Daisy Jones & The Six – Book Review.

By Mollie Campbell

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Music, Drama

Originality: 4/10

Overall rating: 8/10

 

Before I even begin my review, I should probably give you a little bit history about myself. My favourite band is Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks are two of my biggest influences, both as a duo, within Fleetwood Mac and in both of their solo careers. I am also a 70’s fanatic, I am obsessed with the era, I love too many 70’s bands to name, and I love California. So a book titled ‘Daisy Jones & the Six’, about a 70’s rock band in California…. dream come true right?

Well, yes and no. Daisy, Daisy, Daisy…where do I begin? I’ll start off by saying that I was looking forward to this book long before it was released, and I was the first person to buy it in my local book store. Everything about it looked awesome, the colourful front cover, the black sprayed edges, the fake ticket stubs when you open up the first page, the band’s album lyrics written at the end, and the hazy palm trees on the back cover…it is a music junkie’s dream. The book is written in different year groups e.g. 1965-1972, 1973-1975 etc. with the initial focus being on Daisy and her back story, with interjections from the other members of the band and how they began before they met Daisy, (they were just called ‘The Six’ back then). Eventually the stories combine and we see how they become ‘Daisy Jones & the Six’, what is a cool addition to the plot is the way it is written, in the form of an interview, with each member speaking at different times, resulting in what feels like an iconic Rolling Stone interview.

The characters are great, Daisy is a bit of a hippie, floating through life but she is fierce and knows exactly who she is, in fact, she clashes with anybody who tries to strip her from her own sense of individuality and freedom. Then we have Billy, the dark haired band leader who is just as artistically stubborn as Daisy. The rest of the band are called; Graham, Karen, Eddie, Pete and Warren, and this is the story of how they became the biggest band in the world, what got them there, what almost stopped them from getting there and how they gave it all up so abruptly. This is an addictive read, the layout makes it so easy to just plough through it in no time, the author has created a bunch of characters that every music fan will resonate with, they encapsulate every musician that ever existed in the 70’s. The hippie in them provided that laidback vibe, the determination in them gave us that inextinguishable creative fire, they were close to the average person, raw and emotional yet the sex, drugs and Rock & Roll that came with it is highlighted as exuberant, which is exactly what it was. Her commentary on this time in the industry, and within society is spot on, this tale has been lived before, it is wonderful to read, I wasn’t even alive in the 70’s but I could feel the nostalgia within my bones as I read this book.

I am a song-writer, I play the guitar, I love Fleetwood Mac,  I am obsessed with the 70’s, and I fell in love with the characters that were coming to life more vividly with every page I turned, so why, after all of that, did I finish the book with a sense of disappointment? I am going to be honest here, whilst I loved the idea of the format it is in, (it gives it a sense of uniqueness), and whilst I am impressed that the author managed to creative these characters within such a limited amount of space, I can’t help but feel a bit cheated. The reason it was easy for her to develop this story is because these characters aren’t fictional, we know them…the characters are Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.  The band is Fleetwood Mac, their album ‘Aurora’ is ‘Rumours’, there is no denying it, the book is a complete parallel with the band, a carbon copy. Every scenario in there is relevant to Fleetwood Mac, the history, the time-frame, the location and it all felt a little too unoriginal. It is essentially just a love letter to the band, and that isn’t a major problem, but it just feels a bit too close for comfort.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book, in fact I was 99% sure I’d written it myself and that Taylor Jenkins Reid had just plagiarised it, this book was written for me, and every other musician like me. But it’s better if you just pretend it is a biography about Fleetwood Mac, which is what is enjoyable, it makes you feel like a fly on the wall during the recording of Rumours, giving us a fictional envisionment of what it was like to be there, an insight we’ll never truly get our hands on. That is why it is brilliant; it is a piece of fan fiction. And I think that was my main problem, it was just so easy to write, there isn’t a lot of depth due to the nature of how it was written, but I’m probably just annoyed that I didn’t publish it first. So in terms of originality I wouldn’t rate it very highly, but I do give credit where it is due, I love the characters, I adore the fact that she has taken the time to write lyrics to every single song from the fictional ‘Aurora’ album, and I love the references throughout. So thank you for transporting me into the centre of my wildest dreams, for that alone I’d give it a 8/10. Sorry if this review was a bit all over the place, I was trying to give an honest view without completely criticising it, because I did thoroughly enjoy the book and I would encourage people to read it, I just needed to explain a few of the things that didn’t quite sit right.

Despite the troubles that may simply only be present in my eyes, I did love it, everything about it. The good far outweighed the bad, and most of my criticism probably stems from my sacred worship of Fleetwood Mac, and the fact that it could easily have been written by any other music fan like me. And I am sure I will read it again and again, and heck, reading just a couple of words in the middle inspired an impromptu song-writing session, and any piece of material that inspires me to write a song that quickly, in my eyes, is a good one. Check it out, and let me know what you think!

Netflix’s ‘The Order’ – season 1 review.

By Mollie Campbell

Released: March 7th 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Supernatural, Drama

Cast: Jake Manley, Sarah Grey, Matt Frewer, Max Martini, Katharine Isabelle, Adam DiMarco.

Rating: 7/10

 

The Order is a supernatural/horror show focusing on College freshman Jack Morton, and his journey after he is accepted into ‘The Order’, a secret society in which members learn to use magic. Jack, along with his grandfather Pete have prepared for this day for years, due to Jack’s mother dying because of the leader of the Order Edward Coventry, who also happens to be his father. Jack embarks on a mission, but falling for fellow Order member Alyssa, and enjoying his new found powers distracts him from his ultimate goal to bring down his father. If things weren’t strange enough, Jack then discovers that he is a werewolf, and joins another secret society ‘The Knights of St. Christopher’ a group whose sole purpose is to defeat dark magic, therefore the enemies of The Order. He must choose between his legacy and his happiness, residing in the ground between the battle of two worlds, trying desperately to pick a side before the choice is made for him.

