Ashes To Ashes – The Final Chapter.

Every time someone said “Let’s find out the truth about Gene Hunt”, it always sounded so negative. So wrongly negative. The majority vote – or at least what the reviews said – seemed to believe he killed Sam Tyler. I never thought he did. Gene Hunt, as I believe has been discussed countless times, remains a loyal to his team as his team is to him. And, although I think it might have been better if none of us knew the truth (both viewers and fictional characters) as this has somewhat tainted potential re-runs and the non-serious side of Gene Hunt world, the truth turned out to be a positive thing, more or less, for Hunt fans. He was not evil. The evil one, AS I THINK I STATED ALL ALONG, turned out to be DCI Jim Keats. Jim ‘I don’t have a purpose until the final episode’ Keats.

The first showing on Friday made for exceptionally confusing viewing, in that I did not understand at all. Subsequent discussions between my watching companions were then needed, and when I rewatched it today, it made much more sense. But either the script writers wanted to be cryptic or they, too, were so lost by this point in Gene Hunt World that they weren’t relating too much to the viewer, who had no idea how this was supposed to end, anymore. I am dubious as to whether they had this explanation/ending planned since Sam Tyler was around, or whether, when they started writing Series 3, this is what they came up with. It seems a little more like the latter – surely Keats would have been around for much longer, given his somewhat incredibly intrinsic role in the whole thing? Fans have been confused, upset (mainly due, I have found, to the killing of the Quattro) and devastated by the end of this saga – I keep telling them it’s fictional – but what I am most upset about is the lack of anything Gene Hunt anymore. Obviously had it gone on much longer the whole thing would get boring and be ruined, but he’s such a good character how could you not wish for more of the same? I believe one interview with Philip Glenister actually asked the question “So why are you leaving Gene Hunt behind?”, which I found bizarre – surely it’s up to the script writers and the BBC budget, not one actor in a show of many many workers?

So much happened it’s hard to know what to write about first. I think I agree with the rumours – the episode could have done with being 90 minutes. It wasn’t rushed so much, but still could have been longer. The end of episode 7 saw Alex leaving Hunt alone in her flat, literally about to hop into bed with each other (in fairness, Gene Hunt probably would have been even more crude about it). I was extremely annoyed about this – it couldn’t ever happen now. Keats shows up and ruins the evening, as usual, and leaves Drake intrigued by a photograph of an old house – the old house that featured in the news report shown in Alex’s hospital room. Where a body has been found in a shallow grave. Obviously Alex jumps to the conclusion that it’s Sam – why would it be anyone else’s?

Oh how wrong she was. From what I seem to be able to deduce, from the very vague script  (which, incidentally, was just as funny this week – “His pulse was all over the bloody floor!” etc etc., – but seemed less so due to the ridiculously serious nature of all things ending. Too serious for what was one a light-hearted show) and things I have read in various places (ie. the internet), the world they are in is not the real world. I mean that was pretty obvious to begin with – no one travels back in time, no one can travel forward in time and not age (Hunt, Chris, Ray etc, from the 70s to the 80s had nothing in their appearance change), and no one can travel forwards AND backwards in time (Alex). But why are they there? And how are they there, if it isn’t the real world?

After leaving the three other members of the team to sort out a diamond heist in London, Drake races up to the location of the building in the photograph, given to her by Keats. Hunt finds out and tries to stop her, but he reaches the scarecrow on top of the hill (where the shallow grave is) just as she discovers the badge that says ‘6620’. As she digs in the dirt (literally and metaphorically), Hunt pulls a gun on her and orders her to stop, but she finds an identity card stating that the body buried is that of the ghost that has been haunting her. The police officer with the number 6620. The signature states it is a young Gene Hunt.

Keats, being the evil tosser that he is, reveals to Chris, Ray and Shaz, before Hunt and Drake can do it gently, through his ‘report’ (three Betamax tapes, addressed to each individually) that they are not really alive. The tapes contain footage of their deaths – this I totally did not understand at the time, and thought it was a prediction of their deaths – (what the hell were Oasis doing in a show that has predominantly amazing music?) – and when they realise that they have been dead all this time, they are, understandably, somewhat perplexed and confused and upset.  Keats tries to convince them that Gene Hunt has covered the truth up from them too long, but the REAL truth (I said it was confusing…) is that Mr Gene Hunt himself was unaware of things, as he had ‘forgotten’. How very vague. It appears that Ray killed himself after not joining the army, Chris was shot whilst on duty, and Shaz was stabbed by a car thief. This is when Oasis turned up (on the soundtrack), so we must surmise that Shaz died in the 90s.

So. If they’re all dead, why is everything still happening? Conclusions draw that Gene Hunt runs a world (or Limbo, as Keats yells) for troubled coppers, who have had dubious or undeserved deaths, and need to hang around for a little before they can go to Copper Heaven. Or Copper Hell, if they follow Keats. Yes, Keats turns out to be the Devil, as is suggested by his evil tempting of them, his constant “Gene Hunt’s a bastard so pick me instead” stance, and the small hints like the lift in their new police building going down (to Hell, one assumes), the three same numbers to press on the key code on the door lock, and the red button on the lift. Hints, hints, hints, but you don’t actually notice them until you watch it a second time. I was a little disappointed that it turned out to be a regular Good vs Evil battle in the end – that seemed a little too blunt and obvious – but it was still pretty good.

“Gradually they come to you, those who had issues with their passing, and you tucked in their shirts and wiped their noses. Sorting out the troubled souls of her Majesty’s constabulary.” Ironically, Keats says it best.

