It’s The End – Logan

15 03 2017

logan (20th Century Fox - 2017)

Whenever I finish something, or feel like something is coming to a close; something big and has taken me a long time to do, my mind always jumps to the scene of the fourth Doctor Who regenerating into the fifth. I don’t know why, but it’s a nice poignant scene which carries the incredible line; it’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for”. It’s that line that comes to mind when I can feel like something is the end, or that I have reached the end. But knowing what I am like, I will have prepared for it, so like when I finished reading the GONE book series, I found something to read to replace it with for instance. Well, in the case of this film, the moment has been prepared for, but the hardest hit is that it truly is The End!

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Released in 2017 by 20th Century Fox, Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg, and Directed by James Mangold; Logan is a superhero film starring Hugh Jackman returning for what is intended to be his last portrayal of Wolverine, a role he has held for 17 years. When the film was first announced on the heels of The Wolverine, I was really excited as I really loved The Wolverine. Come 2015 however with Jackman announcing his retirement from playing Wolverine, I was very sad, and had begun chasing my mind around for replacement actors (if there were any), forgetting of course that before that bridge is crossed, Jackman would still provide us with one last glorious hurrah.

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The year is 2029; all mutants are supposedly dead except for a small group, and a now aging Logan (Hugh Jackman) works as a chauffeur on the border with Mexico and lives with friend Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and former mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) at an old smelting plant. Xavier is now growing old and senile with his psychic powers now grown beyond control with devastating effect and has to take medication to control it. One day Logan is approached by a lady called Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who asks him to give her and a young girl called Laura (Dafne Keen), escort to a location in North Dakota. Logan reluctantly accepts the job as the money provided will allow him to buy a luxury yacht he wants to purchase. As he comes to collect them though he finds Gabriella has been murdered. Laura stows away in his car though and goes to the Smelting Plant where she becomes friends with Charles. Just as they arrive though, a platoon of soldiers led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) arrive having captured Caliban, and are demanding that Logan hand over the girl. As men try to capture her though, she quickly attacks them in a very savage and brutal way, with steel claws coming out of her hands, decapitating and amputating several limbs.

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Logan, Laura and Charles escape, and using Gabriella’s phone, discover that Laura or X-23 as she was designated; was one of several young children born and bred by the Transigen Program headed up but surgeon Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant). The kids are injected with Mutant DNA and are bred to become mindless and dangerous soldiers, however unable to control the children’s souls, they all don’t want to do what they’re told anymore and most of them escape including Laura. Because she was made from Logan’s DNA, it is deduced that he is her father. Pierce with the help from the Reavers, use Caliban’s ability to locate other mutants to find Logan, and while staying at a casino in Oklahoma City the trio are nearly captured, but Xavier has one of his moments and near paralyzes everyone in the city except Laura and Logan. Logan is able to get them out of the city, but does not believe in the mythical Eden of North Dakota where they are going, especially when he finds the co-ordinates referenced exactly in an X-Men comic. The trio are eventually given shelter by a family they help out on the road and the group bond together, as Laura discovers more of the outside world, one she never experienced having been locked up all those years. During the night however, Xavier is murdered by X-24, the final project of Transigen to replace the children, who also happens to be a copy of Logan, claws and all. X-24 captures Laura placing her in very restrictive shackles and takes her to Rice, but Logan arrives just in time to face himself having found the murdered family and the dead Charles. With some help, X-24 is pinned down, and Caliban uses a grenade to blow up rice’s van. Logan saves Laura and the two head out in the night, burying Charles in the morning.

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Beside himself, and with his healing still failing, Logan agrees to take Laura to Eden, still not believing it. Eventually they arrive at a mountain range with a community filled with the other surviving experimented children all run by Rictor (Jason Genao). There Logan learns that the children will be making an 8 mile hike across the Canadian border. Logan is ready to send Laura on her way, but Laura wants to know him as a father, although he is still down and out about losing his own friends, and sees himself less as a father, and more of a threat, and just wants to die. The kids attempt to make the hike, but are soon surrounded and chased by the Reavers. Using a healing serum from Transigen, Logan takes in the full dose knowing it will kill him but should give him strength to save the kids. The kids are soon rounded up and shackled except for Laura who gets surrounded, but rescued by Logan. The serum though begins to ware off just as he meets Rice, who happens to be the son of the man behind the Weapon X Program. X-24 is set loose on Logan, but Laura is able to free the other kids who kill Pierce. Logan is impaled on a tree during the fight, but using an Adamantium bullet, Laura kills X-24, which Logan had kept for years. Eventually succumbing to his wounds, Logan dies, unable to heal and the kids bury him before crossing the border.

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In 2007; the German heavy metal band known as Scorpions released a single called Humanity. It is a song which poignantly depicts the destruction and downfall of the human race through its own acts and nothing more. It is a very heavy track and whose lyrics basically suggest, as delivered in the music video with a young boy simply saying “It’s The End!” Now this track does not appear in Logan I should point out, but that is what comes to mind as I think on this film. It’s the end of Hugh Jackman playing this part. This is an actor who has played a movie role for 17 years now. During that time there have been 3 American Presidents, 4 UK Prime Ministers, 4 (technically 5) Doctor Who’s. It is an incredible amount of time to play a film role, most WWE Wrestlers don’t even last that long, but here is Hugh Jackman still playing this role, now deciding he wants to leave. He deserves it rightly so, he is allowed to walk away given the energy, passion and devotion he has put into just one character. He has played other parts which help prevent typecasting, but possibly for the rest of his life, will be best remembered for being The Wolverine, you do not forget 17 years of the same thing in a flash. So, yes, it’s the end of Jackman as Wolverine; but not just that. It’s also the end of 2 major characters in a film series that has become one of the most critically and financially successful franchises in movie history. The X-Men film series is not ending, No! There are still more films to come including Deadpool Sequels (YES!). No, what we have here is something of what could be best described as a tragic ending, which is sad for Xavier, but more so for Wolverine as he has led a pretty tragic life.