I won’t pretend that this show is perfect, whilst I was gripped by the plot, at some points the narrative is slightly messy and the acting is not always up to scratch but compared to some Netflix originals, it is worth it’s imperfections, in fact this is what makes it so good. It isn’t perfect, but it is thrilling and addictive, and it is also a fresh perspective on the whole magic/werewolves kind of show…it is much darker than I expected but also interjects a natural sense of comedy to it as well, giving it a much-needed sense of light-heartedness within all the darkness. Despite us as viewers being thrust directly into the centre of the action from the word go, there is a natural yet exhilarating pace to the plot, some unexpected twists and turns and a good sense of character development. Throughout the series we grow closer to these characters, we become desperate to understand their motives, and we are encouraged to question the characters being presented to us, making us wonder if they really are who they claim to be.

The Special Effects are good, and the show contains much more of a horror vibe than people are led to believe during the first few episodes. At the start, it would be pretty easy to dismiss this show as a throwaway, fantasy/teen stereotype, but if viewers have the patience to stick with it, they will discover it is far more than the show it is marketed as. It is dark, gripping and much more intricate than what we perceive at the beginning. I also like the fact that whilst it does provide us with necessary plot points from the backstory leading up to this moment in jack’s life, it certainly doesn’t guide us through it like some fairy-god mother, it catapults us right into the middle of a deep dark ocean, forcing us to navigate our own way to the shore through a riptide of emotions and surprises, and let me tell you, the shore is much farther away than you would think. This show really deserves much more attention than it is getting, if you really sink your teeth into it, you will not be disappointed, don’t judge the show by Netflix’s poor marketing and promotion for one of its own original series, watch it, every single episode.

Lastly, the soundtrack is the icing on the cake, it really encapsulates the laidback aspect of these teenage lives, contrasted with the life changing decisions they are making, and the sinister situation’s they find themselves in. It contains everything you could imagine and more, it is cliché, but in a good way and the plot is accelerated with each episode, trickling closer and closer to the jaw dropping finale we as a society tend to crave. The only thing I will say about the ending is; prepare to be highly irritated, the kind of plot twist that doesn’t seem obvious until it has actually happened. If Netflix doesn’t renew this series for a second season, I will be left as messed up as that ending. This show is just so easy to watch, it captures your imagination, and drags you into the adventure of your dreams, or nightmares, a world within a world, one which will be hard to leave long after the credits have finished.

 

Sky One’s ‘Curfew’ – TV review

By Mollie Campbell

Current episode count: 3

Airs: Every Friday at 9pm

Channel: Sky One (UK)

Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Action, Horror

Cast: Adam Brody, Sean Bean, Billy Zane

 

Curfew is set in the United Kingdom, in a not so distant future, in a world that is growing familiar with the concept of a widespread virus slowly wiping out the population, essentially;  Zombies. The British government introduce a curfew in which anyone caught out between 7pm to 7am will be put into quarantine, an attempt to contain the virus and protect the population. The show is centred around many different characters who are brought together to compete in the same competition, an illegal, 1000km street race in which the prize comes in the form of a better life, protection, sanctuary.

This is an interesting and encapsulating show that is hard to stop watching, it is a classic ‘in the middle of the action’ show in which the reasoning and development up to this point is explained in the form of flashbacks throughout. This prevents it from turning stale, whilst still providing us with vital information about the character’s lives and the history behind the events that are unfolding in front of us. The characters are all complete opposites but they are united by their fight for freedom, anything is better than the world they currently find themselves in.  Just when you think that TV has exhausted every possibility in the zombie apocalypse genre, this show comes along, same old, yet riveting, action packed and quirky, and a much needed British version of a catastrophic dystopian future.

There is a strong use of characterisation straight away, in just 3 episodes there has been barely any time for character development yet these personalities have been clear from the start. We instantly understand the characters, what makes them different, what unties them, how they react in different situations. To have already developed such bold and relatable characters in such a short space of time is why this show is so good, it contains many different qualities and is action packed but never excessive. There is also a scarily realistic vibe to it, as we as a society (apart from the zombies) really aren’t that far off from a world like this one, the dystopian future we’ve always been catapulted into through different media outlets, could be a reality far sooner than we think.

This show is a Futuristic, apocalyptic, dystopian, crazy, quirky, fight to the death game of Mario kart in which the characters are pawns in a science fiction video game, with a kickass soundtrack. I look forward to seeing how this show unfolds over its first season, tagging along for the ride with these eccentric characters and the risks they are willing to take in order to survive.

David Bowie: ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide – Analysis.

By Mollie Campbell

David Bowie’s ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ album is a journey between the five years before earth is supposed to die, the album ends with the song ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide’ which is significant because he almost foreshadowed the end to his own character’s life (Ziggy). He envisioned himself as the classic shell of a ‘Rock Star’ in which he could let out a possible artistic yearning without jeopardizing his own mental health, something which concerned him greatly. Rock and Roll suicide marks the end of Ziggy, who has now been affected by the hollowness and superficiality of stardom, he is lost, a prediction that slowly comes true throughout the album. The song seems to capture the idea of the version of him that is ‘sane’, talking to Ziggy. This is delving into the concept of ‘two selves’ or personalities, which links to his fascination with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, which links to his family’s mental history.  The song also heavily portrays the progression of time, which is a recurring theme within the album and character itself.

