S-E-B Oversight

I was shocked to discover that yesterday’s “pirate” CD post was actually the first time I’d ever even mentioned Sophie Ellis-Bextor on this blog!

Sophie Ellis-Bextor circa 2019For the record, I’ve had a major crush on her since the mid-1990s, when she was fronting an indie-rock band called Theaudience, who I “discovered” after being mesmerised by one of their promo posters on a record shop wall… it was basically just a massive close-up of her face, which was a very smart call on the part of the designer! Although their lyrics were a little cringe-worthy at times, her delivery made them seem a lot less ungainly/silly than they might read on the page, and the tunes were quite catchy, so they’ve stuck with me ever since, bless ’em. Still, I was glad when she went solo, and found a dancier/poppier groove (as well as making more of a contribution on the writing side of things)… besides the uplifting/ear-wormy music, her promo-videos are reliably glamorous/humorous, and she’s always been an exceptionally charming and witty personality. I even tried watching Strictly Come Dancing when she was a contestant, but everyone seemed compelled to make jokey “Murder on the Dancefloor” references all the way through the first episode, so I tapped out early… though apparently she made it all the way to Week 13 (aka The Final) before she was eliminated!

So, er, yes… I’m a big fan of hers, and I straight-up adore her voice (and the vocal nuances she brings to everything she sings)*, but sadly I’m also a terrible cheapskate, which is why I don’t already own her entire back catalogue in multiple formats… *ahem*… but I did pick up her latest album, The Song Diaries, shortly after its release a couple months back. It’s a “greatest hits” compilation, featuring all new recordings of some of her best-known songs, reworked with a full orchestra, and it is absolutely lush, imho.

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* I was going to compare it to “a fluttering golden buttterfly”, but thought that might be a bit over-the-top…?

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Faker Seen

My new/sealed (but totally fake) copy of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Make A Scene”Although I’ve been trying to curb my online spending lately, when I saw a new/sealed copy of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s album Make A Scene going for half-price on eBay, I couldn’t resist snapping it up (partly because of the price, and partly because my willpower was already greatly reduced by the gorgeous cover photo). When the CD arrived, everything looked kosher until I broke the seal and opened the lyrics booklet for a read… at first I was chuckling at the occasional typo, and frowning over what I perceived as minor discrepancies between the words I’ve always thought I heard and the “official” transcription, but then the errors grew more glaring, and a couple songs were awkwardly bisected by the web-addresses of the user-edited lyric sites that the text had been lazily copy-and-pasted from, and that’s when I realised that I’d been sold a cheap-ass bootleg. Pesky!

A page from the lyrics booklet of my totally fake copy of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Make A Scene”To be fair, I generally make out like a bandit on eBay, so I can’t really be too upset with the site, or the seller (who mostly deals in random second-hand bric-a-brac, and doesn’t strike me as a high-rolling international counterfeiter)… I can’t even be bothered starting a case against them, because, as I say, it was sealed and looked totally authentic on the face of it. Plus, I kinda like the idea of keeping it in my collection as a “curiosity”… though obviously as a fan of Mr. Robot, I doubt I’ll ever risk putting it into my computer’s disc drive!

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Rat ‘N’ Roll!

After twenty long years, the reunited/reinvigorated L7 have finally released a new album, titled “Scatter the Rats” (inspired by a motivational comment their producer made in reference to the rodents in the recording studio’s basement!). Videos for two of the tracks (“Burn Baby” and “Stadium West“) had previously been posted on YouTube, so they’ve already wormed their way into my brain, but it will probably take a couple more listens before I properly absorb the others.

L7: Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner, Dee Plakas, and Jennifer Finch (circa 2017)Sadly, I’m incapable of describing music, beyond stating whether it “rocks” or “doesn’t rock”… in this case, it most definitely does, and I feel like I should be saying something about all the exciting aural textures… instead I’ll just cheat and crib from a two-month old Blabbermouth piece: “[This album] embodies everything that made the band so iconic in the first place – the distortion-heavy riffs and head-banging rhythms, sludgy grooves and indelible melodies. Incendiary, cathartic, and downright fun it touches on issues of co-dependency, lonely hearts, internal conflict and setting aside old grievances for the greater good. Harnessing their revolutionary spirit and boundless energy, L7 achieve a direct transmission of raw feeling, often spiked with biting commentary on the chaos of the world today.” I concur.

