Category Archives: British

Live Music:Renegades (of Feeder) at The Electric Ballroom, Camden 22/04/10

Old bands ‘going back to their roots’ is nothing new, but when Feeder completely regenerated as Renegades, something changed significantly. Gone were the slow and thoughtful songs of old which dwelled on the untimely death of original drummer Jon Lee and in their place fans found the energy and simplicity of a fresh new band, as if the group had been transported back to their formation in 1992.

In the transition drummer Mark Richardson was replaced with Karl Brazil, from the relatively unknown band Ben’s Brother, who encapsulates the bands new-found new energy with furious and relentless drumbeats.

Front-man Grant Nicholas, who you imagine came up with the ‘back to basics’ concept, continues to impress on stage at The Electric Ballroom, a venue far smaller than the likes of the Hammersmith Apollo which they played on the Silent Cry tour only a few years ago.

Nicholas admitted he had a soft spot for the Ballroom, saying: “I love this venue. We haven’t played here for about 12 years, but even now I remember the great atmosphere it always has.”

Posters on the front doors warn Feeder fans expecting the likes of ‘Buck Rogers’ and ‘Just A Day’ that the band will be playing ‘predominantly new material’, and sure enough they don’t disappoint, the most recent, and debatably well-known, of the tracks played is 2006’s ‘Lost and Found’.

“We know you all want to hear the hits”, Nicholas cries across a crowd spanning decades, “but this is really about the new material and moving forward.”

Luckily the new material delivers the sort of quality we’ve come to expect from Feeder over the years, albeit a bit more gritty, new band anthem ‘Renegades’ has even the most lost-looking fans singing along and ‘Home’ and ‘Down By The River’, a nod to the bands native Wales, stand up well on stage.

Free with the gig comes Renegades EP2, complete with four tracks: ‘Home’, ‘Goodhead’, ‘In Times Of Crisis’ and ‘All I Ever Wanted’, making a perfect souvenir for fans who are now left salivating expectantly for the bands new(/debut?) album.

For those feeling out-of-step with the Renegades there were a few ‘covers’ of Feeder tunes including ‘Tangerine’, ‘Godzilla’, ‘Sweet 16’ and grungy set-closer ‘Descend’.

While many may have been disappointed with the lack of hits – the crowd broke into ‘Just A Day”s infectious main riff more than once – the band is doing what it wants to do, from the plain but bold style of the merchandise to downsizing to smaller venues, and it feels a lot more personal and as though they are more connected with their fans than ever before.

Verdict: Possibly too much for the Feeder pop fans, but for those longing for some dynamic and striking music from fantastic musicians the night was nothing short of amazing.

Rating: 5/5


Album Review: Muse – The Resistance

Like an eerie remake of the Doctor Who theme tune, The Resistance trundles into life with the haunting “Uprising”, its first single, ushering in a welcome return for Devon’s greatest ever export: Muse.

It’s three years since the band’s epic Black Holes and Revelations stormed the charts, delivering the band their second number one album and the first to go double-platinum, as well as the distinctly un-Muse-like single “Supermassive Black Hole”.

Listening to Resistance the gaps between the Muse of old and the band as they are now have been filled in, stripping back some of the dancier elements in favour of a more bass-driven sound like that used on breakthrough release Origin of Symmetry.

The album as a whole takes rebellion as its central theme, and despite much discussion about its 15 minute song, the “Exogenisis: Symphony”, it is tucked away at the end of the record, but provides a worthy climax of musical and song-writing prowess to summarise what the entire album is about.

The piano makes a welcome return in this album, with over half of the tracks featuring frontman Matt Bellamy’s instrument of choice prominently, creating moments where the band resembles Freddie Mercury’s Queen. In many ways they have become the Queen of the modern day, since no other current guitar-based British band has maintained popularity for so long with such a theatrical feeling.

The third track, “Undisclosed Desires”, (the second of four tracks beginning with ‘U’ on the album) deserves to be the strongest single release, with the synthesized strings and relentless beat driving forward a story of the deadly nature of love.

There’s none of the anger of Black Holes’ “Assassin” here, but that doesn’t mean the album is without it’s powerful moments, just that they come in dark lyrical choices and a continuous strong bassline. The guitar takes a back seat once again this time, with only a few notable riffs to speak of, but strangely it isn’t missed as much as expected, as the other instruments step up to take its place.

Bellamy teasingly reminds us of one of the band’s staples in “Unnatural Selection” by basing the riff around the impact-ridden guitar intro section of “New Born”, suggesting it may be some sort of sequel, something which the band have done in the past with “Sing For Absolution” and “Starlight”.