Rock N Roll Suicide lyrical analysis:

Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth

You pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette

The wall-to-wall is calling, it lingers, then you forget

Oh oh, you’re a rock ‘n’ roll suicide

You’re too old to lose it, too young to choose it

And the clocks waits so patiently on your song

You walk past a cafe but you don’t eat when you’ve lived too long

Oh, no, no, no, you’re a rock ‘n’ roll suicide

Chev brakes are snarling as you stumble across the road

But the day breaks instead so you hurry home

Don’t let the sun blast your shadow

Don’t let the milk float ride your mind

You’re so natural – religiously unkind

 

Oh no love! You’re not alone

You’re watching yourself but you’re too unfair

You got your head all tangled up

But if I could only make you care

Oh no love! You’re not alone

No matter what or who you’ve been

No matter when or where you’ve seen

All the knives seem to lacerate your brain

I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain

You’re not alone

Just turn on with me and you’re not alone

Let’s turn on with me and you’re not alone (wonderful)

Let’s turn on and be not alone (wonderful)

Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful)

Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful)

Oh gimme your hands

 

Rock N Roll suicide has this overall sense of conclusion, as the last song on the album, it embodies this constant feeling of fading youth, and enthusiasm dying… many of the lyrics to indicate a sudden awareness of the finality to his young and creative mind. Also, as this person is growing older, time is slipping away and they are no longer young enough to be in denial about time and age.

“That was sort of a plagiarized line from Baudelaire which was something to the effect of life is a cigarette, smoke it in a hurry or savour it” – Bowie (1997) (on the opening lines of the song).

This cigarette could be perceived as a metaphor for time and life, as some people rush time, and waste their lives, whereas others savour life and enjoy its wonders. This backs up the point of ‘Ziggy’ sending a message to humans to change their ways. The symbolism and metaphorical meaning within Bowie’s album made him a pioneer in influencing society, in intelligent and complex ways, still within the field of art and music. The song continues to talk about things that could signify the passage of time, but he keeps reminding himself that there is a bigger picture.  The next line again encompasses what David Bowie was always trying to portray, different people and contrasting personalities. He sings ‘you’re too old to lose it, too young to choose it’ and describes the classic tale of the older generation being in charge and the young being powerless and how in time, this will repeat itself. This was another comment on the error of our ways, and another way of Bowie being able to write about issues that meant something to him, in a comfortable environment (music). The next line is a reference to human mortality. In the context of the line before, time which seems to be used in the form of ‘it’, and how it is slowly ticking away.

Bowie is clever here in the fact that he shifts time into the form of an actual living thing, and this person that is masked as time is actually a very dangerous and deviant figure because it restricts people on what they can do and how they live their lives and spend their time. This sinister character is Bowie’s way of tackling an issue through the form of a persona, much like the way he created his own persona in the first place.  “Your song” could be a reference to many things, it could be interpreted as a metaphor for someone’s life, and when the song finishes, it means that you are no longer alive. The line beginning with ‘chev breaks’ is a metaphor for the partying lifestyle of rock stars in the 60’s/70’s which is the sole character Bowie was initially embodying.  The character of Ziggy is generally perceived as being depressed, and he partly blames the restrictions of time on this. He tries to convince himself to stay living happily by not letting the ‘sun cast your shadow’ which is a link to the theory of his persona being a way to exert his demons in a healthy space.  The line ‘you got your head all tangled up’, signifying that whatever happened to Ziggy psychologically, left his mental state in a bad way. Ziggy (or Bowie) is desperately seeking help and reaching out in his own deluded or foolish way. He hangs onto the belief that he can change the people of the world and make them care about the things he does, things of value, not instant gratification. He believes this will guide him into a better state of mind. The song contains themes that will stand the test of time, which is why David Bowie’s lyrics were so innovative and important.

How American Idol and the X-Factor have destroyed the music industry.

By Mollie Campbell.

 

Now I’ll start off by apologising in advance for the rant I am about to give, this is something I feel very passionately about. And this article is totally just my opinion, everybody’s is different but as a young song-writer/musician, I thought I would put my views together in one place!

Shows like American Idol and the X-factor were developed in the early 2000’s, singing competitions designed to create the perfect popstar. I’ll admit, not every single artist is bad, there have been some notable talented winners e.g. Kelly Clarkson (American Idol) or Leona Lewis (X-Factor). But the amount of rubbish that is churned out of this pop-factory is astonishing, they are either musically inept or have good vocals but absolutely no originality. It has caused an influx of people who are now trying to get famous instantly, meaning that the main aspect, music, is being stripped away. Because of these shows, children are encouraged from a young age to try and become successful in something that they haven’t developed or even worked hard at, their biggest desire is to become famous instantly without any hard-work, originality, creativity or talent. This has also developed societal expectations within the music industry to shift, the need to be perfect whilst at the same time showing absolutely no level of talent is becoming ridiculous.

When it comes to vocals, my opinion is that an artist should be able to hold a note to be considered a vocalist or musician filling the position of lead singer, but it doesn’t have to be completely pitch-perfect. Now obviously I am not underestimating why good vocals are needed, but before, it was ok and very popular within the mainstream music world that an artist may not have the perfect singing voice, but if the music was good, it worked and became popular.  Now everybody has to be ‘perfect’ which is something we have been trying to assure is impossible for years, there is no such thing as perfect so why are they telling young people that they need to be, this has not only narrowed everyone’s minds and creativity due to the fact that they are training on one instrument, their voice instead of learning what it takes to make music from the bottom up, but it has also restricted our access to record labels that would have been easy to sign with say 30 years ago. Technology/the Internet has created too much of this constant instant gratification, “if it doesn’t work in one minute, scrap it” seems to be the new mentality.

These days it is a major achievement if an organic artist who worked their way up from bottom actually manages to maintain their popularity after one year. Where has artist development disappeared to? A&R is essentially non-existent in 2019, unless you are one of Simon Cowell’s little protégé’s singing mindless crap which doesn’t mean anything. Song-writing has turned into the same monotonous structure each and every time, there is no diversity, why sit down and write a song when you can be handed one from the hit-making machine employed by Cowell’s chart-dominating label, we are all be subject to his musical brainwashing, and the internet has just added fire to the flames.

