27th June.

Earlier this month, Jal implored 50 Cent and other hip-hop stars to stop glamorising violence. The Warchild rapper - a former child soldier in Sudan - has a track on his new album called 50 Cent, in which he calls for the end to gangster rap.

Emmanuel said: "The song 50 Cent came when I was in the UK and there's so much gun crime and knife crime. My cousin was arrested because he stabbed a white kid and for me that was so painful.

"I'm saying: 'You've come to this country, they've given you a chance whereby you can make something of your life and you're holding onto this?'

"But I say there must be somebody who's influencing this kid. Because they had formed a little group, they called themselves D Unit and what they do is they beat kids, they think it's fun, they call themselves gangsters, terrifying other kids."

He added: "Also the producer who produced my album, his son did a drive-by shooting in the Bahamas and he's in jail and what's his influence - he wanted to be a gangster as well.

"So I say it's going to be difficult to call 50 Cent and tell him about the situation so that's how we came up with the song.

"The world that is promoting the violence - we can't say it's the hip-hop artists, it's the record companies because they want to make money."

Emmanuel Jal's album Warchild is released by Sonic360 Records on May 12.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Finland's Northern Kings take on Radiohead's Creep and turn it into an instant classic

Towards the tail end of 2007, Finland put together four of their biggest hardcore metal rock vocalists in a heavy metal supergroup called the 'Northern Kings'.

They recorded the album 'Reborn' which featured their own metal versions of songs ranging from Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms, David Bowie's 'Ashes to Ashes', Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer', Tina Turner's 'We Don't Need Another Hero' (from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome) and Radiohead's 'Creep'.

On paper, the very idea of doing a metal album of cover songs sounded crazy, like some heavy metal cash-in or a metal version of an El Divo Greatest Hits album. Forget it. This is the polar opposite.

This could very well be, one of the best symphonic power metal albums of the last 20 years. It's a phenomenal achievement.

'Reborn' went Gold in Finland when it was originally released on 31st October 2007. The album will finally be released in the UK by Warner Music in June 2008.

Finland has always been into cutting edge heavy metal music, in particular, bizarre hardcore blood metal bands. The scene is very extreme and makes goth metal types seem power pop perfectionists on a shopping spree in their local shopping mall.

The Northern Kings are comprised of four vocalists, who are all frontmen of successful Finnish heavy metal bands. The band masterminded the idea of recording their own metal versions of an electic selection of 80's staples.

Unlike most bands who try to reproduce the sound and arrangements of the original songs, the Northern Kings have deconstructed the arrangements, by coming up with their own renditions, most of which is backed with metal guitars, a full symphonic orchestral backing, and electronic enhancements.

The four vocalists include Marco Hietala from the critically accliamed Finnish bands 'Nightwish' and 'Tarot', Tony Kakko from 'Sonata Arctica', JP Leppäluoto from 'Charon' and J Ahola from 'Teräsbetoni'. Each vocalist has his own trademark sound, including deep, satanic, operatic metal rock vocals. It's all-consuming and larger than life.

What blew me away is the sonic attack of the bands' take on each song. Any band who attempts to cover Radiohead's 'Creep', either has to be totally insane, or verging on sheer genius. Northern Kings make the song their own animal, and it sounds epic.

The general vibe on the album is to give the metal makeover a fully orchestrated backing (string section, the works), with some electronic noodling thrown in . The metal guitars are prevalent, but you can't help but dig the Norse God, Viking vibe of the band's renditions. It's not a gimmick, but it is very dramatic, very lush and grandoise sounding. However, what really makes the songs fly, are the incredible soaring vocals.

If you loved the way Guns'n'Roses recorded the big orchestral rendition of Wings' 'Live and Let Die', then 'Reborn' will repeatedly hit the mark.

A perfect example is the first single lifted from the album, 'We Don't Need Another Hero'. It makes Tina Turner's original version sound like a cover. The Northern Kings have done the impossible. They've re-invented the original songs and they've made them their own. Unlike most artists or bands who record a cover, the version is traditionally inferior and not a patch on the original.

I can't think of any other band who have taken a song like Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer' or Lionel Richie's 'Hello' and have given it a new lease of life.

The Northern Kings sound harder than Iron Maiden, sexier than Van Halen and more relevant than Metallica. Forget the hype. Potentially, this could be the new dawn for what ultimately could be Finland's heavy metal world takeover. And why not? The Soprano's ended their final episode with Don't Stop Believin', and the Northern Kings take a stab at it as their opening track to the 'Reborn' album. Coincidence?

