Thursday, 30 July 2009

Sea Sew - Lisa Hannigan

Those unfamiliar with the name of Lisa Hannigan prior to her nomination for the Mercury Music Prize will almost certainly have heard her vocals, adding lustre to the harmonies of Damien Rice on his albums O and 9. Tales of an acrimonious split are unconfirmed, but veiled comments in interviews with Rice cite the old clich├ęs of a breakdown in communication and a gap in their artistic goals.

Sidling into the limelight, Hannigan for the most part eschews Rice's spartan approach, instead choosing to flesh out her songs with brass, piano, strings and various other vintage and esoteric instrumentation. However she does retain certain structural schematics that fans of Rice will identify; slow building crescendos, a predilection for atmospherics, texture, mood and nuance. But there is a lightness of touch in the arrangements and lyrical themes, and a refusal to correspond to a Celtic archetype, that sets her apart.

What is also evident is the change in Hannigan's vocal work now that she is recording under her own name. On O and 9 her voice was cracked at times, with an incredible amount of drama and tension invested in it. But Sea Sew contains an immediacy and playfulness that is partly down to Hannigan's conversational tone. Hannigan's vocals are also extremely malleable, able to adapt to a broad spectrum of styles. This is important because as the album develops it becomes clear that it falls into three distinct shades; winsome folk, sophisticated pop and dark alt-country.

“I don't know if you write letters or if you panic on the phone, I'd like to call you all the same, if you want, I am here...” So goes 'I Don't Know' and it is an unashamed love song that screams POP CROSSOVER at you in a hysterical voice. Marketing and PR guys and label bosses and award ceremony bigwigs and Barclaycard must be rubbing their hands and eyes and cloacas and visceras and other varied body parts in glee. It is a harmless ballad with a big chorus, but I was left questioning its authenticity. In fact after the opening folk gambit there are various songs that demonstrate pop sensibilities. The best of these is 'Keep It All' - a brooding, pulsing pop song situated somewhere between Feist and Bat For Lashes, with Hannigan's dark vocal take playfully subverting the previous track's unashamed 'pop' proclivity.

The enjoyment of an album often relies on lots of small elements, and this is particularly the case on Sea Sew. The polka feel of 'Sea Song', the brass, banjo and breathy vocals that end 'Splishy Splashy', the wheezing harmonium of 'Lille', the contrapuntal pizzicato violin on 'Keep It All' and then the droning and discordant string work with a glockenspiel playing the counter-melody on 'Courting Blues' aren't just disparate elements but taken together they add to a confident and composed performance.

Hannigan's songs are naturally introspective and concentrate on an inward-looking, self-referential world . This homespun approach, further evidenced in the kitsch crocheted album sleeve, can be charming at times but is unmistakeably twee. The lyrical imagery is peppered with whimsical non-sequiturs, quaint turns of phrase and references to mundanity (knitting, food and tea). Which brings us to the Mercury nomination. What Hannigan has produced is a deeply personal work and it is a shame that she is being desperately shoe-horned into a particular category as a result of the nomination, for it is a strong debut that showcases her delicate voice and imaginative syntax.

This article was originally produced for http://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/. To read the music review of Sea Sew by Lisa Hannigan on the site please click on the article title.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

A Casa Verde - Terry de Castro


A Casa Verde is the debut solo album from The Wedding Present's American bassist and confirmed Anglophile Terry de Castro. The twelve songs contained on the record are all cover versions, each one originally written and performed by a friend or previous musical collaborator. Released via frontman of The Wedding Present David Gedge's label Scopitones, it is an album that is irretrievably in thrall to its influences yet subtly reworks and reinvents the source material.

Whether a vanity project or a way for an artist to recognise and pay dues to their influences collections of cover versions are an intriguing yet not always successful concept. An obvious antecedent to A Casa Verde would be David Bowie's Pin Ups, a collection of songs by his late 60s contemporaries many of whom he had shared stages or played in studios with.

De Castro refines the original material through her own aesthetic; the sonic palette on each song is extended to include brushed drums, piano, banjo and steel guitar which augment the original framework. And the overall effect is unmistakeably American in its aspect. That de Castro should have chosen such a palette is not surprising, despite the fact that she has spent the best part of the last two decades dividing living between Britain and America. Migrants traditionally suffer three dislocations; loss of roots, linguistic and social. So it is no surprise that for her first solo effort de Castro remodels the majority of these songs with the wide-eyed innocence of Americana.

