Rising Suns #1: I AM A HERO (2016) [アイアムアヒーロー]

One-sheet of the I AM A HERO movie based on Hanazawa Kengo’s 2009 manga.

What was the best zombie series of the last 15 years? No, it wasn’t the fucking Wanking Dead. Anyone who knows anything about comics knows it’s hot (cake) garbage but the power of marketing, merch and a duff TV show led to unfortunate things. Like a virus, it spread and infected people into thinking it was more sophisticated than it actually is-was. It’s an unplotted pile of shit that’s thankfully ended and been buried, despite continuing to spray AMC and smartphones with piping-hot liquid excrement. If it had been a carefully crafted series with an endgoal in sight, I would look at it more kindly in hindsight. When it was a mere comic series, the first 20-30 issues were seen as a revelation for being brave enough to print in black and white, the brash pronouncement it would never end, and the twists that now seem tired like a stunned horse. As a persistent stench upon popular culture, it opened the doors to the comic dross that is now inescapable on streaming services that I don’t have the interest in wasting my time on when there are real books waiting to be read. The past is a treasure trove if you’re willing to dig deep enough to find the strands, not the Xeroxed copies of brief successes and excesses.

I AM A HERO is the antithesis to the shite yank Zombie fad of the 00s-?? and was wonderfully tied up in 22 volumes by Shogakukan and my much missed friends and colleagues at Dark Horse Comics, who finished the English translation and publication in 2019.

Just before a real pandemic forced its way into the world.

When the series reached its conclusion in Japan, I drove through long, dark, winding roads at 4am to buy a copy of BIG SPIRITS to devour the final chapter and its huge colour double-page spread of its poignant conclusion. It was, and still is a monumental piece of storytelling and cemented in my mind that mangaka Hanazawa Kengo had finally realised his ambition to tell a GREAT horror story for adults which was concise, violent, obscene, outrageous and tender all at the same time. TWD could never achieve that due to its inexcusable overwriting, 200 word monologues, the same narrative voice for all the characters (that being the grossly obese Robert Kirkman who I saw sweating and panting heavily at NYCC 2012)… need I go on? No. Let’s not.

In fact, I feel it’s insulting to Mr. Hanazawa’s talent to even compare his work with anothers as it stands tall as a work of art, rather than a media monolith that leaves most people cold.

I AM A HERO span out into four volumes of additional stories by new and major Japanese talents like Ito Junji, and a live-action movie in 2016, supported by a brief late-night mini series on TV that acts as a prelude to the movie (but to be honest, all good stories start small and we don’t need to know the origins of literally fucking everything; this is my major criticism of the dire Disney+ Star Wars spin-offs).

Now, let’s bite into the juicy meat of the brain. The movie. I’m a huge fan of Oku Hiroya’s GANTZ series which came out around 2008/9 in English translation, but the live action movies were failures in terms of narrative but not casting and design. The movies share the same director as IAAH, I only recently found out. Many manga gets optioned and turned into movies before the series is completed so the creators are leaving their work in the hands of studio writers with no idea how to turn in a satisfactory conclusion. The second GANTZ film was based on aspects of the manga but sadly unsatisfying (I do however highly recommend the GANTZ: O movie, which is the closest you will get to a truly satisfying fusion of manga and movie).

The same rationale can be directed at the I AM A HERO movie, however there are so many things RIGHT about it, I can forgive truncating 22 books totalling thousands of pages into two-hours. The cast is spot on, the costumes exact, the scenes in the first 30 minutes are ripped from the pages of the manga itself as if they were storyboards. Suzuki Hideo is a 35 year old manga artist who had won a newcomer award in his twenties but never managed to capitalise on this initial spurt of success. He becomes an assistant to another mangaka who is churning out a series he’s not interested in, nor does he raise his voice to question why he’s even doing what he’s doing (this doesn’t do you any favours in making real comics or books by the way, because you always get shot down by people with no interest in the medium who think they know better than you). The work relationship breaks down when a spate of attacks across Tokyo turn out to be (possibly?) a zombie/virus/mutation that causes people to attack and infect each other. Yes, sounds familiar. So what makes it fresh? The POV of the protagonist, without doubt. Instead of going gungho with his shotgun (gun use is not legal in Japan, except for hunting or sport in which case you thankfully need a license, unlike some countries where you can shoot up schools), he is constantly at odds with himself about using the weapon, the ramnifications of violence and his own destroyed confidence.

