Sunday, 17 May 2009

Review music - Radiohead, "OK Computer", 2009 Box Set Edition

There's little that I could add to everything that's been written in the 12 years since OK Computer, Radiohead's third and most celebrated album so far, was first released. I wouldn't hesitate to say that this is the last really important album in the history of pop-rock to this day (by "really important", I mean that it had such a profound influence this side of pop-rock that you can clearly identify a "before" and an "after" OK Computer, and that said influence is still evident more than a decade later). There is also little doubt that in it they've taken that style of music as far as it could be taken, before thoroughly smashing through that limit with their following "Kid A" and "Amnesiac". Is it their best album though? Well, you're likely to get very different answers if you were to ask fans at any of the band's concerts (and personally, I prefer both "Kid A" and "In Rainbows", which music sounds more "free" to me somehow, for lack of a better word), but the relevance of OK Computer, its seminality, cannot be disputed

I however wanted to write a few lines on EMI's latest cashcow, the 2CD + DVD pack re-release of OK Computer. Ok, in all fairness, the whole thing and its tag price (just under £13) are actually very decent, unlike their previous attempt at cashing on the band's back catalogue, namely the "Best of": if you are new to Radiohead, do yourself a favor, forget the latter and buy the former instead. Even if it only represents one chapter of their musical adventures, the addition of another CD containing most of this era's B-sides on top of the album itself (which doesn't sound like it's been "remasterized", thank you EMI!) and a DVD, reminds us of one major aspect of Radiohead's music: their albums form a whole, where the songs and their order are carefully thought through and executed, and only reveal themselves fully when listened to as such. Typically, no matter how remarkable most original B-sides titles are (with special mentions to "Meeting in The Aisle" and "How I made my Millions"), it is unthinkable to replace any song on the album itself with one of them, or add one of them to the original 12-songs listing

As for the DVD, note that the documentary "Meeting People is Easy" is not on it, despite what Amazon UK had listed for a while at their site. There is relatively little material: the video clips to "Paranoid Android", "Karma Police" and "No Surprises", as well as 3 songs performed live on Later with Jools Holland, BBC2's evening show. They could all be found elsewhere before, which is also true of the B-sides, but having them all together in a relatively small box and for a reasonable price is definitely convenient, making it a good buy for the completists, those who had some of the songs/recordings missing from their collection, as well as those new to Radiohead and who didn't have OK Computer before - for just the extra pounds/bucks/whatever your local currency is, this is definitely the edition you should go for

OK Computer [2CD + DVD] at

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Review movie - つみきのいえ ("Tsumiki no ie") - Pieces of love vol. 1 (Katô Kunio, 2008)

This review is x-posted to Ancient Worlds

If you've watched the Oscars this year, you may have noticed that the Japanese won two prizes: Best Movie in a Foreign Language and Best Short Animation. I will review the latter here, although the former is definitely high on my to-review list and should follow here soon

Although Katô Kunio's speech when he received the award had definitely caught my attention - see below - it's actually almost by accident that I bought the DVD, which just showed up one day on my recommended items list at Amazon Japan. The title ("The house in small cubes" as it is officially translated from Japanese), and, especially, the sheer loveliness of the cover illustration, in a style that one wouldn't expect coming from Japan, but much rather from France (or at least Europe) are really what got me to buy this in the first place. It's only when I received the DVD with its bright gold sticker announcing the Oscars' victory that I connected the dots

The artwork might not be what we've come to expect from Japan, but the finesse in the storytelling, the way the themes which are at the heart of this short, wordless tale (a mere 12 minutes, which you can choose to watch with or without narration - the characters never speak, never need to really) are laid out is definitely something that is more likely to come from Eastern Asian cinema than from anywhere else. The story in itself is as simple as they come: an old man, living alone in the middle of his pictures illustrating his past life, keeps having to build up new storeys in bricks as the level of the sea keeps rising. One day, as he's moving up, he lets his favorite pipe slip and it falls to the bottom of the sea. The old man decides to get it back and get scuba gear to dive in. As he swims down storey after storey, he is reminisced of the many memories of his life, some bittersweet, most happy

It might sound like tear-jerking fodder, but it is everything but. In fact, I couldn't readily give you the name of a movie which talks of loss and isolation, but is also a celebration of life and acceptance, more dignified than this one. It is always touching (the choice to go with a rather old-fashioned hand-drawn artwork being totally justified here and lending it extra charm and warmth) but never wallows in self-pitying nostalgia. Also, there may be no dialogues, but the story definitely has its own voice through a beautifully composed music evolving alongside the main character's inner thoughts and emotions

I cannot recommend "Tsumiki no ie" enough. It is suitable to all ages, although it will definitely make more sense to adults who have already been through some of the happy and sad times that life has in store for us all. The DVD can for now only be imported from Japan as there is no release in either North America or Europe, as far as I am aware (and then you can also probably watch this on any number of video-sharing sites, but if you like it enough, the right thing to do would definitely be to buy it.....)

Katô Kunio's speech at the Oscars - probably the best thank-you speech ever

Tsumiki no ie's teaser trailer

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Yet another reviews blog

As if there weren't already many of those around *g* Still, I love discussing all things arts and culture, and maybe I can make you want to watch a movie, or you can make me discover a new band - sharing, this is what reviewing should be about. At least that's the way I see it.

My interests lie firstly in music and movies, although books, both ficitional and non-fictional, as well as exhibitions and general culture posts are also in sight....