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“Perfect Stranger” by the Chapters

I write album reviews now. Album reviews are cool.

 The Chapters are an Irish band composed of members Ross McNally, Simon Eustace, Turlough Gunawardhana, Michael Murphy, and Ciaran Fortune whose notable sounds are a heavy use of synthesizer and a rather odd-sounding main vocalist. The band describes its sound as “Rumours era Fleetwood Mac singing at a party hosted by Talking Heads, gatecrashed by The Cars, throw in a bit of Phoenix and a wink to The Band”. The comparisons are pretty apt – they do have about 3/4 of the spirit of Talking Heads and their album has both the monotony and catchiness of Phoenix. However, I don’t like them nearly as much as either.

Are they particularly famous? Well, no. Not in the US, anyway. Their MySpace page seems to paint them as up and coming, but they’ve been up and coming since about 2008. Are they particularly wonderful? Ah, well, uh, no. (But they’re not bad either.) So why are you reviewing this album?

So glad you asked, Omniescent Rhetorical Question-Asking Voice. The band has recently stated on Twitter that their new album is coming out soon-ish. Even though there’s no telling how long that’s supposed to mean, I figure it’s a good time to review their first album, released in 2009.

I found this group because they share a label (3ú) with The Coronas and Mary Black – the latter the singer my parents are obsessed with, the former’s frontman the son of the latter. Clearly, there’s a bit of nepotism going on in this label. That’s all right – it’s a family affair! But the Chapters have no familial relations to the Black/O’Reilly clan. Why include them, eh?

Perhaps because their music is just so fun. The album practically exudes joy, with its bright lyrics, synthesizer aplenty, and fun instrumentation (I think I heard an xylophone back there). The songs are perfectly hummable, poppy, and radio-friendly, with some nice choruses. I can’t exactly describe their lyrics, as I can’t understand half of what they’re saying through the electronica haze. But in the songs I do understand, the lyrics are solid – vibrant descriptions and emotional repeated phrases make for a well-rounded song.

(But they're really not that cool.)

There’s some oddness, too, to make the album stand out from the crowd. Only a bit, but enough to make the album worth a second glance. The lead singer’s voice is less melodic than you’d expect in places and sounds just plain strange enough for me to give him the moniker of “Dave Matthews’ more radio-friendly cousin.” It’s not bad at all for the band, though – in fact, it gives the songs some added depth.

The main problem with this album is that it’s just so hard to listen to the whole thing at once. The songs have a kind of measured monotony: same singing, same instrumentation, same sorts of lyrics. By the end it almost feels like you’re listening to one very long, drawn-out song. Sure, they try to combat that with dark lyrics and minor keys (“Black Room”) and a more acoustic, heart-tugging tone (“Home”) but it doesn’t quite work. They’re not bad songs, but they’re not nearly as good as the songs that are just poppy melodies and catchy choruses, such as “Videotapes” and “Trying To Get Ahead”.

(I did, however, thoroughly enjoy a whole listen-through of the album on a looong flight from Georgia to Oregon… perhaps the songs strike some sort of chord to the bleary-eyed, uncomfortable traveler at what feels like 3 am?)

So go on and have a listen at their MySpace page!  Though it may not change your life, it’ll certainly brighten your mood and might even entice you to buy their album. At the very least, it’ll brighten up your music collection with its technicolor cover.

For those who like this but want a bit more, I would recommend Talking Heads’  “Stop Making Sense” and Phoenix’s “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”. And, of course, The Chapters’ new album, whenever it comes out.

Isabelle’s rating: 3 and a half stars, or


Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes To War

Don’t worry, countrymen, nothing bad is going to happen to any of the protagonists in this episode, or any episode following it, because, well… maybe something bad is going to happen to them, but we won’t see it, because from now on, this show is about THE ADVENTURES OF THE MOST AWESOME SONTARAN-TURNED NURSE EVER! Joining the cast will be the Silurian detective who eats people, along with her girlfriend,

Hell yeah, but since when do Silurians eat people?

and the old, fat, blue guy.

Hilarity ensues! Only problem is, we’re not sure what to call it. (We’re thinking about War Nurse.) But rest assured, fellahs, you will never have to see any more of the bothersome woes of the fellow they call the Doctor or his tiresome friends. Ever. Trust me on this.

Read More…

Doctor Who: The Almost People

Well. Someone had fun with his literary terms book.

