Review of the year – Best films of 2019

Sorry I’m a bit late with this but needed to get it in just before the Oscar nominations are announced so I’m not influenced. Here are my favourite films of 2019, in what was a solid year for films despite seeing far fewer than I usually do.

Dolemite Is My Name
The Favourite
For Sama
Green Book
Joker
Marriage Story
Monos
One Cut Of The Dead
Sorry We Missed You
Us

Bubbling under were Anima, Furie and Frozen II, whilst my least favourite were Bait and Serenity.

Christmas Quiz 2019 – Netflix or Notflix ANSWERS

Here are the answers to the Christmas Quiz 2019, Netflix or Notflix. Feel free to spread the love and share with your family and friends this Christmas!

1. A Christmas Moose Miracle – NETFLIX
2. We Wish You A Metal Christmas – NETFLIX
3. Driving Gnome For Christmas – NOTFLIX
4. A Christmas Prince – NETFLIX
5. The Christmas Chronicles – NETFLIX
6. The Mayor of Christmas – NOTFLIX
7. Christmas Inheritance – NETFLIX
8. The Christmas Woodpecker – NOTFLIX
9. The Holiday Calendar – NETFLIX
10. Christmas Wedding Planner – NETFLIX

11. Merry Happy Whatever – NETFLIX
12. Home For Christmas – NETFLIX
13. Santa Shores – NOTFLIX
14. The Knight Before Christmas – NETFLIX
15. Veronica’s Christmas – NOTFLIX
16. Gary and Steve Go Big At Christmas – NOTFLIX
17. Everything You Never Knew About Christmas – NOTFLIX
18. Jazzy Christmas Boogy – NOTFLIX
19. Christmas Inheritance – NETFLIX
20. Holiday in the Wild – NETFLIX

21. Super Monsters Save Christmas – NETFLIX
22. Walking In An Aron Winter Wonderland – NOTFLIX
23. Christmas Break-In – NETFLIX
24. Super Reindeer – NOTFLIX
25. Holi-slay Spectacular – NETFLIX
26. Unbelievable Christmas with Chris Kamara – NOTFLIX
27. Christmas With My Father – NETFLIX
28. Bob’s Broken Sleigh – NETFLIX
29. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – NETFLIX
30. Elvish Presley – NOTFLIX

Christmas Quiz 2019 – Netflix or Notflix (free and just for fun!)

NETFLIX OR NOTFLIX

Can you identify which of the following Christmas films are real Netflix releases and which ones are made up? (The first ten were featured in last year’s quiz but I thought you wouldn’t mind me re-using them here!).

1. A Christmas Moose Miracle
2. We Wish You A Metal Christmas
3. Driving Gnome For Christmas
4. A Christmas Prince
5. The Christmas Chronicles
6. The Mayor of Christmas
7. Christmas Inheritance
8. The Christmas Woodpecker
9. The Holiday Calendar
10. Christmas Wedding Planner

11. Merry Happy Whatever
12. Home For Christmas
13. Santa Shores
14. The Knight Before Christmas
15. Veronica’s Christmas
16. Gary and Steve Go Big At Christmas
17. Everything You Never Knew About Christmas
18. Jazzy Christmas Boogy
19. Christmas Inheritance
20. Holiday in the Wild

21. Super Monsters Save Christmas
22. Walking In An Aron Winter Wonderland
23. Christmas Break-In
24. Super Reindeer
25. Holi-slay Spectacular
26. Unbelievable Christmas with Chris Kamara
27. Christmas With My Father
28. Bob’s Broken Sleigh
29. I’ll Be Home For Christmas
30. Elvish Presley

Try it with yourselves and I’ll publish the answers later today!

Live music review – The Bluetones, Rescue Rooms, 14th November 2019

Setlist 1 – Science and Nature

Zorrro
The Last Of The Great Navigators
Tiger Lily
Mudslide
One Speed Gearbox
Blood Bubble
Autophilia (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love My Car)
Keep The Home Fires Burning
The Basement Song
Slack Jaw
Emily’s Pine

Setlist 2 – The Hits

After Hours
Bluetonic
Cut Some Rug
Freeze-Dried Pop (Dumb It Up)
Marblehead Johnson
Fast Boy
Never Going Nowhere
Slight Return
If…

Review

The Bluetones arrived in Nottingham in good spirits, as they reached the centre point of the UK leg of their latest tour. This time they were celebrating 20 years since the release of their third album, ‘Science & Nature’, along with a nod to their Singles album that came a few years later.

They took to the stage for their first set of the night dressed in white scientists’ lab coats, a nod to the album title, with the Rescue Rooms roaring in rapturous applause and cheers. They launched into an explosive rendition of ‘Science & Nature’ album opener ‘Zorrro’, the crowd singing along to every word. As frontman Mark Morriss belted the final “Seven levels below”, the first big cheer of the night rang out. Clearly it’s a night for the fans, as is so often the case with The Bluetones gigs.