I’m kinda disappointed that the earlier singles “Dispatch from Mar-a-Largo” and “I Came Back to Bitch” weren’t included, as I’d like to have a physical copy of them too, but I guess I shouldn’t look a gift-horse in the mouth, right? I should just be glad that my fave band is finally back together again, and making more great music for to shake my ears and shiver my spine. Hallelujah!

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The Bat Takes A Bow

[Contains asymmetrical war-paint and SPOILERS!!!]

Clare Foley as ‘Ivy Pepper’ in “Gotham” (S1-2)Gotham finale-d out last week, after five seasons, and a hundred episodes, which fluctuated wildly between the exciting, satisfying, and infuriating. The analogy I’d use, in terms of the show’s approach to plotting and characterisation, is of a cheerful drunk sat in front of “one-armed-bandit” machine, compulsively pulling the handle… never pausing to see if he’s “won” or “lost”, just happy to watch the tumblers spinning, spinning, spinning…

Perhaps the most conspicuous victim of the writers’ capriciousness was poor Poison Ivy: She was introduced in the first season as a grumpy/grungy ragamuffin played by Clare Foley, and remained awesomely antisocial/unkempt throughout the second season, before falling down a magkical well* (in ep #3.1), which transformed her into a fully-grown sex-idiot played by Maggie Geha! Then she decided that she wanted to be taken more seriously, and guzzled a load of crazy chemicals that drained all the fun out of her (in ep #4.2), so she could re-emerge as a boring-ass, standard-issue femme-fatale played by Peyton List (in ep #4.12). Meh. Personally, I liked the way they started out planting the seeds (pun!) for future villains, who’d be the same age or younger than Bruce himself, hinting at how they might grow up to be the “rogues” he’d have to battle in the future… but at some point the writers just decided to turbo-charge the process, so that Batman would just be fighting a bunch of creaky old has-beens (or rotting corpses) by the time he finally got his cowl on!

Francesca Root-Dodson as ‘Ecco’ in “Gotham” (S5)And I’m not even going to discuss their pseudo-proto-Harley-Quinn-stand-in, because the f*ckers killed her off in the finale, in the prime of her pseudo-Harley-ness… though I do have to give props to Francesca Root-Dodson for her performance this season, as she’s definitely my fave live-action Harley to date (I know that isn’t saying very much, but it’s not nothing either!) Back in the first couple seasons, tedious socialite ‘Barbara Kean’ (Erin Richards) was sent to Arkham Asylum to retrain as a kooky-killer-gun-moll, and it looked like they were trying to sell her as a pseudo-Harley-stand-in, but thankfully that phase eventually passed, and she levelled up to become a nightclub-owning-crimelord/assassin-cult-leader/batgirl-baby-mama… crikey, she’s certainly kept herself busy, eh? If there were an award for “Most Improved Character”, she’d win by a landslide, and I think a goodly share of the credit for that has to go to Richards, for having the versatility necessary to ride out the writers’ random “brainwaves”…

Nonetheless, in hindsight, this show should really have been called “The Oswald Cobblepott Hour”, because he (and Robin Lord Taylor, the actor who played him) was the most consistently entertaining and engaging element in any (and every) given episode. When he was on-screen, I was riveted… then when it cut back to some blah scene with Gordon and/or Bruce, I knew I could start eating again, because I wasn’t going to miss much… yawn…

In other Bat-news, I probably wouldn’t give the prequel series Pennyworth a second glance, except for the fact they’ve cast Paloma Faith and Jason Flemyng as the villains, which has now made it a must-watch for me! Pesky!

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* Technically she was prematurely aged by a life-stealing meta-human while falling into a sewer-hole, but it’s basically the same thing, right?

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W.T.F. R.L.!?

Bailey Meyers in "GooseDrunks: Monster Blood (Part 2)"Having exhausted/thoroughly-enjoyed all of the videos on Jenny Nicholson’s main YouTube channel, I started exploring some of her “deeper cuts”, such as Star-Wars-themed-talk-show Millennial Falcon and “fake fangirl” skit trilogy Con Artists, which have now led to me developing a parallel crush on her long-time collaborator/bestie Bailey Meyers.

Besides their joint-projects, Bailey has her very own (NSFW) YouTube channel, GooseDrunks, where she reads/summarises old Goosebumps (children’s horror) books, while taking a drink anytime anything stupid and/or genuinely spooky happens! Her increasingly-tipsy contempt for author R.L. Stine’s character/narrative choices is hilarious, and her “Don’t blame me, blame the book!” drinking face is super-adorable, so I’d definitely recommend these vids to anyone looking for a virtual booze-buddy to while away a (very) “happy hour”* with… and I’m saying/writing that as someone who’s never read a Goosebumps book in his life, and has absolutely zero interest in them beyond their upcycled value as fodder for her hate-reading…

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* Technically 20-45 minutes, but who’s counting…?

