Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Oedipus Wrecks thirty years on

30 years ago Coppola, Scorsese and Allen came together to make 'New York Stories'. Each director contributed a mini movie about their favourite city. Curiously one actor, Paul Herman, was given a bit part in all three segments. Recently I watched New York Stories for the first time in many years. The first story (Life Lessons by Scorsese)was very good. The second story (Life Without Zoe by Coppola)was very bad. And the third story (Oedipus Wrecks by Allen) was very funny.

In her review for The New Yorker Pauline Kael suggested the best thing about Oedipus Wrecks was Julie Kavner (who shortly after the film would be cast as Marge in The Simpsons). Kael wrote, "Woody Allen has written the role that Julie Kavner deserves: she’s the cartoon Jewish woman redeemed, and she plays it superbly—she’s a Yiddishe Olive Oyl, a hopeless involuntary comic. And, even in the guise of Sheldon the lawyer in tweeds, Woody Allen recognizes her as his soul mate. The movie is a Freudian vaudeville, worked out with details such as Sheldon’s loose, improved sex life during the period of his mother’s disappearance."

I'm also a big fan of Kavner. She appears in several other Allen movies; Hannah & Her Sisters (86), Radio Days (87), Alice (90), Shadows & Fog (91), Don't Drink The Water(94), Deconstructing Harry (97)and she's brought a bit of magic to all of them. As you'd expect they both have said complimentary things about each other... 

Allen described Kavner as being "a naturally funny person", and added, " When she does a scene, you listen to her and look at her, and the prism through which it's all filtered is funny." Whilst Kavner has been quoted as saying, "Woody is a true filmmaker, one that has something to say, continually experimenting on different themes within his own film-making", adding that "anything Woody ever does, I always want to do...I don't even have to read it." 
One part of the film features a stage magician who has a box that seemingly makes people disappear - this idea is not a million miles away from a story Allen featured in his book, Side Effects published in 1977. The story is called, Kugelmass Episode. And it's about how Professor Sidney Kugelmass meets a magician called "The Great Persky" who has a cabinet that people climb into and are then sent back in time. (It's interesting to think how the time traveling aspect of the story would eventually evolve into the 2011 film, Midnight in Paris which made over 150 million dollars at the box office.)Oedipus Wrecks isn't a challenging or ground breaking movie, it's simply Woody giving people what they want.

Fans of, Curb Your Enthusiasm may be interested to see this movie as it features a cameo from a young Larry David. The pair would of course work together again when David starred in Allen's 2009 film, Whatever Works. In my opinion David's acting is good in Oedipus Wrecks and he's convincing in the part he plays. In Whatever Works I feel David is trying to do an impression of Woody but he can't quite express feelings of emotional turmoil and anxiety on screen the way that Allen can. The only actor I could imagine delivering as good a performance as the central character in Oedipus Wrecks is Gene Wilder.
Allen often says that people confuse his screen persona with the man he is in real life. Amusingly, in 1997, many years after Oedipus Wrecks was released there was a documentary made about his life called, Wild Man Blues and in one scene we see Allen introduce his 90 year old mother to his South Korean born wife Soon-Yi Previn only to hear, "Why don't you marry a nice Jewish girl?" -  sometimes life imitates Woody Allen movies. 

Oedipus Wrecks (from 'New York Stories')reviewed by Harry Pye
July 2019

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Rage Collective at C.F.C.C.A. reviewed by Astrid Horkheimer

Rage Collective are currently five Royal College of Art graduates; Amale Freiha Khlat, Bonnie Wong, Camila Mora Scheihing, Tamara Kametani, and Yoshi Kametani. Their exhibition, '404: Resistance in the Digital Age' is on at Manchester's Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art until the 21st July. 

I was lucky enough to experience the Rage collective's film and sound installation when it first opened in May. Their unique presentation of old footage from 1989 and contemporary pieces from today is both intelligent and impressive. 1989 was of course the year the World Wide Web was born, the Berlin Wall fell and the Tiananmen Square protests happened. '404 Resistance in the Digital Age' uses events such as these as an entry point to look at how digital platforms have been adopted as the primary means of protesting.

Bonnie Wong is the member of the collective we have to thank for both researching into Hong Kong's history and supplying the footage of China. Wong also informs us that the Chinese word for 'protest' also symbolises the hand. In her opinion, protesting began as being a physical action but now in Hong Kong, everything is happening online. "physical protests no longer work and the battleground for protesting has gone digital."
Amale Freiha Khlat's contribution to the show features footage from 1989 which has been overlayed with images from video games. The artist has explained that, as a child, playing Gameboy, Tetris and Pacman was her distraction from the war in Lebanon. She believes Tetris was invented by Russia in 89 to distract it's people from the fall of Communism.
The C.F.C.C.A has been working with artists who explore relevant global issues from different international perspectives for over 30 years. It's great that they've given Rage collective a chance to shine. The gallery is based in the heart of Manchester's Northern Quarter. The gallery is free to enter Tuesday to Sunday (10am to 5pm). '404: Resistance in the Digital Age' is well worth a visit.

