Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Metal on metal

I watched that Anvil: The Story of Anvil the other night. It's not very good despite all the plaudits it received. What I was expecting was a warm-hearted look back at a band who could have been contenders but never quite made. A film that investigated why they never made it, and their peers like Metallica, Motley Crue and Guns 'n' Roses did.

According to the blurb "Anvil were a major influence on the burgeoning thrash metal scene at the time. Members of Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer pay tribute." No they don't, they just come on at the start of the film and say "Anvil? Oh yeah, I remember them." That's it, not "Anvil? Well without Anvil we wouldn't be where we are today." And do you know why they don't say that? It's because Anvil aren't very good. Their so-called anthem, Metal on Metal, is just pretty average. The rest of the stuff I heard is third rate metal using adolescent sex (or the lack of it) as its subject matter. Look over any rock festival posters from the 1980s and there's Anvil at the bottom of the bill.

We're also told, according to the DVD box, to expect a "warm-hearted film about friendship." That's not really possible when Anvil's main man, Lips, is such an annoying prick given to moments of violence towards tight-fisted club promoters and even his own drummer, the man he was supposed to have made this pact with when he was fourteen that they'd "carry on rocking together forever." The drummer's name, by the way, is Robb Reiner, just one consonant too many away from sharing the same name as the director of This is Spinal Tap. Which is quite apt as Anvil's career trajectory mirrors that of Spinal Tap, especially the closing scenes of a rapturous return to Japan. The Japanese have a thing for a sub genre of heavy metal that I like to call 'Shit Metal.'

So the blurb's all wrong and what you get is a slightly depressing film about Lips cajoling Robb to go out on tour/make demos/try and get funding to make a new album in the UK. Fortunately for Lips - if not for the listening public - his older, and much more successful sister, stumps up the $12,000 to enable the band to record their new record in the Kent countryside. What follows are scenes of Lips chucking his toys out of his pram while sacking Robb. Robb returns to the fold about half an hour later when Lips has calmed down a bit. We then have to endure Lips hawking his record around major record labels without success. Lips gets upset.
Fortunately for Lips some bright spark invented the internet and you can buy it off him direct. Result! Not.

The saddest scenes though are near the beginning when a dodgy East European promoter books them on a European tour. It's very nearly heartbreaking to watch Lips approach metal luminaries like Michael Schenker, Carmine Appice and Tommy Aldridge at a Swedish metal festival to be met with blank 'who is this guy?' looks.
Robb emerges as kind of likable. You can tell he thinks they're flogging a dead horse but doesn't want to let his mate down. Surely there must have come a point in the past twenty years where he thought to himself 'enough is enough.' They both have day jobs, by the way - Lips delivers school dinners in a van.
No doubt Anvil will find short term gain from making the film, but they're still only making bottom of the bill at this summer's heavy rock festivals. More for curiosity value at a man who plays a guitar solo with a vibrator. Yes, really.
Anyroad, I went to see one of my favourite metal bands of the moment last night. The Amazon review for their new album contains this: "Fourth album from the successful American progressive metallers and follow up to their 2006 major label debut 'Blood Mountain'. That album, while their most successful, drew criticism from some fans for its seeming lack of focus. This album seeks to remedy that issue by having a unified concept in which an astral traveller wanders the spirit realm, exploring themes from quantum physics to Czarist Russia, and musically is as complex, brutal and enthralling as their earlier work." Which is pretty much what I want from heavy metal, not a turd with a Flying V and a dildo.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Pass my revolver

In years gone by families would pass on the secrets of their trades to their children. So you'd get small dynasties of coopers, fletchers, carpenters, sagger maker's bottom knockers etc. Now it seems that vile Jordan woman is actually encouraging her two year-old daughter to start a new type of dynasty called tits-getter-outers. Jesus wept. Can we not switch that woman off?
Any parents of girls reading this - would you like your small daughter to find titilating Britain's builders and van drivers a worthwhile career option?

