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I was introduced to Noah and the Whale, after watching an interview with Laura Marling, who was a member of the band for a while and the lead singers ex-girfriend. She mentioned them, so I promptly went and downloaded a few tracks to see what I thought. I was instantly caught by their shanty like music, infused with a soft folk sound, and, in general a very summer feel to the music. So I went out the next week and got the album.
The album was released in August 2008, and received a positive critical response, which isn't surprising. They offer something different to the majority of other commercially successful groups. From the album there have been about 5 singles, the most successful was "5 years Time", which has that catchy and memorable whistling at the beginning.
The band come from Twickenham, and are a four piece male group, but have had various accompanying singers, since their songs have female vocals, mainly as backing. This is where Laura Marling had fitted in, unfortunately she doesn't perform with them anymore, but can be heard on the album.
2 Atoms in a Molecule
Fading in with the ukulele and gently transferring the riff to acoustic guitar, the album kicks off with "2 Atoms in a Molecule". The backing riff a gentle, repetitive piece, which has a happy feeling about it, the drums are not constant, coming in and out the song, with something which sounds like tapping a spoon on a glass, being the main percussion. Lyrically, it speaks of the singers failings in love, a theme which underlies a few different songs in the album. The end lyrics of "And if love is just a game, then how come it's no fun?" pretty much some the song up.
It is followed with "Jocasta" which jumps straight in with a quick strum of the guitar, and a drop of the fiddle, after the first verse, the drums begin, and the fiddle plays the main tune while a deep bass line comes sliding in. It carries a folly beat, and the song overall is pretty cheery. The lyrics are based upon the story of Oedipus. Overall, it is quite a catchy song, albeit not a favourite of mine from the album.
Shape of my Heart
"Shape of my Heart" was one of the first songs I heard, and one that enticed me into liking the band. Kicking straight in with lyrics, and a taught bass line and forceful sounding guitar chords, before the percussion clapping begins. The chorus has a break from the music, with just a violin playing, but it jumps straight into something regal sounding, fanfare's, trumpets and such, and the song is now in full pace. As they fade out, the drums and real music comes in, and the lyrics reach their peak. The song speaks of love, and how he doesn't want to be in love, because in the end it leads to hurt.
For your heart is like a flower as it grows,
And its the rain, not just the sun that helps it bloom,
And you don't know how it feels to be alive,
Until you know how it feels to die
Do What I Do
"Do what I do" brings the tempo down, the guitar strums slower, there is a real calm air to the song, which speaks of the end of a relationship, and how he hopes that she will go on fine, and doesn't hate her for ending it. It is different to the previous songs, due to its clearly more depressing music, and unfortunately, there are bits that sound hideously like a Coldplay song, thankfully, a well placed piece of violin, brings it back to the Whale!
Give a Little Love
We then start with something more upbeat, musically at least. The drums sternly putting in a fierce beginning, but as soon as the singing starts, its dries, leaving the drums intermittent, slower, a soft guitar being plucked in the back. It feels all about the words. "Give a Little Love" introduces some piano sounds, in a firm strong note form, not melancholy, more purposeful, like its getting past something. That is the same with every piece of music in the song, it has purpose, it has a feeling. The lyrics read like a final goodbye "If you do (what you love), I will always be the Sun and Moon to you".
"Second Lover" again begins slowly. Ukulele notes introducing it, with gentle xylophone notes injected in. The song keeps simple, never with anything more that 2 instruments at a time until it reaches the peaks of the song when the separate parts mix to form the real music. Lyrically, I think it is about his love for someone who he never had a proper relationship with, but was just a fling or something. It ends on a high, from the despondent feeling, to something more "I'm over it", the music builds into something jolly, and the lyrics pick up to a simple end.
5 Years Time
Next comes that famous whistle, as "5 Years Time" comes onto the speakers. The ukulele chords play, and the fiddle comes in, creating that real summer feel which the album presents. The music has a really jolly feeling, kicking back the feel of the last few songs. It was the song that really made them known with the majority of people, and was great to hear it live when I saw them last year.
Rocks and Daggers
"Rocks and Daggers" the guitar that starts us off is jangly, in a strange way, sparkly. The music is really jolly, and a soft trumpet sound comes in until the lyrics are ready to be sung. The guitar continues, just resting in the background behind the xylophone sounds, the violin and the insistent drumming. There is a great fiddle solo in the middle of the song, its just so toe-tappy and happy sounding, before the lyrics continue again, singing the praises of the girl which the song is aimed at. Another bit of fiddle is played, before the song trails into repeats of the line "But there's no need to play with my heart", which start off slow, but gradually build, Laura Marling's over tracking comes in again, and the song really kicks it up, back to the happiness of the beginning before abruptly stopping.
Peaceful the World Lays me Down
The title track to the album is the longest song. It starts with soft played acoustic guitar, before it later gains some drums and xylophone notes. The song keeps a very slow tempo, but doesn't have too much of a melancholy sound, which would seem like a downer after the previous two songs. Lyrically, it says about how really, we don't matter in the world, and that after we've gone, the world still carries on. It is an OK song, but I wouldn't rank it as the strongest on the album.
"Mary" is quite a pretty little song. It starts with really soft notes and chords, gentle vocals, and carries these through until after the first verse, when things begin to pick up, it gains both volume, and tempo, as well as some percussion. Lyrically, it isn't massively impressive, but it's presentation gives it a quaint feel, which really suits it.
Hold My Hand as I'm Lowered
We now end, with "Hold my Hand as I'm Lowered". Coming in with perhaps the slowest song on the album, and certainly the most melancholy, with it's simple, slow strummed guitar chords, and strong singing, and near the end, there is an almost orchestral feel, as the refrain is sang, with the sound of trumpets, a regal drum-roll, and Laura Marling contributing her soft voice. It is a beautiful end to the album, and lyrically, I think it seems to speak of dying, if not literally, then metaphorically, of heart ache, and unrequited love.
The album presents itself in two moods, there are the really merry summer songs, and the melancholy tunes which group in with them, it is perhaps possible to call it a bit of a concept album, with all the lyrics speaking of love, but never in a positive light, always of being on the wrong side, where your love isn't returned, or you're spurned and rejected.
There is a good mix of songs, some I really love, such as "5 Years Time", "2 Atoms in a Molecule" and "Shape of my Heart" which carry real upbeat feelings, and the music with connotations of summer and happiness, although I do like some of the more slow songs, the best being the final track. It isn't a flawless album, I think that a couple of the songs aren't really all that great, such as "Do What I do" which, if not on the album, the consistency of the songs would be better.
Laura Marling's contributions to a number of the songs add new depths to them, the layered vocals which are used in the songs really adds a beauty, and in sometimes a ghostliness, and it really benefitted songs having even just the faint sound of her voice, such as in "Shape of My Hear" where you can just about hear her, but it's enough to really enhance the track.
Would I recommend the album? Well yes, I would, although perhaps it doesn't need to be on the top of your albums to get. For anyone who likes the modern folky sounding music, or fans of bands such as The Decemberists, of which Noah and the Whale sound ever so slightly like in parts (with the fiddles, the violins and general sounds). The band would also appeal to anyone who likes Laura Marling.
If you're left unconvinced, take a look at :
where you can listen to the entire album for free.
I have had a bit of a habit recently. It has involved watching pretty much every film that features Kristen Stewart, all starting from watching Twilight. So, from "In Land of Women", "Into the Wild", "The Messengers", "The Cake Eaters" and others. Some of those, have been really good films, that, under normal circumstances, I probably would never have seen.
One of the ones that I most looked forward to viewing, was "Adventureland", a film released in April this year, the DVD being due out on 25th August. It was actually filmed in 2007, since Kristen was approached for Twilight whilst filming it, so took a while to vent out into the public.
It's the summer 1987, and James Brennan has just graduated from University, and looking forward to a tour of Europe with his friends, before going to New York to do his Post-Grad degree in Journalism. The only problem he encounters, is that his Dad gets demoted at work, and hence, his parents cannot afford to support him, both for his holiday and university. So, he has no other choice than to get a Summer Job.
Ringing around a few places, he quickly realises that he only has one option, to work with his groin-punching friend in the local Theme Park, Adventureland. He enquires into a job, and gets hired immediately, working on the Games booths.
The film follows James in his job, and his developing affection towards Em.
Actors, Actresses, and Acting
The starring roles go to Kirsten Stewart (Em), and Jesse Eisenberg (James), along with a few other quite well known actors, such as Ryan Reynolds as Connell. All actors perform naturally, and, Kristen gave probably one of the best performances I have seen. She often seems to act the same in a lot of films, kind of awkwardly (which, has worked since she has had awkward person roles), but here she seems really natural, and seems to be enjoying the role greatly.
Eisenberg and the rest of the cast also give a good performance, although, I can't say any of them are outstanding. It isn't really a film where one performance can outshine another, it isn't for example, some sort of epic film.
The film features a great soundtrack, which is, due to the films time setting, all 80's music, but not this shit kind. With artists such as The Cure, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground the soundtrack really carries the film. Before watching the film, I had never really listened to much by Velvet Underground, but there were a couple of there songs which I really liked and have been listening to on YouTube - any film introducing me to new music always gets some credit in my opinion.
The first thing I thought was odd, was that it was filmed in 2007, but took 2 years before it was released. I don't know if they have done that with many films, I thought normally it's a pretty quick chain of shoot, produce, release. I was also surprised, that I didn't hear of it, until I was on Wikipedia, so it wasn't very well advertised at all. I don't think I have even seen the DVD advertised.
It is categorised as a comedy-drama, similar to 'Superbad' and such films, so I had expected something somewhat funny. However, it isn't quite that funny. I mean, there are a few different things that made me chuckle, but I think the film laid more to drama side of things. The storyline, however, was really good, the writer created a rather interesting series of love triangles, amongst the different characters, and the carrying of this story was performed brilliantly, with the natural acting of all involved.
The one thing I really didn't get was one of the characters, called Frigo. His signature move was punching James in the nuts, possibly, the idea of this was to be a comedy element, in the ole slapstick style. But it just didn't make sense, and was frankly stupid, and distracting.
However, if you forget it is supposed to be a comedy, then it is a good film. It is interesting, and well written, well performed and has some good funny moments. The budding relationship between James and Em is firmly written and holds attention. I would definitely recommend the film on that basis.
I thought it was fitting to finally get around to reviewing my mobile phone now. With something like this, I think you need to have spent a while using it, before you can review it properly. I got the phone on September 12th 2008, as an upgrade to my previous Sony Ericsson W850i. I managed to lose it in August last year, and have now moved onto a new Sony Ericsson (W595)
When it comes to picking a phone, I always have a certain criteria, which vary depending on what I need at the time. Back then, my main priority was music. It was before I got my iPod, and I didn't have anything else as an mp3 player. I had been so impressed with my W850i's music capabilities, that I knew I wanted another Sony Ericsson. The next priority, was of course that it needed a camera, and following that were the general requirements I desire, such as slide-phone, new, decent functions etc.
So, did I make the right choice?
The Music Player
Sony Ericsson walkman phones, ie all those in the 'W' series, all have a rather decent mp3 player. Getting my phone through Orange, meant that I got a free 1Gb memory card with it, which was great for holding music. It takes a tiny little card, a Memory Stick Micro memory card. With my phone, it came with a USB adaptor, which means that loading the card is simple.
Using the music player is very easy, the press of a button on the side loads it up, and the menus are very simple to navigate. You can find your music by Artist, Title and Album, and it also gives the possibility of creating playlists. What I did find as a drawback however, was that creating a playlist is a real pain. It involved manually going through to a song, selecting it, then putting, "add to playlist". Fine for a small playlist, but if you wanted a playlist of a hundred or so songs, then it got annoying.