There were some epicly touching moments. In the building next to where the young Gene Hunt is buried, Alex talks to Hunt, and finds out about his past. He died in 1953 – Coronation Day – hence the British flags still decorating the place, and didn’t deserve a shallow grave. I didn’t understand why Gene Hunt had been chosen to help the troubled souls, post-service, as he’d only died in ’53 – surely there had been plenty of dead officers priory to this? But as he remembers his past, he actually looks genuinely upset. There was some incredible acting here, so it was a shame that Keats had to turn up and ruin it. I liked the way the inside of the building looked like the interview room in ‘Life On Mars’.

In the midst of all this confusion and ‘explanation’ and so on, Shaz, Chris and Ray are still on the case of the diamond heist. A gang in London was going to hand over jewels to Dutch traders (I think?), and the downsized team plan on inserting Shaz into the operation. A sting, if you will. Before this can happen, Keats tries to tempt them to a new life in his division – which they initially take up, as it seems like there is nothing left for them in Hunt’s Fenchurch East. Luckily, Shaz returns to Hunt and Drake, all ready to complete the mission, and there is a fantastic scene where Hunt asks the rest of Fenchurch East “Are you armed bastards?”, and ‘Beat It’ plays as the Quattro and four other cars line up, driving to the London Aerodrome.

Everything goes to plan until the Dutch gang suspect Shaz. Luckily, Chris and Ray have not abandoned the team, and drive their car into the Dutch one, allowing Hunt to shoot the leader, based largely on the fact that he killed the Quattro. What a tosser.

So, the mission is a success, and the team agree the next plan of action is “pub”. As Hunt said, “you don’t need to put the word ‘why’ after ‘pub'”. When they get there, the Railway Arms from Manchester and Life On Mars times is there instead of Luigi’s. I assume this is because Luigi has gone back to Italy. I also assume the team moved to London after Manchester as that was where Alex was shot.

A final touching scene it is indeed – Ray, Chris and Shaz know they have to say goodbye to Hunt, and that he cannot come into the world beyond the door of the pub (one assumes this is Copper Heaven). Chris and Shaz make amends and get back together, in that Shaz declares her undying love for him (haha), and the three of them leave. Drake has spent the entire episode assuming that she is not dead, and her purpose in this world was to help the team move on. But Keats shows up (AGAIN), and tries to convince her she is still alive. She realises that it’s 9:06 – it is always 9:06 as this is the time she died (she WAS shot in the head…), and that Keats is not what he seems. He is evil. Drake becomes very upset about her daughter Molly, who hasn’t been present in this series as Drake has died and cannot contact her, but Hunt assures her that she’ll be fine. They FINALLY kiss, although it was a disappointment considering what it should have been, and Drake wants to stay in limbo with him so much, but I suppose just isn’t allowed to. It appears there are some rules. She leaves through the pub door, to the sound of ‘Life On Mars’ by David Bowie. Gene Hunt is all alone, but as soon as he walks into his office and picks up the Mercedes-Benz catalogue, a new case walks through the door, asking to have his iPhone back. The cycle begins again…

Later With Jools Holland – 21st May.

This week’s Jools was something of a disappointment. Which is a shame as it’s usually awesome, but most, if not all, of the musicians were so dull it left me wanting to scream “SOMEONE do SOMETHING a LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT why don’t you?” at the television screen. The episode featured Alicia Keys (oh I remember her…), Yeasayer, White Rabbits (who?), Jeff Beck (ohh..), The Creole Choir Of Cuba and Macy Gray (I remember her too. Though don’t want to).

So, not exactly an inspiring line-up so much. Presumably I shouldn’t have expected so much…

So. Alicia Keys. I thought… she was ok. She had some ‘catchy’ songs (not a fan of that expression), but most seemed a little tacky – almost ranging into the Lionel Richie scale of things – especially in lyric content. ‘Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart’? *vomit* Can’t people sing about a different subject for once? She appears to have turned from a meek piano player into a soul queen of sorts, except it wasn’t soul and she isn’t a queen – just giving the impression of being one. A good performance though I suppose – she looked like she was enjoying it – but she was wearing what looked like a dustbin liner and neck-breaking heels. Odd combination. This seems like the sort of music that middle-aged housewives might listen to – like the female version of Jack Johnson/Michael Buble/Jamie Cullum/James Blunt (sorry Ed have I just named all your favourite artists?) – and I wasn’t very inspired. Try again Miss Keys.

Yeasayer – I am confused by this band. I can’t work out if they’re good or bad, or whether I like them or not. My brother would probably state that I’m being moronic and that they were the best band around at the moment, especially considering “they haven’t even reached the peak of their musical career”, but I’m still dubious. It is definitely odd. It sounds good to the ear – it doesn’t make them bleed – but is it too easy to listen to to have sticking power for the future? They played ‘Ambling Alp’ first – a good tune but the lyrics are so cliché and tacky – and god knows what they were wearing. Good performance – good live – though you got the impression that they had all come together because they answered an advert in the New York Times, not because they were childhood friends or something. It pains me to say so but I think they were the best thing on this week. And the lead singer needs his non-mic-holding hand cut off. Stop waving it around.

Macy Gray – WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOUR VOICE? Musically, quite boring and generic I suppose. Not that interesting at all really. Is a giant. Literally, not metaphorically. Looked so bored when being interviewed. Must have been hammered when being interviewed, but then I remind myself, so is Jools. Now that makes for a very boring interview, unless you’re one of the drunken parties.Ask her about MUSIC, Jools, not food.  Sounded like a pretentious idiot when she said “I wanted to make a commercial album, but I’m not good at conformity”. How ironic considering how commercial it was. I am not interested.

