Category: Guest bloggers

Music Review: Slaves, ‘Take Control’

Harry Casey-Woodward, hobbyist reviewer and noise lover, reviews the new album by Kent punk duo Slaves, Take Control.

Slaves, Take Control, 2016, Virgin/EMI, 4/5


Slaves are something British music has needed for a while. We’ve had plenty of cool noise-making bands over recent years, but none have been as fun or direct as Isaac Holman on drums and Laurie Vincent on strings, both gleefully roaring their sharp, hilarious lyrics on working class problems. Hot on the heels of their official debut last year Are You Satisfied?, Slaves’ second album Take Control came out at the end of this September, sporting a florescent cover painted by the guitarist.

Their previous album was a hard act to follow. Catchy, exhilarating and ballsy, it was surely the Never Mind the Bollocks of 2015. I was a little worried therefore that Slaves would fall into the pattern that ensnares a lot of noisy bands and just spend their careers replicating their first album over and over. Thankfully, while the style of the new album is still very much Slaves, it is a bit of a different creature.


For one thing, there’s more songs. Some admittedly are random skits, but Take Control also has a greater range of styles and thus feels like a bigger project. Are You Satisfied was a compact burst of shout-along joy rides, while Take Control boasts a little more sophistication, musically and lyrically.

That still doesn’t mean it isn’t fun though. Take opening track ‘Spit it Out’. It may not be a cover of Slipknot’s awesome single but it is a contender for best single of the year, mainly because it’s such a perfect punk anthem. Making brilliant use of the quiet/loud song dynamic that made bands like Nirvana sound great, repetitive jabbing guitar builds up to a roaring chorus, where the singer screams the song title over and over. The other lyrics reflect themes Slaves have raged about on several songs, namely getting lads off their arses and doing something with their lives.


Other current topics Slaves attack on Take Control include mundane media (on such rollercoaster tracks as ‘Hypnotised’) and material wealth (see the blistering ‘Rich Man’). Once again Slaves prove themselves masters of the punk rock formula: fast, simple topical bullets of humorous anger. However, there is more of the sophisticated side that peeked through the energetic blast of Are You Satisfied.

Half of the tracks are as post-punk as Public Image. Songs like ‘Lies’ sound like catchy but creepy pop hits, with slow, menacing riffs. Even the vocal mix sounds more post-punk. While Isaac was shouting in your face before, now his charismatic voice sounds like it was recorded in an empty concrete room, giving it a spooky echo while losing none of its edge.

Beastie Boy Mike D of all people even supplies rap on the thundering ‘Consume or be Consumed’. Joined by Baxter Dury, Slaves also reveal a sensitive side on the tender ‘Steer Clear’, where the singer begs someone he cares about not to go drink driving after an argument. Once again, Slaves have produced a winning combination of subtlety and savage bluntness while upping their game.

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Fashion Pearls of Wisdom: It’s Not Always Regret

Our columnist Natalie McCreesh aka Pearl, is a fashion lecturer, freelance writer and creator of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom. In this post she’ll be talking about covering old tattoos and the idea of tattoo regret…

‘You’ll regret that when you’re older’ the charming phrase often uttered to those of us having decided to ink our skin. No longer in my reckless youth I am still choosing to cover my skin in tattoos and still being asked if I will regret that when I am older. Is there a defining age when you are considered old enough to be able to judge what your future self will and will not regret?


After laser and finished cover up by Paul Goss

Having laser removal and tattoo cover ups are often used as ammunition to back up warnings of regret, however removal and regret are not mutually exclusive. I have chosen to have both laser removal and cover ups. All of the six tattoos I gained in my teens and twenties have now been concealed underneath tattoos I have had in my thirties. When I am in my forties, fifties, sixties, hell even my nineties will I have covered up any of those I have now? Who can say, I certainly don’t claim to know what my future holds. The thing that most people presume is that I regret having the tattoos I now have covered up, this couldn’t be further from the truth. At the time I got the tattoos I could afford, I got the tattoos available to me at that time, I got the tattoos that I wanted. At seventeen I marched down to the local tattoo shop with a shaky sketch I had drawn and had it tattooed around my wrist. The drawing was crap and the tattoo was worse, but none of that mattered I had finally gotten the tattoo I had wanted for as long I could remember.

