Originally posted by A.Von.Doll on 12/11/09. Click image to see full size.
Originally posted by fightclubsandwich in October 2008
And now, an article for the girl who considers the Vans slip-on a more iconic shoe by far than anything by Christian Loubouwhatsit. Why spend all that money on Vogue or Cosmo or Glamour to learn about expensive, exagerated clothes being worn by models with ridiculous figures, that are difficult-to-the-point-of-impossibility to translate into real life? You can learn how to navigate your way around the convoluted, controversial world of fashion by remembering the cartoons you used to watch as a child!
Mona The Vampire
It’s pretty clear from the outset that Mona The Vampire is a child of the 1990s. Firstly, she embraces the grunge look, with dreadlocks, Courtney-Love-style exaggerated make-up (her eyelashes were about as long as her fingers, and those porcelain-doll-parody red spots on her cheeks must be some statement use of blusher) and baggy clothes that are often quite lumpy and misshapen, but in a cool way. On the other hand, other items of her attire, such as her loafers and knee socks are SO this summer, if you’re into the whole trend-spotting thing. Not to mention that Goth is supposed to be coming back in a big way this year (and if you’re anything like me, that is EXCITING NEWS).
However, Mona’s overall look is mostly reminiscent of the mix-and-match street styles torn straight from the Fruits books and magazines, and blogs such as hel-looks. com. The button up shirt is so Lolita-esque, especially accessorised with the over-sized neck bow and hair ribbons. Then there’s the clashy-clashy colour scheme- the cape alone is deep purple with lime green and mustard flowers, and worn with a red blouse! The reason that the likes of the Fruits books fascinate everyone is the sheer inventiveness that the subjects show, pulling off eclectic looks that make you wish YOU’D thought of that, and that mix is Mona’s look in a nutshell.
Babar The Elephant
Babar is an elephant who is adopted by an Old Lady (referred to perhaps excessively bluntly as the “Old Lady”, and no, not in the sense that she was Babar’s “Old Lady”, it’s absolutely not THAT kind of a cartoon) and is taken to France, where he is dressed by Parisian tailors in what we must assume to be an extremely well-made suit. These guys designed and made clothes for an ELEPHANT, if you’re going to take on a challenge like that, you don’t do it by halves.
Anyway, then some more things happen, and Babar goes back to Africa and becomes King of the Elephants, bringing back many elements of French culture, in what may or may not be an endorsement of Western imperialism and colonialism, but I am not one to let Wikipedia ruin my childhood memories. Besides, all that subtext has nothing to do with the clothes. Does the possibility of a morally dubious underbelly to a children’s story really detract from the genius shade of green of Babar’s suit? It’s bold enough to be a personal trademark, but not too ridiculous or silly to undermine him or his role as a leader. Not to mention that the cartoon series at least show him wearing the suit as a very young elephant, (ambiguously aged, but I’d peg him as a teenager) as well as when he grows up to become a parent himself? This shows a sensibility about his style and teaches the kids from a very young age that there’s nothing glam about never wearing the same thing more than once, and a well-made item that will last you a lifetime is an infinitely wiser choice.
Madison from Cardcaptors
Like many children’s television programmes, Cardcaptors revolves around a young girl who has magical powers, blah blah blah, save the world, blah blah blah, cute little animal companion, etcetera. The aforementioned world-saver, Sakura, has a best friend who insists on designing beautiful outfits for her to wear whilst doing the whole magical thing, and if the characters’ school uniforms weren’t cute enough to leave any regular schoolgirl green with envy – those cute little berets! The bell-shaped sleeves! The red detailing on the collars! – Madison’s glorious garments raise Cardcaptors to the status of Sex & The City for ten year olds. It’s probably best to put any questions regarding the sewing skills of a child who is still in primary school in the back of your mind. Just open your eyes and let them water at the fabulous wardrobe she is responsible for.