Every track feels very much at home, unlike the occasional track in the past where you feel the band have dropped the ball and things sound out of place like “Hoodoo” or “Megalomania”, this album is complete and listens well all the way through without nagging you to skip past to the next song.

The album as a whole is one where tranquility and anger are uneasy bedfellows. In “United States of Eurasia” for example, the sombre piano quickly makes way for a flurry of musical build up, but the transition is well handled and serves to hold the audiences attention. Because it is for an audience, as much as a CD is designed for a listener, this one is presented as a spectacle; grand strings, foreign vocals and quiet moments combine with pounding drums and bellowing bass to create nothing short of a fully modern rock opera.

The Top 10 British comedy programmes of all time – Part 2

Yes, the wait is over, finally find out who gets to number one, and then let the backlash of “what about X?!” “How DARE you leave out Y!” and “Z is a comedy institution!” commence.

5. QI (2003-Present)Stephen Fry hosts the geekiest comedy quiz show on TV. Apart from the continual moronic outbursts of regular guest Alan Davies (who they obviously couldn’t get rid of after the first episode), the show has been graced with appearances from all manner of famous faces, including: Jeremy Clarkson, Sean Lock, Bill Bailey, Dara O’Briain, Rich Hall and Jo Brand.

The premise of the show is that contestants get points for answering ‘interestingly’ rather than correctly, and lose ten points for obvious wrong answers. The show has given rise to a number of bizarre and, unsurprisingly, interesting facts, such as that Aspirin is the world’s most successful legal drug; heroin, the most successful illegal one and on March 7th, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was granted the patent for the telephone. (By rights, this belonged to Antonio Meucci.)

The champion aspect of the show is the general ignorance round, which dispells the mass-idiocy about certain “taken-as-read” facts about everyday life. For example, did you know that you are no more likely to feel unwell if you go swimming right after eating rather than waiting 30 minutes? Or perhaps you thought the Earth only has one moon? WRONG, it does, in fact, have two, the second one is called Cruithne and technically orbits the sun…it’s all very confusing.

Best Moment: When Dara O’Briain is deducted points for giving an answer which turned out to be incorrect in a previous series, causing him to remark “How many people sat at home watching that and said, ‘It’s just a comedy show, but I’m not letting that fecker get away with that!?'” (coincidentally the word “feck” was ruled to not be a swear word late last year). (Watch a clip of the inccorect answer)

4. ‘A Bit of Fry and Laurie’ – Now entertainment heavyweights in their own right, back in 1987 times were more quiet for Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. The pair first teamed up in Ben Elton series “There’s Nothing to Worry About”, which became “Alfresco” and went on to do a Christmas special/pilot for a sketch show in 1987, which became a fully-fledged series two years later.

The show follows the typical British comedy sketch show template (that of there not being one), with there being a spattering of recurring characters, notably the ‘yuppie’ businessmen John and Peter, amid cunning wordplays and subversion of stereotypes with the frequent ‘vox pops’ throughout the series.

Best Moment: Simple, yet effective, Hugh Laurie’s musical moments are frequently hilarious, but his parody of an American ballad, titled “America” is simplistic comedy gold, enjoy it here.

3. Blackadder (1983-1989) – Claiming the bronze medal is Rowan Atkinson and chums in this endlessly quotable tale of a man who’s forever at the unfortunate end of a situation. Accompanied by the adorably moronic Baldrick (Tony Robinson), the four series span the wealth of human history as Blackadder is heir to the throne, lord to Elizabeth I, butler to George V and captain in the WWI trenches.

The shows first series is often considered apart from the subsequent efforts, since it was written by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis and featured a weak and foolish Blackadder, a far cry from the cunning, money-obsessed man, wrought with bitterness and sarcasm, who appears in Blackadder II.

The reason for this is the addition of Tory-hater Ben Elton, who became co-writer with Curtis for the subsequent series, and the show enjoyed continual success and managed to end on a thoughtful note in the final tear-jerking episode ‘Goodbyeee…’ as Blackadder and the other infantry go over the top in slow motion to slowly fade into a poppy field, an end which was lauded by many families of WWI soldiers at the time.

Best Moment: Other than the fact that the show was used to teach me about ‘rotten boroughs’ in secondary school history, the show has a near-endless supply of classic moments, but one which encapsulates the spirit of the it is Blackadder’s futile attempt to teach Baldrick to count. (Watch it here)

2. Coupling (2000-2004) – It would be unfair to call this ‘the British version of Friends‘, as it so oft has been, because there is so much more to this relationship-centred sitcom. (In fact the show was tried in America as a word-for-word re-shoot, but it was cancelled after four episodes).

