Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Great TV Moments #1 - Mike's Speech in Breaking Bad

*Breaking Bad spoilers yo*

The rise of Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) in Breaking Bad coincided with the rise of the show to becoming one of the best shows currently on air. While the main character of Walter (the immense Bryan Cranston) will be the shows most iconic face, it is the smaller and supporting characters that have made Walter's journey all the more entertaining, characters like the amusing Saul (Bob Odenkirk), Gale (David Constabile) and so on. But Mike is the stand-out, by far. His rise to prominence from his first appearance at the end of season 2 to this scene in the twelfth episode of season 3 is staggering. And after the events of the first part of season 5, this scene has become all the more poignant. 

The scene is a simple story from Mike's past as a cop. But the delivery and the intricacy of the writing is astonishing. You can feel that this is a memory that has plagued him since it happened, every word carefully picked and recited in his head a million times. And it makes his character come full circle as to how such a seemingly noble character could become involved in Gus Fring's (Giancarlo Esposito) drug operation and involved in organized crime. Banks absolutely owns this scene. For a character that rarely shows emotion in the show, it is a truly touching scene. His story of little relevance to the overall plot of the story, but is delivered with such impact that affects Walt in the worst possible way. 

"The moral of the story is; I chose a half measure when I should have gone all the way. I'll never make that mistake again. No more half measures, Walter".

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

FOOTBALL: The Perfect Start

It would be easy to get lost in the excitement of having the Premier League back on our screens and one 5-0 victory under the belt, but after a mixed summer (some inexpensive quality signings, but several key players leaving/or wanting to) this is the best possible start for Fulham. Despite this wonderful start, for me, the goal is still the same; avoid relegation first and foremost and build from there. That being said, there is nothing wrong with lapping up the team being top of the Premier League for the sheer token value of it. It's rare for a club of Fulham's stature to be sitting atop the league, and even if it's after a single game, it's still a smug grin inducing affair. Especially with the troubles big Martin Jol is having with want away Clint Dempsey and seemingly big clubs looking at Moussa Dembele too. 

It would not surprise me if they both left. They are both terrific players and no doubt could cut it at a top 4 team. Dembele in particular is quickly becoming one of the finest talents in the Premier League and a big move is only a matter of time. And at only 25, his best years are definitely ahead of him. As fond as I am of Clint Dempsey (and even despite his apparent disappointing behaviour), it will be a shame to see him go, but a necessary one. His personal ambitions have outgrown the modest clubs secure environment (or his desire to move to a 'bigger' club at least) and from that moment, he has to go. It's not good for the team morale or any of the younger talents the club has coming through to see Dempsey's behaviour and think it's an acceptable means of forcing a move. Despite all this, Clint has been a terrific player for us and have been a pivotal player for us and given the club some of his finest displays. I wish him all the best at whatever club he goes to. But now, back to Saturday and the wonderful 5-0 thumping of Norwich City. Absolutely terrific stuff. Mladen Petric may very well be one of the signings of the season if he is half as good as his performance Saturday suggests with two well taken goals. Youngster Alex Kacaniklic also gave a good account and is definitely a talent in the same vein of Kerim Frei. Bryan Ruiz will have to have a big season to fill the boots left by Dempsey (and possibly Dembele) and surely his second season with the club will be a more consistent one. It would be easy to get carried away with this win, but it must be said that Norwich had a shocker and that the next 37 league games won't be anywhere as easy as this and with a trip to Old Trafford to come next week against a no doubt fuming Manchester United team after their loss at Everton Monday night, the team will do very well to sneak something from the game.

A good start to the season then. We have lost quite a few squad players this summer with the legnendary Danny Murphy leaving, as well as players like Dickson Etuhu and Andy Johnson, so hopefully Jol can strengthen the squad further before the transfer deadline closes and keep Dembele and build a team around him. United in four days time at Old Trafford will be a completely different game altogether and I except us to be firmly brought back down to reality. But for the meantime, we are officially top of the table!

Friday, 17 August 2012

HEROES: Mark Lanegan

Mark Lanegan is a legend, pure and simple. His career from the early years with the Screaming Trees as a pioneer of what would become known as the 'grunge' sound to his recent solo and collaborative efforts have established him as one of the consistently finest creative minds performing. His trademark raspy baritone voice remains a unique presence in the modern music landscape. While Screaming Trees might not be as recognizable or as well remembered as later bands that came to symbolize the Seattle sound of the late 80s/early 90s, they like other and perhaps even less known bands (in mainstream terms anyway) like Green River, Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone. While never achieving this multi-platinum success of the big four (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden), their 1992 album Sweet Oblivion remains one of the finest releases of that generation with hits like Nearly Lost You and Dollar Bill featuring trademark Lanegan delivery. 

