Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cyber Punk, Synths and Arhthur's Day: Bressie Flies Solo

Whichever way you slice it, Mullingar's Niall Breslin i.e. newly solo pop hunk Bressie, is a busy man. As the front-man of The Blizzards he helped blaze a pop-rock trail through the charts, student unions and numerous live venues across Ireland. The group disbanded for a career break at the end of 2009 while Bressie headed to London to work as a songwriter for hire and to beef up his production and song-writing skills.

Photo courtesy of Ronan Healy

After an extended break from the public eye he returned in May with Can't Stay Young Forever. An 80's inspired Snow Patrol-y ode to the good times it's become a slow burning radio hit, notching up some serious airplay miles. While The Blizzards where a formidable live presence, constantly on the road, Bressie's live shows have been noticeably fewer. A sold out Whelan's gig, an Oxegen slot and a place on the bill at the recent Corona's Marlay Park have been well recieved but his next high-profile slot is as part of this year's Arthur's Day celebrations (a nationwide tour follows). 

The now-annual event brings a veritable feast of domestic and international acts to Ireland. The celebrations take place on the 22nd of September and the line up is undeniably impressive. Scissor Sisters, Stereophonics, Paloma Faith and Calvin Harris will be visiting Irish shores while local acts Cashier No. 9, Ash, Royseven and Ryan Sheridan join Bressie in flying their Irish flag while people countrywide sup on their pints.

Bressie's album, Colourblind Stereo is due 16th of September ahead of a nationwide tour and  before that is second single Good Intentions. At the launch of Arhthur's Day last week in Whelans, I caught a few minutes with Mr Breslin to get the lowdown on the new single, his new sound and his Arthur's Day memories.

Although Bressie admits that the second single uses "the same sound" as the previous he points out that lyrical content itself is quite different. "It came from literally an array of girls who I kept meeting" he begins, that "refused to believe that all men weren’t bastards." Becoming more passionate he continues "Just because some lads are bastards doesn’t mean they all are." The song, Bressie says sets out to "tell this particular girl who’s been battered her whole life emotionally, that not all men are like that and some men do have good intentions". He says that "it's not really a love song" but that it has "an uplifting positive approach". You can watch him perform it live below:

Speaking about the album itself Bressie says that it's takes it's cues from 80s pop such as Tears For Fears and Duran Duran that in his words is "really well produced" but also admits that "I like the cheesy Whitesnake stuff and the power ballad stuff." Again, he warms up joking that if "Here I Go Again comes on and you’re not smiling forget about it, just go live in Tasmania under a tree or something".

Although Bressie prides himself on his pop roots he has found himself taking on a slightly more serious edge with some of the subject matter on the new album. Pointing out that some of the song are "cyber punk" he notes that one track Animal has because a live favourit. He reckons it's because it touches on the the "things that have happened in the last 2 years" and "how badly we were treated it" and "how we’re gonna come back". 

Despite his brooding-hunk status Bressie cuts a quiet but confident figure as his obvious passion for his new project bubbles to the surface. As we wrap up he discusses his memories of the first Arthur's Day, when The Blizzards followed Dizzee Rascal which he points out shows you how "it's so eclectic". This time around he says he's most excited about catching Scissors Sisters and Ed Sheerhan. His nationwide tour kicks off after Arthur's Day and with Bressie saying "the live show means the world to me", it's sure to be a treat for fans of The Blizzards and Bressie himself. 

For more on Bressie visit his website. Colourblind Stereo is released on the 16th of September, Good Intentions is released on the 9th of September. Can't Stay Young Forever is out now. For more on Arthur's Day click here. Check out Sony Music Ireland on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda: Pop Near Misses Vol. 01

More than anywhere else, pop music is ruled by the weird and wonderful world of the single. Having a hit single is the lifeblood of many a chart act and still a vital tool for an artist to capture any kind of audience. You only have to look at how the likes of Katy Perry can sell 2.5 million downloads per single in the US but only 1.5 m of the album those singles come from to see that the single wields more power than ever.

