Dandy Warhols at Sheffield Leadmill

Dandy Warhols are a band that are hard to pin down. Underground heroes but stadium rockers. Resolutely musically ambitious but a pop band. This makes for a confusing live experience. After support band Dark Horses won over a sizeable crowd with their atmospheric psychedelic sound the Dandy’s strode on to the stage with little fanfare.

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After opening with ethereal slow burner ‘Mohammed’ it wasn’t until ‘Get Off’ kicked in two tracks later that the Sheffield crowd responded. Frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor had the vocals mixed lower than usual and was singing into two microphones, each with a slightly different sound. This worked well for the slower numbers like ‘Mohammed’ and the superb performance of ‘I Love You’ but for the more upbeat songs like ‘Get Off’ and ‘Bohemian Like You’ Taylor-Taylor’s vocals were lost amidst the playing of the rest of the band. Having said that the rhythm section sounded great throughout with keyboardist Zia McCabe playing at least five instruments and looking cool as shit with each one and guitarist Peter Holmstrom appearing every inch a rock star.

One thing that the Dandy’s aren’t interested in is crowd interaction. For a band who showed in the superb documentary Dig! that they are articulate and opinionated it was disappointing that Taylor-Taylor barely mumbled a ‘thank you’ between songs and along with his band mates gave no indication whether they themselves were enjoying the gig.

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Following a pounding performance of ‘We Used To Be Friends’ (lapped up by the South Yorkshire crowd) and a mass sing along for ‘Godless’ the stage was set for a show stopping finale. Excitement reached fever pitch following a rapturously received rendition of ‘Boys Better’… and then the curtain fell, the lights came on and despite pleas from the audience there was to be no encore. No ‘Everyday Should Be A Holiday’ or ‘Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth’.

Dandy Warhols at Sheffield Leadmill were frustrating, brilliant, abrasive and crucially never boring. There is something quite refreshing about a band that are comfortable doing whatever the fuck they want to do. Never change Dandy’s.

Stewart Lee brings his Room With A Stew tour to Doncaster’s Cast Theatre

Stewart Lee

Coming off the back of his latest critically lauded series of Comedy Vehicle, Stewart Lee arrived at Doncaster’s Cask Theatre on typically confrontational form – ‘there used to be a perfectly good theatre here that I enjoyed playing in… it’s just fields now’. This wasn’t to be the only personal touch afforded to the Doncaster audience, ‘I see all of Doncaster’s guardian readers have turned out’, Lee noted. He later added ‘I might go over the allocated time tonight but let’s face it there is nothing else to do in Doncaster’. While Lee probably wasn’t joking, as he would tell you himself he rarely tells a joke, it is this all out assault on his long suffering audience that makes his comedy routine so unique and so polarizing.

His critics may call him a champagne socialist who isn’t funny but Lee had the full backing of a vocal Doncaster crowd no matter how much he tried to convince us that he didn’t. He repeatedly made references to the upper tier not understanding his act or having showed up to the wrong gig and almost twenty minutes were allocated to one unfortunate punter who had the temerity to show up late.

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Lee is at once like a fine wine and a forgotten carton of milk in as much his act seems to improve with age as he grows ever more sour and bitter. The argument that Lee has become a caricature is redundant when he is this funny, whilst still delivering biting social satire with a healthy dollop of the ridiculous. Lee is just as comfortable talking about Paul Nuttal of ‘UKIPS’ as he is imagining what the national radio station of Azerbaijan would sound like. Indeed, he seemed almost TOO comfortable with the latter as he spent a good fifteen minutes making random sounds and words to form a hypothetical Azerbaijani song. This was the closest Lee came to losing some sections of the audience, but that was always his intention, and he appeared almost annoyed that some people stuck with him throughout what was an absurd section.

Stewart Lee is a London based, Oxford schooled comedian but his left leaning politics, keen satirical eye and the fact that he is still happy to squeeze in a bit of potty humour, ensures that he will always have an adoring crowd in Doncaster. Come again soon Stew!

This article first appeared in Doncopolitan magazine:

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Kung Fury – 7/10

Taking on the unenviable task of making 80s cop movies seem more ridiculous than they already are…

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Kung Fury is a homage/parody not just to buddy cop movies but to 80’s movies in general. Think Running Man, Lethal Weapon, Escape from LA, stuff like that.

The problem with parodying such a ludicrous era is that so much of it already feels like a parody of itself. Kung Fury really ramps things up though to the point that a lot of the visual jokes are so out there it is actually shockingly funny. Cult classic and blaxploitation parody Black Dynamite overcame a similar problem the same way.

A feature length film based around this concept would have been too much but thirty minutes is perfect for director/actor David Sandberg to see his project realized in spectacular fashion via a budget raised almost entirely from crowd fund project Kickstarter.

Sandberg is hilarious as well as being really really good looking and I would be interested to see him take on something else actually, such is the quality and imagination behind Kung Fury.

Any film with Adolf Hitler portrayed as a Nazi ninja called Kung F├╝hrer is worth looking into as far as I am concerned.

Jurassic World – 8.5/10.