The album opens with 'Dalliance' and is a case in point. The Wedding Present's original, the opening track from 1991's Seamonsters, was produced by Steve Albini and is in equal parts taut, wiry, frenzied, vascular and rapacious. However de Castro's version reduces the urgency and intensity settling instead for an intimate depiction of the lamentation and heartache that is at the song's locus. Acoustic and pedal steel guitars are gently layered alongside de Castro's hushed vocals which are at once feminine and masculine. The song itself reverses and interrogates gender roles, with Gedge in the original version singing from the viewpoint of a jilted mistress.
This sets the tone for the remainder of the album. The songs occupy a sphere of dark country tinged ballads ('Glorious', 'The Sun Is Always Sweetest' ) or upbeat indie-pop ('America in '54', 'The Great Avalanche'), while torch song 'To Love You' by Goya Dress (who de Castro also played bass with) closes the album. The album is most successful during these quieter and reflective moments, particularly when Astrid Williamson (one of the songwriters de Castro pays homage to) lends her ethereal backing vocals.

A Casa Verde is an attempt to document and interact with a life spent working as a musician. The extensive annotated sleeve notes reveal an intricate web of personal histories, while the whole project is suffused with nostalgia as it peers into and then honours the past. As a listener it was also nostalgic to read band's names long forgotten...Cinerama, Drugstore, Goya Dress, Downpilot and other 90s alternative staples. Suddenly being 15 and reading fanzines you got by sending £1.50 and a stamped addressed envelope to a remote part of the British Isles (more if they sent a cassette) feels a very long time ago.

It must be said that de Castro is comfortable enough in her capabilities as a musician to not be awestruck by either the song or the songwriter's own personal mythology. This means that she is able to sufficiently adapt the relevant songs to her strengths. Making sense of life through music is the spirit of the album, and it is an ethos to be commended. Covers albums are rarely essential but Casa de Verde does standalone as a charming take on myth and an appreciation of the songwriting tradition.

This article was originally produced for http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/. To view the music review of A Casa Verde by Terry de Castro please click on the article title.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Lounge On The Farm 10th - 12th July 2009



FRIDAY


Music festivals are strange beasts. Don't listen to what anyone tells you, they are the worse place for listening to new music. Stuck inside a diaphanous tent, sides flapping, surrounded by people who have made their own clothes in an attempt to look like Oberon and Titania that are lost in an eddying swirl of hallucinogenics. All this while attempting to listen to a group of people desperately trying to convey their 'sound' to a disparate bunch of half-interested spectators. It isn't the most conducive atmosphere to discover or actually hear new music.


Spread around Merton Farm high above the cathedral city of Canterbury, Lounge on the Farm (LOTF) has grown into a bustling family-orientated festival. Children's wristbands have a space to write their name and their parent's mobile number on. What a lovely idea. And it is actually on a farm. You peer through rusted fences to see men in luminous jackets shovel dung and feed cows. The main stage is in a cowshed. Albeit one that has a bar and vintage chandeliers hanging from the rafters. But still smells of excrement. A strange choice, as you can't just grab a drink and sit and idle away the day watching the main stage acts in the sunshine all day. Hohum.


Things get off to a slow start on Friday. After orientating myself around the small site I settle upon the Sheep Dip tent, the lineup of which promises a whole host of alternative goodies. After the post-rock stylings of Up C Down C fellow Men of Kent Kid Pang's mini-narratives of degenerates, dead rappers, pikies, revolutionaries and varied other pariahs and factotums are welded to a sound that takes its cue from a clutch of great American hardcore bands then fetters it to something much more British. But not in a prosaic or parochial Union flag waving sort of way. It's British in that it looks at the giant morass of shit and flaccidity that we find all around us and laughs in its face. Like Peter Cook fronting Shellac, but not quite.