No One Knows by Screaming Trees from their album Sweet Oblivion (1992)

During the successes of the Trees, Lanegan began releasing solo material and again while never getting the sales success, maintained a healthy progression in his writing and singing abilities. His second solo album in particular, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, exhibits a vulnerability not previously seen in his work and would become a prime theme in his works. Songs like The River Rise and Kingdoms of Rain exhibit this softer sounding but more emotionally intense work. His work with Screaming Trees was on-and-off during the mid-to-late nineties and finally came to an end in 2000 after their final release together Dust, which was released in 1996 to again positive reception. In 2011, eleven years after the bands breakup, songs from their recording sessions in 1998/99 were released in a collection called Last Words: The Final Recordings, containing some trademark Trees sounding material. All in all, of all the collection albums released by bands after their demise; this was certainly one of the better collections, containing authentic and not altogether overly edited or changed songs, but suffering from the same problems that collections have. It also shows the development in sound the band have over the final four years of the band. 

The River Rise by Mark Lanegan from his album Whiskey for the Holy Ghost (1994)

In addition to his word with Screaming Trees and his wide collection of collaborative efforts, he has released seven solo albums, with his most recent being Blues Funeral (released under the name Mark Lanegan Band). Safe to say this album rekindled my love with his music. Blues Funeral is a devastatingly effective album, combining Lanegan's trademark vocal delivery with a new production style, a shift for a straightforward/alternative rock sound to a combination of electronica and guitar elements in one of the finest albums of 2012. It would take an age to go through each album and pick out highlights. But for each listener, if they enjoy Lanegan's sound, there is something for everyone to find. All released to positive critical reception, yet while again not being outstanding commercial but consistently moderate successes, it remains testament to Lanegan's appeal that he has established a strong core fanbase to equate to the high reception his work has received. 

Harborview Hospital by Mark Lanegan Band from their album Blues Funeral (2012)

Over the years, Lanegan has collaborated with the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Mad Season, P.J. Harvey, Isobel Campbell, Greg Dulli, Soulsavers, Unkle and a variety of others. His collaborations with Soulsavers in particular show another side of Lanegan's output. In the two albums he was featured on with the 'savers, and especially in the first album, It's Not How Far You Fall, It's The Way You Land, shows a more expressive and vocally impressive Lanegan, his range on display and being a highlight of tracks like Revival and No Expectations. Perhaps he has received most mainstream attention for his work with Queens of the Stone Age on three of their albums, including backing/lead vocals on several songs, most notably their biggest hit, No One Knows, from 2002's Songs for the Deaf

Revival by Soulsavers from their album It's Not How Far You Fall, It's the Way You Land (2007)

His ongoing collaboration with Greg Dulli as part of The Gutter Twins has been another source of critical acclaim for the duo. Lanegan and Dulli's co-vocal blues-rock delivery show another darker, heavier side to Lanegan's catalogue, with Dulli reaching the higher notes, but with Lanegan giving the depth and filling out most tracks. Tracks like Idle Hands displays this heavier sound, dual vocal delivery. The album contains a variety of sounds and influences, with orchestral elements being used in the track The Stations. Despite the praise the album received, no follow up has been released despite touring in 2009. The band is currently inactive. 

Idle Hands by Gutter Twins from their album Saturnalia (2008)

Since the release of Blues Funeral, there has been another reason for rejoice with the news that along with original Mad Season members Mike McCready (of Pearl Jam) and Barrett Martin (of Screaming Trees), Lanegan will be performing lead vocals on a new album from the group, their first since 1995. Although two original members, Layne Staley (whom he was close friends with) and John Baker Saunders, have died, it is fitting that Lanegan should be involed. Considering he was involved in the first album, Above, it is poignant that Lanegan will be part of the album and if anywhere near as good and beloved as the first album was, should be a treat. 

Long Gone Day (Live) by Mad Season from Live at the Moore Theatre

Mark Lanegan has had a long and varied career. He has overcome personal hardships (drug addiction in his youth) to become a highly respected figure in alternative music and has remained a relevant and creative figure through almost three decades of a changing rock scene and has become a prime and influential figure, which is emphasised by his latest release, Blues Funeral, that is receiving some of his best notices of his career. With a large and varied catalogue of work and only being 47 years old, we have still plenty more to see from Lanegan, be it in his sole or collaborative works.