Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Wakefield Music Collective Follow-Up

 Our article “Is ItTime WakefieldMusic Collective Called It A Day?” received a wave of responses and created a lot of discussion. Here is a follow up that reacts to the many points raised, focussing on two key issues: The NAME of Wakefield Music Collective and What Rhubarb Bomb Does. All quotes / references are taken from Facebook comments.
Ok, lets cut to the chase here. Quite simply, if Wakefield Music Collective, with the same history, setup and attitude was called something else, the article would not have been written. Simple as. The people are passionate and fantastic. The name is misleading, misrepresentative and just wrong.

Formers WMC member Tony Wade hit the nail on the head when he spoke about band selection policy for Clarence. Whatever the collective tried, they were damned for it. Not necessarily from the inside (though as current member Martin Waterhouse points out, this is also a nightmare) but from people on the outside who believed they deserve a say in how it is run. Why? Rightly or wrongly, because it is called the Wakefield Music Collective.

What if I started a micro brewery in my cellar? And I called myself Wakefield Brewers Collective. If I was kind enough to invite every other brewer in town to join my collective - and they refused – would I be a collective? Even if the beer I made was the best in town and I was the nicest bloke around – would I be a collective? And some might say: just let him be! He’s doing what he loves! Yes, that’s true. But it’s still not a collective. And what about when CAMRA come knocking?

Because I’m looking at this from a much wider angle of ‘my music’ and ‘your music’ and ‘my scene’ and ‘your scene’. Running Long Division has given me a greater sense of what the outside world thinks of Wakefield. By the way - it’s not great. We need to change that, and I’ve been doing my small part to help. But what happens if you Google that most broad and complex of terms “Wakefield Music”? Wakefield Music Collective is the top hit. Go look at it now. Pretend you know nothing about Wakefield and see what it tells you. What do you think?

It’s not a point about Web design. It’s the name. If you are Wakefield Music Collective you need to be a Wakefield Music Collective. It wasn’t the case in 1991 when it began, but Wakefield Music Collective, by using the name Wakefield Music Collective, is now representing our city to the whole world. What do we want people to see when they look at Wakefield?

If it feels it can step up to that challenge, fine. From the evidence I have seen, I don’t think it can. I don’t think one organisation or entity could, or even should.

If you got to the end of the article, I expressed my desired solution. Wakefield already is a collective, if we approach it with the right attitude. We work hard individually at the things we love, but we open our minds enough to then collaborate with others. It’s a fluid collective that isn’t bogged down in red-tape, that doesn’t need to meet once a month to discuss the venue for next months meeting. If Wakefield Music Collective altered its title but kept up its hard work, it would be part of that collective. Does that distinction make sense?

Also, some people saw the piece as a criticism of Clarence Park. This was not the intention. Personally, I would do it differently. But instead of moaning endlessly, that’s what I did. Rob Dee makes a very good point in that Clarence is the only major all ages event we have in Wakefield. I have tried hard to make Long Division 16+ for the last two years but my partners, Ossett Brewery, are not comfortable with it. That’s a massive thing we have Clarence to be thankful for. Can it do more, and can we help it?

Another thing I have learnt from this experience is that a lot of people have misconceptions about Rhubarb Bomb. So, to be clear: Rhubarb Bomb is a fanzine. I run it because I love writing about stuff. It is not funded in anyway. We get advertising where we can from independent businesses (which are struggling now, of course). If there’s a shortfall, which there usually is, I cover it with my own money. So in that sense, it owes no-one anything. We released a 5th birthday book in April. The very first page says this:



This is not the story of every band that ever strummed a chord or wrote a song or played a gig in the smoky backroom of a forgotten boozer. This is not a discography of every record Wakefield has produced or a record of every fine gig that has taken place here. It is not a city wide examination of all the various subcultures that have made their home here or an attempt to cover the entire musical history of this Merrie City. It is not reliable, complete, balanced, concise or spell-checked.

It’s not even consistent.



            I am not the Wakefield Musical Express. It’s something I do to amuse myself, and hopefully others. I sit at home in my spare time writing, when I could be out earning money or spending time with my girlfriend. The money I do earn is spent printing a limited amount of pages. So naturally, I generally like to write about things that I like or I feel are important.

But that isn’t a genre, or a band, or a place. It is an attitude. A positive, DIY, independent attitude. So I am constantly treading this line between the micro and macro political; is this about me, or about Wakefield? Who am I responsible to? I question it ALL the time.

The zine was started by a close group of friends who reported on the bands their friends were in, because no-one else in the country was talking about them. I think many people still think Rhubarb Bomb is like that. It’s changed a lot.

I discredit the claim we “perpetuate this bullshit exclusive attitude” (Louise Distras). Example: this year we ran an interview with Louise Distras. I’m not a huge fan of her music. I don’t think it’s awful by any stretch, it’s just not something I would normally buy. But the way she expresses and conducts herself, gets her voice heard and DOES IT HERSELF is truly inspiring (even if she objects to us and our manner). So, we wanted to know more, and let more people know what she was up to. Rhubarb Bomb is certainly not a paper version of my record collection (that would be far too depressing).

            I have learnt a lot of people judge Rhubarb Bomb by its online content. I think it was na├»ve of me to think otherwise. But the physical zine is our ‘product’, it’s the thing I love. For those who think Rhubarb Bomb are a group of people who  “sit in the hop at night with the lights off, sat in a circle blowing smoke up each others arses while reminding each other that they are important, even if it is just to their friends, who happen to be in the bands they mainly cover anyway.” (Daron Dopestghost Green) or that our content is “a load of pretentious, pseudo-sophisto, neurotic lifestyle-choice-orientated insipid, unispired drivel” (James Harrison) I suggest you try actually reading it. I offer this list of EVERYTHING the physical zine has covered in the last twelve months, including our upcoming issue, as evidence that our scope is wide and our content diverse and challenging:

Philophobia Music, Luke Haines, RB writers favourite music books, Living In Japan, Wild Swimming, DC Comics, London Riots, First Wedding Dances, City Based Festivals, Promoting Gigs, The Inner Swine (a NYC zine), The Philosophy of Battle Of Bands Competitions, Vinyl Party, Mi Mye, Protectors, History Of LOUDER THAN BOMBS Clubnight, Russell Senior (Pulp), Wakefield Cathedral turning into a music venue, Red Riding Quartet, Imp, Unity Hall, The Passing Fancy, Skint & Demoralised, Importance Of Supporting Live Music, Middleman, Cake Recipe, What Wakefield Music Means To You, The Grand, Laura Slater (Bespoke Textiles), Runaround Kids (Irish Tour Diary), Olympics, Retarded Fish, Buffalo Skinners, Louise Distras, Motorways, Stephen Vigors Short Story, Fixing A Hole Records, Music and Mental Health, Live & Unsigned Pastiche, H.Hawkline, The Spills, Gareth Nicholls (Theatre Director), Beards In Music, Post War Glamour Girls, Hip Hop Breakfast, Anatomy Of A Gig, Modernism, Helen Rhodes Short Story, Wakefield Jazz, Why I Zine article (Edinburgh Zine), Geordie Shores & Wakefield, The Do’s.