Cover up in progress by Kelly Smith

I’ve always known I would become tattooed from early on and it was just a case of waiting until I could pass for old enough. Whilst that was the tattoo for me then, it wasn’t the tattoo for me now. I’m not especially sentimental, the memories will always be with me, and so I didn’t think too much about having that tattoo covered over with a bold, black snake. My tattoos have changed as I have changed. I am no longer the teenage version of myself, I have grown and changed as a person. My clothes, hair style and body shape have all changed so why not my tattoos?


Given the choice I’d still rather have all my old tattoos than have no tattoos at all. Tattoos are so much more than pretty pictures on our skin, they are the experience, memories and emotions attached.

Film Review: Julieta

Hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward has taken a dip in the ocean of grief and guilt that is Pedro Almodovar’s latest melodramatic epic Julieta.

Julieta, 2016, cert 15, dir Pedro Almodovar, 4/5


To say that Pedro Almodovar is an interesting director is a bit of an understatement. Each one of his films boast extraordinarily complex plots that manage to pick at the dark drama and desires seething under the surface of everyday life.

The director’s latest movie Julieta sees him returning to the themes of his revered 1999 classic All About My Mother. Subjects such as motherhood, grief and guilt are once again dissected, making for a compelling and gripping drama. I will try to give a small summary of the plot without giving away too much, since this film’s greatest power is its mystery. Almodovar captivates you from the start with a character who we know nothing about but is immediately fascinating.


The film opens in Madrid, where a woman named Julieta is packing up her belongings, ready to move away to Portugal with her partner. She goes out shopping and bumps into an old family friend. This chance meeting brings a drastic change over Julieta’s priorities. She decides to stay in Madrid and moves back into her old apartment. Something is clearly troubling her and it’s when she starts writing a letter to her absent daughter that her whole sorry story comes out: a story where tragedy, secrets and the inability to talk about such matters have torn Julieta’s old family apart.

Despite the Pandora’s box of emotions this move is, it’s also beguiling to watch. Every setting has its own character and looks stunning, from the bustling streets of Madrid to the gorgeous shots of the ocean near which Julieta’s family used to live. There’s one important flashback scene set on a night train, where the intimate drama playing in the well-lit, comfortable carriages is contrasted with the wild, snow-bound night outside, where a stag fearlessly runs in slow motion beside the train.


The events and themes of the plot are all connected. Overall, this film focuses on the shared experiences of each female character. Although they feel they are isolated, all are affected by similar tragic circumstances of death, disease and depression that ultimately bring them together.

As heavy as the film sounds, there’s plenty of typical Almodovar playfulness for contrast, whether it’s in some of the more charming and romantic scenes of the film or the playful way he directs. For example, there are two separate actresses playing the character of Julieta, one for a younger version (Adriana Ugarte) and one of an older version (Emma Suarez). In one striking scene, he seamlessly switches between the two.

It is incredible that over the past forty years Almodovar has been directing, his films remain so daring and deep. In fact, I would even go so far as to say Julieta is a powerful summary of everything great about Almodovar’s films and may well be his best, a masterful combination of beautiful filmmaking and incredible performances.

Interview with artist Anna Volpi

Our Italian contributor Ilaria Pauletti chatted to Italian-American artist Anna Volpi about her photographic series Skin… 

When did the Skin project come about and what is the idea behind these shots? Skin was created for a competition that I didn’t win, but that doesn’t matter now. I met so many wonderful people through the project which is more important that any prize.  The title of the competition was simply ‘Skin’. I began to think of the various interpretations of skin, what you can do with it, the way we can see and feel it. The skin is the largest organ of our body and we can not live without it. One thing all human beings have in common is their skin and how it can cause a variety of relationships and reactions among people. Love, hate, contempt, worship and much more. ‘Skin’ is more than just aesthetics it explores how we live in it and how people really are inside their own body.


