Sonic Bliss #11: My favourite songs of the week

Another Tuesday and yes I hear you, Monday has taken it’s toll and you’ve arrived at one of those oddly pointless days of the week – not the beginning, not halfway through and not the blessed TGIF we all love.

So here are 5 wonderful songs I have collected on my travels around the net this week. Unlike bubblegum caught on your shoes, you will want these songs to stick around …

 

NELLY FURTADO – “The Spirit Indestructible”

 

(image via kovideo.net)

 

The launch of her latest album, The Spirit Indestructible, may have been pushed back till September, but that doesn’t mean we have been denied another pop gem from this talented Canadian.

The new single is the title track, and its inspiring! Lyrically, melodically (where she embalms on all sorts of sonic experiments over the course of the four minute song with producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jenkins that come off beautifully), and visually – the lyrics video released shows her friend Spencer West climbing Mt Kilmanjaro on June 13 this year with just his hands.

The visuals, which capture Spencer’s indomitable spirit, and sense of fun too which is nice to see (since it’s all too easy to canonise inspiring people; I love that Nelly decided to show his goofier side too)  match the tribal pulse and blips and blinds of the song. While it may have a lot of musical ideas packed into one small pop package, it all works and is the most interesting piece of music I have heard in a long time.

It helps too that Ms Furtado, who burst onto the scene over a decade ago with “I’m Like a Bird” has a voice as soulful as they come – sweet, pure, and dripping with heartfelt emotion. It lends this song the sort of poignant edge it needs to move beyond superlative new-ideas-in-pop playground to a truly goosebump-inducing song so beautiful and transfixing, it catches your breath …

… and then you will want to go out and conquer the world, with this song as your soundtrack.

 

 

PET SHOP BOYS – “Winner”

 

(image via rockcellarmagazine.com)

 

Pet Shops Boys have made a career out of crafting emotionally-rich synth-heavy songs that aren’t just a collection of vacuous electronic bleeps and whistles but which actually say something meaningful into the bargain.

Their new song is no different. Its dance in and out of the dark side of pop but also has its share of uplifting moments as well, which will no doubt ensure it’s used in many a video about people achieving the impossible and triumphing over the odds.

But much like Green Day‘s ironically titled “Best Day Of your Life”, which on the surface sounded exultant and celebratory but which was actually damning of what was really an awful day without parallel, “Winner” has dark edges which will likely go unnoticed. On the surface the lyrics speak of finally making it to the top podium of life, a moment that has been “a long time coming”. But you get the sense that they’re wondering if it’s all it’s cracked up to be now they’ve made it here.

It’s a classic Pet Shops Boys songs with the sort of happy yet sad melody we expect from them and lyrics that don’t simply take something at face value, and for that we should be exceedingly happy.

Now if someone can just speed up the earth’s rotation and get me to September earlier so I can get my hands on their full album, Elsyium.

 

SOFT PACK – “Saratoga”

 

(image via famemagazine.co.uk)

 

This San Diego-birthed but Los Angeles-resident four piece indie rock outfit deliver the perfect driving song with “Saratoga”.

While driving to that town in Florida is not really an option for me since (a) I am in Australia and cars don’t float (unless you’re James Bond), and (b) I no longer have a car, amphibious or otherwise, it driving beats make me want to get in a convertible and go somewhere, anywhere!

Of course with a song this catchy, you could find yourselves exceeding the speed limit more than is good for you, so it may be a good idea to only play this melodic collection of swirling guitar riffs only once or twice on the trip.

Oh who am I kidding? You will be playing it nonstop, something that lead singer, Matt Lamkin with vocals so sublime and ethereal (yet powerfully present) would no doubt heartily approve of.

 

SAF – “Nailstorm”

 

(image via bearlyrambling.com)

 

Taking it down a peg, this Anglo-French brother and sister duo have crafted a song that gently ambles along albeit with a spirit spring, and some guitar swagger in its step.

