Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The End Of Oxegen: How Europe's Favourite Rock'n'Roll Weekend Died An Undignified Death

Europe's Favourite Rock'n'Roll Weekend
. That's the tag Oxegen assigned itself after it first emerged from its humble beginnings as Witness back in 2000, and back then they had the acts to back that statement up. Headliners in Witnness' four year run were impressive- they boasted such names as Oasis, Green Day, and Foo Fighters before MCD expanded the two day gig into a weekend long event, and began hunting the biggest names in music to play for an Irish audience at Punchestown Racecourse in  July.

It wasn't long before Oxegen began to dominate the Irish summer and for a while there it seemed as though this was a festival that could reasonably lay claim to being one of Europe's finest festivals alsongside the likes of Glastonbury and its counterparts. So how did the biggest music event in Irish history reduce itself to the rubbish that will be on offer this August Bank Holiday?

The announcement of a largely dance/chart oriented line up last night at 7pm was effectively the announcement of Oxegen's demise. Calvin Harris, Example and David Guetta headline a cast that sounds closer to the soundtrack of a teenage disco in the local community centre than anything resembling a credible music festival and the outraged reaction that followed was predictable to say the least. The first question that came to my mind was whether the weekend will even go ahead- surely they won't be successful in selling enough tickets (a whopping e199.50 for 3 days) for this thing to actually happen. But the fact remains that the likes of these lame, overplayed DJ's will appeal to a sub-section of music fans in the country and that brings me to the next issue, and one that is sure to overshadow the music in August.

Last year in place of the absent Oxegen, several concerts were held in Phoenix Park for Irish music fans as a substitute, among them The Stone Roses and Snow Patrol. However one gig stood out from the rest for all the wrong reasons- Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris and Snoop Dogg were the artists involved in an event that saw nine stabbed and two fatalities, and you can absolutely guarantee that there will be a repeat performance in Naas this year.

It's a terrible truth but the fact is that this type of music will attract violent youths and trouble is a certainty with or without increased security. Unless the government can employ enough Garda√≠ to personally monitor each and every festival goer then there will be deaths at Oxegen this year and this tragedy will come as no surprise to the Irish nation, who are more than aware of the reputation Oxegen has steadily gained since its inception, although clearly MCD and associated promoters are willing to take the risk while the government haven't yet learned their lesson from last year.

For many, the likes of Electric Picnic, Forbidden Fruit, Indiependence and Castlepalooza have been  superior options to Oxegen for a number of years now, but MCD were still capable of producing quality acts even as its status as Ireland's biggest festival slowly began to wane- Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, The Arcade Fire, Muse, The Cure, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Daft Punk, James Brown, R.E.M, The Verve, Blur, and The Who were all there between 2004-2011 and whatever your feelings about the facilities, crowd or any other issues at Punchestown, it cannot be denied that to bring all of these world class artists to Ireland was an outstanding achievement.

So what now? Well, it seems inevitable that this is the last we'll see of Oxegen, at least in name- it seems ridiculous to bill this list of acts under the Oxegen moniker as it resembles nothing close to previous years, so a name change is surely in order after August, if the festival isn't completely wiped off the calendar anyway following the trainwreck of a weekend it will be. Perhaps sister festival Longitude is set to take its place, perhaps MCD have another ace up their sleeve for next summer (unlikely considering how clumsy they were about announcing their list of duds last night) but the one thing we can all be certain of is this: Oxegen is over. May it rest in peace.

If you're hitting the festival scene this summer check out The HMM Guide To Irish Festivals 2013 or alternatively, The HMM Guide To European Festivals 2013 if you're leaving the country.

Or turn back the clock with the HMM 
review of Electric Picnic 2012..

Monday, 22 April 2013

One To Watch: Yellowbridge

Ciara Donnelly’s distinctive vocals are the driving force behind Yellowbridge, a project formed by Donnelly in late 2011 that seems to be gaining momentum of late. The Waterford born singer-songwriter frequently collaborates with guest musicians and producer Kyle Hyungsung Kim to great effect on her earliest songs, particularly on standout tunes such as ‘’Cruising’’ and ‘’Winter City’’, both of which incorporate a mellow, minimal acoustic production that is complimented excellently by the front woman’s outstanding voice.

