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“Thunderbirds Are Go!” Episode 1 Review

Thunderbirds Are Go

When I first heard, last year, that Thunderbirds was being re–made, I was sure it would be a disaster. And when, a mere few months later, I saw the first picture of the all new, CGI-overloaded characters, I was absolutely convinced it would be a total disaster. I think my heart was just about in my mouth when I saw this picture; I couldn’t form a coherent sentence, or even thought, for a long time. My cousins (10 and 5) think the old puppets are creepy, and consider this as passable – “great”, even. Yet I could quite happily say the puppets, strings and all, are much more normal looking than that disaster – Lady Penelope was even worse.

I read the other day that the first episode of the new series was debuting today, the 4th of April, so out of curiosity I looked up the trailer. Honestly, it was as bad and ridiculous as I expected it to be, but at the same time it made me really intrigued – and so I decide I would watch the first episode. I watched Thunderbirds a LOT when I was young, and I went to see the live–action film with all the girls in my class for my 8th birthday (over 10 years ago!), which I personally enjoyed but I know many hated it. But watching the new trailer brought back a lot of memories of the old episodes, which my brother and I owned on video, and just yesterday I went and bought myself the original soundtrack – a huge nostalgia kick! I knew that the new series would be nothing like the original, and I went into it with very low expectations.

And yet, strangely enough, I kind of enjoyed it. Of course it was exceptionally cringe–worthy at times, and the dialogue often fell flat, but at the same time there was something good about it – good enough to have me saying “sit down, Finlay! Sit down!” to my younger cousin many times whilst watching it; he would stand right in the middle of the screen, preventing me from seeing what was happening. I’m pretty sure that wanting to see it all is a good sign, though, because if I hadn’t cared about only seeing half a screen, then what on earth would that have said about the show? Admittedly, I was a little uninterested in the opening scene, but when they started to play the intro, I was just about dancing where I sat. Sure, it was a variation of it, and not totally the original theme, but it’s always been one of my favourite things about the programme – it’s such a recognisable theme, but my favourite part (without doubt) is the part with “5…4…3…2…1… Thunderbirds are go”. I love how they zoom in on the number of each Thunderbird, then pull back to show the full ship, and the bare minimum of sound effects, then BAM! You’re straight into that wonderful tune. I’ve been sitting for the past half an hour replaying the intro over and over again; I love it so much. I can’t describe just how great it is, so take my word for it – and listen to see (hear?) for yourself!

Despite the episode being an hour long (well, that’s a lie; with the advert breaks it was more like 45 minutes), it did seem a little rushed and like they wanted to introduce every single character, old and new, to us at once. Take Lady Penelope and Parker, for instance: I swear they did just about nothing of note in this episode, but they were there anyway. They may have played a minor role, but I certainly can’t remember it. And Kayo (essentially Tin–Tin, but under a new name), well I suppose it was fair enough to involve her, but I’m not keen on the fact that she essentially appears to be becoming a new member of the Thunderbirds. You’re allowed to be Head of Security, that’s acceptable, but Thunderbird ships are reserved only for those bearing the Tracy name! …Wait, I bet she’ll get married to Alan or someone, and then she’ll officially be a Tracy… As long as The Hood doesn’t reveal her secret first!

Speaking of The Hood, he reminds me quite a bit of Ben Kingsley’s incarnation of him in the 2004 film, which (unless I’m just imagining it) was a nice wee nod there. However, he is another character I think was thrown at us a little too quickly – again, I think that’s to do with the episode length. Perhaps if it had been half an hour, there’d have been more of a build up to him, but at the same time I can understand them not wanting to make the first episode into a two–parter. Some of the things he was saying (I’m not quoting, so as to give nothing away… because people are totally going to watch it…) did make me anticipate the next few episodes – okay, the rest of the series – because I really want to know how a rather big event in the Tracy brother’s life actually happened. What with this only being the first episode, we’ve not quite got a feel for the characters yet, but the one I know I can’t stand at the moment is the grandmother. Everything about her is annoying me so far: her ridiculous outfit, her voice, her dialogue. She’s a bit wooden at times too, and so far I’m not a fan – maybe that will change with time, but right now she’s right at the bottom of my list of favourites.

Even though I only watched the episode a few hours ago, I can’t remember terribly much about what actually happened; lots of little things, leading up to them foiling The Hood’s plan (that was unexpected!) and not terribly much else, it has to be said. Hopefully in the next episode, we’ll get some more character development from everyone, and I’m rather looking forward to watching more – I’ve certainly got my Saturday morning viewing sorted, at any rate!