One of the frustrating things about being a pop fan is when you pick up an album by an artist that has more than it's share of singles or the very least that one song you just know would be a huge smash. Sometimes it's a song almost too good for the artist in question, sometimes it's one that never makes it to the charts due to the album flopping. Whatever the reason there are many a song that should have, could have, would have been huge. Here I'm starting what I hope can be a regular look at a handful of tunes that never quite got the glory they deserved. From singles that flopped to album tracks that never got a release at all, here is a chance to give a few songs a their moment in the sun.

(1) Breathe On Me - Britney Spears

image via Coverlandia
Britney's 2003 release In The Zone was an attempt by Team Britney to have the starlet grow up, growling her way through a mish mashed of sexy club cuts, R&B bangers and the odd ballad. In The Zone contains some of Britney's finest moments including Toxic and Everytime and some of her worst (The Hook Up was Britney's first and only entry into the cod reggae genre thankfully). There were a handful of gems scattered throughout the album that would have marked an interesting chocie single wise (Showdown, Early Mornin') but the pick of bunch is Breathe On Me. An icy Kylie style synth riff, a trademark breathy-y Britney vocal and a slinky chorus mash together for one of the most mature and interesting tune in Spear's back catalogue. Still sounding fresh today, in the current David Guetta dance friendly radio landscape a song like Breathe On Me would still do good business. Hands down one of Britney's best tunes.

(2) Fire Bomb - Rihanna

Image via Coverlandia
Rihanna's Rated R was considered something of a commerical misfire despite being her best album yet. Rude Boy was the obvious smash hit of the set and a signifier for where RiRi would end up with her next release. The moody textures of Rated R yielded a few chart misfires (Rockstar 101, Te Amo) but it's hard to fathom why somebody at her label didn't give Fire Bomb a shot at chart glory. A huge stadium ready chorus, a yearning vocal from Rihanna and plenty of music video friendly imagery (just imagine the girls go on the road video that could have been. Sigh) make this pop-rock number one that could have shown another side to Rihanna's chart personality.

(3) Janet Jackson - Enjoy

The last decade has not been kind to the sales of former chart juggernaut Janet Jackson. I caught her recent live show in Dublin and was suitably blown away by the presence and energy Janet still exudes. Her hit-making powers may have diminished somewhat but Janet has had plenty of strong material over the last decade but post-Superbowl has found it hard to connect with radio programmers and a wider audience.

2008's Feedback almost turned the tide, managing a decent performance Stateside but never quite did the big business many expected it would. Enjoy, a cut from her underrated 20 Y.O. set, is in many ways the biggest missed opportunity of the bunch. A chirpy, euphoric slice of soul pop it's got an uplifting, cheery quality last seen in her late 90s megahit Together Again and a sleek groove that recalls her heyday. Enjoy would have been the perfect antidote to how Janet has been ignored by radio playlisters were it not for her then label Virgin getting cold feet with how the 20 Y.O. project had performed. It's a shame, Enjoy would have sounded great on advertisments, blaring out of radios and reswizzed for the clubs. As it stands it falls into a pile of lost classics provided by Miss Janet.

There are many many more tunes in this vein to think about so we'll hopefully look at some more soon. If you have some ideas feel free to suggest below.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Your Handy Guide to Britney's Leaked Gimme More Vid

At the height of her mid-life meltdown Britney Spears gave us the near-perfect pop masterpiece album, Blackout. It was of course preceded by the fantastic Gimme More, one of Britney's best singles. A swirling cocktail of a throbby post Timbaland electro-R&B beat and the air of a popstar gone bad it never really had the visuals to back it up. Now we have Britney performing it as part of her current tour but back in 2007 all we had was that ropey VMA performance and the oft delayed and ultimately disappointing music video.

Despite a lengthy shoot and promises of a dark, funeral orientated concept fans were given a video of Britney whirling around a pole with two friends while some random guy and Britney in a blonde wig with friends watched on. It made little sense but was said to be the record label's attempts to cover over the cracks in Britney's life, despite reports of a scene involving a rapper, Britney facing off her blonde self and an extended funeral sequence.

Now a leaked cut of the original video has surfaced. It's a little more conceptual than the version we're used to but not much. There's footage of Britney walking the streets, sitting in bed and plenty of sloppy, out-of-it dancing to be had. It's a mess of badly cut footage, a clearly not all there popstar and little or no plot. But it's oddly hypnotic and an eerie reminder of how lost Britney looked at one point.