Casiokids' blend of perfectly honed Scandinavian pop gives way to a euphoric and heady rush that provokes a wellspring of devotion from the crowd. They are the first band to make this feel like a festival, packing out their tent and getting a great reaction from the crowd with their groove-laden-elastic-analogue-bliss. Their live vocals are staggeringly good, particularly on 'Fot I hose' and 'Togens hule'. Over on the main stage Wild Beasts ply their portentous, swollen and frankly risible indie-soul. While the lead singer's efforts to mimic Antony Hegarty are laudable, I have a sneaky suspicion that his vocal affectations cover up a significant lack of talent.


Canterbury is a pretty liberal city, with two large universities and a strong history in progressive academia but because of it's small size and ecclesiastical tradition it has always been seen as a cultural backwater. BBC South East seem to be keen to redress this imbalance with many features appearing of late on the counter-culture scene of the late 60s/early 70s that spawned Soft Machine, Caravan and Gong amongst others. LOTF is the perfect launching point for this campaign of revisionism as Gong headline the Further Field. Formed by Aussie Daevid Allen, they peddle through a back catalogue of vaguely psychedelic soft rock. I was going to stay for the first hour of their set but after a couple of songs decided to grab a drink before watching the headliners in the Cowshed.


The Horrors' second album caught a lot of people off guard. We are so used to bands arriving almost perfectly formed (shaped by PR/marketing firms), drowning in hyperbole, that it is a genuine shock for a band to re-cast themselves. Their gradual evolution from Farfisa organ led Victorian horror schtick to one of the most genuinely exciting British bands was a surprise, but in unshackling themselves from the staccato Gothic shocks of their debut they have become a genuinely exciting band. Don't be fooled by claims that their songs are mere composites.


Tonight's set draws largely from that sophomore album and the band are on it from the start. A drone of oscillating feedback announces 'Mirror's Image' while the squall of guitar and Faris Badwan's commanding yet languid vocals are captured perfectly live. And heck do they look the part. Striding around the stage, black clad and brooding. The dark romanticism of 'Who Can Say' and 'I Only Think Of You' are aired, while the pulsing 'Three Decades' encapsulates the nightmarish vision of their first album but updates the sound. The motorik bass and clipped drums of 'Sea Within A Sea' close the set, with the wash of immersive synthesis accompanying the band as they exit the stage.


There is a desire for acceptance and camaraderie, with frontman Badwan revealing he was born in Sidcup and therefore has Kentish roots. Little does he know that the majority of Kentish folk see Sidcup as nothing but an appropriation, a grey hinterland of tower blocks, grotty newsagents and second hand car dealers before you get into London proper. They also acknowledge that the distance between the crowd and the band contributes to a poor audience reaction, mainly due to the biggest photographer's pit I've ever seen. The only misstep in terms of songs played however is 'I Can Only Think Of You'. On record its dark melancholia is delivered through droning waves of saw-filter synths, but live it becomes dirge like and leads an exodus for the bars and other tents. Shame, because a lot of people missed their now usual encore of songs from Strange House. The energy of 'Count In Fives' and 'Sheena Is A Parasite' eventually transmits itself to the crowd, but despite a strong showing most wander listlessly to the camp site.
SATURDAY


Saturday is also off to a slow start as the site wakes up from the excesses of the night before. Jeremy Warmsley and The Wave Pictures both feature in the Sheep Dip tent and their aching, tender, heartfelt take on indie is both endearing and beautiful. The Temper Trap hail from Melbourne and are fresh from a potentially career-breaking performance at Glastonbury. Expect a big push from their label, but they are a cut above the usual NME/Radio 1/TopShop endorsed indie tripe doled out to the masses. 'Sweet Disposition' may sound like U2 on helium but it has a wonderful vocal performance from frontman Dougy Mandagi and the rest of their set is equally accomplished and hook-laden.


The Aliens are a curious band, capable of producing luxurious and spatial psychedelic sounds while also being incredibly frustrating due to their singular lack of restraint. But tonight they are on form. Early singles such as 'The Happy Song' and 'Magic Man' are performed with aplomb alongside songs from their latest album Luna, a less accessible but by no means less enjoyable collection. Snatches of sets by DJ Format, Tom Middleton and DJ Food in the Hoedown tent are also all enjoyed before heading on to the main event.