The show certainly has many flaws, which I expected from minute I heard it was being remade, and it’s not a patch on the original – and the CGI is really just atrocious, it has be said, but at the same time I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll make of it (the show, not the CGI – there’s no hope for that). As previously mentioned, one of my favourite parts was the intro being almost the same, but what I didn’t mention is that the launch sequences are nearly identical too. The launch sequence for Thunderbird 2 was always my favourite, as T2 was clearly the best Thunderbird, so seeing it in an updated, and potentially totally different, form was a bit of a worry. But it’s okay, because it’s pretty identical, if sped up somewhat, and with a few changes. IT’S STILL SO COOL THOUGH:

I wish I could say I think this series will be F.A.B, but I don’t yet have high hopes for that – maybe I’ll be surprised! We shall see…

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“Arrow” Season 1 Review

Arrow1

I’ve heard a fair amount about the TV programme Arrow over the past few months; mostly talk about how good it is. Yet I was wary about starting it, as I don’t consider myself a fan of comic books (okay, I’ve never actually read one yet…), or at least comic book adaptations – frankly, I think Marvel have just put me off thanks to every Marvel film I’ve seen. But, perhaps DC would change that and I would discover a very well hidden love for comic book heroes that I never knew I had. Even then, I wasn’t all that sure I would ever buy the series, but then I saw the cover of series 1, and that pretty much decided it all for me – I just loved it, and I still do. Trying to put into words what, exactly, it is that I like about it is pretty difficult, but it’s a mixture of the colouring, is outfit, and (of all things), the font used – everything goes so well and is just really enticing; it worked for me, anyway!

I found that the series took a little while for me to get into, although to be fair I did spend a lot of the time on my phone or laptop at the same time as watching it, as I seem to struggle to concentrate on the one thing. Despite that, each episode (23 in all) is extremely addictive, especially with the cliff–hangers they specialise in ending on – they ensure you can’t stop after only one episode; instead, you’ve got to get through at least 5! Which, in fairness, is no bad thing, but it does tend to mean a LOT of late nights (for me, at least) – in order to finish the last six episodes of Series 1, I was up until 2 in the morning. Totally worth it, of course, although I did want to start series 2 as soon as I had finished the last episode…

I’m not going to pretend that this is a flawless series: it’s not. Some of the acting is questionable to say the least, in particular some moments from Stephen Amell (who plays Oliver Queen/Arrow), and the actress who plays Thea Queen just downright gets on my nerves most of the time (but I still like her, for the most part). It also has to be said that Arrow uses every single cliché in the book, and the script is something I could write in my sleep – it’s pretty predictable, I’m afraid. Very few times have I guessed at what was going to be said next, and been wrong – maybe not word for word, but the fact is it’s not the most stand–out script. And yet, that doesn’t bother me as much as it might – it’s still a very enjoyable show. The action is, in my eyes, brilliant, and I love watching the fight scenes.

Even better, not all of the characters are wooden or downright annoying – Felicity and Diggle are, without doubt, my two favourite characters on the show. They’re likeable, funny, and I find they make the show a lot more enjoyable too. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Laurel – I swear she changes her mind on Oliver, and his alias, at least every second episode, and after a while it gets pretty tedious. But as surprisingly badass characters go, she’s quite high up there. Helena is another character I kind of loved, and I feel we didn’t get quite enough of her – here’s hoping she’s in Series 2, because she’s just great. I loved her outfit, her appearance, just about everything she said – her in general, really. I like to think I can’t be blamed for that… I mean, look at her!

HelenaArrow

One of the best parts of this series is undoubtedly the score, composed by Blake Neely. It’s not too in–your–face, but it’s noticeable and it’s brilliant. I bought it the other night, and although I really like the whole thing, there are some superb tracks that need a special mention: Oliver Queen Suite, Sacrifice, I Can’t Lose You Twice, and my absolute favourite: I Forgot Who I Was. The first time I heard it, I nearly cried and that feeling hasn’t changed yet. For about the past hour, I’ve been sitting here listening to it, and I love it a little more with every listen. It’s beautiful, and I can’t imagine ever tiring of it.

To round my review up, I really recommend Arrow; although it can be ridiculously predictable, and the clichés make me want to cringe sometimes, it has its plus–sides too: it’s addictive (so, so, so addictive), the music is brilliant, the action is great, the outfits are great, and it turns out to be pretty emotional too – I was surprised at how much I cried during the last few episodes.

Also, John Barrowman…

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“Guardians of the Galaxy” Film Review

GOTG-poster

I really wasn’t a huge fan of Guardians of the Galaxy when I went to see it in the cinema. I enjoyed it, kind of. It was more enjoyable than having a tooth removed, but maybe on par with sticking pins in my eyes (I’m kidding – the latter is so much more fun). I’m frankly a little unsure why I decided to buy the DVD, but it’s most likely because I was hoping it had improved – you know, like both The Pretty Reckless’ and Black Veil Brides’ new albums did after a time of not listening. Yet Guardians seems to have got…worse.

Guardians of the Galaxy is one of those films that has plenty of hype surrounding it…but deserves very little of it. It’s the film that gets cited as “The greatest Marvel film since…well, the last Marvel film!”. And that’s the same as every Marvel film before that. I’m beginning to think I don’t like Marvel films: The Avengers Assemble was alright, but by my 3rd viewing I couldn’t get past the first half hour. The first Iron Man was pretty dire, I never saw the second, but the third was quite good – don’t know if I’ll ever watch it again though. I’ve seen the first Captain America and nearly fell asleep; Thor was even worse and was put off after 15 minutes. Damn it Avengers, you gave me unrealistic expectations for the other films and I was sorely disappointed! I watched 2 episodes of the programme Arrow this morning, and the first five minutes were more entertaining and thrilling than Guardians could ever be.

