HOT PRESS LIVE REVIEW: MORRRISSEY

15 05 2015

Here’s a reprint of Morrissey’s recent show at the Odyssey….

MORRISSEY

THE ODYSSEY, BELFAST

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It’s no secret that tonight may be the final time Morrissey performs in Belfast. Currently on the ropes due to well documented battles with his health and his former label Harvest, the modest crowd assembled tonight could be the final nail in the coffin. However, the opening salvo of the Smiths classic ‘The Queen Is Dead’ and ‘Suedehead,’ performed in front of a photo of Elizabeth Windsor giving the fingers, proves that if his Mozjesty is going down, he’s going down fighting.

Those expecting a Greatest Hits heavy, chicken in a basket style cabaret set for his first northern show in six years are of course left wanting. Instead, Morrissey performs a wedge of material from recent LP World Peace Is None Of Your Business and peppers proceedings with life-changing, evergreen anthems like ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday.’ Sounding bullish from the get-go thanks in part to his muscular backing band, tonight’s show is equal parts good (‘Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before’), bad (‘Scandinavia’) and ugly (‘Meat Is Murder’).

Now a regular feature during his gigs, his decision to screen harrowing footage from 2011 animal cruelty documentary Farm To Fridge leaves some weeping, provokes others to walk out and a sizeable minority to boo him afterwards. Played two thirds into his set, it’s impossible to simply “enjoy” the rest of the show after watching so much bloodshed. Undeterred, Moz picks up right where he left off after ”Meat Is Murder’ but it’s all in vain. He’s killed the gig, for want of a better word, and not even an electric version of the Smiths’ ‘What She Said.’ can save the day. On the bright side though, if tonight does turn out to be Morrissey’s final bow in Belfast then at the very least he has this reviewer’s respect for doing it his way.

EDWIN McFEE





HOT PRESS COLUMN: MY TV FORTNIGHT

27 04 2015

Here’s a reprint of a recent TV column I wrote for Hot Press. WARNING: there be spoilers.

MY TV FORTNIGHT

WITH EDWIN McFEE

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Recently at Castle McFee I waved goodbye, with my metaphorical lobster claw, to American Horror Story: Freak Show. Now that the dust has settled on this tale of Elsa Mars’ travelling carnival, looking back I feel that the fourth series of this wildly inventive anthology (yep, I’m still not down with this Yank-ified “season” lark) was definitely a divisive one. Ultimately though, creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk should be applauded for not milking the tried and tested horror tropes this time around. As much as the FX Channel may have wanted a more straight forward show featuring large chested ladies incessantly running up stairs away from loonies whose one-liners are as sharp as their knives, the producers instead gave them (and us) an oddly sweet offering about misfits and mistakes.

Once again bolstered by another barn-storming performance from American Horror Story stalwart Jessica Lange, her turn as the fame-obsessed, German ex-pat Elsa Mars was, as expected, terrific. Full of pathos and pure ambition, the leader of the freak show was actually strangely lovable despite her [SPOILER] murderous ways. Other highlights of the 1952-set story was the tale of Pepper the Pin-Head and the eventual reveal that each series is loosely connected. While at first, one of the appeals of AMH was that each instalment featured a different theme and different characters (often played by the same troupe of actors), the comic fan in me loves the intertextuality of it all and [SPOILER] Sister Mary Eunice from American Horror Story: Asylums unannounced appearance in Freak Show was a great treat for fans. Especially as it was set before the events of the aforementioned Asylum. Poor old Sister Mary Eunice….

Anyway, other high points included Neil Patrick Harris as the mental magician Chester Creb. Obsessed with his ventriloquist dummy (which looked a little like Susan Boyle to these eyes), his brief two episode stint was mesmerizing, as was Wes Bentley’s three episode turn as the (literally) two-faced nobleman Edward Mordrake who treaded the line between camp and creepy with ease.

Now onto the negatives. Namely, lobster boy Jimmy and his relentless weeping over [SPOILERS] the murder of Meep the Geek. While I’m sure wee Meep was a lovely lad (when he wasn’t biting the heads off of chickens for a laugh), the grief was over-cooked and unconvincing. Another misfire was the handling of Twisty the Clown, who unfortunately only appeared in five of the 13 episodes. An absolutely terrifying creation inspired in part by John Wayne Gacy, actor John Carroll Lynch was superb as the misunderstood maniac. In fact, according to director Ryan Murphy, a third of the crew often left the set when he was shooting his scenes as he scared them all shit-less. Sadly though, Twisty’s reign of terror ended abruptly and although many suffering from coulrophobia won’t thank me for it, I would’ve really loved to have seen more of his mutilated mug. Some rumours have said that show-runners canned the clown early as they felt he was simply too scary and would force viewers to turn off. Wusses!

Overall, Freak Show was an enjoyable oddity and certainly better than last year’s uneven Coven. New-comer to the series Finn Wittrock was the undisputed star for me. Playing murderous mammy’s boy Dandy Mott, he rivalled Jessica Lange when it came to on screen charisma and killer lines and here’s hoping the actor returns for AMH’s fifth chapter later this year.