Madison’s design trademarks (although she doesn’t actually wear the best stuff, it seems unfair to credit Sakura as the stylish one since she doesn’t seem to wear anything other than her school uniform when not in Madison’s creations) include lots of matching and co-ordination, small details such as buttons and bows that tie the outfit together and playfully feminine headgear such as ribbons, berets and even bunny ears. Her outfits almost always include tiered skirts with lots of petticoats, and she often matches them with knee socks or high boots, and capes that offer an interesting set of lengths. She also pays a lot of attention to her sleeves, with lots of puffiness around the shoulders, detailed cuffs or supplies very long gloves instead of sleeves, for something a bit more modern.
If the girly eccentricities of Cardcaptors are analogous to Sex & The City, then X-Men is more like Dynasty. I am not talking about the more recent movie tie-in series X-Men Evolution; this is the early nineties attempt at telling the X-Men story, and the 80s influence is all over the character design. To start with, there’s a lot of really big hair. In retrospect, I suppose it’s odd that my six year old self was never in any way perturbed by the fact that Jean Grey’s hair was bigger than I was. The best X-Men hair of all, however, has to be Storm’s. Although she has some stiff competition – Quicksilver also did the edgy ice blonde thing, (and is probably the role model of Jay Manuel from America’s Next Top Model) and Rogue’s two-tone ‘do is one of the most recognisable looks in the Marvel Universe – Storm’s utterly awesome mohawk phase makes her admirable not only from a fashion standpoint, but is indicative of her role as one of the fiercest of all female comics characters, like, ever. It may not be a particularly shocking haircut to the likes of you, dear reader – and if it is, just go to your nearest Green Day concert or easily available alternative, where they’ll be ten-a-penny – but for a children’s cartoon? A character aimed primarily at young girls? It’s a pretty big difference from all that Disney Princess Hair, for sure.
Anyway, these mutants also love their statement pieces, (as I believe they’re referred to in actual fashion magazines) from Jubilee’s bright yellow trench coat to Shadowcat’s exaggerated preppy lapels and Jean Grey’s thigh-high boots. This is in keeping with the central theme of the show of every character having their own unique abilities, of everyone having some aspect of themselves that’s special and unique. My favourite character at the time was Rogue, and her pairing of a scruffy khaki jacket with bright yellow and acid green spandex is a distinctive, punky, experimental look that few could pull off – and with the aforementioned two-tone hair, too!
When you see a bright yellow cat wearing a plum-coloured waistcoat and fedora, you know that this is a creature who is utterly fearless in his fashion taste. Kate Moss later stole the whole fedora-and-waistcoat combo idea, but with none of Top Cat’s pizzazz nor courage. Denim and black may be in tune with her rock ‘n’ roll image, but it’s less interesting, for sure. Top Cat not only succeeded with what could have been a tricky monochrome look, but also made it work as a successful day-to-night outfit. Admittedly, when you’re a cat who lives on the streets, you may not get invited to a lot of fancy affairs that may warrant a “night look” but hey, at least he doesn’t look as dated as Choo-Choo (that’d be the pink one in the white polo neck) who – now that it’s not the sixties any more – just looks like some sort of practitioner of some sort of strange, new-agey healing technique. And that’s just weird.
It’s not often that Leamington gets some excellent bands from across the pond (the last was North Lincoln all that long way back in October), but Bridge and Tunnel and Young Livers came on over as part of their UK tour, playing with three British bands. Five bands, five pounds. Not bad, considering. So I headed on over there, bad bus journeys aside, to see what was going on.
But first, allow me to digress. Live reviews are not my strong point. I go to a lot of shows, hence I do live reviews, but unless I write them up on the night, they’re generally not very good. This is one of those ‘not very good’ ones. I also feel kind of limited within the field that I do review – it’s always punk rock. Generally, most punk bands have a very similar performance – of course, there are nuances to every set, but on the whole, it’s a very energetic performance. The bands are usually pretty tight. Typically, it’s hard to dislike a punk set because even if the music isn’t very good, you can almost always give the band merit on their performance, because you know they’re most likely giving it 110% and it shows. Therefore, from here on out (this review excluded because at this point in time, I’ve almost finished it) I am going to try and really think about how to paint this picture to you. Guide’s honour. And so, without further ado…
First band of the night were Verses, a local band. I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t paying that much attention. The room was packed – presumably because there were bands playing that everyone had heard of – and I was straining to tiptoe to see above the crowd of six foot plus giants who surrounded the stage. And as a result, wasn’t as into it as I should have been. That aside, Verses were interesting. I liked to imagine that they were the bastard child of Pelican and Minus The Bear with some shouty shouty vocals in there for good measure. On the whole, what I truly listened to, sounded good. The performance was about as animated as you can get when you’re finger tapping into oblivion and you aren’t David Lee Roth, but on the whole, pretty good. Good way to kick off the night, even if they didn’t fit with the rest of the stuff being played.