Track Listing -

Don't Stop Believin'
We Don't Need Another Hero
Broken Wings
Rebel Yell
Ashes To Ashes
Fallen On Hard Times
I Just Died In Your Arms
Don't Bring Me Down
In The Air Tonight
Brothers In Arms

Northern Kings on MySpace -


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Lou Reed set to conquer Europe with 'Berlin'

Lou Reed returns to Europe this June to perform the entirety of his 1973 landmark album Berlin. The European dates will see Reed performing with a 30-piece ensemble including his rock band, a string section, a horn section, and a children's choir.

The Berlin tour is being hailed as a rare insight into one of music's greatest minds, a labour of love and an integral part of rock history. It's also the best concert that Reed has ever performed. I had the joy of catching the show in Brussels, Amsterdam and London last year, and audiences were blown away.

Lou Reed: 'Berlin' 2008 European Tour:

Monday June 23 - Cork Marquee
Tuesday June 24 - Belfast Waterfront
Wednesday June 25 - Edinburgh Playhouse
Thursday June 26 - Notthingham Royal Centre
Sunday 29th June - Paris Salle Pleyel
Monday June 30 - London Royal Albert Hall
Thursday July 3 - Munich Philharmonie
Sunday July 6 - Hamburg CCH – Congress Centrum
Monday July 7 - Copenhagen Opera House
Wednesday July 9 - Stockholm Annexet
Monday July 14 - Warsaw Sala Kongresowa
Wednesday July 16 - Brussels Bozar
Tuesday July 22 - Madrid Conde Duque
Friday July 25 - Girona Portaferrada Festival
Saturday July 26 - Benidorm Bullring

The European tour starts June 23rd in Cork, followed by dates in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Belgium and Spain.

Due to popular demand for this prestigious show, Berlin will make a special return visit to London, Brussels and Paris. In addition to playing Poland for the very first time, Reed will also be annoucing dates in Estonia and Latvia; two Eastern European countries that Reed has never played before.

Reed will perform three dates in the UK, including the prestigious London Royal Albert Hall on June 30th. He will also perform 'Berlin' at the Edinburgh Playhouse on June 25th, followed by the Nottingham Opera House on June 26th.

Tickets for all three UK concerts are now on sale by calling the ticket hotline on 08444 775 775, 0870 405 0448, or by booking online from (with the exception of the Edinburgh Playhouse concert on 25th June, where tickets can be purchased by calling 0844 847 2269,

The Financial Times' Ludovic Hunter-Tilney called the Berlin concert; "A vindication on an epic scale… Berlin places Reed's natural austerity in a setting that blazes with musical excess and invention."

"Reed can't hide the pride he feels that Berlin is finally being hailed as a long lost masterpiece, wrote Paul Morley of the Sunday Telegraph. "He strolls off stage looking as if he always knew that one day he would be feted a devastating master."

The 2008 'Berlin' European Tour follows the 2007 European tour, which, in turn, followed Berlin's original world premiere at St. Anne's Warehouse in New York City, December 2006 - the same venue where Reed first performed the Andy Warhol inspired Songs For Drella with John Cale in 1990.

When Lou Reed's album Berlin was originally released in 1973, it was a shock to critics and fans that had just seen Reed reaffirmed as a rock visionary with the runaway success of Transformer, which included the runaway Top 20 hit Walk on the Wild Side.

Instead of producing an album that enhanced his reputation as glam-rock innovator, Reed immersed himself in a highly ambitious, emotionally charged, psychologically exhausting, and utterly compelling work. Berlin was a dark concept album about drifting, tormented addicts in love, broken hearted and willfully disabled ex-pats, plotting their own downfalls in the barren outskirts of a divided city in turmoil.

The New York Times called the album "one of the strongest, most original rock records in years." Rolling Stone named it, "the Sgt. Pepper of the 70s."

The same magazine—among many others—attacked Reed for the work: "There are certain records that are so patently offensive that one wishes to take some kind of physical vengeance on the artists that perpetrate them. Reed's only excuse for this performance…can only be that this was his last shot at a once-promising career." Reed never performed Berlin live.

Thirty-three years after the release of the album, Reed launched the world premiere of an electrifying theatrical concert version of Berlin at St. Anne's Warehouse, New York City (December 14-17, 2006), followed by three performances at Australia's Sydney Festival (January 18-20, 2006). The Berlin song cycle was performed live in its entirety. Reed and his band were accompanied by a string and horn section and a children's choir, amounting to a 35-piece ensemble.