How did you select the personal stories of each one of the subjects? To select the people I searched the internet and I spread the word among my acquaintances. I only chose people who had interesting experiences or felt connected to their skin in some way.  I listened to the story of each of them and the ones I chose were those that struck me the most. In each photo there is a summarising sentence, that encapsulates them as a person.


What did you like the most about this experience, both personally and professionally? What I liked the most was meeting extraordinary people that I would like to keep in my life. From a more professional side, this is the most methodical project I’ve done so far. From the start I already had an idea of how the aesthetics would be. However when photographing people I didn’t ask for them to pose, I took every picture naturally during our long talks. But I knew that I wanted clean, balanced and strong images. I usually get dragged a little more by improvisation and variety, but here I had to work within certain limits, and it was a great experience.


What are your thoughts about tattoo art?  I have two tattoos, but I’ve never studied the history of tattooing. I don’t like how stereotyped people with tattoo are, and I don’t like them as a fashion trend. Saying that, not every tattoo should have a deep moral significance. My tattoos act as reminders for me. The words ‘here now’ remind me not to be anxious about the future, or decay in the past. ‘Write’, instead, reminds me to finish my novel. I chose Evelyn Hays, the tattooed girl in the Skin project, because she totally believes in this form of artistic expression. And I would have chosen her even if she hadn’t had tattoos, because she believes deeply in this art form.


Evelyn Hays

Can you see a relationship between tattoos and photography? In a photographic portrait a tattoo can be a point of interest or it can be seen as a disturbance. I really like to photograph the naked body, and for some shots I look for women without tattoos, because the tattoo is somehow distracting. Tattoos attract the eye, and can disturb the lines of the body that I want to create. Other times, they accentuate the body.

Five Inspiring Film Characters with Disabilities

Inspired by this year’s Paralympics, hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Woodward lists a few of his favourite film characters with disabilities.

Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) 


Charlize Theron certainly surprised me with her portrayal of a tough-as-nails war commander in this post-apocalyptic road rage. The fact that she’s missing an arm doesn’t stop her fighting tooth and claw to save some slave girls from the clutches of a vile warlord.

Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) 


In every spy movie the villain needs a badass henchman and none come more badass than hench-woman Gazelle, played by Sofia Boutella. Having replaced her missing legs with spikes, she slices up foes with a deadly combo of speed and acrobatics.

Stephanie in Rust and Bone (2012) 


On a more serious note, Marion Cotillard gave a powerful performance as a killer whale trainer who loses both legs in a horrific accident. In this moving French drama, Stephanie strives for dignity with the help of her friend and lover Alain.

Phillippe in Untouchable (2011) 


Another French drama for you now, in which an aristocrat becomes a quadriplegic and hires a reluctant young man from the projects to be his carer. His unprofessional but fun-loving new carer is a breath of fresh air in Philippe’s life.

Cherry Darling in Planet Terror (2007) 

Grind House

I felt I had to mention this character, since she’s the most iconic element of director Robert Rodriguez‘s zombie splatter-fest. Rose McGowan plays a stripper who loses a leg during a zombie attack and sticks a machine gun in its place to get her own back on those infected nasties. An aspiring attitude for a zombie epidemic at least.

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5 Great Food-Based Films

With the release of the animated comedy Sausage Party (definitely not for kids), film and food lover Harry Casey-Woodward discusses five movies based on things we love to eat.