Focused around six friends, the show follows the development of the relationship of the two main characters, Steve and Susan, loosely based on the real-life relationship of series creator Steven Moffat (now Doctor Who head writer) and his wife Sue Vertue (who was a producer on the show).

The balancing act between the characters is integral to the shows success, accounting for the fall in quality in the final series when Richard Coyle‘s Jeff Murdoch left the series. The other characters, aside from Steve (Jack Davenport, of Pirates of the Carrabean fame) and Susan (Sarah Alexander – Green Wing), are Patrick (Ben Miles), a confident sexual preditor, Sally (Kate Isitt), a neurotic self-depricating spinster, and Jane (Gina Bellman), an air-headed and very sexual character who’s very aware of her own attractiveness.

The show offers not only comedy, but lessons for couples and friends alike, with such wisdom as ‘The Giggle Loop‘, ‘The Nudity Buffer‘ and ‘The Sock Gap‘. The characters all offer experiences which the audience can relate to their own lives, along with a host of comedy references and discussions to ensure it isn’t too grounded in reality.

Best Moment: Steve’s mammoth speech on the path of man and nudity is truely a testament to the brilliance of Steven Moffat’s writing and is not only hilarious, but absolutely true. (Watch it here)

1. Only Fools and Horses (1981-1991) – The gold medal goes to the comedy delights of John Sullivan‘s outstanding portrayal of suburban life in London, helmed by the Trotter Brothers Derrick (Del Boy), played by David Jason, and Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst).

The show spanned seven series and numerous Christmas specials, crescendoing with the 1996 special trilogy: Heroes and Villains, Modern Men and Time In Our Hands. Ignoring the lacklustre 2000’s specials, the trilogy has often been said by Sullivan to be the end he intended for the storyline, with Del Boy, Rodney and Uncle Albert (Buster Merryfield) walking off into the sunset.

Language in the show was not only very 80s but also very slang-filled, allowing younger generations to be properly schooled in what is, surely, a lost art form.

The relationship between the two brothers is central to the story, with Del as a cheeky wheeler-deeler, doing hard graft and toeing the line of the law to make ends meet, while Rodney embraces future technology and environmentalism, taking a computer science course in later series, but is marred by a past of drug use, meaning he’s forced to work for Del instead of going out and making a living for himself, a fact which he constantly laments.

The supporting cast makes almost every episode classic, from Boycie’s (John Challis) caniving car deals to Trigger’s (Roger Lloyd Pack) simple-minded comments and his profound refusal to call Rodney by his name, instead calling him Dave, despite at one point having it explained to him by Rodney.

The show has created some of the most classic comedy moments of all time, and even now has relevence to modern society (particularly with the recession et al) and the rich characters and sharp writing is what makes the show deserve it’s title as the Greatest British Comedy Programme of all time.

Best Moment: Naturally countless, but the Trotter brothers’ trip to a fancy dress party in 1996 special ‘Heroes and Villains’ is a testament to the shows greatness. (Watch it here)

Well there you have it, hopefully you enjoyed this voyage through British comedy, of course, it is only my opinion, and if you disagree then by all means say, though I do feel I should mention some higly commended:

Monty Python’s Flying Circus – More than a comedy program, the films are what seperate this from the top 10, since with them they became more than a comedy programme. A truely terrific pillar of British achievement.

Dad’s Army
– Though considered to be amoung the comedy greats, this show missed out by it’s age, since I only judged shows which I’d seen all the way through, and sadly due to the fact that Dad’s Army was originally shown back in 1968, it would be unfair for me to judge it on the few episodes I’ve seen, though it is, undoubtedly, excellent nonetheless.

The Top 10 British comedy programmes of all time – Part 1

Comedy is always a tricky subject, since one man’s (or woman’s) comic genius is another man’s (or woman’s…damn political correctness) load of old rubbish.

With the wealth of material available, it’s almost impossible to narrow it down to just 10, but This is Entertainment is proud to present to you, the excitable masses, the first installment of the Top 10 British comedy programmes of all time:

10. Red Dwarf (1988-1999) – Lister and co took comedy to space in a way which hadn’t ever been done before (at least not so successfully) and in their eight series managed to cover a wide range of (vaguely) scientific subjects, and keep the overall narrative of the series’ working so that the show never became stale, despite welcome and unwelcome changes throughout the years.