53 articles. Just 18 about Wakefield bands / labels / venues. But all relevant to the type of culture we support.

We have evolved. Wakefield, as I said, is evolving. Nothing is perfect. I still believe Wakefield Music Collective, if it continues, needs some deep rooted changes, starting with that name. The idea that we could all form an official collective is, I fear, too far-fetched. As Joel Rowbottom rightly says there would be “Too many egos, too many agendas.” He’s right. But if Wakefield Music Collective removes the idea, strongly suggested by its name, that it is a Collective of Wakefield Music people, the idea of a more fluid style of collective can move forward.

Dean Freeman

P.S. One final thing. If you still think Rhubarb Bomb is very much up its own arse, lording it over everyone with its deluded superiority, why don’t you start a blog or a zine? I am serious. I said as much in the book: “I wish someone would come along and say, those Rhubarb Bomb guys have lost. Here’s a zine that shows what’s really going on in Wakefield…” Go for it. It’s all part of the DIY attitude. Stop moaning, stop just talking about it and go do it yourself.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Live And Let Die

Live And Let Die
Ian Fleming

My copy of the second Bond novel opens with a short preface by Louise Welsh. I don’t really see the connection, but she makes a great point about the success of the Bond books in the ‘50s. It doesn’t quite correlate with historical timelines we take for granted but in 1954, Britain finally stopped rationing. That’s nine years of rationing after winning World War II. That’s a tough result.

It nicely puts this second adventure in context. Basically, this tale expands on Casino Royale in almost every conceivable way. The language and style are much more self-assured, Fleming’s time as a travel writer coming to the fore. The descriptions as Bond arrived in America for the first time (“since the war”) are charming and childlike in their wonder, especially from a 21st century perspective. The opening scenes in London, shrouded in thick fog are swept aside for an adventure that also takes in Jamaica and it’s coral reefs. Surely, at the time, these kinds of places were unimaginable exotic. Ten years later, as the books were made into films, this desire to show people something they’d never seen before was as strong and in demand as ever. So, as an historical piece alone, they serve as a very interesting reminder of how the world, and Britain’s place in it, was changing in the ‘50s.

The plot itself was eventually stripped bare by various films, most of them not Live And Let Die. Whilst some of my Casino Royale review was concerned with the rather ugly language towards women, here we have the pleasure of seeing a ‘50s take on the ‘negro’. The main villain is Mr Big, a black chap who may or may not be working for the soviets. He lives in Harlem and the story involves Bond travelling around Harlem and investigating ‘negro culture’ which, this book would have us suggest, is a mix of voodoo and drug pushing. And violence. And communism, which is even worse, obviously.

It’s not racist though is it? I just see it as a product of the times. If you wanted to psychoanalyse it, you could put it in the context of the changing role of Britain in world affairs again, and some fear of the black man. I don’t think that’s the case. I think the culture of Harlem and of Voodoo were just as equally exotic and foreign as Miami and Jamiaca. Though the decision to write all the ‘black’ language phonetically does result in it appearing in your head like a bad ‘70s sitcom.

It’s a pacey read. There’s a lot more action than Casino Royale and a lot more cunning from the villains. The finale is well handled and is genuinely tense. But it is an easy read. There’s no great literary value in it. The pleasure is seeing which bits went into which films and enjoying the new bits. The character of Bond is still a bit faceless; he is efficient, job-committed and cold. After reading the first two books, it does seem that Daniel Craig has hit upon the most ‘Bond’ Bond yet. But I think it works best as an historical novel, in relation to pop culture. The stuff that sells; sex, violence, escapism, heroism is the same as it ever was. But it is interesting reading an example of where it all began, certainly in relation our 21st century understanding and experiences of those genre traits.

Dean Freeman

Monday, 24 September 2012

Is It Time Wakefield Music Collective Called It A Day?

The idea of a collective is incredibly appealing, especially to those involved with niche artistic endeavours or people who do things for love, not money. It means small groups of people working closely together to create something greater than the sum of their parts. It should also mean learning from one another, making friends and, oh yeah, having fun. It’s a thought that crosses a lot of people’s minds at one time or another.

The most natural type of collective is one based on geography. So, over twenty years ago a Wakefield Music Collective was formed. Essentially that meant peoples of any musical taste or background coming together to promote their own individual interests but also try and achieve something bigger, for the good of all. That is exactly what Rhubarb Bomb believes in, and I’m sure you do too. But this isn’t what Wakefield Music Collective represents anymore. Over the years it has slowly wasted away, to a point where its very existence is actually detrimental to Wakefield as a whole.

As a non member my understanding of the history is patchy at best. But I gather that in the ‘90s there was a healthy and diverse group of people involved. This was a collective more in the commune style; a mash up of ideas from sublime to ridiculous, some crazily ambitious, some neatly simplistic. From this melting pot of ideas, things emerged. As with any creative venture, some of them worked, some of them didn’t. But it was vibrant, diverse, busy - and at least did what it said on the tin.

Compare that to now. Membership is in single figures. Mainly it deals in booking Brass and Blues bands and with the administration of the bandstand in Clarence Park on behalf of Wakefield Council. Members are rarely seen attending gigs, not even their own. I hear from numerous sources that their meetings are dull treads through agenda notes. “You want to talk about putting on a gig? Erm, is it on the agenda?” Their engagement with 95% of Wakefield music is non existent. It hardly seems like a vibrant entity. It doesn’t even sound fun.

The ‘jewel in the crown’ (my term, my italics) is Clarence Park Festival which has taken place pretty much every year for over twenty years. I had a couple of great days at Clarence when I was a teenager, but that was mainly because I could get drunk on a hill. Back in those days, the line-ups were insanely diverse. I saw Wakefield’s Nailed there who are probably the heaviest thing I’ve ever heard. A Death Metal band at a family festival?! Nuts – but it kinda worked.