Its soulful grooves, and lead singer Marianne Elise (who comprises the duo with sibling Eat Gas, which I suspect may not be his real name; then again they may have had adventurous parents!) are the perfect counterpoint to the driving power of Soft Rock’s “Saratoga”, but do not fear. You will not fall asleep at the wheel.

The song may start slow and below-the-radar but finishes with crunching riffs, and a grittier vocal delivery than will keep you awake till you reach your destination, likely humming its delightfully insistent melody. They embody sweet and fey, and blisteringly confident all in one diverse package.

Their newly released EP of the same name has an alluring mix of sounds but all of the songs confirm this is one band you must pay attention to.

Whether you’re driving or otherwise …

 

 

 BLOC PARTY – “Octopus”

 

(image via nme.com)

 

Bloc Party has returned!

After going on hiatus in October 2009, which is usually code for “we’re breaking up but not stupid enough to say that and upset our fans”, during which lead singer Kele Okereke put out a superb solo album, The Boxer in 2010, this innovative rock band from the UK have reunited, and released an awesomely good single to announce their triumphant return.

“Octopus” may sound all jangly guitars and jagged melodic edges, but the vocal back and forth between Kele and the band, and the insistent bouncy beat will have this screaming around your brain in five seconds flat. I will venture to predict that it will then refuse to leave for weeks, which frankly you won’t hate it for.

It’s the first single from their new album, Four (yep, guess how many albums they’ve released … go on … guess) which bows on August 20, and signals that Bloc Party are as creative and cutting edge as they have ever been, continuing their engaging mix of rock and electronic to devastatingly addictive effect.

 

 

So did any of these songs have you reaching for iTunes? What songs are rocking your world at the moment? I’d love to know! 

… and the location of Eurovision 2013 is …

(image via eurovisionfamily.tv)

Malmö!

Yes Malmö has won the three way “contest” between the capital Stockholm, Gothenberg in the west of Sweden, and itself. The city’s Hartwall Arena, which houses 15,500, considerably less than Baku’s Crystal Hall, will play host to Europe’s annual festival of song.

Twitter announcement that Malmo will host Eurovision 2013
Twitter announcement that Malmo will host Eurovision 2013

Found in 1275 when that part of Sweden fell under Danish rule, the city was originally called Malmhaug, which rather charmingly means “gravel pile”. At one time, it was Denmark’s second largest city, with a flourishing herring industry to its name.

Malmo skyline
The skyline of Malmo by night

These days, the city, now renamed Malmo, is the third largest in Sweden after the capital and Gothenberg and crucially for everyone popping over from Europe is right on the southern tip of the country, located a mere 32 minutes from Denmark by train, according to this post on eurovisionfamily.tv by Daniel Doyle, who correctly picked Malmo as the “winning” city.

I imagine that it will have one very busy train station comes May 14-18 next year!

(image via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malmö)

 

 

New “The Hobbit” poster revealed

With Comic-Con almost upon us – well those who are attending that is; it remains, frustratingly, on my pop culture bucket list – there’s a veritable torrent of wonderful reveals from the purveyors of all the TV shows and movies that make a geek boy like me smile in anticipation from ear to ear.

Prime among them is the new poster for The Hobbit movie that Peter Jackson revealed on the movie’s Facebook page over the weekend:

Those fortunate enough to be attending Comic-Con will be able to pick up a copy of the poster according to Jackson’s update alongside the artwork:

Hi everyone. Here’s an exclusive Comic Con poster. Be sure to get your copy in San Diego and let me know what you think of it! Cheers, Peter J

Enduring the wait for the film’s release on December 14 is made a little easier when gems like this are handed out.

Movie review: “ted”

(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)

 

There are three things I now know after watching Seth MacFarlane’s (The Family Guy) first movie, ted:

1. To create a truly subversive movie, pair debauched douche bag behaviour with happy feel good 1950s Leave It To Beaver/My Three Sons-esque music

2. Giovanni Ribisi is now the go to guy for anyone looking for an actor talented enough to effortlessly portray a demented unwashed psychopath who somehow also manages to channel the bewildered sadness and anger of a damaged boy/man.