Text by Astrid Horkheimer June 2019

Thursday, 20 June 2019


South London-based Hot Sauce Pony are Caroline Gilchrist (vocals), Stephen Gilchrist (bass), Anna Dodridge (drums) and Ross Davies (guitar) and after a string of acclaimed singles they've taken their raucous grungy noise and turned it into one of the albums of 2019.  John Robbins loves loads of things about it, but he's narrowed his list down to these ten...

Think the Pistols' ''Never Mind The Bollocks' or the first New York Dolls album – you have to be pretty hardcore to dare to put pink on your record sleeve,  The retina scorching front cover is only reinforced by the vaguely disturbing black and white band portrait on the back, which seems to suggest the South Londoners may have gone feral  in a forest somewhere and echoes the wild eyed stares on the back of another classic LP, Captain Beefheart's 'Trout Mask Replica'.

The band's single from last year 'What You Don't Know' is basically a marital row brought to life, and all with the band's married couple Caroline and Stephen Gilchrist shooting lines at each other.  Among a lorryload of funny lines, our favourite has to be Stephen's enraged boast: “I'm drowning your pets!”  Don't try this at home kids.

Anna Dodridge's drumming cements the whole Hot Sauce Pony sound, keeping what would otherwise be a chaotic racket (just about) on the straight and narrow,  Again, there are lots of choice moments to pick from, but the tub thumping intro to 'Ho' is as goof an example as any.

Caroline Gilchrist's throwaway last line to 'Crumble' -  a casual but sincere sounding “fuck you, Crumble” - never fails to make us laugh

Seemingly pieced together from snippets of subliminal musings, there's no simple way to explain what's going on, but there's no shortage of memorable lines either.

The band have played down the role of Pixies/Nirvana knob twiddler Albini, who recorded and engineered – he never takes credit as a producer – the album at his Electrical Audio studios in Chicago.  There's no denying, however,  that the impactful, raw sound is classic Albini, a sound that will ring a pleasant bell of recognition with fans of 'Surfer Rosa and 'In Utero'.

It starts with a grungy warning shot of gnarly guitar and bass and it ends a mere 70 seconds or so later, ending so abruptly it can't fail to raise a smile.  Nice touch.

Er, well not exactly, but 'Christmas In Prison' is an oasis of reflection and relative calm amid the squealing guitars and rhythmic thrashing going on around it,  It's got a distinctly folky flavour, with Ross Davies switching his fuzzbox for nimble finger picking while a violin weaves its way into the mix too.

'My Pet Hate In 6/8' certainly does what it says on the tin, with a wonderfully lopsided groove and a structure that lurches from fragility to brutality and back again pretty much without warning.
Hot Sauce Pony's resident guitar slinger Ross Davies proves to be equally adept at evil riffing and intricate fretwork, but it's when he starts stepping on the effects pedals that his sound truly goes into orbit.  Suitably enough, the album ends   with the sound of one such climactic wigout. More like the end of a particularly rabid gig, really, rather than a carefully curated album, but we're not complaining.

'Hot Sauce Pony' by Hot Sauce Pony is out now on Brixton Hillbilly.
Text by John Robbins June 2019

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Amazing Grace Aretha Franklin

Amazing Grace is a Sydney Pollack directed documentary of Aretha Franklin performing gospel songs at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972. Unlike every other music documentary I've ever seen, Amazing Grace is pretty much no chat and non stop music.
As most readers will already know Aretha Franklin was the undisputed queen of soul and she began singing gospel hymns as a teenager. Aretha was raised by the Reverend C.L. Franklin, who was the most famous gospel preacher of the 1950s - commanding $4,000 dollars a sermon. We see the incredibly well groomed Reverend gently mop his daughter's brow. There are also various other enjoyable cameos from the director and from Mick and Charlie from The Rolling Stones.

A double album of  Amazing Grace was released in July 1972 and was a huge hit with both critics and the public. However, the film version has only just been released as there were technical problems with what Pollack shot that have only just been sorted out. 
Aretha's gospel project was a collaboration with James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir.
Cleveland is a joy to watch and all the musicians and singers are simply superb. Aretha sings a mixture of both old Gospel classics (How I Got Over, Give Yourself To Jesus) and contemporary pop songs such as Marvin Gaye's Wholy Holy and James Taylor's You've Got A FriendIn my opinion you don't have to be a Christian believer to love these songs. Looking around at looks on the faces of the people in the cinema with me, I saw shock, wonderment and bliss. It's brilliant that this long lost film is now being screened. Aretha really is amazing. Don't miss out.