Ratatouille (2007) 


When I first saw this in the cinema, I thought this was one of Pixar’s best. The story is charming enough, with a rat fulfilling his dream to be a chef in one of the most esteemed restaurants in Paris. However, the film also invited us to share in his passion for food and cooking, even the simple dish of the title. Let’s just forget the fact that everyone in Paris has American accents.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) 


I’m not a huge fan of this movie, but it’s such a celebration of our food lust I couldn’t afford to miss it off the list. An ambitious young scientist, trapped in a small town where all there is to eat is sardines, achieves surely everybody’s greatest wish and invents a machine that makes food rain from the sky. The film goes one step further, showing yet again how such a fantastic scientific achievement can get dangerous very quickly.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) 


In honour of the late, great Gene Wilder this musical chocolate banquet surely earns a place here. Based on one of Roald Dahl‘s most imaginative and celebrated children’s books, the film follows a little blond angel named Charlie who wins one of the fabled golden tickets to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Although I’m sickened slightly by the Americanised sappiness thrust into the story, the filmmakers did a great job of recreating Wonka’s factory with the finest of 70s effects, as well as keeping Dahl’s dark streak of humour intact.

Chocolat (2000) 


Let’s keep up the literary-inspired choc fests shall we? Based on the novel by Joanne Harris, a mysterious woman arrives in a small French town during Lent and promptly sets up a chocolate shop. When she starts awakening the townspeoples’ repressed desires, this does not sit well with the local priest and he and the woman begin a battle of ideologies. This is an exploration of the emotional power of food and Johnny Depp is dishy as a guitar-playing gypsy pirate.

Delicatessen (1991)  


Let’s stay in France, except we’ll travel into the future a bit. From visionary director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, Alien: Resurrection) came this dystopian romantic comedy about an ex-circus performer moving into a flat. Unfortunately, in post-apocalyptic France food is scarce and the landlord, who happens to be a butcher, is eyeing up his tenant. But his daughter is nice. Cue a lot of comic action about human desperation for food, including some vegetarian revolutionaries.

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Five Best Disney Films

The new Jungle Book is out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week, so in celebration movie-consumer Harry Casey-Woodward is going to tell you his five favourite Disney films.

5. Pinocchio (1940) 


This makes the list for being possibly the scariest Disney film. There’s child kidnappers, the most monstrous whale ever put on screen and one truly horrific scene where a boy transforms into a donkey. All this somehow went over my head when I was a kid. Maybe I was too distracted by the cricket.

4. The Jungle Book, (1967) 


The one Disney film with jazz music! Sadly this was the last movie Mr. Disney produced while he was alive, but it was a genius stroke to mix Rudyard Kipling‘s story of a boy raised in the jungle by animals with foot-tappin’ tunes. I have yet to see the 2016 remake and in my opinion it’s going to be hard to beat this original feast of songs and great characters.

3. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) 


This film is a breath of fresh air in the Disney canon. It has one of the most original plots (an ancient emperor gets turned into a llama by the fiendish Yzma and the loveable Kronk, possibly the best villainous duo ever) and thus this is definitely the funniest and breeziest of the Disney animations. There’s also no forced songs or romance either, unless you count the growing bromance between the emperor and the peasant Pacha.

2. Finding Nemo (2003) 


Pixar have surely saved Disney and this has to be their best effort. Inspired by the oceans’s beauty and variety of life, Pixar made a truly epic Odyssey that’s still funny and charming, of a clownfish facing down the dangers of the deep to find his son. I am just a little excited about Finding Dory.

1. The Lion King (1994) 


Another nature-inspired epic, this time set on the African plains and with a more Shakespearean plot, where Simba the lion has to avenge his father’s death at the paws of his sly uncle Scar and fulfil his destiny as King of the pride. Why is this my favourite? Maybe I just like African wildlife, but everything about this film is damn near perfect: the songs, the animation, the equal amounts of humour and tragedy. There’s also hyenas, and Timon and Pumbaa. All together now, ‘hakuna matata…’.

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Film Review: Jurassic Wars

Hobbyist reviewer Harry Casey-Wooodward enters B-movie heaven with this year’s attack of the pterosaursJurassic Wars.