3. My childhood teddy bear, imaginatively named Teddy (even though he’s a panda) is in all likelihood a pot-smokin’, foul-mouthed slacker with a penchant for white trash prostitutes who view living room carpets as a  perfectly reasonable place to go to the toilet.

While I am not entirely sure any of these new pieces of information are life lessons to last the ages (or that they lend themselves to being put to use in my day-to-day life), it is proof positive that ted is a movie that not only entertains but teaches you something too.

It may not necessarily be what Seth Macfarlane is aiming at but it’s what he achieves anyway. In amongst the copious amounts of swearing, pot smoking, off-the-wall moments of lunacy and slapstick humour (he uses “thwack” whenever anyone is punched better than anyone has since the halcyon days of the Batman TV series back in the 1960s), he manages to create nuanced characters who somehow manage to lead real, meaningful lives, punctuated by moments of deep emotional angst, and some measure of healing and resolution, all of which teach them, and by extension us, lessons about the way a life should be lived.

No mean feat when you’re stock in trade is less-than-wry social observations, gross out humour, and jokes so hilariously politically incorrect that legions of overly sensitive interest groups are dialling their lawyers to institute legal proceedings even before the opening credits have begun rolling.

 

John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) and TED share some quality stoner time together (image via collider.com)

 

I will admit that Seth MacFarlane’s brand of humour is not to everyone’s taste. At first glance, which is all many people of easily offended persuasion give him, his humour is crass, servile, and riddled with immature word play, not to mention godless to the core.

But if you take the time to press deeper, and as an aficionado of the cartoon gems that are Family Guy and American Dad, I have done just that, he is man with a keen eye for the absurdities of life, and society’s blindness to its staggering large collection of foibles, inconsistencies and hypocrisy. Moreover he is able to take those observations, and cleverly craft them into commentaries on the seismic weaknesses that riddle society, that are scathing and relentless, cloaked in a robust coating of fall-to-the-floor-laughing humour.

 

John and ted graphically telling the thunder exactly where it can go (image spotlightreport.net)

 

It’s this sensibility that he brings to ted, which is at heart, and this surprised me, a bromance between “Thunder Buddies for Life” John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), who receives ted in Christmas 1985 when he is friendless and unloved (even by the Jewish kid that everyone beats up), and his new surprisingly large plush toy. ted becomes alive thanks to desperately lonely John’s murmured wish  as he drops off to sleep on Christmas night that ted could be truly alive (unwittingly doing so while a star falls, one of the unexpectedly cute moments in a movie where I expected there to be few, if any at all). They are instantly best friends … and stay so for life.

Of course what worked for a lonely 8 year old out in the suburbs of 1980s Boston does not translate well to the life of a 35 year old guy trying hard to make a relationship work with the woman everyone wants, Lori Collins (Family Guy alum, Mila Kunis). There is no doubt she cares about ted, even trying to keep up with John and ted’s weird beer-naming contests, and sympathetic to the special relationship John enjoys with his childhood pal, but in the end, after one too many acts of immature selfishness on John’s part, when he puts his friendship with ted ahead of his relationship with his girlfriend of four years, she declares enough is enough.

It is testament to the script by Seth MacFarlane’s and his long time Family Guy writers, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, that would could have been cardboard cutout cliched situations are reasonably nuanced and come with some emotional risk and gravitas. Not that they are perfectly handled by any means – there were some moments that were more cringe worthy than heartwarming – but by the time you get to the climactic scene (of which nothing will be said other than to say it is much more moving than I expected), you find yourself far more emotionally invested in John and ted’s friendship, and John’s imperilled relationship with Lori, than you might have suspected would be the case from the trailer.