Some people tell me ‘look, there has also been crap in the pop world of the past, look at some of the terrible songs released in the 80’s’. But the point is, those terrible songs from the 80’s are now dominating the industry, there isn’t any space for quality music anymore. I mean, I am 21 years old and the only radio stations I listen to are classic rock or simply ‘older’ stations, because if I switch over to something like Capital or Heart, I only like an average of 1 out of every 30 songs played. In terms of the vocal dilemma I am referring to, I will give you an example that might put things into perspective. For example, when Tom Petty was starting to achieve commercial success in the late 70’s, some said that he didn’t have a very good singing voice. And at times it was true, he wasn’t always pitch perfect, but that was ok because it was damn good music. If Tom Petty was just starting his career now, in this music industry, he’d be disregarded without a second thought and songs like ‘Freefallin’ and ‘American Girl’ wouldn’t exist.  And that is what is happening now, there is some modern Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Lennon/McCartney out there who has incredible potential and talent but is being let down and disregarded by this new music industry. We are missing out on so much because of our restricted opinions and endless expectations. But the only somewhat positive thing in all this are things like Spotify, now an artist doesn’t have to be signed to a record label to release their music. This means that they have their own sense of creative control, shaping their artistry themselves as opposed to being moulded into a perfect little pop-star.

Although there are some downsides to things like Spotify, e.g. taking away creative input like artwork and album sleeves, which I’ll talk about in depth in another article, and the financial downsides but it does mean that we have access to some pretty good music that isn’t being treated in the way it would if it was released 40 years ago. It means that we have all of this excellent music which would have been considered mainstream in times gone by but isn’t today. I urge everyone to listen to this music now, before it is too late and we have signed ourselves up to a never-ending circle of monotonous crap. I am sick of this continuous genre in which every song sounds the same and there is no middle ground, no space to venture out into the waters of diversity and change without being publically booted out of the limelight. Every now and then, a talented artist will sneak in under the radar, contributing heavily to a genre long-gone. These are the artists we need to hold onto for as long as we can, this is the only way we will be granted the power to change it up. Shows like the X-Factor are just worshipped by the masses yet there is no value to the music, it is incredibly ironic. If an artist signs up to Simon Cowell’s record label and doesn’t comply in the way he wants them too, they are dropped, they aren’t given the freedom to write songs and develop their own artistry, and if they are dropped, there is an attempt to completely erase them from the history of the show or the music industry itself. It has become a musical dictatorship, stay in line or they will make sure you are forgotten and destroyed. It sounds dramatic but it is happening right in front of our eyes, and it is only getting worse.

In conclusion, whilst there are pros and cons to the digital music world, there doesn’t appear to be anything good that is coming out of shows like the X-Factor, and I just hope that after it gets worse, it starts to get better. Where else can we go but back? We have exhausted every musical possibility, now let’s head back to the era in which the music mattered, and actually sounded good.

Netflix’s ‘The Umbrella Academy’ – Review.

By Mollie Campbell.

Show:  ‘The Umbrella Academy’

Based on:  ‘The Umbrella Academy’ by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá (comic book series).

Where to watch:  Netflix

Genre:  Sci-Fi/Drama/Superhero

Rating:  9/10

Similar shows:  Dark, Marvel’s Runways, X-men.

As soon as I started watching this show I was hooked, the way it was put together so intricately yet effortlessly made me realise I had started watching one of the most unique and dynamic shows to be released in years. I can see why it would be very easy for some people to dismiss it as bad, simply because it is different, it can be hard to really sink your teeth into but after a while it all becomes clear. It has a familiar tone to it yet it is also incredibly innovative, although it never feels forced, everything that happens, even the most unrealistic sub-plots are completely believable, and the quality just gets better with each episode, despite the strange discovering’s along the way. Like the family Butler Pogo for example, who turns out to be a literal talking monkey.

Anyway, the show begins in 1989, the day in which 43 women give birth to children at the same time all over the world, despite none of them having shown any signs of pregnancy. Eccentric tyrant Reginald Hargreeves adopts seven of the children and creates the ‘Umbrella Academy’, his very own superhero team. All of the children are either referred to as their numbers or the names that their cyborg mother gave them, and they each have different powers, apart from number 7 who hasn’t shown signs of any powers, yet. This may sound confusing already so I’ll list the main characters, these are the Hargreeves siblings:

Number 1:  Luther/Spaceboy, an astronaut. (Tom Hopper)

Number 2:  Diego/the Kraken, a vigilante. (David Castaneda)

Number 3:  Allison/the Rumour, a famous actress. (Emma Raver-Lampman)

Number 4:  Klaus/the Séance, a drug addict. (Robert Sheehan)

Number 5:  The Boy, a time-traveller who has been lost in the future since he disappeared when they were teenagers. (Aidan Gallagher)

Number 6:  Ben/the Horror (Justin H. Min)…Ben is deceased but often appears to Klaus.

Number 7: Vanya/the White Violin a violinist who has always felt irrelevant due to her lack of powers. (Ellen Page)

After the estranged siblings learn of their father’s death, they return to the house for the funeral, only to find that Number five has returned from the future after all of these years. Slowly, they uncover many secrets from the past and find out that their father orchestrated their whole lives so that they would one day reunite and save the world from an oncoming apocalypse.

This isn’t just another run of the mill ‘let’s group together as superheroes and save the world’ kind of show…whilst that does happen, it isn’t a certainty. It is a very bumpy road and there are some points in which we are led to believe that there is no way in hell that these group of messed up siblings could possibly get over their emotional torture in order to group together and save the world. This whole show is like a cliché without containing all of the plot devices of a cliché, it is in that sphere for sure, but it uses its plot and character ensemble to its advantage, leaning on it as a tool to create something quirky that hasn’t really been seen before. Quite frankly, the siblings don’t like each other all that much, at some points they can’t stand each other but they have one common thread and that creates the connection that they eventually channel in order to succeed.