Second up were The Amistad. I’ve seen these guys before (and possibly reviewed them before) so I sort of knew what to expect. Upon the release of their new album, they sounded better than ever. The set consisted of new songs and crowd favourites and was very good. I suppose in more detail, the new songs sound very much like the old ones, but that doesn’t matter because it’s all good. Seriously, check out that Myspace and give them a listen. I’m a sucker for gruff vocals, and let me tell you, they were gruff. I was not dissatisfied. Buy the album, they’re nice guys.
OK Pilot were back again and on fine form. I know fuck all about the British scene these days – I’m still stuck in the 80s or in Gainesville, Florida when it comes to my regular listening – but I do know that OK Pilot are pretty fucking awesome. They’ve got a real presence when playing live and the ferocity of their songs translates well to the stage. Everyone was really psyched to see them, myself included and came away happy. A few tracks off the EP I have were played, others were great… actually, do OK Pilot have a full length? I need to investigate this. And you do too. If you get a chance to go and see OK Pilot, please go and do so.
Young Livers were the penultimate band that night, having supported Bridge and Tunnel throughout their European tour. Despite my generally not terrible knowledge about American punk rock, I’d never heard of Young Livers. By the end of the set, I wish I’d heard of them sooner. They play a wonderful brand of really upfront and forceful punk rock. I’d say ‘with an edge’, but the very notion of punk rock is that it’s edgy, so instead, I’ll say that they were excessively interesting. All throughout their set, they had a strange dialogue between a number of different people threaded (pre-recorded, might I add). The closest I can get to describing it is that it sounded a little bit like the girl talking at the end of Affliction by AFI. I didn’t get a word that was being said, but it fitted perfectly with the music. Some great dual vocalist work going on and in general, an excellent set.
And finally, Bridge and Tunnel. The tour was in support of their new album and the new tracks they did play sounded pretty awesome. Admittedly, I haven’t heard much of their material (I have East/West on the way, but I’ve been relying off Myspace/Punknews streams for the time being), but it can be best described as intelligent shit. They’ve got the passion and energy of an 80s hardcore band straight out of DC, but it sounds far more melodic and has way better lyrics. It was a reasonably mellow set but with plenty of drive. Guitarist Rachel has some of the maddest tapping skills I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Coheed and Cambria before. Absolutely mindblowing. Unfortunately, I had to leave before the end of the set, which was actually rather short, but that was the only disappointment of the evening. I can say with all honesty that every band was good, if not great, that night and that yes, we do have a good scene. As OK Pilot said, we have a good scene in Leamington and if we keep it going, people will keep playing. And with shows like this, I don’t think we’ll have much of a problem.
Originally posted on 10/2/10
I stepped into the room gingerly. A bunch of Rocksoc kids are gathered around the stage making noise. Four boys stand nervously on a stage. A row of judges are being announced; none of them really matter. I pick a spot at the back behind the sound guy and wait. Battle of the Bands fucking sucks.
It’s been a very long time since I attended one of these affairs. Back in the day when a few friends had bands together, I’d go along and support them, but these were bigger scale events, meant for people who were actually serious about music. Bandsoc’s humble affair is a bit of a shambles in comparison. Six bands, each with a fifteen minute set – winner gets through to the final, a runner up goes through to a semi final where they pick one more band to go to the final. And it’s most likely rigged to hell. Unfortunately, for a competition so small, that’s how it works. Best friends, members of the society’s committee, the band that won last year… it’s all a bit incestuous, really. And almost all the bands are absolutely fucking terrible.