What else do you need to know? Well this gif about sums up how "lucid" Britney probably was for the whole thing. She seems to be picking lint out of the air here. Or talking to herself. Who knows?

britney spears,gimme more leak,gimme more video,gimme more,music video,britney,blackout,hot mess

Other important visual "motifs" in this new cut:

1: Just-out-of-bed-ney
2: Funeral Chic Britney
3: Lots of extra "dance" footage of Brit & pals

4: Bald-patch-ney

There you have it, the Britney fan holy grail is now with us. It works on a car crash "laugh until you cry" level. But it's also a hypnotic slice of what could have been, were Britney really coherent enough to command this dark (i.e slutty) and challenging (i.e. slutty) a vision throughout the whole Blackout campaign.

And again, at least there's this to enjoy:

britney spears,gimme more leak,gimme more video,gimme more,music video,britney,blackout,hot mess

Watch it in full here: 


Friday, July 15, 2011

Pop Boys Do Pop Things: Calvin Harris, Will Young, The Drums and.. Olly Murs?

I don't know how many of you went festivaling (yes, it's a word. ahem) recently but I was down at Oxegen DJing multiple times last weekend. I saw only a few bands but given that one of them was surprisingly good Pretty Reckless and the other was Amanda Brunker and Friends it truly was a culturally enriching weekend. I didn't see Beyonce because I was DJing at the time so let's NOT TALK ABOUT THAT PLEASE.

It was a ball but it has completely knocked me for six, I'm only feeling normal now. The upside was having lots of pop treats to catch up on over the last week or so.

While I was "away" lots of male pop types did interesting pop things mainly through the medium of giving us new tunes to listen to. Here are my very succinct and journalistic comments on them:

(1) Calvin Harris has just given us new single Feel So Close. It's a bit dance-y as is Calvin's wont but is not the same sort of dance-y as previous efforts. It's a dance tune that is a bit sad and a bit slow but also fast because it is a dance tune. I really like it and the video is suitably lovely. I was a bit unimpressed with a label press release dubbing it an "emotional rollercoaster" but I felt like a proper cry watching it so be warned.  But overall I would give Calvin 4 slow but fast but slow dance tunes out of five for this one. Well done Calvin. Take the rest of the night off and have a takeaway.

(2) Will Young has come along with his newie Jealousy. We haven't heard from Will much lately as he has been busy doing acting type things and probably clearing out his Sky + box (do you reckon he watches Made In Chelsea?) but now he is back with a sad sack but amazing synth-ish pop number about ... deep stuff. It's V.G. and apparently there are lots more synth delights on the way. I mean if you like Will Young and you like synths this'll be right up your Will Young Synth Street. There is an album coming that is produced by Richard X which in itself is EXCITING news.

(3) The Drums have also popped up with a new number called Money. It sounds like all their other songs but not in a bad way and I would give it 4 Songs that Sound like Your Other Songs out of 5. In other words, I quite enjoyed it. I never understood why The Drums didn't become properly properly huge as they are the perfect jangly indie band with a pop undercurrent but perhaps their new stuff will send them into chart orbit (yes, I just wrote that phrase. Yes, I do feel an appropriate level of shame about it)

(4) Olly Murs has shocked us all with a song that is not stomach-churningly dreadful. Heart Skips A Beat slaps all kind of vogue-ish UK dance music trends together and works way better than it should. It also helps that Rizzle Kicks, the painfully cool but also brilliant rap duo, are on hand to keep things moving along. The song is a little corker and could be the first proper "everybody enjoys this not just X Factor fans" crossover tune in his arsenal. As long as we ignore the video which would be perfectly good if it had less Olly Murs mugging throughout. WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO RUIN YOUR OWN VIDEO OLLY? WHY?

That is your pop boy lot for now. I would like to thank all the pop boys involved for their time and tunes. Calvin Harris and Will Young in particular have made me a bit of an emotional wreck as I type this in a bustling (kind of) Dublin cafe. And if that's not the mark of a good pop tune, then I don't know what it is.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ke$ha, LMFAO & Alexis Jordan Live in Dublin: A Review

Despite sluggish ticket sales, much hyped pop roadshow Summer Jam brought it's poptastic line up to Dublin's 02 Arena last night for an evening high of teen hormones, screeching girls and surprising amounts of fun.

