Thursday, October 20, 2011

Will the Talented Gallagher Brother Please Stand Up

Since the break up of Oasis, both brothers Noel and Liam have put out new albums.  Let's take a look, dig into each one, and figure out who the real talent of the Gallagher family is.

Liam's band Beady Eye put out an album first, so we'll start there.

Beady Eye - Different Gear, Still Speeding (Feb. 28, 2011)

Liam is the little brother who sang for the band Oasis, while Noel wrote the songs.  Since he wasn't the one creating the music, it seemed like he had something to prove, and always wore the sneer of a kid who just shit in your pudding.  So when Oasis broke up, he took the rest of the band with him and formed Beady Eye, his chance to shit in Noel's pudding.

Different Gear, Still Speeding is a 13 song, 52 minute album, which would be great if it were packed with solid hooks and beautiful melodies, but it's not.  The album is filled with forgettable songs with vapid lyrics.

The first five songs drift by without standing out in any way.  Four Letter Word is clearly aimed at Noel, The Roller rips off the melody of Instant Karma, and Beatles and the Stones takes the cake.  He compares himself to the legacy of these two great bands, and waxes about how he'll be remembered and canonized like them once he's gone.  I know, I threw up a little also.

Things change once Bring the Light arrives.  It has some nice piano work, is actually a catchy song, but has one little problem.  It suffers from a McCartneyesque refusal to end.  Instead it drags on way past the point it should.  Look down there kids, you'll see Paul kicking a dead horse.  The same problem appears later in the album, when Wigwam tacks an unneeded 3 minutes on.

The album isn't all crap.  For Anyone, is actually a really catchy song, and one of only two songs on the album that I could actually say are good.  It's just too bad you have to slog through 20 minutes of mediocre music to get to this little glimmer of hope.  Sadly, it doesn't keep up, and it's almost another 20 minutes until we get to another good song.  The Beat Goes On, may be the best song on the album.  It's catchy with a nice little Farfisa bit in the background.

The problem with Different Gear, Still Speeding is that you have to dig through 45 minutes of shit to find these two little nuggets of gold.  It's not worth the money.  Catch these two songs on spotify without having to listen to the rest of the garbage the album is packed with.  If this is Oasis without Noel, he's better off without them.

Noel Gallagher - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (Oct. 17, 2011)

Noel was the song generator and the backbone of Oasis, but now that he's left the group and jettisoned his hanger on brother, he has a chance to show us how good he really is.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds is a 10 song, 42 minute album without any of the filler stuffed into Beady Eye's album.  High Flying Birds is packed with low key pop songs with catchy hooks, interesting imagery, and let's be honest, far better songwriting than little brother Liam could ever muster.

The album comes out of the gate strong with Everybody's on the Run and continues at top quality all the way through.  The second song, Dream On, could be a hit if it could ever reach the airwaves here in the states.  If I Had a Gun, is a somewhat love song, without the downfall of resorting to all of the cheesy metaphors that go with it.  The Death of You and Me is one of the better songs on the album, and clearly aimed at Liam.  Is he "the storm cloud sucking up my sun"?  It would seem so.

Four songs into this album, and the imagery becomes a clear thread of new starts, fresh outlooks, closing the door on the past, and distancing yourself or escaping from things that bring you down.  There's an optimism that runs through the songs, as if Noel's excited by the new path he's traveling down.

Aka ... Broken Arrow is a standout song, whose guitar work is balanced out by organ and what sounds like a theramin.  Stranded on the Wrong Beach follows with more images of falling, sinking, or drowning, and being on a journey into the unknown.

It's a shame that he didn't do most of the singing in Oasis.  He has a strong voice that's a lot clearer than the whining that seems to be Liam's trademark.  If people are expecting an Oasis style rocking album, they'll be disappointed, but if you appreciate a good pop song, then this album is for you.