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The story of Wolverine is a tragic one as it’s the life of a genuinely good person who has led a rough life. He is very old given that his healing prevents aging on a grand scale. Over the years he is going to meet people and see people die, a lot of people die if you live that long and that is not good for the mental soul. As life has passed by, something horrid happens to him, something so dark and miserable, but something that he has only partial memories of. So as life ticks by he has to remember these things not knowing entirely what it was, and spends life running instead of facing. Eventually though good things happen for him, he gets friends, and a family, and can care for people again, and have a proper life, but given as to who he is and what he is, none of this could possibly last, and as the years have gone by, and seen more people die, some by his own hands for the good of others, he resigns to a wishful death, and waits for it. It is a very sad story for someone who is not a bad man, someone who is actually a very good man, a caring man, a protective man. Yes, he is prone to a little bit of violence, but only when it is called for; doing what must be done, because without him to protect his friends, no-one can. Into this, we find ourselves confronted with the final act of The Wolverine. But it’s not really a super hero movie, more of a personal journey as one man reaches his eventual end, but has one last thing to do.

Logan is actually a rather small film. It’s not a mega big one like other super hero films of note, as this is not a character trying to save the world, but those around him, and as such we go less on a journey to save the world, but a more personal one. As such he is not referred to as The Wolverine, but because it’s a personal story is known better as just Logan. Logan starts off in a similar vein as does The Wolverine, with Logan having to live and come to terms with his life and the death by his own hand of someone he loved. Now coming into this film we are told something similar has happened, but we don’t know exactly what. But just like before, Logan is beat up and ruined and has resigned to live as much a recluse as possible while caring for Xavier who has become rather senile. Eventually though he is given a duty he does not want, that of looking after a little girl very much like him. He is meant to be the father, but has no care for her, caring for his friends than her; something which falters in the mind of Laura who wants to know who she is and know her father too. As the story continues and things happen as usual, the similarities between the two emerge as Laura is very much like he was in the first first X-Men, with Logan now having grown up. Logan is still resigned to wishing death upon himself, but knows that once more, he needs to do the right thing to help those that need his help resulting in one last blood bath for those who deny him and others peace. His Death though is not nice, nor peaceful, but more brutal for someone who has earned better. It is a film that makes you think deeply upon issues such as the harsh and sometimes quick deaths of others while others get a more natural one. It looks into how people desire Death, and how Death actually comes. It features a brutal end which dies just like death is a final stop. It really makes you think on if you believe that the world is a better place without you, how can you be certain of this? How do you not know that life right now is in fact better, because ‘you’ are around!

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Logan is a small film and bolsters a small but pretty strong cast. Stephen merchant I find was actually pretty good as Caliban. Caliban has featured sort of twice in the past with his most recent piece being in Apocalypse as some garish and camp clown; here instead we see what he is truly like and capable of but also what kind of person he is given his history as one of the Morlocks. Gabriella’s part is small but sweet and shares some backstory light on some of the films major issues and themes including who Laura is and why we should care. One thing though I find the film lacks is a strong villain. There are some good villainy characters and others who help fill in those parts like a few extras. Pierce himself has the nice sinister mechanical arm and some god talking points but feels more like a hindrance than a villain. Same can be said for Rice, who while is a deceptive schemer with a good voice, again just feels plain. I am not saying he’s bad, it just feels like the villains are strong because they are many, but not because of whom they are. I mean X-24 feels like a wasted opportunity and a mistake being rewritten. His appearance as Logan is a bit like the Undertaker vs Undertaker match at SummerSlam 1994; kind of surprising, but still rather silly. It feels like a wasted opportunity to bring in a new monster. I thought maybe an enhanced Sabretooth, or Maverick, or someone big and scary to introduce. With a double Wolverine, it felt more like Weapon XI in Origins all over again, and we know what happened there don’t we!

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What villain’s lack, heroes make up. The Transigen kids are a nice addition although faint on the film’s radar, mostly as people to get into trouble and allow a moment of heroism, but for this film, it really comes down to Logan, Laura and Xavier. Xavier’s part in this film is still pretty similar to past films but does do a lot more and shows what Stewart can do when allowed to do something very different. He is in some sense the comedy side kick and delivers some incredibly funny moments, but it’s through his disorientated new life that shows how bad things have become. He remains something of a hindrance to Logan after all these years, but one Logan has come to care for, as rightly he should, as Xavier is practically his last and now only friend. His death in the film is a big shock, but not a sincere one, as don’t forget we have seen him die before in more dramatic circumstances with this one more lost in the moment, but you do see his life pass in his eyes.

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Laura spends most of the film rather quiet, does not say a single word until just before the final Act. Yes there are shouts, yells and screams, but no words. This form of silence allows retention of mystery as to who she is, but also allows expressing more deeply the life she had and the new world she is experiencing. Silence can be golden at times and really works in her favour, as we see this young girl come face to face with new things, not knowing what they involve or how to interact, but when finally realising who she is and where she is, she finally speaks, knowing that she needs to for the sake of Logan, but also so she can be heard. Her desperation to get to Eden comes more as a cross between hope and instruction from others, not necessarily her own entire belief, but somehow knows it’s there even if Logan doesn’t. Her skills as a fighter are incredible and are very similar to Wolverine, but she has some heart too, not a lot as this is crowded with the same anger Logan once had too, but as things come to a close, she knows that she must carry on, even though her father; something she wants and desires cannot help her, but in some way knows that still lives on inside her, respecting his death, and making his legacy live on in more ways than one.