I’m going to be honest and admit that the main reason I decided to see the film (because honestly, the trailer looked awful) was because of Karen Gillan. And can you blame me? I mean, she’s Karen Gillan! Unfortunately, even she couldn’t carry the film and I was more looking forward to the end than I was to seeing her. It was just so boring; when I watched it the other night, my expression barely changed from the look of boredom it maintained for pretty much the majority of the film. People claim this is a really funny film – well, then can someone point me in the direction of the humour? Because apparently I missed it. The only bit I found slightly amusing was when Peter Quill called Drax a thesaurus (I like my words), and then Rocket says that the metaphorical meaning will go right over his head, to which Drax replies:

“Nothing goes over my head, my reflexes are too fast. I’ll catch it.”

My facial muscles twitched slightly at that. Of course, they then proceeded to drag out how literal everyone was until about the end of the film – it was funny the first time, by the 5th…not so much. The acting and dialogue seemed awkward at times too; there were moments where someone would say something that was probably meant to get a reaction, or be funny, but was just met with total, deafening silence – it made me, just as someone watching it, cringe inwardly.

The main issue I have with this film is the characters. Not one of them is likeable in any way, but most of all I can’t stand Peter Quill – sorry, “Star Lord”. I don’t like his actor, which probably plays into that, but his character is too smug and irritating for me to feel anything other than a really strong urge to punch him. The green one annoys me too (and what the hell is up with that scene where the two of them nearly kiss? There was NO interaction beforehand to suggest any kind of attraction), and Drax…well, what’s his purpose, really? Oh, right, to get in contact with the evil blue one (the evil blue one working with the evil blue Karen Gillan, not the other evil blue one) and nearly get everybody killed. Yay, reasonable plot (if you can call it that)! Groot makes me angry for two reasons: 1. He’s a tree. 2. All he says is “I am Groot” and it is singlehandedly the worst and most used sentence in existence now – I’m pretty sure it’s probably beaten “I volunteer as tribute!”. And not forgetting Rocket, who is the only semi-amusing character in the entire film. There’s also the various ensemble of villains and side-characters who all seem to add very little to the plot, or lack thereof. I don’t think I could even try to sum up the plot of Guardians, because at the moment I still have no idea myself – when I work it out, I’ll get back to you.

There’s one redeeming feature of the entire film (and not just that it finally ends), and that’s the music. I don’t mean the “awesome mixtape” that everyone but me seems  to love – no, the standout music of this film is the score by Tyler Bates. The score contains some really fantastic pieces, but my personal favourite is this one:

And when the main theme kicks in around the 1.30 mark, it puts a ridiculous smile on my face. I’ll happily sit and listen to the score for hours – it’s 10x more badass than the film could ever hope to be.

All in all, I was really unimpressed with Guardians of the Galaxy, and I find the Screen Junkies’ Honest Trailer of it to be pretty accurate:

Indeed, when he says “What you gonna do? Watch DC?” my answer would be a resounding yes: Christopher Nolan’s Batman films were some of the best superhero films I’ve ever seen (The Dark Knight Rises, however, was almost worse than this, so I’ll just exclude that), and although I’m only two episodes into Arrow I think it’s great.

I’m still looking forward to The Avengers: Age of Ultron, though, so hopefully Marvel can redeem themselves through that.

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“The Maze Runner” Film Review (Spoilers)

The Maze Runner

I’m a terrible person – I went to see The Maze Runner today. And I’ve never read the books. I own them, but I don’t think they’ve ever been taken out the box, mostly because a friend recommended them to me, I bought them, then he said they weren’t very good (no, I don’t know how it works either) so I didn’t ever get round to reading them. I saw the trailer and thought it looked  alright, but decided I was unlikely to see it in cinemas because I don’t like seeing films if I’ve not read the books beforehand – and that’s why I’m a terrible person, because that’s exactly what I did. To justify my actions slightly, it was a last minute decision. I met up with a friend, and as we were playing darts we decided to go to the cinema, and The Maze Runner was the only decent–sounding film showing anywhere. She wanted to see it because she thought some of the guys in it were cute (namely Newt and Thomas), whereas I wanted to see it because it was based on a book. Priorities, huh?

I wasn’t too sure what to expect, as I had no real idea what it was about and although I thought the trailer was alright, I didn’t think it looked all that great. I knew it would either be a hit or a miss (and honestly, I was going with miss!), but as it turns out I was pleasantly surprised. It was a pretty good story and the acting was quite good too – there were predictable moments, as there are in all films, one of the main ones being towards the end where Chuck jumped in front of Thomas when Gally went to shoot him. But that didn’t bother me too much, as the film was overall very good.