Later, he meets high-school student Hiromi, who has been infected partially and exists in a semi-infected state that comes into play at various points in the manga series. While the movie doesn’t quite expand on her role like the manga, she still provides a welcome counter-point to the on-screen excessive gore. The movie covers the bulk of the earlier volumes, but doesn’t make it to the final volume as it had yet to be published. However, what you do get is a concise, action-packed and faithful live-action event that deserves more than a single viewing.

Amy Blue: Where Is The Unwinding?

I haven’t checked the dates, but I think we recorded all the backing tracks for The Unwinding between 2012-2014, with the addition of Simon and Lex working together to lay down barebone tracks for many other songs since then with the intention of me overdubbing them and then doing a mix. So what is the hold up? I know Simon is deeply frustrated by me “dropping off the face of the earth”, which is essentially what I have done. There was a bit of to-and-fro’ing between places that has obviously caused delays, then me investing a huge amount of time in playing competitive MTG (which I stopped as soon as Covid turned up and ruined everything).

There was also the band I started in London with Dan Clancy (of Painting of Ships fame: they’re still going). This band, A Thousand Knives, was more of a Raconteurs type experiment while Simon and Lex were unavailable. T*** had fucked off by this point so there was no pressure to be working on anything at that time, around 2012. I was still in London at the time and was walking randomly one day towards London Bridge station when I bumped into Dan in the street. We had one of those “we should do something together” chats, which you always know means you won’t do anything together, but in fact a couple of months later we were in the rehearsal studio that Amy Blue used and loved which has now gone in Balham. Tom Parr, who came to the very first Amy Blue show and was a longtime friend of Simon joined us on bass. We had no drummer, and only 3 songs, one of which was not a song. No words.

I wrote something called “Turns Out Yr Wrong”, a 3 chord wonder, for Dan because I wanted him to smash out some chords on his Tele. It’s a grim, bitter little number about someone I knew at the time who was a complete cunt who would not shut up, and was creepily sycophantic towards people she felt she could get things from. The song took on different power and meaning later on, but after finding a great drummer called Stu, who I’m sad I didn’t stay in touch with, we recorded perhaps 4-5 demos without vocals with the intention of doing a gig later on.

When the gig swung around, I buggered my ankle by falling down the stairs in my house in Anerley. The gig was on the other side of town and I texted the other 3 to just run through the numbers and I hoped I would be in good enough condition to play at the gig itself which was probably a week later. It got back to me somehow (I forget, it was 10 years ago) that they didn’t do anything with the songs, and I was incensed that we had spent 6 months working hard to prepare for the gig for the three of them to not even bother to rehearse the songs for the show. So I, rather spitefully, took the huff. Shortly after, I fucked off out the UK for 6 months and washed my hands of it all.

Amy Blue were (and still are) a going concern, so I was working on some new things in the countryside with a new amp and no neighbours to annoy. One song, ‘Stabbed In The Back’ came out of this, and was to be played live with ATK II and recorded twice by AB. It is one of the few finished tracks for The Unwinding.

We have always planned the album to be much broader and longer than our previous. Plus, recording ideas, jams, and partial songs and then using these as the basis for our album became very exciting for me as we had spent a long time playing the same song over and over again in the 00’s which Simon and I were bored of, causing conflict with all the weekend bassists who came in to play who were reticent to try anything new. The only person who had the chops for jumping into the deep end was Tom, who after ATK joined us for some sessions and we got some great takes recorded on songs without names.

We’ve also been doing some song-swapping, such as me singing on Simon’s song ‘Low Low Low’ and him doing vocals on ‘Secrets’, which has transformed from the original riffy thing I came up with to something much more sinister, very fitting for the record.