Donnelly’s influences are easy to tell- Joanna Newsom, Kate Bush and a little bit of Florence spring to mind immediately, but this is not mere imitation; this girl can really sing. It’s the type of quiet indie folk that could silence a rowdy bar although surely this promising duo won’t be staying low-key for very long. That’s especially if single ‘’Circus’’ has anything to do with it. A wandering, flowing vocal performance from Donnelly is backed by her piano and the song is already catching the public’s attention, having been nominated for the IMRO Songwriter of the Year award and receiving radio time from top nationwide stations.

Having spent late 2012 touring the country, Yellowbridge are growing a strong reputation and are definitely one to watch in 2013.

Ciara was interviewed by Festival And Gig Guide on Monday.

You can check out music by Yellowbridge here.

Or alternatively, follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

For more ones to watch at Heavy Metal Mouth, have a look at another upcoming Dublin band, The Boxing Plot.

Friday, 19 April 2013

''Wolf'' Tyler, The Creator - A Review

It's been two years since Tyler's second studio album Goblin, and a lot has changed since. The Odd Future leader's sophomore album was one of the defining products in a series of releases that saw the alternative hip-hop collective rise from underground notoriety to mainstream fame alongside The OF Tape Vol. 2, and Frank Ocean's universally acclaimed channel ORANGE, judged by many to be the finest album of last year. So now that Tyler and co. have sufficiently shocked the world into taking notice, how does he respond to the fame and fandom that he so clearly craved from his earliest recordings?

Wolf is an intriguing album, and one of greater complexity than it's two predecessors. Tyler has always been a talented producer, mainly through his use of menacing, droning synths and minimal percussion, but here things have stepped up quite a bit, as the rapper fills these 18 tracks with richer textures and atmospheric beats. The results of this are most profitable on tracks like ''Answer'', a melodic, accessible indie rap song, the like of which was first hinted at with ''Inglorious'' on Bastard, and ''Slater'' through it's use of strings and Frank Ocean's always welcome gorgeous guest vocal. Speaking of vocals, ''Awkward'' must be heard to be believed as Tyler croons ''you're my girlfriend, you're my girl'' over the outro, a shocking admission from the controversial artist for exactly the opposite reasons that made him such a polarizing figure previously.Whatever happened to locking bitches up in storage, raping them and recording it?

That's not to say that the depraved individual we all know so well is completely gone though- there's plenty of typical OF tunes to go around in the shape of ''Rusty'', containing what is probably Tyler's best verse on the album, a flowing attack aimed directly at his critics, while ''Domo23'' makes for an obvious lead single, and could easily be joined by potential releases ''Jamba'' and ''Cowboy'', both of which make for a strong start to the record. Other highlights include ''IFHY'' (I Fucking Hate You, as can only be expected on a Tyler album), an intense love song during which the rapper sounds genuinely hurt, and Colossus, a meditation on growing fame and fanbase, a tired topic in the rap community (seems almost pointless to write about it after ''Stan'') but the comedic execution and lyrical prowess of the song makes it one of the finest tracks on the album. There are lowlights to the brand of hyper-rap that OF sometimes overload on as per usual, with songs like ''Trashwang'' that would sound more at home on the group's releases and ''Tamale'', an unnecessary inclusion that only seems to be there to prove the point that Tyler can still be disgusting as he spits  ''they say I've calmed down since the last album, well lick my dick, how does that sound'' in the telling first line.

Overall though half-baked lines such as this are in the minority and incredibly, Tyler seems to be growing up. There will be Odd Future fans who feel like Tyler is leaving them behind by not cramming every song full of rape, murder and sexual innuendos but they were always the wrong reasons to be listening anyway- exceptional lyrical skills and wordplay, production values, and unmistakably unique delivery are Tyler's main strengths and they're all in abundance on Wolf. Perhaps I'm in the minority for saying so but I felt Goblin to be a slightly overrated sequel to Bastard, mainly due to the fact that in parts it felt like Tyler was trying to accommodate to those fans that only wanted hear about blood and guts.

Ultimately, Wolf is destined to age better than Bastard and Goblin simply because it's the easiest to listen to even though it's not necessarily a better product than the raw, unpolished, brutally honest debut that first introduced us to the disturbed 18 year old mind of Tyler. But the reason why Wolf is so important is that it's the beginning of the end of that era, and shows us there is serious potential in him after it. The misogynistic, hate-filled teenager is slowly turning into a deeper artist and right now, that makes him one of the most exciting hip hop talents on the planet. Whether he can deliver on his unlimited potential only time will tell, but you'd have to suspect great things judging from this material.