The attention to detail and basically just common sense was something I was very impressed by – these kids were covered in dirt and scrapes, and they stayed covered in dirt and scrapes. They weren’t beautifully presented all the time, which some films like to do, and one of my favourite things was just Teresa’s hair. It was visibly tangled and wasn’t perfectly kept – she really looked the part. I may have got a huge grin on my face when I first saw her, played by Kaya Scodelario, on the screen – she played Effy Stonem in the TV show Skins and I kind of love her. Her presence really bumped up the film for me! I know she was the only girl there, and I’m assuming the reasoning behind that is mentioned later in the series, but I was somewhat surprised that nobody seemed to notice the lack of female figures? I was half–expecting Thomas to notice or bring it up at some point, because surely if you find yourself surrounded in a strange place surrounded only by guys, you might think there’s something strange about that? I was hoping someone might cotton onto it when Teresa arrived, even Teresa herself, but apparently not…

I also loved that there was no romantic subplot! At least, not yet… I’ll need to read the series and find that out. I find it’s quite uncommon to find a film aimed at teens and based on a Young Adult book that doesn’t have at least the underlying romance, and even if it does begin to surface in later books/films, I don’t think I’ll mind too much because it wasn’t forced in our faces from the beginning. This didn’t need romance, and I’m glad the author didn’t think it was necessary to add it in just for the sake of it – though if we end up with a bloody love triangle, I’ll be pretty annoyed because that’s even less necessary!

The music in the film was also really fitting, and I’ve been listening to it non–stop since I got home. I really love soundtracks, and often find they can make or break a film – I’m pretty sure that the main reason I love The King’s Speech so much is because of the music in it. And the music in this film is just great; I’ve never heard of the composer before, but I think he’s done a great job of making music that fits the film. There was one part in particular which just took my breath away, but unfortunately all I can remember of the scene it was played during is that they were running through (I think) a tunnel – I guess that means I’ll have to get the DVD when it’s out so that I can hear and see it again!

One of the things I was really unsure about was the maze itself. In all the posters I’ve seen advertising it and in the trailer, I couldn’t help but think that it looked a bit too made–up, almost out of place. However, the more I saw it in the film, the more I started to like it – and the vines hanging from it really added something and looked so good. I never knew that the maze moved, so that was a bit of a surprise to me. I did wonder why nobody thought to jam the doors though, especially in the scene where Minho is trying to drag Alby towards them – they had huge, thick sticks lying next to them, why not jam them in the mechanics and try and buy the guys some time?! And why Thomas left it to the last minute to run through to them I do not know, what did he think was going to happen?!

That aside, I found The Maze Runner to be an overall very enjoyable film and it was far better than I expected it to be. In fact, it’s now tempted me to start the book, which I’m hoping is going to prove to be worthwhile!

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Black Veil Brides by Black Veil Brides Album Review

Black Veil Brides
Hearing that Black Veil Brides had a new album coming was possibly the best bit of news I had this year, especially with the hints that it was to be their “heaviest” and “darkest” album yet. As much as I like 2013’s Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones, it was no We Stitch These Wounds (possibly my favourite Black Veil Brides album), and I was hoping for a return to that. When they released the first single, Faithless, I at first wasn’t keen, but it quickly grew on me and I thought that if the whole album was going to be like that, it would be pretty good. Then the next single, Heart of Fire, was released, and my expectations for this album just shot sky–high. That’s where the problem starts really: my expectations were too high. But do you blame me? I went to see them on the 16th of October, and as well as playing the two aforementioned tracks, they played one more new song which had yet to be released: Last Rites. When CC opened up with that drum line, my friend and I just looked at each other with the biggest grins on our faces – it genuinely made me think “this could actually be their heaviest album yet!” Needless to say, I was very excited for the 27th of October.

I woke up that Monday morning and raced right downstairs so I could listen to all the previews on amazon and iTunes – my plan was to wait for the post and listen to the full album, but I couldn’t wait any longer. I listened to all the previews that I could, and I was still excited – but I felt there was something missing. Every time I tried to reply the songs in my head, they all sounded so…generic, almost pop-y. I was hoping the full album would prove me wrong, and it did. Kind of.

The album opens with Heart of Fire, which is by far my favourite song of the album and so is a good starting point. It’s a really good song, and very catchy – I always get a stupid grin when I hear Andy sing “Not living for this anymore, you want a fight – I’ll bring the war”. I think it’s the lyrics combined with the melody, you have to smile! It’s definitely a strong opening song, and I don’t have anything against this one (although I hate that “fire” is pronounced “fiy-yuh” rather than how it should be…), which certainly makes a change!