The record has probably been much harder to work on because there has been a lot of soul searching and growing up and life changes going on behind it. There have been several occasions where I found the thought of getting up in the morning very difficult, and my motivation has been low when it comes to doing anything at all, let alone write and record songs. I’ve been stuck in a loop of reading JG Ballard, Michael Moorcock, history books, watching documentaries, and found myself getting sucked into watching every single Hammer and giallo movie ever made (of which I should write two books and/or blogs). Plus, Destiny has taken up a lot of my time since I gave up MTG. Moving to the country has been a struggle; not being able to see my friends or family. I am disconnected and lonely. It would be good to channel this into something, but the honesty of such feelings makes it more difficult to capture now. Instead, I have been trying to avoid it by working on black comedy for my friend’s ears only: 2 albums (one about Corona, one about Trump), plus 2 audio books (one about Corona, one about Omicron) which came out of fits of depressive-creativity on an up day.

On a down day, nothing happens. At all. Maybe just walking the dog.

The irony is I already have enough songs for the follow up record as my brain doesn’t just STOP. There will always be new music. I am glad to not be playing live anymore as I said in my 20s that I never wanted to see fat 40 year old rockers on stage. And yet McCartney is headlining Glasto or something again this year. There will come a time when all of the legends are gone and whatever is left will not be rock or feature guitars. As for what I’m listening to these days? Last week: The Wall. Last night: Secondhand Daylight.

Better Than Night, Dawn, and Day: Burial Ground – The Best Z-Flick Ever Made

Back in 2014, I made a rather egregious post about how The Nights of Terror (or Burial Ground as it’s more popularly known to idiots in the West) was a bloody awful film and should be watched by nobody with eyes nor ears.

Burial Ground AKA The Nights of Terror trailer

May I retract that, put the whole salad of words into a baguette smothered with mustard and mayonaise, and consume those words without breath. I have realised the error of my ways.

Burial Ground is the work of an auteur. A genius. A man of staggering directorial vision that us mere mortals can’t comprehend what he was even attempting to make. That is, the best horror film ever committed to celluloid.

But it’s even better if you watch it in VHS quality. Not 1080i or 4K restoration. You’d be mentally unhinged or a SJW itching to post complaints to Twatter to even request that. No, you want this film rougher than a foxes arsehole after an evening’s yiffing, and lo-and-behold, some lovely shit on YT has provided it:

A low-grade copy of the classic Andrea Bianachi film “The Nights of Terror”

There is literally nothing to adore about this film. The cast, including a fully grown man who plays the daughter of an actress who previously appeared as a nun for a nymphomaniac reincarnation of the devil; a man with a moustache so titilating that even the manliest hetereosexualist on the planet would turn his head; plus some other D-listers who probably appeared in the Italian equivalent of Emmerdale Farm (Is that still a thing?). At the start of this Betamax classic, unfairly overlooked by the Oscars due to racism in 1980 (probably, in my opinion, despite it being only available in beautifully out of sync dubbed version), a wise bearded archaeologist heads down into some crypts or something to see his friends. But his friends have decided they’re a bit sick of being visited by Peter Jackson and so decide to kill him. Not very nice really.

Cut to: a car driving down the road to a beautiful manson. Jazz drones and trees. A cloudy, unambitious sky. The various friends and family members are met by the professor’s servants and then immediately run to their rooms to get their jugs out and have it off. Never have you seen intimacy juxtaposed with a full-to-the-brim ashtray about to tumble over the body of two lovers, both overly blessed with body hair. Michael, a boy with big eyes and a disturbing incestuous interest in his mother decides to pop his head round the door of her room for no apparent reason, only to catch her and the new hubby going at it. He storms off in the huff, as if he was going to get invited into the hay for a roll about. Probably unlikely Mikey.

Burial Ground: The zombies first appear in the daytime, and you never see a red sun.

When do the Nights of Terror truly begin? In the daytime, of course. While people are still rubbing up against each other in the grounds of the professor’s home, which seems a bit rum to me. The ground itself is alive with maggots, papier mache faces and preschool craft experiments gone badly wrong and attached to pensioners who move towards their dinners with as much pace as the recent Dune reboot. But these monsters aren’t stupid. They know how to swing a scythe and lop the head off a poor maid who just happened to bob her head out of window. They swarm an armed man and pull his guts out. The survivors fanny about until morning, when they end up in a set that has been used in about 5 other giallo/horrors that I’ve seen and then are eaten alive.

The final quote… well, I’ll just leave this here.