Jeff Beck – Possibly the least dynamic character ever on Jools Holland. And he didn’t even write the song he played – a cover of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’. That really aggrivated me – it’s not like it hasn’t been done before – and it wasn’t even a good cover (too slow, too slow). I wondered if he was playing it to coincide with the ending of the BBC’s talent search for the next Dorothy. At 65, Jeff Beck should be wearing something with sleeves. I would have prefered to see the 1960s black and white footage that was played of him over and over again instead of having to watch him now. I don’t even like the Yardbirds that much.

(You see my point about it being a disappointment?)

White Rabbits – OH COME ON SOMEONE BRANCH OUT A LITTLE BIT! Please?! I’d rather listen to experimental music more than this indie landfill rubbish that doesn’t ever vary the bloody programme. On the plus side, they had some good drum beats, can write a good melody and were enthusiastic in their performance, but I’m looking for something different! And they need better grammar – ‘They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong’, I am afraid, makes no sense. They HAVE done wrong, we HAVE done wrong. Yes? Yes. I am disappointed that their song titles make for more interesting writing than their music.

Creole Choir Of Cuba – Despite their excellent costumes, their energy and what seemed like genuine happiness, and their alliteration-based name, these people, too, were a disappointment. They sang well, but were just a choir. I thought they might be a bit weird, possibly eccentric, maybe even… quirky *shock*, but they were none of these and were another set of musicians to add to the “I’m Not Bothered By” pile. If you can sing that well, why not do something with it? Bring lions and adders on to the stage, make it an epic opera – anything – just branch out from the regular.

Jools, your show is usually a hive of diversity. This week was exceptionally dull. Get some better musicians. Better ones than the ones you have lined up for next week – MGMT, Corinne Bailey Rae, Crystal Castles, Tom Jones, Metric and Vampire Weekend. *sigh*.

British Sea Power – Bath, Komedia, 17th May.

The Wandering Horn warms up

For once, what is arguably one of the best and easily the most eccentric bands were nice enough to play twenty minutes down the road from me! This never happens, so despite a disgustingly long day at work, and the fact that I’d hardly had any sleep, and wouldn’t have much more that night either, and that a mild cold was creeping up on me, my gig buddy and I braved the variables and went to see British Sea Power play at Bath’s Komedia.

And it was so worth it…

First off, obviously, the merchandise stall is always one of the focal points at a Sea Power gig. Most bands sell t-shirts, badges, cds and so on, and these do turn up on the BSP stall, but this time it came with added own-brand tea, chocolate and lager (surely a wonderful survival kit?), Tea Power mugs (magic mugs, no less – the pattern changes when you add hot water), and vintage pill boxes, smoking tins and (oddly) plastic fruits pieces to decorate.

As avid BSP fans, we (I mean Sea Power fans as a collective) have all been anticipating the new album with eager ears. I am confident it will be one of the album’s of the year. This new offering should be all-new material, unlike the album of 2009 ‘Man Of Aran’ – a new soundtrack to the 1934 silent documentary. And it’s not that Man Of Aran was terrible – au contraire, it used some of their finest tunes and melodies in a new and rather foreign context – but the point is we had heard some of it before. The new, as yet untitled, album, has not been heard yet, aside from a few gems thrown out at this gig. Lucky souls that we are.

I suppose we should talk about the support… Called John and Jehn, and they were ok – not too harsh on the ears (always a bonus), but didn’t really grab me. This was a disappointment as I thought supports were on the rise, quality-wise, considering Sound Of Rum and B Dolan for dan le sac Vc. Scroobius Pip in March, and supports for Lightning Bolt last December. We worked out that they were French, but they sung in English (odd I found – why not make something of what you know best? At least it wasn’t pidgin English, though that could have made for some comedy), and the lead singer looked like he was about the snap. He annoyed me a little for some reason, easily the coolest members were the girls in this band (what?! This never happens), with one playing keyboards and the other on bass, and the switched half way through as well. Pretty solid drummer (as far as I could tell), but the moment that conjured up the greatest feeling was when the lead singer looked like he was about the throw his guitar across the stage… Not exactly enamouring then, but pretty standard as support. In fairness, they could have been The Beatles and I still would rather see Sea Power. Obviously.

Abi and her viola

The setting up to a gig of BSP is somewhat different and slightly more interesting than nearly every other band I’ve seen (I don’t think my words are doing them many favours – despite sounding pretentious, they are actually pretty cool. Really. Yes really). Decorating their stage in flags to begin with, then foliage from the surrounding area, it takes about fifteen minutes, and frequently they tune up their own instruments (as you can see on the right with Abi, and above with Phil), so instead of the painfully boring wait in between Support and the band you really wanted to see, you have visuals! Komedia’s stage size lent itself well to a 6-piece band with a set – it made for a pleasantly compact, and therefore ambiently cosy, area. Wood, Phil, Abi, Noble and Yan all made appearances before their set actually started, and looking like they’d just been dragged through every retro and charity shop the world has to offer, they were wearing some awesome stuff. I’m not really one for fashion – clothes tend to pass me by somewhat – but when it’s as different as this it deserves a mention. Noble looked like a 1960s chav of sorts, wearing what I think was a sports shirt (not a football one so much) with, if they were in a contemporary context, comfy trousers that you put on at the end of a long day. Wood was in his generic navy blue boiler suit (I swear he must have a wardrobe just of them), looking like a cross between an in-mate and someone come to fix your kitchen sink, and Abi was wearing some lovely bright red shorts with a navy-themed top. Scarf and all. Good call Abi, her outfits never fail to impress me. Which is odd. Hamilton was decked out in something similar to Wood, with an added nest of grass as a hat, making him look like a wilderness, or a “marshland Jesus”. Although, aesthetically, his clothe choices are good, I can’t help thinking he doesn’t really consider the practical… Mr Sumner was pretty dull as far as “outfits you won’t find on the high street” goes, but that doesn’t detract from him musicality or performance at all, and Yan had the most incredible all-white thing going on. There were plus-fours (YES REALLY!), with long socks and foliage sticking out, some sort of woollen jumper that was a little like a cricket jumper minus the colours, a white scarf and ribbons. Amazing. Good work Yan.