Whilst it is dysfunctional, family turns out to be everything that it is important in this show. The character development is extraordinary; we get to know these characters within one episode, without the need for an entire origin story which quite frankly we don’t always have time for. This saves us the unnecessary bore of an intricate setup; instead it places us right in the middle of the action. Whilst the timeline could be clearer at some points, the use of a clear narrative would have actually destroyed the show, this is supposed to be bitty. But if you are worried that it won’t be linear enough, don’t worry as it is pretty easy to follow, but you can expect some surprises along the way.

Whilst this show is undoubtedly dark and somewhat sinister, there is a lot of comedy intertwined throughout, really adding to its unique perspective, it isn’t one fixed genre, it’s a whole bunch of stuff moulded together as one super-genre. Think Netflix’s German show ‘Dark’ meets Marvel’s Runaways, but it also takes a few notes from a Stephen King novel. That is the best way I can describe it and even these comparisons took me a while to come up with, mainly because whilst it is similar to shows we have seen before, it is kind of venturing into its own genre as well.

The main aspect of the story is the idea that no matter how much we try to block it out and leave it behind, our childhood and how we were raised will always be a part of us. It is inescapable, no matter how hard we try to leave.  And ultimately, despite all of the siblings running in complete different directions in order to escape their father’s psychotic ways, eventually the good they find from their upbringing is found within each other. There is a very raw emotion throughout, this really grounds the show and stops it from venturing too far into a sci-fi spoof territory. It is also light-hearted at some points, for example, in the first episode they are all in different sections of their family home, not speaking to each other and then they all begin dancing to ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ by Tiffany. This is kind of poignant, they are all dancing in unison to the same song, feeling the same memories and emotions/nostalgia, they are all tied together but they are dancing alone, foreshadowing the dysfunctional family you are about to watch unravel even further for the next 9 episodes.

The soundtrack is impeccable, and exactly what you would expect from Gerard Way, it combines classic covers and songs, with new originals composed just for the show. The music is almost equally as important as the narrative, it is what makes the show so unique, using its soundtrack to its advantage and giving us that nostalgic twang we all seem to crave. It is a show focusing equally on the present and times gone by, but it shows us that sometimes despite the flow of time, we are all still in the same place because we will always live as the people we are destined to be. But it also embraces change, portraying the idea that we can step out of what has been controlling us since childhood and whatever stereotypes we have been given, we just have to take the first step. I haven’t been this fulfilled by a show in years, and I have never been so excited to watch a show again in such a short space of time, I would recommend this show to everyone!

The Green Book- Movie Review.

By Mollie Campbell.

Movie: The Green Book

Director: Peter Farrelly

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini.

Duration: 130 mins

Rating: 5/5

I just wanted to start by saying that this post isn’t like my other articles, more of a scene by scene analysis due to how important it is. This film fresh, powerful and incredibly influential, everybody needs to watch it.

The story of Frank ‘Tony Lip’ Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and ‘Dr’ Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) was always going to be a meaningful one, and ‘The Green Book’ accurately tells this poignant and heart-warming tale. Set in 1962, in the Deep South, it opens with evident backwards attitudes towards African-Americans, unfortunately accurate of the time. The opening scenes shows Tony working at Copacabana in New York, the night ends with him beating up a disrespectful customer. The next day he wakes up at home to find his family sitting on his couch, when asking why they were there, they replied with: ‘came here to keep Dolores company’ which we see is due to African-American plumbers hired by Tony’s wife. This immediately gives us an insight into these backwards attitudes, Tony’s wife Dolores (Linda Cardellini) offered the men drinks and after they leave Tony takes the glasses they were drinking from and chucks them in the trash. The wife retrieves them and seems disappointed in his actions, proving that not everybody felt the need to treat African-Americans so harshly during that time. This interaction paints a picture, this was a time in which people of colour were segregated so harshly, these days you wouldn’t dream of not letting someone in a restaurant simply because of the colour of their skin (which is something that happens later on in the movie), but if you think about it, it wasn’t that long ago at all, which is quite terrifying. In the movie, Dr Shirley is called an ‘animal’ by another member of society, which is not only infuriately sickening, but it is also incredibly ironic, as Tony’s New York Italian family are incredibly violent, they are portrayed as being worse people yet African-Americans are the ones who are marginalised from society. There is also a scene in which a St. John’s church calendar is clearly on the wall in the background, Tony’s family and their way of life can be morally wrong yet they are accepted more than African-Americans, most of whom are harmless.

Tony is an interesting character because whilst he puts the glasses in the bin, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with African-Americans face to face. He instantly does his job, to protect Dr Shirley, without apprehension. When people have minds that are easily impressionable it can sometimes lead to them believing into this hateful racist agenda, but in many ways it can also lead to a complete lack of judgement in one’s eyes, accepting everybody for who they are which is very true in Tony’s case…not only does he ultimately not care about the fact that Dr. Shirley is an African-American, he also doesn’t seem shocked in the slightest when he is called to pick Don up after being found naked with another man, he doesn’t feed into the same nasty attitude of the times, instead jumping straight in to protect him. But he does understand the severity of the reaction he will get when travelling down south: ‘You and the deep south? There’s gonna be problems’ Tony tells him.

A strong message within the film is how times have changed, the amount of segregation and the foul things people did to people of colour are just sickening…of course we don’t have this attitude today, well, to that extent at least, and that should be the end of the story, but it isn’t. Whilst the severity of the world being portrayed within the Green Book is very different from the one we live in now, there are still very important racial issues that need to be dealt with, especially within the United States. Many times throughout the movie we can guess what is coming next, an unsettling prediction about how Don is going to be treated, to me this is a representation of humans, we always know what’s coming yet we let it happen anyway…every time, let this be a message. Early on in the movie, before the two main characters set off, the A&R men give Tony the ‘Green Book’, e.g. the list of motels to stay at in the South which are safe. Despite Tony not being nearly as racist as his peers, we still see how he changes throughout the course of the movie, at first he is a bit apprehensive which he mostly conceals, until he leaves Don in the car and immediately comes back to take his wallet with him, believing and therefore feeding into a stereotype. But eventually, he really builds an equal friendship with Don.

After the first stop, there is a sad moment in which Tony watches Dr. Shirley sitting on his hotel balcony watching a group of white people in the courtyard, chatting and laughing. This really sheds a light on how lonely it was to live in a white world, Tony finally opens his eyes to this and sees how lonely he is, which is why he drinks every night. The director does a masterful job of intertwining the severity of the time with light-hearted comedy, the seriousness is never diminished and the humour is never trashy, he finds the perfect balance, all whilst staying true to the story. Tony puts Little Richard on the radio but Don doesn’t know who he is, prompting Tony to say: ‘Come on Doc, these are your people’, he then goes to KFC and presumes that Dr. Shirley loves fried chicken because it is the staple food of ‘his people’. Don replies with ‘I have never had fried chicken in my life’. Despite him then going on to say ‘You have a very narrow assessment of me Tony’ which is an incredibly powerful line, he does accept some of Tony’s chicken and enjoys it, opening his mind up to different ways of life, something the white people of the time seemed to be incapable of, the whole country’s attitude stemmed from the basis of one group of people’s incorrect stereotype. This scene ends up as a very important transition from boss/employee to the foundations of a friendship, they laugh as they chuck their chicken bones out of the window but Shirley makes Tony reverse and pick up his drink carton because he can’t stand littering, again affirming how opposite the two are, despite Tony being  a far more abrupt and disrespectful person than Shirley, he is the one who is accepted by society yet the Don isn’t just because he is African-American…it really does make it hard to comprehend how anybody thinks this way.

Another moving moment is when they stop at their motel and Shirley even withdraws himself from a group of African-American people in the courtyard, showing us that he doesn’t feel comfortable in either world. The next moment Tony is called by the other band members to a bar, Shirley is being beaten up by a group of white people, they call him things that I could never repeat in writing, summing up just how incomprehensibly disgusting they are. After Tony finally saves him he says ‘do you know where we are’ to which Shirley responds with ‘does Geography really matter?’…which is seemingly minor but actually incredibly important…why should geography matter? Why should where you live or how you were raised justify such appalling behaviour? A little while later they pull over to the side of the road to fix a problem with the engine,  Don notices African-American farmers in a field, there is no dialogue, merely words spoken through the power of eye contact, this moment is so moving and transformative, it doesn’t require an explanation. Later, Tony asks Don’s band mates why he shakes hands with everyone and smiles despite what they think of him and he responds with ‘he asked for this’…Don is trying to prove a point, an attempt at blazing a trail to break a stereotype that never should have been established in the first place. Whilst in Georgia they portray a lot of things that are associated with ‘Black Culture’ but what happens to people like Shirley who don’t feel a apart of anything? And why should there be separate ‘white’ and ‘black’ cultures? Why not a collective culture for all humans? When they are out walking, Tony convinces Don to try on a suit he likes but the shop attendant says ‘You’re not allowed to try that on’ Shirley is furious but he just leaves calmly, the next thing we see is the infuriation manifesting itself as musical passion when he plays the piano onstage  that night. Shirley is very realistically defensive about everything, which really stresses the idea that they were raised in a world where being defensive and cautionary was vital for survival because of the way they knew they would be treated, they shouldn’t have had to instil that in their children but they had to because of the kind of society they were up against, nobody notices endless amounts provocation until someone retaliates, which then provides a space for negative stereotypes to erupt, which is incredibly unjust. Shirley is very calm and never retaliates, because he knows better… ‘Dignity always prevails’.

When they are taken into police custody after being pulled over for no reason, he is released because of Bobby Kennedy, this highlights President Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, which is sometimes majorly underplayed when remembering that era. Lyndon Johnson may have signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act after JFK died but it was President Kennedy who set it in motion, he provided the foundation for the fight to begin, Shirley says: ‘They are trying to change the country’.  This sparks an argument, ultimately leading Shirley to say “So if I’m not *black* enough and if I’m not *white* enough, then tell me, Tony, what am I?” His heart-breaking lack of identity is a crucial, gut-wrenching and powerful moment. This was a response to Tony saying: ‘I know exactly who I am’, confirming that ‘White’ people were allowed to be whoever they wanted to be, whether they were morally right or wrong, but a ‘black’ person’s identity was stripped from them, their personality wasn’t considered a factor, simply a stereotype.

When Shirley is not allowed to go into a restaurant to eat with everyone else because he is African-American, he and Tony go to the ‘Orange Bird’ down the street. As soon as Tony walks in it is evident that everybody there is African-American, they all stare at him very overtly, finally giving Tony an idea of what it is like to live in a white-dominated world. The only difference is that when the roles are reversed, they don’t act in the same way, after the initial shock of his presence they treat him normally by talking to him and never getting violent which says a lot about how false these ridiculous stereotypes were and how absurd even the concept of segregation is. Shirley gets up and plays on the old piano and the band join in, they all play the blues and Shirley finally feels a apart of something, he smiles freely, not in the forced way that he usually does on a normal show night, in front of his ‘usual’ crowd.