These days? Well I guess little has changed. Personally, I always felt that Clarence should represent what was happening in Wakefield because a) it was our only festival and b) it was organised by Wakefield Music Collective. I think when I was a teenager it came closer to doing that. But it doesn’t any more. This failing, as I saw it, led to me creating Long Division Festival, to better represent what I thought was happening in Wakefield.

Long Division was not intended to replace Clarence; it was just my personal take on things, and everyone is welcome to represent what they think is happening. Clarence continues to roll on. As a free festival in a park, it naturally draws decent local crowds. It is more akin to a family fun day, in my opinion. There is nothing wrong with that at all and judged on its own merits, it is a harmless date on the calendar. But is it the kind of event that Wakefield Music Collective was set up to do? Their website states that Wakefield Music Collective :

“Formed in 1991, the aim was to promote local live music as well as providing help, advice and information for both established and new bands looking for a break, whether on a local level or nationally.”

Personally I don’t see how Wakefield Music Collective is doing this now. A Blues Festival, some Brass bands and a family fun day are fine, but if you set yourself up as THE place to go in Wakefield for help, advice, encouragement, support, inspiration and guidance you need to do a lot more.

Where did the spark go from Wakefield Music Collective? It’s our age old enemy: money. The collective, as it grew, needed more funding to continue putting on this large scale free event. Funding bodies have changed over the years and anyone who has tried to squeeze a few pence from the Arts Council et al will be all too aware of the current labyrinthine process. But for a lot of the bigger sums you also need to provide evidence that you are a working group, with meeting agendas and minutes, power structures with important sounding titles filled. That’s the reality of being a volunteer, work-for-the-love group.

This is what happened with Wakefield Music Collective. It became a complete bureaucracy. It has had an unhealthy turnover of members over the years. The most obvious pattern seems to be;

-          Creative person frustrated with either Wakefield or the Collective itself joins with good intentions of changing things for the better.
-          Reality of the restrictive methods of the Collective kick in.
-          They knuckle down and try to stay positive.
-          It all becomes too much and they leave, even more disillusioned than when they joined.

And this stems from people not being allowed to express their opinion amongst the red-tape required to attain funding. So with all the creative types being forced out through sheer frustration, you are left with a group of people who are simply brilliant at reading from agendas and booking meeting rooms, but have little to no understanding of what is required in Wakefield.

But why does Wakefield Music Collective need to end? Everyone involved in this years Clarence Park Festival did a great job. It was well organised and even promoted pretty well for once. As individuals, they should be very proud. Each member of the collective is part of that setup because they want to make a difference. I am not saying they should stop doing what they do – the absolute opposite. This is not a personal attack. It is the entity of Wakefield Music Collective itself that needs to die.

For one, the title Wakefield Music Collective is misleading.

1) It does not accurately represent Wakefield, or even attempt to. They would say that anyone is welcome to join and express their interests, but after all these years of nurturing such a backward and uncompromising reputation, why would anyone want to? All the bands that have got record deals, played large scale festivals, released amazing and well received records – routinely and consistently ignored. So, Music Collective.

2) It does not represent a range of different music types. Because the membership is so small, the members simply do not infiltrate enough musical circles for it to be able to claim it covers a subject as broad as ‘music’ within our city. Yes, Clarence has a diverse lineup, but that only clouds further what the collective are trying to do. Is it simply a family fun day made up of bands from anywhere in the country who are happy / daft enough to play for free? That doesn’t scream ‘passionate about music’ to me. A more accurate description would be ‘Blues Collective.’ I’ve heard their leader Kate Honeyman speak in length, with passion, about Blues. Why not focus on that? So, Collective.

3) How many people maketh a collective?  And what is Wakefield Music Collective a collective of? It is not a collective of people that do different things; promote gigs, play in bands, run venues, run sound-desks, review music, enjoy live music, release records etc etc etc. THAT would be a collective. It is, in fact, a collective of people who are just members of the collective. It’s self perpetuating madness.

The title leads to incredibly annoying situations such as the council holding well intentioned reviews of the state of live music in Wakefield. And they invite Wakefield Music Collective, whose involvement, as pointed out, is minimal. But they get invited BECAUSE OF THE NAME. We have Wakefield Music Collective perform a talk at the shareholders launch for Unity Hall because, it is assumed, they are the ones who know about music in the city. Instead we get one of the most toe-curlingly awful speeches I’ve ever seen or heard, about printers, hot-desking and that bloody Blues Festival. Why don’t I just change the name of Rhubarb Bomb to The Wakefield Music Encyclopaedia, then I might make some money, right?

Wakefield Music Collective was created with good intentions. It exists today with good intentions. But, by monopolising the concept of a collective in the city, by sucking the creativity and vision of its members, by failing to change Wakefield and its musical community in any way of any note for two decades, by diverting the attention of officials and moneymen away from genuinely good projects and movements and by failing to even be willing to pay bands for playing… Wakefield Music Collective is simply making Wakefield a worse place to be.

99 times out of 100 I would say live and let live. Let Rhubarb Bomb and the rest do what we do and leave them to it. But if you are using the word ‘Wakefield’ and alleging to represent me, it makes it my business, so I felt the time had come for something to be said.

Disband now. Rename yourselves the Clarence Park Festival. Hold fundraisers throughout the year. Do other gigs, offer help to other people. Come together as a group, but do other things with other people, as individuals too. Engage with other people. I believe in the collective frame of mind. I believe Unity Hall will show the power and potential of that model. But I think, in the case of smaller organisations, like Rhubarb Bomb, Philophobia Music, Wakefield Jazz, The Orangery, The Art House, Creative Wakefield, Unique Wakefield, and larger ones like The Hepworth, Wakefield Express, Wakefield Theatre Royal and many, MANY more, a ‘collective’ is a state of mind. It is an attitude, an outlook. It doesn’t need to be written in triplicate and sworn in with an oath. If we all have an open mind, a positive outlook and a pinch of vision we already ARE a collective. Wakefield is evolving. And we can achieve so much for our city. But I believe, in order for this to happen, Wakefield Music Collective as an entity must cease to exist. Forever.

Dean Freeman

I offer Wakefield Music Collective a right to reply to this article. If anyone has any feedback, email at or look at our Facebook page here where I’m sure a few people will make their feelings known.