Yan and Hamilton, Glasto '09

Now. What about the music?! The set-list was outstanding, starting with ‘Apologies To Insect Life’, featuring ‘Remember Me’, ‘True Adventures’, ‘Waving Flags’, ‘No Lucifer’ and ‘Lights Out For Darker Skies’, amongst many others. As they have so many incredible songs,you feel the need to yell out “CHOON!” at the first few notes of each song, and it appears to me like  greatest hits set. I think ‘Waving Flags’ should be more widely spread – it encourages a gentle pride in one’s country as well as appreciating all others. And I think that it something rather relevant, especially at the moment. Similarly, we could all benefit to the lyrics of ‘Lights Out For Darker Skies’, and one of the rarities played ‘Childhood Memories’. Such a lovely tune that last one. As well as the ‘classics’, we were also given ‘Pyrex’ and ‘Zeus’, presumably to be on the new album, and they too sounded excellent. Especially the latter. Alas for song names, ‘Pyrex’ just reminds me of cooking equipment, though I think the song overtakes this.

There were some excellent moments when Noble, Yan and Hamilton were on playing their guitars in the same position, with the fret board pointing at the same angle, making for an awesome-looking front line. The concentration in Wood’s face is outstanding, if not slightly crazed at times, and I was very impressed by Phil’s multitasking with keyboards and cornet. Although I am surprised he’s never considered a haircut, after it kept going everywhere. He does look mighty cool with a guitar though, even if it is a little outlandish for those mellow Sea Power types.

I say mellow, Noble did end the set by climbing the huge amp to the right of the stage, looking like he was threatening to jump, and Yan nearly destroyed the mic stand by swinging it around a little too wildly, considering how flimsy it was. However, the ending was just incredible – ‘Spirit Of St Louis’, being possibly one of my favourite songs ever, is a very good set-ender, especially when it’s extended (not quite to ‘Rock In A’ standard, but there was some semi-improv stuff going on there), and the band are clearly ‘in to it’. Lovely stuff. No encore but that’s ok – it would have completely ruined the ending number.

The only downsides were (to take up permanent residents at Pedants Corner) that Hamilton was slightly flat on some of his vocals, and that you can never bloody hear Abi. Such a shame as she’s a good player, but you can only hear her when the guitars aren’t present. There were some beautiful duos with the viola and cornet though, when you could hear them. Oh and Yan didn’t let me have his ribbon (or rather the roadies didn’t – not sure if Yan had a say in it or not), but there was a set list left for us, so not a total loss.

Crowd-wise, it was an interesting one… No sardine-effect at the front (thank god – I like to be able to breathe), no one throwing remainders of pints or bottle of piss (Sea Power have nice fans it would seem), but similarly no one jumping around wildly. So very vocal though – there was a lovely male contingent behind us who were yelling out ‘EASY, EASY!’ (so on and so forth) at the start of ‘No Lucifer’. Bounce factor therefore minimal, but pipe factor was good. Exceptionally odd.

So! To sum up, a very good gig overall – a sedate Sea Power, though not subdued, a cracking set list, lovely stage and costumes, idiosyncratic merchandise, lovely playing, a calm crowd and a wicked band. Why can’t all gigs be this good?

British Sea Power played:

Apologies To Insect Life
Remember Me
True Adventures
Down On The Ground
Childhood Memories
Waving Flags
Great Skua
No Lucifer
Canvey Island
Fear Of Drowning
Lights Out For Darker Skies
A Trip Out
Spirit Of St Louis, with a hint of Rock In A. Which would have been Rock In Bath.

And I can’t wait for the next album. Or gig 😀

Later With Jools Holland – 14th May.

This week’s ‘Jools’ had performances from The National, LCD Soundsystem, Kelis, Crowded House, Tracey Thorn and Pete Molinari. Two bands obviously stand out here (the first two), and the others didn’t make much of an impression, but hey! It’s still music…

Now. The National. I do quite like this bad (like A LOT), so this may be something of a biased review, but – whatever! As much as I’d listened to their music, I’d never actually seen them, and for some reason I imagined the lead singer to be a little scruffy, possibly with long hair and wild eyes. I didn’t expect all of them to wear suits… But luckily this doesn’t turn them into wankers, and their music is OUTSTANDING. They played three songs from their new album (‘High Violet’) – Bloodbuzz Ohio, Anyone’s Ghost and Terrible Love, and despite being something of a dismal baritonal type sound, I love the vocals, and the lyrics are incredible, and how they keep coming out with such good songs is unbelievable. I’m not sure if I’ve heard a song of theirs that I don’t like… Their new album is fantastic. Buy it. And I get to see them at Glasto! Lovely 😀

LCD Soundsystem – Like with The National, they didn’t get to play enough songs, but what they did play was very good indeed. This was another band that I didn’t know much about as a band, only musically. And not really much then, but their new album also sounds good – possibly even to buy, not just Spotify. They had some excellent lighting going on too, and for some reason Mr Murphy reminded me of a cross between Gene Hunt and Morrissey (and had a very strange microphone), but it was good stuff and I’d be up for seeing them live. Good thing I am then!