The Nigths of Terror from the Profecy of the Black Spider: There Are No Spiders In This Film

When Routine Bites Hard, And Ambitions Are Low…

Thanks for hanging in there and reading my blog every day. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Oh wait. I haven’t posted anything in six years.

Well, the fact of the situation is I lost total interest in writing a blog, the reviews, or doing much of anything really after I translocated myself across to the other side of the world, starting a new band (which died after about 18 months), getting (over)worked and trying to start a new life in a country where I’m frequently greeting with the WTF expression because I’m a white. Sometimes its up, mostly its down. The grass is always greener, and all that.

In that time, some people have left my life sadly (ad some fortunately, I’ve met some right bellends here), some have left the face of the Earth, and even my hobbies like MTG which I was devoting an enormous amount of time and dedication to decided to go all “PC-And-Charge-$300-For-A-Box” so I decided to give that the boot. Very sad thing too, all this giving up stuff. Boo hoo.

And of course we have China. Thanks for your contribution to World Peace. You deserve the Nobel Prize for Not Knowing How To Wash Your Fucking Hands Properly. Particularly after using those squatting toilets, which are a shitting disgrace. I should add they have those in Japan too, and if you’re willing to piss-skate over the puddle of effluent to risk dropping one, then be my guest. Thankfully they’re on the way out. A bit like the Japanese population, actually.

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Ian Curtis: He’s dead.

To raise my spirits in the past fortnight I’ve been listening to upbeat British music such as Joy Division and Joy Division and Wire, with some Joy Division thrown in for good measure. Sadly, one of them topped themselves after his wife broke his copy of Low, which to be fair, is a mixed bag.

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“Mixed Bag”: Bowie’s LOW

I also lied to the general public and said that a follow up to A HERO OF OUR TIME would be out by the end of 2018, and as usual sailed past that deadline with not a care in the world. In fact, I hadn’t even done the raw exports on most of the tracks except about 40-50 rough sessions which I listened to driving around mountains at 3 in the morning wondering what the hell to sing over them. During those moments, I imagined Simon sitting at his desk in London in his suit thinking “What the fuck is that lazy bastard doing by not recording anything?”. Well, having a bit of a holiday really I suppose.

It was only after I stopped trying to write new songs for ATK, which in the end was like pulling splinters out of a wooden leg for various reasons, that I discovered a new form of drug: the PS4. Thus, like another genius before him called Trent Reznor, spent the next 18 months playing FPSs and not actually doing anything remotely creative (his problem was DOOM, mine is DESTINY 2).

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Destiny 2: Crack Is Bad For You

Without any specific trigger, such as someone standing outside my house shouting GEORGE FLOYD (no relation to PINK, apparently), I ended up writing and recording every day and annoying Simon via iMessage about all the wonderful and terrible creative things coming his way, which has probably given him a migraine because suddenly there’s this spurt of activity after years of bugger all from my end, for which I am entirely and solely to blame. Sorry Simon and Lex (and Tom). I’m a lazy fucker.

2020 has been a total write-off for many reasons. The best things about it I have no intention of sharing with you, as I don’t know who the fuck you are, but maybe I’ll bring back some of my fabulous complaint posts which annoyed a couple of people at Jesmond Pool in Newcastle (which I imagine is made up now of 96% faecal matter since I last visited).

If you made it this far, I pity you.

 

 

 

Three-Minute Review #11: Ichi The Killer (2001)

ichi-the-killer

I had my mind completely blown by mangaka Yamamoto Hideo’s (山本英夫) incredible Homunculus this week, a manga so powerful and compelling I read all 15 volumes in 24 hours.  Until I read up on the creator on Wikipedia, I had no idea that he had also written and drawn Ichi The Killer some years prior. I’d seen the movie back in 2001 and considered myself something of a scholar of Takashi Miike’s work [as an aside, please stop calling him ‘Mike’, as in ‘Mike the plumber’ or ‘Mike Jackson, the dead pop perv’; it’s pronounced ‘Me-eek-kay’]. I was unaware that it was based on an extremely violent yakuza manga. As soon as I’d completed Homunculus, I started in on Ichi. The two stories are poles apart visually and story-wise.

