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

clown-ahs

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.





News From The North Week 52

26 04 2010

Here’s the NI band news from the previous issue of Hot Press. Enjoy.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

By the time you read this, the Beat Poets will be just back from South by Southwest and are currently gearing up to release their superb new single ‘One By One’ on April 19 via all major download sites. Last month we had a sneaky listen to the track and it’s definitely one of the boys’ best, making us even more eager to get a hold of their debut record once they put the finishing touches to it. The band have just confirmed dates at the Square Peg, Warrenpoint (April 17) and the Spring and Airbrake, Belfast (April 23) and are also playing alongside the Saw Doctors and General Fiasco at the Lark in the Park, Moira (May 1) too. For more Beat Poets action check out www.thebeatpoets.com.

Remember last fortnight we were moaning about not receiving a copy of the LaFaro album? Well, while we’re still sans their debut slab of wax, we can reveal that they’ve announced more tour dates, which is great news if you didn’t manage to snag a ticket for their launch on April 26 in the Menagerie in Belfast. The new dates are April 27 at the Menagerie and May 16 at the INF in Warrenpoint and we’re sure there’s more to follow in the coming weeks.

 Good news for anyone thinking about going to the Pigstock festival in Killinchy. While original headliners LaFaro have sadly had to pull out due to touring commitments, A Plastic Rose have stepped in to close proceedings. Taking place on May 29, the bash also features the likes of Swanee River, Pocket Billiards, Mojo Fury, the Lowly Knights, Gentry Morris and more on the bill and it looks like it’s should be a great day out. Tickets cost £20 and are available from the official website www.pigstockfestival.co.uk.





Lady GaGa-Bad Romance

25 11 2009

I’ve already harped on ad infinitum about how amazing I think Lady GaGa is, but if you need further proof that she’s one of the best pop stars of the decade-take a look at this video-





Hot Summer, What A Bummer Part 2

12 10 2009

The second festival I covered this year was about a month after Download and it was the much talked about Oxegen. This year’s bill was the best ever-specky indie kids could get their kicks from the likes of Blur and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, goths had Nick Cave and Nine Inch Nails, pop kids had Katy Perry and Lady GaGa, rockers had Therapy? and Eagles of Death Metal and dance heads had their own tent. We camped out as usual this year BECAUSE I AM HARDCORE (not in the “I’m hardcore/I’m a Straight Edge wanker” way-in a comedy way of course) and the weather was probably the worst I’ve ever experienced. Still, the music was great and thanks to the Hot Press people being so understanding, I didn’t have to review Kings of Leon so I could watch Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds instead. Result!

Day one consisted of travelling down, getting drenched, interviewing Duke Special on camera then meeting Brody Dalle, catching up with the Therapy? boys, drinking some beer and spotting Udo from Accept (http://www.therapyquestionmark.co.uk/biography/diary/read.php?diaryid=272). What he was doing there I’ll never know, but he seemed to get my phone number outta somewhere. Hmmmm…

Day two was a total washout. After Yeah Yeah Yeahs I thought I was a goner (probably should’ve followed Carrie’s lead by getting hammered on wine) but it cleared up nicely for old Nick who put on the show of his life. Day three saw us leave after Katy Perry (who was amazing) but not before torrrential rain soaked us so badly my phone drowned in my pocket. Still, the GaGa and Katy more than made up for it.

Anyway, I covered day two for Hot Press, and here’s the reprint that I lovingly typed up while caked in mud.

Oxegen Day Two (July 11)

Kicking things off bright and early, New Jersey blue collar punks the Gaslight Anthem arrive onstage 20minutes late and grinning like seven year olds who just won a year’s supply of sweets. Currently the subject of many a bro-mance (ahem) singer Brian Fallon is a charming devil and his band play cuts culled from their second record The ’59 Sound. It’s safe to say that the boys are on a total Tom Petty/Bruce Springsteen trip (in fact they even cover ‘American Girl’ as a homage) but their honesty and warmth make songs like ‘Great Expectations,’ ‘Old White Lincoln’ and the title track sound enormous.