A director with one low budget indie film to his name brings us the best summer blockbuster since Avengers.

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There is a huge amount of pressure involved in rebooting a much loved franchise and they don’t come much bigger than Jurassic Park.

Director Colin Trevorrow started his career with Safety Not Guaranteed – a charming and quirky indie flick about time travel, that had little to suggest that Trevorrow deserves to be the man at the helm for one of the most anticipated films of the decade. This potential risk more than pays off.

If Avatar taught us anything it was that you can spend all the money you want on CGI and special effects but if you can’t write believable characters or interesting dialogue you will still be left with a dumb action flick. Jurassic World learns from this and though the special effects are faultless it is the script and the acting that elevate the fourth instalment in the series above your average action fare.

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Chris Pratt’s journey from loveable goofball Andy in much missed comedy Parks and Recreation to Hollywood heartthrob has been surreal and unexpected but he seems much more comfortable in Jurassic World than he did in Guardians of the Galaxy and rumours of Pratt as the next Indiana Jones no longer seem so far fetched. Pratt’s co star Bryce Dallas Howard struggles with a less well written character at times but at least she has recovered from the trauma of being involved in Spider Man 3.

Like other derided genres, horror and rom-com, action films are often criticised for predictable plot devices and rehashed ideas. Apart from two people jumping over a waterfall whilst shouting, Jurassic World does its utmost to break free from the trappings of a tired genre to appear fresh and it is this unpredictability that allows the story to comfortably justify a running time of over two hours.

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The message that the human race shouldn’t play God is as poignant as it was in Jurassic Park but a ham fisted attempt at a critique of capitalism doesn’t sit well alongside such obvious and jarring product placement. In a film about dinosaurs though this is a minor criticism and an attempt at dissection and analysis of that kind only leads to less enjoyment.

I would have liked to have spent a bit more time with a wider range of dinosaurs but Trevorrow gets so much right that it feels like nitpicking to mark down Jurassic World too harshly for this.

There is no iconic moment to rival the trembling water glass but how could there be? Jurassic World is a really good film in its own right and is such a welcome addition to the Jurassic Park series especially in light of such recent massive disappointments as Indiana Jones 4, A Good Day to Die Hard and The Dark Knight Rises. Nods to the original are not too ostentatious either which is always a plus point.

Jurassic World is in almost every way a success. Breath a sigh of relief and cross your fingers for the new Star Wars movie to be this good.

The Nightmare – 7/10.

The terrifying world of sleep paralysis brought to life.

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The Nightmare is a documentary focusing on 8 people’s experience with sleep paralysis. If you are not familiar with this sleep disorder then settle in for a jarring nights reading and do a Google search. Like many others I know from first hand experience that it is truly a horrifying experience.

The Nightmare attempts to showcase sleep paralysis through reconstructions and interviews with those affected. The reconstructions are so vivid and generally well made that The Nightmare is more horror film/documentary than straight up documentary.

The 8 chosen subjects are mostly engaging and interesting and the director Rodney Ascher does a good job in bringing it all together in a somewhat linear fashion but there is a niggling feeling of missed opportunity throughout.

The Nightmare had the potential to be so much more than talking heads and cheap scares. There is very little mention of the fascinating history of sleep paralysis or a scientific explanation offered or analyzed. This leaves The Nightmare like a job half done and at only 90 minutes there was definitely room for a more detailed investigation.

Despite it’s shortcomings it has to be said that while nothing can truly express how upsetting sleep paralysis can be, The Nightmare does a pretty damn good job.

Sweet dreams.

‘Joy Division’ – 8.5/10

‘Don’t turn away…’
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People often speculate about what a third Joy Division album would have sounded like or how a fourth Nirvana record would have turned out. In both cases people wring their hands about being robbed of what surely would have been an essential piece of work. To yearn for a lost masterpiece from either band though is to miss the point. Both Kurt Cobain and Joy Division singer Ian Curtis were tortured souls and both bands were doomed from the start. The fact that their lights shone so briefly is what makes their frustratingly small musical output so astonishing. No matter how successful both groups became (and arguably because of this) the alienation, loneliness and drug addiction(Cobain)/epilepsy(Curtis) would have got them in the end.

Joy Division is an exhaustive bbc4 documentary taking in the bands humble beginnings as Warsaw after forming at the infamous Sex Pistols gig at the Manchester Free Trade Hall to Curtis’ death on the eve of an America tour.

While it is really interesting to see interviews with Tony Wilson (RIP) and to see and hear archive footage from producer Martin Hannett and Joy Division manager Rob Gretton, it is the interviews with the band themselves as well as the live footage from the shows that leave a lasting impression.

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Hooky, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris make for insightful and funny interviewees and while the story of Joy Division and Curtis is a dark one, the three former band mates inject a lot of warmth and poignancy in to what is a brilliant documentary.

Totally essential for any Joy Division/New Order fan, Joy Division would also make a great introduction for anyone interesting in discovering Joy Division for the first time.

Joy Division is unflashy yet full of bravado, visceral yet funny. I get the feeling that Curtis would have approved…