Returning now to the movie, thirteen years later, is a very different experience from when I first watched it in horrified silence in the company of friends. It’s become a byword for extremity on-screen, something cooked up by a disturbed mind from the Far East where the torture scenes conjure up harrowing memories of Unit 731, Abe Sada or centuries of unchecked violence under feudal rule. Watching it now, it’s a superbly black comedy that rarely strays from the original source material. It’s an almost-perfect comic book adaptation.

If you aren’t squeamish, the violence is utterly absurd, the characters over-the-top and universally despicable, and the amorality of the film couldn’t be more ironic if it tried. Violence begets violence, it’s as simple as that. The only scene that stuck out in my mind from the original viewing was a scene in which a yakuza is suspended with hooks Hellraiser-style while a slit-mouthed man pours hot oil onto his back. Kakihara dresses like the Joker in the movie version: wide-mouthed and dyed hair on top of a purple trenchcoat. Ichi himself is a proto-Batman in his all-black superhero bodysuit with a bright 1 on his back. It’s a perverse refraction of the DC character down to the abusive and violent childhood which created the ‘hero’, a questionable characteristic considering he spends his evenings indecently assaulting people.

The comedy is amplified in Takashi’s version: yakuza bumble about in a slapstick fashion when the boss faints after seeing Kakihara slice his own tongue off. He even takes a call, not reacting to the pain, while spitting fresh blood onto the boss’ table. Ridiculous rather than horrifying. The main difference is that the focus of the movie is on the villain of the piece rather than Ichi himself. In the first 50 minutes of run-time, Ichi appears only in three very short (but memorable) scenes, and is detached from the yakuza narrative completely.

Of course the sexual violence in the movie is deplorable, as it is in the manga, and these scenes are actually less graphic than the source material which makes for deeply uncomfortable reading. Yamamoto forces you to confront darkness you may not have seen before in comics on such a scale. It’s handled in a very gratuitous fashion that Western publishers wouldn’t dare print it lest they come under heavy fire from all spectrums of the media, but worst of all is essential to the story. The moral dilemma left me drained (contrasted with the vile use of a rape in Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass 2, which cemented my resolution never to read any of his work again).

What was confusing about viewing the movie in isolation was a lack of understanding about Japanese culture and customs, not knowing it was an adaptation, and regarding it as a sequence of extremely violent moments only loosely linked by the odd word here and there that barely composed a script. In actuality, the story makes much more sense after spending 10 hours reading the original, which may defeat the object but enriches the experience ten fold.

Synopsis (with spoilers): Ichi is a pawn of Jiji (Old Man), sent to do hits as and when he’s requested to do so. Old Man’s team consists of a junkie and a Chinese pimp, both of whom are equally dispensable. In a block of flats in Shinjuku, a dangerous part of Tokyo where prostitution, drugs and violence appear to be a part of daily life there (from experience of visiting the place, it’s not), a yakuza boss called Anjo and his mistress are killed by Ichi and their bodies cleaned up by the rest of the group. Kakihara, one of Anjo’s disciples and possible lover, refuses to believe his boss has done a runner with all the gang’s cash with his mistress. He sets out to find him, only to be misdirected by Old Man who claims other gangs within the same apartment block were behind his disappearance. What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse as Kakihara attempts to find what happened to his boss. He reveals his masochistic side on numerous occasions, such as his penitent removal of the sweet part of his tongue in front of his superiors. Eventually Kakihara faces Ichi for a typically bloody Takashi showdown.

Return to this film. Watch it with filtered sunglasses on. It’s ridiculous, over-the-top nonsense. It is not an endorsement of violence or abuse, anything but. Takashi is taking the piss out of gangs and out of his audience because he knows at the end of the day you can’t take a joke.

Why so serious?

Three Minute Review #10: Bloody Birthday (1981)

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And the winner of the Most Cynical Attitude Towards Children Award goes to… Mr. Ed Hunt! Come up here! Take a bow! Wow. Simply, wowzers. Bloody Birthday is a triumph all right. Not only does it pack in all of the tosh we expect of slashers from the Eighties (death, breasts and bad dialogue), but it turns the genre upside down by making the killer a *SPOILER* murderous triad of preteens. What’s their motive? Honestly, I have no idea. Not a clue. Being taken to the dentist against their will. Or not being bought a car once they’d slid out of the womb. It is America, after all.