As in the making of the original album, the forthcoming 2008 European tour will see Reed l collaborating with an all-star creative team including musical direction by the original producer, Bob Ezrin—who produced the Berlin album, and record producer Hal Willner, whose most recent works include the Leonard Cohen tribute concert I'm Your Man (now a theatrically released documentary film and an album on Verve Forecast) and Lucinda Williams.

Similarly to last year's 'Berlin' European tour, and before that, the New York and Sydney concerts, the forthcoming 2008 Berlin European concerts will be directed and set designed by Reed's friend, the renowned painter and film director Julian Schnabel (recently Academy Award nominated Best Director for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly).

Reed will be joined onstage by friends and favorite collaborators including original Berlin album guitarist Steve Hunter, Mike Rathke (guitar), bandleader Rupert Christie (keyboards), Fernando Saunders (bass, vocals), Rob Wasserman (stand-up bass), Tony 'Thunder' Smith (drums), brass and strings arranged by Hal Willner, featuring the London Metropolitan Orchestra and the New London Children's Choir.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Was (Not Was) all-star line-up on new album BOO!

You have to hand it to Don and David Was; they've got the funky, jazz-fusion soul brother vibe down pat. Their new album, BOO!, is their first studio album since 1992. Simply put, it's a mindblower.

The minute you slap the CD on, out pops a the funky soul workout "Semi Interesting Week", complete with soul backing vocals, guitar and a cooler-than-now horn section. You begin to ask yourself, "The only other band who can pull this kind of funky stuff off, is Steely Dan, but even the Dan is too clinical sounding when it comes to the dirty raw sound of Was (Not Was)."

Second track which I like to refer to as the 'hit single' is like a throwback to Booker T. and the MGs or the Temptations. "It's A Mircale" is like a wake up call to the authentic Detroit sould of yesteryear, horns a pumping, great vocals from Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens. Suddenly they sing the lyric, "Who broke the fucking TV?" You don't say?

Third track, "Your Luck Won't Last", is quite possibly the most cynical song title of the year. It's the kind of shit Prince should be churning out. It's like a cross between Cameo's "Word Up" and something off the "Sign O' The Times" album. Retro modern, funky, electro wah-wah heavy LA cool. Was (Not Was) reign supreme.

The band show their true feathers with another colour when the fourth track hits the speakers. "From the Head to the Heart" is the only ballad "There's a story in the paper about a young boy laying dead. He tried stealing a TV set, when he should have been in bed."

It's like a merry-go-round New Seekers vibe, lots of piano and strings. The perfect chill out track after you return from an expensive restaurant with bad service and lots of ugly people staring at each other. This track reminds me of something from Paul Anderson's "Magnolia" movie. This song will make you cry 96 tears in the motor city.

Track 5, "Big Black Hole" brings you back to familiar Was territory, all rhtyhm and blues, funky soul and smoky jazz lounge nightmares. Very laid back, cool, funky, something familiar and comforting. Very cinematic. Was (Not Was) like to think big screen. Popcorn for everyone.

Track 6, "Needletooth" is the bands experimental robotic, futuristic tour de force. It's wack. Time signatures all over the place. 2 minutes and 14 seconds of anything goes. This is eccentric Was (Not Was). No Was album would be the same without a track like this. Hilarious fun, completely pointless and essential.

Track 7, "Forget Everything" - 5 minutes and 16 seconds of big kick drum beats, Hammond organ, sexy horn section, choppy rhythm guitar, a salute to the late James Brown, a return to chest pounding funk. Yabba Dabba Doo. The soul review just pulled into town, and guess what? It has a sense of humour.

This album makes Donald Fagen's "Morph the Cat" sound like James Blunt with a hangover. Jazzers will love this track. Losers in your local bar will lose their minds to it.

Track 8, Sweet Pea Atkinson belts out "Crazy Water", a staple Was (Not Was) R&B workout. Sings Sweat Pea, "The Senator's son and the President's daughter, all came to town for that crazy water." Not sure if that's a baritone sax or a trumpet pumping out, but it sounds like a Mississippi soul picnic jam. Is there no stopping the Was army?

Track 9 - it's probably the best track on the album, and for good reason. Not only does it have the best song title, "Mr. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore", but the track is co-written by non-other than Bob Dylan, David Was and Don Was. It's reminiscent to something from an Ike and Tina Turner concert, when Tina actually meant something. Great drums and superlative wah-wah guitar. Martin Scorcese must be digging this song. It's no surprise that Kris Kristofferson appears on the closing track on the album.