The phone comes with it's own headphones, which are nice in ear ones, with 3 sizes of silicon fittings. The cable on these is short, since it is designed to fit into the hands free kit piece, which connects via the charging port on the side of the mobile. The headphones are great, and really comfortable, but, I had a habit of breaking them, and I think I had to buy new ones a couple of times with my old W850i (same headphones), which cost around £7 from eBay. Not a fortune, but annoying. I ended up breaking the headphones for the last time only a week or two after I bought the phone, by walking out of a pub with a pint, and the door catching them.
The phone comes with a 2.0 mpx camera. I had expected there to be a flash unit with it, since I had one with its predecessor, however there wasn't. The quality of the photographs was good, but only if the conditions were bright, since when it got dark, a flash really was needed. Taking photos in dark clubs in Newquay with it was an epic fail.
With the W850i, the camera lens was recessed which meant it got dust trapped in it, on this phone however, it was flat to the phone - which meant that the lens kept dust free. It also never scratched, which from the number of times I drop my phone was rather impressive.
The camera has a few different features, most of them I never used, the only thing that annoys me, is that in the basic mode, you cannot zoom, you need to be in something like "burst" mode, where it takes a few shots in succession. I do not know why they disable zooming normally. It only has a digital zoom, which means that there is a decline in quality the more you zoom.
The camera also has a video camera, which is good for parties and gigs, the quality isn't amazing, but is certainly decent enough for YouTube, and other such video sharing sites, and isn't so poor that it is horribly distorted when you are viewing it on the computer.
These are some videos I made with the phone. They show the quality of both the audio and video, in a few different conditions. I certainly think that the camera is better for light detection when in movie mode, since had I tried to take a photo in the dark conditions of the last video, it would have been a bit rubbish.
(Frank Turner - Live Fast Die Old, made at a gig, zoomed in slightly.)
(Two friends arm wrestling, in a pub)
(best friend rolling in the snow, smacking into a lamppost)
Using the Actual Phone
Oh yeah, first and foremost, it is a mobile telephone isn't it? Well, that is the main purpose for which I got it anyway.
I really like Sony Ericssons, I have had two myself, and my Mum has one, and my friends have had a few different ones. I think they are really simple to use for all the basic stuff, making a call is easy - just enter the number, hit the green button. Or press down (the shortcut key is as standard programmed to phone book) and you can find the number in your contacts. Really simple.
Texting, again, a new message can be programmed as a shortcut key, as it is when you get the phone, hit that button and enter the blank text message. Typing on this phone is easy, the buttons are solid, and I never found myself hitting another instead, since they are perfectly sized. I always use predictive text now, and find that the predictive text on Sony Ericssons is the best I have used. Adding a word to the dictionary is easy, and changing the predicted work just a matter of hitting the down button.
Receiving a call can be done in two ways. Firstly, you can slide the phone open, or alternatively just hit the green call button. Simple. Ending a call is done by using the red end call button, or you can programme the phone to hang up by sliding it down again.
The menus are really easy to navigate, and arranged in a sensible, logical order. There are quite a few functions on the phone, and they can all be easily reached in just a matter of a few buttons.
The Organiser is useful for storing things on, and I often used it for putting in the times I had to go somewhere, and selecting a reminder an appropriate amount of time before (ie 15 minutes if it was just up the road). This is really simple to do, and made remembering things a lot easier.
The phone has 5 programmable alarms, which are very flexible. Since I did away with an alarm clock, this was really practical. You can programme the alarm to go off at any time (obviously), but can select whether it is just a one off, or repeated alarm. If you want it repeated, it can be done daily, or you can select certain days of the week, which meant I could have one alarm for normal days, and another for the weekends if I was working, leaving some spare for any other alarm requirements.
The phone comes with a number of ringtones as standard, but if you have mp3's on the phone, then any of those can be used as the ringtone or message tone. They can also be used as an alarm tone too. The phone, as most do, has a vibrating alert, which is of good strength. The volume of the ringtones is adjustable, and can be made very loud. I could hear it going off all over the house.
There is of course a host of other functions on there, such as the calculator, and things like that, useful but not used all the time. They were as expected on a phone, nothing special, but not rubbish. There is an internet browser, but I didn't ever use it much, since it cost more, though, it was good for Facebook.
Phone to Computer
Obviously, you need a way of getting photos and video off the phone, and getting music on it. Well lucky for you that has been thought of. The phone comes with a USB cable, which connects to the charge point. Connect it, and you can basically use it like a USB stick, and copy files to and from both the internal memory, and the memory card. If it comes with a USB stick for the memory card like mine did, then that is a good as you can use it for memory card data transfer.
Pictures of Sony Ericsson W910i Walkman
OK Quality in the Dark Kay in Newquay
Ok, now there were only two major problems I had with the phone, the first was the slider. In the duration of having this phone, I owned two of them, after getting the first one replaced after the slide capability packed up. One day, just randomly, when getting the phone out my pocket in the pub, it didn't slide open properly. It was like there was grit in there. I put up with it for a day or so before getting a replacement under my insurance. The next one ended up with the same problem eventually, although, not as bad. It fixed itself when I threw it on the floor once, but developed it again a few months later.
Secondly, there seemed to be dust or something gathering under the screen. I tried cleaning it off with no avail. Dunno what was happening there.
Other than that, I never had any technical problems, but there was a software issue. It would randomly turn off, and turn back on again - which I never understood why. It wasn't a huge problem, just would notice it sometimes.
I was happy with my phone for nearly the entirely of my ownership, despite the two problems. It carried out all the basic functions a phone requires, and the volume of calls was perfect. The camera was good, although in the end, the lack of flash was really getting to me, as it took such poor photos when in Newquay. The music player became redundant when I got my iPod, though I still stored music on there for my alarms, and the quality of playback through speakers was good, although, not the worlds most amazing. The accelerometer in the phone, meant that like in an iPod Nano, when you tilt it to it's side, the screen changes to suit, this is used when viewing Video and Photo, not for anything else, and was useful to get a better view of the pictures when recorded landscape.
The thing I was really annoyed about though, was the games. Not a huge thing, but I did like having a couple of decent games in my pocket, which could help out in direly boring situations. On my previous Sony Ericsson, it came with 3 complete games, two of which were pretty decent, and I played time and time again. This however, came with 3 demos. So, you played the one basic level - and demo over. Not entertaining at all. If you wanted more, you needed to buy them, which I did with Lemmings, but I expect a couple of decent free games as standard.
The graphics on the phone are great, and the screen is clear and sharp, which is always a good thing. It is also a quick phone, and didn't seem to freeze up as much as some other phones I have used. Charging wise, it doesn't take too long to charge up to full, a couple of hours at the most. Battery life is average, and I ended up finding that I would need to charge my phone most nights if I had been using it properly in the day. Towards the end of my time with the phone, I couldn't make calls or send texts, so it became a means of just getting hold of me, which meant I saw the battery lasting a week at a time!
One final complaint is that when listening to music, if you get a text or call, then it pauses the music, and either vibrates (if on silent) or vibrates, and through the headphones plays your ringtone / text tone. OK, that is needed for a call, but it was really annoying when having a text conversation with someone, whilst listening to music, since it would keep being paused. Would have been better to have an easy way, or anyway, of turning that feature off.
If you are looking for a good basic phone, with a now sensible price tag, then you are on the right track, with it costing just £85.00 in Argos. It is a strong, and robust phone, and survived my use in rather good nick - considering that involved it being thrown around, dropped, slept on, being fallen on when in my pocket and the like.
Just to let you know how I ended up losing it. After having spent the day, trying to convince a friend of mine, that pockets were far superior to carrying a bag around all the time, we were in HMV when I suddenly realised I didn't have it anymore. It had somehow fallen out of my pocket, either on a bus, or in the internet café. She did laugh at that...
As you will no doubt know if you have read some of my previous reviews, my number one favourite band at the moment, is Brand New. The guys from New York have been a firm favourite for a year now, and I have been listening to them for at least 3 or 4. This year, I knew would be a good year as a Brand New fan, with them touring in the UK, where I managed to see them twice, on two consecutive nights, and, the release of their 4th, and hugely anticipated, studio album.
All I knew for the past few months, was that it was due out in autumn this year. So, I knew it was coming. In the upcoming months, we gradually learnt more, as tracks were confirmed, such as "Bought a Bride", and "Gasoline", which were performed live, which, at the same time, Jesse Lacey confirmed it was due out in the end of September. Beginning of August, saw the first single released, and a final hint at the direction they were travelling in was heard.
Released at the end of September last year, originally, the album was to be called "and one head can never die", all in lower case letters. It was changed, after Vince wrote the song Daisy. The album cover, features a demented looking fox, in front of a forest, with what looks like snow or ash falling. It is a true Brand New cover, following from the strange cover of their previous album. It is a rather short album, totting in at just over 40 minutes.
We open, quietly, some background noise, and an odd piano piece. First listening - "what the feck are they doing?", but you soon realise it is an old song piece, sang by some woman, this plays for the first minute and a bit, and, is actually rather good, but not something you would expect on a Brand New record. But, then it is bang! Enter Brand New. A really heavy sound, and Jesse nearly screams the words he sings, in an interview, he mentioned the album being dense, and this certainly sounds like it. It is loud, and so powerful, the guitars playing a high riff over the deep drone of the bass, and with vocals so brilliantly layered it is amazing. It has an odd breakdown piece, which sounds really grungy, musically, it is actually mildly reminiscent of the sound of Nirvana on In Utero.
It opens straight into the next song. No introduction, just one note before Jesse sings, his voice a loud whisper, the transition from the previous track is surreal. It isn't grungy at all, the music is soft and flows beautifully, with a guitar riff that could melt pancakes. The bass is thick beneath all the rest of the music, and cranked up loud I can feel my floor vibrate to every note. It is pure Brand New, just as you haven't heard it before, and a simple song, (which is why I have little to write about it), which is just pure awesome.
At The Bottom
I had heard this a few weeks ago, being the first single from the album. It opens with an eerie guitar riff, before sliding into the main sound of the song, a sweet little riff, and with Jesse sounding rather southern. The first time I heard this, I didn't know what to think, it was so different to their previous work, but similar at the same time, but after having listened to it a few times, it is stuck in my head. It is great. The chorus, with it's echoing shouts, the dual guitars, and the perfectly rhymed drumming all add together serenely. The verses, bridges and chorus all linking so smoothly, with their varying sounds, and different music beneath them, followed by a small breakdown, where you can distantly hear lyrics in the background, but they are impossible to make out clearly. From the moment I head this track, my ears were craving to hear the rest of the album...
Some men die under the mountain just looking for gold
Some die looking for a hand to hold
I first heard this track a bit before going to see them in June, having found it live on YouTube. I then saw it performed live by the band. It is another dense song, which starts off heavy, it's deep bass line, and the eager drums. Jesse wastes no time in getting to the heart of the song, with an opening verse which secretes emotion like a priest does Holy Water. The song is a mesh of sounds, echoing guitars flowing over the rest of the music, the drums, beating in such a pattern that I can't easily describe it. There are peaks, there are ebbs. There is screaming, there is the near faint whisper of Jesses voice. The song ends abruptly, but there is a minute of sound, it is like wailing feedback, and I love it.
Opening quietly again. A few chords on the guitar, with a gliding riff shooting above. Jesses voice so quiet in contrast to the previous track, the song has such a different mood to it. The music repeats itself, the riff which slides over the music is, as on other tracks, eerie. The chorus comes in unannounced, it is as soft as the verses before it. But hit the half way stage, and the music kicks off, it rises in volume, the parts all locking together, the once intermittent riff comes and plays firmly, before it just drops off to the softness again, for one verse, and back to the roaring music, the wall of sound that bombard your attentive ears, before it all breaks down, the musical elements going their own ways to fade the song out.