Do you remember UK hip hop? Besides Big Dada's excellent stable of artists, there really isn't much out there to recommend now that the scene has fractured and distended and everyone is pretending they knew all about dubstep and grime ages ago. The truth is that hip hop in the UK is the victim of it's own success, conflating to the point of mediocrity. But there is some alabaster in amongst the shit, shining through. Rodney Smith takes the stage, outsized sunglasses, outsized couture tracksuit jacket, outsized....you get the picture. “I've seen the future and the culture seems corroded” is the refrain from opener 'Again & Again' and its loping dub melody finds the crowd unsure. The majority are, slightly sadly, here because of Run Come Save Me and its singles 'Witness' and 'Dreamy Days'. Such is the lot of headlining a festival, and Manuva takes it in his stride, knowing full well what folk have come to hear. After a brief dalliance with that bass intro, 'Witness' is unleashed and the crowd goes predictably mental. Hopefully more of those will investigate Slime And Reason because it is a great record.


Manuva's work is suffused with dread and a sense of dub heaviness. This ensures that those ebullient dancehall singles stand out, but he still manages to sneak in the sonically darker and more developed 'Movements' from his debut. Didactic, playful, imaginative, allegorical – despite being beset with sound problems tonight the set proves Manuva remains one of Britain's brightest talents.


The crowd, much larger than for the previous night's headliners, stumble out to try and catch some of the remaining nightlife before the midnight curfew. My night also took a turn for the worse, but I'll save that for the autobiography. Lets just say it ended watching pig farmers who were high on a combination of amyl nitrate and metholone load massive hogs into giant furnaces. Feeling as though I was Dante teetering on the precipice of the Inferno I stumbled away to sleep in the boot of my car, dreams of porcine faces and knuckles pressed against glass haunting me.


SUNDAY


Sunday can be described in one word: pain.


But beyond the physical and mental sensations I was experiencing there was a lot of music to cover, starting with Alessi's Ark on the Bandstand. Shorn of the fussy ornamentation that threatened to consume Notes From The Treehouse her songs are allowed space to gently weave their magic. Sitting on a haybale nursing a coffee, it is the perfect start to a Sunday.


But here lies the problem with the festival. I now have roughly 5-6 hours to fill before anything of note is on again. So after catching a little bit of Mr Scruff's marathon six hour DJ set I head home for sustenance and to sleep.


Billy Childish is a personal hero of mine; artist, poet, author, photographer, moustache wearer, critic, journalist, publisher and musician. Much like The Fall and Mark E. Smith, he's spent the last 30 years deconstructing rock and roll. Riffs and ideas are purloined from 'rock', then decentred and purified. His belief in amateurism and the elemental is fundamental to his work. So the ramshackle performance of staccato garage rock by Childish and his backing band The Members Of The British Empire is not surprising, but the tracks from their album Thatcher's Children are raucously greeted by a boozy (and noticeably more middle aged) crowd. Whether Childish would appreciate some thick-about-the-middle types pretending they know what constitutes punk is a moot point. Anyway, just to hear Childish's Medway twang over the primitive clatter is a genuine pleasure. He has become an irascible iconoclast railing against modernity (and postmodernity) across the years, and tonight proves he hasn't lost his bite.


Edwyn Collins is a brave man. A stoke in 2005 left him without the majority of his motor functions. He had to teach himself to perform all of the everyday tasks we take for granted, and then those extra ones which make him such a gifted songwriter and musician. That he was able to overcome such a gruelling period of rehabilitation, and then the MRSA which he subsequently contracted, is testament to a strength of spirit and conviction that we could all learn from. When his solo song 'Girl Like You' is performed, there is a genuine warmth from the audience towards this man. And what a glorious song! It still sounds great, like a Scottish Elvis impersonator covering a Northern Soul tune. 'Rip It Up', his first band Orange Juice's signature song, is played and I couldn't keep the smile from my face. The feet don't lie, it got me moving. The performance is wistful and tender, while the absurdist message remains the same.


You have to feel a little bit sorry for Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip. They seem to be the victim of a form of inverted racism from the mostly white, liberal, middle class music press. Every review essentially poses the question; what can two white boys from Essex know about hip hop? It is a pertinent question, and a lot of the opprobrium sent their way seeks to address this issue. Scroobius Pip is still enthralled of his heroes (KRS-ONE, Sage Francis, Mos Def, Eric B) but if he is allowed to develop the subject of his ire it may eventually become less obvious and better directed. Hip hop is a means of expression; who expresses it shouldn't be determined by the listener, only its merits and qualities.