This article was followed up a couple of days later, using responses from others, and clarified Rhubarb Bomb's position: see it here.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Dredd 3D Review

Dredd 3D
Director: Pete Travis

Ok, so this review will be partially concerned with the fact the film was in 3D – my first experience of the third dimension. It takes me an awful long time to accept new leaps in technology. DVD? But rewinding the tape is part of the enjoyment! I’m yet to experience an iPhone, iPad, Plasma TV, HD, Blu-ray… the list goes on. It’s not really scepticism though. These things are never the great leap they promise to be, just part of a greater progression that I am more than happy to wait to be part of, once the price comes down.

Paying an extra few quid on top of an already expensive cinema ticket for some plastic glasses and the promise of a headache never held much appeal for me, especially as it is unlikely 3D will ever become the norm (watch me eat my words in twenty years). But, you have to embrace it sometime I guess.

Dredd is the latest comic book hero to make a leap to the big screen. What a shitty sentence that was. Judge Dredd is no Superman or Batman (though they share a love of talking in a deep growl) and, bar a 1995 Sly Stallone film, his journey into the wider, mass public consciousness is much nearer the beginning. But, after seeing this film, I am incredibly pleased that journey is off to a healthy start.

Forget all the genre tropes setup by either the first wave of comic book films (Reeve Superman or Burton Batman) or the second darker, deeper varieties. Written by Alex Garland, this takes a different approach entirely, which I found refreshing in the extreme.

For one, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) as a character is just a cop. ‘Just’ not being the best word perhaps, but bar a fancy gun and an unusually ‘80s looking motorbike, he is just a man. We never see more than the lower half of his face, his helmet remaining firmly in place for the complete duration (in keeping with the comics, which were ignored for the loose 1995 filmed version). It reminded me of V for Vendetta in this sense, though Dredd is far less prosaic in his utterances than ‘V’. What it does mean is we see his scowling, grimacing mouth a lot. Sometimes it is an angry grimace. Sometimes it’s a pained grimace. On one occasion I saw an almost-amused-at-someone-else’s-agonising-pain grimace. But it could have been my imagination.

That’s not to say the characterisation isn’t strong, but this daring lack of visual identification with the lead character is followed up in the structure of the film. There is no origin story. No shots of him sat at home having a beer. There is very little backstory to any of it, bar an introductory voiceover. I thought that was fantastic. We are thrown straight into the world and what little introduction we need is handed to us through the rookie Dredd is forced to take with him.

The entire story lacks an epic save-the-world story line which is massively to its favour. The majority of the story takes place across just 24 hours (roughly) and within one location. The tightness of this narrative structure is incredibly engaging and avoids the growing tendency of some studios to try setup franchises from film one. It’s a standalone. Yet, ironically, because it managed this so well, another film would be a piece of cake to make. It’s more a James Bond, mission by mission approach to potential franchise, than the setting up of complex emotional character arcs, though given the rich history or Judge Dredd in its 2000AD form, the potential is there.

Given the restricted setting of the film, the visuals are impressive. I struggled with the 3D for a while. As this is the only thing I’ve seen it’s hard to comment but quite often it made characters look like they were shot on green-screen even when they weren’t. You have to learn to focus in the place it wants you to look at. In time I got used to it and I thought it was a great effect for this type of film; a graphic novel adaptation. One of the plots elements is a drug called ‘Slo-mo’ which causes the user to experience reality at 100th the speed. This leads to some spectacular, genuinely beautiful slow-motion sequences that recreated the experience you can get reading a well illustrated comic, where the action appears to move on the page.

From the trailers before the film (Resident Evil 72…) I can see how 3D can be used as a gimmick, but here I felt its use was justified and heightened the film. Whether the unreality it causes would work as well in something like Pride & Prejudice is another matter entirely.

I loved the low key nature of Dredd. It plays by its own rules, follows its own path. It seems to pay respect to its source material (18 certificate – good decision) and clearly isn’t interested in playing in the same ball-park as The Avengers and the like. Garland has a great knack of drawing strong characters pieces from seemingly unrealistic situations and it works a treat here. The action is imaginative, colourful but grounded. The world of Dredd and the future it shows us is scarily close to the way the world is going. It’s gritty, social commentary with a wild imagination. It’s short, sharp and to the point. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Dean Freeman


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Castro (Graphic Novel) Review

Reinhard Klest
Self Made Hero

I come to this graphic novel telling of the life of Fidel Castro as someone fairly interested in the Cuban Revolution, Left-Wing politics and the characters of Fidel and Che. That interest was great enough to take me to Cuba to try and find some answers to the most basic of questions; was the revolution a good thing? What is life in Cuba really like? What is it like to exist in a Communist country?

This hefty tome tells the story of Castro from young man to aging, bedridden retired dictator, naturally focussing mainly on the days of the battle he led for three years against the former Cuban dictator, and US puppet, Fulgencio Batista. With such a vast stretch of time to cover, it’s no surprise the pace is quick with heavy detail skipped over. It’s a story of the journey from start to end, with the expected milestones (Bay Of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, Collapse Of Soviet Union) joining the dots together.

The actual narrative is expressed through the experiences of a German journalist / photographer who is a composite of many different people that possibly existed in real-life. The idea is to tie this lumbering story together and give it a human, everyman perspective. It also navigates issues involved with dramatising the life of a world figure and a fear of misrepresentation; the majority of Castro’s speech bubbles are culled from actual speeches, letters and recorded engagements and as such is quite restricted in the telling of a wider story. The inclusion of this mainly fictional protagonist allows the wider story or Cuba to be told. Because the story of Castro cannot exist without Cuba, and visa versa.

The book works best as a lesson in history. If you are looking for an introduction to Castro; what he did, when and how, then this is a good place to start. The first half of the book seems incredibly pro-Castro and, given what he did and what he stood up against, it would hard for it to be any other way. Early experiences as a student protestor highlight his uncompromising, often suicidal attitude, whilst the actual overthrow is a typical, but rewarding, story of David destroying Goliath.

Interestingly, the last third of the book opens up and begins to cast a darker shadow over a now Communist Cuba (the original revolution was very much a patriotic / nationalist movement) and the harsh realities of existing there. Simple moments, like the journalist having to give up half of his apartment under government orders and queuing hours for bread whilst tourists take what they want, ram home the realities of this supposed socialist utopia and clash nicely with Castro’s grand speeches.

However, for the majority of the book, the narrative feels clumsy and hacked together. The German journalist is telling the story from the modern day, looking back at his early visits to Cuba in the ‘50s. But he then speaks to people in flashback, who then themselves flashback to Fidel’s younger days. Then mix this up with the twin tales of the journalist’s romantic involvement with a rebel and the more political stuff and it becomes a bit hazy. As someone who already has a basic knowledge, the political stuff didn’t delve deep enough, whilst the ‘human’ side of the story seemed pointless, at least until that last third.