 

Mila Kunis, who manages to create a sympathetic character in Lori Collins who could have so easily ended up as a one-note bitch in lesser hands (image via poptower.com)

 

The almost after thought threat posed by Donny (Giovanni Ribisi), an unhinged, unabashed fan of ted, from the days when the magically alive bear was a major celebrity (when he even appeared on The Johnny Carson Show after his miraculous gift of life is revealed to the world), is one of the few weak points in the movie. It really wasn’t needed, save for the way it sets up for a heart-tugging finale, and the scenes given over to ted’s time with this sick uber-fan and his fat over-indulged son could have been invested with so much more off-the-wall hilarity and witty repartee, especially given ted’s raunchy take-no-prisoners ability to more than stand up for himself.

Still the presence of Donny did serve to flesh out ted as a nuanced, real character with fears, hopes and yes, even (mostly lustful) dreams, who thankfully is seen by the rest of the world as a self-aware bear from the word go (thankfully sparing us a frustrating Sesame Street’s Mr Snuffalapagus-esque storyline where only John knows his bear is truly alive), beginning with a hilarious scene with John’s parents, where his mum declares ted’s awakening is a “Christmas miracle! It’s just like the baby Jesus!”

As you would expect, Seth MacFarlane populates the movie with a hilarious number of pop culture nuggets with a great deal of time given over to Sam Jones who played John and ted’s childhood hero Flash Gordon in the 1980s. A perfectly placed reference to Taylor Lautner of Twilight fame is finishes off the movie in classic Seth MacFarlane style.

 

John, ted and Sam Jones aka Flash Gordon doing shots at a party (image via ottawacitizen.com)

 

These references which are manna from heaven for anyone with even a passing interest in popular culture, aren’t not simply there for geeks to have orgasms over. The Sam Jones scenes particularly are used to propel pivotal parts of the narrative, and underscore that Seth MacFarlane’s ted is far more sophisticated than you might initially expect.

What I loved about this funny, clever, but flawed movie, is that Seth MacFarlane, while not hitting all the targets he aims for, has crafted an unexpectedly emotionally engaging tale that subtlely draws you into ted’s world far more effectively than I would ever have thought possible. It is to be enjoyed as much for its ribald observations of life and society in general, as for its pithy and heartfelt insights into matters of the heart and the difficult business of growing up.

(Oh and to the reasonably fulsome male cinema goer who bent over to check his bag just as we were walking past him out of the cinema, thus exposing his, ah, rather hairy ass crack, thank you for providing a narratively sympathetic Seth MacFarlane ending to a Seth MacFarlane movie. Your commitment to continuing the movie’s sensibilities out into the big wide world is to be commended.)

 

Mixtape: 1970s

If you have read anything on this blog before, it will have become mighty obvious that I am not exactly fresh out of high school. Not that I am eyeing up a glittery red Zimmer frame to buy with all the fervency of teenage girls spotting Justin Bieber, but I am not exactly fresh out of nappies.

So it will come as no surprise that the decade that I first started listening to music was the 1970s. That is, it’s the first decade where I made independent choices about what I wanted to listen to. Up to that point, I had listened to everyone from The Seekers to Nana Mouskouri and yes even a Christian artist called Evie, usually on the long trips we made up and down the Pacific Highway at least once a year from Grafton/Alstonville to Sydney to see my grandparents.

Nana Mouskouri (image via last.fm)

The 1970s were a decade where Progressive Rock, or Prog Rock (Frank Zappa, Foreigner and ELO) and Punk Rock (the Sex Pistols most famously) and Funk (Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire and Kool & The Gang) and then of course, Disco (Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor and Lipps Inc.) ruled briefly but gloriously before giving way to the New Wave sounds of Blondie and The Knack.

Image via beatsperminute.com)

And what was I listening to? Why ABBA. Yes of course ABBA. They bestrode the 1970s like a musical behemoth and I happily lapped up every single song they released, followed their every move (in a very delayed fashion, of course since this was in the primitive dark ages before the internet) and worshipped everything they did. I was, in effect, a one-band man. I couldn’t contemplate listening to anyone else.

ABBA

Then an odd thing happened on the way to adulthood. I started listening to other music. I sampled Disco. Dived into New Wave … and started doing what all kids of my era were doing and started taping songs off the weekly Top 40 hits show, hoping to god that the announcer didn’t talk over the beginning or the end of the song. They always did alas but at least I had the song and I would play those songs over and over till the tape grew so over used that the bands began slurring their words, the melodies became caterwauls and the tape either caught in the deck or snapped.

The point was that I discovered all sorts of new music and took to listening to them like a duck to water. True to form, while I gravitated to some of the big hits, I also ended up liking all sorts of idiosyncratic bands that blipped on the radar and blipped off almost as quickly. So my mix tape ended up with more than a few One Hit Wonders sprinkled through it.

So in honour of my teenage obsession with music and the need to commit them to everlasting mix tapes (believe it or not, some do survive though I can no longer play them) here are some of the songs that came alive for me in that far off era, and the reasons why I liked them so much …

 

PATRICK HERNANDEZ – “Born To Be Alive”

 

(image via rockandpop80s.com)

 

How can this song not move you to a total, and complete surrender to the manic need to dance? From the opening notes, it roars out the gate, splaying glitter and glamour in its wake, and daring you to keep up.

From the moment I heard this song by Patrick Hernandez, a man born to a Spanish father and half-Italian/half-Austrian who grew up in France and had his albums produced in Belgium, I LOVED it. Total and utter adoration. It didn’t just move me to dance alone in my bedroom – there is no footage of this so thankfully it will never turn up on YouTube – it made me feel truly, goosebump-inducing alive.

I often connect with songs on an emotional level, given I am a highly emotional creature, but this song among a few I have heard in my life really moves me to action. I feel happy, joyous and damn near euphoric and apparently I wasn’t alone since the song, released in November 1978 was an almost instantaneous worldwide hit. It is reported (though not verified) that Hernandez garnered 52 gold and platinum records from more than 50 different countries by the end of 1979.

While his career after the massive success of “Born to be Alive” didn’t come anywhere near its stratospheric heights, he continued to tour and appear on other artists’ records.

Still if you are going to be forever defined by one song, then I can’t think of a better song than this one.

 

 

M – “Pop Musik”

 

(image via thep5.blogspot.com)

 

Unless of course you decided to make your career with a song all about the history of pop music.

In which case, “Pop Musik” by the enigmatically named M aka Robin Scott, who sported a sexy line of tropical shirts and jackets, is just the song for you. Released in the UK initially it quickly zoomed to the number 2 position (12 May 1979) but couldn’t dislodge Art Garfunkel’s megabit “Bright Eyes” from the top spot.

With backing vocals by Brigit Novik, who appeared in the clip dressed in blue but had her voice mimed by two models as a sight gag, Scott had lofty ideals for what many might see as a catchy piece of pop ephemera:

“I was looking to make a fusion of various styles which somehow would summarise the last 25 years of pop music. It was a deliberate point I was trying to make. Whereas rock and roll had created a generation gap, disco was bringing people together on an enormous scale. That’s why I really wanted to make a simple, bland statement, which was, ‘All we’re talking about basically (is) pop music.” (super seventies.com)

While the album that followed, New York.London.Paris.Munich, was not a commercial success, the song went on to become a favourite of many musicians who have covered the song including Tricky , and Steve Osborne who used a techno remix of the song before each of the concerts on U2’s 1997-1998 Popmart tour. There was a CD of remixes by various artists released in 2009 to make the song’s 30th anniversary testament to its enduring popularity.

And making me, who loved listening to it over and over on weekends ensconced in my bedroom, absorbing every last quirky vocalisation and bouncy melodic flourish, feel very old.

 

 

RICKIE LEE JONES – “Chuck E’s In Live”

 

 

This song is most notably not disco you will discover the moment its languid jazz-pop sounds waft through the speakers.