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

"Oh God, please, no, not again"

It was forty years ago last Saturday that Black Sabbath's debut album was released. So it's forty years ago last Saturday that heavy metal was invented. I can't let the passing of such an important anniversary (well, it's important to me) go without being marked. So may I direct you to my heavy metal blog for the lowdown on, to nick a phrase from The Beatles' statue in Liverpool, 'four lads from Aston who shook the world'.

As an aside I watched a BBC documentary about heavy metal recently. Ozzy was on there explaining how they came up with the sound; they used to rehearse in a room opposite a cinema that happened to be showing a horror film. They looked on the crowd queueing up outside and decided that people liked being scared, so decided to make scary music. At their early gigs playing this music, according to Ozzy "Chicks would run out screaming, so we looked at each other and said 'This scary music's working a treat, isn't it?'" Priceless.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

A gentle, lilting ballad...

...for fucking Valentine's Day about the horrors of Nazi death camp doctor Josef Mengele. Enjoy. (like anyone who reads this will actually want to listen)

Thursday, 11 February 2010

I believe it's called 'schadenfreude'

I hate Vernon Kay. I know hate is a pretty strong word, but in my case, with Vernon Kay, I really do hate him. So imagine how I felt when I found out earlier this week that he's been caught sending naughty messages to Page 3 stunnas. I laughed and laughed and laughed. Funny how his official website makes no mention of it, especially as, according to the blurb on Google, you can "Find out what Vernon Kay is up to, get exclusive content, and register for Vernon Kay updates." Nothing on there about what he's been up to over the last few weeks though. Funny, that.

Monday, 8 February 2010

"Have you been shagging my girlfriend?"

Now I'm a fan of Local Hero, The Crow Road and Soft Top, Hard Shoulder as much as the next man. I'm also currently searching for a new piece of wall art to go with a new settee I've just ordered, but even I'd draw the line at this. Who would order such a thing? His stalker?

Oh, while I'm on, no good ever comes of giving stupid people huge sums of money. Just ask John Terry.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Thanks for nothing

I quite clearly never learn with books written by comedians, do I? I asked for the Jack Dee autobiography for Christmas, and actually got it. Another disappointment. I like Dee, and, as a, ugh, 'student of comedy', thought it would be all about his way in to the world of stand-up with his life story thrown in.
Oh no it isn't. What you get is this trend these days for stretching autobiographies out over more than one volume. Now I could understand it if it was by, say, David Attenborough; someone whose lead a full and varied life. Not for a moderately successful comedian and sitcom writer/actor.
So to pad the book out you get Dee's opinion on everything from football (he doesn't like it), to people who claim not to watch television (he doesn't like them), to people who use Facebook and Twitter (he doesn't like them).
Am I being old-fashioned, or is it wrong of me to expect an autobiography to follow a pattern as laid down by The Godfathers on their excellent single of the late 80s, ie birth, school, work, death? I know the death bit's pretty difficult as he's not dead and would find that bit hard to write anyway, what with not being dead and everything. But there's very little of his formative years, apart form being sent to boarding school (he didn't like it) and a load of stuff about working as a waiter/chef/restaurant manager (he didn't like it).
The parts where he tries stand-up on open spots at The Comedy Store, decides on his miserable persona and being contacted by his future manager, Addison Cresswell, are dashed off in the last thirty pages as though he realised he was approaching his word limit and he had to hurry things along.
If he wants a true guide as to how to do multiple autobiographical volumes then I suggest he reads Vic Reeves's Me Moir. It's a straight autobiography that's thoroughly entertaining and leaves the reader at the point he gets on the train to London in the late 70s. It also contains one of the funniest stories about attending prog rock concerts I've ever read. It's a pity he never got round to writing volume two...

So Dee's book's a wasted opportunity from the man who came up with this, one of my favourite stand-up routines ever. Made even better by the fact that I used to work for a company called Mojo, and I've eaten more Mojos than you can shake a stick at in my time.