One of the group, an All-American Cutie by most preening mom’s standards, charges her gang 25 cents to view her sister through a hole in her closet dancing topless in her bedroom, cavorting with a fat-haired jock and later shoots an arrow into her eye and dumps her body by the bins for the men to collect in the morning. Does she find any of this harrowing? Not at all: the film ends with her dropping an entire truck on the poor sod who was lying underneath trying to fix it.

What surprised me about the film was the way that the children were portrayed; as soulless, cold-hearted murderers that don’t react in any way to the horrific things they’re doing to their friends, family and neighbours. It’s demented, unapologetic, harrowing and ridiculous, all good reasons for watching it.

7/10

Three Minute Review #9: The Stuff (1985)

Stuff_01

The Stuff has only existed in my memory as a hazy Betamax trailer seen at a bad kid’s house in the mid-80s, the sort of place you were discouraged from visiting should you pick up bad language or nits. I know next to nothing about its director Larry Cohen, and no one has ever mentioned this movie in hushed tones about its “lost classic” status. It’s probably not been available on DVD for the past ten years.

Time to face my fears then. Things kick off with no fanfare whatsoever. An bearded old geezer sees the ground bubbling up beneath him, decides to taste the white muck (as if you actually would do this) and discovers it’s the most delicious thing he’s ever tasted in his entire life. What are the odds! It being America, this natural product needs to be marketed and sold as quickly as possible to the greedy sods in the supermarket. Soon, the country is hooked and others in the dessert biz aren’t too happy about their plummeting sales. They hire Mo Rutherford to investigate the secret behind The Stuff’s success, and things take a decidedly X-Files-like turn as Mo drives around backyard USA meeting brick wall after brick wall trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious product.

One hour into the movie, you’re no wiser to the reason why The Stuff is so popular, where it came from, and why everyone has gone all Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. Michael Moriarty gives an oddball performance as the investigator, and his abrupt romance with the PR woman had me scratching my head confused how he managed it. There are moments where sharks are jumped using the Titanic and yet it has the pace of an A-Team episode when they’re hammering all the junk together in a garage to go do in the baddies. Some of the shaving foam special effects look a bit dodgy but that’s to be expected of a mid-80s low-budget flick like this. It’s almost kid-friendly daytime TV stuff except for a few weird gross-out moments. Not the stuff of nightmares, but altogether not bad either. Except for the hairdos.

6/10

How Not To Run A Swimming Pool (I’m talking about you, Jesmond Pool in Newcastle Upon Tyne)

Did you ever see this before?

 

THE POOL documentary from The Day Today (1994)

 

Chris Morris and Armando Ianucci’s mockumentary about British swimming pools is as relevant today as it was in 1994. Because I’ve just been to a pool in Newcastle that is equally, or perhaps shitter, than the one they cleverly took the piss out of.

Jesmond Pool, or Jesmond Community Leisure Pool as it’s now known since it was rebranded by some charity or other in 1992, was where I learned to swim. I managed to scrape through a 10m swimming badge examination back in the Eighties, which remains one of my few sporting achievements. The pool itself hasn’t changed much since those weekly swimming sessions. In fact, I’d wager most of the elastoplasts that were floating like detritus in the lower depths were from my primary school classmates.

Today was my first visit since 1990, and I’d like to thank the people who’ve taken it over for making it a swimming experience that I’ll never forget. Or repeat.

The £4.20 price tag for an adult swim is, for a start, rather steep considering the lack of facilities. I was naively expecting it to be cheaper than the £5.10 I paid at the vastly superior Beckenham Spa, which I highly recommend despite the huge hole it puts in your pocket. The reasons will become apparent.

There’s disabled access for those who require it, though I doubt there are many clamouring for it. And considering how awful the pavements are for anyone who is disabled in ye olde streets of Jesmond, the copious amount of wankers in Audi A4’s and students tweeting frantically about their latest dose of STD’s are likely to keep these poor sods well away. Acorn Road is a hotbed of pricks, students, wankers, and arsehole students. People who use “like” every two words in each sentence. Middle-aged men who are pissed at four in the afternoon screaming about woodwork outside Greggs. Spoiled teens complaining about being unable to find a place with en suite bathroom for less than £700 pcm. There are four coffee shops on a short road packed with boring people boring others about “relationships” (whatever they are) and nothing else. Jesus, had he existed, died for this shit.