Writer Reinhard Kleist was also responsible for the graphic novel Johnny Cash: I See A Darkness which I have not read but is very well regarded. I can’t help but feel in this case however that the graphic novel was simply the wrong medium for this story. For one, a black and white art-style is so unsuitable for a story set in the beautiful and brash surroundings of the Cuban jungle and Havana. From my own journey there, it is the colours of the buildings, plants, trees and people that stand out. Communism usually brings to mind dull grey towerblocks, overbaring stone monuments and vast, empty tarmac rally squares. Artistically, Castro is such a great opportunity to play on this; a Caribbean Communist Island! It deserves so much more and the great front cover gives an indication of how it could have worked.

The visual style does not flow on many occasions. It works best during action sequences; a mad scramble for a boat heading for Florida for example. The rush and madness are accurately represented. Battles too in the Sierra Nevada are caught in their rushed, frantic manner. But these times – in fact, anything from 1956-59 – just made me want to watch Che Part I & II again. Certain stories benefit from this medium, but I simply don’t feel this one does.

Perhaps worst of all, I simply don’t get an insight into Castro as a man. I see him as a political leader, a strong willed, passionate man full of fury and righteousness. But I’m not sure I fully appreciate his motivations or his character. Of course, applying this treatment to any dictator would be equally difficult. And perhaps there are no answers. I travelled to Cuba to find answers and came back only with more questions. That was my naivety, I think. That there would be a definitive answer.

Still, Castro lacks a deeper insight. Most of Castro’s conversations are to crowds or with political leaders. Moments where you feel we are ‘off-script’, like a private conversation with Che Guevara about him leaving Cuba suddenly bring the story to life. But only the epilogue offers a different approach to the man and perhaps we will have to wait until after his death, and perhaps that of his brother Raul, to ever dig deeper.

The aforementioned Che I & II are the best insights into revolutionary Cuba I have come across. I hoped this book would offer a similar insight into one of the most divisive characters of the 20th century. Instead it offered a very well researched and compiled collection of the key moments in his life, with some elements of contextualisation offered by a parallel narrative. I enjoyed the journey, but as someone with an established interest, it felt like a reminder, rather than a fresh journey. For the action and passion and drama, watch Che, for the deep history and analysis, read countless books, including My Life partly by Castro himself. As it is, this sits frustratingly in the middle.

Dean Freeman

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Clive Continuum

The Clive Continuum
“Side Projects” (see also: "Lyrics")

Clive Smith has been around for an awful long time. Awfully long. An enigma, a maverick, a pioneer; he has described himself as these things and many, many more. Now, with the weight of experience crushing his increasingly fragile mind and body, he has begun developing The Clive Continuum, a series of works that act as his passing of the flame to younger artists and visionaries. Learn from his mistakes, for if it could ever go wrong, it went wrong for Clive.

Side projects are one of the most important parts of being in a band. The bottom line is; people love people in bands. Especially other people in bands. But especially people who aren’t in bands.

I appreciate not everyone out there is as deep – emotionally or talent wise – as Clive Smith. My talent is like a well that never dries up, like a hole to the centre of the earth. Not my words, but the words of Lobley PR, circa 1976. Prophetic, I think you’ll agree. Perhaps that simile made me out to be a bit too deep but hey, we all have a cross to carry.

But those of you with a shallower burden can most definitely benefit from the creation of a few side projects. If you are worried you won’t have the time, don’t be. 63% of all side projects are completely theoretical. I’ve been a member of The Buff Harrington Jazz Massacre since 1993 but we’ve not had so much as a band practice. Still got a Myspace page though, haven’t we? Still on my CV, isn’t it? Still sounds cool, doesn’t it?

It’s all about perception. By announcing you have a side project to “better express the darker side of your music”, for example, you heighten interest in both your old and new music. It is interest squared. Imagine if you then create a side project to express your sardonic side? Or your aloof side? Or your deluded side? It is interest to the power of infinity!

Music is the least important thing about a side project. Your top priority should be a cool logo and an overly ambitious set of aims. Quickly follow this with a series of promotional photographs. Be mysterious. Pose in shadowy places, perhaps even a derelict building or something, have you thought of that?

Now, all the time and energy you could be spending on your real band? Put that into making a suggestive, enigmatic video, announcing your imminent arrival. In my day we made little flyers and stickers and stuck em in bogs and copies of The Daily Mail. In the ‘60s we had “Peace + Love = Clive Smith”. In the ‘70s I think we went for “Fuck Clive Smith” (which were popular) and “Clive Smith Is Watching You” for the ‘80s, which was creepy and sinister. These days, you can do all this on the internet (if you are ‘online’) and by sticking your crap over everyone’s pages they will quickly be talking about you all over town, completely forgetting your old band ever existed.

Which might sound ludicrous. But remember; you are playing the long game. And besides, if you were talented or your real band was actually any good, you would be flexible enough to fulfil all your musical ambitions within it. Clive (that is I) is different in this respect. I am a chameleon, a ghostly figure that stalks the realms of Pop, beckoning it to previously unknown territories, like a farmer with his sheepdog. Except I am the farmer AND the sheepdog (the field is Pop and you are the sheep – keeping up?). Anyway, basically it goes like this: Bowie > Smith > Barlow.

Finally, who should be in your side project? I touched earlier on the worry of not having enough time. And the cost of running two or more bands can be restrictive. So here is my top tip: recruit for your side project from your real band. So what if the lineup is exactly the same? You can double up band practices. Promo shots are interchangeable. Maybe let the drummer play a bit of sax? Mix things up of course. BECAUSE THIS IS DEFINITELY A DIFFERENT BAND. You know that. And we can tell because the sound is so radically different.

A side project is about the perception of being something different. Whether that perception is perceived in the minds of your fans, or simply your own is down to these simple rules. Ta.

Clive Smith

Clive also writes for Rhubarb Bomb and can be found on Twitter

Monday, 17 September 2012

Wakefield Literature Festival

Wakefield Literature Festival
22-30 September 2012

The people of Wakefield are rather overlooked when it comes to literature, whether that be inspirational hero figures or simply places to meet and talk about reading and writing. Perhaps this is due to the fact that reading is generally considered a solitary experience. But a story is there to be shared, right? Either way, a brand new festival which takes place over nine days is seeking to remedy these oversights and misconceptions.