Crowded House – Too 90s, and not in a good way. I mean the name of them just says ‘I know you know I came from the 90s, but I’m going to make a stab at being indie landfill anyway’. It wasn’t wonderfully impressive, but better than previous aged musicians that Jools has previously had (Ian Hunter, for example). Not much else to say… Listenable too but not exactly exciting.

Tracey Thorn was this week’s ‘bird with the piano’ (Jools tends to be a little formulaic sometimes…), and it was better than in recent weeks (better than, say, Kate Nash). Although the best part of it was the string section I feel. It was pretty but, like most singer-songwriters, not that different from everything that came before them. Not bad music but nothing special. Easy on the ear though.

Kelis – Right. Now, what? The singer who, malevolently, gave us ‘Milkshake’ (a song which lends its name so well to other subjects, not least of all ‘My magic brings Voldemort to the yard, and I’m like, that’s hurting my scar’ – a vast improvement you could say) appears to have turned into some strange Grace Jones-esque character, sporting various parts of animal (horns, tails, what-have-you), with exceptionally odd make up and barnacles for jewellery. So the appearance isn’t great. What about the music? 90s-themed electronic-infused weirdness. This was not what I was expecting. There were some small moments of ‘Oh actually that’s quite good’, but I think I was too vexed by the whole thing to appreciate it. Not that I think I could have really anyway – it was too 90s rave! The whole thing was a little controversial I’d say, and not really the sort of thing I’d listen to… Though it seemed a good performance and one can commend her for that. Bloody weird though.

Last but not least, Pete Molinari. Who? I hear you ask. Well, quite. He sort of gave an 1950s twist to his music, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but like nearly every single other musician that has existed ever, it just wasn’t that inspiring! There was nothing new or innovative about it, and it’s not that music HAS to be new or innovative (I suppose that depends on what you really want from your music), but surely there isn’t much point in just churning out music that has already been done before? (Hence, what the hell is the point in tribute acts?) Luckily, he didn’t have much screen time. His music, like the other singer-songwriters, wasn’t offensive to music as such – perfectly fine for background music – but that has the potential to be the biggest insult ever sometimes. Oh dear…

Next week! Alicia Keys (a dubious ‘hmmm’ springs to mind), Yeasayer (unpronounceable – bad start) and Jeff Beck. The Creole Choir of Cuba look the best option here. Not that I know them, but with a name like that, surely they can’t disappoint!

Ashes To Ashes – Series 3, Episode 6.

Wow. I think this was possibly the most intense episode of the series, minus maybe the first episode. Although this one was much more tension-themed than the first – the first just revealed a lot. Not a huge amount more than we already know was shown in this, which leads me to the question – how are they going to answer everything in the two hours left of ‘Ashes To Ashes’?

This week it was all about Viv. Which is unusual – he is something of a secondary character, as it were, but all episodes so far in this series have focussed on a different character (Shaz, Ray, Chris etc., although not a huge amount on Chris so far…), and I assume they had run out of them so chose Viv for this week. Crime Of The Week is all about a riot that has broken out in D-Wing of Fenchurch East prison – these are no ordinary criminals (“These are M and S criminals!”), in Gene Hunt’s words, they’ve “raped it, robbed it, killed it”. Them in riot form is pretty scary, and there were some epic scenes here: as Hunt and the first riot squad arrive at the prison, bricks and bombs are falling all around them to the sound of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ by U2 (despite being U2, it is a cracking tune, and so, so fitting for the scene). Even though the riot squad have shields (plastic ones, this is no mediaeval seige) and headgear, Gene Hunt leads them, unprotected, into the prison, like an army walking up to battle (seige may be the word). Then we get a horrific scenes of policeman (including Viv, I should point out) being attacked by the rioting prisoners, and these particular prisoners seem very angry. Bloodied and bruised, the squad regroup outside, but Hunt realises Viv is left inside. He makes to go back in, but is stopped (as he probably would get killed), and  returns to the police station.

There is a general West Ham theme echoing throughout, from Keats whistling ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’, to Drake taking Viv’s West Ham football to the prison, and Hunt saying “Now I hate West Ham, but tonight we’re all Hammers fans, ok?” A little creepy, but I suppose represents a good deal of British society.

Before the first wave of policemen at the prison, Viv tries to tell Gene Hunt something, but can’t quite get the words out. Just as he is about to, Keats interrupts, literally saying “Sorry Viv, you’ve missed your chance”. Which to me, from the tone of his voice as well, sounds like Keats knew something about the whole thing – the something that Viv wanted to tell Hunt. As the team observe Viv, through the CCTV, being held hostage by the prisoners, and more specifically the ringleader Jason Sachs,  Alex manages to fuck things up again with her psychological talks (“This goes at your own pace, in your own time,” Of course it bloody does, he’s the one with the gun!), and Viv’s life hangs in the balance.

While all of this is going on, there has been an escaped prisoner on the loose since the riot began. His name is Paul Thordy. He thinks he is Sam Tyler. Even though he doesn’t look or sound like him. Paul Thordy is a con-artist, and not one of Gene Hunt’s favourite people. As soon as Chris and Ray find him, Hunt exposes him to what Drake calls “torture”. Really, it’s just Hunt doing what he likes to do. As Drake interviews Paul Thordy, she becomes more and more sucked into what he is saying about Hunt and the truth behind the whole situation. On the surface, he appears to know his stuff: he informs Alex that the riot is a cover-up, and that Viv agreed to bring a gun in for Sachs as long as Sachs made one of his men own up to a crime that his cousin was accused of. However, later it is revealed that Sachs and Thordy used to share a cell, so it’s not wonder that Thordy also has plans of the whole building being electrified, and that if anyone walks in, people die.