The lobby area was completely different from the old days, and has bugger all else apart from a vending machine and a counter with four layabout staff watching the match. Having only a fiver note and a 50p piece, I asked if I could get change for the lockers. It being a Saturday, I might as well have asked for him to translate Ulysses into Korean from the blank stare I got. “We don’t have any change.” That was the extent of his response. No “I’ll see if I can find some for you” or “I’m awfully sorry, we don’t have any change at the moment but…”. I’m sorry for interrupting the football during your working hours.

Eventually, one of the staff who was in her sixties volunteered to look in the vending machine, and found a single 20p piece. This still caused problems for the barely-pubic front of house brat who was unable to add up a pile of 5p pieces to make up 50p. Then when I went to pay for the swim, they wanted to add another 30p onto the transaction for using a card. No thanks. With this faff over and done with, I went into the changing room.

Changed it most certainly had. There are only 2 cubicles, and neither of these are private as they lack doors (compared with the 30+ at Beckenham, though it is a mixed changing area for both men, women and children). The lockers take your 20p but don’t return them, which means if you want to take a shower you have to leave your shower stuff out to be nicked (this is Newcastle, after all) or open your locker after swimming and take the chance of having your gear robbed in one go. The keys don’t have an elasticated wrist band, so I ended up having to leave the key on the floor by the pool because I don’t have the same trunks from the 80s with the little pocket.

The floor was completely awash with water, and no staff came through with a mop to clean it up during the hour I was there. Kids were running around so I’m surprised none of them didn’t brain themselves after a bad slip. Not to mention the floor was dirty, with weird bits of string, empty shower gel bottles and filth dotted around. I was grossed out at the thought of putting my feet on the floor and this is not something that bothers me as my feet are vile at the best of times.

If you don’t like toilet stories, avoid this paragraph. I had to use the bog, and helpfully, there was no toilet paper in there. At all. The previous user had caked half of his dump on the back of the porcelain like a Rothko, so in disgust I had to take a brush to it. The floor in here was piss-soaked. I was enjoying myself not one jot.

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Finally, I went into the main pool area. It was exactly the same as it was 25 years ago, except some of it had been annexed by a sauna and gym area. One member of staff was on duty and there was perhaps seven swimmers in the pool at 2:30pm. The water itself was warm and the act of swimming was performed until I was too knackered to do any more. Apart from a couple of hairy sods who tried to have a free sauna and got caught and bollocked, it was uneventful.

Back in the changing room, I unloaded all my gear into one of the individual changing rooms and then realised I’d done something utterly moronic. I’d forgotten to bring a towel. Well done. Drip drying looked like my only option, so I hopped in the shower then got dressed slowly. The coup de grace was the hair drier, which was a hand drier above head height with the nozzle pointed downwards. I shit you not. Cold air blasting from above, which didn’t do very much to dry my mop. It was almost worthy of appearing on FAIL BLOG. But that’s funny.

As the Great White once said: “Money well spent.”

tl;dr: Jesmond Pool is RUBBISH and OVERPRICED.

New Lifetime feature about moidas and idiots

http://www.lifetimetv.co.uk/features/bonnie-clyde-is-doomed-love-all-its-cracked-up-to-be

Fred West was in there at one point, but NO. And if you are wondering, women aren’t to blame: men need to stop showing off by nicking cars and doing bad killings.

Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’: Forgiveness on a global scale

I’ve been listening to every Bowie album I own back-to-back in the closed sound booth that is my car. There’s an 80s-shaped gap in the discography with the exception of Scary Monsters and Super Creeps. 90s? No Tin Machine, Earthling or the drab Heathen and Hours. Check out Last.fm kids: listeners steer well clear of these albums like they’ve been sprayed with hot excrement.

When the Beeb aired the nearly-excellent documentary Five Years a few months back, it was rather telling that they didn’t bother to cover anything after the release of the Niles Rodger’s produced Let’s Dance album. Five years in a period of ten, basically. There’s been no critical reappraisal of his Nine Inch Nails-inspired industrial concept album 1. Outside, nor did follow up 2. Contamination see release likely because Mr. Jones feared a further critical mauling. I have a soft spot for Outside because it coincided with my own discovery of the Duke and the Rez, but it is ten tracks too long. There’s a great album trapped in filler. For an artist that has always been tight when it comes to extras and never released a double LP, Outside is unusually flabby and suffers from a lack of self-editing. Now we’ve got playlists, so the Segue dross can be happily excised.

Five Years was knackered for me by the inclusion of total gobshite and public masturbator John Harris, hilariously credited as ‘journalist and author’. Bowie doesn’t give interviews and loathed giving them during his prolific periods, so it’s incredible that the documentary makers included this utter bellend who has no credentials other than ownership of a Best Of from the HMV Christmas sale. “It’s magical – he’s seen the cosmos in the bus stop” spurts forth the strangled cock on ‘Life On Mars’. “To be on Dick Cavett meant you had arrived.” How do you know, Harris? You’re British, for fucks sake. You weren’t even born or in the right country when this interview aired. Nor did any Brits know who the hell Dick Cavett was, or is. Thank you for wasting valuable screen time when we could have been watching the Dame strut around in a feather boa or hanging out in a Berlin drag club. Excellent writer and ex-NME columnist Charles Shaar Murray is permitted three brief voxpops, and Cameron Crowe disappointingly absent. Both of these journalists are important to contextualise Bowie having met and interviewed the man in person during the period the doc covers. I’m wondering if the running time was an issue and they ended up using footage from Dicksplash Harris simply because they were stuffed for material. Then again, I imagine that the current Bowie management were involved and didn’t want to include too much material that could taint his legacy or focus on all the powder he put up his beak.

 

That brings us to the latest album, The Next Day. Allegedly EMI didn’t realise a new album was due until a week before the release date, which is a little unbelievable. However, you’re not exactly going to balk when one of your biggest stars and money-spinners decides to drop a new record for the first time in nearly 10 years. And while there are some great songs on there, over repeated listens I’ve become more jaded with what now comes across as a pastiche of his previous self. The appalling album sleeve, which quite rightly has been slated from Beckenham to New Brunswick, is completely baffling. If the implication is that everything Derek has released post-Heroes is shit, then he could have at least used another photograph by Sukita Masayoshi (an exhibition of whose work I sadly missed in Osaka recently).

There are great tracks like ‘The Stars Are Out Tonight’ and ‘Valentine’s Day’ which I’d play over and over. Then there’s stuff like ‘I’d Rather Be High’ and ‘Dirty Boys’ which cause me to grimace at the thought of a pensioner snorting blow off teenage girls, or worse. No overanalysis of the lyrics are required. This is the problem for the aging musician. Is he drawing in new fans or appealing to the old guard? The latter, I’m sure is the case. The album is as a whole a more enjoyable listening experience than the previous two, yet the positive reviews that emerged after the media scrum were all positive. SPIN gave it 5/10, and Mark Fisher called The Next Day an album of “quotidian mediocrity”, saying it was entirely undeserving of its wide acclaim and that the “wave of hyperbole it generated point to a wider malaise in contemporary music” because it proved that anything of low artistic merit could achieve success via “artfully timed PR”. That previous sentence was lifted from Wiki entirely because I couldn’t find a link online. THAT’LL DO.

Yawningly, The Independent, The Telegraph and Q gave it 5 stars and The Guardian 4 stars (and whose pre- and post-release coverage was daily and mind-numbing). Publications that all appeal to the dull demographic I belong to: white, male, 18-34. Though I doubt many 18 year olds were buying either the record or reading about it.

Yet I haven’t eradicated The Next Day from my iPod. I didn’t go so far as to buy the vinyl or the double CD set, which I’m thankful as I recently purged my entire CD collection. Perhaps it’s still too new to appreciate. It took me five years (bumtish) to understand what the hell Tool were doing with Aenima. It’s bland, it’s inoffensive and oft unmoving. But it’s Bowie, and we have to be thankful that he could be arsed to give it one more push before he heads off to the great big cloud in the sky for multi-millionaires. We aren’t invited.