I just don’t know what it is about Battle of the Bands that draws such bad acts out. The fact that they can’t get shows anywhere else? Or because it’s the only place where they can get away with their generic, under rehearsed bullshit? This is synonymous with pretty much all BOTB competitions that aren’t being sponsored by some industry bigwig that require a comprehensive demo before they’ll let you anywhere near a stage. Also, it’s always the same type of band. Through the two heats I have seen thus far, there have been about seven out of twelve ‘generic rock bands’, a couple of prog bands, a bad excuse for pop-punk, a weird Yellowcard-esque post-hardcore band and a shit indie band. The overwhelming amount of ‘insert generic rock here’ involved in this competition is ridiculous. It’s easy, but it sure as hell isn’t any good. And I think this is generally why I don’t go to these kind of things – there’s no real variation. Any band that steps away from the formula doesn’t really get taken into account because the judges go batshit insane for… well… shit. It’s as if nobody’s learnt to diversify and are still digging their dad’s Def Leppard cds he keeps in the glove compartment because he can’t play them in the house.
But ultimately, what I hate about Battle of the Bands is the way that each band bitches about the other. Okay, I’ll admit, that in some cases (like last night), it’s a totally valid practise, especially when your band does happen to be much better than everyone else on the set list. However, in general, there’s no camaraderie. I realise that ultimately, BOTB is a competition. The term ‘battle’ is in the name, so of course people are going to begrudge their fellow bands a win. However, there’s no need to take it out on the rest of the guys when you lose. I always think back to the Cobra Skulls song “Anybody Scene My Cobra” (look it up, it’s a damn good song) and the chorus in it –
No scene, no scene, no scene
No camaraderie, this might as well be battle of the bands
No scene, no scene, no scene
No common enemy, we might as well be playing in a talent show
The fact that BOTB and talent shows are being used as a negative example of how music should be conducted… well, I think that says it all.
So, why do I subject myself to it? The hope of scoping out pretty boys? Vaguely. The fact I have nothing better to do on a Tuesday night? A contributing factor. Because it gave me inspiration to start my own band based on how awful the majority of bands have been so far? Most definitely. The truth is, there is this part of me that wants to support live music as much as I can, especially in the student union where there is hardly anything to cater to somebody with my specific musical interests. So I go, grit my teeth and think of how scathing an article I can write about it the next day.
Originally posted on 25/2/10
It was the year 2005. I hit up a random music blog in the hope of finding something new, my listening habits being diluted and destroyed by a teenage obsession with Fueled By Ramen. I wanted something visceral, something destructive, something that had a little bit more than ‘I want to fuck you and hope you want to fuck me too’. So, clicking the post-hardcore tag (I was getting pretty into At The Drive-In and Circa Survive and thought that it might be a good bet), I stumbled upon an album entitled ‘Trainwreck’ by Boys Night Out. I vaguely remembered the name – they’d been reviewed in Kerrang! for their debut – and the cover looked pretty awesome. I wasn’t quite aware what was going to happen. But as soon as I unzipped that album and listened to it through, I knew that I had discovered a musical masterpiece.
The thing is, ‘Trainwreck’ is the only good Boys Night Out album. Their first album, ‘Make Yourself Sick’ isn’t anything to shout about. Their self-titled, which came after ‘Trainwreck’, is fucking awful. It defies all logic, but there it is – ‘Trainwreck’ is potentially one of the best albums ever written, and it comes from a less than average band. Perhaps it has something to do with the appearance of Kara Dupuy, their short lived keyboard player/backing vocalist, which added a completely new dimension to their sound. Or maybe, it has to do with the fact that ‘Trainwreck’ is a concept album, and a pretty screwed up one at that.
Coheed and Cambria officially stole the spotlight when they released ‘The Second Stage Turbine Blade’ in 2002, and subsequent albums all based upon an absolutely crazy comic book world (of which comics actually exist) which would take at least another article to explain. Curious? Go here. But either way, the world of Coheed and Cambria and their children captivated the ‘alternative’ listeners, to put it simply. It was like nothing we’d ever heard before. Concept albums were relegated to power metal and prog rock, and here was something that… rocked! The Coheed revolution sparked a few other fantastic concept albums, including the first two Armor For Sleep albums, but that also requires another article to discuss and perhaps one day, when I write a book on the rock scene in the 2000s and how much it equally owned and sucked, I’ll go into greater depth. But we’re here to talk about Boys Night Out. And well… ‘Trainwreck’ is pretty incredible, and certainly the best of all the concept albums that began to spring up in the scene.