Stepping into the 02 was a bit like stepping into a huge teen disco where the smell of fake tan, teen hormones and hair gel could have killed an elephant from a hundred yards. Of course being hip, relevant and at one with the young 'uns I was completely at ease and made my way to balcony seats with plenty of appropriate attitude. I'm sorry, I mean to say I scurried to my seat for fear of being lynched by yoofs. 

After some anonymous hip hop duo and Aggro Santos did a decent job warming up the enthusiastic crowd. Alexis Jordan sauntered on stage. I really loved Jordan's debut when it was released earlier this year. A well put together pop album with plenty of charm and a surprising amount of solid tunes, it made a virtue of Jordan's considerable pipes and hints that with enough time she could go on to be quite the huge popstar.

Her short set only confirmed my suspicions. Bounding out on stage Jordan had a level of confidence and sass sometimes missing in her too cute to bear music videos. Whipping her hair and twirling her hips like Beyonce Jr, she nailed many a high note, executed some spot on choreography and oozed presence. After performing a clutch of tracks she was gone but not before belting out a suitably rousing rendition of her first single Happiness. Keep your eyes on this girl, her deal with Jay Z's Roc Nation and production with pop masterminds Stargate hints at big things.

LMFAO were next up and their set was every bit as brash, obnoxious and garish as I had expected. It was also highly enjoyable. Souped up "electro house meets hip hop gone pop" floor fillers were the order of the day from start to finish with rarely a moment for the audience to catch their breath. LMFAO's music is noisy and one note that it's cheeky air and ridiculous outfits that give the whole thing a much needed injection of fun. Joined by band members and freestyle dancers decked in their signature silly leggings and cut off tees they looked like a gang of particularly party hearty clowns let loose with a pile of synths. There was a smoke canon on stage, costume changes and frequent use of the words "party rocking" "the club" "bottle" and "ladies". Cliched it may be but LMFAO spin things into such a goofy, oddly endearing package that you find yourself fist pumping and dropping it low along with them without even meaning too.

Of course the evening's headliner was Ke$ha, the queen of auto tune, the high priestess of trashy pop and She Who Must Have Her Name Spelt With An Ironic Dollar Sign. I am unapologetic in my love for Ke$ha. Before Tik Tok and her insistence on talk singing, she was serving up plenty of intelligent electro pop demos that hinted that the Nashville born starlet had a wit and scrappy quality not usually seen in major label pop divas. She's gone on to become a hugely successful act, managing an impressive run of hit singles from only one album and cheeky added on EP. She's also raised the ire of many a critic with her "wacky" persona, glitter heavy aesthetic and the notion that she might not be that great a singer.

So how does that sort of carry on translate into a live show? Surprisingly well in fact. Opening the show in a light up diamond, surrounded by a bed of synths, branding a light up visor Ke$ha started things on a icy, cyber queen note. A few numbers in she started to stalk the stage like a grubby lioness, all hair flips and swagger. Flanked by a troupe of dancers, backing vocalists and a live bands Ke$ha threw herself into a prop heavy set with abandon. 

The singles had the audience suitably riled up but Ke$ha worked enough of a show into lesser known numbers to keep the crowd in a frenzy. Cannibal was an oddly graphic and moody slice of pop performance with Ke$ha n co. sacrificing a dancer while she drank blood from a prop heart. Dinosaur, her kiss off to sleazy older men and the girls they hit on, involved zimmer frames and Backstabber had her boy dancers throw on wigs and heels for a suitably tranny fierce bit of dancing. Even the requisite slow number Animal had the crowd going with Ke$ha showing that yes, she can sing and quite well in fact.

The hits were all present and correct too with many of the songs sounding a bit thicker and less tinny live which matched Ke$ha's surprisingly sultry stage presence. If you could imagine the trademark Britney sexy shuffle and hair flip move given a dirtier, drunk party girl twist with a thumping electro pop backing, you're halfway to imagining the Ke$ha live show. I was much more impressed than I expected and though it's "bad ass rebel" schtick is obviously tightly rehearsed the lack of inane stage banter and air of messy fun gives the Ke$ha live show an edge over some of her contemporaries.

Ke$ha's next big gig here is her slot on the Sunday of Oxegen. Despite my initial cynicism I can see her tongue in cheek, sparkly romp of a set going down very well with a boozed up festival crowd. Put aside your prejudices and give it a go, the Ke$ha concert experience is quite the ride.

All in all, Summerjam was a enjoyable evening of fizzy pop, the concert equivalent of chugging a 2 Litre Bottle of Fanta and doing dance routines with your mates to whatever song just came on the radio. I've a feeling that the gaggle of teens at the show last night probably have a less wholesome way of spending their time but either way SummerJam does a fine job of providing pop thrills. Here's hoping to a suitably exciting follow up run next year.

Mistaken Identity & Good Work of

Confession time: I don't often get to take part in photocalls. Despite my best efforts photographers and PR agencies don't really call me to stand in Stephen's Green holding a banana and winking seductively in a swimsuit. THEIR LOSS I say. 

So you can imagine my surprise when I ended up at a photocall just yesterday. Now, it was for, a charity I did a video for recently so it wasn't too much of a shock. is a web service that takes about mental health issues for young people in a matter of fact way that is much needed.

Their latest campaign involves Oxegen festival, wellies and just a smidge of spray paint. This weekend in Dundrum Town Centre the team will be styling up festival headed wellies for only a fiver. They'll put stars, hearts and all sorts of lovely things on them. It's a great way for them to raise funds for the charity and everyone who gets their wellies did (technical term) goes into a draw for VIP camping tickets for Oxegen. It's a welly good prize. Get it? Welly go- never mind.

Part of the photocall involved us running around tied together in wellies, leaping over a sign, and working it while holding a wheelbarrow. It was all very exhausting and quite frankly I can see why Naomi Campbell throws phones at people now. Modelling is hard y'all. Despite my flawless model credentials (I am definitely getting the cover of Cosmo in like, Malta or something soon) the real draw was of course Brian and Dara from Spin 1038 who very kindly use their Spin show to give Reach Out a mention.

So, while I was working it for the camera (Tyra Banks came to me in a vision and said... "SMIZE GURL" and "PACK YO BAGS, WE GOING TO JAAPPPAANN") alongside some festival lovelies  little did I know what was about to happen.

In great news for the charity the lads landed themselves on the frontpage of today's Metro Herald. Lovely. Except, hang on -

WHY AM I ON THE FRONT OF THE PAPER?!? Could it be? My moment of fame? Somebody call my agent! Somebody get me an agent! Somebody call someone!

Oh. Hang on:

Cool. Metro's mistake. Thinking I was Brian "Meagher" from Spin (it's MAHER goys). My dreams of front page glory tainted. Obviously this has not stopped me booking high profile interview slots with many high profile publications (which I cannot name right now) and booking numerous high profile appearances at events which I cannot name at this time.

Meanwhile you can get your wellies made all fabulous at Dundrum this week and rock them down at Oxegen. The line up this year is pretty stellar and yours truly will be DJing on Sunday! How exciting. I'll also be standing around saying things like "Um, I was on the front of the Metro Herald once? I'm basically the male Georgia Salpa".

For more on ReachOut click here. If anyone needs me I'll be e-mailing Assets Models begging for a gig.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bridesmaids: Just As Funny As You'd Hoped

Everytime a much hyped US comedy appears on my radar I find myself getting excited and wary in equal measure. I don't know about you but I find myself regularly disappointed by many flagship comedies. The Hangover left me cold and while I was huge fan of Judd Apatow's TV work (including the oft overlooked teen dramedy Undeclared) many of his own films and produced by efforts let me wanting. One thing in particular grated on me, how such supposedly witty films consistently painted the female characters as shrill, one note harpies with no redeeming qualities.

Bridesmaid is from the same stable but takes a way more female friendly perspective on things. Co-written by it's star and SNL alum Kristen Wiig and actress/screenwriter Annie Mumlo, it had set tongues wagging before it had even set foot in cinemas. Industry sniping about female orientated comedies, hopeful bloggers expecting a feminist friendly flick and more importantly an actress like Wiig, unproven at the US box office opening her first major film.. Bridesmaids had alot resting on it's shoulders. Thankfully it has delivered on it's promise in spades with critical buzz abound in the US and a box office gross well over 100 million dollars.

And so it flies into Irish cinemas on a bed of hype. This was where I start to get nervous. How will it live up the any of my expectations? The trailer impressed and the wealth of talent involved gave me increasingly high hopes. I was lucky enough to view the movie at the Irish premiere. With some of the stars in attendance and a full house it was sort of the perfect way to view it with the big laughs and pithy script drawing many a belly laugh from the capacity crowd.

The plot is relatively simple. Permanently down at heel Annie is asked to be the bridesmaid of best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) for her forthcoming nuptials. Soon she has to contend with a rag tag group of friends in the bridal party, spearheaded by the neurotic and hyper efficient Helen (played with aplomb by Rose Byrne) and Lillian's future sister in law the gruff, boisterous Megan (Melissa McCarthy gleefully playing against type).  Alongside this is the presence of two very different men in her life, the caddish casual sex buddy (John Hamm) and the earnest cop who seems to have her best interests at heart (Chris O'Dowd, who oozes charm throughout). To say anymore would ruin many of the surprises but suffice to say there are plenty of painfully funny scenes scattered through the proceedings.

The movie was reportedly improvised heavily off of the original script and that loose, chaotic vibe gives the film plenty of verve. Not only that but it manages to flesh out it's characters too. Too many comedies reduce characters to ciphers in pursuit of big laughs. Bridesmaids deftly brings to life it's motley crew of stifled mothers, repressed newlyweds and life long friends with some quiet character moments dropped in alongside the raucous gross out material. Without resorting to Sex and the City style over emoting, Bridesmaids serves up a tale of messed up, confused women groping for some sort of sense in the whirlwind of marriage. But despite this it's not a "chick flick". It has been a bit painful to see the moviemakers insist that this isn't just a "women's film". But, ultimately they're right. Bridesmaids is undoubtedly female orientated but also a brilliant character piece and more importantly very very funny in it's own right.

Bridesmaids is a pure joy to behold, gleefully playing with expectations and also serving up a seemingly endless stream of priceless moments. You owe it yourself to see this film. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lady Gaga Releases Edge of Glory AKA THE LADY GAGA WORKOUT VIDEO

So there's a new video from Lady Gaga out. Even when people are sneering at her ridiculous "high concept" videos featuring avant garde blahdy blahdy performance art thingy type stuff I always enjoy a Gaga video. I was especially excited about the Edge of Glory clip. It's such a big, thumping pop song laced with a euphoria and sadness.

BUT the video is a bit of a mess. If I had to sum it up in a sentence I would say it looks like Madonna doing Janet Jackson's The Pleasure Principle on the set of The Cosby Show while THE ACUTAL COSBY SHOW MUSIC IS PLAYING. Except not as good as that sounds. (I'm aware I already tweeted this today but you didn't think I was going to throw away a line like that did you?)

I'm all for a simple, sleek Gaga video but this is clearly a video scrapped together with footage freed of little things like "concept" and "storytelling". Plenty of grumbling online suggests that the elaborate story planned was junked. Shame.

What the video does work as though is a sort of Lady Gaga fronted aerobics class. Seriously.

From my viewing of the video the Lady Gaga workout video involves the following key moves:

- The Freddy Krueger style lean and creep out of a window/side street : an important move for both stretching those muscles groups and creeping people out with your long talon-y fingers

- The Britney inspired sidewalk strut: warms up those ligaments (especially the throw your head back sexily ones ) and leads nicely into..

- The pointing at Clarence Clemmon finger: a great one at parties this. "Everybody point at the guy with the saxophone!"

- The stair / balcony / front porch shimmy: Drape across that stair well! Throw that head back! We're burning calories the Lady Gaga workout way!

- The Sidewalk Crawl: stretch yourself out on that pavement like fashion roadkill

- The Spinning Top : Twirl until you can't twirl no more. Great for working key muscles groups. I'd imagine.

Throw in a couple of hair flicks, some errant fist pumping and repeat ad nauseam for 5 & half minutes.. BOOM. You've just worked out with Lady Gaga. It definitely beats the Britney "Look confused and flip your hair halfheartedly" Spears workout at least.