Speaking of series number five, the writers have revealed they hid some Easter eggs related to the next theme (American Horror Story: Hotel) throughout Freak Show for fans to speculate over. According to Ryan Murphy, the various images of top hats in different episodes are worth paying attention to. Oh, and Lady Gaga will join the cast. Consider me more than intrigued.





HOT PRESS ALBUM REVIEW: THERAPY? ‘DISQUIET’

23 03 2015

Here’s an un-trimmed for space review of the new Therapy? record that ran in Hot Press (with added ‘Still Hurts’ track review below).

THERAPY?

Disquiet (Amazing Record Co.)

Key Track: ‘Deathstimate’

ROCK LEGENDS STILL KICKING AGAINST THE CLIQUES.

8/10

Known, loved and rightly lauded for never making the same record twice, the unpigeonholeable rock pioneers Therapy? have once more set sail for pastures new on Disquiet. Leaving behind the measured menace of their previous two LPs, album number 14 is a more direct beast which often kicks as much ass as the Mighty Thor. Something of a spiritual successor to High Anxiety, Disquiet boasts 11 melodic punk and metal-imbued blasts of head-cracking riffs and filthy basslines and fans of the likes of Troublegum and Semi-Detached will find much to love on the record.

Lyrically speaking, singer/guitarist Andy Cairns is in vintage form as he muses on the passage of time (the Pantera-punning ‘Vulgar Display Of Powder’ is a particular standout on that front). ‘Still Hurts,’ ‘Idiot Cousin’ and ‘Tides’ are future live favourites, packed with pithy lines, massive choruses and satisfyingly meaty guitars, but it’s album closer ‘Deathstimate’ which really steals the show. Initially intended as a fusion of early Sabbath and Portishead, the seven minute long monster is a masterpiece and like nothing they’ve done before. Built around a magnificent riff dripping with doom influences, Cairns’ mournful vocals are perfectly weighted and utterly arresting. Not only is it the best track on the record, it’s one of their finest recorded moments and a welcome reminder that Therapy? still have plenty of surprises up their sleeves.

MARCH 20

EDWIN McFEE

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HOT PRESS 900

17 03 2015

So,issue 900 of Hot Press is out (yes,nine fucking hundred) and this fortnight I interviewed Ripper Street’s Charlene McKenna and hotly tipped singer Natalie Prass,waved a fond farewell to American Horror Story: Freak Show in‪#‎MyTVFortnight‬ and reviewed records by Swervedriver, the Answer and Cry Monster Cry. My ‪#‎TracksOfTheFortnight‬ include offerings from Therapy?, Race The Flux,More Than Conquerors, Paranoid Visions, Joanna Gruesome and more. Here’s to issue 1000.

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HOT PRESS ALBUM REVIEW: CHERYL ‘ONLY HUMAN’

28 02 2015

Here’s a reprint of my verdict on the new Cheryl Tweedy album that ran in Hot Press a few issues ago.Guess who’s still disappointed in her solo stuff?

CHERYL

Only Human (Polydor)

Key Track: ‘Goodbye Means Hello’

5/10

POP PRINCESS’ CROWN CONTINUES TO SLIP.

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Only Human is something of a make or break album for “Cheryl.” Her first record since the split of Girls Aloud and her second since dumping any kind of surname, the former reality TV contestant and current talent show judge really needed to step up her game with her fourth solo outing. Unfortunately, her latest effort only sees her stumble and in some cases, spectacularly so.

Part of the problem is that her solo career has failed to yield a truly stellar hit, one which would do for her what ‘Crazy in Love’ did for Beyonce post Destiny’s Child. Whereas Girls Aloud unleashed some of the most exciting and inventive pop songs of their generation (thanks in part to production team Xenomania), Cheryl has struggled to release anything even remotely original and Only Human carries on that trend. Throwaway, club-tinged plastic pop songs like ‘I Don’t Care’ and ‘It’s About Time’ are as dull as big band night on The X Factor while elsewhere her ballads (such as the title track) are mawkish and mediocre. The songs that are co-written by ex-Girls Aloud member Nicola Roberts are worth your attention though (see a trend here?) and ‘Goodbye Means Hello’ in particular has a fiendish hook, but ultimately there’s nothing to rival the likes of former G.A. hits ‘The Promise’ or ‘The Show.’

OUT NOW

EDWIN McFEE





Beach Slang

31 01 2015

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Bye Bye 2014

31 12 2014

2014 was an incredibly happy, healthy and hugely productive year for me. Now normally when it comes to Dec 31 posts on Dead Horse, I usually stick up a bunch of photos which have summed up the past 12 months, but this time,I’m only going for one as it’s a photo that I’ll always remember until the day I kick the bucket.

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“Childhood Dream Achievement unlocked” as “the kids” say these days.

To put it all into context, in 1987 Daddy Christmas brought me Iron Maiden’s ‘Live After Death’ on double cassette, which I played the absolute shit out of.In fact, here it is here.Fun fact-for years I thought Bruce Dickinson’s iconic “Scream for me Long Beach” line was actually “SCREAM FOR ME LONG BITCH.” What a Long Bitch is, I did not know of course.