The story isn’t too complicated, but insanely fucked up. In essence, the main character, The Patient, has excessively violent nightmares which one day, spill over into real life, and he kills his wife in his sleep. After a murder trial, he is declared insane and sent to a mental hospital in the hopes of rehabilitation. A brief stint makes the Patient believe he’s getting worse by being in there and he’s ready to leave, so the Doctor releases him back into society where he retains a massive sense of guilt and cuts off his hands to prevent himself from killing anyone again. And this is told in the most graphic of ways. Needless to say, he goes back into hospital and is given a shit ton of drugs, and ends up writing this song in his head which becomes the key part of the album – he just can’t get it out of his head and it drives him further into insanity. He convinces the Doctor to let him have friends over and kills them so he can see his wife again and try and finish off the song. Oh, and she’s the one singing this song in his head, to make things even crazier. So, to finish the song, he either has to kill the Doctor or himself, and well… it isn’t the Doctor who ends up as a bloated, overdosed corpse. Yeah.
It sounds like something out of a comic book, although it’s not imitative of the Coheed stuff at all. And whilst the story itself is compelling, it’s the music and the way that it interacts with the story that really shines throughout. Opening track, ‘Introducing’ is chilling to the bone, opening with muted guitar tones and a voiceover provided by the Doctor. Unlike the rest of Boys Night Out’s material, it’s relatively sedate for the most part, despite being excessively dark. The screaming is limited, and this really aids the album, by providing just moments of anxiety and paranoia. Kara’s vocals on ‘Relapsing’ as the Patient’s wife are the high point of the album and fit perfectly in a wonderfully tender, yet haunting song. It’s ridiculously romantic – the acoustic guitar alone sends shivers down your spine – but you can’t deny the underlying feeling that something is very, very wrong. The soft tones just don’t seem right straight after one of the most intense and metallic songs on the album (‘Purging’). This is a reasonably common theme throughout the album, and a lot of the time, the darkest moments are juxtaposed with the most melodic and calming riffs.
And that’s the beauty of ‘Trainwreck’ – it can completely knock you sideways when you aren’t expecting it. It’s also ridiculously catchy in places that shouldn’t be; for example, in ‘Composing’, the lyrics “So come over to my house/Catch up over dinner/We are having strychnine and sirloin/Port wine and paint thinner” are sung in the most upbeat and awesome way. I can’t convey it with justice via text, so you’ll just have to go pick up the album and find out for yourself.
But why does ‘Trainwreck’ matter so much? It’s fairly unknown, virtually impossible to find within the UK and didn’t attract much of a fan base. However, it’s one of the biggest influences to me as a writer. Upon first listen, my thoughts were “Fuck, I wish I could write something as incredible as this”, and not from a musician’s point of view either. The story is one of the most compelling and haunting I’ve ever come across and if I can think of something anywhere near as original, then I’m onto a winner. It’s also proof that concept albums can transcend the banal (read: The Black Parade) and the metal to combine both great music and a great story, which unfortunately, doesn’t really happen any more. The post-hardcore concept album reached its height at 2005-2006 with Circa Survive, Coheed and Cambria, Armor For Sleep and Boys Night Out. Therefore, ‘Trainwreck’ matters, not because it stands alone, but because it’s timeless, unlike the latest Armor For Sleep album, it’s got a definite and individual story, unlike Circa Survive, and it’s easy to understand and appreciate, unlike Coheed and Cambria. That’s not to say that a concept album needs to be viewed as a concept album – it’s easy to appreciate them on a purely musical basis, and it’s very easy to do that to ‘Trainwreck’. But ‘Trainwreck’ simply stands apart from the rest of the crowd and provides a musical experience like no other.