Faithless is the second song on the album, and again is another strong one – I really love the opening, although I’m not keen on the moments where the sound goes almost muted. When I’m listening to it through headphones, the sound is great and all around me, then suddenly and briefly it’s like it’s only in one ear, which isn’t something I like. At all. But otherwise, it’s quite frankly a brilliant introduction to a really good song. I’d like to take a moment to note down my favourite lyric, which comes from the chorus: “Even when I fall down to my knees, I’ll never say a prayer I don’t believe”. The reason I love it is because of how ambiguous it is – while one person may take it as them saying they’ll never say a prayer because they don’t believe in a religion or the likes, another person may interpret it as them saying they won’t say a prayer that they don’t believe in. That’s not the only time I’ve loved the ambiguity of a Black Veil Brides lyric; although the only example I can think of at the moment is from the song Set the World on Fire from the album of the same name: “[…] children crying when all they knew was dying”. I like that one, as it makes me wonder if the children are crying because all they’ve known is death and dying, or if it’s because everything they know is just dying around them – there’s not much better than a song that makes you  think!

The next song, Devil in the Mirror, is another one with a good beginning, and it retains that throughout. The tune is catchy, and when I listen to it I find myself nodding along and tapping my foot – it’s that kind of song. I quite like the chorus too; it’s just as catchy as the rest of the song, but there’s just something about it that really makes me want to sing. Which I usually do, I’m pleased to say! The only thing I’m a bit iffy on is, strangely enough, the chorus – at points it seems like the kind of thing you might find in a more “pop” song than in something I associate with Black Veil Brides. I can’t really put it into words what I think of it, there’s just something there (that wasn’t there before) which doesn’t quite fit in. Regardless, it’s a very good song, and one that I look forward to getting to hear live one day!

Goodbye Agony is, for me, a song that, for the most part, is just…there. There’s nothing spectacular about it, nothing that really stands out to me. It’s a good song (when I remember it exists), but I don’t have anything of note to say about it, so to flesh out this paragraph a little I’m going straight on to song number five, World of Sacrifice. I think that fact that I was listening to this and thought I was still on the previous song says a hell of a lot for this one… I’m not saying it sounds exactly the same, it’s just pretty similar – and that’s something I’ve felt about a few of the songs on this album. There’s just nothing different and exciting! Oh well, at least they’re catchy I suppose, I’m sure that’s got to count for something?

Ah, now here we are at my most anticipated song of the album, Last Rites! Two words: what happened. It sounded so good when they played it, there were screams, it had an utterly FANTASTIC start, and it was just an altogether amazing song. But this? This just wasn’t what I was looking for. For one thing, no screams – that’s practically heart-breaking for someone who loves the screams! Even the introduction was lacking something that was there in the concert; I don’t want to go so far as to say it was lacking energy, but it definitely didn’t give off the “heavy” vibes that it did live. Again, it’s still an enjoyable song… unfortunately it just didn’t live up to my expectations.

But do you know what, that’s okay. Because the next song, Stolen Omen, really brings this album back up. And not just because there’s screaming (but that helps!), but because it’s overall great. I actually think this is the first song on the album that I’ve heard just the beginning and thought “this sounds pretty heavy!”, which being the seventh song in on an album claiming to be the heaviest yet probably isn’t great. This song though, it’s just so good. Words fail me, to be honest, but I do love it. That’s another one that would be amazing to hear live – so I’m looking forward to the next time they tour the UK!

Of course, no Black Veil Brides album would be complete without a nice, ballad-style song. On their first album, we had The Mortician’s Daughter (my favourite BVB song ever), on the second album we had Saviour, and on last year’s album we had Done For You. I was a little worried that they wouldn’t put a slower/softer song on this album, but Walk Away pretty much fits the bill! Admittedly it’s not as good as the aforementioned slow songs, and there’s too much “woah”-ing for my liking, but I’m so glad it’s there – I think I would have been pretty upset if they hadn’t put in the almost obligatory (in my mind) slow song, so hurray!

Ugh, again with the woah-ing?! That’s practically the first thing you hear in Drag Me to the Grave, other than, oddly enough, the cry of “Drag me to the grave!”, but luckily it doesn’t last long… until the chorus, it turns out. What is with the woahs? I don’t like them; they’re just not right for these songs. Frankly, they almost ruin them for me – they’re so off-putting! Ignoring that (I wish I could), it’s yet another addictive song with a catchy tune, and I always, always find myself singing along to the chorus. Even when I’m not singing, my foot’s tapping or I’m nodding my head, which I’m sure mildly concerns the people who share my buses.

Only two songs left, and then I’m done – I promise! The penultimate song is The Shattered God, and it definitely shattered something within me, possibly any and all hope I had for this album’s redemption… Well, it’s not that bad, I’m just being dramatic. But this isn’t a great song, in my opinion – it’s gone back to the almost too poppy to suit the album/band kind of thing, which is a shame. It’s not even one I can sing along with either; probably because when Andy sings “You are, you are the shattered god”, I was convinced he was singing “you are the shadow god/shadow of god”, until I discovered the song title – THEN I managed to hear the lyrics correctly. But hey, it’s otherwise a nice and cheerful song – my favourite is the part where he sings “You are, you are forever alone”. It’s like he’s singing right to me! All sarcasm aside, I do like that line, it’s one of the few I can understand.