Rant over. They start with 'Beat That My Heart Skipped', and the tone of righteous indignation continues throughout with 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' drawing the biggest cheers of the night. The call-and-response structure, the rampant listomania of the track, deconstruction of deities and the acute observations of modern social mores are all perfectly performed. New material is aired tonight and despite no-one having had a chance to hear it yet it provokes a great response. They always look like they're having the time of their lives on stage and play with passion and skill.


While it may never challenge the 'heritage' festivals, LOTF can continue to grow into its niche of a small, family-friendly festival that is mercifully free from advertising and the patronage of varied music/radio celebrities (Jo Whiley, take a bow...). The attempt to position the festival within a local musical and cultural tradition was commendable, but misguided and redolent of provincialism. Greater thought needs to go into the planning of the acts – the headliners themselves were all fine additions,and the Hoedown tent was full of excellent DJs and acts but the problem is in attracting a more consistent level of artist that will attract punters beyond the locals. But then what makes a festival – the acts on display or the 'experience', however hackneyed and commodified that notion may be? Or is it the £85 weekend price tag...
The review of Lounge On The Farm was orignally produced for http://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk. To view the article on the site please click on the title.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

What I be listening to now

Writing is going pretty slow at the moment, but this is what I'm listening to right now.

KID PANG
At some point there will be a review of this album on the blog, but for now you need to be heading to their last.fm page and checking out the album. Then downloading it while you wait for the physical release, obvs...Click on the article title to check it out

ZOMBY


I'm loving this. He was supposed to be at Lounge on the Farm last week but pulled out. Fecker.

MARK E. SMITH

I've been listening to The Fall all day in the car and was going to try and find a live video to post, but then I remembered this. Gillingham won as well, cashback.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Contrapasso: the Mercury Music Prize and its excruciating show of weakness

When Lauren Laverne and the panel for this years Mercury Music Awards are all in Hell they will walk with their heads on backwards. For this years nominations are not a case of rewarding progress and innovation but are a case of rewarding fiscal success. We all know that awards ceremonies are self-serving, a shot in the arm for the industry, and are wholly redundant. However what is different about this years is that tastemaking is as high on the agenda as artistic merit. There are the usual anomalous entries, which are frankly ridiculous as this event is squared mainly at the mainstream Radio 1 market. Gone are the days when Roni Size or Talvin Singh could win it. Who decides these lists? Rather than judiciously root out the chaff and choose the most invidious and rewarding listens from the last year, they have more than half an eye on the mainstream and the rest on what will be popular over the rest of the year. Vested interests mean that this is no longer really an award that rewards artistic merit, or am I going to be really surprised? If any of the NME approved acts win, you know the answer...Mercifully they resisted the urge to include White Lies, but I think that excluding Doves was disingenuous. Because of Elbow's success last year they were proclaimed as favourites, but I believe the judges wanted to avoid falling into a trap of handing out awards due to sentiment. Kingdom Of Rust has its merits, but it falls short of the high watermark that their first two albums set and is simply not good enough to win this award.

Brand awareness; the awards are now sponsored by Barclaycard and will be broadcast by the BBC. Expect Jo Whiley and Zane Lowe to get in on the act and promote the fuck out of their favourites.

Nominations were announced today, and it is comfortably the weakest collection of albums proposed for some time. It is also completely spineless. Here be an annotated list.

Glasvegas – Glasvegas
Barbed social realism delivered in a fug of J&MC-esque noise. Heard it all before, but it's nae bad.

Bat For Lashes – Two Suns
Disappointing follow-up to a promising debut. Needs to stop listening to Tango In The Night-era Fleetwood Mac.

Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew
Formerly Damien Rice's muse; beautiful voice, nice arrangements but a little too cloying in parts. Too mannered however to really make a lasting impression.

The Horrors – Primary Colours
Probably the most impressive progression by any recent band.

Kasabian – West Rider Lunatic Pauper Asylum
Nod to the establishment.

Led Bib – Sensible Shoes
Ah, the "Who the fuck?" nomination. Oh they play jazz music. I have no idea if they play it well. Oh actually they are good. Prog-jazz.

The Invisible – The Invisible
These guys are actually really good, much better than all those awful and lazy TV on the Radio comparisons suggest.