While THIS has been occurring (told you it was intense), Chris and Ray have been sent into the prison as “press”, to see if they can get Viv out. But as soon as Ray catches a glimpse of the beaten Viv, he reveals himself and Chris to be who they really are. The three of them are strung up to the electrics, and they can only wait for people to come and save them – or kill them as they will if they enter the prison.There is an exceptionally touching scene between Ray and Chris as they think they are going to die: Chris tells Ray to tell Shaz that, if he doesn’t get out of there, he loves her. Lots of sentiment, and the tension builds as the next wave of crime-fighters are about to break into the prison, and Hunt and Drake are running to try to stop them…

Gene Hunt throws a rock at the electrics box to make the whole building down (YES Hunt!), and Chris and Ray are saved. But Viv is taken by Sachs, and by the time Keats arrives there (why does he turn up now? Good work. Twat), he is dying. Like Episode 4, Keats is the one holding the dying character… How odd. The theme of ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ returns, and the team are left to comfort each other, surrounding Viv’s body.

DEPRESSING. But, team relations, I believe, were on the up. Keats is becoming more and more of a spare part, as he is only hindering the team and not helping (and why the hell does he always leave his mouth open after every insult he gives? He acts like a school boy instead of what he should be) (ARGH!). Ray and Chris are solid, as ever, and Hunt’s loyalty to the team is outstanding. The only annoying character (aside from Keats) this week was Alex, as she is more concerned with ‘finding the answers’ instead of helping towards what really matters. Why should getting back home matter now? It hasn’t mattered for a few years now. This new character of Paul Thordy was an interesting one – was he really Sam Tyler? (probably not). And who really is Keats and why is he there? (Angel of Death, as he always seems to be around when someone’s dying?). What’s going to happen in the last two episodes, and what the hell is going to be revealed about Hunt? Questions, questions! Although I’m not sure if I really want to know the truth about Gene Hunt and his world – I quite like it the way it is.

Next week looks out-bloody-standing – Keats leans more on Alex to find out stuff about Hunt (do your bloody job Keats), and relations between Drake and Hunt appear to be growing (I think?). Chris is not a popular character next week, and I want to know what happens!  Good it’s only tomorrow really 🙂

Later With Jools Holland – 7th May.

This was much less of a painful episode than I thought it was going to be – on the surface, grunge ‘queen’ Courtney Love, cat-strangler Joanna Newsom, and should-have-retired-years-ago Iggy Pop and Ozzy Osbourne isn’t exactly an inspiring or appealing line up. However, I actually enjoyed this week’s Jools.

As well as Hole, Mumford and Sons and Miss Newsom, Jools also had Lissie (who? She was good though), Angelique Kidjo and Ian Hunter. It was a mixed bag, but one that lends itself extremely well to a good review. So!

Hole. Never got into these peoples really, mainly as I don’t like the sound, partly as Nirvana, and therefore Hole, appear to be something of a “year 9 default band”, and my suspicions were pretty much confirmed at this performance. The second song on the Friday night edition was much better, with good lyrics and it actually sounded a little different from the one before, but I didn’t find anything hugely appealing in their music. Courtney Love looks like someone’s mum – that confused me – I know she IS one, but you’d expect her more to be doing the school run and cooking supper for everyone instead of wearing shoes that could actually break your neck. The trouble with this band is that the controversy surrounding them (esp. since the reformation) (Courtney Love and Larkin boy? Really?!) seems to be more interesting than their music. Oh dear.

Mumford and Sons – Heard so much about these people, usually with the “you’ll really like them!” recommendation, and this is pretty much the first time I’d listened. It’s alright really. Not too bad – I’d probably go and see them live if it wasn’t too much effort (ie. when they play at Glasto, if there’s nothing else on, I’ll probably be there). Most of their songs seemed to start all the same – a bad point – but usually went off on its own tangent after the intro was over. I can see why they could be controversial and disliked – they do appeared modern pretentious folk (FOLK SHOULD NOT BE PRETENTIOUS! JESUS!), and all dress like they live in Hobbiton, but having said they, they have made some very listenable-to music. Possible summer music. Their sound does not offend my ears, and this is quite a rare thing really. They did have quite a gentle, ambling sound though, and this didn’t really match the intense enthusiasm thrown into the mix, especially by the keyboard player. Who would have been bleeding from the forehead had their set gone on any longer.

Interviews with Iggy and Ozzy – this needs a mention, as, aside from never really being interested in who Jools interviews, he should not be interviewing someone who can’t really string two sentences together (Mr Osbourne), as this leads to someone who can’t ask the right questions trying to get answers from someone who can’t really talk, and I am not in the least bit intrigued by someone who dances around on a purple-themed insurance advert with his top off when he should be at home smoking a pipe and wearing a dressing gown at his age. It’s a sad thing I know Iggy Pop for that more than anything else. Blasted modern culture.