And now, the final song, Crown of Thorns, bringing with it the burning question: will the album end on a high? Well it sounds pretty similar to the previous song…and the nine before that…  Honestly, that’s my main criticism of this whole album. It all just sounds so similar. With their other album, I can tell pretty much straight away what song is playing, but with this album it takes me a while because, bar at least the first two tracks, there’s not an awful lot to differentiate between them. And that’s a shame, because I was so looking forward to this album and wanted to see how they’d improved as a group. Don’t get me wrong, the band play extremely well, and seeing them live is an amazing experience, but they’re just lacking something on this album. I read a review on iTunes which said that although it was a good album, it sounded like it had been recorded in a bubble – and that’s exactly right. From my first listen, I’ve thought it sounded just too clinical and put together. It’s one thing having an album that flows well; it’s something else entirely having an album which sounds like one song…

Overall, I enjoy the album and think it’s good fun to listen to (and as I’ve said, I look forward to hearing it all live), but their first two albums – We Stitch These Wounds and Set the World on Fire – are far, far superior. As much as I’d have loved to have been able to give it 5–stars, I’m afraid it’s only really deserving of 3.5.

And don’t even get me started on that bad attempt at an Iron Maiden album cover…

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Download 2014

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How quickly time flies. At the time of writing (Friday the 20th), it had been a whole week since I arrived at Download Festival with my friends. A week ago I was pitching a tent (at least, that’s what I told myself I was doing; in reality I was creating a disaster and a source of mockery), and now I’m sitting here, trying to work out how on earth one is supposed to wear a dress. This is in preparation for my Leaver’s Dance – a far cry from Download.

 Although looking forward to the festival, I was at the same time dreading it – to borrow the over–used cliché and pet hate of English teachers everywhere, I was “nervous and excited”. Indeed, so nervous was I, I had actually contemplated not going, but faced with threats from my friends I found myself, at 9:30pm on Thursday the 12th, on the coach which would take me to Download. The only inconvenience being the 12 hour journey and the constant stopping to pick up new passengers – which meant the Blackpool Illuminations every time you finally managed to close your eyes. In all honesty the bus journey wasn’t all that bad; the seats were relatively comfortable, and the service–station stops did mean the chance to stretch our legs, so I’m very grateful that, after a few bus changes and having to rely on a sat–nav to walk from one station to another (not something I recommend!), my friends and I arrived at Download safely and not in agony from sitting on a cramped bus – it certainly got my weekend off to a good start.

 The walk from the bus drop–off to the campsite did take a little longer than I’d have liked, but to be fair we were carting all our things in extremely warm temperatures; not only am I Scottish, I’m also ginger, so as well as the sun and heat being practically foreign, it’s also a danger to me when it’s around! The jumper I was wearing probably didn’t help either though… However, one thing I was very pleased with was how quickly we managed to find space for all our tents. I was expecting at least an hour to find space, and even then we’d be slightly separated due to a cramped area. Instead, it was maybe only 5 – 10 minutes after leaving the campsite village that we found a space large enough for all our tents (we were balanced on a hill, though, which certainly caused me problems later on…). When it came to actually putting up the tents, I was again proven wrong as it didn’t take very long at all – although in my case that’s probably because I forgot to beg down the outer tarpaulin. Regardless, we were soon ready to make our way to the arena to see our first band of the weekend (Crossfaith).

 I reckon the walk from our tents to the arena took between twenty and thirty minutes, which was further away than I thought it would be – so when you’re heading, make sure you have everything you need, because you don’t want to get all the way there and realise you’ve left your money/phone/camera at the tent! On the Friday we got to the arena just about 1 in the afternoon and we didn’t leave again until about midnight – which meant we had some damn good views for most of the bands and it was well worth standing through the shit bands for (looking at you, Powerman 5000 and Skindred). The main arena was for the most part very tidy, which surprised me, especially considering the number of food and drink stalls and the sheer volume of people – and I swear I only saw about 4 bins (that said, I spent Friday through to Saturday morning complaining to myself about the lack of bins, before I suddenly realised I’d walked past one about 10 times).

 One thing I ought to warn you about is the price of the food and drink there. A bottle of juice costs £2.50, with water at £2.00, so I definitely advise bulk–buying your refreshments before going – that said, after standing in a huge crowd for hours, buying an ice cold juice/water is far more enjoyable than the lukewarm bottle you’ve been carrying around for 3 hours. As expected, food prices were pretty steep too – it would cost about £4.50 for a regular burger, with some of the more filling ones costing upwards of £6.00. Again, I recommend bringing your own food where you can, just bear in mind gas isn’t allowed on site so your only feasible way of having ‘hot’ food is either through paying for it, or bringing some disposable barbeques. Despite the prices, I do appreciate that they were kept pretty much the same at all the stalls, so you didn’t have to trek around looking for the best price. Also, there are places where you can fill up water bottles, so make sure you either bring a plastic bottle with you or keep at least one empty bottle of whatever drink you’ve bought – that way, you can just keep refilling your bottle, rather than having to pay £2/£2.50 every time you want a drink – and from my experience you’ll want to drink frequently, especially if it’s hot weather.