Thursday, 18 April 2013

The HMM Guide To European Festivals 2013

Leaving the country this summer in search of some serious tunes? Here's your guide to European festivals this year all the way from May through to September.

Rock AM Ring (7-9 June)

The weekend long German rock festival has played host to greats in the past such as Metallica, Marilyn Manson and Rage Against The Machine. Despite its focus on the heavier side of rock music, Rock AM also includes a softer touch with the likes of Coldplay and Muse headlining in recent times. This year see's another blend as pop punk legends Green Day headline alongside The Killers, The Prodigy, Korn and Limp Bizkit.

Tickets: e179.50 for the weekend is quite a decent price considering some of the names involved here.

Line-Up: Full line-up available here.

Download Festival (14-16 June)

England's annual metal fest returns in 2013 with a host of heavy acts to fill your hard rock quota in June alongside Rock AM Ring. Headliners include Slipknot, Iron Maiden, Alice In Chains and Queens Of The Stone Age to name a few. If I were a metalhead in Ireland given the choice, I think I'd rather go across the water this summer than travel to Germany. A little more expensive at £195, but a superiour line-up for my money anyway.

Tickets: £195 for three days camping. There's also an offer of £205 for five days for those beasts that can last that long.

Line-Up: Check out the A-Z line-up with details on the acts at the festival website.

Tomorrowland (26-28 June)

The fastest growing festival in Europe sold out within 35 minutes of going on sale this year, confirming its status as one of the major music events worldwide in 2013. Since 2005 the Belgian born fest has been raidly growing in stature and size, gaining a major reputation for its theatrical style and impressive venue features. This year headliners include Steve Aoki, Avicii and Dave Clarke. Europe's essential dance festival is sure to be a banger one again this year if you can get your hands on a ticket.

Tickets: Chances are the only ticket you'll be able to get your hands on will come at a steep price due to it's sold out status.

Line-Up: Full line-up includes more dance favourite such as Armin Van Buren, Knife Party and more.

Glastonbury (26-30 June)

After taking a year off in 2012, Glastonbury returns and it has certainly come back with a bang. The headliners may look shaky (Rolling Stones are still crawling around the stage while Mumford & Sons are a bizarre inclusion among the main acts), but beneath there is much greatness to behold- The xx, Crystal Castles, Phoenix and Vampire Weekend are all superb live acts while nostalgic greats such as Smashing Pumpkins, Portishead, Public Enemy and Public Image will wind back the clock in style.

Tickets: Sold out in under 2 hour, but if you can get your hands on one, they retail from £205.

Line-Up: Speaks for itself.

Rock Werchter (4-7 July)

The Belgian festival is one of five major European weekends that usually play host to similiar line-ups, alongside Exit (Serbia), Sziget (Hungary), Rokslide (Denmark) and Britain's Glastonbury. This year highlights include Sigur Ros, Bloc Party, Blur and a host of excellent hip-hop performers in Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt, Azaelia Banks and the entirety of Odd Future. Tickets aren't cheap at e200 but it's a tempting event for those in mainland Europe.

Tickets: e200 for the weekend, e80 for a day or e18 if you just want to camp and not see the music, although you'd have to explain to me why that's not a complete waste of time.

Line-Up: Check the full thing out here.

T In The Park (12-14 July)

Usually the T In The Park festival coincides with our own Oxegen however this year with the Irish festival going ahead in August, the Scottish event will be taking place three weekends before. We might be able to get an idea of what to expect at Oxegen through T In The Park, and if so, expectations are quite low with Rihanna, The Killers, and Mumford & Sons heading the bill. Lower down the list there are some quality acts to be seen (My Bloody Valentine are billed outrageously low) but for the most part, this looks like a pretty unremarkable weekend.

Tickets: Weekend camping is £194 and you can get a day ticket from £75.

Line-Up: Check it.

Benicassim (18-21 July)

Festival Internacional de Benic√†ssim is renowned for its sun setting on the beaches of Spain and usually packs a great pop/rock line-up to accompany the beautiful summer atomsphere. Definitely one on my to do list, this years festival is headlined by Queens Of The Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys and Dizzee Rascal. It looks a fairly tame cast at the moment but half of the experience is the soaring heat and sunny enviroment, plus  hopefully there'll be plenty more added before July.