At just 1:31, it is the shortest track on the album. It opens with a strange sounding reverberation, and the music has a western feel to it. The lyrics are echoing to such an extreme they cannot clearly be heard. The music is all that really carries the song, it sounding pretty much like just an instrumental. I am not sure exactly what they were going for here, but it isn't all that great, and is the first time I have been left a tad disappointed.
A thudding drum plays, with a bass line and guitar riff soon following. Jesse starts soft, with two or three lines, before he screams at me. He soon returns to the softness, only to return again to shouting. The music following his mood. It sounds full of emotion, like someone with some mental disorder, quiet one moment and screaming the next. The music that flows with him is so perfectly tight, the instruments blending with one another, the guitar taking a firm lead. It is a thrilling song, leaving you on tenterhooks as to when he is going to flip and shout.
Bought a Bride
Sometime late last year, my best friend and fellow Brand New fanatic, sent me a link on MySpace to a new Brand New song. Named, by fans "Brickhouse" or "Trees". It was that, which is now here, in it's full form, with the official titled. It was another new song that I had seen live in June, and one I was really looking forward to hearing when it was completed. It opens with a great guitar riff, before the bass and drums come in along with Jesse. It is immediately a catcher, the verse flows perfectly and has that soft emotion to it. The choruses are nearly screamed, the guitar keeping it's same riff throughout, with the addition of some incredible wailing from another guitar as Jesse sings "Bought a Briiiiiiiideee". It is nothing short of awesome, and I had originally thought it would be the perfect first single. There is everything a great song needs, from incredible vocals, changing pitches and volumes, a great load of guitar work and the general feeling of a perfectly put together track. Downside? It ends too soon, they could have easily extended the music into a 6 minuter, I would have loved that.
If everyone's a structure
Where their own savior sits
Then I'm a little red house
And no one's living in it
The title track. It has another extract from some old movie or something, before a fragile guitar riff begins. Jesses voice the most delicate it has been so far, the music which builds behind it is soft with echoes and reverbs. The overlapping bird sounds, and another extract of a small child talking. The music then changes, it has developed an anger, the same tune, but darker. A bass line has edged in. Jesse's voice deepened, and the drums now carry the song, while the previous soft guitar piece has become a faint sound, perfectly nestled above the rest. It does the unfortunate thing, of ending a little too soon, since again, I could easily have listened to more, alas, it begins to fade out with that same gentle piece from the beginning...
In a Jar
It opens different again. It is another great sounding riff, before a deep and catchy bass line comes in twinned with an equally great pounding from the drums. The dual vocals sound incredible, adding another dimension to the song. At first, I wasn't a huge fan of this song, but it grew on me hugely by the time it had played through, so much so that is a clear favourite of mine. It has this great infectious quality to it, and I should think it is a prime candidate for the next single. It is another track with some excellent heavy pieces, which just flip from the quiet.
Finishing the album off, we have Noro, the longest track on the album. It begins in an eerie way, some background noise and a twinkling guitar, some reverb edges in as the real guitar begins. Jesse speaks. His voice sounds tender, there is huge anticipation, there is emotion. The song leads you, you know that at any minute it could flip to heavy. As the bass comes in, Jesse's voice goes distant, with calls of "I'm on my way to hell", repeated over and over. It then beefs up, the vocals not distant nor soft. They have the edge that Jesse brings to all his songs, the music has a steady pound to it, and the next time he sings "I'm on my way to hell", there is overlapping lyrics, and it sounds amazing. Next bit of the song? Well he sounds different again, his voice sounds desperate. Just half way in, the song has already asserted itself as pure Brand New - constant changing. You can't predict how the next line will be sang, you can't see what the next chord will bring. With 1 minute to go, the song breaks down, there is some strange fading guitar feedback, before it switches back to the strange woman singing from the start of the album. The song has ended, the album has come to a close.
Shit. That was an experience. I never knew exactly what to expect from them. They started off with Punk sounds in their debut album, they moved into the Emo arena with Deja Entendu, before shedding it, but moving darker with Devil and God. Now, they are darker than ever.
Daisy is a misleading title. It isn't all gentle and elegant; it is full of emotion, anger, and music so powerful that I was left awestruck. This album is a natural progression, so smooth that it hurts.
The album has so many twists and turns, it has so much going on inside it. When I first heard the strange old woman song pieces, I was confused, I wandered what Brand New were doing, I forgot that I just needed to leave them to it, as they could never disappoint. I read a million different interviews, all concerning the release of the album, and Jesse mentioned somewhere, that Vince, the bassist, had a lot more influence than he had in the past and penned a great number of the songs, he went on to say it was scary how similar the songs they were penning were. The strange woman bits, as I have called them, were actually from an old song Jesse used to listen to in Church:
"It's called "On Life's Highway" written by Bertrand Brown. I collect weird things -- I bought some tapes from an estate sale, and there were some old sermons from a Baptist minister in Texas back in the '60s, and that hymn was on it, and it was a hymn that I remembered from when I was younger going to church. We've always been interested in putting strange things on the albums. We don't do it as much as we would like. I think if we had our way we'd just make a half-hour mix of sound bites and things like that."
I could never have guessed what way they would have gone here, the overall mood of the album is so different to the individual songs that I had heard live earlier in the year, like I said - it is dark. Jesse described the album as "dense", and it certainly is, they have crammed in so much into just 40 minutes, it is overflowing with emotion, passion and above all, incredible music. I had initially worried, that due to their constant change of sounds, they would get too distant from the Devil and God, which I had loved so so much, but they managed to evolve from it, keeping all the amazing elements.
There is no doubt, that this is going to be on repeat for the next few weeks. It is going to be on my iPod, on my computer. On the player in the car. I will get so much more from the songs the more I listen to them, and my favourites will eventually become clear, so far, I can't pick just one, the different sounds have me all over the place, but I think, "Noro" could be creeping up a head.
Hear the single, "At the Bottom" on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQijiZmDq28&feature=related
I remember seeing a trailer for Avatar a few months back, it must have been August or something, when I saw District 9. There were a load of trailers for films I hadn't heard of, and most looked pretty shit. Avatar was one of these such films, and I didn't pay any attention to it again. That was until being at home for Christmas, my best friend told me he had been to see it in 3D, and that it was a good film, to which I responded, "oh right, I'll see if I can download it". He exclaimed, "NO! You have to see this in the cinema". That is coming from the guy who downloads even more than I do. I had to take his word.
I mentioned it to another couple of friends when I got back to Manchester, and they had seen it, and confirmed it was a great film. I was still sceptical though, sticking with my initial preconceptions from the early days of the trailer. However, after viewing a house to move into next year (we want it, it is huge!!) we decided to go to the cinema that night. So, it was decided I would part with £9.75 of my limited supply of money and venture down to the Odeon. We saw Avatar not just in 3D, but on the IMAX screen.
Before the Film
15 years ago, James Cameron (director of Titanic) completed an 80 page script for Avatar, and a year later announced it was to be produced after completion of Titanic. As you may have noticed, it wasn't quite that quick. It was announced back in 2005 he was planning two films. One was entitled Battle Angel, and one was Project 880, which later became Avatar. He then announced in 2006, that this 10 year delay was due to him waiting until the technology had advanced, so that he could see his vision into reality. That time has finally come, and the film was released in cinemas in December 2009. It was also announced, that he was planning Avatar to be a trilogy.
The script was apparently written in just 2 weeks, and based upon "every single sci-fi book" he read as a kid. This script had been circulated on the internet, but upon the announcement of the film, it was quickly withdrawn. Cameron then spent a load of time perfecting the script, working with professionals in various fields to make it all more real. This included making up the language of the Na'vi, which was some 1000 words, based upon other languages, in both Ethiopia and New Zealand. Another professional, this time in plant physiology met with Sigourney Weaver to discuss how to play her role, and give information on how the Na'vi could communicate with plants.
The film was given a budget of $300,000,000.
The films stars Sam Worthington, who you may know from Terminator Salvations, as Corporal Jack Sully. He is a marine but confined to a wheelchair, with apparently no use of his legs. He was cast back in 2007, when Cameron was looking for a cheap lead actor, to keep production costs down, apparently, Worthington was just living in his car at that time.
There were a couple of actors I recognised from other films there too, Joel Moore, who features in the film 'Grandma's Boy' is Dr. Norm Spellman, he is on Pandora to work with Dr. Grace Augustine studying the life on the planet, and is expected to lead the diplomatic meetings with the Na'vi.
Grace was played by Sigourney Weaver, who played Alice in The Village, which is I assume where I know her from. She is the leading researcher on the planet, and is keen to build peaceful realations with the Na'vi, having previous set up a School to teach them English. It doesn't explain exactly what happens with that, but she is later known to not be allowed into the Na'Vi area.
The film also features Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious) as pilot Trudy Chacón, and Stephen Lang (Public Enemies) as Col. Miles Quaritch the main antagonist of the film. He is the head of the US Army force on Pandora, and shown to be a brutal man who is used to getting what he wants.
The main Na'vi, Princess Neytiri of the Omaticaya, is played by Zoe Saldana who has previously had roles in Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Trek (movie)
The film opens with Jack Sully being released from Cryo, he is disabled, paralysed from the waist down, which is pretty useless for a marine. The film is set 200 years into the future, on a planet called Pandora. Sully is being deployed to take the place of his brother, who was killed, in the Avatar programme.
The purpose of the occupation of Pandora is a fiscal one. The planet is rich of a certain precious metal which retails at £2mill per kilo.
When Sully arrives at Pandora, you see the scope of the technological advances. Huge great robots controlled by a human driver, super technical touch screen computers. Sully is informed about the Avatar programme, and we are then introduced to the Avatars. An Avatar, is a Na'vi human cross, based upon the genome of the human host - which is why Sully is brought in to control it when his brother dies. Humans go to sleep in a special thing, and are then in control of their Avatar. Sully, and the two Dr's, travel into Pandora, and while they are looking at some plant life, Sully wanders a little way and is intrigued by the plants himself.
He eventually finds himself separated, and stuck in the depths of the Pandora jungles at night fall. Alone, he uses his skills as a marine to survive the jungle, before meeting Princess Neytiri, she sees something in him which marks him as special, and she brings him back to the base of the Omaticaya tribe...
What I thought about the Plot
As I had said, I wasn't originally expecting much, and I kept my scepticism right up until the film began. I had donned my daft 3D glasses, and sat starring at the gigantic screen. The film opened up, and it first seemed like it was going to be what I had expected. A bit too military, the sort of film I could watch, but not enjoy hugely.
Jesus, was I wrong. It turned out to be an absolutely incredible film. The sort you would quite happily go and watch again (although, not at £9.75..) and again and again.
Of course, I wasn't won over immediately. After the military beginnings, once it got onto exploring the depths of Pandora, I noticed the first major cliché thing. The main character was one of those "ooh I have to do this, for my brother and for getting new legs" type people. He had a real motivation that the leads always have in films, that annoying pitiful hero sort of thing. Maybe it's just me, but why couldn't he have been normal, his brother died, he didn't have anything better to do that weekend, so thought "what the hell, I'll give it a shot".
Second super obvious typically cliché thing, was that of course, he had to fall for the Princess. The lead always has to fall for the princess. They have to be too people who shouldn't get on but a deep love draws them together, not two people who have a good laugh, and enjoy the same breakfast of Coco-Pops.
But, once it got past that, then I was in. That's when the plot gets good, that is when it develops much more interestingly. The whole world of Pandora has been created brilliantly, and is very believable, the animals they have created, mostly with very dinosauristic appearance, are well crafted, and behave really realistically. The plants, all funky coloured are also really believable, they don't seem too far out for them to be inconceivable.
