Thursday, 26 July 2007

Weekly World News folds after 28 years

The final issue of the awesome Weekly World News will go on sale on 3rd August 2007.

Batboy is unavailable for comment.


Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Spider-Man and planned parenthood

Spider-Man fan Andrew Farago recently stumbled upon a Planned Parenthood issue of The Amazing Spider-Man from the 1970s.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Saturday, 14 July 2007

How to make a Captain America shield

The latest piece on Instructables teaches you how to make a Captain America shield out of a barbecue grill.


Thursday, 12 July 2007

Bella Union 10th Anniversary Party

To celebrate an incredible ten years, Bella Union packed out the Southbank's Royal Festival Hall for two nights of music and majesty.

Although a stunning venue, the Royal Festival Hall's wonky acoustics do cause a sense of detachment for some fans. Nonetheless, most of the acts managed to triumph against the subdued ambience. On the first night, the Baltimore duo, Beach House, were a delightful opening act, while Scottish quintet, My Latest Novel played an impressive set of melodic indie-folk, fuelled by violin, xylophone and vocal harmonies.

Mercury-nominated Fionn Regan was totally arresting. After unplugging his acoustic and making his way to the very edge of the stage, he invited those seated in the first few rows to sing along with him during Be Good Or Be Gone. Substitute headliners, The Howling Bells, led by Juanita Stein's velvet voice, offered the mesmerising gothic country of Setting Sun and Broken Bones, while Tom Smith of Editors provided vocals for their beautiful version of Nick Cave's Where The Wild Roses Grow.

The enforced cancellation of Explosions In The Sky, made the second night the far more tantalising and Stephanie Dosen's wonderful voice drifts through the venue before The Kissaway Trail (mistakenly introduced by Paul Morley as The Faraway Trail) gave us their superior indie psych-pop. The Danish five-piece were the first band on either night to approach their performance with any bluster or bombast, and the change of pace is welcome.

It was the event headliners, Midlake, who stole not just the show, but the entire celebration. Tim Smith's vocals were crisp and lucid (despite a lyrical lapse during Roscoe); the piano and guitars were lush; and the varied tempos demonstrated the complex orchestration and accomplished musicianship that made The Trials Of Van Occupanther one of 2006's greatest albums. New song, The Pills Won't Help You Now, written for the Chemical Brothers, should carve out an even bigger fanbase for the band. Guest spots from Romeo of The Magic Numbers, Stephanie Dosen, label founder Simon Raymonde and Paul Weller added little to the overall sound, but their collective presence certainly adds to the celebratory nature of the event.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Album Review: Healing The Divide

The concert captured on Healing The Divide was organised by Richard Gere's foundation of the same name, and recorded live at the Lincoln Centre in New York. It features performances from Tibet's Gyuto Tantric Choir and India's Anoushka Shankar, as well as genre-bending duets from Tibetan avant-garde musician Nawang Kechong with Native American master R. Carlos Nakai; and maverick composer Philip Glass accompanied by Gambian virtuoso Foday Muso Suso. It also features a four-song set by Tom Waits, backed by Grammy award-winning, California string group, The Kronos Quartet.

After a five-minute special address from the Dalai Lama, the music begins with the Gyuto Tantric Choir, ten monks who chant with the subterranean bass tones and simultaneous ethereal overtones of Buddhist sacred tradition. Short by Indian classical standards, Anoushka Shankar's offering, Nivedan, lasts eleven minutes, which is just time enough for her and tabla player Tanmoy Bose to give the piece a mode and melody.

The collaboration between Philip Glass and the Gambian griot Foday Musa Suso has a basic, almost waltzing ostinato that supports plaintive melodies from Jon Gibson on soprano saxophone, quick arpeggios from Glass on piano and, best of all, flickering syncopations from Suso's kora, the traditional instrument of African griots.

Two wooden flautists - the Tibetan composer Nawang Khechog and the Navajo-Ute composer R. Carlos Nakai - combine on a recording simply titled Peace Chants. Khechog opens the piece with the deep tones of a long Tibetan horn below Nakai's hovering flute phrases, and recites the bodhisattva vow to work for the enlightenment of all sentient beings.

Closing the concert and the disc is a unique series of collaborations between musicians who personify the spirit of adventure in contemporary music, as Tom Waits performs four of his classic songs accompanied by The Kronos Quartet. Waits plays up to his role of the indecorous oddball as he struts through ingenious variations of Way Down In The Hole, God's Away On Business, Lost In The Harbour and Diamond In Your Mind, quipping, "So his holiness goes to bed at 7:30? That's not the holiness I used to know."

If Healing The Divide was intended as the perfect musical embodiment of the foundation's mission, it has totally succeeded. From the Dalai Lama to Tom Waits in just under an hour; how's that for bridging a cultural gap?

Album Review: The Fragile Army

The Polyphonic Spree's 2002 debut coincided with a period of new respect for over-sized band line-ups, from Broken Social Scene through Arcade Fire and Architecture in Helsinki. Since then, the Spree have made two wonderfully euphoric albums and have become an amazing live experience. What they have lacked, though, is any sort of substance.

Until now.

To revitalise their pursuit of joy-mongering, Tim DeLaughter and wife/co-leader Julie Doyle have pared their joyous horde down from 28 members to 24, switched the band uniform from robes to black combat garb, and made a return to the more compact pop songs of the debut album. The songs on The Fragile Army are rock songs embellished with horns and choir. On the previous albums the horns and choir were the songs.

The title track is an anti-Bush Bohemian Rhapsody, while Section 29 [Light To Follow], which establishes the record's over-arching subject - "love in a mixed-up time" - explores new sounds for the group, from electronic beats to an Air-like bass groove, achieving a spacey ambiance.

Section 31 [Overblow Your Nest] is one of DeLaughter's more emotionally sophisticated songs and also an existential assertion of self, "I want this world to know that I'm alive," he cries on the surging chorus. It's an individualistic mantra that's at odds with Spree's egoless concept - many voices joining as one to accomplish any goal, overturn any war monger. More familiar are his Wayne Coyne-esque claims of "together we're all right" on Section 25 [Younger Yesterday] and "when we're both together, I know that we'll be just fine" on Section 26 [We Crawl].

While the emergent first single Section 22 [Running Away] is thrilling, it's Section 30 [Watch Us Explode (Justify)] that is the most comprehensive demonstration of what the Spree can do, with its trilling flutes, imperial horns, bombastic strings and fleet-fingered guitar fills.

The Fragile Army is an all-out orchestral and choral assault of optimism, and while it be the stop-start riff of Section 23 [Get Up And Go] or the clip-clop of 20-plus pairs of feet marching in time on Section 25 [Younger Yesterday] that gets you, rest assured you will succumb to this merry maelstrom that's triumphant from end-to-end.

Album Review: Three Easy Pieces

It was always very unfair that Buffalo Tom were given the tag Dinosaur Jr. Jr. when they first began recording. But since their 1989 self-titled debut album arrived just after Dinosaur Jr. redefined indie rock with Bug, it seems somehow appropriate that Buffalo Tom have chosen to release their first album in nine years just months after Dinosaur Jr. returned from a ten-year hiatus.

Though they've gigged sporadically in the intervening years, Three Easy Pieces has frontman Bill Janovitz, bassist Chris Colbourn and drummer Tom Maginnis together on record for the first time since 1998's Smitten. Just seconds in to opener Bad Phone Call, it's easy to hear why they are so fondly remembered.

You'll Never Catch Him is the album's outstanding piece of melancholy, while Pendleton features Colbourn on vocals and, unusually for the band, no guitar; Janovitz instead plays piano and trumpet. The layered production makes it not dissimilar to anything from Let Me Come Over.

Bottom Of The Rain, Good Girl and September Shirt are perfect Buffalo Tom driving anthems, while the album closer, Thrown, has the same qualities that made Soda Jerk and Taillights Fade two of their most loved songs.

Not just a welcome addition to their catalogue, Three Easy Pieces is easily the equal of Let Me Come Over and Big Red Letter Day.

Album Review: MM... Food

Originally released in 2004 but deleted for the best part of two years, the re-release of Mm... Food is extremely welcome.

Perhaps MF Doom's finest record, it's an album with no pretence that harks back to the days when hip hop artists were interested in earning respect for their skills alone ("It's about the beats / not about the streets and whose food he about to eat").

"Operation Doomsday complete" we hear during the opening sound collage, away from his space quest laser fest as King Geddorah and the dysfunctional gangsta whimsy of Victor Vaughn, here Doom wants nothing more than to score some clever points with quirky one-liners over tight beats: the two foundations that hip hop was originally built upon.

There are only four guests invited to contribute lyrically, Count Bass D, Angelika, 4ize and Mr. Fantastik. The little-known Mr Fantastik delivers some incredible lyircs on Rapp Snitch Knishes ("true to the ski mask, New York's my origin / play a fake gangster like an old accordion"), while Count Bass D's lines on Potholderz are easily the equal of Doom's ("I strive to be humble lest I stumble / Never sold a jumbo or copped chicken wings in mumbo sauce / Tyson is a Fowl holocaust"). Sadly, Angelika and 4ize struggle to match the same standard on the album's one tepid track, Guinnesses.

The four-track intermission - Poo-Putt Platter, Fillet-O-Rapper, Gumbo and Figleaf-Bi-Carbonate - contains clips of TV, radio chopped up over exquisitely sliced beats and samples. It's the classic hip hop collage, but rarely is it done this well. Dumping four sound collage skits back-to-back in the middle of the album is a daring move and only someone as creative as Doom could pull it off. It's clear that Doom learned his proficiency with skit arrangements from Prince Paul, but Doom is now the master.

With the exception of the Madlib-produced Madvillainy left-over, One Beer, and the PNS-produced Yee Haw - here recorded as Kon Queso - and Potholderz, Doom controls all the production on Mm Food. The stuttery Count Bass D production on Potholderz darts back and forth over a phenomenal bass line. The 70s Blue Note funk on Vomitspit is up there with Doom's finest production work, and turning the Whodini sample on Deep Friend Frenz from a feel-good song into a bitter tale of betrayal is inspired ("You could either ignore this advice, or take it from me / Be too nice and people take you for a dummy").

The scratch and sniff packaging, live DVD, stickers and Burlesque Design poster make this an unmissable purchase, even if you picked it up when it was released initially. Doom describes himself as "On his own thrown, the boss like King Koopa." He could have described himself more simply, for MF Doom simply is hip hop.

Album Review: How It Ends

It starts, inauspiciously enough, with a strummed acoustic guitar. What follows on How It Ends is a fantasy of drunken gypsy weddings with noirish, debauched delivery flourished with accordion, sousaphone, theramin, tuba, piano, bouzouki, strings and tenor triangle.

Although centred on Eastern European folk, How It Ends is an unusual mongrel of klezmer rhythms, mariachi trumpets, punk guitar surf music drums and romantic strings.

Second track, The Enemy Guns, offers tense, distorted guitar riffs, before horns and Nick Urata's unsettling tenor turn it into a disorientating spaghetti western. The song's military drums clatter into No One Is Watching, which itself is twenty-five seconds worth of battle and loneliness.

The glockenspiel of Dearly Departed sets a soothing lullaby tone, but Urata's suffocating croon as he mourns for a love gone away is totally despairing ("I miss your heart beating next to mine / flesh of my flesh, soul of my soul / come back home"). Later, Urata harmonises with himself on This Place Is Haunted, while it means the lyrics are often unintelligible, we hear the laughter of children, likely ghosts of the place, before the song abruptly ends.

Charlotte Mittnacht (The Fabulous Destiny Of...) is a bowed, basque-flavoured instrumental; Twenty-Six Temptations is a wallowing and brooding tale of love and loss; and Such A Lovely Thing offers suspicion, violence and doubt in its four-and-a-half minutes.

Despite all the depression and gloom amid the lyrical dramas, this is not a joyless listen. The characters in the songs might be dead or missing, but the band are energised, gothic and exotic. An Eastern-bloc party, if you like.