Tickets: Excellently priced at e163 for a weekend camping ticket, but you'll also have to be thinking about travel costs.

Line-Up: Can be found at the website.

Melt! (18-22 July)

Melt! is a German festival in operation since 1997 that has been self-described as ''electronic meets rock'', though it must be said it tends to focus on the electronic mainly. All types of electro lovers will be up for this one, as James Blake, The Knife and Modeselektor take to the stage among others, while Alt-J are one of the acts offering an alternative genre. The fact that it clashes with Benicassim won't be a problem for most due to their vastly differing styles.

Tickets: Tickets are a bargain at e119 considering that the organisers tend to pull in a range of quality electronic acts and this year is no different.

Line-Up: The A-Z of acts is available here.

Pukkelpop (15-18 August)

Belgium certainly seems to be the place to be this year with Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter among the list of weekend events, but in my opinion Pukkelpop will be the best party of them all. A stunning line-up (at least to my tastes) includes Eminem, The xx, Nine Inch Nails, Deftones, The Prodigy, Neil Young and many more quality lower keys acts.

Tickets: e165 for the weekend.

Line-Up: Looking quite fine at the festival website.

Leeds & Reading (23-25 August)

The annual pairing of Leeds and Reading returns to the UK on the August bank holiday, headlined this time by Green Day, Biffy Clyro and Eminem. There are a number of different tickets available, however weekend camping seems pretty steep for the acts involved.

Tickets: Day tickets are £90, weekend long going for £202.50.

Line-Up: Not completed yet but here's a taste.

Well that's the finest Europe has to offer you this summer for my money. Personally I'd love to be found at Pukkelpop, Rock Werchter or Glastonbury, but  sadly my limited funds as a student mean I won't be making my way to any of them. If you're heading across the water yourself, enjoy what is sure to be an excellent musical experience.

The Place Beyond The Pines - A Review

From Derek Cianfrance, director of the acclaimed Blue Valentine in 2010, comes The Place Beyond The Pines, a three part crime drama that examines both sides of the law and the issue of morality within them. Cianfrance has wisely teamed up again with Ryan Gosling, whose skillful portrayal as one half of a broken marriage in Blue Valentine helped establish the actor as one of the finest in the world today, but Gosling is not the only heavyweight among this fine list of acting talent as he is joined by Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn and Ray Liotta to name but a few of the standout members of the superstar cast.

The story begins in Altamont, a small village estate in New York where Romina (Mendes) lives with her one year old son. Luke (Gosling) is a stunt motorcyclist employed by a travelling fair which is in town for the weekend, however upon learning that the child is his own following a previous fling between the young parents, Luke decides to remain in the town despite his total lack of prospects. In order to provide for his new found family, Luke begins to rob local banks with the help of his partner and friend Robin (Mendelsohn). However it's not long before things take a turn for the worse and local cop Avery Cross is drawn into events, transforming his own life from one of peaceful security into a chaotic mess.

The lives of the two main characters in criminal Luke and Officer Cross seem near identically mirrored save for one important factor- their social stance, which is contrasted heavily between the two throughout the film as Cianfrance examines what it means to come from different class and what you are destined to become as a member of your particular social position. Both characters are definitive products of their environment yet there are deeper issues of morality and the human condition raised throughout as Luke struggles to better himself while Avery deals with the corruption and treachery that surrounds him in the force.

As the movie progresses we are shown the development of both characters offspring and the results of their manner of upbringing. Portrayed by Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen respectfully, Jason (Luke's son) and AJ (Avery's) unknowingly cross paths and we are once again faced with tough questions as Cianfrance confronts his audience with two young boys who have undoubtedly been affected for better or worse by their respective fathers. Just as with the boys' parents before them, the director does not wish to provide us with answers, but rather present us with a realistic, unflinching portrayal of humanity and the consequence of action.

The result is a shattering, emotional film that challenges and moves the viewer much like the director's previous success, and for many of the same reasons. Cianfrance has a flair for presenting his characters and their settings in the purest, most honest and genuine situations with a touch of realism that is sometimes almost frightening. His shaky camera work could be mistaken as amateurish but in fact it provides the film with an intimate touch so vivid that you'll barely feel a distance between yourself and those onscreen. The emotive soundtrack is another feature that Cianfrance fans will be familiar with and it creates an overwhelmingly tense, meaningful and moving atmosphere over the course of the 140 minute running time.