Joanna Newsom – now this one was an interesting one indeed. I was expecting to be screaming at the television to drown out her voice, but it wasn’t so bad this time. I was made to do contemporary dance to her album ‘The Milk-Eyed Mender’, and surely just the idea of that is enough to put anyone off? Her main downfall is producing some lovely music, but ruining the whole thing by her infuriating voice. Her ‘untrainable’ (her words), child-like wail. However, it appears to have balanced itself out a little, and I could actually appreciate her music and her harp playing. I am an advocate of musicians who don’t play the guitar currently (it seems so cliché…), and the harp is something of a beautiful instrument. Good work Newsom, I was actually impressed. I still wouldn’t consider buying your triple album though.

Ian Hunter – Urgh. Give it a rest. Retire. I’m not bothered. I don’t even really like Mott The Hoople. I was bored by this man and this music, and found the most interesting about the whole performance was that his haircut hadn’t changed in 30 years. Big wow.

Angelique Kidjo – Now she was cool. Really! I was very impressed – the music here had some clear African roots going on (some traditional instruments flying around somewhere I think, drums and beats and so on), but had a Western contemporary layer to it as well, and they looked like they were having so much fun. Very pleasant to the ear, and with some awesome dancing, this was a very good performance. I would indeed consider going to see her and her band. Go Kidjo!

Lissie – She only had one song! This was disappointing as I would have liked to have seen/heard more of her, but what she did was quite incredible. The one song she sung, ‘Oh Mississippi’, was one of those heartfelt country numbers that would probably have you slitting your wrists by the end if you listened to the lyrics properly, but wow! Her voice! So powerful from such a small person. I kind of wanted her to play the piano too, but she and Jools made a good team. And either she’s special needs or was really, really drunk as she didn’t seem in control of her limbs during the song, but that didn’t seem to matter as it was one of those voices that as soon as it starts singing, everyone listens. Marvellous stuff 🙂

Next week looks awesome – LCD Soundsystem AND lovely lovelies THE NATIONAL. I am so excited.

Festival Fashion… *cough*

So! The best season (aside from maybe Christmas) is on the near horizon, and I am ridiculously excited – as I am sure all of you are too if you are lucky enough to be going to any – but I, currently, am continuously bombarded with adverts telling me to “get the festival look” or to “be in style this summer festival season”, and so on and so forth. But why?! I ask you why, and what is wrong with a good pair of wellies and a water proof poncho? Actually I have a warm poncho from a South American chap in Green Park Station market – both will be coming with me.

Accessorize is a culprit of glamourising festivals it would seem, as adverts for “festival fever” screamed at me as I walked past it today (sounds more like something you might catch if a typhus epidemic broke out in the camping area). Ironically, I was drawn in, and the majority of it seemed somewhat illogical to me. Some things on offer were lovely – yes – but there are the last things I would take to a festival. A festival typically contains mud. I don’t particularly want a bag that I spent over £30 on (generally I wouldn’t do that anyway) drifting down a tidal wave of murky water.

Coverage of Glastonbury last year was minimalised by an episodic bit called ‘Glasto Glamour’, I believe, and it consisted mainly of a presenter (I’d like to add the majority involved in this were female – be practical for once won’t you?) interviewing people and asking them what they are wearing and why. Traditionally the answer should be “Clothes, because I’ll be arrested otherwise”, but usually it was “Well I’m wearing this really cute vintage dress I picked up in Paris last spring, and I thought it looked awesome so I wore it.” Why would you wear a piece of history to a potentially very messy five-day event?

It generally just leads back to my theory that fashion was made to be impractical, and my thoughts on Glasto Glamour and the Festival Fashions are to be sensible and practical:

Definite yes to the wellies, preferably without stupid designs on them. Walking boots are good too – take both.

Everyone needs something to sleep in. Replace make up, hair spray, the latest ‘look’ and whatever else you have in your bag that is unnecessary with somewhere to live for the next five days.

And alcohol. As it costs quite a lot at a festival.

And that is your basic festival kit. Anyone who feels the need to look glamorous and incredible at a festival where it is likely to rain and you won’t be washing for the next five days has clearly missed the point.

Ashes To Ashes – Series 3, Episode 5.

“No shooting Bols? Alright, let’s go run him over.”

Now this was a pretty good episode really – musically, it was outstanding, and there’s some old faces in the guise of “The Gay Tash Twins” – DCI Litton and DI Bevan from Manchester. These two slightly evil characters are actually oddly likeable – Litton anyway at least, and compared to DCI Keats they’re positively peachy. On their arrival in London, Keats basically latches onto them and insists on the cooperation of Fenchurch East with Litton and Bevan, to which Hunt says “Right – A Team – mush!”, and Litton refers to Keats as “pencil-neck”.

This episode was also good as it was not too Keats-heavy, as there were two new additions to antagonise the team instead.

Crime Of The Week this episode, ergo, focused around the reason Litton and Bevan were in the capital city, and initially it was because the chap they were chasing, Frank Hardwick, had stolen £2000 from the Police Widows Fund. However, as the episode progressed, and Hunt gazed a scathing eye upon the situation, it became clear this was not the motive for wanting Hardwick either in jail or dead. To me, it was hard to decipher exactly why DCI Litton actually wanted to ‘nick’ him, but Hardwick was terrified of both Litton and Bevan so there must have been something involving him.

Now, there was a fantastic high point when there was a race to capture Frank Hardwick between Litton and Hunt, and then the birds of the show, DI Alex Drake and Sharon Granger, managed to get there first. Absolutely supreme, especially when they took Hardwick out of the place of arrest semi-clothed. He is then shot at, and Ray thinks he’s seen something but can’t quite put his finger on it. There were loyalty issues with Ray quite emphatically in this episode – old colleagues from Manchester reverted him back slightly to his misogynistic ways, and he sways slightly to Litton and Bevan, but eventually comes through when he realises that what he saw was Bevan trying to shoot Hardwick. The race is on the both save and shot Hardwick, and this culminates in Hunt and Drake having a late-night talk with Frank in Luigi’s about why it is that he’s so scared of the Manchester contingent. He informs them that there had been ‘meetings’ for what he thought were coppers to ‘rough up’ the local unsavouries – drug dealers and so on – and that in one instance, he saw someone beating up a black man until he didn’t breath anymore. It turns out this man was Bevan.