They finally make their way home, with Don offering to drive the final stretch for Tony to get home to his family on Christmas Eve…he drops him home and goes back to his own house. Suddenly he realises he cannot fill the loneliness in his life with possessions (which are show at the start of the movie), instead he craves the company of others. He turns up at Tony’s door, knowing he would finally find it there. In a very emotionally heightened scene, Tony hugs him instantaneously. There is a poignant moment in which Dolores sees how much Tony’s opinions have changed, she too hugs Don. Tony introduces him to his large, over-extended family, for a split second they stare in shock and then they all laugh and get him a plate of food. It really provides one final message to the audience and that is to open your mind up to other viewpoints, just one kind word of love or acceptance can help change multiple opinions, going further and further through endless dominoes of people, all falling into the next, changing perceptions one step at a time. Keep the fight going, keep the candle burning…never let it fade away, and  don’t forget Don Shirley’s quote:  ‘It takes courage to change people’s hearts’.

Ready Player One- Book Review.

By Mollie Campbell.

Book: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Genre: Science-Fiction, Dystopian

Rating: 9/10

 

When I read the synopsis for ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline I was intrigued, but not enough to give it a read. This was due to the fact that I am not a gamer; the last video game I played was probably Mario Kart Wii when I was about 10 years old, I bought a PlayStation 4 three years ago and I still do not own a single ps4 game, instead using it for Netflix…you get the idea. But when I read the blurb in a bookshop and not online, I felt more inclined to give it chance, I find it rather difficult to deny a book a read when I am holding the finished work in my hands, imagining the author sat in a room pouring out parts of their soul onto every page. This is just one example of the power that books have over me, I felt inspired to read it and I am glad I did. As soon as I opened the first page I was hooked, Cline’s writing has such honesty to it. He writes so descriptively I could envision myself inside of the protagonist’s world within a few pages; this is something seasoned writers find hard to accomplish even in the space of a whole chapter…Cline manages to do it within the mere opening pages, which is rather astonishing for a first published work.

Not only does he establish a completely otherworldly society, he also has the ability to catapult us into the world he is writing about, as if we are the avatars roaming around the OASIS. He opens the book from the perspective of protagonist Wade Watts, a poor high school student living in the ‘Stacks’…which is basically a trailer park gone wrong. He paints such a vivid picture for the reader with such descriptive words, all effortlessly strung together yet it isn’t boring, it only takes him a few sentences to set the scene. We learn about the entire OASIS straight away, the OASIS is a simulation in which many people live their lives, it is where people can live behind the masks of their avatars…anything is possible, Wade even attends his school as an online avatar. Not only is this a very exciting concept, it is also foreshadowing where we could be headed in reality, the simulation is created as something to distract people, it provides a space in which people can find an escape from their lives of misery. The book is set in the 2040’s, fossil-fuels have essentially been exhausted, global warming truly has become the crisis we are currently being warned of,  the world’s population is at an all-time high and quality of life is generally poor for any member of society who does not fall into the top financial bracket. The OASIS is their sole source of sanctuary, or the only place in which they can find some sort of happiness.

Wade Watts falls into this category, both of his parents are dead and the only excitement he feels is when he logs into the OASIS…then one day James Halliday, the creator of the simulation passes away. He leaves a video message for the whole world, giving everyone a quest to find his Easter egg, hidden somewhere inside the OASIS. The winner would ultimately inherit his multi-billion dollar fortune and his entire estate (include ownership of the OASIS). Wade devotes his life to finding the egg, and after five years of trying he finds the first key, igniting a worldwide battle for the egg once more, after a disheartening stagnant period. This is an electrifying tale of one kid’s mission, Cline introduces some heart-warming characters along the way, and naturally there are many Easter eggs within the book itself, literary prizes for the reader to enjoy, given to us by our very own James Halliday…Ernest Cline.  What really gives the book its uniqueness is the use of a multitude of different outlets, this isn’t just for gamers, this book has everything. Nostalgic warmth is buried within its core and it oozes with sentiment and a longing for years gone by, perfect for an 80’s obsessed 21 year old like me. The references to 80’s bands, songs, album covers, video games, books, movies, TV-shows, even breakfast cereals is what makes the book so thrilling, yet it never feels forced, the reader doesn’t feel bombarded with references, instead it is satisfying. And also crucial to the plot as the key to Wade finding this egg is in the creator’s obsession with anything to do with the 80’s, the era he grew up in.

I find it interesting that this book was released in 2011, way before society seemed to become mesmerised by the concept of the 80’, years before the introduction of shows like ‘Stranger Things’. The plot is intricate yet understandable, even for a non-gamer like me, but what really impresses me is his use of structure. In a way he makes the book itself take the form of a video game, not just in the fact that there are three parts, entitled ‘Levels’. I mean in the way he delivers dialogue and key points within the story, it is abrupt, the readers feelings are made to mirror that of the avatar’s…we are on edge the whole time almost as we are scared that the next page will transform into a bright screen with the words ‘Game Over’ etched into the middle. On top of all this, the characters are meaningful, they aren’t just the throwaway avatars we are envisioning. The love story running throughout doesn’t make us cringe, it is fitting and poignant, human connection clearly hasn’t been lost completely, even within the confinements of a virtual reality. He touches on diversity, acceptance, sexuality, race, gender…it’s not just a game, it’s a message, telling us that no matter what happens or what life throws at us, we still have a choice between right and wrong.

This book started as a mere title on the ‘possibility’ section within my reading list and ended as one of my favourite books in recent years, defiantly racing to the top of the scoreboard just like Wade Watts. Some aspects reminded me of a contemporary version of George Orwell’s ‘1984’; at times it was as if I had fallen through a portal into Steven Spielberg’s brain. It also made me feel as if I was stepping back into Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James Halliday is the very man Willy Wonka would have morphed into if catapulted into a modern technological world. Despite these astonishing comparisons, the book still stands strong on its own, basking in the glory of its own legacy…welcoming anyone who wants to enter, ready player one.

Tears for Fears – Gig Review.

By Mollie Campbell.