Jurassic Wars/Terrordactyl, 2016, cert 15, dir Don Bitters & Geoff Reisner, 2/5 


Horrors and monster movies are some of the few film genres that can get away with being bad. The popularity of such films as the Sharknado series is evidence of our generation’s continuing obsession with tasteless horrors, despite their terrible plots, terrible effects and terrible performances. In fact, it is all these terrible features that make these movies so appealing, so much so that I think some recent horrors are deliberately bad just to cash in on our guilty love for pulp trash. Admittedly, there’s few experiences in life more relaxing and enjoyable than kicking back with some mates to laugh and mock some bad horror, even if we’ve paid for it.

Jurassic Wars, originally known as Terrordactyl (perhaps they changed the title to cash in on some association with Jurassic World) is no exception. A cluster of meteorites (or meteors, I can’t remember which) land outside of Los Angeles. Two gardeners named Jonas and Lars (played by Jason Tobias and Christopher John Jennings) drive out into the night to find one of the space rocks and strike it rich. They take it back into town for bargirl Valerie (Bianca Haase) to offer her ‘expert’ opinion, since she admitted an interest in space rocks when Jonas was trying to hit on her.


Unfortunately for them and the rest of the city, flocks of pterosaurs (winged reptiles that flew over the heads of dinosaurs, in case you weren’t sure) have swooped in with the meteors and, thanks to an odd lack of police and military presence, now blitz the city with lots of stabbing beaks and grabby claws. Think of the pterosaur attack scene in Jurassic World, except for the length of an entire film and with worse effects.

The pterosaurs themselves are rather badly animated and designed throughout the movie. Little consideration has been given regarding palaeontological accuracy, with most of the pterosaurs up close looking more like dragons, while in the distance I’m pretty sure some of the pterosaurs flying looked as static as toys.


If you don’t want to watch this for accuracy, don’t watch it for gore either. There are a few bloody beak-stabbing scenes, but other scenes you’d expect to be messy are not shown, either for the power of suggestion or to cut down on the effects budget.

Of course, there’s no reason to watch this expecting a good movie. Watch this for impressively bad-looking monsters, plenty of action and enthusiastic actors armed with guns, flame throwers, homemade explosives and booze. The dialogue is entertaining at times, even if at others it tries too hard to be funny. Bargirl Valerie also turns out to be a kickass heroine, even if she falls for the old cliche of fancying the unlikely geeky hero.

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Eight Bands You Don’t Want To Miss At This Year’s Arctangent Festival

Arctangent returns for its fourth year at Fernhill Farm, celebrating the very best that math-rock, post-rock and noise-rock have to offer. With so many diverse bands on the line-up, freelance writer Mat Ombler has gathered a list of eight that you simply cannot afford to miss…


Nordic Giants

Nordic Giants live performance is out of this world, and their breath-taking sets have been melting the minds of their audiences since 2010. The duo incorporate visuals into their live set, performing alongside cinematic projections that provide a narrative to their songs.

Alongside these projections, Nordic Giants become a collaboration of true artistry, capable of evoking serious emotion from their audiences. It’s rare that at a festival with a crowd three thousand strong, a band could manage to wow their audience into complete silence – but Nordic Giants manage to do just that, time and time again.


Blackened post-rock music doesn’t get much better than this! Svalbard is a combination of black metal melodies and epic post-rock progressions, perfectly executed with the aggression you would expect from a thrash metal or punk band. Their latest release, ‘One Day All This Will End‘, is one of the finest albums I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in a long time, with not a single weak track on the album.

Three Trapped Tigers

Their combination of mad synth sounds, wacky electronics and wild drum patterns make Three Trapped Tigers a highlight of any line-up. The musical trio is a beautifully choreographed mess of intensely unique sounds, with all the energy from both the band and crowd you would expect from a set at an illegal underground rave.

Three Trapped Tigers raise the roof, basically.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Perhaps one of the most influential post-rock bands of all time, Godspeed You! Black Emperor headline the main stage on Friday at this year’s festival. Featuring a large ensemble of various musicians – with various percussionists and even a violin player – Godspeed You! Black Emperor promise to deliver a headline performance unlike any Arctangent Festival has seen before.


Toe are a Japanese rock band from Tokyo and they’re performing an exclusive UK set at this year’s festival. They’re unlikely to be returning anytime soon, so don’t miss them, yeah?