So! Drake and Hunt confront Litton, but he genuinely is unaware of the situation (which is why I still need a motive for him wanting to get Hardwick), and this leads to a wonderful partnership between Hunt, Drake and Litton to bring Bevan down, and eventually, after a police gala (‘Opportunity Cops’), Hunt shoots him. Very good work from a patch work team that didn’t involve Keats too much, until the end when he arrests Bevan for “failing to prevent criminal acts perpetrated by your own officer.” To which Hunt replies “He’s got twenty-five years service! He’s innocent! I mean he’s a prat, but an innocent prat.”

So – team relations, I thought, were on the up, as the team worked very well and uncovered something that Keats was supposed to (corruption in CID) before he did (win!), and all loyalties were back in place before the credits, but at the end, Alex followed Keats after he asked “Do we need to talk?” (why Alex why?!), and she kept bloody asking Hunt anything she could about Sam Tyler. My opinion on the Sam thing now is that he left Life On Mars world with the help of Hunt (good help, I assume he wanted to leave), and Hunt is trying to cover for Tyler as there is something negative about the whole situation.

Ray had his “Life On Mars” moment this week and saw stars, like Shaz has done previously, and Alex seems to do all the time, and Chris achieved some excellent dancing and body popping at the police gala and later in CID, Shaz teamed up with Ray for some singing also at the gala, and Drake spoiled the whole thing by buggering off with Keats at the end. Each week I am more and more disappointed in Keats, as he seems to have less and less purpose – and this technically means he shouldn’t be there. Why does he have power to be so evil with no reason? It makes for something of an unbelivable character – you can almost see Daniel Mays just being horrible for the sake of it when he’s acting, as there’s no motivation to be so otherwise. Sort it out writers…

Next week there appears to be some form of riot in a prison, hostages and press reporters, and possibly something bad happens to Ray and Chris – I don’t know, but it’s only two days away, and less than a month until the end of the whole thing, so not much longer to wait!

Later With Jools Holland – 30th April.

Jools this week was really all about Gorillaz. Damn they were awesome! As well as this fantastic collaboration between a lot of extremely well-respected artists, Mr Holland also had in his studio Mos Def, Bobby Womack, Bobby McFerrin, Laura Marling, Drive By Truckers and Diane Birch. Who to review scathingly first?!

Drive By Truckers. What were they thinking?! They had two singers, and the first didn’t exactly impress me. The next singer, however, sounded like a disgusting cross between American emo-singer and a 6-year old girl being strangled. It was not good. Anyway, the controversy of the voices somewhat detracted from the enjoyment of the music, but it didn’t sound that good anyway: kind of, again, indie landfill, and just pretty bland really. Better than Band Of Horses the week before though.

Diane Birch, lady with the piano, was also pretty dull. There wasn’t a huge amount of difference between each song, but she did have a fairly pleasant voice. Not much else to say about her really…

Laura bloody Marling. Would someone please explain the deal with this bird? Her songs are quite enjoyable – yes – but she’s not exactly amazing, and she doesn’t look like she actually enjoys music at all. Not only did she look terribly bored during other people’s songs on the show (how bloody rude), she also looked deeply depressed by her own tunes. This can’t be good. I can just about listen to her songs, but I am not a fan of her. As most of you seem to know anyway… I think she played things from her new album which everyone seems to be raving about, but this I think is another artist that I will not understand. Like quite a bloody lot of them.

Now, Bobby McFerrin was AWESOME. He is sort of a beat boxer, but I think describes himself as just a voice artist (surely this could be many things and is somewhat too vague?). He made sounds with his voice and changed the pitch by tapping on his chest (see right), and how he made so much noise (good noise! For once good noise!) is a mystery – he might as well have had five mouths. Anyway, good work McFerrin, very impressive. I think there was an interview here too, but as TJ Bench said “There should be interviews on this show, but Jools should not be allowed to do them.”

Gorillaz. YES Damon Albarn. Good work indeed. I naively thought this ‘animated’ band was a small sort of side project from Mr Blurry man, but with the amount of guest artists involved and the songs played and the quality of everything going on, this is neither small nor a side thing. There was an excellent nautical theme running throughout, and there were appearances from Mick Jones and Paul Simonon (anyone know how to pronounce this name?), Mos Def and Bobby Womack and others, and their new album sounds outstanding – another potential buy (now I actually have money to buy music!). Why the hell aren’t they at Glasto?

Mos Def I have always wondered if his name is supposed to mean “most definitely”. There was only one solo song from this slightly odd rapper (or MC?) playing a few drums and cymbals with a dj in the background – but it was good! Oddly enjoyable – this is not the music I usually go for – but it was better than Ms Marling and Ms Birch and the Drive By Truckers – maybe my musical taste is branching out… *faints*

Next week! We have the absolutely sickening Joanna Newsom, the always controversial Hole (why Jools? Why?), Iggy Pop and Ozzy Osborne (what the hell Holland?!), Angelique Kidjo, Ian Hunter, Lissie, and Mumford and Sons (could be good? Needs exploration). But whichever way, it should be an exciting episode, even if it is to yell stuff at the tv. Til next week!