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Logan’s design and perception of being much older and on the verge of death is an interesting one. We have seen him go through emotions before, but then he was not on the ultimate verge of giving up, more just conflicted. Now though he desires it, more than anything else. It’s kind of hard to speak on his performance after 3 or so paragraphs of detailing his character, but one thing stands out more than most; his Death; His final hurrah. Coming into this film, I was thinking his last stand was going to be like in The Wolverine, one last heroic but still cynical fight to the death where he would come out on top but now no more energy left to continue. No, this time his death is more personal. It wasn’t a long lasted blood bath, more one which required others to save him and take on his role, and one that required others to do the work, while he acted as a decoy, once again being more of a team member than a loner. But his death does have something else in it though. Going into this I thought it would be like The Wolverine, but in that, he was The Wolverine, now he is just Logan. Calling him The Wolverine, it’s like a promise (like The Doctor), you know what he is, who he is and what he can do, but by putting ‘the’ before it he becomes a thing, not a person; this film is a much more personal one, so in this case it’s not the death of The Wolverine, it’s the death of Logan. That carries a more significant weight to it; it’s not the death of a thing, but the death of somebody. Laura in a future film could become the New Wolverine, or someone else could take on that name; but you can’t replace or take on the identity of Logan.

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The film does come packed like many other X-Men films with a cavalcade of special effects. These of course include ‘very’ detailed claws including spots of graphic detail and blood splatter; especially when piercing through the heads of some people. The mechanical hands are a nice treat showing off some more blood and limb coverage than usual. The film uses its special effects department in other ways too to create visions of the future including a scene involving driverless, but dangerous trucks. The film also comes with a soundtrack once again produced by Marco Beltrami featuring quite a few slow pieces which are used to heighten the level of reality but more a sense of realisation than anything else possibly to state that this is the end! Pieces like Old Man Logan, Don’t Be What They Made You and Goodnight Moon cover this pretty well, but the soundtrack does of course know when to get busy though and of course creates action packed pieces for when a fight is on especially in a scene like the Forest Fight at the end and also when Logan is facing X-24. The one thing though that really stands out about this soundtrack though is the inclusion of several classic pieces by Johnny Cash. Logan’s first trailer of course famously features the song Hurt, which really shows the direction the film intends to take so that the audience can really see how the film is likely to turn out but also more likely what it is all about. This piece though does not actually feature in the film, what does feature though is not a slow grim song, but a rather pleasant, peaceful and also happy song that really turns around the film’s great tragedy and helps you gain some perspective.

A few months ago I went to see the film Ethel and Ernest based on the book of the same name written by Raymond Briggs. The film has a very sad ending, but turns this around in a sense by featuring a piece of music and images within the credit roll that suggest that while the ending was sad, it does not mean that everything was as there was some really happy moments. Here we have the sad ending and conclusion to the story of Wolverine (in film), but, while he has had great tragedy in his life, and it ended as such, there is some peace we can look back on. For one Logan has attained a peace from the devastation of his dark history, but also in that history there was also, happiness, joy, peace and of course love. This is held by the film playing The Man Comes Around in the credits, a light fluffy as well as casual piece, signifying not an entirely sad ending, but shows that there has always been another side to the coin, that in the misery, there was joy, and in the darkness there was also light; and so while Wolverine does bow out, we can take a moment of knowledge and recognition about the life he had, and the legacy that he leaves behind, not just in story, but also in the entertainment and joy he has given us as cinema goers.

Logan is a pretty sad point. I know the series will continue and new stars are appearing to take the helm and the future such as Ryan Reynolds, Sophie Turner and hopefully Dafne Keen too, but it is a sad point, more so when I think that there could have been more. When X-Men Origins came about and really failed like it did, that is the series lowest point, so when The Wolverine came along and excelled so much, it felt like a new beginning, like that is what Origins should have been, forgetting that film and becoming the first a Wolverine Trilogy. But now it has come to an end, it feels like only the surface was being scratched, and that more was on the way. It’s like when Castle was cancelled last year; it was in it’s prime, there was more to be told, and it just ended. That’s what we have here, like something more could have come, but now we may never see that. You can only play a character for so long though, and an end would have come eventually. The end of something is exciting because you don’t know how it’s going to end, but eventually realization sets in, and you realize that it truly is the end. So even if it did continue, it would eventually end: but what an ending it was! Logan does not disappoint in providing one last fight, one last match, one last scene of steel claws, blood curdling action, eye grossing violence, but also one last moving scene as the great hero finally comes to rest in peace. Logan is a sad and tragic little film, but shows off plenty of emotion and heart in a film series that has defined just that in the super hero genre; and now Hugh Jackman can now go do something else, leaving a legacy that will live on in cinema forever, and one that no-one can match. There is only one true Logan, and only one true, Wolverine.

GENEPOOL





Top 5 Pendulum Songs

28 09 2016

PENDULUM

Back in 2008, while watching an episode of Gamer.TV, I saw a trailer for a video game. The trailer made me very excited, because it was a trailer for the game Motorstorm: Pacific Rift for the PS3. Now, not having a PS3 at the time made it rather difficult to play the game anytime soon I admit, however I did eventually buy one and got Pacific Rift soon after. Anyway, during the trailer, there was this piece of music, a piece of music I rather liked, and worked well with the Video Game Trailer, but I had no idea who was playing or what the song was called. It was very heavy, very fast and had these lyrics which sounded very Reggae. I had no idea what it was, but I was hooked, and wanted to know more. I don’t know how I found out in the end, but I was glad I did, as this discovery took me on a musical journey that would bring me to a point, a moment when my life up till that point did not really have a favourite band; but then all of a sudden; I had one. The song was called Tarantula and the band was called PENDULUM.

Originally founded in Australia in 2002 by Ztar Z6/MIDI Controller player Rob Swire, Bassist Gareth McGrillen and DJ Paul Harding; PENDULUM, a Drum and Bass group notable for mixing hard rock and electronic music into their work, would later relocate to the UK, and set the music scene on fire quickly becoming one of the most popular bands of the moment. Soon, more band members would join in the form of MC Ben Mount, Guitarist Peredur ap Gwynedd, Drummer Paul Kodish (and later KJ Sawka). Pendulum themselves would release 3 studio albums: Hold Your Colour, In Silco and Immersion, and while originally starting with Drum and Bass roots with very little in the way of vocals, more relying on instrumental pieces, the Band would go on to include vocals, and expand their portfolio into areas including Industrial and Electronic Rock as well as other genres.

PENDULUM Band

For me, I loved this band so much. I was gripped by their electronic instrument playing, mixing it with heavy/hard rock. Originally I was more in it for the rather psychedelic instrumental and electric pieces they originally started with, but as time went on became to love and enjoy their more vocal ranged pieces of music. When the band sort of disbanded back in 2010-2012, I was rather sad as I did not want this band, a band I loved to suddenly disappear, and as time went on became to get very annoyed with both Swire and McGrillen for creating Knife Party and not be Pendulum anymore. Time passed on, their music to me became nearly second-hand, and other bands took my interest, and slowly Pendulum disappeared from my heart; until recently, when supposedly the band reunited. I was excited by this, the hope that Pendulum was coming back, more albums, more music; I just could not wait for more news. While it is a bit sketchy right now as to what is going on with them, I have recently begun to get back into their music, because although they may no longer be my favourite band, they were my first and were for a good number of years. I bought all their albums, and still love a lot of their music.

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A few months ago I began listening to them frequently again, and have come to realize how much I missed their music, and decided, that after a long time of planning this, that I would finally let you in on what my Top 5 Pendulum Songs are. Now coming up with this list was rather tricky; I mean there are a lot of really good songs in their portfolio. When I originally conceived this list I considered just doing a Top 5 from Hold Your Colour, an album I can still say proudly to this day, is my favourite album and not just of the band. I really like Hold Your Colour as it has a lot more enjoyable tracks, and is a lot more consistent I feel to that of their other albums (not to say that the others are bad). Over the years leading up to this post being written, I was sure that most of this list was going to come from Hold Your Colour and just that, but having looked back on their music, I can see this is no longer really the case, as my favourites sort of go over all 3 albums in the end. Bringing it down to 5 songs in the end was rather difficult, because they have made several really good pieces of music, several of which really strike into my head when I think of them. If this was a Top 10 post there would be a lot more variety, but I thought it would be best to just keep it down to 5 as much as I can. So, just for them to have a moment here, here are the songs that didn’t make it (but boy were close): Prelude, Slam, Fasten Your Seatbelt, Through The Loop, Sounds of Life, Girl in the Fire, Hold Your Colour (all from Hold Your Colour), Showdown, Different, Mutiny, Granite, Set Me on Fire and Crush. So now, introductions over, here are my Top 5 Pendulum Songs.

Hold Your Colour

5. Tarantula – It was the song that brought me here in the first place, and it has remained one of my favourites since. Tarantula is a strange one when you first hear it for the first time. If you hear it while it’s fast, only for you then to hear it from the beginning, you wonder if you are listening to the same piece of music. It has the same tune yes, but it’s much slower to begin with, and it’s very striking. You hear these vocals, but you’re not sure if you are hearing them right, and feel that you don’t necessarily understand them. But then it quickly builds, and then that fast track you heard once before comes to light. The slow speed side of this track sounds more brass based than Drum and Bass, but then you realize that the slow side is merely a gift, an intro, because if you want to join in, you need to know how it goes, because when it speeds up, there is no more help. The track is heavy, vicious and ferocious, much like the creature that the song is named after. It gets your heart pounding, and makes you want to dance, a very fast dance yes, and one you will need to take a break after because of, but just does not stop until it wants to. Not you, IT! Remember that, it comes with a piece of authority, one that demands attention from everyone in the room at the same time; it gives the music a near level of sentience, being, but more importantly POWER! And one that demands to command you, you have no choice; only the possibility that when it’s all over, you may have a chance to escape!

4. Watercolour – When this one first came out, I remember seeing the music video for the first time, and sort of liking it, but got a bit tired of it due to the amount of time it was on TV for. It was not until recently I was really able to appreciate it properly. One thing that I sort of cottoned onto as time went past, is how good the vocalization is in several of these songs. Not when it is a featured artist, or when it has been ripped from a film or something, but when it is from the band themselves. There are some really nice vocal pieces, many of which get featured in this list, ones you can pick up easily, and enjoy singing yourself. This song is fast, much like many of Pendulum’s songs, but also features some nice slow, near peaceful moments prolifically too. Here we get moments of their trademark styles, mixing vocals in while both being slow and fast, many a time producing a very emotional moment, such as the lyric ‘Just stay where you are’. It is generally a nice song, not a piece of music as such, but an actual song, a song with powerful lyrics, and a gentle, but still fast track to back it up, while still allowing a moment to pause, take a breath, then get back into it.