Toe’s back-catalogue is as diverse as the festival line-up, featuring melodic instrumental sections with some beautiful vocal accompaniments in certain parts.

La Dispute

La Dispute make their debut appearance at this year’s Arctangent Festival. Jordan Dreyer’s vocals are essentially spoken word, sitting atop experimental guitar drones and muddy bass to help draw their audience into the short stories they’re telling. La Dispute’s experimental take on melodic and post-hardcore is unlike any other and it’s not to be missed.


This psychedelic prog-rock band features a bassoon, alto saxophone and even a baritone saxophone, their songs usually consist of around seven or eight different instruments coming together to craft a sound that’s somewhere in-between contemporary prog bands and alternative mainstream music. There are tracks on their most recent release, ‘Bottled Out Of Eden‘, that are reminiscent of Between The Buried And Me’s ‘Colours’ masterpiece, but with the influence of more popular indie artists. If you’re a fan of progressive rock music, the recreational uses of psychedelic drugs – or perhaps both: don’t miss ‘em.


Formerly known as This Town Needs Guns, this math-rock band from Oxford are one of the most well known bands from the math-rock scene. Their technically driven melodic guitar progressions draw influence all the way from Spanish to jazz music, and their deployment of various time signatures is enough to keep any listener on their feet – and for the right reasons.

Arctangent Festival takes place 18th- 20th of August and tickets are still available here.


5 Best Superhero Movies

Since Olympic athletes are technically superhuman, film lover Harry Casey-Woodward thought it would be appropriate to list a few of his favourite superhero movies.

5. The Kickass movies (2010 and 2013) 


No one has superpowers in these films, but they make my list for sheer brutality. This series about teenagers turned costumed vigilantes possesses some truly dark moments, such as the scene in the first film where two heroes are beaten live on TV by the mafia and Jim Carrey‘s death scene in the sequel. These films also score points for boasting one of the most savagely badass heroines ever, the purple-haired Hit-Girl.

4. Batman (1989) 


How could I not include the classic that arguably raised the standard for all superhero films? Director Tim Burton excelled in his typically Gothic style while leaving out his annoying kookiness. Nevertheless, this dark edgy thriller still packs in some slightly silly capers and capes. It also has Jack Nicholson‘s infamous, smiley performance as the Joker, who somehow combined menace and cheesiness.

3. The Hellboy movies (2004 and 2008) 


Hellboy is more of a superhuman than the above heroes while also being slightly less human. A big red half-demon with a stone hand that holds the key to the apocalypse, Hellboy’s backstory is admittedly more extensive than your average radiation-affected superhero. The world that writer Mike Mignola and director Guillermo del Toro imagined for him is also strikingly imaginative, with lots of crazed Nazis and cool monsters for Hellboy to beat the crap out while quipping one liners.  

2. Christopher Nolan‘s Batman Trilogy (2005-12) 


The man in the black, pointy-eared cape is back, only this time we’ve moved on from the over-the-top 80s and we’re into the slick, sophisticated noughties. The franchise needed a reboot, especially after the camp fiasco of Batman & Robin, and Mr. Nolan, director of smart thrillers like Memento, appears to have been the man to do that. His three Batman films did away with the cheesy Gothic excess of the 90s films and attempted to take the subject matter more seriously, with more complex characters. Of course, it is impossible to take Christian Bale‘s gravelly Batman voice seriously, but we did get non-stop action and some surprisingly villainous performances from such cute actors as Heath Ledger and Tom Hardy.

1. Deadpool (2016) 


This shouldn’t really be number one, since it’s not a serious superhero movie. But it’s just so damn entertaining. I may also be a little biased, since I don’t really like superhero movies so the merciless humour directed at the moral pomposity of these films was much appreciated. It was also a refreshing revelation to see a Marvel film that had adult humour and blackly comic violence while openly mocking the conventions of its own genre. The hero is still badass, even if he never stops making pop culture references.

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