The same can be said for Aussie outfit Howling Bells too, who play our very own Hot Press Tent. They might have been beset by a bucket-load of mishaps (their guitarist’s luggage was sent to Istanbul, they missed their ferry, they had to drive for 30 hours straight and according to singer Juanita Stein they stayed in a whore-house in Amsterdam) but they’re clearly loving being onstage and their set is a dreamy, ethereal clutch of tunes that sound like Florence and the Machine only, you know, good.

 Sadly we couldn’t actually fit into the Green Spheres tent for the Saturdays (boo) but we did manage to catch them play ‘Work’ and let’s face it, considering it’s the only song they have we didn’t miss too much. Eagles of Death Metal are another of today’s disappointments. Much like their mates in Spinnerette they spend far too much effort trying to be cool when they should let their music do the talking. Jesse ‘Boots Electric’ Hughes may have the tidiest ‘tache of the weekend, but the witty onstage patter just isn’t enough anymore.

Passion Pit in the Hot Press Tent on the other-hand are the exact opposite. They let their futurist funky white boy rhythms say it all and have the whole crowd unintentionally dancing like Bruno. Yeah Yeah Yeahs over on the main stage give us a powerhouse performance despite the torrential rain and a guitar amp which seems hellbent on electrocuting Nick Zinner. Karen O’s lime green leggings might make her look a little bit like a demented mutant frog, but she’s the perfect frontwoman this evening. Their set is a mix of old and new material and ‘Rockers To Swallow,’ ‘Cheated Hearts’ and ‘Date With The Night’ are definite standouts in a Herculean performance.

We spend the next few hours not knowing who to check out catching Pete Doherty, the Mars Volta, Doves and Bloc Party but coming away from the performances feeling a little unsatisfied. We’re mostly ticked off by the former Libertines man, largely because he’s still singing songs like ‘Fuck Forever’ as if they were anthems of a generation even though his most hardcore acolytes are finally starting to realize he’s a dried up old pantomime dame.

But, with the sound of the Pet Shop Boys plastic performance still ringing in our ears (‘It’s A Sin’ was great) we make our way over to the O2 Stage to catch Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Oxegen debut. Playing a festival pleasing set, old Nick has the crowd in the palms of his hands wasting no time bashing out ‘Deanna,’ ‘Henry Lee’ and ‘Dig, Lazarus Dig.’ The ominous night sky and mud covered ground only seem to add to the performance with the singer virtually begging for some thunder and lightning during the stomping rain-dance that is ‘Tupelo.’ As per usual, Nick plays his customary role of the possessed preacher man with aplomb stabbing into the night air with his fingers and flailing his arms around like a madman. Highlight has to be the gorgeous ‘Ship Song’ which pleases the lovers and the loveless in equal measure but ‘The Weeping Song’ and a tamer version of ‘The Mercy Seat’ are runners up. The Bad Seeds bring their show stealing set to a close with ‘Stagger Lee’ which is as brooding and menacing as this writer had hoped. Sadly we only get one song for the encore as Nick calls out Shane McGowan, who in fairness looks like he’s had one too many light ales. Even the singer seems bemused by the Pogues’ frontman’s state and embraces him, laughs good naturedly and closes the performance with a bow. What a legend.

Edwin McFee





Hot Summer, What A Bummer Part One

9 10 2009

Now it’s October and it’s as cold as a nun’s nether regions, I thought it might be a good idea to post up some of the festival reviews I did this year as a reminder of warmer times. I took it fairly easy this year and covered Download for NME, Oxegen for Hot Press and Glasgowbury (again for HP) and I’ve some great memories for each of them.