Tweeting Yourself A Taxi: Twitter Makes Everything Better

Given my further descent into a full on Twitter addiction I am always trying to think of ways in it which it has improved my life. Blagging tweet seats for the fried chicken delights at Crackbird has probably been my favourite so far. Free chicken wings? Don't mind if I do.

Many businesses talk about their "social media strategies" which usually amounts to throwing a Facebook logo on the corner of their latest ad for no reason. Slick stuff. I heard about a new campaign that launched recently though that is actually quite clever. (AMAZING NAME ALERT) sell used cars but have decided to branch out into offering a free Twitter taxi service which you can book via their Facebook page or Twitter. it's a gimmick sure but if you need to get somewhere on Friday between 4 and 9pm in the next 2 months and want to chance booking, it's a handy number. It may not be as tasty as a hot chicken dinner but it'll at least get you from A to B.

With hashtags from Job Fairy to Ticket Fairy making Twitter The place to catch a bargain, what other services could be offered up via a cheeky twitter deal? As it stands you can blag a free meal, concert tickets and a job? Whatever next?

If I knew that I wouldn't be spending my time tweeting pop lyrics and moaning that I'm hungry on Twitter now would I? I bet Bill Cullen knows though. Look at him there, flogging Tweet Taxis, confident in the knowledge that he's very rich. Hmph.

Head over to for more info or check out their Twitter. And if you see me on your travels giz a lift will ya? Or at least throw me some chicken wings.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Last 2 Movies I've Seen: No. 2: X-Men : First Class

To conclude my exciting new segment The Last 2 Movies I've Seen (ha) here are my thoughts on the new X-Men prequel (which of course many of you have already seen. Always up to date, that's me). 

X-Men: First Class

I have been a huge X-Men fan for years. I spent years regularly reading the comics, particularly enjoying the Chris Claremont/John Byrne run which is still my absolute favourite. As such, I've always had a soft spot for the X-Men movies. I remember watching the comics I'd spent so long reading finally crossing beyond the mainstream following of the cartoon to an older, cinema going audience. 

It's easy to forget just how important the first X-Men movie was. Reinvigorating the comic book movie franchise and making Marvel see the film potential of it's vast back catalogue, it was a slick piece of fantasy filmmaking that lead to an equally impressive sequel. Sadly the third film derailed the whole enterprise. After the assured direction of Bryan Singer, X3 fell flat at the hands of Brett Ratner, who delivered a serviceable action film but one with none of the depth of the previous films. I've avoided the Wolverine prequel since it's release awhile back purely because I couldn't further taint my X-Men movie memories. Thank god then for First Class which attempts to bring the series back to it's roots.

For the most part it can be seen as a success. Getting into the backstory of both Professor X and Magneto is a stroke of genius, fleshing out both characters while providing more screen time for fan faves such as Mystique, Moira McTaggert, Beast and Emma Frost. 

Following a 40s based prologue, the plot unfolds in the early 60s and sees a pre-Magneto Eric Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) out for the blood of the man who tortured him and his family in the Nazi concentration camps. Meanwhile a young Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) spends time drinking, womanising and acting the cad alongside his best friend Raven (soon to be Mystique, played with aplomb by Jennifer Lawrence). When the US government, at the behest of Rose Byrne's Moira McTaggert, realise they need a genetic mutation expert, Xavier is drafted in, convincing Eric to join him when their paths cross in pursuit of Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). What follows is an a race to stop World War 3 with plenty of interpersonal drama scattered along the way.

Thankfully the solid storytelling of the previous films returns here. Director Matthew Vaughn, originally slated to direct X3 and famed director of Kick Ass (among others), injects the affair with plenty of energy. Weaving together characters with aplomb, First Class creates an impressive story with some excellent casting giving things a gravitas sometimes missing from comic book movies. 

Jennifer Lawrence is particularly good, slowly peeling away the layers of Mystique to make you understand why she ends up the way she does. That said, the double act of Fassbender and McAvoy steals the show. Both ooze leading man confidence tempered with an unusual amount of vulnerability that gives their friendship a earthy, believable air. Rose Byrne is likeable and convincing though underused, Nicholas Hoult does a good line in tortured geek, Kevin Bacon glowers magnificently as the villainous Shaw but sadly January Jones fails to convince as the icy Emma Frost, instead coming across as wooden and uncomfortable.