3. Witchcraft – What has to be one of their most striking yet experimental tracks; this song mixes sweet and calm melody with hard rock electric power. As it starts you hear this calm melody which slowly builds, but within a minute the pitch and mood changes as the amazing skill of Rob Swire on his main instrument of choice comes darting out of the background and demands attention, which at the same time is backed up by the rest of the band, before all charging at once in a hard rock vibe. From this moment alone it sounds more like a piece of heavy rock, but then the lyrics kick in again, and a more light-hearted pop track takes over, and even when it goes lower in temper during the chorus, it stays relatively light, before then unleashing it’s real motives once more. Much like Watercolour, it does take a quick moment to catch its breath, in a split second of near perfect silence, before then unleashing itself once more. What is rather a weird combination of musical styles in one song, backed up with Lyrics to match its themed ideas while also providing its own little moments of respite, Witchcraft is easily one of the more lyrically stand out songs from Pendulum, which still likes to provide a moment or two to let the tune do the talking.

2. The Island (Pt 1 and Pt 2) – This may come as a confusing one to people unbeknownst to the career of Pendulum; basically this song comes in two parts. When I first bought the album, I was a little confused by that, and it was not until I listened to both for the first time that I really understood. On their own, Part 1 is nice, got some really interesting, perhaps inspiring lyrics and comes with a nice beat, while Part 2 played on its own sounds rather disjointed, out-of-place, short and feels like the end of something; not an entire piece. However, when they are played together in the correct order, something really amazing is born. Much like several lyrical pieces from Pendulum, this one comes with some really interesting and deep lyrics. These lyrics are only heard in Part 1, but that is the point with Part 1. As the tune goes, it’s more a piece about discovery and awe. The pieces together tell something of a story. It takes you on a journey, you can listen to the lyrics, or you can tell your own; but the basic idea is that you have arrived on an island, you are shipwrecked, lost, anything, but you have arrived to a mysterious place, and you walk around and discover how amazing everything is, like you have landed perhaps in a personal spot or taste of heaven. You go and explore, and you see sights and spots of beauty all around you. All this time the song beats in the background, recording its own story, all the while creating a nice bumpy/jumpy soundtrack that is generally rather pleasant and passionate. Part 2 of the song tells a very different tale and creates a very different location. It slowly descends, then it starts to play a familiar tune; you imagine yourself in full glow, on this Island, this beautiful place, and as the tune returns, you believe it’s going to be more of the same, and then: A Beast is Unleashed. Everything changes, the soundtrack is entirely different, it is still jumpy, but very heavy. It’s disjointed, no longer connected, no longer a beautiful melody, now a torrent of terror. Part 1 talked about the Dawn, now here is the Dusk, and the soundtrack creates an idea of everything going wrong, more a natural siren than an actual warning. Imagine yourself back on that island, the day has gone, and the now the night is upon you, and gone is the beauty: Now stretching before you is a nightmare, not gently arousing from slumber, but instantly waking up, and bearing down on you, unrelenting, unstoppable terror. Alone, these pieces are ok, interesting, still very enjoyable: but when played together they weave a story of Magnificence and Horror, one you will be Thrilled yet Petrified to return to.

1. Propane Nightmares – One of the things I like about PENDULUM is that while it is very pop like, quite a lot of the music they create is exceptionally heavy. That is one of the things that caught me most about them when I first listened to them, that while they were a current generation pop like band, as a fan of much heavier genres of music, I could just as easily get involved and enjoy them. Yes not all of their songs are particularly heavy, but the ones that are a special treat for me, especially when they are created by fascinating sounds and backed up with really spellbinding lyrics. When this song was originally released, I had no real place or preference for it, thought it was a little confusing with t’s opening brass section, but then I heard a live version of it, and I loved the whole experience. The music starts of near gentle like with strange usage of its brass piece, but then as it builds, as the drums kick in, and the music flies from the instruments to your ears, you begin to hear something really special. The music isn’t pleasant, it isn’t friendly: What it is, is very Angry, and very Grungy. The music uses the full force of the band, every key is crucial; each beat of the drum, each pluck of the string, each tap of the key, all of it works together, to create a rather unique sound. This sound continues in a fist hammering beat like fashion which then just continues, speaking with an authority that shouts and demands every eye and ear in the room to look directly at it. Then as the tune takes a side-line, but only for a moment, the lyrics get involved. More than any song from Pendulum, I find this is the one that I recite lyrics to, especially the early line: “In a trail of fire I know we will be free again. In the end we will be one. In a trail of fire I’ll burn before you bury me. Set your sights for the sun.” The only points that this song slows down are when the band as a whole (or as much to a whole as you can get) joins in, in singing the chorus – before then of course jumping right back into the tune we all know and love – and when the tune, like many on this list, takes a brief moment of respite. The break itself is pretty brief, and is really only to allow a cool down before jumping right back into its final charge; however, the air like sound is rather magical as it winds down to a bit, before then (in some live versions, a nice little light guitar is played, which is both gentle and peaceful), tearing at full force back into its tune. At this point, the magical air break sounds, are included in the final hill climb briefly, and then it all comes to the final push as the song comes to it’s eventual, hair ripping end. Propane Nightmares is a really weird one; while other songs in the long profile of Pendulum do different things, there is a sense of them trying to create brand new, iconic, and unique sounds, but all the while most of them do follow a similar them and style, that of a soundtrack that would suggest exploration and discovery, showing and revealing beauties beyond belief, presenting one side to paradise. Propane Nightmares does not really follow that trend, instead, it shows a much darker and louder side, not encapsulating those things, instead creating visions of potential dystopia’s, or possibly revealing another side to the real world that we currently see. In any case, whatever it seeks to achieve, it must have worked, because I absolutely love it.

GENEPOOL





Eurovision Reaction 2016

16 05 2016

Jamala 2016

This past weekend, loads of people in sequined costumes arrived in Stockholm to participate in the annual European Music Bash that was being held there that year. Yes; of course it was The Eurovision Song Contest, being held in the lovely country of Sweden who of course won it last year with Heroes by Måns Zelmerlöw.

Sweden is no new comer to hosting duties at the Eurovision song contest, having hosted it 5 times previously; including hosting it 3 years ago after Loreen won it in Baku with Euphoria in 2012. My excitement for this annual show always builds up the closer it comes, however over the last couple of years I have struggled to enjoy the show, and remember anything about the show’s held as in my opinion I thought that 2014 and 2015 weren’t all that good. With the contest returning to Sweden after not so long was a sign of hope for me, even more so when I discovered that the host of the 2013 show; Petra Mede, was returning for hosting duties again (I wonder if she would be willing to host it every year, even if it was not being hosted in Sweden?). I really did enjoy that year, it was a well done year. It wasn’t the case of having good or bad songs; it was more that even with those songs being performed, the overall show production was to such a high that even at the bad times, it can still be enjoyed. What worked so well for it that year was a number of reasons but simply:

1: The arena lighting had this brilliant effect where the lights above it would light up towards the stage, and would speed up and finish on a sort of light explosion signifying the start of the song, roughly.

2: More importantly, the show’s host. Every year hosting duties gets landed on a couple (or in some cases 3) people who would spend most of the night trying to act silly or suggest there is something going on between them. In 2013, it was just one host, a host who was an experienced performer and talented comedian in her home country. By being by herself, she was able to own the show, and present it so well without having to hang off anyone. Her presentation was also very funny and was able to use her talents to best effect.

Måns Zelmerlöw and Petra Mede

This year, the presentation was good, definitely better than both 2014 and 2015. The return of Petra Mede was also a good thing, but, instead of her working by herself, this time was put in a situation with last year’s winner. This idea was rather interesting, but overall worked. It wasn’t as good as 2013, but overall was well done. The comedy was still there, the lighting effect was sort of brought back, but overall it was enjoyable. Over the last few years though, there has been some format changes to the show which has made it very confusing in spots. OK, the opening flag ceremony is a nice idea, and works very well in introducing the acts and countries instead of discovering them (unless you watched the semi-finals); however, it was hard to see the flags for exactly who they were and I was thankful that somebody pointed out who the countries were. The big thing though that has changed in recent years is the lack of performance of the previous year’s winning song. This used to be held right at the start of the show, but since 2014, has sort of been relegated to half way through, and then only as a brief mention. It is a shame, and it doesn’t really work either, it sort of takes the fun out of wanting to hear it and instead have it mentioned millions of time during the show until you hear roughly 30 seconds of it. As for this year’s half time show, we got a range of comedy moments such as The Winning Eurovision song moment; which was supposed to be a mash-up of ideas to create the Ultimate Eurovision Song (with guest appearances including of course, Lordi), a couple of funny moments, a nice montage of Swedish music (70 acts in total), and more bizarre; Justin Timberlake performing. I had no idea why he was doing this, I don’t see what he has to do with Eurovision, but overall it was relatively fun, and thankfully did not include that weird one he does where he gets the boys and girls singing these sentences. Although that on the whole does bring up the question of if in the future there is going to be more BIG acts like him in the middle (as long as the UK has Iron Maiden do it, I am absolutely fine with the idea, but that is dependent on the UK winning of course).

Justin Timberlake

It was the year of the Ballad at Eurovision this year. What you would usually find at Eurovision, is the sort of copycat pieces mimicking what sort of helped win the previous year, this year though there was very little of that, and instead we got a load of ballads. The only one that comes to mind for me was Russia’s entry which had this sloped wall which allowed the singer to climb up and down it as pictures appeared on the background. Although saying that, a lot of songs this year did involve the use of lighting effects on the back walls and the stage floor, which also seemed to have moments where it was raised in spots, like Greece did in 2005. From the start we got a whole load of Ballad based performances, all being kicked off really by the first appearance in a Grand Final by the Czech Republic. Ok, it wasn’t the first song. The first song from Belgium sort of annoyed me, as it had this weird entry dance that just stayed in my head. The beat and general song was ok, but I was glad something else came to mind, although when I think of it now, it’s very easy to break out into another piece of music, one that keeps appearing in Adverts. Czech Republic’s song similarly was good in the second half too, and I did think early on, much like Belgium that I may have ended up voting for them.

The number of solo pieces just continued as the show went on ranging from the interesting to the downright weak. You had pieces from countries like Sweden, and The Netherlands, which were generally very uninteresting, to a country like Italy who confused you with one singer singing (in at least) two languages. Australia was allowed to return and their ballad was a bit more upbeat, but the general number of them made it hard to remember them all. Luckily there were some different kinds of acts in there to help break it up and add a level of interest. This was true for the UK with a song that was very…very…very…just very. It was ok I suppose. One of the singers appeared to be attempting to play a guitar, although it was obvious that he wasn’t. Overall there were really only two bands performing. One from Georgia late on, which sounded very similar to the works of Oasis I thought, but really wasn’t my cup of tea, while Cyprus entered something that was my cup of tea. It was this nice rocky track. It wasn’t majorly heavy, it was rather light in tone, but still hard enough for rock fans like me to enjoy.

When it came to choosing a country for me to vote for, in the end, my mind was made up from the moment I first hears it. No, not Cyprus; Russia. Russia’s piece was very dark, heavy and also rather mystic. It was a song which had this wonderful and memorable chorus which had this light disco like beat. The background images helped to provide something of a psychedelic trip as the song was performed and this was helped by the lighter chorus beat. It was not rocky, still more pop like, but generally upbeat and very enjoyable. No act this year I found was more enjoyable than or as enjoyable as Russia’s entry. In hindsight, I think it reminds me a lot of Eric Saade‘s entry in 2011, it has that upbeat fast tune but still feels dark and heavy at the same time, I like that.

When voting came; there was a supposed ‘new’ system in place. Throughout the night it was mentioned numerous times without being fully explained. For a few years now, the voting system has been half and half; half music judges from each country, and half the public vote. This year both votes were split down the middle. One thing that has become apparent in recent years is that even when a country has won, its announced before the votes are finished, which is rather annoying. The winner is announced and the vote continues. This year though, they introduced something that changed that, and actually worked. So, the judging panels would announce their scores like the votes were done normally, but this time, the spread allowed even higher numbers of votes, and so I do believe the winner this year might be the highest scoring song in the contest’s history. So anyway, each country is contacted, a host represents the judging and then half the votes are all counted. Then, came the interesting bit, by this time, Australia were winning. So what happens is that instead of countries being contacted again, the number of points per country is added in one fell swoop. That’s all the points awarded to said country by all the other countries. This allowed the tension to be built up, as the countries with the most awarded points were added later. It was tense, it really was, and as the countdown continued, it became interesting, as Poland who only got 7 from the judging panels would then get over 200 points in one second from the public voting and go from dead last, to 6th in a split second. It was really interesting and hectic, but meant that the last stage of judging wasn’t entirely one-sided, but rather built up and allowed change to take place. It’s hard to really say how it worked I know, but trust me, it worked, and I hope they do this again in the future.

In the end of course, it was Ukraine who took top spot with Jamala‘s 1944, which supposedly was about the Crimean Tatars. This is now Ukraine‘s second win, having previously won in 2004 with Ruslana (one of my all time favourite Eurovision entries). Their entry this year I am actually finding rather hard to describe. Another ballad in many, I sort of remember it, and sort of think its ok, I just don’t really get it right now, maybe listen to it a few times might help. The staging was good; the images in the background were really cool, and the winner did sort of begin to break down crying during the final performance, which is a big change from when Lena won for Germany, and was ecstatic. It has been a good year this year, it really has, some changes, some differences. A combination of weak songs, and great songs, but a consistency of ballad’s lost some value as it went on, which may be why I am struggling with the Ukrainian Winner, but overall a good year for the contest, with a sight of hope for a grand and continued future for one of my favourite events of the year.

GENEPOOL





Tribute

11 04 2016

 

Virgo Bass

I started a Joke

That I could sing folk

When in fact it was more my foe

As I wanted to sing more disco

I’m just the man in the middle

Of a group who mostly played the fiddle

I had dreams of fame

But everyone told me that was just lame

You Win Again

I said, with words like Acid Rain

And so I gave up

To drink the loyal blood cup

On this our wedding day

Your love showed me a way

Your beauty, like sweet-smelling soap

Brought me long forgotten hope

You should be dancing

Where at the floor you were glancing

But you came too in addition

To join me in my ambition

GENEPOOL





Soundtrack Of My Graduation

30 09 2015

Preston Guild Hall Graduation Hat Throwing

Just over a couple of months ago, I graduated from the University of Central Lancashire with a 2:1 in Combined Studies (creative Writing and Screenwriting). Now while it was a big moment, graduating from University; the weeks prior and even the day before I was in no way looking forward to it. I was excited to see my friends from my course again, but I wasn’t looking forward to it for several reasons, one of the main ones being I don’t like getting ‘dressed up’. As the day went on though I actually enjoyed the whole thing and felt rather bad for not looking forward to it. Throughout the whole day though, I had a constant soundtrack going through my head. So I thought I would do a post about the soundtrack, why I thought of certain pieces of music and so on. Think of it as sort of one of those Father’s Day CD’s that gets released just before, well…..father’s day.

Preston Guild Hall

1. General Grievous theme – For most of the morning I didn’t have any soundtrack at all. When I got to Preston I had nothing much going through my mind, it wasn’t until I had signed in that I began to get nervous and shake. A little bit later I got my gown, and then tried to get a photo, but time was running out so I just went straight into the Guild Hall. It was at this moment that the feel of what was quite a heavy gown began to grip me. The grand thing of it all, and the theme for General Grievous came through my head. The grand music he has, and the fact he walks like he has a cape and walking stick. It made me feel like that and the music really helped to calm my nerves too.

2. “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff theme – As I sat down and began to wonder what was coming and going to happen. A new piece of music came to my head. As I saw the stage I would walk onto, I visioned the grand theme of professional wrestler Paul Orndorff, particularly his theme from the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony in 2005. It was just like Grievous, but I felt the combination of the gown and that music really worked together, but it was more just looking at the steps and stage that I just imagined some kind of music to play when I took to the stage.

3. Monty Python’s Flying Circus theme – As the ceremony ever more neared to starting, an Organ began playing in the background. Most of the music I did not know, but then it started playing the theme music to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It was a pretty good piece too.

4. King Kong 1976 Arena Entrance – The organ playing also made me think of something else too. In the 1976 remake of King Kong, when Kong is put on display and enters the arena, this really low, deep, organ piece is played. Its spine tingling, dark and spooky. And just for a laugh I thought it would be a cool piece to play for when the Chancellor came into the hall.

5. Sting In The Tail – It wasn’t really the song that I was thinking of. I think it was when I was sitting down, but my time was coming. And I just kept imagining hearing the announcement of my name and thought of the introduction to The Scorpions at their Get Your Sting & Blackout performance in 2011. I could just hear it in my head the announcement followed by the opening riff to Sting in the Tail being played as I walked on stage. Sadly that didn’t happen. Strangely enough though, at no point during the day did I think of Rock You like a Hurricane or Wind of Change.

6. Happy by Pharrell Williams – Naturally I wouldn’t have thought of this song at any time unless it came up some other way. Basically, as the ceremony began to wrap up, the UCLan Chamber Choir; who have won several awards and appeared on TV, came up on stage and sang a pretty good version of this song. The only time I would probably say I liked the song, because I don’t really.

7. Star Wars Ceremony theme – Let’s get the next 2 over and done with as quickly as possible. As the ceremony began to wrap up, the organist decided to play the end ceremony theme played at the end of Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. I was instantly able to pick up on it. I thought it was a rather embarrassing piece to use.

8. Indiana Jones theme – This was then immediately followed by the theme from the Indiana Jones films. Why couldn’t they have used Jaws or Jurassic Park?

9. Killzone 2 opening – As the day began to wrap up, after the meal at the University, I began to like the feel of the gown. It began to make me think like I was some Grand Emperor or Villain. Sort of like Emperor Palpatine. But a much stronger image came out, that in the form of Scolar Visari from the Killzone games. At the beginning of the first 3, Visari; who is the game’s primary antagonist makes great speeches to the people of planet Helghan. His speech from Killzone 2 most of all began to resonate out of my head as I began to feel the gown more, like I could make those speeches. At the end of it all though I was pleased to get it off as it was rather heavy.

10. The Hunger Games ending – As the Graduation Ceremony passed, and as me and my parents got back home, I began to feel rather emotional. I didn’t want University to end. I had been going there for 4 years, and I liked it there. I was happy. But it had to come to an end. The ending theme for the Hunger Games appropriately came on. The one where Katniss and Peeta nearly eat the nightlock berries and their time on the train afterwards. That music just kept going through my head, and for most of that afternoon, I failed trying not to cry.

11. This is our God, The Servant King – I began to get out of the emotional afternoon by playing Rollercoaster Tycoon on my PC. When texting a friend though about what I felt, she suggested doing something that took your mind off things, and even suggested some hymns. The one that came to my head was the chorus for the Graham Kendrick hymn: “From Heaven You Came Helpless Babe.” Why just the chorus? Because I couldn’t remember the verses, plus the organ like feel in the chorus came to my head thanks to the amount of Organ playing I had heard earlier in the day. But altogether it worked; it helped me get out of the emotions I felt all afternoon (it was only very recently that I found out what the hymn was really called).

12. Mike Awesome theme – This one is in here only because I listened to it on my Mam’s kindle in the afternoon. It doesn’t really have much other significance during the day than that, but I thought I would cover all pieces of music.

13. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan theme – As the evening began to draw in, the original plan was for me and my family to go out for a meal to celebrate. While we originally planned on going to a Mexican restaurant in Preston, because I felt it was too soon to go back to Preston due to still feeling rather emotional, I asked if we could just grab a Go Burrito, a burrito place in Lancaster) and eat at home with some nice ice cream to follow. Well, as the evening out with my Mam to pick up the Burrito’s and buy some ice cream panned out; I began to feel like I could have milked receiving my Diploma a little bit more. This is mostly due to seeing a couple of people who did just that. One who took a selfie half way through, and another near the end raising a fist in triumph. Well, that’s where this theme came in (another hall of fame piece). I just imagined walking on stage again, playing this theme, waving a hand, (maybe kissing the air to the audience), but sadly I didn’t think about that earlier. Well, that’s where this theme came in, and I pretty much ended the day on that one.

14. The Raid: Razor’s Out – The thing is, after all that I felt like the list of pieces of music I had compiled didn’t really have a sense of closure to it all. It was left on this uncertain note. I felt like for this list to mean anything it needed that closure. I then remembered something. Earlier this year, for a period of 2, 3 months, I could only think about The Raid. After watching it again and writing one of the best reviews I feel I have written this year, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In May, as my last Academic week with Uni approached, I decided to make the song Razor’s Out by Mike Shinoda and Chino Moreno, played at the end of the film to be my ‘end of University song’. Well, it made sense to use it for this list. It does give closure to the whole day. It’s still an uncertain future, but puts a positive-ish piece, spin on the whole thing. It’s like it’s not ending on a positive, ‘everything is ok note’, but is still saying the future is uncertain, but I am glad of what I have done for the last 4 years and feel like I am ready to move on to the next adventure.

GENEPOOL (Also during the day my brother showed this rather funny Mitchell and Webb Sketch, couldn’t stop laughing afterwards).








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