Text by Simone Hoffs

Monday, 8 April 2019

The Flying Pickets: "Only You"

'Only You: The Best of The Flying Pickets' was first released in 1991 on EMI. 

The 16 tracks include covers of songs originally made famous by such diverse talents as; Yazoo, Marvin Gaye, Roy Orbison, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Marley.

David Brett:
Ken Gregson: Ken (real name Kenneth Gregory) was born in Wolverhampton. He joined the Incubus Theatre group.
Brian Hibbard Brian was born in Ebbw Vale, Monmouthshire in Wales.
(born 25 November 1946; died 17 June 2012)
Rick Lloyd was born in London.
Red Stripe (real name: David Gittins) 
Gareth Williams.

Watch 'Da Doo Run Run' (1982) here
Watch 'Space Oddity': here 
Watch 'Psycho Killer': here
Watch 'When You're Young And In Love': here
Watch 1986 Interview with Donnie Sutherland: here.

Watch 'The Girl of My Best Friend' here:

Watch 'Whose That Girl': here.
Watch 'Only The Lonely': here

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

‘Daredevil. Know Fear Part One’ reviewed by Humphrey Fordham

In this particular always-continuing ‘Modern Age’ of comics, it seems to be a common truism that when a popular Superhero “dies” or is missing in action - he usually experiences some sort of explosive re-birth upon return. Case in point: ‘The Death Of Superman’. 

This, however, is not so in this new series of ‘Daredevil. Know Fear Part One’ written by Chip Zdarsky and drawn by Marco Checchetto. Matt Murdock’s comeback after his “death” is brilliantly empathetic and suitably wobbly. More potentially Icarus descends than Phoenix arises. 

Designed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of filmmaker Kevin Smith’s seminal re-vamp for the Marvel Knights series, the story begins like every new series of DD: deep within the gritty urban badlands of Hell’s Kitchen. Such a backdrop proves to be food for thought for Murdock’s self-rehabilitation, rather like a mixture of Frank Miller’s 1986 ‘Born Again’ series and the latter part of Ann Nocenti’s and John Romita Jr’s run a few years later. 

After weeks of intense therapy, the usually monogamous Murdock has concerns which are somewhat pressing. He painfully enters a bar, and immediately picks up an attractive tattooed nameless female who, luckily for him, isn’t a Typhoid Mary clone. She is humane enough to be totally open with him, and says he is not her type, even though his muscles rather than his blindness is her fetish. Later on, to test his radar sense, he skims and soars across the enticing rooftops as Daredevil. Both situations are Viagra-redolent. The die is cast. Game, set and match to Murdock. So far so good.

There are what appears to be the usual childhood flashback scenes weighing heavily with Catholic guilt - which have been depicted many times over the decades. However, unlike the boy scout smiling in the face of adversity persona of yore; young Murdock, interestingly enough, is evidently a disturbed youth verging on being unlikable. A new dimension is most certainly in the making.

The artwork itself is both subdued and intense. The story’s oppressively urban setting is depicted in a wholly naturalistic way with a subtle emphasis on ‘the time of day’. Daredevil’s costume is suitably redder than red. The swashbuckler from the 60s has definitely returned!

There are pieces of this debut issue’s jigsaw that will inevitably come together in the forthcoming issues, notably in the more than noticeable form of a familiar adversary. Right now, hell ain’t a bad place to be. 
Text: Humphrey Fordham Feb 2019

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Horace Panter at 100 Club

Soul Groves with Horace Panter was a fundraiser for Tonic Music that took place at the 100 Club on Wednesday 5th of December. The show was a delight from start to finish. The band played tribute to musical heroes such as George Benson and Ray Charles.  I particularly enjoyed their covers of Lee Dorsey's Ya Ya. Dave Keech was a great master of ceremonies and Eddie Piller was the perfect choice for post show D.J.
Above: Horace Panter on Bass
Above: Dave Keech on Trombone
Above: Jim Hunt on Sax
Above: Nikolaj Torp Larsen on Hammond Organ 
Above: Chris Cobbson on Guitar.
Above: Kenrick Rowe on Drums.
You can see the band perform Green Onions and Tippi Toes on You Tube.

One of the patrons for Tonic Music For Mental Health is Horace's band mate, Terry Hall.
Terry says:
“I'm proud to be a patron of Tonic Music for Mental Health. They're a great organisation that run music and art projects that anyone can get involved in.One of the things I did when I became ill, because I couldn't communicate, was to start painting. My therapist had said it was a good way to express yourself, so I started to paint The Jackson 5, except the first one I drew ended up with six of them on it! Anything that gives you a voice is really good. Art and music are a great outlet and have been such an important part of my recovery.”
For more info about the charity visit:
Photos and Text by Harry Pye December 2018