The director is well assisted by the outstanding cast, all of whom step up to deliver affecting, thoughtful performances. Cooper dominates as the rookie Officer caught in a web of lies and deceit, unsure of where to turn and who to trust, while Liotta is a nasty, menacing figure as the veteran crooked cop. Further down the line in the story is where we find our best performance however, as DeHaan effortlessly outshines this outstanding cast with his disturbing, heart breaking performance as a child lost in the terrible world he inhabits. Fans of Ryan Gosling will perhaps find it unusual that I haven't mentioned him in glowing terms just yet, and this is because it must be said he is slightly underused, but while onscreen the Canadian is his usual absorbing self.

Ultimately, The Place Beyond The Pines marks the true arrival of a very real directing talent. At 38, Derek Cianfrance has followed up his debut feature with an exquisite social analysis that engages and moves the audience just the same as Blue Valentine before it, and for this, his is a name that should be paid attention to starting right now. But even if this potential is never delivered upon (and I absolutely believe it will be), The Place Beyond The Pines will ensure that Cianfrance's work is not forgotten anytime soon. A stunningly poignant, tender mini-masterpiece.


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Cloud Atlas - A Review

It would be impossible for any cinema goer to predict their reaction to Cloud Atlas prior to their own personal viewing of it- the German born independent film, adapted from David Mitchell's 2004 novel by the Wachowski siblings (The Matrix trilogy) and Tom Tykwer has left critics and audiences split down the middle, quite unlike any film before. The reasons for this polarizing reaction are understandable, with some claiming it one of the most ambitious and engaging movies of recent times while others were left frustrated, labelling it to be a bloated, over-indulgent affair with no fixed direction.

Usually I'd begin with a quick summary of the given films storyline but it's not quite that simple here, due mainly to the fact that Cloud Atlas is host to a total of six different plots in six different timezones. Chronologically these settings are the South Pacific Ocean 1849, Cambridge/Edinburgh 1936, San Francisco 1973, London 2012, Neo Seoul 2144, and ''106 Winters After The Fall'' on The Big Island. Each of the settings are connected to each other through their primary characters, potrayed by an impressive cast in the shape of Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon and James D'Arcy, each of whom play a variety of roles spread throughout the six interweaving worlds.

If this all sounds a little confusing, well, it is. The beginning of the film is a testing time for the audience, who will either find themselves intriuged by the growing spiderweb of linked tales or turned off by the lack of a focused plot and straightforward development, but any self respecting cinema fan will be richly rewarded for paying close attention as Cloud Atlas blossoms into a magnificent, extravagant collection of stories that would each merit their own individual production as a singlular film. Within the space of its 171 minute running time, Cloud Atlas delves into an array of different genres in spectacular fashion, ranging from epic fantasy adventure to lighthearted British comedy, and 70's political thriller action to a futuristic science fiction drama.

Even the films detractors have agreed unanimously on certain elements of the film such as cinematography, special effects, lead performances and visually striking settings, all of which combine to create the numerous beautiful settings, from the stunning futuristic world of 2144 Korea to the stylish period piece in 1936 Britain. A brilliant comedic turn by veteran Jim Broadbent as an old-folk home escapee, Bae Doona's skillful transition from lowly waitress to revolutionary leader and Halle Berrys impressive potrayal of a paranoid journalist caught up in a political conspiracy are among the finest acting moments of the film, but the standout performance is undoubtedly Tom Hanks who effortlessly transforms himself into a range of personalities good and evil throughout, aided by the superb costume design and make-up work that is a prominent feature.

As the numerous stories begin to weave into each other, Cloud Atlas absorbs the viewer inside its magical universe in an encompassing, all consuming manner that will swallows its audience whole. The pure shock and awe that Cloud Atlas shot through me is one unrivalled in modern cinema. The last time I recall feeling such emotion following my viewing of a movie was Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York, another mind bending experience that took some time to recover from due to its powerful, reality shattering impact. Cloud Atlas deserves the same credit as Kaufman's 2008 cult classic for being another pop-culture masterpiece with the ability to communicate a level of meaning that goes further and deeper than most modern filmmakers could ever hope to compete with.

To put it as simply as possible, the reason we watch films is to be entertained, and Cloud Atlas is entertainment in its purest, most extraordinary and effective form. A truly special experience that must be seen to be believed.