Taking place mainly at The Orangery in the centre of town, an impressive range of events are taking place that aim to entertain, inspire and provoke discussion. And thankfully, it is not some highbrow impression of literature; the focus is language as part of our everyday lives and how important and exciting that can be. They are even letting Rhubarb Bomb play a small part and you’ve seen how bad are grammar is, right?

The best thing to do is take a look at their programme. However, as a quick preview, and example of the range of stuff they have, read on.

There are numerous standouts across the nine days. Sept 28th will see Simon Armitage read from his recent book Walking Home as well as a selection of his poems. Taking place in the beautiful Unitarian Chapel (opposite The Orangery) this is a rare opportunity to see someone of Armitage’s reputation and standing performing in our city.

Sunday 23rd sees a range of poets, including Ian McMillan perform. Poetry readings are pretty alien to me, I have to admit. But with seven performing in the delicate surroundings of The Orangery, it’ll be hard to pass up the opportunity to at least give it a go. It’s an example of the care that has gone into this programming to read the  range of backgrounds and experience of the poets performing. I think this will be a real eye opener.

Elsewhere in the schedule there are more unexpected treats; a screening of We Are Poets, an incredibly well received film about a group of teenage poets that breaks down any preconceptions you may have as to what a poet should or could be. There are writing and performance workshops for 14-19 year olds with Yew Tree Theatre, and also with local author Ian Clayton for those a little older, aswell as a Literary Pub Quiz.

On the Wednesday (26th), which is also the usual Wakefield Artwalk, Rhubarb Bomb (i.e. me!) will be doing a short talk about self-publication and the importance of zines, whilst also reading from it’s recent book The City Consumes Us. This evening is free, as part of the Artwalk.

The festival closes with a rehearsed reading of a brand new play by John Godber, The Duck Stranglers of Janada, a satire on the importance of theatre and the changes enforced by cuts in the arts sector – again, another rare and unique treat for us Wakefieldians.

Some of these events are free, whilst others have a small charge. It is a chance to see and do something different, get those cogs in your brain turning. It’s incredibly accessible too. Even as a supposed aspiring writer, I still find ideas of ‘proper’ literature slightly daunting. Plays and poetry; it can all seem very serious. Whilst Wakefield Literature Festival clearly takes this event very seriously, the open and inviting nature of these events mean there’s nothing exclusive about them. Trite as it can sound, there is something here for everyone.

Take a look at the programme now and see what takes your fancy. Take a chance on something new and support Wakefield culture!

Dean Freeman

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Allo Darlin' / This Many Boyfriends / Imp

Allo Darlin / This Many Boyfriends / Imp
The Hop , Wakefield
31st August 2012

Heavyweight popsters with big reputations fail to disappoint.

With successful albums and national tours under their belt , a support slot with The Cribs in their trophy cabinet, and summer festival triumphs respectively for each band - this is a highly anticipated gig and is talked up by The Hop as being “the next biggy: the unmissable Allo Darlin'. One of my favourite gigs of last year and they've sold out much bigger venues than The Hop since then”

A nice mix; with Allo Darlin’ coming up from London, TMB hailing from the Leeds and local lads Imp all involved, the excitement is tangible. Not least from TMB who tweet on the day at 10am “it’s going to be awesome – just 8 hours of work to go!”

This is pop that packs a punch. And people are starting to take notice. Both Allo Darlin’ and TMB were on Lammos rebel playlist last week and this recent exposure shows at The Hop tonight. It is pretty full up.

Local pop noiseniks Imp get the party started – loudly - flying the Wakefield flag with honour fresh from success at Beacons. It can't be long before they are on the rebel playlist or getting a big support slot themselves.

TMB have been waiting all day for this and so have we. Their latest record (I Should Be) Communist is ace and filled with jumpy catchy melodies that they are famous for. The band bound around the stage - smiling! With a freshness that transcends from recording to their live show perfectly.  The sound is a little raw but they are happy and so are we. Standouts for me are 2nd song Young Lovers Go Pop! with a backing vocal to die for. Their 4th song Number One is on the BBC 6 rebel playlist and is slower and more thoughtful than others, a fuzzy melody reverb line is the main feature here. The last song is like a mix of The Futureheads and Morrissey, the TMB singer unfortunately failing to avoid comparisons to The Smiths mans vocal style as he weaves in and out of the audience. They have put on a good show.

Allo Darlin’ are top of the bill and it shows. These are super poppy songs with good lyrics, that are expertly crafted. They are almost too good; but quirky enough with ukulele and backing vocals galore to ensure they don’t become samey. An hour is just right for Allo Darlin’ to whizz through a tight as you like set with charisma and aplomb.

The band are dead nice and it is apparent they’re doing something they love. 2nd song is bass-tastic, with Bill Bottling beaming as he plays - and everyone smiles with him! It is infectious and the crowd are dancing. When they take it up a notch the lead singer Elizabeth Morris swings her short hair and shouts 'and we're in debt'! and we believe her.

Flagship song Capricornia is a highlight with a simple ukulele and vocal opening. New single jangles along nicely with faultless vocals from Elizabeth again. Next song states 'listen to this if you're ever lonely' and as polished as the band are the lyrics crafted well enough to still connect.

By the end we are as happy as the band and the applause is deserved. Allo Darlin’ are masters of the well crafted song and twee poppy pop. Some of the songs drift into one another which can be the danger with perfect pop but Allo Darlin’ have plenty of panache and buckets of bounce to keep you smiling and dancing along with them.

Words: Paul Bateson
Photograph: John Jowett

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Total Recall Review

Total Recall
Dir. Len Wiseman

I couldn't help but sigh and shake my head when I heard they were remaking Total Recall. I was once a student, and typically, we enjoyed watching Arnie movies and Total Recall was and is one of my favourites. It blends a bonkers plot, high concept sci-fi ideas, silly violence and Arnie's knack for deep characterisation amidst corny one liners.

For better and for worse, Arnie OWNS any role he plays and the thought, not of someone else acting that part, but trying to fill that space on screen is tricky to accept. But in reality, Total Recall is far from a perfect film and given the pedigree of other films adapted from Philip K Dick's work (TR comes from a short story called We Can Remember It For You Wholesale) there was a chance to create a better, more serious film around its themes of identity, memory and reality.

My hopes for a trippy, A Scanner Darkly type telling have not been met but this new version has much to recommend it. The opening, pre action captions instantly reveal the major change in the plot; we will not be getting our asses to Mars. I'll say no more, as one of the main enjoyments is seeing which elements of the original remain and which are twisted into new shapes. There are call backs to the memorable moments from the original (Arnie skipping customs disguised as a fat, middle aged woman, the 'this isnt real' convincer, the lift-chase arm loss) each obviously intended to raise a wry smile, but each altered in subtle ways. However, the surprising thing overall is how well the film stands up on its own terms.