Band: Tears for Fears

Opening Act: Alison Moyet

Location: Bournemouth

Rating 9/10

A nostalgia storm swept through Bournemouth last night as 80’s band ‘Tears for Fears’ took to the stage at the BIC, treating the audience to their iconic back catalogue of hits plus some fan favourites. The band, comprised of Roland Orzabal (Guitar, Vocals) and Curt Smith (Bass, Vocals), stepped on to the stage with a skillful and polished calibre, they are now seasoned performers, meaning that this tour was a homecoming, a celebration of an iconic band whose music contributed to the soundtracks of our youth. Whilst I am only 21, meaning I wasn’t even born when they released their most iconic songs, I too can understand the meaning of these songs, the indescribable sound of a memory, or the warmth of a touch, intertwined in every note escaping from the hands of the musicians we are watching.  These songs were the soundtrack to my youth as well, and the moment the band breaks into ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ it filled me with a profound sense of reminiscence, happiness, pain, and everything in between. Smith and Orzabal performed it with such ease and mastery, it sounded incredible, proving that these bands still have the timeless factor when competing with modern music, they belted out each song with such conviction it felt like it still meant something, and it does.

To the rest of the world it was just a two hour time slot on a Thursday evening, but to the attendees of this show, it felt like a wave of synth based electricity hitting our bodies with such an impactful sentiment, all within what felt like two minutes. The band accompanying them were brilliant and the atmosphere these musicians created was quite inspirational, the fact that they still got such pleasure out of performing classic songs like ‘Mad World’, which really was a highlight. It is easy to stereotype Tears for Fears simply as an 80’s pop band with a string of ‘standard’ mainstream hits, but when they are onstage this stereotype is struck down in its prime, they are more than just synth-reliant vocalists…they are talented on their instruments, a highlight was watching Smith’s bass solo and how Orzabal interacted with him and his guitar, as well as the drummer and pianist. It really confirmed that this band is so much more than a reminiscent pop band, they are talented and use the stage to tell a story, every song is meaningful, the lyrics are powerful and they sang them with such feeling and devotion, it was moving.

As the show went on, they seemed to get better, feeling the rush of the crowd’s enthusiasm… they chose ‘Shout’ as the encore, they couldn’t close a show with any other song. This is their anthem, the crowd recites it word for word, looping on the chorus again and again. This song is timeless, and as long as we continue to find the voices within ourselves, it will always be relevant. They exit the stage in a bubble of happiness, leaving the audience feeling electrified and a tiny bit more connected with the past they may have been scared of losing.

‘Simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda’- Book Review.

By Mollie Campbell.

Book: ‘Simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda’

Author: Becky Albertalli

Rating: 6/10

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, LGBT

 

When I first started reading ‘Simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda’ I found it very difficult to sink my teeth into, nothing seemed to jump out at me which was quite disheartening as I was invested in the plot before I even purchased the book, but the structure seemed to create a dullness in terms of narrative. Nothing is particularly established apart from the fact that Simon is clearly being blackmailed which is obviously a big thing, and of course we get to know the characters through the online interactions between Simon and ‘Blue’ but the lack of an instant set-up and/or dialogue without the background knowledge to necessarily understand the severity of the situation, felt rushed. Then I gave it another shot and realised that the format is what gives the book its individuality, it is also very simple to follow and the writer uses aspects of the modern technological society we are living in to portray a contemporary love story, and a very important one at that.

As the book opens we meet Simon Spier, a high school student who has been talking to ‘Blue’ (his online name) over email, but the problem is that nobody in real-life knows that Simon is gay.  This tale takes us on a journey… ups and downs, it makes us angry, it makes us cry, it makes us smile and reinforces the idea that we are all individual and unique in our own way, and tells us how we should embrace our differences instead of pointing them out as something to be ashamed of. One of my favourite quotes from the book is: “People really are like houses with vast rooms and tiny windows”. It is a very thought-provoking observation of humans…we all live separate lives yet we are ignorant enough to think we know people inside out but that just isn’t the case, each person is made up of endless chapters, bound in an infinite book, and this story really highlights that. But at the same time, it also shows us that we don’t always see ourselves in the way others see us from the outside: “Sometimes it seems like everyone knows who I am except me”.

Apart from the rather annoying and constant use of the word ‘freaking’, an important story is established, one which many young adults are struggling with as we speak. Even in this modern and therefore open world, it is still a momentous decision to come out. For example, some people have identified as gay for as long as they can remember and they may have found it easier to have identified as that because it is what they have always known, for other people it isn’t as simple as that. Not only is there an internal battle between what people convince themselves the world thinks is ‘wrong’ and ‘right’, they feel as though they fit in with the former. I don’t think it is necessarily shame, more so finding the courage to be different and to publically label yourself as something in which people may constantly stereotype. Of course, I am not saying that people who are already out have it any easier; it is simply a different tale. This book not only reiterates to the reader that being gay truly is ok (not that it should have been necessary to confirm this in the first place), it also shows them that they are allowed to deal with it in whichever way they want to. If they want to come out, if they don’t want to come out, anything that doesn’t prevent them from being comfortable in their own skin. It also provides us with the message that the whole thing is in that individual person’s hands, nothing you decide is the wrong choice, it’s too personal for that…and nobody has the right to make any decisions for you, which is emphasised in this book.

Unfortunately I wouldn’t describe it as an advanced piece of literature in terms of language, variation or versatility but I did enjoy it and I’d probably read it again. Even though there may be a slight lack of flair or uniqueness to the writing, the significance of the plot and the heart-warming journey Simon goes on more than makes up for it. But I will give momentous credit where it is due, as Albertalli has managed to create such impactful yet contrasting characters in a relatively small amount of words, characters that stay with us long after leaving the book behind. And maybe this story leaves us all a tiny bit more capable of understanding ourselves as individual human beings, or at least provides us with the space necessary to do so.