The fact that Science & Nature wasn’t their most successful album wasn’t lost on Morriss, who was quick to poke fun at its popularity. Explaining the format of the night, the audience learned that they’ll be treated to the entire album in its original order. So, then, he challenges the audience to name the second track on the album. I have to admit I struggled, along with most of the rest of the room. It all came flooding back as they launched into a perfect rendition of ‘The Last Of The Great Navigators’ and then ‘Tiger Lily’.

The self-deprecating humour didn’t stop there. Introducing ‘Mud Slide’, Morriss lets the audience into a secret about the format of the release. It was chosen as the third single from the album, but both the band and the record label Mercury were concerned it might fail to chart due to poor sales. So the solution was to release it as a five-track EP, “thus disqualifying it from the charts altogether”. He claims it was a wise choice because they only sold 27 copies of it. I’m sure that was underplaying it slightly, but I certainly got hold of a copy by nagging Electron in Burnley to get a copy in stock, despite the owner initially denying that the EP existed.

‘One Speed Gearbox’ was next, closing side one of the record, another underappreciated gem from this album that came to life in a rare live outing. It’s a mellow ending to the first side of the record and served as the quiet before the three-and-a-half-minute storm that was awaiting us just around the corner.

This comes in the form of ‘Blood Bubble’, which was stunning. It’s a rare beast for The Bluetones, being a track that features no vocals, but the band just turn the volume up and let rip. Which, as it turns out, is exactly what the crowd do. It’s a song I’ll always strangely associate with the series Spaced (it was used in one of the trailers for the second series, which the band also starred in), so I had to check if I had any Jaffa Cakes in my coat pocket.

‘Autophilia (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love My Car)’, was next. It’s a song I never enjoyed when it was originally released and it hasn’t grown on me since. As I look around the room, I can see I’m in the minority.

Introducing the album’s lead single, ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’, Morriss declared “This one’s about domestic violence”, before adding after a perfectly-timed delay “Its against it!” If there is one song from this album that could challenge for being their best ever song, it is surely this one. The title of the track is borrowed from an old British patriotic wartime song composed by Ivor Novello, with matching brass backing that sounds like they’re lifted from an advert for baked bread. It’s truly a thing of beauty and sounds as good tonight as it ever has.

The final trio were played out as perfect replicas of their studio-recorded originals. It was a privilege to see a song like ‘Slack Jaw’ live after listening to it for two decades.

After a short break, the band came back on stage to perform, as Morriss put it, “smash after smash after smash”. This set included two tracks from their singles collection: ‘After Hours’ and ‘Freeze Dried Pop’. Both were clearly commercially minded upon release, although the latter never saw the light of day thanks to a fall out with the record label that was explained in detail by Morriss. He joked that the band promised to tell everyone that it was their own decision, despite the fact this was far from the truth.

Their final two tracks – ‘Slight Return’ and ‘If…’ were met with the loudest singing of the night, each audience member desperate to enjoy every last drop of fun from the set. The Bluetones have a dedicated fan base and it didn’t feel like there were many speculative attendees on a night. This was an audience packed with die-hard fans of the band, and they’ll surely be back in full voice again next time the band come to town.

The Bluetones and their love of fine cinema

As a child, a fortunate trip to my local Blockbuster during a clearout sale meant I was able to blow every last penny I had on four albums that significantly changed the course of my listening habits.

The year was 1997 and I was a mere twelve years of age.

Amongst them were Blur’s eponymous fifth album, Kula Shaker’s ‘K’, Supergrass’s ‘I Should Coco’ and debut The Bluetones album ‘Expecting to Fly’. All four bands are still regulars on my stereo and I’ve followed them throughout their subsequent careers, with all their variously successful (and unsuccessful) side projects.

Of course, as life-changing events go this is quite indicative of my relatively burden-free upbringing. But it stuck with me, so just deal with it.

Fast forward to 2005 and I was writing for my university music magazine. Unbelievably, I managed to secure an interview with Mark Morriss, lead singer for The Bluetones. I will admit I was entirely unprofessional in my approach, basically because I was spending a good hour with one of my idols.

The topic of album track ‘Heard You Were Dead’ came up during the interview, which featured on their second album ‘Return to the Last Chance Saloon’. I hadn’t quite segued into an information-thirsty cinema lover by this point, so the title of the song was lost on me. Mark politely explained the reference to me – a repeated quote in John Carpenter’s 1981 dystopian action film ‘Escape From New York’ – and we had a chat about how much he liked the film.

Another fourteen years have passed since then and it has become apparent that their back catalogue is littered with unlikely references to the films they love. Listening to these songs again with a more complete love of television and cinema history, suddenly the references start to jump out at you.

Here are a few of my favourites.

1. Heard You Were Dead (1997)

As mentioned above, this is a reference to the insanely brilliant John Carpenter sci-fi action film starring Kurt Russell. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s well worth checking out. If you notice there’s a sequel set in LA, simply press play on the New York one again.

The lyrics to the song aren’t steeped in Snake Plissken references, instead focusing on a friend, seemingly lost to suicide (“It was over in a moment, you passed without a sound,
I know that you were shackled, but now you are unbound”). It’s a song that sits well at the end of the band’s second album, Return to the Last Chance Saloon, the lull before the brilliantly explosive and catchy ‘Broken Starr’ that closes that album, and whose name may itself be a reference to Belle Starr, the subject of many western films.