I think that the whole film is well scripted, the interaction between the Na'vi and Humans, their language, their whole mannerisms, which are obviously all based on tribes in Africa and New Zealand, so keep great realism. There are some really powerful tribal scenes, one featuring the whole tribe joining arms chanting around the spiritual leader person, it was a seriously moving sort of scene - something I haven't experienced before in a film. Another, which features all the animals of the planet also really impressed me, it felt so right for the film, and well, perfect.
The plot did keep you on your toes quite a bit, though was not entirely original. It was at least not predictable in the most part, which made for a film where you genuinely were engrossed with every happening.
Thoughts on Film Production
The film was shot predominantly using motion capture imaging. That's the one where the actors aren't show in real, but a computer animated character using their movement and facial expressions - like on The Polar Express. This was used almost entirely when the Avatars were in view, expect for a few scenes where it was mixed with real life.
The normal scenes were incredibly well produced, and the sets created were very visual. The use of super high-tech equipment gave it a very sci-fi feel to it. It was certainly both believable and impressive. These scenes mixed in the normal amounts of CGI you would expect in a film these days, and it was certainly blended well.
Then, onto the biggie. The main part of the film - Pandora. Entirely in CGI using MCI, it was nothing short of amazing. The use of rich colours was visually stimulating, and the computer certainly worked its magic in making them look as near to real as possible - Cameron definitely did the film justice by waiting until technology had improved to shoot.
The textures on the planet are so smooth and accurate, from the glistening of a rock, or the smooth feathers on the end of an arrow - they looked the most real I have ever seen on a film, even not viewing it with the 3D specs on. There are scenes of waterfalls and mountains, and they look so believable. It really is incredible how far CGI has come.
Throughout the film, the acting was brilliant. I think that each cast member really thrived in their character and bought them to life, giving a deep personal touch.
The film has a score composed by James Horner, who has composed dozens of film scores, from Titanic to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The music fits perfectly in the film, and I did sit and think about how well it complimented it. This probably isn't the sort of thing you would buy for general listening, least it isn't something I would. The final song, is performed by Leona Lewis, and is, well, shit.
The film was released in 3 formats. Standard, 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D. We went and saw it in 3D, and it was the first film I have ever seen in 3D. First things first, price. Expect to pay more to see something in 3D, secondly, you will be given a pair of glasses to wear for watching the film. They are certainly different to the 3D glasses I remember when I was younger. They are now a large pair, not blue and red, but just tinted, with no obvious colouring. They fit well over normal glasses, which is a basic requirement for me.
3D was amazing. So much more visual depth is brought to the film it is phenomenal. I didn't notice the whole "things flying at you" routine, so I don't think it was used in the film as such. There were shots of crafts flying in space, exiting to the sides of the screen - and they genuinely looked like they were passing past you, so I definitely suggest seeing it in 3D to make the experience better.
3D did have a few issues for me though, and I am unsure if in part it is due to the fact I have dodgy sight or what. Mainly it was image ghosting. As you might know, 3D works by projecting a couple of images onto the screen, the glasses then filter what you see, so that one image arrives at each eye, that is why without the glasses you see the film with super image ghosting which would probably give you a migraine in minutes. However, even with the glasses, I noticed it quite often, different parts of the shot would appear to be in focus, and I could see them perfectly, then other parts wouldn't, this didn't as such ruin it for me, but made it a little less great. I dunno if that is normal, or whether to attribute it to my atrocious sight from my right eye.
Secondly, a general 3D annoyance, is that there isn't focusing depth. Normally, you can focus on different parts of what you see, moving things in an out of focus. With a normal film, it is obvious that only what is in shot is in focus, so my eyes don't search the background, but I found that with the depth being present, I kept looking past the main scene and trying to explore the screen, which obviously wasn't focusing. This is just a limitation with 3D at the moment I guess.
But, all in all the positives of 3D far surpassed my couple of quibbles.
Not only was it my first time with 3D, but it was my IMAX virginity I gave up as well. IMAX screens are huge, massive, gigantic. Something like 8 stories high, they really are massive, and I definitely found this to be positive to the viewing pleasure of the film. If you have a chance to an IMAX then go for it.
In short. Yes.
It is a brilliant film, and something I think lovers of many genres can enjoy. I found it to be just as good as my friends had said it was, and that for once, the trailer actually made the film look shite compared to how good it was. So, go out and see it in 3D and IMAX while it is still in the cinemas!
Oh, and so far it's already managed to hit #2 on the list of highest grossing films, beaten only by Cameron's own Titanic.
t is seldom that I eagerly anticipate a book. Regularly, I look forward to seeing new films, listening to new albums and the like, but books don't seem to create quite as much excitement for me. The last book I was actually excited about was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, since it was the conclusion to a series I was deeply enthralled by. However, more recently, one book has been at the forefront of my mind, namely the very one you are reading a review of now, Chris Kuzneski's latest, "The Prophecy".
I knew it has been in the pipeline for release this year, and since I am on the mailing list, I knew that it was specifically out in October. So, I looked forward to trundling off to Waterstones to grab a copy. When I got to uni, I initially didn't have much time to read, what with lectures, drinking and being hungover, which occupied a great deal of my week. When the drinking died down a little bit, and my bank balance followed suit, I realised I was getting bored of watching TV in my room at night, and that I fancied getting my teeth in to a new book. It was then that I took the next opportunity to wander into the city and visit the bookstore.
Unfortunately, it wasn't out yet, but I could see his first ever book, which has just been released in the UK, namely "The Plantation", was. I am not always a fan of paying loads for books, and so decided that I would check how much it was online before buying. So, I went home empty handed. A week or two later, I remembered to check online, and so went to browse Amazon.
For some reason they had both books for the bargain price of around £3.50 each, and since I had a bit of a gift certificate left, I got both for under a fiver, with free postage. This was actually a few days before the UK release date, and the day I received them, I got an e-mail from the Chris Kuzneski mailing list saying it was due for release in a few days. I thinks Amazon jumped the gun a little.
So, I got the books and faced a though decision. Do I read The Prophecy, or The Plantation first? I had a battle of minds, until settling on The Prophecy.
The Prophecy is Kuzneski's latest, and longest book, it is the 5th in his series featuring recurring characters David Jones, and Jonathan Payne, best friends who met during their time in a top secret military order, known as the MANIAC's. Payne, a local millionaire after inheriting the family business from his grandfather, begins the novel of with hosting a local fundraising event, at the University of Pittsburgh, his attendees all local businessmen, and all dressed in their fancies tuxedo's. Of course, DJ has been dragged a long too, rather resentfully. During the middle of a speech, a young lady walks in, not at all dressed for the event, and arouses suspicions in Payne's mind, after he finishes his speech, DJ an Payne go to investigate, who is she? Why is she there?
The story then begins to unravel. As we discover what the young woman is there for, who she is, and most importantly, why she is seeking the attention of the two ex-MANIAC's, Payne and Jones end up travelling across the world, seeking help from past encounters, such as Nick Dial, head of Homicide at Interpol, and Petr Ulster, who owns an extensive collection of antiquities in Switzerland. They gradually uncover more about this mystery girl, and more importantly, about the package she is carrying...
I have now read all of Kuzneski's books, except from The Plantation. His first release here, Sign of the Cross, was incredible, a real page turning thriller, his second, Sword of God, not quite so good, but still featured a great plot, and his most recent before this, The Lost Throne, was phenomenal, and had me gripped. Unfortunately, he didn't really keep that up.
While his writing style has remained the same, which made it an enjoyable read, I found the book in general, to have no real plot. When I finished reading it, I thought "wait, what? Why did all that happen?" It just didn't make sense, and that was a real disappointment.
I think the historical content behind the book, which centres around Nostradamus, the 16th century visionary, was good, and he mixed in some interesting information and background to Nostradamus in an entertaining way, and that really contributed to the book.
The book's plot just seems too loose, and less believable, that his previous books, where there seemed to be a genuine motive behind the whole thing. In general, I didn't find it to be such a page turner, of course there were times when the plot was a bit gripping, but it often faded into mediocrity.
If you haven't read any Kuzneski, I wouldn't recommend this book. It is not at all his best work and would give the guy a bad image. I am currently reading his first book, "The Plantation", and it is so full of plot turns and gripping plot, that I find it hard to put down, so I know the guy has it in him to write amazing books, and I just hope that whatever he releases next can go back to his former, gripping plot.
When shopping online for Chris Kuzneski's latest book, "The Prophecy", I thought I'd check how much I could get this one for. I knew that it had only recently been released in the UK, though available in the USA for ages. Since it was the bargain price of under £4.00, I bought it immediately. When they arrived, I decided to first read his new book, and then to read this after. If you read my previous Kuzneski review, you will know I wasn't too pleased with The Prophecy, but knew when I started this one that I was into a good book..
The book opens with a foreword, written by Chris himself, giving a little information about the book, he mentions how he nearly gave up trying to be a professional author, after receiving so many rejections from agents and publishers. That was, until he discovered Print on Demand, meaning he could get the books printed after orders were received - saving the expensive upfront costs. He wrote to many of his own favourite authors, and gave them copies of the book to read, and they all loved it, and endorsed the novel. At this same time, an agent had bought his book at a store in Philly, and loved it so much he e-mailed Chris, who had just completed writing his second book. It was then that his career was truly born.
The book is the first in the series of books featuring David Jones and Jonathan Payne, best friends and ex-MANIACs, an elite force of the US military, and the story evolves around the kidnapping of Payne's girlfriend, Arianne. Jones and Payne travel across state borders into New Orleans seeking clues for her location, they call in all the help they can, including that of Levon Greene, an ex-professional American football star, who has tonnes of underground contacts.
At the same time the story of a number of different people come in, these people are illegally imprisoned, and subjected to some rather brutal emotional and physical torture.
Jones and Payne soon end up stumbling upon a much bigger story than just Arianne, with the disappearance of many other people.
After being so disappointed with The Prophecy, I was in a bit of an annoyed mood, and really hoped that this book would be better. I was not to be disappointed again.
I have read all of Kuzneski's books to date, and this was by far the best read. It had all the elements a good book needs, characters you could really get into, parallel stories that you aren't sure of how they connect, and more twists than imaginable.
There were so many points in the story I didn't know what would happen next, how an issue would be resolved, or whether they would even get out of that scrape alive. It was brilliantly written, and proved to be really hard to put down, there was a few nights I ended up staying awake too long, purely because I wanted to read just one more chapter, then another, then another.
The twists in this book were incredible. They were so unexpected, and I was genuinely shocked when they unfolded, the way they were written in was genius, and they fitted in with the book perfectly.
I can honestly recommend this book be purchased immediately, for yourself, for a Christmas present, whatever, if you enjoy reading books like this, then this is bound to be loved. I hoped I was going to like it, but could never imagine having loved it this much. It is no surprise that Chris Kuzneski managed to enter the professional writing market with a story like this, it really is incredible.
I decided to go back up to uni early this term, so that I could enjoy a few days in our halls flat, on my own. The novelty didn't last the night but still. One thing I am enjoying though, is having free reign of the kitchen. Not having to worry about taking up space so the other 9 can cook, or making sure my washing up is done straight away. On tonight's menu, is Steamed Swordfish Steak, with lemon and herbs, served with Jacket Potatoes, Steamed Veg, and a pepper and ginger sauce (made from scratch of course). Not typical student food maybe, but revelling off the fact mum filled my fridge and freezer, along with cupboard with so much that I have to keep some in my bedroom. It's cooking right now, so I thought I'd start on another review.