The 60s setting and grandeur of the proceedings lead to the odd uncomfortably cheesy moment but for the most part this is tonally on the button. The action sequences and CGI are full on and enjoyable with the solid storytelling and characters giving proceedings an emotional impact beyond your usual blockbuster. And unlike X3 which groaned under the weight of too many characters, First Class does a fine job of having many mutants and enough moments scattered throughout for everybody to shine.

Undoubtedly a return to form, X-Men : First Class is a fitting entry into the series and a brilliant summer blockbuster in it's own right. It'll be interesting to see just where the series goes next but for now Matthew Vaughn can be proud of creating a film that will tick the boxes for comic book geeks and general movie-goers alike. 

Given that this is a prequel much of the fun is in watching the proceedings build towards certain key moments. Vaughn understands this and offers plenty of fan friendly moments.

The Last 2 Movies I've Seen: No. 1: Last Night

I seem to be on a roll of seeing movies in the actual cinema of late. I'm mildly impressed with myself and have decided to review whatever I see in an attempt to make myself see more movies. I'm bullying myself basically.

Last Night

Myself and my flatmate watched the trailer for this only last week and suddenly I realised it was out in the cinema. Can't you tell that I'm on top of my movie news? Ahem. Anyway, the subtly sexy trailer and strong cast really made me want to see how it would all unfold. 

A low key relationship drama, it sees young couple Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington) squabble over Michael's interest in a glamourous new co-worker Laura (Eva Mendes), before he heads on a business trip. While Michael spends time away from home Joanna bumps into an old flame Alex (Guillaume Canet) and soon finds herself ruminating on a love affair that never was while her husband flirts with temptation. 

The plot, what little there is, does not neccessarily drive this slow burning romantic drama. Ultimately, despite some neat cameos, this is a foursome with Knightley and Canet weaving flirtatious rings around each other while Worthington and Mendes hammer out a tentative but intense bond. Last Night isn't afraid to play with audience expectations and build tension and once it gets past a stiff and overly talk opening act, it crafts plenty of romantic and melancholic moments. 

Knightley and Worthington clash more than they sizzle as a couple but once they meet their respective temptations that seems to be the point. Both Joanna and Michael reveal whole new sides to their personalities when they meet their prospective lovers. But, this isn't a movie about a couple cheating on each other and to say any more would ruin much of the enjoyment. 

What this film does deliver is a engrossing portrait of love and desire and lets a fine ensemble play to their strengths. Knightley is jittery and beguiling as she revels in the easy charm of Canet's character while Worthington plays an emotionally complex male understandbly unnerved by the confident yet subtle sexuality of Mendes' Laura. Writer/director Massy Tadjedin has created a movie that doesn't patronise the audience and so you'll find yourself playing out a fair few moral dilemmas in your own head throughout.

A clear attempt at counter programming a summer of noisy action flicks, boisterous comedies and superhero flicks Last Night is an intelligent and powerful drama piece. While not quite as clever as it likes to think it is it offers up some interesting characters and has a hypnotic, easy rhythm that will draw you in. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Neon Tinged Feast At Body & Soul

Attending last year's Body and Soul festival was one of the best things about last summer for me and I'm suitably raging I can't attend this weekend's festivities. It's an eclectic, chilled out experience and every bit as daft, engaging and entertaining as you would hope.

The line up and buzz about this year is building and it's easy to see why. One particular highlight that I really wish I could check out comes courtesy of the rather brilliant Queens of Neon. They've been thrown lavish tea parties and other food-fun-meets-creative-madness events for a few years now and have quite the reputation.

For this year's Body and Soul festival they've a lavish banquet for 200 people planned in the festival forest ground. You'll have to book ahead of time but a five course festival in such lush surroundings is surely to be a treat.

If that hasn't convinced you then the viral video they've done might just tip you over the edge. A trippy, surreal mish-mash of colours and food it'll have you drooling and booking tickets in no time.


For more on the event click here and check out the Queens of Neon online here.