Not many people know this, but Noel and Liam had an older brother who goes by the moniker of Gallagher, and is also a performer.  Gallagher left his home in Manchester to become a comedic sensation in the United States in the 70's and 80's.  He's known for his trademark newsboy cap, crazy skullett (bald mullett), and the large mallet that he uses to smash watermelons to the delight of people of all ages.  He became America's top comic for a time.

Sadly around the same time his younger brothers entered into the spotlight, the elder Gallagher was in decline.  People had grown tired of watching a grown man smash perfectly good watermelons.  But it was the allegations of racism and homophobia that eventually sidelined his career.

Now sadly living on the dole back in the house he grew up in Manchester, Gallagher feigns disinterest in the musical trajectory of his younger brothers.  When asked what he thinks, he just mumbles under his breathe, watching reruns of Are You Being Served while his watermelon mallet sits forlornly in the corner gathering dust.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Melancholia (2011) - Lars von Trier

Lars von Trier has always been known for his brutally emotional films.  Melancholia is no different, though it appears to be his most polished film since The Element of Crime.  The cinematography is gorgeous and the CG effects are used so perfectly, that they enhance the film without hitting us over the head like so many Hollywood films tend to do these days.  Von Trier's unfortunate Nazi comments shouldn't take away from the power of the film, which shows him tapping creatively into his own bouts with depression.

The film is broken into three parts.  Starting with a dreamy and gorgeous prelude which functions almost like the chorus of a Greek tragedy.  Instead of words, only the images and sound sets the tone and the mood for what will follow.

Part One - Justine

The story follows two sisters, the first of these, Justine (Kirsten Dunst),  is shown on her wedding day.  She and her new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgaard) are introduced already in the midst of a struggle.  Their limo cannot make it up the winding driveway to bring them to their reception, and becomes hopelessly stuck.  It's a simple way to introduce the couple, and it paints a picture of the larger difficulties to come.

Her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) have thrown the party at their own home, an enormous estate in the midst of a private 18 hole golf course.  When the couple arrive two hours late to the reception, Claire, a control freak, is rubbed the wrong way from the beginning.  Justine notices a strange star on the horizon, glowing red in the night sky.  She finds herself unsettled by its appearance.  Add in some crazy parents, a boss that hounds her to come up with copy for an ad campaign on her wedding day, the nephew he tells to get it from her that night or he's fired, a hinted at problem with mental instability, and a husband powerless to help her keep it all together, and you have a hint of the dark path this normally happy wedding day takes.

Justine starts out a glowing, beautiful, and confidant bride, but ends the night broken, dishevelled, and uncertain once everything has unraveled, including her marriage.  Claire ends up being a point of strength for Justine, someone stable she can lean on when she can't stand on her own.

Part Two - Claire

The focus has now shifted to Claire, who we find taking care of Justine after she's had some sort of breakdown.  Claire helps to bathe and feed her since Justine hasn't the energy to take care of herself.  John, ever the confident husband, watches in judgement, disapproving of the time, effort, and money spent trying to rehabilitate Justine while their son Leo watches unaware of what's wrong with his aunt.

The star that had troubled Justine the night of her wedding turns out to be a mysterious planet that will fly past the Earth.  Claire fears it will collide with, and destroy the planet.  She obsesses about it.  John is confident that won't happen, and is excited about its appearance.

This second half of the film is about watching the scales tilt as Claire slowly becomes the unstable and irrational sister, while Justine appears to be the rational one.  Their roles have now reversed.

All of the characters in this film appear to represent facets of how depression is dealt with.  John is denial, Claire is fear and panic, while Justine becomes acceptance in the face of the inevitable.  It's a bleak message, but then again von Trier isn't known for his comedic chops.  They're all helpless to stop the impending destruction.  There's no escape from death.  It's something everyone has to look forward to.  It's just how you face it.  The same can be said for how people face depression.  Will it be with strength and courage, or will it be fear and panic?

The film is gorgeous, enjoyable (if that can be said about a film with such a dark message), and one of the better films I've seen in a long time.

Rent it here: