Hello, and welcome to Splendid Fred’s new entertainment review section, The Sunday Review. And yes, I’m well aware of the the fact that it’s Monday— everybody in the SF office has been struck down with a mild cold, and consequently spent the entire weekend huffing lemsip and eating biscuits. We’re a bit better now, so we have the energy to edit together and collate the various reviews our writers have e-mailed in.
Earlier this year Bellowhead re-entered the studio to record their fourth album, Broadside. The album entered the official UK album charts at #16, an accomplishment previously unprecedented for an independently-released folk album, and has also hit #1 in the independent album charts.
The album begins in true Bellowhead style with a loud, brash cataclysm of drumbeats, syncopated strings and chanting. ‘Byker Hill’, with lead singer Boden’s strong warbling vocals and its march-like chorus, is sure to become an instant classic, superbly representative of all they stand for. The same goes for ‘Roll the Woodpile Down’ and the album’s lead single, ’10,000 Miles Away’. Working side-by-side, these two songs are a perfect pair, coupling frivolous lyrics with toe-tapping music and catchy music. The two songs are very similar to one another, but that is no bad thing: they both firmly hold their place in the course of the album, and can easily be listened to over and over again without inciting any sense whatsoever of boredom in you. Following the chaotic opening tracks, we are given a blessed reprieve with ‘Betsy Baker’, a fantastic traditional love ballad with simple verses and a powerful, almost anthemic chorus. Its placing has clearly been carefully thought out, providing a wonderful break in between the wonderful chaos of the rest of the album. But I cannot review this work of art without giving special mention to ‘Lillibulero’. I am not usually a fan of Bellowhead’s craziest songs; I feel they usually do not work as well as the rest of their repertoire, yet here they have worked miracles. Finally, ‘Go My Way’ is a textbook example of how to close an album, featuring the same mix of catchy music, well-performed verse and strong, powerful chorus which defines the entire listening experience of Broadside. By the end of the journey, it seems implausible to me that a true Bellowhead fan could do anything other than hail Broadside as the best work they have ever made.
William D. Green
Rising- Aakash Odedra Dance Company
Aakash Odedra is a name to remember. Not purely as an incredible performer – and ‘incredible’ is the one term I have used to repeatedly in the notes I took throughout the show – but as a choreographer in his own right. Tonight a very fortunate audience at Winchester’s Theatre Royal witnessed a spectacle of solos in his toured work, ‘Rising’.
The opening solo, ‘Nritta’, was choreographed by the man himself, his Indian heritage evident as he hovered amid the dry ice, gradually coming to life through the rippling of his arms as haunting sitar lingerered. As the beat began, replicated in the rhythms of his body (and sometimes complemented with body percussion through his stomping feet), he became a ball of electricity, his fingers so excellently poised and graceful; yet there was so much strength and control in his lively bounces and fast level changes. The choreography was an inventive take on Kathak; at one point he bourréed upstage, his fingers undulating and his head wobbling, a totally illusory motion. Like a principal ballet star, he lingered mid-air in his leaps, posed after every sequence, and charmed the audience with eye contact and smiles, confirming what we all knew: he adores what he does. I felt like I was witnessing something truly special.
Just when it seemed the bar couldn’t be raised, the anthropological solo ‘In the Shadow of Man’, choreographed by Akram Khan, demonstrated Odedra’s outstanding versatility as he encompassed the animal inside himself. The opening moments were extremely disturbing, Odedra’s back to the audience as he crouched in the low red light, rolling his muscular shoulders and thus appearing to isolate every bone and joint. The intelligent design made me question if prosthetics were involved, his body looked so entirely alien; and I was startled as he sat up and screeched, a piercing dinosaur cry. As he gradually arose, his torso began to gain momentum in a rapid rotation; then, as he departed from his metaphorical egg, every inch of his body partook in trembling ripples whilst he grunted and choked. This was a being from another world. Simply, astonishing.
Admittedly, the following solos by Russell Maliphant and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, seemingly more lighting-focused studies than choreographic explorations, disappointed a little after the mind-blowing opening half. Maliphant’s ‘Cut’ saw Odedra as a sort of master of puppetry, controlling shadow beams pouring through his fingertips. Cherkaoui’s ‘Constellation’ captivated the audience in its opening moments with a stage embellished in suspended yellow bulbs, but sadly failed to showcase Odedra in its simple meditative choreography. That said, it achieved a climax with its enchanting full-stage illumination as all the bulbs flashed on at once; ‘Cut’, with its tensely pulsating mechanical score by Andy Cowton, promised intelligent development, but toyed with one concept too long.
Taylor Swift returns this year with a new album; a 16-track monster entitled ‘Red’, so called because, she explains, every emotion one feels when in love is characterized and remembered in bright burning red.
The track ’22’ is one of those super-cheesy sing-along friendship songs that inexplicably gives us all that fuzzy feeling and makes us want to call our best friend after listening to it. The lyrics are as straightforward as can be, Taylor is celebrating the times she has with her best friends and being twenty-two years old, alluding to some cheeky behaviour – “you look like bad news, I gotta have you”.
‘Stay Stay Stay’ has almost a bluegrass feel to it, very cheerful and delightfully simplistic – and the lyrics put an amused smile on your face, they are almost childish; “I’d like to hang out with you my whole life”, “no one else is gonna love me when I get mad mad mad”. ‘Stay Stay Stay’ ends with a girly giggle and an exclaim of “that’s so fun!” Clearly, Taylor was having a blast in the recording studio.
‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ is a brave one from Taylor – genre crossovers are usually expected and encouraged, but whoever heard of mixing Country with Dubstep? Granted, rather weak Dubstep, but Dubstep nonetheless. Very interesting, Tay-Tay. I think this one will be a Marmite song.
My favourite from ‘Red’ is ‘State Of Grace’, with the title track following close behind.— ‘Red’ reminds us of who Taylor really is, and no doubt has plenty of girls singing along in their bedrooms. State Of Grace’ seems strangely mature for Taylor, with lyrics such as “love is a ruthless game unless you play it good and right”, “I love the shades of wrong; we learn to live with the pain” and “this is the golden age of something good, and right, and real…”
Swift has surprised me, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this year goes in the ‘Swiftie ‘ world.
The next Sunday Review will appear sometime within the next seven days. Maybe even Sunday if the Lemsip does it’s job…