Listen: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Black Star Dancing

This morning, I received this new single from Noel from 3 different PRs/pluggers, which is very unusual.

I think it’s far to say that this isn’t the best thing that Noel has ever released but it continues his pursuit of different sounds following his last album, which I have to say wasn’t an instant hit for me but has grown into one of my favourite albums that revisit plenty of times.

On the press release, in typical Noel fashion, he says “It manages to combine the influences of David Bowie, INXS, U2, Queen, Indeep AND ZZ Top FFS!,” “I might have been watching too much Top Of The Pops recently … anyway, it’s ‘dope’ … not my words, but the words of Nile Rodgers who literally danced in the studio when he heard it!”

This is the first, and title track, from a new EP, which features new songs ‘Rattling Rose’ and ‘Sail On’, alongside a 12″ mix of Black Star Dancing plus a remix by The Reflex.

Oh and by the way, I like it!

Listen: Black Keys – Lo/Hi

The simple fact about today is that the world is a slightly better place. Why? Because the Black Keys have released some new music and it’s rather good! To me it sounds like a continuation of the material from their El Camino album. Hopefully this means that a new album is on the way.

Watch: Mary Queen of Scots

We took our first visit to the cinema of 2019 at the weekend to see one of the big releases of the week, Mary Queen of Scots which stars Margot Robbie is Elizabeth I, while Mary Stuart is portrayed by Saoirse Ronan. We went to one of those Everyman cinemas, which I’ll come back later.

Lets look at the good bits first. The film is beautifully shot, the scenery is breathtaking, and both female leads are brilliant, with Margot, for me, shading it as giving the better performance. Don’t get me wrong Saoirse is good, very good, but there’s something about Margot’s performance that stuck with me. The film has received three nominations at this years BAFTAs, Best Supporting Actress (Robbie), Best Costume Design, and Best Makeup & Hair.

Now, I most confess that I aren’t much of a history buff so I’m not sure how much ‘artistic license’ is involved in the telling of this story. The screenplay was written by Beau Willimon, who helped develop the Netflix version of House of Cards, and was one of the reasons that I wanted to see the movie. However I know that scene near the end of the movie where the two meet didn’t happen. Sadly, it doesn’t add anything to the story and actually really outstays it’s welcome.

That’s leads me on to the negative stuff. Some of the supporting cast let’s the side down. James McArdle as the Earl of Moray, Mary’s brother. He looks like someone who was last seen in a Adam and the Ants video in the eighties. And then there’s David Tennant as John Knox, a Protestant cleric. He looks like Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies. And sadly his act was basically a 1500’s Twitter troll, stirring people up with lies.

I’ll be honest, Mrs Bewes seemed to get more from the film than I did and I very much doubt I would revisit it in the future. Which neatly leads to the Everyman cinema. I’d been before, but it was the first time for Mrs Bewes. I find it very odd that you go to see a film and order a full meal to eat while you are watching it. You do one then do the other, never should the two meet. It’s just wrong! And it costs about £3 or £4 more to see a film. Just to sit on a sofa, which wasn’t that comfy if I’m being honest! I don’t think we will be back anytime soon.

Watch: You (Netflix)

A couple of weeks ago, in the lull between Christmas & New Year we sat on the sofa and binge-watched the new series from Netflix ‘You’. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.

You follows the story of student Guinevere (nicknamed Beck), who meets Joe in the New York bookstore he works in and he becomes obsessed with her. And I mean OBSESSED. Not only does he use social media to find out more about her, he follows her home – where apparently she can’t afford curtains, so he sees EVERYTHING! Oh and then he breaks in to her apartment and steals stuff, he follows her when she meets her friends and

There are more than enough twists and turns in the series to keep you hooked for the duration of the ten episodes. And it’s main stars Penn Badgley (formerly Dan in Gossip Girl) as Joe and newcomer to me Elizabeth Lail as Beck are also both superb throughout the show.

Is it creepy? Yes. Is it wrong that you sometimes feel sorry for the person who is so obviously very disturbed? Yes. Is it a great series to watch in one sitting? Hell Yes.

Bring on series 2!

Watch: Friendly Fires – Heaven Let Me In

I’m so pleased Friendly Fires are back producing new music. They disappeared from the face of the Earth a few years ago. Their second album was released in 2011 and there wasn’t any new music from the band until the summer of this year with the anthem Love Like Waves. Now, they have teamed up with the brilliant Disclosure for this new track that sounds so fresh. A month after releasing the track, the video is now here! A new album is in the works apparently. About time too!

Listen: Rival Sons – Do Your Worst

There are several bands around at the moment who are young in years but have a sound that comes from way before they were born. Greta Van Fleet and DeWolff being prime examples. Another are Rival Sons. They have been around a bit longer the the other two, but still sound like they are from the 1970s classic rock era. Their sixth album is due in the new year, and it was apparently recorded in RCA Studio A in Nashville, and at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama. In the meantime, the band have released a new video, and it only adds to their canon of brilliant tunes. Vocalist Jay Buchanan and Scott Holiday on guitar once again shine, but the whole band are on form. I love it.

I saw the band live a few years ago and they are brilliant. Looking forward to hearing the new material.

Watch: Wicked Strife

I’m not one for heading to the theatre on a regular basis to see plays or musicals. I’m more a comedy show kind of person, which for those who know me, that won’t come as much of a surprise. However, stand by your beds. This weekend I’ve been to the theatre twice! The plays couldn’t be more different however.

On Friday night as a birthday surprise for my other half, we visited the Leeds Grand Theatre to see Wicked – acclaimed as “the ultimate Broadway experience for theatre audiences all over the UK” (Northern Echo) so says the Grand website. Another thing that won’t come as a surprise to those that know me, I’m not a fan of musicals! Whether that screen or on stage! Musicals have just never been to my taste. However, when you see something this good, you can’t be anything but impressed.