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It started a lifelong love affair with all things Maiden.They were like a favourite band, football team and super-heroes all rolled into one big galloping bass/dueling guitar-laden bundle. I really can’t count the amount of amazing times I’ve had that have featured Maiden in some way. There have been tons. They’ve never let me down. They’ve always been inspiring and frankly if the likes of ‘Aces High’ doesn’t make you hold your air guitar aloft and shoot invisible crowd members just like Steve Harris, then frankly you’re a lost cause.

My first ever tape I bought for myself was ‘Killers,’ my first CD I purchases was the live version of ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name,’ my first  “proper” gig was Maiden https://edwinmcfee.wordpress.com/?s=my+first+gig You get the drift…

For decades, I figured the closest I’d get to Steve Harris (AKA Maiden’s head honcho and one of the most creative, driven and inspiring people, well, ever, really) was when he “shot” me a couple of times with his bass at Brixton Academy during the Irons’ Clive-Aid gigs.Little did I know then of course…

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2002 was also the year I started my music journalism career and through sheer bloody-minded-ness and being a stubborn bastard, I eventually interviewed Maiden singers past and present-Paul Di’Anno, Blaze Bayley and Bruce Dickinson. The latter happened when I was 25 (at my brother’s house) and afterwards, while getting well and truly shit-faced to celebrate achieving a/the career goal, I contemplated packing it all in and getting a proper job.

However, despite initially being a little bereft due to ticking off all my entries of my career bucket list in three years (that’s my second bucket reference so far.I fucking love buckets, me!), I stuck at it, came up with some new goals, ticked them off and everything was dandy.

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Steve was still at the back of my head though and on July 5, 2014, something I’ve literally dreamed about since I was 8 became a reality and our paths crossed while I was frantically trying to find the press office at Sonisphere (hence why my face is redder than Babe the Pig’s arse after a night round Dita Von Tease’s gaff. Coz, y’know,she’s proper into spanking and stuff *shrugs*). He was cooler than Pingu in a freezer too,

That moment has literally made all the cancelled interviews, delayed payments, unavoidable dalliances with melters who steal credit and contacts and “that fucking Chris Rea” interview all worth it.Every single horrible minute of it all.

So yep, here’s to 2014.An unforgettable year for me.What happens next, I really don’t know but I’m looking forward to finding out.Maybe I’ll have a pint with Eddie?

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So without further ado, thanks to all the editors, promoters and bands I’ve worked with this year (yes, even those of you who destroy my happiness by bugging me constantly on Facebook via private message).

Here are my end of year lists which I sent off to the mags I write for. Happy New Year folks. Up the Irons.

Albums of 2014

The Murder City Devils ‘The White Ghost Has Blood On Its Hands Again’

The Dwarves ‘Invented Rock & Roll’

Beach Slang ‘Cheap Thrills On Dead End Streets/Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken’

Gaslight Anthem ‘Get Hurt’

Blood Or Whiskey ‘Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil’

Rancid ‘…Honour Is All We Know’

Raglans ‘Raglans’

Chuck Ragan ‘Til Midnight’

Dan Sartain ‘Dudesblood’

Windings/Land Lovers ‘Windings/Land Lovers’

Brody Dalle ‘Diploid Love’

Death From Above 1979 ‘Physical World’

Abebisi Shank ‘This Is The Third Album By A Band Called Adebisi Shank’

September Girls ‘Cursing The Sea’

Skull Fist ‘Chasing The Dream’

Groom ‘Bread And Jam’

The Riptide Movement ‘Getting Through’

Ben Glover ‘Atlantic’

Metronomy ‘Love Letters’

Kerbdog ‘Congregation’

 

Metal Hammer albums of 2014

The Murder City Devils ‘The White Ghost Has Blood On Its Hands Again’

The Dwarves ‘The Dwarves Invented Rock ‘N’ Roll’

Rancid ‘…Honour Is All We Know’

Skull Fist ‘Chasing The Dream’

Darkest Era ‘Severance’

HARK ‘Crystalline’

Mastodon ‘Once More Round The Sun’

Primordial ‘Where Greater Men Have Fallen’

John Garcia ‘John Garcia’

Cerebral Ballzy ‘Jaded & Faded’

Skindred ‘Kill The Power’

SSS ‘Limp.Gasp.Collapse’

Black Label ‘Society Catacombs Of The Black Vatican’

Demonic Resurrection ‘The Demon King’

Down ‘IV Part II’

Portrait ‘Crossroads’

Grand Magus ‘Triumph And Power’

Trash Talk ‘No Peace’

Orange Goblin ‘Back From The Abyss’

Brant Bjork ‘Black Power Flower’

 

Songs Of 2014

Beach Slang ‘Dirty Cigarettes’

Beach Slang ‘American Girls And French Kisses’

Chuck Ragan ‘Non Typical’

Kasabian ‘Eez-Eh’

Taylor Swift ‘Shake It Off’

Charli XCX ‘Boom Clap’

Bully ‘Milkman’

Lorde ‘Tennis Court’

The Minutes ‘Cherry Bomb’

Iggy Azalea ‘Fancy’








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