The Doctor's gone identity mad.

Yay! Clooooooney time! And what a nice time it was, eh? I squeed (oh, Doctor, you met your best friend ever), I wibbled a bit (cloney Scottish fellow and his kid – aww, for lack of a better word), oh yeah, and my jaw dropped (spoilers).

Rory becomes evil, after the jump! (Okay, not really. But his girlfriend is evil!)

Read More…

Holmes And Watson Save The Empire

Victoria had a secret, a royal secret – Albert wasn’t right in the head…

Oh my dear giddy aunt. Holmes And Watson Save The Empire, a Oregon Cabaret production, (book and lyrics by Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner, music by Malcolm Hillgartner) might be one of the most brilliant Holmsian plays, books, or what-have-you I’ve seen in a long, long time. Now, sure, a musical of this dynamic duo may sound rather silly … and silly is what it is, that is true, but blimey, it still packs a lot of emotional and intellectual punch.

Its silly parts alone are quite amusing and brilliant. The running joke – Holmes is looking for something, can’t find it, “Watson, did you move the ___?” “No, I didn’t touch it.” “You must have, I can’t find it!” “I didn’t!” “You di-” [silence] “Oh, here it is!” – is pretty good in itself, but it’s not just a running joke for the sake of having a running joke – it shows that “The Connoisseur of Crime”, as he calls himself here is, as ever, not perfect at all. [Steven Moffat did something similar with his Sherlock and the “we’re out of milk” running joke.] The costumes – some of the best parts of the gags – are a girl (or boy) playing dress-up’s perfect dream. The disguises for Holmes include his “Mortimer Chips” look (a classic cabaret raunchy joke man; curly red wig, outrageously flamboyant suit, and a nice flower just to top it all off), the “Hookah” look (FEZZES ARE COOL, and a very stylish one too; he’s Holmes, he even does drugs with style), and the “Queen Victoria” look (It’s better than it sounds. Well, only a little bit… extra legs, that’s all I’m gonna say). Oh, and naturally, they got Watson in a dress. Good old reliable Watson, he just had a little trouble with the zipper. (He’s really not the sort of guy you see and think “Yeah, a dress would be a great idea on him!”)

No, no he isn't.

AAAANYWAYS, the bromance was cranked up higher than 11 here, muuuch, muuuch higher. Look, even the Director’s Notes include the word bromance in them. (“Our current film industry has coined a new word, and even though it refers to the current crop of movies depicting American males as eternal adolescents who fear commitment, tell “hooter jokes”, and smoke far too much weed, it’s a great word – and it certainly applies to “Holmes And Watson”: It is a ‘bro-mance’.” – Director Michael J. Hume) Think about it like this; They. Danced. The. Tango. OH YEAH. (I added this to my list of most adorable things in the universe). And at the end, there was a hug… aww, wibble. One true friend indeed.

And besides the bromance, well… it was just one song, but it was amazing. I’ve never been a Sherlock/Irene Adler shipper, but I suppose “Into My Arms, A Dream Comes” just about changed that! Brrr. About what he’s given up for the life of intellectual stimulation [hint: Irene], (well, until Watson comes in, harping on about his Mary. I can’t ship them at all, though, because Mary isn’t really a character, just something that pushes Watson in and out of Holmes’ life. I don’t even know her last name!) the song was ever so slightly unexpected after the fun that was “The Science Of Deduction” and the funny little scene that set up the mystery.

Just BAM, and suddenly we have a large plate of angst, surprising but sublime. A note: I could see slight, brilliant touches of the Eleventh Doctor in this Holmes, such as his slight embarrassment over affairs of the heart. In a very Eleven-ish way, it was adorable how he completed the obvious rhyme with ‘miss’, breaking the song and saying it quietly, nearly reddening like a schoolboy. (Actually, as a rule, I loved how he emphasized certain words by saying them. The other time it happened was the end of “One True Friend”, he sang “One true … friend,” like he just discovered that, well, HE’S MY FRIEND, MY ONLY FRIEND, I HAVE A BEST FRIEND, I JUST GOT THAT!) Then, BAM, we’re back to the mystery, what ho old chap, right sticky wicket we’ve gotten ourselves into this time. Never mentioned again. But it was very chilling stuff, a great song vocally too, just beautiful. Rather like “The Doctor’s Wife,” it changed what I thought of Holmes, this version of him anyway.

The mystery itself was certainly intriguing, but still had a high dose of humor. The plotline is scandalous – Prince Albert isn’t dead! Instead, he had a nasty carriage ride, got a bump on the head and suffered a few mental problems. Side effects may include enjoying the theatre – and cross-dressing. So Queen Victoria locked ‘im up in a castle – but he got out and sung at various bars as a German woman (since he always had a woman’s singing voice). To keep a tab on him, the Queen pretended to be his manager – a man.

After figuring this out, the duo prevent an assassination attempt, make rather a mess in the study (MRS. HUUUUDSON?), meet Mortiary (a rubbish, Watson-ish Mortiary – well, it is a two-man show), have a few ridiculously quick costume changes (again, a two-man show) and get shot in the foot. Well, just Watson for that one. Holmes has one last good angst to go with a nice little fake death for Dr. John. Good angst, rubbish “death”. Violin solo, it’s sweet. So when Watson walks back in with a limp and a bandage, joining in with the song, it’s another adorable moment – Holmes tries to hide it all. It doesn’t work. Hug time!

The casting of Holmes And Watson is quite strong as well; I like this Sherlock quite a bit, played by Robin Downward, with his overdramatic nature, his (much more than others) obviously caring nature, his penchant for disguises, more than ever, and all the other usual things that make up a good Holmes. Naturally, his Holmes was very, very different from Moffat’s Sherlock, who is uncaring, (seemingly) emotionally unattached, and, in sum, just an utter jerk. This Holmes, in contrast, seems a splendid fellow, passionate about basically everything.  (Also, BLACKBOARD FOR THE WIN.)

Watson was good too, played by Jason Marks, although (as my mom said) played a bit too extra-gay. Flamboyantly so. It wasn’t my favorite portrayal of him, but the bromance was still solidly adorable.

The set was also brilliant, as it felt lived-in and even had a few little nods to the book series, such as the bullet holes spelling “V. R.”

Finally, the violin player as Mrs. Hudson was one last awesome thing that showed the theater’s attention to detail. She had approximately one line, but it was worth it. Her violin playing also added a lot, as did the piano. It sounded like a full band back there!

In conclusion,  Holmes And Watson Save The Empire is a rather brilliant musical, and in the hands of the Oregon Cabaret a truly fantastic one. Sadly, its run at the Oregon Cabaret is over today, so I can only say that if you ever see it at another theatre, give it a try. It’ll likely be deliriously fun and certainly silly, but I suppose it all depends on the actors.

The Universe From The TARDIS’ Point Of View

Well, her friends, at least. It’s simple, very simple.

Makes you wonder what she thought of Rose, doesn’t it?

Review Postponed

Yeah, sorry fellas, but no Doctor Who review this week – sad as it is, it’s my great-grandma’s 95th birthday on Saturday. Also, I’m going to the Oregon Cabaret for a splendid production of “Holmes and Watson Save The Empire”, a, yes, cabaret production of Sherlock Holmes and his trusty companion.

Everyone’s favorite detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his faithful companion Doctor Watson find themselves trapped in their Baker Street flat. They only have until the stroke of midnight to use “The Science of Deduction” to solve arch-villain Moriarty’s deadly riddle. It’s a tangled puzzle involving Queen Victoria, her husband Prince Albert, the philandering Prince of Wales, the Gaiety Theatre, Mortimer Chips, Freddy Fish, a German cabaret singer known as the Nightingale of Nuremburg and a silver cigarette case bearing the inscription, To My Darling Boy. The entire future of the British Empire is at stake!

Bowties. Are. Cool.

It’s not meant to be taken seriously, but it is meant to be fun. Incredibly fun.

What could possibly go wrong?

Review forthcoming!

We Interrupt This Lazy Monday…

…with a short message from the 80s, from a computer ad, actually. Are you ready for this?

So, the Doctor and Romana are just mucking about, investigating computers, Doccy’s saying “OMG AWESOME COMPUTERS”, it’s an ad, we got it. Then…

“Ask it how to handle a woman,” Romana whispers. ‘Cos the Doc is hopeless in these ventures. What does the computer say?

I'm telling you, I'm going to use this somehow.

“Romana, will you…” (‘cos Doccy does what computers tell him to do)

What do you think the answer is?

O_o, right? This is certainly helping my theory that River Song == Romana. Mostly because that would be AWESOME.

Yes, yes it would.