From the staging, to the dancers (obviously I’m an expert, not) to the amazing voices of the cast, this stage show is very good. Especially the two leads. Helen Woolf as Glinda and Amy Ross as Elphaba were outstanding performers. Ross in particular is amazing in the finale of Act 1.

I knew nothing about the story beforehand other than it’s something to do with the Wizard of Oz, so I was surprised at how funny it was. Woolf delivering some very funny lines in particular, as does Kim Ismay as Madame Morrible. The Wizard is played by Steven Pinder, who, for me, will always be Max Farnham in Brookside.

Many positives from the show, but also a few negatives. The seats for one. Rather narrow, and not very comfortable. I know many theatres are grand old buildings, and you can’t do much within the structures, but sat on the balcony at the Grand wasn’t a comfortable experience. Especially when you compare these seats with what you get at the cinema nowadays.

Speaking of uncomfortable seats. On Saturday night, we took ourselves off for another but completely different night at the theatre. This time to Bradford Playhouse @Studio for Strife in a Northern Town. The seats in the @Studio are basic and basically bum numbing! Thankfully the performance tonight wasn’t that long!

The play is described as ‘a high-energy thrill ride with quick switches, laughter, mayhem and maybe even a tear or two, too’. And it certainly was high energy. Just two actors, Tracy Gabbitas and Jennifer Banks play the multiple characters, including Donna and Tracey who work at the local supermarket. And it’s these two that greet us when we walk in to the tiny @Studio. One sat on the floor, one stood up, giving the audience funny looks as we walk in, sit down, clean glasses, get sweets out. And you can imagine, how in this intimate surroundings, the late comers get particular strange looks from the pair!

As the play progresses, with each character change, from the supermarket girls to receptionists Pepsi and Lulu and so on, the actors change wigs and props, moving chairs and tables to create the setting for each section. As I said earlier, you couldn’t get much different from Friday night’s grandiose to this simplicity. For me some characters are more welcome than others. I wasn’t a particular fan of Kay who has a dog phobia and an allergy to cheese and was very annoying! Sadly, she is one of the more frequent characters in the play and kept reappearing!

The Playhouse itself is an interesting building. Having looked at it’s history, it’s always seemed to struggle to stay open. It certainly is a poor relation to the other theatres in Bradford, The Alhambra & St Georges Hall, the latter being closed at the moment for renovation, which is something that wouldn’t go amiss at the Playhouse.

Strife had it’s funny moments but of the two, Wicked wins hands down. And it’s a musical! I don’t like musicals!

Watch: Funny Cow

FUNNY COW Starring Maxine Peake

What was it like to be a female stand up comedian in the 1970s? Funny Cow tells you. And it wasn’t easy, apparently because ‘women aren’t funny’ according to male comedian played by Alun Armstrong in this gritty drama. Maxine Peake is superb as ‘Funny Cow’ – we never learn her real name. Equally brilliant is Macy Shackleton, who plays ‘Funny Calf’, Peake’s character as a child, in the streets of a northern town.

The film has some laugh out loud moments, however the comedy portrayed in the Northern working mens clubs isn’t for the PC brigade of 2018. Lookout for a few brilliant cameo’s from some well known faces when she auditions ‘to be a star’.

However, it also has some dark and disturbing moments. There’s domestic abuse, with Funny Cow being beaten by her Dad, played Stephan Graham, and by her boyfriend in later life, played by Tony Pitts who as well as putting in a great performance, also wrote the film. Lindsay Coulson, Carol Jackson in Eastenders, plays the older version of her Mum, and is rarely seen without a drink in her hand. And if that wasn’t enough, we see a character commit suicide.

My overriding thoughts are that it is a very good film, very much of it’s time of setting. There are a couple of stand out performances, but would I want to see it again. Possibly not.

Listen: Manic Street Preachers – Resistance is Furtile

First things first, I’ve got to point out, I’m a massive fan of the Manics. I’ve bought all their albums, yes even Lifeblood and I’ve seen them live several times, probably too many times to be honest. They don’t always get things right, the semi acoustic album Rewind the Film in 2013 was to me, a sign of a band having a midlife crisis, but you have respect them for suriving long enough to get to this, their 13th album. And it’s not unlucky 13 either.

After a few missteps on recent albums, Resistance is Furtile is a great Manics album. One review has described it as a greatest hits album of new material, which I think sums it up perfectly. I would suggest several songs are set to be in their setlist for years to come. People Give In has a reflective mood to the lyrics, but the music is great, lovely orchestration, First single International Blue is everything you expect from them. Uptempo, catchy, great guitar solo and it’s a belter.

Dylan & Caitlin features James sharing the vocals with The Anchoress and continues a tradition from their first album Generation Terrorists’ Little Baby Nothing of adding a female voice, and it’s a another cracking tune.

Once again the band mix their epic sounds of Everything Must Go era with more spiky Holy Bible material and Broken Algorithms is as close as the band get to their classic punker sound, with Nicky’s lyrics having a go at modern life. Holding Me Like a Heaven sounds like a beautiful song but then the lyrics tell a different tale –

Tattered manifestos litter the mind
Diplomatic plans ravaged by time
It never really was the truth or lies
We just gave up and said our goodbyes

Final track of the album The Left Behind finds the band in a reflective mood again, with lyrics saying

Waiting to be left behind
Acting like a passer-by

Could this be the end of the band? Interviews once again suggest maybe, with Nicky favouring darts and painting to getting lyrical. However, this has been said before. I hope it isn’t but for me, if it is, this is a great swansong.