Saturday, 18 May 2013

Album Review: Blur - 13

Before you dig into this article, a few things are worth mentioning. First off, this is the first thing I started writing last year (2012). I intended for it to be published here on the blog but it took up way too much of my time and despite this I wasn't at all happy with the finished piece. A few months later, the ONM forum based web-mag Stream was launched, and I decided to refine this article and publish it in the second issue of Stream as my first music review. All in all, after going over it, I still felt that the review could've been a little shorter, but I figured, after about a year in the drafts section of my Blogger dashboard, now would be as good a time as any to publish it on here. Enjoy my review of 13 by Blur.

13, first released in 1995, was recorded during a number of tensions surrounding one of Britain's most famed bands. Singer Damon Albarn had recently split up with the love of his life, Graham Coxon suffered from emotional stress and heavy drinking problems, and tensions between these two frontmen clashed due to personal differences, a struggle that still stands nowadays. Albarn had also moved in with artist Jamie Hewlett at the time, an act that would later spawn Gorillaz, a project that undeniably proved to be much more successful than Coxon's solo works. In basic terms, a number of emotional frictions were in effect before and during the production of what at the time was looking to be the band's final work.

If the album I'm reviewing today proves anything, it's that pouring negative emotions into song writing often makes for a particularly successful recipe. The outcome of the band's struggles at the time was this release, quite possibly their most sophisticated yet at the time, and certainly my personal favourite to this date. There's a heavy avant-rock theme going on in this loosely-conceptualised set of 13 songs that makes Damon and the crew appear to have constructed a slightly Radiohead-esque album, not to say that they ripped that band off in any way. It's much more than a pebble's throw away from the likes of Leisure, Parklife and The Great Escape, however, cementing itself as the odd one out in Blur's discography; the black sheep; the not-so ugly duckling. And yes, 13 makes even Think Tank appear no less tame than Blur's britpop beginnings. Now there's a feat. Despite this, 13 is actually exactly what one would expect from a band called Blur: A perfectly fazed, spaced-out smudge of an album, an effect mainly down to some truly excellent production by William Orbit.

But just how good is this release - One formed from heartbreak, raging emotions and the numerical transformation of the first letter of the band's name? Did it turn out far too out-there to be considered of a high quality, or is it Blur's finest hour? Continue on and find out, dear reader, as we explore the ravenous, twisted, spacey wall of sound presented by 13...

Monday, 13 May 2013

TV Review: Doctor Who 7.08 - Cold War

Is the return of the Ice Warriors sssssuperb, ssssshoddy or sssssomething in-between?

When it comes to Doctor Who writers, Mark Gatiss is a rather strange case. He's hailed as a true fan of the show, and has penned plenty of adventures for The Doctor and his companions ever since the third instalment of the revived series way back in 2005, which was not only a hit but also the very first historical episode of the 21st century. Not only this, but he was also the first guest writer to work on Doctor Who's revived series. It's funny, because since then practically all of Gatiss' episodes have turned out to be either wholly divisive outings or complete flops, more-so the former. However, things were certainly looking up for Mark's latest script. It promised the exciting resurrection of a forgotten foe that hadn't been featured in the show for over thirty years. It promised a thrillingly claustrophobic base-under-siege adventure for The Doctor, Clara and a heap of Russians onboard a submarine in the heat of the cold war. And perhaps most importantly, it showed promise on the run-up to its initial broadcast.

The question is, did Cold War, the return of the long-forgotten Ice Warriors, deliver in its promise? If you've got a spare few minutes, I advise you read the rest of this review. If not, I can answer that question right now without a sliver of doubt in my mind: No. In fact, showing promise is all the episode ever seems to succeed in...