Let's be clear; we are still in B-movie esqe territory. It can't escape the lack of character depth, the plot holes or ludicrous central premise. But the world we are invited into is vivid and the action inventive. The two cities we see are packed with detail. The Colony is clearly indebted to Bladerunner with its neon signs, perpetual rain and its representation of future society being a hyper multi-cultural mixing pot. Funnily enough, it's opposite, The United Federation Of Britain appears to be modelled on that other Philip K Dick adaptation, Minority Report; shiny, and clean, full of glass and clean surfaces but with something sinister lying beneath. Stylistically, the film feels like a mish-mash of ideas from all corners of Sci-fi cinema and computer gaming, but it pulls it off.

The action packs a satisfying punch, in its flashy, gaudy manner. An interesting take on a lift shaft encounter, a chase over the bizarre architecture of the crowded Colony towerblocks and a gravity shift gun battle stand out and whilst some, like a hover car chase rely too much on slightly questionable CGI, generally these are mildly innovative takes on well trodden ground. The final third does become a little weary. Once the truth of Doug Quaid’s (Colin Farrell) various personality swaps has been cleared up we are left with a typical race against time / save the world turn of events that is less satisfying than the earlier stuff.

In the end, the fact this is a remake does have a detrimental effect to the film. The combination of knowing the first films (if you have seen it) means the plots twists here are of no surprise and it lacks a reveal like that of the camera pull to reveal Arnie and Cohaagen laughing like best buddies. Another aspect is that, unlike the first, there is never any real doubt that the world we are seeing is the 'real' one. The Martian landscape of bio-domes, embittered mutants and subterranean tunnels suggested something unreal, something fantastical. Could he still be in the chair? This new version doesn't try to compete with that, instead filling its real world with tiny details and flourishes, but losing some of the essence of the original film or story in the process. It sparks with a love of action films but doesn’t really expand this into something approaching the pondering complexity of Philip K Dick’s source material, yet the fact it the film stands up on its own merits makes the decision to remake worthwhile.

Dean Freeman

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Retarded Fish / That Fucking Tank / Protectors

 Retarded Fish / That Fucking Tank / Protectors
The Hop, Wakefield
7th September 2012

Time slows to the rhythmic breath of a terminally comatose car crash victim. Three beads of sweat shimmer in the stage light and find a forking path down the face of the hot and sweaty man. Aside him, the taut figure of his punk rock brethren reverses his muscular, ripped upper limb in preparation for a colossal chord unleash. God’s own bass drum kicks like an atomic tequila slammer, a shudder – nay, spasm – or aural endorphin ripples through the room, the religious fervour of the crowd heightened to cosmic possibilities. The man atop this plinth of adulation turns, microphone gripped, to his waiting masses. “Nakkas” he says. “Nakkas, Nakkas, Nakkas.”

Rewind five months previous and who would have thought this bunch of boozers would be headlining at the legendary Hop venue? No me – I’d never heard of em. Fast forward a month from that and these guys are supporting The Cribs. Talk about career trajectory! And yet here I am, at their last ever gig. The light which burneth twice as bright burns half as long. In that case, these guys are like them shitty bath candles you get in Wilkinsons – two burnings and we are done! Pretty lazy. Least, I would have said that but I now see they encapsulate a raw (and rare) true punk spirit. But lets get back to some proper chronology (fast forward four months, then rewind two hours).

Now, sadly, I missed opening act Protectors due to traffic issues on the M62 which in my day simply wouldn’t have happened. I’ve written a strongly worded letter on the matter and expect a reply in the next fourteen days. I hear second hand that their greatest hits set – for singer Chris is now retiring from live performance – was a thing of beauty and was really quite moving. I know a kindred spirit when I hear one, and the fact he has been part of some of the greatest Wakefield bands and produced some of its best music ever obviously puts us in close company. Another thirty years and you’ll be up there with Clive Smith, son! But the title of legend is truly deserved.

Which fucking tank? That Fucking Tank! I did arrive in time for this interesting rock n roll band and they nearly blew my bloody ears off! They certainly know how to rock the house (pub, in this case) and despite their singer not turning up it is a pumped turn from the groovy tank brothers. Judging by their aggressive moniker I expect the singer would have been quite confrontational. I’m glad he wasn’t there to be honest; there’s no need for that kind of thing. Boys – you are here to entertain. In fact, I’d go as far as to say – drop the frontman, you don’t need him. That one’s for free fellas.

But the audience are here for one thing only. The return of the fish-boys. Despite encouraging everyone to pretend its 1995, the year punk ‘broke’ you may recall, these guys are so about the present, the today, the now. Perhaps a modern reference would be a useful journalistic tool to help illustrate this point? So, these guys remind me of The Expendables (they don’t, I’ve never seen it) in that they are four legendary, iconic rockers coming out for one last mission. That mission? To rock!

And like a clever film, the end of the review returns to its opening image. With the energy of men 7/8ths their age, they blast out a slurry of punk noise, sweat poring out of pours, muscles rippling in the half light. It’s nice to see some real men rocking out for a change instead of these twee kids and their humility. Life begins at forty and Retarded Fish prove that tonight. They remind me when music was fun and about hanging out with your buddies with a few ales. It’s funny and like a big celebration and I’m sad to see them leave the stage after only half an hour, though with all the head bopping I was doing, it was probably for the best. A great night that made me feel young and hopeful about the world. Retarded Fish are just one of those bands you wish you were in, you know what I mean?

Words: Clive Smith
Follow him on Twitter HERE
Photo & Video: Dean Freeman

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

Casino Royale
Ian Fleming

 “Yes, well I much prefer the book actually” is a tough phrase to utter without sounding rather condescending, no matter how true it may be. Books and Films are simply very different art forms but are for some reason linked to a sliding intellectual scale. I didn’t go see The Dark Knight and say “I much prefer the graphic novel, don’t you know.” It’s just different.

Still, the book / film relation is what has brought me to this, the first James Bond novel, originally released in 1953. I’m probably a bigger Bond aficionado than your average man on the street, but that largely stems from a childhood love of the films, mixed with an appreciation of a long running franchise. Of the 22 films to date, perhaps only a handful could be regarded as ‘great films’ whilst the other bounce from dumb action pleasures to tongue in cheek amusers. Like the lyrics to Green Day’s back catalogue, the words are forever etched in my brain, but I wouldn’t say I was any kind of fan.