Fist up was Download. Personally I’d like to see a lot more punk bands on the bill, but it was still a great weekend. We got a hotel this year, had a Pot Noodle party on the Sunday, got random body parts sun burnt and Michael McKeegan stood me up during Def Leppard (just joking McK!). But enough of all that, here’s the NME review-

Ever since the dawn of time (well, the ’80’s) Donington has been the spiritual home for boozed-up denim-and-leather clad clans who yearn for nothing more than a few days in the sun banging their heads and playing their air guitars. Despite the digital-age name-change from Monsters of Rock in’03, it has remained a rite of passage for any self-respecting rocker.

Leading the charge in Friday afternoon are The Blackout, an act who have the right ghd-fringed look, but sadly fail to have an original thought in their heads. Sacramento’s Middle Class Rut, on the other hand, are thinking outside the box and although they’re one of the lighter bands on the bill, they pull the right rigorous shapes to charm the crowd, thereby dodging the piss-bottles.

Speaking of a load of old piss, latest addition to the reunion bandwagon Limp Bizkit waste no time launching straight into ‘Break Stuff’. Now we all know that the Bizkit are bad, but it’s one hell of an opener, waking up thousands of the crust-covered crowd. With his red baseball cap once again perched on his baldy head, Fred Durst looks a bit like a giant penis as he bounds around the stage throwing gang signs and using language your mother wouldn’t like, but you know what? ‘Nookie’ might make us feel as dirty as rummaging through Jodie Marsh’s knicker drawer, but their performance is a definite guilty pleasure.

Going on the amount of T-shirts and ill-advised glam-metal haircuts on display it would seem that Mötley Crüe‘s brand of rampant sexism is once again back in fashion. A minute into ‘Kickstart My Heart’ the mystery of why the doughnut stand ran out of produce seems to be solved as portly prima-donna Vince Neil waddles around looking particularly pleased with himself. While he may be, er, a little “lived in” these days he’s still a great frontman. Macho posturing aside, they deliver a surprisingly hit-filled set, too.

A mere novelty, though, compared to Faith No More who are on world-beating form, still working the same frenetic chemistry that made them such an interesting prospect in the ’90s. Ever the joker, Mike Patton comes hobbling onstage with a cane, clad in crimson. Whether it’s ‘Epic’, ‘From Out Of Nowhere’, ‘Midlife Crisis’ or a short-lived rendition of Lady GaGa’s ‘Poker Face’, you can’t take your eyes off their performance for even a minute.

Patton is clearly in his element, hiding behind the red velvet curtain during ‘Easy’ as if ashamed of the novelty hit and poking fun at the crowd (“Hey, this is an ’80’s festival, right?”). As he closes with a set of show-off sit-ups during set closer ‘We Care A Lot’ it’s clear that Faith No More are still more than fit for the task. One of the sets of the year.

The following two days don’t quite live up to that standard, but there are are a few tasty nuggets to keep us entertained, such as a heavier-than-thou slot by Down, with former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo giving a powerhouse performance. Northern Irish newbies In Case Of Fire and The Answer are maturing in leaps and bounds, the latter sounding like future headliners. Marilyn Manson’s show is a typically run-of-the-mill affair, with the God Of Fuck seeming more like the God Of Fuck All these days. When he dry humps the stage he looks like an OAP in need of a hip replacement rather than an Antichrist Superstar. Now that really is shocking…

Comeback kids Therapy?, however, only seems to get better with age. Their current release, ‘Crooked Timber’, sounds monstrous live and they’re strong runners-up for band of the weekend. More than happy to confirm that metal and cool are not natural bedfellows, Def Leppard close ceremonies for the weekend with some fromage-fuelled anthems, leaving us to conclude that if ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ makes us wrong, then we don’t ever want to be right.

Edwin McFee

http://www.nme.com/reviews/10616





Paparazzi

8 06 2009

Last week I ended up watching the new Lady GaGa video for ‘Paparazzi.’ It’s easily one of the oddest pop videos I’ve seen in a while. Kinda like a glam rock Marilyn Manson mixed with Courtney Love and Gwen Stefani. Have a wee look and see what you think. I’m genuinely bamboozled by it.