It was the lead single from Rickie Lee Jones eponymous debut album, released in the U.S. spring of 1979 and went as high as number 4 on the charts. The album it hailed from reached number 3 and marked the start of a long career for this talented artist who has managed to move between pop, R & B, jazz, and blues with consummate ease.

I heard the song for the first time at the height of its chart success here in Australia where it raced straight to number 1. Oddly enough I was not usually enamoured of slower, more introspective songs as my first two choices will no doubt show, but there was something about the gentle meandering of this song and Jones’s unusual voice that had me hooked from almost the first listen.

As I noted earlier, she has gone on to a stellar career and is still much in demand, and one hit wonder is the last sobriquet you would give her, but I suspect this song is still fondly remembered by many people including yours truly as the Rickie Lee Jones song.

 

 

 AMII STEWART – “Knock on Wood”

(image via djrockleylelles.blogspot.com)

 

I was at one of my favourite restaurants, Smash Sausage Kitchen in Newtown last Sunday night, and the owner who is a lovely guy, played this song partway through the meal I was enjoying with my boyfriend and another good friend. He described it as the “best dance song ever” and frankly I would have to agree.

While I keep listening to new music all the time, and have become acquainted with quite a few songs since this disco gem was released in February 1979 (from an album by the same name), I can’t think of another song that draws me and so many others to the floor so quickly and with such fervour as this song.

I loved the psychedelic look of the video clip (image via discomuseum.net)

A cover of a 1966 song by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper, and performed by Eddie Floyd, the song was much covered by many artists including Otis Redding, and David Bowie. But it was in Amii Stewart‘s talented hands that the song caught the public’s imagination, hitting number 1 on the US dance pop charts.

Oddly enough despite peoples’ love of this song, the album it came from remains officially unreleased on CD as does its follow up, Paradise Bird. You can only hope that someone at her record company will realise their grave mistake and give this song, which is, according to Wikipedia, “a chromatic minor with a major tonic chord” (no, I have no idea what that means either but I like it regardless) the full release treatment it deserves.

 

 

JOE DOLCE (aka JOE DOLCE MUSIC THEATRE) – “Shaddap Your Face”

 

(image via letitallbemusic.blogspot.com)

 

Yes I know. This is the “Who Lets the Dogs Out?”of 1980 but I must confess I find what was in essence a novelty song, strangely engaging and definitely memorable. It may be a case of nostalgia trumping good musical taste – that rarely happens to me – but I still find something sweet and quirky about this song.

If I am guilty of suffering a lapse in good taste by liking the song, then I am in good company … internationally. The song by American-born, Australian singer/songwriter (and you may be surprised to know poet and essayist), Joe Dolce broke all sorts of sales records. It screamed to number 1 in over 15 countries including Australia and the UK, selling in excess of 350,000 copies in the land down under and remaining its most successful Australian produced song for 32 years.

That’s quite an achievement for a song that I am sure many now see as a joke. But I prefer to see it as a cheeky very Australian song that was very much a product of a simpler, much less politically correct time, and as such I will treasure it as a song that makes up the canon of my childhood music.

 

 

Oh yes, and if you think I am going to ignore ABBA completely, you’re insane. Seriously have you not been paying attention? While it was released a good two years or so before the songs above, and isn’t necessarily my favourite ABBA song of all time – that honour belongs to “That’s Me” – “The Name of the Game” is a song that remains hauntingly evocative, beautiful and occupies a special place in my heart, arriving as it did just as my love of music exploded and grew into my current love affair with music of all kinds.

 

(image via eil.com)

 

So yes it must make the Mixtape too. Happy listening to this gorgeous number.

 

 

I would love to know which 5 songs you would add to a 1970s mix tape? 

RIP Andy Griffith

The wonderful Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith died today, aged 86 at his home on Roanoke Island, North Carolina.

A man who embodied the very essence of the southern gentleman, chambering and captivating audiences over a 50 year career that included stints on Broadway, in film and of course on television.

It was on television that he found the role that would make him famous and endear him to generations – as widowed father Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show, set in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina ( close to his actual home town of Mount Airy). He was a loving, wise dad, always ready with pertinent homespun advice for his son Opie (Ron Howard, who would go on to fame in Happy Days and later as the director of films like A Beautiful Mind), and the faithful nephew to his beloved Aunt Bee (the late Frances Bavier). He was joined by his slapstick-prone deputy Barney Fife (the incomparable Don Knotts) and Jim Nabors as sweet, naive gas pumper, Gomer Pyle.

The show was the embodiment of that mythical American town that everyone wished existed. Caring neighbours, loving family members, all the amenities you might need but the peace and tranquility of life removed from the rat race where everyone knew and cared for each other. Admittedly I never saw that many episodes growing up, but when I did see an episode I felt immediately transported to a world far removed from my own.

It wasn’t simply the fact that it took place thousands of kilometres from where I live that made it such a wonderful place to escape to. It was the sense that here were people who deeply cared for each other, who looked out for each other come what may, where the nasty brutal facets of life rarely got a look in, and when they did were quickly and easily dispatched. While I had a loving family, and supportive friends at my church, I also struggled through many years of living in the gold fish bowl of being the pastor’s son where you’re every move was monitored and criticised (savagely at times), and of being mercilessly teased right throughout school.

Shows like The Andy Griffith Show, which worked primarily because of Andy Griffith’s ability to convey a loveable caring man who though sensitive to other peoples’ needs, while maintaining all the manliness you could want, were the perfect way to live the kind of stress free life that many people wished they could haven including me.

 

Some of the cast: Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife, Ron Howard as Opie and Andy Griffith as the much-loved Sheriff Andy Taylor

 

He carried his folksy persona, and the sense that right will triumph over wrong and all will be well into the courtroom drama Matlock, where he played a lawyer, born and raised in the south who used his charm to elicit confessions from those in the stand. Of course they interpreted his folksiness as naivety and thought they could best him, but naturally that never happened. While Matlock was never as popular as The Andy Griffiths Show, it cement Griffith’s popularity and ensured he stayed in the public eye well beyond the heyday of his fame.

While he was active on Broadway in productions like No Time For Sergeants, and in Hollywood in movies like A Face in the Crowd, all of which made him a star, he will be best remembered as the amiable Sheriff who reminded us that while life may not be perfect where you are, it may be somewhere.

And that’s quite a gift to leave anyone. Thank you Andy for inspiring us to believe.

Ron Howard and Andy Griffith (image via pursuitist.com)

* Ron Howard posted a beautiful tribute to Andy Griffith upon news of his death:

“His love of creating, the joy he took in it whether it was drama or comedy or his music, was inspiring to grow up around. The spirit he created on the set of The Andy Griffith Show was joyful and professional all at once. It was an amazing environment. And I think it was a reflection of the way he felt about having the opportunity to create something that people could enjoy. It was always with respect and passion for the opportunity and really what it could offer people in a very unpretentious and earthy way. He felt he was always working in service of an audience he really respected and cared about. He was a great influence on me. His passing is sad. But he lived and a great rich life.” (via pursuitist.com)

** Here’s a lovely tribute to Andy Griffith by his on air son, Ron Howard (Opie).

*** And another one by Ron Howard recalling what he learned from Andy Griffith.

 

“Grimm” debuts second season art

With Grimm returning a little earlier than usual to the American broadcast schedule on August 13 as NBC tries to capitalise on its Olympics coverage, it makes sense that they have released the second season artwork which displays our heroes in all their dancing-on-the dark-side-of-fairytales glory.

(image via tvonline.com)

With another Lost alum appearing in the show – Mark Pellegrino who played the island’s ageless protector Jakob appearing as an old pal of Nick Burkhardt’s Hank who is secretly a coyotl (coyote creature) – after The Man in Black’s Titus Welliver made an appearance, this season is shaping up to be even darker and more intriguing than the first.