As I understand it, Casino Royale is one of the only novels that were accurately forged on screen. Many others take only plot elements or characters. And it’s true that having seen the Daniel Craig version of this tale, there are very few plot surprises. Ok, so the novel doesn’t open with a Parkour chase through a building site or end with the sinking of Venice but the core; a nerve shredding gambling session in a casino is fully intact. Bond’s mental battle against Le Chiffre is, at least to our modernist eyes, is a daringly unexciting central event around which to base a novel. How this was regarded in the ‘50s, I don’t know, but the way it sits against what I think I know about Bond makes these chapters an unexpectedly immersive read.

Relating once again to the films, which appeared ten years after the first novel, it is interesting to note this lack of action, or exotic locations. It takes place almost exclusively in a casino. I don’t think Bond so much as punches any one. Yet the story hammers along quickly and relatively excitingly. Fleming’s style doesn’t linger too long on any particular character, the only details being Bond’s obsessive observations of other characters appearance and clothing (not quite Brett Easton Ellis…) and his appreciation of fine wine and food. The directness and pace of the plotting match what is perhaps most interesting and shocking about this book; the characterisation of Bond himself.

My copy of the book, from the late ‘80s has a foreword by Anthony Burgess which compares the character of Bond to Sherlock Homles, in a literary sense. Partly true, like the way they are seen as ‘quintisensionally english’ whilst also being drug taking, womanising, murdering sociopaths.

But the Bond in Casino Royale can be seen from the 21st century as nothing but a dinosaur, a hopelessly extinct type of man built from pure machismo. Even the Bond that hit the silver screen a decade later had been softened around the edges; yes he killed and womanised, but also had the quips, the self depreciation and a feeling of remorse when people around him suffered or died.

Here, Bond is as cold as can be. His only concern is getting the job done, for Queen and country. He is humourless, serious and in his attitudes to women, deeply unpleasant. I opt not to quote from the book here, as taken out of context they will seem even worse. Those familiar with the film will be aware that a softening of Bond takes place and that too is true here. At first I was suspecting the overly sexist nature was a setup for this. But the book's conclusion (one of the most shockingly succinct and aggressive final lines I’ve come across) sees him revert to an uncaring, immovable object, which leaves an odd taste in the mouth.

I am pleased to have had an insight into the origins of the Bond character and I would say that Daniel Craig has come closest to harnessing that cold, loveless streak - and not just because it was the same story he was telling. It’s also a great historical insight, in that this book and this character were a worldwide, smash hit. I can only assume that a man so focussed on getting the job done and serving his empire was seen as a great example back then. Of course, the book was released at a time when Britain’s role in the world had been seriously culled and this kind of chest beating likely raised people’s spirits. I enjoyed the book; a story in which little actually happens but is still engaging is a good thing for me, and though I haven’t been touched emotionally in any way, the eyebrow raising has certainly got me thinking about how things have changed, and how a worldwide film franchise could rise from a man playing cards and trying to cop off with a woman.

Dean Freeman

James Bond will return in Live And Let Die.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Four by Bloc Party Review

Bloc Party
Frenchkiss Records

The end of 2004 and the start of 2005 saw the release of two debut albums that sit pretty close to my heart; The Futureheads self titled and Silent Alarm by Bloc Party. I was beginning to emerge from the cold of a post-rock / post-folk hangover and these bands and records reinvigorated my love all things energetic, twisted and indie.

It’d be fair to say both bands have never since reached those heights. The Futureheads lost it first but have come out of the experience more determined to follow their own path than ever (have you heard their recent acapella album?). Bloc Party instead tried to valiantly follow a more interesting path, which at the time, I applauded. Their sound became increasingly dependent on electronics and, seemingly, the will of singer Kele Okereke. It was only after recently listening back to that first album that I realised how far they had travelled and how disappointing the final destination had been.

After a short hiatus, they are back with a fourth album that, in short, sees them go back to basics. One of the oddest things about their evolution was how sidelined the drums and guitar were, when Bloc Party were blessed with probably the best guitarist / drummer combo in Indie. And it’s a pleasure to hear them back to work, finally.

The record is keen to remind you they are a band again, perhaps overly so. The record opens with studio chatter and tape hiss before launching into So He Begins To Lie. The effect is slightly off putting and takes a while to settle in, purely because the record sounds so live, and then so alive. Second track 3x3 is unlike anything they have committed to tape before; a tight and claustrophobic song desperately seeking for air and a massive production budget, yet certainly better without it. The angular and transcendental sounds of the mid Noughties are back, battered and bruised.

Underwhelming first single Octopus makes more sense within the context of the whole album and warms up to be a catchy, albeit quite hookless and uneuphoric addition to the first half of the record. Kettling is the first indication of an actual different style in its pure, unapologetic heaviness. This kind of riffing is rare in their back catalogue, a comparison perhaps being Song For Clay from A Weekend In The City, but far less polished and produced here, which is a huge benefit.

The second half of the record opens with a one-two Philip K Dick tribute. Okereke has never been subtle or graceful with his nod to his heroes (see the literal steal from Richey Edwards in Where Is Home?) and this trend continues with Coliseum’s acceptable “The empire never ended” homage but titling a song V.A.L.I.S. is just too one note (and stupid) to be let to pass. Still, the lyrically threads of not recognising the person he is, was, or is becoming, set up some connections to a general feeling of coming to terms with who you are; you might not be perfect, or even a good person but you ARE. It at times feels like a justification for their past musical journey, but could just as well be an apology for it.

Tellingly, unlike any previous Bloc Party album, it ends on a defiant and aggressive note instead of sigh. We Are Not Good People is the heaviest, nosiest thing they have released – almost unrecognisable in its opening - and despite the suspicion of shock tactic riffing supplanting thought out songwriting,  is a great way to end a mixed album.

In a way Bloc Party have achieved something quite exceptional; this sounds like a debut record. To capture that passion and intensity some thirteen years after forming is something quite unheard of, and the heart of this record is large and true. The flipside is that the songs don’t quite match up to the highs of their other records. True, they don’t sink to the occasional lows of albums two and three either but it does lack some killer tunes to drag it up. As it stands, it actually feels like a rough around the edges predecessor to the still not bettered Silent Alarm.

But we do have a consistent, interesting, ideas-full record. It even has jokes between the songs for goodness sake. So despite being far from a classic, seeing and hearing the band in such high spirits and channelling their supreme talent into a working album is good enough, at least for now.

Dean Freeman