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“Vampire-Only Laughing!”

Natasia Demetriou as ‘Nadja’ in “What We Do in the Shadows” (TV) (S1)Although I enjoyed Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s flatsharing-vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows (2014), like a lot of shaggy semi-improvised comedies it left me a little underwhelmed… so I was surprised to see it go on to spawn two separate (superior?) TV sitcom spin-offs!

The first was Wellington Paranormal, which debuted back in 2016, starring Karen O’Leary and Mike Minogue as sceptical/oblivious police officers encountering/combatting various paranormal phenomena around the eponymous capital-city (which also served as the setting for WWDITS, hence their initial appearance in that film)… while the second, also titled What We Do in the Shadows, is basically a reboot of the movie set in America, but featuring a largely British cast (specifically Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, and Kayvan Novak). Although all three productions share a similar sense of humour, thanks to the direct involvement of creators Clement and Waititi, I think the reason I prefer the TV-shows is that they have much tighter plots thanks to the stricter episode length, with WP’s more focussed monster-of-the-week format, and WWDITS-TV’s ongoing story arc involving the blood-suckers’ anachronistic attempts to conquer Staten Island for vampire-kind. I also appreciate the fact that they both have more prominent female leads, with O’Leary and Demetriou easily holding their own among their respective castmates. To be fair, Jackie van Beek (who also directed a couple episodes of both shows) did have some great moments in the original movie as a human “familiar”, but casting a woman in a supporting role as a subservient skivvy isn’t gonna win you any “Feminist of the Year” awards, is it?

Meanwhile, as regular readers (!?) of this blog might have guessed already, I’m absolutely loving the old-timey goth wardrobe that the characters in WWDITS-TV are sporting… pretty much any scene involving Demetriou has me drooling… in a very respectful and fashion-oriented sense, that is. Black lace and (faux) fur collars FTW!

Update: WWDITS-TV will start airing here in the UK on BBC2, starting tonight, Sunday 19th May! And presumably hang around on the iPlayer for a couple weeks after that…?

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“It’s A Bit Naughty, Innit?”

A recent satirical reference to American socialists (supposedly) wanting to “eat the rich”* inspired me to revisit the cult 80’s Brit-com of the same name, co-written and directed by Peter Richardson, of Comic Strip Presents fame. Although I didn’t appreciate this when I first saw it back in the video-rental days, it’s interesting to note how progressive this film actually was/is, with Richardson writing the lead character specifically for a “genderfluid” actor-of-colour named Lanah Pellay (aka Al Pillay)! She plays a disgruntled server at a fancy-schmancy London restaurant, who’s fired for throwing shade at the obnoxiously rich patrons, and promptly decides to kick-start a (very small) revolution with a trio of easy-going, bow-and-arrow-toting co-conspirators… who are egged-on by a high-ranking KGB mole (Ronald Allen) intent on toppling the country’s inexplicably popular and grotesquely loutish Home Secretary (Nosher Powell).

Meanwhile, the more famous Comic Strip cast members (Robbie Coltrane, Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French,  Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer, and Jennifer Saunders) make brief/marginal cameos, but they score far less screen-time collectively than moonlighting musicians such as Shane MacGowan, Paul McCartney, and “Lemmy” Kilmister, who has a major supporting role as a “fifth columnist” fixer. His seminal band (Motörhead) also make an appearance as the main entertainment at a nobby party, while also providing the film’s title tune, along with various other songs featured heavily on the soundtrack. Rockin’!

Miranda Richardson as 'DHSS Blonde' in "Eat the Rich" (1987)To be honest the plot isn’t particularly strong, and the jokes aren’t particularly numerous or all that funny when they do occur**… but it’s a strangely compelling mishmash all the same, and worth at least one viewing imho, if only to bask in the bizarreness… though, at present, it isn’t actually available to buy on “home video” here in the country that birthed it!

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* According to Wikipedia, this is an abbreviation of a saying attributed to Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich”.

** Comedic highlights for me were Miranda Richardson’s taunting turn as a wicked DHSS worker, Lemmy’s punch-in-the-face pratfall, and pretty much every time someone got shot with an arrow (for some sick reason)…

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