As I mentioned earlier, I was pretty nervous about going to Download, and one of the things I was most worried about was the crowds. I knew there would be well over 50, 000 people there, and I’m somewhat claustrophobic so I was dreading being stuck in crowds and was convinced I would have a fair few panic attacks (my first concert was All Time Low in 2012, and I spent the entire support act staring at the ceiling and thinking about all the ways I was going to die there). As it turns out, I was absolutely fine with the crowds, although that maybe down to the fact that we were pretty close to the front for most bands – seriously, there was one row of people in front of us at The Pretty Reckless – so I didn’t feel that I was being surrounded and crushed by thousands of people. Even the mosh pits, which are drawn to me like a moth to a flame, weren’t all that bad; if you find yourself getting caught up in one, I think it helps to push back against the person on your other side and hope that they’ll see the fear on your face and hold onto you so you don’t get dragged into it. I’m definitely not talking from personal experience here, no chance… In all seriousness though, the crowds honestly aren’t that bad, and the majority of people there are very friendly so you do feel safe, and there’s always going to be people around you who don’t want caught up in mosh pits either!

 Lastly, the toilets. I was a bit wary about them, what with this being a huge festival and having read some unsavoury reviews of them from last year’s festival. But when you consider the number of people there – not just the campers, but the day trippers too – then the toilets were actually very well–kept, particularly those in the main arena; probably because there’s be people there just for a day, so it was necessary to have clean toilets so as not to scare them off! The toilets were also easily accessible and as far as I was aware, the queues never took too long either – I had been half–expecting half hour long queues, just to be met with the most disgusting and un–useable toilet known to man, but that was never the case. I do recommend bringing some toilet paper with you, however, as they weren’t all well stocked 24/7!

 All in all, Download was a fantastic experience, and the majority of the bands were just superb. I highly recommend going if you have the chance, because you’ll have a great time – it’s also a good value for money, especially when you consider the ticket prices to see ONE bands these days! The atmosphere is an enjoyable one, and in my group we had people who saw plenty bands and we had people who only saw a few – but we all had a great time, regardless of the bands we saw.

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The Pretty Reckless “Going to Hell” Album Review

The Pretty Reckless

Although I’ve had The Pretty Reckless’ second album, Going to Hell, since it was released on the 18th of March, I’ve held off reviewing it because when I first heard it, I didn’t like it – in fact I can go so far as to say I hated it. But as I loved their debut album, Light Me Up, so much I didn’t want to jump the gun with this one and decided I’d wait and see if the album would grow on me – and it did. Of course, it took until last weekend for me to realise that, but my opinion on the entire album has definitely changed.

When I first heard The Pretty Reckless (henceforth abbreviated to TPR) were releasing a new album, I was pretty damn excited; as stated above, I loved their debut offering and thought it was brilliant. At the time, the two singles they had released off album number two were Going To Hell and Heaven Knows, both of which I absolutely adored – and I thought, if the entire album was going to be in that vein, it was going to be one hell of an album. However, when I first played the album, I sat there with a stunned expression on my face, and unfortunately I wasn’t in awe of how fantastic a follow–up it was to Light Me Up. Quite frankly, I was shocked at how bad it was and at how so much of it sounded the same. With Light Me Up, everything sounded different and it was all catchy – and you also had the amazing, ballad–esque track You, which is one of my favourite TPR songs. Yet it seems like on Going To Hell they decided to utilise the formula of that one track and spin out four more tracks like that – slow melody + Taylor Momsen’s husky voice = instant good track. Except, it didn’t really work like that this time. Generally when you write a song , you want it to stick in people’s minds, and for all the right reasons, but the four main slow track of Going to Hell (consisting of House on a Hill, Blame Me, Burn, and Waiting for a Friend) just become one jumble where you can’t really tell one song from another. Indeed it became so much like that, that I ended up mistaking the chorus of Fucked Up World for that of Goin’ Down, one of my favourite tracks from their first album – and I really couldn’t work out if that was fault on my part for not knowing all the words, or if it was the fault of Momsen and co. for managing to essentially rip off their own song – and I was inclined to (and to an extent, still do) think the latter.

HOWEVER, these were all the thoughts I had when I first heard the album, and as I said, my opinions have most undoubtedly changed. Last week, when House on a Hill came on I was amazed by Momsen’s vocals, and I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t liked it the first time I heard it. So I decided to give the whole album another listen, and I was adamant that I wouldn’t let either my love for Light Me Up or my misgivings on my first listen of Going To Hell get in my way of forming a solid opinion. I was surprised to discover that actually, the album wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I first thought – but why did it have to take me two months to realise that?! Follow Me Down is a cracker of an opening song, and is one I liked from the very beginning. It’s got a brilliantly catchy chorus and in general is just a really addictive song – it’s quite high in my all–time favourite TPR songs. It’s followed up by the title track, Going to Hell, and Heaven Knows which I’ve already said I thought were fantastic, and they’re both still firm favourite, in particular Heaven Knows.