I scanned my room, thinking what to write about this time, when, from the corner of my eye, my only cookbook jumped out at me. "The Wagamama Cookbook". I got it for my 18th birthday, so that's just 2 years and a few days now, and to date have used it just the once, but only for one reason which I will get to later.
I got given this cookbook for two reasons. 1) I do quite like to cook. Especially experimenting with flavours and bits. I don't actually own any cookbooks other than this one, though would quite like a shelf full. 2) It is a restaurant me and my ex (whom gave me it) used to go to quite a lot.
For those who do not know, Wagamama is a popular high-street Japanese restaurant, first opened in Streaham Street London, and now can be seen all over the place, Norwich, Manchester, Cambridge you name it. I had never tried Japanese food before I went to a Wagamama, and loved it instantly, and, although pricey compared to some of the normal places I'd eat (around £7.00 for a main meal) it was always a great treat.
They offer a great range of authentic Japanese food, all cooked to perfection, if you ever pass one buy you should try them out, and maybe once you have, you will want to re-create that at home...
Available from the Wagamama Restaurants, or online at Amazon (£9.59) it contains a lot of the recipes for creating your own Wagamama dishes at home. The book is a paperback, and its RRP is £14.99 which may be how much Wagamama sell them for.The book is split into a number of sections:
The Wagamama Kitchen
Sauces, Dips and Dressings
Sides and Other Small
Vegetable Main Dishes
Juices and Drinks
The Introduction is just a simple introduction to Wagamama, written by someone in first person. It made a brief interesting read, but obviously isn't the focal point of the book. The next section, The Wagamama Kitchen says that the recipes included in the book have been on the menu at some point or another, and they have only been slightly modified to cater for domestic cooking.
It goes on to mention the utensils and such you will need, stating, that it is best to have a Wok, but you can get away with a large frying pan, and saying things like Ramen Bowls are useful, but large and can be expensive (£20 from the Wagamama website..) and they said one thing they worried about, was the Teppan, "a large flat plate on which the Japanese fry noodles mixed with other vegetables", however a large heavy bottomed frying pan is fine. There is then an ingredients section, which gives the details of many ingredients which you may not be familiar with, such as Sake, Wakame, Konbu and bits. Next up, how to make some stocks and other preparation pieces.
Sauces, Dips and Dressings
Many of the different dishes, will use a different sauce or something to go with them. For example, an Amai Udon, one of my favourites, uses an Amai sauce, which you need to prepare yourself. Many of these sauces are really simple to prepare, and can be easily played with if you wanted to use it in other dishes, and experiment. This section also has various dressings and sauces, from simple salad dressings, to barbeque sauce, they are all kept simple - and as you would hope, they are not too time consuming, meaning you can focus on the main cooking.
Sides and Other Small Dishes
Wagamama make a point of saying that sides are not starters. It says it on their menus, and says it here in the book. However, they are the closest thing to a starter you can get, and do serve the purpose. There is a good range of starters to chose from, some of which I haven't seen in the restaurant, but would love to try. This is the section where the Gyozas are featured. It says "gyozas are often shared in the restaurants, and make great party food." They are something I would get if I had the extra money, but not a necessary. In total, there are 15 recipes in this section.
It has to be said, Chicken is probably one of my favourites, as I am sure it is of many others. Most of the time, when in a Wagamama, I opt for a chicken dish. This section has all the recipes with Chicken in, such as Chicken Tama Ricer, or Chicken Chilli Men. There are 13 recipes here, and many would be enjoyed by people of all ages, such as the Marinated Chicken Stir Fry - which is a simple and yummy dish.
Fish is a much more love it or hate it set of meals. People either like fish, or they don't. I have had two meals from this set, which is the Amai Udon, a stir fried noodle dish with prawns, tofu and leek and a Yaki Soba, which is probably my favourite - Stir fried chicken and prawns with soba noodles and pickled ginger. This section has a great variety amongst its 18 dishes using different fish such as prawns, haddock, cod, bass and salmon, offering choice for everyone.
Again, this section offers a small variety, using different meats from duck, beef, pork and lamb but only 9 recipes, 5 of which are pork. This is somewhat disappointing, since that is actually the one meat I am less fond of. Only one duck recipe, two beef, and one lamb recipe means that you do not get the choice you would perhaps want, but those that are there do look great.
Vegetable Main Dishes
These dishes are those which are perfect suitable for the vegetarians amongst you. There are 12 recipes which vary from simple soup, stir-fries and a curry.
Apparently, Wagamama have had repeated requests over the years for there Salad Dressing recipe, and it was first revealed in this book (under the dressings section). The 10 recipies here vary, containing different additions which make the salads, from a Green-Tea Noodle Salad, to Beef Itameru. I haven't tried anything out of this section, since a lot of them contain a few ingredients I do not like, such as rocket. The ginger chicken salad however, does look rather delicious.
For many a desert is the best part of a meal. The recipes in this book are mostly based on fruit, since apparently it is a tradition to end a meal with fruit, as well as many Japanese homes not having an oven for baking, and their intolerance to lactose. There are 11 dishes here, including a Coconut Rice Brulee, Banana Katsu and a Green-Tea drizzle cake. They give a great ending to what could be a great meal.
There are 9 different easy to make juices here, which range from the nice looking, to the not so. From a nice Apple and Cranberry Juice, which is simply apples and cranberries juiced, to Apple Celery and Mint juice, which again is exactly as it sounds, and something I think I'd leave alone.
The Book Overall
The book runs to a total of 192 pages, and is A4 in design, meaning it isn't too thick that you need both hands to turn the pages. The design of the book is excellent. Each page is well laid out, and the recipes are written in such a way they are dead simple to follow. Many of the recipes also include a colour photograph of the dish, which is great to see how it should turn out. They also act as a real hook to trying that recipe. Just flicking through now, there are a few recipes I want to try purely from the mouth-watering look of the photograph. There are other photographs scattered amongst the pages of the restaurants, people enjoying their food, cooks and such which fills the blank spaces which would otherwise be left. Also filling these gaps, is plenty of interesting information, just random snippets such as the amount of fish they go through a week (1000kg). Not needed in the book, but adds a nice touch, along with the testimonials from various customers.
I think the organisation of the book, into the sections above, makes it really simple to find exactly the sort of dish you are looking to cook, and the instructions are such that confusion is kept to a strict minimum. The book really is a one stop station for basic Japanese cuisine.
I have only watched through the DVD once. It runs to around 30 minutes, and unfortunately I have left it at home so cannot focus in-depth upon it. It contains various demonstrations of how to cook different bits, how to slice the food a certain way, how to fry perfectly, that sort of thing. It is a watch once sort of thing, that you could probably catch online or on TV.
So, It's all Good then?...
Alas, if only. There are a couple of simple issues I have. Firstly, is a recipe that isn't in there, which I love. I am talking of course, about the Duck Gyoza. It is a favourite of mine, and is certainly an excellent part of a meal there, well worth the £4.95 or whatever it was I last paid for it. While other gyoza are included, this unfortunately isn't.
Secondly, while I know it is supposed to be mainly Wagamama recipes, I do feel that the meat section is lacking a little, and would really benefit from some more recipes. More use of duck and beef particularly, which are great parts of any meal.
Finally, the reason I have only used the book once. Cost. These recipes can be quite expensive, if you are doing it as a one off. If cooking them regularly, then all is fine, but, as a one off, no. Why, I hear you ask. It's all the flavours. When I last cooked it, I did one starter, 3 mains and a desert. The Caramelised Sweet Potatoes, Amai Udon, Yaki Soba, Chicken Tama Rice and Banana Katsu, and while it was great fun cooking it, and certainly all tasted good, there was the issue of it costing about £30 or so. It was all the little bits we didn't have in the cupboard, root ginger, oyster sauce, sesame oil, shaoshing wine, tofu, sesame seeds, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, tamarind paste and a couple of other bits. They all came to quite a bit when added up, and so much was left over that we simply didn't use enough to make the most of, such as the soy sauce and sesame seeds. If you are doing these often, then they can definitely be made so much cheaper, and maybe if just focusing on one dish, and creating a larger amount of it.
I definitely do recommend the book. There are some great recipes in there, and the food tastes great. If you chose to do just one dish, or are going to use it regularly then the price shouldn't be too much of an issue, and there are definitely a couple of dishes here I might try cooking here at Uni.
I do suggest however, that rather than cooking your own noodles, you get the precooked ones, since mine went too stodgy when I cooked them.
Last year, the first book I read was Linwood Barclay's, "No Time for Goodbye", it was a gripping read, full of twists and turns. He became an instant favourite, and his talent for creating an excellent book was clear. In turn, I leant the book to my younger brother, and best friend both of whom also thought it was amazing. I was keen to get my hands on more of his books. From looking at his Waterstones listings, I saw that his second UK release was to be "Too Close To Home" which was released in July this year. When going to Newquay, W H Smiths had it included on their "buy two get one half price" offer, so Jam and I bought it, and another book "The Last Pope" for our reads on the train. He read it first, and was extremely pleased with it. I didn't get a chance to get it from him before I went to university.
In my desperation to get hold of a copy, I bought one from eBay, just before I got back home for Christmas. At the same time, I got back the copy Jam had, so I now have two.
I read a couple of chapters one day, and then couldn't resist shooting through it, so completed it the following day.
The book opens with a Prologue, setting the scene for the night, with the Langley family preparing to go on Holiday. Derek, their neighbour, and Adam Langley's best friend is waiting for them to depart, with a plan to stay behind, hidden, so that while they are away, he can use the house to spend more time with his girlfriend, Penny.
Once the Langley's have left, Derek takes a walk around the house, and rings Penny to come over. But, before she can, the Langley's arrive back home, and Derek has no choice but to shoot downstairs into the cellar and hide, waiting until they go to bed to sneak out. However, the Langley's have a visitor, who turns a gun upon the family, killing all three of them.
The book then slips into the mind of Jim Cutter, Derek's father, by whom the story is told...
"What is more frightening than your next-door neighbours being murdered? Finding out the killers went to the wrong house..."
I had high hopes for the book. I expected twist turns, unexpected events, suspense and all that I had found in No Time for Goodbye. While it did manage to deliver them all, I did feel slightly let down in comparison. But I still think it is a great read.
The story is original, and very entertaining. I quite like stories being told in the first person, as it seems to add some real personal touch to the story, and Jim Cutter was a great person to tell the tale. The writer did really well in building believable characters, and completely bringing them to life through flashbacks to the past and small details here and there. This is what makes a good book.
Each of the three Cutter's has a secret. Something that the other two do not know about, and they have no intentions of sharing. Secrets that could destroy the lives of others if they became public. These secrets are what drives the book, as you gradually discover what they each knew. The whole plot is held together so firmly, and is brilliantly crafted. It is a top read from start to the nail biting end.
What I did find problematic though, was some clear typing errors, in both copies of the book I have. I cannot remember them now, but there were around 5 in total, throughout the book. They were quite clear mistakes too, and I would have thought a proof-reader should have picked up on them - especially if I can. It is obvious what it should be though, so does not affect the pleasure of reading.
One of the things I really enjoy about reading, is new words. Expanding my vocabulary. I always have enjoyed discovering new words to use, from my primary school times writing stories and scouring thesauruses for words like "Gargantuan" and "Antediluvian".
This book through up one word I didn't know, and it bugged me for days before I got around to looking it up. The word, was "Cuckold", which apparently means a married man with an adulterous wife, and dates back to 1250.
You could if you want, buy a copy for the sum of £3.49 from Amazon.
Trust me, you want a copy.