Which brings us to Track 10, "Green Pills in the Dresser", a bluesy C&W, Mexican heatwave of a song. Says Kristofferson, "He says Hitler's a hero, and that God is a giraffe." It's stunning, momentous and the perfect way to end an album.

David and Don Was have worked with a list of artists which reads like a Who's Who of rock. They've collaborated with stars such as The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Elton John and Brian Wilson. Now, as artists in their own right, "BOO!" will put Was (Not Was) back on the scene as one of music's true innovators. They have the knack of effortlessly mixing soul, R&B, funk, blues, pop, rock and electronica into a melting pot of originality.

BOO! is a magnificent achievement.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

30 Days of Night: Inside the Creative Mind of Steve Niles

By now most of you will have either read Steve Niles' graphic horror novels '30 Days of Night' or you may have seen the big budget vampire horror film adaptation of the same name. Either way, the fact remains, Niles has put a new spin on the vampire movie genre. And it's about time!

All is not what it seems when it comes to the film adaptation. Bizarrely, like any big film studio, sometimes the original graphic novel storyline doesn't make it in full to the final big screen adaptation.

Before the movie came out in the UK last November, I wasn't aware of who Steve Niles was or his 30 Days of Night graphic novels. Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spiderman) spent several years trying to get 30 Days greenlighted into a big budget vampire horror flick, but it wasn't until he had success with the Spiderman movies, when 30 Days finally made the jump from a jumped up comic book to a big budget horror movie (with a twist).

I got into the 30 Days experience the other way around, whereby I saw the movie first, before I read the first 30 Days graphic novel. The movie was intriguing, but I was convinced the Hollywood studio diluted Niles' original vision that he shared in his first 30 Days graphic novel. I decided to get my hands on a copy of the first book which featured fantastic, if not, disturbing illustrations by Perth-based graphic illustrator, Ben Templesmith.

The novel knocked me for six. It was both intelligent, very direct, imaginative, haunting and psychologically disturbiing (but in a good rock'n'roll kind of way). Once I read the book and digested Templesmith's eye candy, everything fell into place.

I then realised that there were several subplots within the first novel that never made it to the movie adaptation. Strage because it was Niles who ended up writing the screenplay for the movie. After I read the first book, I got the impression that Niles had to compromise about what he could include in the movie and what he could not.

What is missinig from the movie is the back story about Judith the vampire hunter who is based in New Orleans. She knows that vampires from around the world are communicating with each other over the Internet, to all meet up somewhere on the planet to participate in a massive feeding frenzy. Judith almost pieces the clues together and thinks the Vampires will be meeting up in her native New Orleans, but inevitably she is duped, and the Vampires end up targeting a small town in the Northern most part of Alaska (Barrrow).

Every December, the town of Barrow doesn't get sunlight for a month. The Vampires do their homework and that's where they converge for the feed. But once it happens, it's too late for Judith to stop it. The Vampires have tricked her and they work the con to their advantage. But in the movie, you have no idea who the Vampires are or where they come from. The studio thought it would be too complicated to include the back story about Judith the vampire hunter.

Interestingly, I have just discovered that the UK distributor for the DVD release of 30 Days of Night, Icon Home Entertainment, are planning on releasing the movie as a 2-Disc Special Edition DVD, and it will also be released on Blu-ray (apparently HD DVD is R.I.P.).

But that's not all. In America last year a couple of US horror movie websites were streaming "30 Days of Night: Blood Trails" - seven episodes of live action film sequences that tell the back story of Judith the vampire hunter. Icon Home Entertainment will be releasing Blood Trails in the UK as a separate DVD for £4.99 ($10.00 US dollars), and this will be sold alongside the DVD and Blu-Ray release of the 30 Days of Night movie. Release date in the UK is Monday 14th April

But getting back to Steve Niles. Currently in the US, he is experiencing even more success wiith his current graphic novel series "Simon Dark". This is a compelling story about a teenage Frankenstein type loner who is comprised of numerous body parts. He can't remember his name or who his parents are.

But here's the catch - he lives in Gotham City. Simon Dark is the first officially commissioned Gotham City character that has been given his own graphicn novel series who isn't Batman or Robin. This could be the start of a new spin-off trend, and if anyone can make it convincing, it's probably Steve Niles

UK DVD Press Release of 30 Days DVD and Blood Trails -

The Official Steve Niles Website -

The Official Ben Templesmith Website -

One more note to add - Danny Huston is outstanding as the sinister lead vampire 'Marlow'. If you loved John Carpenter's The Thing and the innovative vampire flick 'Near Dark', then '30 Days of Night' will be right up your street.

'30 Days of Night' will literally take your head off.