With these quick and up–beat songs out of the way, we’re then treated to the first slow song of the album, House on a Hill. Again, I can’t understand why I disliked it, as it truly is a fantastic song – like Follow Me Down, it’s also high in my list of favourite TPR songs, but is also probably my favourite song off this album. And I’m extremely grateful that a chance listening to this song forced me to rethink my opinion of the entire album, otherwise I’d be firmly sticking to my initial 1–star (2 at a push) review of it. Up next is Sweet Things, which I’m aware some people find quite creepy and truly bizarre – and I can’t deny that it’s true, but despite – or maybe due to – that, I love it. It’s another addictive and catchy song which I often find springing into my head, and whilst the lyrics aren’t exactly what you’d want going round your head in the middle of the night (i.e. “Hey there little girl/Come inside, I’ve got some sweet things/ Put your hair in curls/Paint you up just like a drag queen”), the melody is great. Dear Sister is not something I count as a proper song, due to it only sitting at 55 seconds, but I like it nonetheless. As much as I wish it were longer, I think it is perfect the way it is as otherwise there may have been a risk of it feeling forced.

The seventh song, Absolution, is one I’m still not very sure about. There are some parts of it I really like, but overall it just doesn’t have the catchy beat or addictive quality the others possess, so whilst I don’t skip it when it comes on, it’s also not something I actively seek out to listen to; instead I’m prone to forget all about it. However, it’s successor in the form of Blame Me, more than makes up for any sceptical feelings. It’s the second of the slower songs (I do like how they’re relatively spaced out, rather than clumped together), and although it doesn’t even come close to being as fantastic as House on a Hill, it’s an extremely good song nonetheless and very much worth listening to –it reminds me a little of TPR’s Nothing Left To Lose, from their first album, though I’m not really sure how. Burn follows, and is another pretty short song, though I think due to its slowness it feels longer, and again it’s a very good song, certainly worth a listen.

The next track, Why’d You Bring a Shotgun to the Party?, is one I’m pretty confident I don’t like, and no matter how many times I’ve listened to it, I just can’t bring myself to like it. The start, where Momsen sings “Alone, afraid,” always reminds me of the scene in 2003’s Peter Pan, in which all the children crowd Hook yelling “Old, alone, done for!”, although I do love that film so that reminder isn’t a bad thing – just seems very out of place in a TPR song! Otherwise, though, I really dislike this song. It’s too predictable for me, in particular the chorus: “Why’d you bring a shotgun to the party?/Everybody’s got one, there’s nothing new about it/ Wanna make a statement, you should’ve come without it”. I mean, I can’t be the only one who saw that coming a mile off, and if there’s one thing I hate in songs, it’s predictability. On top of that, the melody is nowhere near as catchy or addictive as it is in their previous songs, so it doesn’t stick in my head. Also, towards the end, you hear a gun being fired, and whilst it does add an effect, it’s just too overpowering. I feel that it’s louder than it necessarily has to be, and it distracts you from listening to the vocals, and to be honest, just annoys me. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t skip the song if it comes on, but it’s not one I’ll seek out to listen to. The penultimate track is Fucked Up World, and although I did used to mistake the chorus for that of Goin’ Down from their debut album, I do love the song. It’s just as catchy as the rest of the album, and I love Momsen’s voice on it; she’s great on everything, of course, but I just really like her here. I feel this would have worked really well as the album’s closing track, but as it turns out… Waiting for a Friend is just phenomenal. It’s the last song, and also the last slow song, and I don’t think I’ve loved a song as much as I do this. I said Momsen’s vocals were really good on Fucked Up World, but they’re simply superb here; she really suits this slow melody and the accompaniment isn’t too over–powering or over the top either, which is a huge bonus. This may sound bizarre, but the song – the tune at least – reminds me a little of Bob Dylan, what with the beginning on the harmonica, with it interspersed throughout the song, and just the plain guitar going on behind her. I have to admit, I’d have been quite interested to due how something between the two of them could have worked out, as I feel her voice in this song would really have complemented his.

Overall, it turns out that not reviewing this album as soon as it was released was definitely in my favour – as of March 18th, this would have a 1–star review from me, maybe 2 at a stretch. However, as I left it for two months before settling down to write it, it’s obvious my view as changed. I’m definitely not going to give the album a full 5–stars, as I don’t think it quite deserves that, and to be honest I’m not overly sure how many stars I do want to give it; I’m thinking 3.5/4 though, which a far cry better than 1.

Do I prefer Going to Hell to Light Me Up? Well as much as Going to Hell has some really stand–out tracks, including Heaven Knows, Fucked up World, and Waiting for a Friend, I don’t think it’s better than its predecessor, mostly because I loved Light Me Up from the moment I first heard it. However, it is certainly a very good album, I won’t doubt that, and I do highly recommend listening to both this and Light Me Up.

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