I do like a good film. Subject wise, I don't mind what it is on, as long as it is good, and so I have watched a good number of releases. My favourites, are horrors. Anything scary, I like films to scare me, I like to be on the edge of my seat. Unfortunately, thus far I have not actually come across a film that does that for me, but I keep on searching for one, and so when I saw the adverts for this, with the tag line "ONE OF THE SCARIEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME", well, my interests were spiked.
So, as soon as I could, I watched it. No, it wasn't in the cinema, but online, unfortunately a bank balance in the negative figures tends to put stop to cinema trips, but doesn't stop a visit to a friends flat.
"Paranormal Activity" was shot on a super low budget of $15,000 and impressively has so far brought a turnover of over $100,000,000. It was originally released back in 2007, as a small film made by Oren Peli premiering at a scary films festival. It was then picked up by Paramount, who released it at 13 campuses in the US, it was after this success that the film gradually rose in popularity, before Paramount Pictures deciding to make a full release of the film.
Shot in typical "found footage" style, such as the Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield, the film follows Katie and Micah, a couple who have recently moved in together in California. Katie has been haunted for years by a spirit, and Micah decides to try and catch some "Paranormal Activity" on camera.
The camera is set up in the bedroom each night, as well as exploring some of their day life in the day time. The film shows the footage recorded on the nights where something happens, from doors slamming shut, a ghostly breeze, and even visible signs that there has been something present...
The film explores what it is that is following Katie, and as an audience we gradually find out more....
.... or maybe not. The first thing I thought was that at the end of watching the film, we don't actually learn anything. You reach the end, and the first thing we all asked each other was "what the hell?" the film seemed to have no point. It never explained what this thing was, what it was doing, why it was doing it. It just left it too open, like a book where the middle chapters were ripped out and you read the end too soon.
We all sat in the dark, watching, hoping for something terrifying. I was hoping to find a film scary. But no such luck, it didn't even manage to make me jump. While the plot wasn't predictable, it was just, boring. The only positive thing I can say for it is that it did provide entertainment as we all joked around about it.
The filming was done well, and not as shaky as Blair Witch, so those who might be worried about the motion sickness feeling they may have gotten with these films previously needn't be worried. The characters themselves were pretty poor too, I just didn't connect with them, maybe because there wasn't enough behind it. It was one plot, and so a flat movie.
I think that had there been a bit more character development, some history to the whole thing, more explained, then maybe we'd have been more taken in by the film, watched that bit more closely, and jumped at some moments. If there was some real plot to the story, then maybe I could have sat at the end and gone, "wow, that explains it". But no such luck. It was a small budget, and that really shows.
I can't see how people were scared by it, apparently during initial screenings people actually walked out through fear, but I cannot see how. It was a film I found so unengrossing that I wouldn't even think about purchasing it on DVD or seeing it again. It lacked any kind of "see-it-again-ness", though maybe it is one of those films that you should see just so you've seen it, like it's equally sire brethren Blair Witch, which is the only reason I have recommended it.
Apparently Oren Peli is now working on a new film, with a much larger budget this time, entitled "Area 51" due for release next year. Hopefully his career will have moved on a bit...
I am a huge tea drinker. Mornings aren't right without a cup of tea straight away, one there is always one before bed. Then, as many as I fancy during the day, which can be anything up to 20 or so. I always have enjoyed drinking tea, but since coming to uni, I seem to drink it even more, probably due partially to fact that water here tastes horrible, even with squash, and I cannot afford to live on Pepsi Max.
The other thing that has changed at uni, is what I have to spend money on. From buying my own food, to washing, and all those other things which I had previously been able to rely on Mum for, it all added up, and my overdraft was demolished rather too quickly (still waiting for my student loan...) and that left me with my cupboards running bare, as I watched the last pounds drift out of my bank accounts.
Then, I remembered back when I was 13, and my lust for getting post. I used to love it, anything really, from junk mail or letters, getting post was awesome, and one way I had found of guaranteeing that I got something, was a few websites out there which offered free stuff. From samples of products to random promotional goods. This memory was triggered by the promotion from Bailey's offering tiny bottles of there coffee flavoured Irish Cream, and I thought that while I was sending off for that, I should look at some of the sites I used to visit, and see if there is anything useful to send off for.
So, I scoured the pages of www.freestuffjunction.co.uk, and on one page there was a link to send off for a free sample of Clipper Organic Tea, a brand that I had never heard of, but a product I used daily. I filled in the form, and a few days later I had some post.
About Clipper Teas
Clipper are a brand that I had never heard of, and never seen advertised, but a look around their website shows that they have a range of different Teas, suitable for everyone's tea drinking tastes.
First off, is this, Clipper Organic Everyday Tea, then their other Everyday Tea, Clipper Fairtrade ET, both available in bags or loose leaf. Then you have the "Classic Teas", which are those such as Earl Gray, or Assam. Plus a large range of white, green and infusion teas, from Redbush, Lemon and Ginger, White Tea + Peppermint, Green Tea with Aloe Vera and so many more. If that is where your tea taste lies, then they have something for you. But they don't just stop at tea. They also offer Coffee, and Hot Chocolate. With so many products on offer, I have no idea how I have missed them before..
The company started 25 years ago, with just two chests of Assam tea, which proved so popular the company grew and grew. This year, they redesigned their packaging, which seems to show their values of Organic and Fairtrade (respectively)
Me and Clipper
I had just got back from a morning lecture, checked my post and now had some new Tea to try. My friend Corey had came back with me, and so into the kitchen we went to sample this new brand. The kettle boiled, the cups were fetched from the cupboard, and a tea spoon was discovered (reluctantly). I opened the small sample packet, and the first thing I noticed was the distinctly different colouring to the actual bag, it looked, well, more natural, although I have no idea if it is. The bags are the traditional rectangle shape and into the cup two went.
As I poured the water over, I noticed that this tea brewed quickly, certainly quicker than my then favourite PG Tips. I added the sugar, and a drop of milk, and we sat down to quench the first we had achieved from working so hard in a lecture...
It was instantaneous, we both knew that this was awesome tea. There was no question, it was great, and thoroughly enjoyed by the pair of us, and has launched it's way to the top of our tea lists. It has a refreshing quality to, and it just tastes amazing.
The 10 tea bags in the sample soon disappeared, and Corey sent off for his own, and I sent off for more to be sent to my home address. While home for the weekend, I also managed to get my mum to fork out the £2.09 from Co-Op for the box of 80 tea bags.
I don't really care for organic. I am not fussed with Fair Trade, and I don't usually steer towards such products purely for their labels. I go on quality and price. Clipper Organic Tea certainly wins with the former, it is excellent quality in every sense of the word. It is everything Tea should be.
Pricewise, in Tesco they are £2.29, and I couldn't see them in ASDA (though they did have other Clipper products), compared to 80 PG Tips being £2.21, and 80 Tetleys or Yorkshire Tea being £1.88, this seems reasonable. I certainly think it is worth forking out the extra 40p for an above average product.
If you want to try for yourself, then send of for the sample, which comes with a 50p of coupon from www.clipper-teas.com/join-our-club, after trying once this tea converted me to become a regular buyer, maybe it can get you too...
Over the years, I had gradually been going off squash drinks. From being young and drinking nothing but, I guess I got bored with them, and preferred the more tasty drinks of Fruit Juices and Fizzy Drinks. It was eventually at the point, where I drank nothing but Tea, Orange Juice, or fizzy drinks, squash was for the emergencies - when there was nothing else to have.
But then, Mum bought a bottle of Vimto. It sat on the kitchen side, unopened, untested by anyone in the family. I tried it out of curiosity, I mean, I like the fizzy version, which I had been enjoying for years.
First off, Vimto Juice Drink comes in two varieties, the normal, and no added sugar, the latter being much healthier, due to the lower sugar content. They can both be bought from all major supermarkets in two bottle sizes, either the large (2 Litre) for around £2 (ASDA) and the smaller, 750ml bottle. It tends to work out better buying the large bottles, but I know that when there have been offers on in Tesco, it can be cheaper getting two smaller bottles.
As a squash drink, you obviously need to dilute it. I like mine pretty strong, so that it has a good Vimto taste, and so use quite a bit compared to how much I would use of other squash drinks, however that is down to personal taste, and I know people enjoy it with less too.
It certainly tastes like it's fizzy counterpart, and after I first tried it, it became a regular drink for me. It is nice and sweet, and certainly refreshing when made with cold water. The only thing I do find however, is that, perhaps because I make it so strong, it does rather fill me up, and can be a little sickly if I drink too much of it. I have also tried the No Added Sugar version, and while it is clearly healthier, I do not like it. The taste is too dry for me, and it is not anywhere near as thirst quenching.
A Bit more About Vimto
The juice is actually made from Grapes, Raspberries and Blackcurrants, and I haven't seen a similar alternative on the market. The Vimto Brand spans a number of different products, from Ice Lollies, sweets and of course the fizzy, still and cordial drinks.
Originally called Vim Tonic, it was created in the village of Timperley, Manchester in 1908, by a medicine and spice salesman, John Nichols, whom saw, due to the temperance movement, the drinks market rapidly opening up for Soft Drinks. It is still made in Britain, in both Derbyshire and Yorkshire, as well as being produced in Saudi Arabi and Yeman, it is apparently the most popular drink during Ramadan...
Different Ways to Enjoy
Other the time I have been drinking Vimto, I have discovered a number of different ways to enjoy the drink. First off, is using sparkling water. This I found when I was working in a pub, and used to bring a bottle of Vimto with me, then used the sparking water to make the fizzy Vimto. Cheap and easy - I should think this would work well if you bought bottles of Sparking water too.
Second up, is in Orange Juice, while this isn't that amazing, it's something my elder brother does. He puts a bit of the cordial in the glass and uses Orange Juice instead of water, it is quite nice.
Get a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, and add some Vimto. It tastes a bit like the Fruit Pastel Ice Lollies, and is much nicer than the standard drink.
Like Strongbow and Black? Or any other cider and blackcurrant drinks? Since starting Uni, I realised that I couldn't afford to keep drinking Magners, since it costs so much more than cheaper alternatives. The problem, though, was that I can't stand the taste of Strongbow. Problem solved by simply adding some Vimto - which then makes it taste lovely!
Having a quick read up on Wikipedia, it says that a hot version, made by adding Hot Water is "very popular in this form throughout Manchester". I dunno if it is exactly true, and I certainly haven't seen anyone drinking it like this whilst being here, but it does sound interesting, and I will give it a go sometime.
I really like trying new ciders. It started when I discovered my love for Magners, and since then, I have tried as many different ciders as possible. If I ever see one sat on the shelf in Tesco, or on tap at the pub then I try it. Some of the time, this means I find a shitty horrible dry cider, like Savana Dry, most of the time, I find one that is passable, and not unpleasant. Occasionally however, I find something amazing, like Scrumpy.
So, when I saw that WKD were releasing their own Cider, known as WKD Apple Core cider, I thought it was my duty to try it. Knowing the ghastly sweetness of normal WKD, which is fine as a quick down, but not worth drinking normally, I did not expect anything amazing.
It took me quite a while to actually find the stuff to try, having told mum to grab me a bottle in Tesco, but today, I noticed it sat there, in the Cider section, for the price of £2.00.
The WKD Touch
I read a little about it, and WKD apparently wanted to "broaden the appeal of the WKD brand, and at the same time bring a new edge to the cider category" . Continuing that apparently "research has shown that there is demand amongst cider consumers for a sweeter, lighter cider drink with a more modern image". I am not sure what Cider consumers they have been speaking to, but a sweeter lighter cider? Hmm, I am sure that WKD will be going to the furthest end of the sweet spectrum and am fairly sure that the people they spoke to, would be the consumers of the shitty battery acid varieties of cider, which have a super ABV but have the harshness of drinking heroin needles.