I can’t wait! (Thankfully for not as long as I normally would. Thank you Olympics!)

 

 

First impressions: “Veep”

(image via onlineseries.tk)

 

This is one seriously funny show.

Leaving aside the fact that saying this show’s name makes me feel like I am the Roadrunner about to sprint off from my hapless Foe, Wile E. Coyote one more time in a Looney Tunes cartoon – which I must hasten to add is not a bad thing – Seinfeld alum, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has hit another home run, comedy-wise.

Following on from her five season run as the titular old Christine in The New Adventures of Old Christine, Ms Louis-Dreyfus is perfectly cast as the sometimes ascorbic, often frustrated Vice-President of a fictional administration who is less than thrilled to find out that the job is as bad as everyone said it would be.

No real power, getting stuck with all the things the President (P.O.T.U.S.) doesn’t really want to do, and grasping to set an agenda that no one seems to particularly care about, Veep beautifully details the way power is handled in the beating heart of American politics.

It cleverly uses an almost improv cinema-verite style – think Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Office, and gives you the impression you are watching a blisteringly honest fly-on-the-wall documentary that conveys every ounce of the unending frustration that Selina Meyer feels as the woman only one heartbeat away from the top job she is barely disguises her hunger for.

The cast of "Veep" (image via poptower.com)

 

Aiding the formidably talented Julia in her role as vice-president is a cast of comedic talents which includes Tony Hale (Buster in Arrested Development)  as Gary Walsh, her right hand man who hilariously spends his days prompting her with tidbits about the politicians she is meeting, and Anna Chlumsky (In the Loop), as her chief of staff, Amy, who is given the inglorious task of putting out the innumerable fires that seem to spark up almost by the minute. It is a thankless role but her unflappable humour, and upbeat demeanour barely flag.

They are joined by a press officer and spokesman, Mike McLintock (Matt Walsh) who is so jaded and cynical he admits that he doesn’t read half the things he should (which of course leaves Selina feeling more than a little uneasy), Dan (Reid Scott),  a man so ambitious to get ahead in Washington’s corridors of power that you suspect there is not much he wouldn’t do to step another rung up the ladder, secretary Sue (Sufe Bradshaw) who barely tolerates anyone who gets in the way of her efficiently discharging her duties, and slimy White House liaison Jonah (Tim Simons) who makes up for a gross deficiency in social skills and basic humanity by lording his position over everyone in the Veep’s office.

This witty, fast-paced show that thrives on profanity, cynicism, and a healthy dose of unsettling reality, is powered by the dialogue-heavy, wit and intelligence of executive producer, Armando Iannucci who Hollywood report writer, Tim Goodman, describes as “an even funnier, infinitely angrier and less sentimental Aaron Sorkin” in his review of the show. Every episode moves fast, is populated with dialogue so clever and funny you will be rewinding just to try and remember at the water cooler the next day, and leaves you wishing they would everyone in the office would keep talking all day.

 

 

I’d certainly listen … and laugh till my sides hurt. It is rare to find a show that shoehorns basically unlikeable characters (with enough redeeming features to make you care somewhat about them), an intolerable work environment, and a cynical outlook on life and make it so compellingly watchable and funny that even contemplating missing an episode is not an option.

It is, as Tim Goodman described it, “a gem” that mines the grubby world of political deal making for laughs, and makes you realise that those who make it into the inner sanctum of power usually do it (though not always) at the expense of family – Selina Meyers almost offhand treatment of her daughter as a distant second to her political career is priceless – morality, and in some cases, basic humanity.

Somehow Veep, which was renewed on April 30 for a second season, channels all of this into a show that while excoriating in its viciously honesty take on politics, manages to stop you sliding into despair about the future of democracy with a wry and knowing look at the way power is used by people who will do pretty anything to get it and wield it to their own advantage.

If laughter is the best medicine, then I shall treat the growing discomfort I feel about the way politics is practised with a healthy ongoing dose of this clever, funny show for as long as they will keep making it.