2. Thought You’d Be Taller

Not done with the Snake Pliskin references, the boys returned to the same source material to name this b-side to Autophilia. Somewhat wasted as a b-side, this track made a reappearance on the Rough Outline compilation a few years after its release, making sure it’s a bit easier to get hold of. It’s a tale about meeting a hero and being disappointed, so the lyrics sadly aren’t an out-and-out Pliskin tale.

3. Autophilia (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love My Car) (2000)

This track is one of my least favourite tracks released as a single by the band, but it remains a firm fan favourite. The lyrics are about a man’s overzealous love for his car. The video suitably parodies ‘Greased Lightning’ from Grease, whilst the name of the song title is inspired by the full title of Stanley Kubrick’s film ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’.

4. Zorrro (1999)

Apparently not scared of adding in an additional “r” into the title of their songs, The Bluetones opened their third album ‘Science and Nature’ with ‘Zorrro’. Zorro was a swashbuckling adventure character that has had several attempted reboots over the years, most famously with Antonio Banderas filling the boots in a disappointing 1998 film called The Mask of Zorro.

This track brilliantly kicked off their third album ‘Science and Nature’. If you’ve never heard it, you’re missing out. It’s likely the band were struggling for a name for this song since the lyrics have nothing to do with the Zorro franchise, instead concentrating on some mysterious celebration day. Indeed, it would have made more sense had it been called ‘The Wicker Man’, but then the band never liked to leave the crumbs out in the open.

5. Serenity Now (2005)

In 2005, The ‘Tones released a cracking four-track EP titled Serenity Now. The title track is arguably one of their finest pop singles and certainly one of their most underrated. A couple of years later I was working my way through Seinfeld and got to the Season 9 episode ‘The Serenity Now’. The episode features George Costanza trying to maintain his anger using a calming technique he learned from his father, who was advised to say “Serenity now!” every time he felt his anger boiling over. It’s a brilliant episode of a brilliant season of a brilliant sitcom.

The song is just as good. It kicks off with a twisting, memorable guitar riff from guitarist Adam Devlin, before firing itself into a vocal melody as catchy as anything Mark Morriss has ever committed to record. It has borrowed the title from Seinfeld as a homage, with lyrics focusing on the hatred towards a disruptive person (“Everybody you meet wants to knock your, teeth out”) and regret over not standing up to them sooner. My only issue is seeing George Costanza every time I hear the song now.

6. Hey Schmoopy (2010)

‘Serenity Now’ wasn’t the last time they showed their love of Seinfeld. Their sixth album ‘A New Athens’ featured a secret track. Titled ‘Hey Schmoopy’, it’s a reference to one of the best ever episodes of Seinfeld – The Soup Nazi. In the episode, Jerry has a new girlfriend called Sheila who he keeps referring to as “schmoopy’, much to the ire of George.

The song is a simple ukulele-led instrumental song, so it’s likely that it was finished on the same day as the band watched an episode of Seinfeld and they named it after that.

7. The Fountainhead (1995)

‘The Fountainhead’ was one of the band’s first ever singles, initially finding a home on the Fierce Panda label in 1994. The name is inspired by the novel of the same name, or more likely the film adaptation from 1949 starring Gary Cooperas Howard Roark. In it, a young architect wants to work in ‘modern architecture’, despite the film he works for tending towards traditional designs.

I had always thought this song was about a failing romantic relationship but with the knowledge of the film it is more likely to be about the storyline of the film.

“God knows I’ve tried to bridge the gap,
I’ve tried to be me and time after time I’ve lied,
Just to say the things you wanted to hear”

8. Castle Rock

‘Castle Rock’ is named after the fictional town that provides the setting of many Stephen King stories. They include ‘The Body’ (a.k.a. ‘Stand By Me’), ‘Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘Cujo’.

I can’t see any reference in the lyrics to anything in any of the films. I’m sure the chorus would have been improved with the phrase “I think I might be losing my way” being replaced by “I think that Chopper’s sicking my balls”, even though it wouldn’t have fit tonally.

9. After Hours (2002)

The lyrics aren’t any kind of reference to films (other than a glancing nod to Fred Astaire), but the Edgar Wright music video is a joy to behold.

It’s clearly inspired by 1976 musical comedy film Bugsy Malone. It’s a prohibition-era bar, serving milk rather than beer and starring children as the gangsters. It comes complete with dancing children and a punchline gag involving the band and some cream-firing guns.

Edgar Wright is good friends with The Bluetones and has regularly collaborated with the band throughout his career. He directed the music video for ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’ in 2000. They starred in an episode of Spaced in 2001 titled ‘Mettle’, which centred around a robot wars tournament (in which the band competed). He featured their Science and Nature track ‘Blood Bubble’ in the trailers to promote the series. Later on, Sleazy Bed Track was used his film in Scott Pilgrim vs The World.

Their work together never got any better than the After Hours music video and it’s a real underrated gem.

————

Well now I just want to listen to The Bluetones.