So, it is fine to say, I'm not expecting anything amazing. What I am expecting is one of two things. Either, it will be like VK Apple, which is pretty much alcoholic appleade, which I had the unfortunate experience of drinking when I was in Newquay, and it was dirt cheap, and my friends went to the bar. The other option I expect, is something tasting like the Apple Kopparburg, which is really horrible as well. It tastes like, well, apple. But the artificial over sweet taste of apple.
But what will the taste test say?
Packaging, Availability and Such Jazz
The standard bottle, is 500ml, and is bright green in colour, with a black WKD label. On the back, is a small label, with the basic alcohol details. It contains 2.3 units of alcohol per bottle, which is as expected for the 4.5% ABV.
I have only seen it in this standard bottle form, though, as you can see in the picture, it is available in a box multipack. The standard bottle is just £2.00 which is average for this sort of cider.
I haven't seen it in a pub yet, and only today did I see it in Tesco. I did see it in Bargain Booze in Newquay last week too, so I should think that distribution is gradually rising. WKD have said that it should be placed with other Ciders, and not with the Ready to Drinks (like other WKD), I'll decide if that is right when I have tasted it!
The All Important Taste Test
It is best served chilled, so I left in the fridge for a day or so, to reach maximum coldness. Upon opening the bottle there is a distinct Apple smell. Like apple pie or something. Not like cider at all. It is clear coloured, maybe with a slight green tint.
I cautiously took my first sip and as I expected, it is flipping horrible. The initial taste is apple-like, but it leaves a vulgar aftertaste, and I actually grimaced my face when swallowing it. It isn't overtly sweet, which I had expected it to be, but is definitely sweeter than something decent, like Magners.
They said they wanted to give a new edge to cider, well they haven't. It actually tastes like gone-off apples. I don't know why anyone would ever want to drink this. I think it even tastes a bit like my mouth does when I throw up...
To the Core
It is horrible. There is no debating it. There is no question over the tastes, no querying whether it sits nicely on the palette. It is purely disgusting, and on that basis, I do not recommend it at all. If you feel curious, or don't trust my judgement on cider, then you are a fool. It is not something to try. Don't be hooked in by their advertising, the attractive green tint of the bottle, or the WKD name.
WKD have not done well here, and saying "Apple Cider made the WKD way to give a refreshing taste" is pure lies. This wouldn't refresh a camel.
My months of waiting are finally over.
I have sat, with eager ears, awaiting the third studio release from the one and only Frank Turner, pretty much ever since he performed a new song in January, when I saw him live in Cambridge. I hadn't heard much from him over the year, until July time, when I was working in Chesterton. Stood, digging up a patio - I heard the radio song change, and a familiar voice came across me. I dropped the pick axe, and stood in awe. A new song - a great one at that. I then went online and saw the release date of the album was scheduled.
Since his last album, Frank has been a busy chap, and this summer was the opening act for the Offspring. Bringing the awesomeness that is the real Frank Turner, to the USA. One gig, would have been amazing to attend - Frank Turner, Dropkick Murphy's and The Offspring - how can you beat that?
== Let's Inherit the Earth...==
I was as eager as hell to get this album. It was the most anticipated record of the year for me (closely followed by Brand New's "Daisy"). So, it was off to HMV at the earliest possible time, to grab a copy - at the perfect price of £9.99 (£8.99 online). It comes in the cardboard sleeve thingy, and the cover is a great picture of a guitar and birds - more artistic than his previous offerings. The back of the case features another sketch, this time, with the lyrics from the title track "We are what we believe". This particular image, is incredible, and as soon as I saw it, I decided it is going to (hopefully) be my first tattoo.
Opening up, there is the shiny CD, with the same artwork as the front, and the track listing. In a little sleeve piece, you then have two things. Firstly, is the standard lyric booklet, so you can learn all the words for when you go and see him on his October Tour! There is also a little poster, one side with the album artwork, the other a shot of him singing to a small crowd. It is just what I would put on my wall, did I not want to preserve its awesomeness.
Only one thing was left - playing it!
== Poetry of the Deed ==
'''Live Fast Die Old'''
I first heard this back in January. It has been improved for the record. It starts off with a symbol drum beat, and a little piano melody before the guitars come in. Straight off, you can hear that this is heavier album that Frank's previous offerings, and his acoustic guitar is a mere addition - not the lead it was in previous songs. His voice continues to carry the same edge of enthusiasm for what he is singing - perfect! The music is great, a strong drum beat sits behind the whole track, and the bass line has a deep and clear rhythm, which is also really catchy. If you want to start off on a high - well here you have how to do it.
The lyrics are really good too, speaking of how he doesn't want to give up. It is pretty much the theme of the album - his friend apparently said to him something about how they shouldn't have to grow up, and "why can't we be cool until we're old men" and it really stuck with him.
_It won't last so be bold_
_Live Fast and Die Old_
_Choose your path_
_Live Fast and Die Old_
'''Try this at Home'''
It comes in with a 1,2,3,4 and a high pitched wail from the guitar, it sounds great. The song immediately hits pace, Frank singing perfectly to the catchy tune behind. Bu the time it hits the chorus, you are completely hooked. I first head this on his Myspace just after I got back from Newquay. I fell in love with it instantly - there is such a great sound to it which just makes it incredible. It is really short too, not managing to reach 2 minutes - which is disappointing, since it is such a dazzling tune. Only two tracks in, and already it is beyond clear that Frank is still hitting it hard, and hasn't lost a morsel of his talent.
Moving back to the acoustic numbers now. It is a traditional Frank and his guitar piece, sweet chords played perfectly and Frank's voice really carrying the song. It is a simple number, and in full honesty, it is, in my opinion, the weakest track on the album. There is a section which is played on the harmonica, and for some reason, it really doesn't sit well with me, though the following verses are great. Considering this is what I think is the weakest number, and it is still pretty decent - just shows how awesome the guy is..
'''Poetry of The Deed'''
The title track, it opens into an awesome full band sound. The tune is immediately a hit with me, and what it slides into carries a deep anticipation, it is leading you closer to the chorus. Frank's voice is on top form, and by the time the chorus rolls in, you are beyond hooked. It is an instant favourite. With various poetic references, and generally flawless lyrics, it is another case where Frank is proving why he is rising in popularity so well. It is a masterpiece of a song, and musically has many great layers. It is one song I cannot wait to see performed live.
_So enough with words and technical theses, _
_let's grab life by the throat and live it to pieces. _
_ We can choose, we can change, _
_and if we don't, we're just afraid _
_of living life like we're loved and in love and alive_
_ to all the things we could be if we just believed _
_that life is too short to be lived without poetry._
Opening with the rising sounds of a piano, or distant guitars. It soon jumps to a strong drum lead piece, with a strange overdriven guitar sitting quietly in the background. It is a different sound to Frank, a ballad in a form not like much of his previous work - but definitely still packing the punch he delivers. It has a great flow to it, and it is another track that I listen to over and over again. Frank's voice has a sombre emotion lying behind it which is possibly what allures me to this song so firmly. Whatever it is, it's a solid track which continues my theory of Frank being awesome.
'''The Fastest Way Back Home'''
You first think we have another acoustic piece, until the piano pieces stumble in, paving the way for the rest of the band, and especially a nice little guitar riff, which fades nobly out for the verses. Yet again, it is another track which sounds like Frank has moved in a slightly different direction, and it certainly isn't backwards! The chorus here is has a great tune to it, and it has been getting stuck in my head all day. I suppose it is essentially a love song, but with the added twist of the problem made from Frank being so far away all the time.
_Weather wears the mountains_
_Right down into the sea_
_So I will stand in the rain_
_Until I am clean_
_Rivers carve the country_
_A Landscape shaped by a stream_
_So I will swim in the river as long as you need_
'''Sons of Liberty'''
Another song opening dominantly with Frank's trusty acoustic guitar. A deep bass line and drum beat join him, this being a much more traditional Frank piece. His voice sits proudly above the music, and the song has a steady progression to a bit of full band glory, with a piano and some electric guitar - there is even a great little piece with a fiddle which adds a real swagger feel to the track - much like some of the Flogging Molly I like. It is another strong track which is sure to become well listened to over the next few weeks.
The instantly infectious track which is the first single from the album! It opens with Frank straight away, accompanied by his guitar, singing the first chorus of the song, before it opens up into the full band, with an awesome bass line that sounds like it is lifted from a Johnny Cash song - it has that strong carryingness to it. The little jangles of electric guitar over the sound of Franks acoustic sound incredible. The chorus at it comes around again- even more catchy than the first time round. There is a great change of sound in the middle of the song, a little instrumental piece before the real fire inside of Frank comes out. It was the song that was stuck in my head all through my trip to Newquay and I was craving hearing it again when the album was out. If you need just one reason to buy this whole album - then it is this one track.
_So saddle up your horses now and keep your powder dry_
_Because the truth is you won't be here long_
_Yeah soon your going to die_
_To the heart, to the heart there's no time for you to waste_
_You wont find your precious answers now by staying in one place_
_Yeah by giving up the chase_
Now, flick over to YouTube and listen to it as you read on...
Another soft opener, with Frank and a softly played riff, it keeps quiet, but Frank's voice contains that gentle sombreness that I love. He is soon joined with a little bass and drum, not too much which would overthrow the song - the perfect amount. The band practiced and tuned the tracks on this album outstandingly, creating a divine balance. It is a very simple song in presentation, which makes it hard to write about, but I really love this song it is beautifully melodic and another of my immediate favourites, and yet another reason to get this album.
It opens with an annoying little sound, which thankfully dissipates into the guitar. It sounds like a slightly different style yet again, the music sounds really rigid behind it - but slides off into little acoustic sections which sound awesome. My friend, and fellow Frank Turner fanatic, dislikes this song due to it being a bit too "indie" for his tastes. I can see what he means, but still really enjoy the song (well, I do like indie, so maybe that is why.) It isn't a song that outshines others, but it certainly stands shoulder to shoulder on the frontiers with the other songs.
Yet again, we open with Frank and his guitar, in a rather common and unappealing way. But it soon grows on you, and from being a track I skipped to start with, it is now something I certainly enjoy listening to. There is a beauty to it, in it's subtleness and its simplicity. It is a stand out track for sure. The choruses get better each time round, and with the addition of the piano, they sound almost epic. It is a real late night song, the sort of thing I can imagine listening to in the fiery depths of a morning, as the clock is rolling around to 4 o'clock, and you still haven't slept, just say up with friends drinking all night long...
'''Our Lady of the Campfires'''
A piano opening, with a gradual increase, as the drum beat comes in - just a soft clatter on the cymbal - until Frank opens us up with the first line and the music really begins. It has a nice string arrangement in it, which works really well in carrying the song. For the most of the song though, I am not hugely strung, it is OK sure, but it doesn't have the usual Frank flare of amazingness. However hit the midway marker, a little breakdown piece, and it gets that flare, from then on, I love the song! You can hear passion in his voice, the music holds it all together perfectly, and all in all it has the ingredients for a great track. Does the second half make up for the first? Certainly.
'''Journey of the Magi'''
How do you finish off a great album? A question I am sure many artists stumble on. Frank doesn't. He opts for a simple piece, just him and his guitar for the most part. Opening with such a gentle guitar, that it is at first hard to hear under his voice, but such a strong opening. It has this simplicity which is so strong it doesn't need anything to go with it. Come half way, a scratch from the drums enters, and some harmonising vocals, as the next verse rolls around, a string arrangement comes in - and you had thought the song could get no better! It is building this amazing feel to it, and the lyrics sit so firmly above it all, Frank's voice delivering them so perfectly. He closes the song with the perfect sentiments to sum up the whole album:
_Paupers and Kings, Princes and Thieves,_
_Singers of songs, righters of wrongs_
_Be what you believe_
_So saddle your horse, and shoulder your load_
_Burst at the seams_
_Be What you dream_
_And take to the road_
== Let's do this once and Let's do it Right ==
_Frank sang it, and he meant it._
Admittedly the album took me a couple of listens to really get into, and through that, my whole feelings of the songs changed, and early favourites have grown. Frank set out to create an album which essentially says that you should keep living and in his own words "keep being cool, keep having fun, and keep being reckless". I think he has certainly achieved that.