Despite Craig Charles‘ Lister being the centre of the show, the only surviving human after a radiation leak kills everyone else aboard the mining ship Red Dwarf, it remains an ensemble piece, with the early series playing on the juxtaposition of Rimmer (Chris Barrie) and Lister’s personalities, helped along by the classic interjections of the ship’s computer Holly (Norman Lovett), while the latter series were more dramatic, and were a generally effective, if unusual change of pace.

Best Moment: The episode “Backwards” when the crew find themselves on a planet where time goes in reverse, leading to a number of quirkily hilarous situations, particularly Lister getting into a fight for un-eating someones pie. (Watch it here)

9. Never Mind The Buzzcocks (1996-present) – You might say it’s splitting hairs to include a show which isn’t an out and out comedy, but ‘Buzzcocks is one of the most consistantly funny comedy quiz shows on the box.

The music-based panel game was prestented first by Mark Lamar (1996-2002) and then Simon Amstell (2002-present), two teams consisting of a captain and two guests answer music based questions, often about the guests own songs or careers.

The team captains are Phil Juppitus and Bill Bailey (previously Sean Hughes) and along with Amstell, proceed to mock the panelists around a vague gameshow format.

Best Moment: In one episode, Simon Amstell made a joke about Ordinary Boys vocalist Samuel Preston’s then-wife Chantelle Houghton by reading an extract from her autobiography, leading to Preston saying “That is out of order!” and walking off the show, only to be replaced by a member of the audience who looked a it like Preston, picked out by Bill Bailey, for the rest of the episode. (Watch it here)

8. Black Books (2000-2004)Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig starred in a sitcom centered around a bookshop of the same name, run by cynical alcaholic Bernard Black (Moran) and his Egor-ish assistant Manny (Bailey).

The show ran for three seasons on Channel 4, and in that time attracted a cult following, and featured guest stars including Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, David Walliams, Peter Serafinowicz and Julian Rhind-Tutt.

What makes the show so good, is that it’s very British, with all the British cynicism, complaining and resistance to change epitomised by Bernard, while Manny being more optimistic, and constantly coming up with ideas of how to attract more customers to the shop. Fran Katzenjammer (Greig) is the mother figure, as well as giving the pair relationship advice, but the funniest aspect of her character is her general quirkiness, particularly around men she likes.

Best Moment: The perfect embodiment of the show is when Fran and Manny are both trying to convince Bernard to do things with them in the series 2 episode “Fever”, to which Bernard replies “Oh, I dunno, walls, thermometers, it’s an impossible decision. I’ll just have to hope that when I flip the coin it somehow explodes and kills me.”

7. Have I Got News For You (1990-present) – The show that gave the news a funny bone hit screens back in the 90s accompanied by the satirical trio of Angus Deayton, Paul Merton and Ian Hislop. Now, 36 series and a scandal or two later, the show survives to bring current affairs to a new generation.

Since Deayton’s departure in 2002 the show has been graced with a range of guest presenters (of varying success), while it searches for someone to fill his shoes.

The ever-updated title screen is a telling satirical portrait of modern life, and in itself manages to raise a smile or two.

Best Moment: Aside from the episode after Deayton’s affair with a prostitute is exposed, which is not only hilarious but brutal, an episode from the late 90s sees Piers Morgan on the panel suggest “jam” is the answer to an ‘odd-one-out’ question. When asked why he replied that Eddie Izzard had said it the previous week and everyone thought it was very funny, to which Hislop explained: “Yeah, but people like him!” (Watch it here)

6. Fawlty Towers (1975-1979) – A post-Python John Cleese stars as one of the most iconic comedy characters of all time: Basil Fawlty. Along with Andrew Sachs (who is, in fact, not from Barcelona, but Germany) as half-wit Spaniard Manuel, the quiet little Torquay hotel gives rise to an impressive catalogue of golden moments, despite it’s criminally short life-span, with only 12 episodes ever broadcast.

The other characters give Basil his stage, particularly Prunella Scales‘ shrieking Cybil Fawlty and Connie Booth‘s Polly. Interestingly it was Booth not Scales who was Cleese’s real wife at the time, and Booth also co-wrote the programme with him.

When a show integrates with British society so easily it’s hard to deny it a position as one of the greats, how many times have you heard someone mutter “Don’t mention the war!”

Best Moment: The oft-quoted Germans episode passes the test of time (particularly since so much is crammed into one story), but the greatest single exchange is the Gourmet Night episodes’ finale, which sees Fawlty, finally believing to have sorted out his series of unfortunate mishaps with food, unveils not duck with orange sauce, but a trifle. (Watch it here)

Five down, five to go, but who will make the top spot? Stay tuned for the hilarious conclusion…