There is an incredible collection of tracks here, from real upbeat numbers, such as "The Road" and "Live Fast, Die Old", which show the full band off to the extreme, they pack such a punch and will be awesome tracks to see live. Then, he adds a few slower pieces, "Sunday Nights" and "Faithful Son" being two more outstanding songs, then take another load of soft and heavier tracks.
I knew I wouldn't be disappointed with it. I knew that Frank would never let me down - and he didn't. He has produced yet another great album, and has left me yearning for more, looking forward to whenever he next gets an album out! Already, this album has been on repeat for the last 3 days, and I don't see it coming off for a good while yet!
If you have read my previous three Frank Turner reviews then you will know how much I love the music this guy makes, from his early days, of real folk rock, just him and his guitar, leading up to this, where he has merged more with his touring band. He hasn't lost one spark of the genius he injects into every word he writes, and every chord he plays. If this is the first time you have heard of him, you have really been missing out. If you have read my previous reviews, and thought about listening to him, but never got around to it - do it now.
Frank is an incredible singer, songwriter, performer whatever you want to call him, the passion he injects, the wit the, well everything about him, is great, and he has manifested this into an album. In short - I cannot wait to see him in Manchester in October!!!
Flamingo Land, is perhaps the most gay named theme park in the UK, not benefitting from a cool, fear inducing name like ALTON TOWERS which could scare small children without them so much as setting foot on a rollercoaster, they chose to opt for something with two feet, fluffy, and pink. Which may I add, I saw not one of.
Flamingo Land is in essence, two things, there is firstly the Resort, which is a place you can stay, I am not reviewing that, so if you want to read about that have a look here:
So, now we have the correct audience, let us enter THE FLAMINGO LAAAAAAAAND..
Flamingo Land is located in Malton, North Yorkshire, which is not too far (21 miles) from Scarborough. We actually thought it was in Scarborough, but it isn't, so it meant that Mum had to shoot off driving my brother and I there, and jet back to Scarborough for the Wedding she was attending.
It is a quick drive, but we managed to take a wrong turn and get lost which added more time on. So, maybe having directions would have helped. If you are in Scarborough, you can get a bus to York then from York to Flamingo Land, or something complicated and long like that...
== The Tickets ==
To ensure it wasn't a wasted visit, we booked our two tickets online the day before, and then printed them off - saving all the queuing hassle. Booking online is very simple, just a case of following onscreen instructions, entering details and then printing.
The standard ticket price is £23.00 but ordering online saves you a whopping £2.00 per ticket. There is of course other ticket prices, for example children under 3 can enter for free (if they have ID for proof of age..) and Seniors / Disabled can enter for £11.50, then there are all the group tickets and school fares and bits.
== Opening and Entering ==
Flamingo Land is open from March 28th to November 1st from 09:30am, with the rides opening up at around 10. It then closes anywhere between 4pm and 6pm dependant upon the season.
Your drive there, you park/get dropped off. You walk up to the front gates, and if you have a ticket already just walk to the barriers, if not you queue for your tickets. The barriers then have people to scan the tickets, to ensure they are valid. And Voila! You are in.
From then on in, you are free to explore the place at your heart's content, going on any rides you wish, eating food, or seeing the zoo.
== The Rides ==
Probably the main thing with a theme park is the rides it has. Obviously, Flamingo Land isn't as famous as other, more butch sounding theme parks, but it does have a great array of rides, including the official worlds steepest metal rollercoaster!
I didn't get a chance to go on all of the rides, since it was raining, my brother got cold and wet, and so was all pissy and moany. This meant I had to appease him by staying with him, mostly on the bumper cars, though there was a few I went off on my own to sample.
The first ride we went on, was called '''Corkscrew'''. It is one of the first rides to arrive at Flamingo Land, and looked like a good rollercoaster to start off on. It is a simple ride, which hurtles you at 40mph over 2400 ft, which doesn't last too long, but isn't exactly quick. It was great to start with, although, rather boring in terms of the design.
Next up, was '''Velocity''', which is apparently the UK's first and only motorbike rollercoaster. You are sat on what is essentially a toy motorbike, slanted forward, then shot off, reaching 60mph in 2.8 seconds. It is a really fast paced ride, and was much more thrilling than before. The only downside, was we were sat at the back, and my brother thinks he may have ended up with someone's spit on his face... This rollercoaster also takes a photo of you, so you can buy it for some amount of money. We didn't get ours, since it looked really rubbish.
Beginning to drizzle now, we went on what would be the most "terrifying" rollercoaster of the day. '''Cliffhanger'''. It is a 180ft column, of which you are sat around. Wait a minute and it lifts you around 20ft into the air. And back down. Then back up, slowly and gently. Then.... WOOOOOOSH, straight up to the top, and that is what I didn't like. The rapid incline, and there you are - sat 180ft in the air, on what feels like it could be the worst made seat in the world, secured only by the pins and bolts, which in my mind could have come out at anytime. And you sit there for ages. I think what I didn't like about this, was that it was raining, and I just thought "shit, if the thing breaks then I don't have a proper grip on this metal bar.." Suddenly, you are hurtled down to the near bottom - which was awesomely fun.
In case you didn't work out from that, I often think about what could go wrong on the rollercoaster, even though it probably wouldn't. I don't have Vertigo, but I don't like the idea of plummeting 180 feet and becoming a pizza.
Now, it began raining in earnest, so we dashed off into the amusements to keep dry. That was boring, so we gave up and went off to wander around the Zoo, but more on that later...
The next ride we tried, were the '''Bumper Cars'''. Not a rollercoaster no, but I think I can call it a ride. I think we went on these countless times, since they were covered, and certainly great fun. We spent most of the time trying to get each other, but each round would pick someone we would both target, which was fun. By the end of the day, I had good control of the cars, managing to really get to grips with bumping... sure I was taught not to do that in my driving lessons.. The best round, was when there was a kid with Downs Syndrome on (I saw Kid, must have been at least my age). He was mental on them, and got me in some excellent collisions, in fact, I think he managed to get most people in some proper good crashes.
Next up for me, was '''Navigator''', which is a stand uppish ride, where you perch on a little seat. It is a huge disk, of which you face the outside, and is on a half pipe. It spins you around, and moves up and down the half pipe, which means you are going round and round up and down, but not in a too fast motion. It was definitely fun, especially when you went right to the top and felt like the disk was about to spin off into the sky...
Now onto '''Mumbo Jumbo''', the only ride I had a seriously long wait with, and what is officially the steepest rollercoaster in the world. It plunges from 98ft, at an angle of 112Ës. It was the best rollercoaster I went on, and was definitely worth the wait. A slow incline and sharp fast decline, it was - awesome. People were screaming in fear, I was shouting "Feck Yes" and such alternatives with extreme excitement. It was, just great. At one point there is a sharp bend where you hurl around it, overlooking the road, that was nerve-racking.
Finally, we both went on '''Flip Flop'''. A rotating circle, in which you are sat, legs-a-dangling, it rotates and swings on a pendulum, reaching a peak of 78ft. It was great fun which we both enjoyed, and you very nearly go upside down which was great.
_That was it with the rides for us, since Liam was so cold and stuff, we had to leave after Flip Flop, though I would have rather stayed and experienced the other rides they have._
'''Sky Flyer''', is one such ride I wanted to use. It is essentially two large legs, where you are in the bottom of one, they both rotate around the middle, hurling you up in the air. It looked really fun. '''Kumali''' was the other I wanted to try, which is a simple dangling coaster, which you hurl around at 54mph, over a track of 2202 feet, and includes a drop of 111 feet. I wish I had gotten a chance to go on it.
_If you want to see these rides, then look on the Flamingo Land Website, since it is really hard to describe a rides layout. www.flamingoland.co.uk_
There are rides for all ages, from the simple carousels to the rollercoaster's, so it can be a real family day out. There is also a tandem-bike thingy, where to seats next to each other, you pedal around the park on a monorail - that looked pretty cool to try and see how fast I could go and bits, but was another I didn't get a chance with. I didn't have to queue long for any of the rides, other than Mumbo Jumbo, getting on most within 10 minutes or so.
== The Zoo ==
Being a wet and horrible day on the 1st of August, the walk around the zoo was a rushed and cold experience. From looking at a map now, I see I missed a few of the parts too. There is a simple trail that leads around the Zoo area, which is just north of the rides.
There is a good number of animals, from Giraffes, Hippos, Rhinos, Chimps, Lions and Tigers! They also had Snakes, Penguins, Emu's and Flamingos (obviously). If it had been a nicer day, we would have spent more time walking around, and perhaps looked at the animals more intently, but alas, they were pretty boring looking to me, the Tiger was sleeping, the Rhinos were just walking around. I would much rather see the animals on a Safari or in their natural environment, but am sure Kids would enjoy it.
There are Sea-Lion Shows, and Bird Shows throughout the day, but we didn't stop to see one.
If you have the spare £125, then why not become a Zoo-Keeper for the day? Yes that is right, pay £125 to do the general skivvy jobs of mucking out the enclosures and whatnot, with the possible perk of feeding a couple of animals. It is suitable for people aged 8+.
There is also a number of "Adopt an Animal" packages available. These involve you paying money to get your name on a "Thank you" List in the zoo, with the perk of getting some free tickets. But you are paying more than the ticket price. The only decent packages here, seems to be the Gold Adoption pack, which at £265, you get 8 free tickets to the zoo and 2 people can be a zoo keeper for a day, which I think works out at you getting it less than cost price. Otherwise these doesn't seem like that much fun...
== Food, Amusements & Toilets ==
There is a load of different food establishments dotted around the Park, from Fish and Chips shops, Burger places and the like. We chose a simple little pastry place which was large inside, just having a quick, hot Chicken Bake. It was good quality and reasonably priced (£1.50 or something) which was good, as I had expected to pay over the odds for it. The food court area I was in was kept tidy, and the others I saw seemed so too.
The toilets I used were always clean, and didn't smell - the two things I looked for when reviewing toilets, so no complaints there.
Amusement wise, there were a few different amusements scattered around the place, including arcade games, slot machines and the like. We spent about an hour in total in a couple of different ones, essentially wasting money - although I did win two Rubik's Cube key-rings...
== In Summary..==
Well, it was definitely a good day out, and worth the £21.00 each we paid. The choice of rides is great, and most were certainly thrilling, and had I had more time, I would have explored them all a few more times. Unfortunately, it seems to be something which is greatly dictated by the weather. If it is nice and sunny, you can have a great full day, explore the whole zoo area, take all the rides and leave when your too tired to take anymore. If it is wet, you probably don't want to be dredging around in the rain, looking at animals running for shelter, or hurling yourself around in the soaking wet.
It would definitely make a good family day out, with so much to do for people of all ages, and would have definitely been something I would have enjoyed visiting just as much when I was a little kid. I would still go again, to have another go on a few of the rides, but probably, had I not been in the area, it wouldn't have been my choice.
After all, if you want to go to a theme park chances are you will think Chessington World of Adventures or Alton Towers, and if you wanted to go to a Zoo, then you would think Colchester, or London Zoo or something. But the combination does make for a good, all round fun filled day.