La Roux – La Roux
Can't sing for toffee. Awful stick thin reedy production. This shouldItalicn't win, it is just dressed up noughties pop (much like Lady Gaga).

Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires
Three great singles does not a great album make I'm afraid boys, even though 'Paris' is the perfect encapsulation of our aspirational, borrow now pay later generation.

Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men
They remind me of Tuung's somnabulant folktronica. Quite nice.

Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy
Slime and Reason by Roots Manuva is a better album if we're doing the whole "Let's pick one hip hop album released this year that somehow represents the whole of black and urban music, because those guys have totally got the MOBOs, selfish bastards...", but that tune with Michachu is aces. The fact that this is here showcases how spineless the list is, the ticking of boxes and cross-referencing of demographics must have taken them hours.

Florence and The Machine – Lungs
She'll probably win, despite being a third rate Tori Amos impersonator.


The awards ceremony takes place on 8th September 2009. I can't wait for some dunderheads to tell me what was the best British album over the last twelve months.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Apollo 11

The fortieth anniversary of the Moon landings will be at around 4am GMT tonight. Incroyable!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

The Horrors - Lounge on the Farm, 10/07/09





Some photos I took of The Horrors during their headline set at Lounge on the Farm. Press passes are pretty handy!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Marlon Brando



Essential
Apocalypse Now (1979) – The high watermarks of Brando's early career make recommending Francis Ford Coppola's atmospheric and lyrical reimagining of Joseph Conrad's novella The Heart of Darkness as essential seem strange. But everything about this film is perfectly realised, an incredible feat considering that Coppola shot millions of feet of film, Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack and they started principal photography during monsoon season. From the stark opening sequence of 'The End' by The Doors sound tracking a napalm airstrike, to Martin Sheen's haunted countenance and those incredible cameos by Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper the film draws you inexorably inward. In Conrad's post-modern novella Kurtz is a lucid commentator on the barbaric reality of colonial Africa, whereas Brando translates this into a series of quasi-philosophical and barely comprehensible vignettes. As an exploration of the insanity and horror of modern psychological warfare and neo-colonialism it stands alone. Initially Brando's performance drew criticism, but his disassembling of various acting techniques now makes perfect sense. In the context of the film it can be seen as a continuation of his method style of acting. The Redux version ties together various plot strands and adds linking scenes which contribute to the depth and power of the film, while the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse is a fascinating insight into the making of the film.

Approach With Caution
One-Eyed Jacks (1961) – Marlon Brando took on directorial duties on this post-modern Western after removing Stanley Kubrick, while early drafts of the screenplay were worked on by Rod Sterling (The Twilight Zone creator), Sam Peckinpah and Calder Wallingham before being completed by Brando and Guy Trosper. Yet another Brando film with a troubled gestation period, but it certainly has it's moments. The title comes from a line Brando (Rio The Kid) utters to Sheriff Longworth (played by Brando's lifelong friend Karl Malden) - “To these people you're a one-eyed jack, but I've seen the other side of the card”. Brando directs in a straightforward, unfussy fashion that allows the action and scenery to dominate. While what he was trying to achieve is clear (a subversion of Western generic conventions and exploration of psychological drama through Freudian devices) it feels strangely unrewarding at times, with curious lulls between episodes of hyper-real violence. I'd rather watch Brando as Stanley Kowalski slowly being driven mad in a claustrophobic apartment in steamy New Orleans than staring moodily out at the Monterey shoreline. He was always good as a caged animal, barely able to restrain his rage and disgust. Of note: It was the only film Brando directed, Paramount's last feature shot in VistaVision and the brothel in Twin Peaks was named after the film.

Avoid
The Island of Dr Moreau (1996) – Uncontrolled adaptation of H.G. Wells' classic SF horror mashup, in which Brando stars as the eponymous doctor who is experimenting on animals in order to make them more human. David Thewlis, Val Kilmer and Fairuza Balk add support to what could have been an interesting allegory on the morality of genetic engineering. Instead the tone of delirium, awful acting and heavy-handed direction from Richard Stanley (who was replaced mid-shoot by John Frankenheimer) contribute to a terrible film experience. Stanley was apparently banned from visiting the set so came back disguised as an extra in order to see what was happening. He should have stayed away. Thewlis plays his part as if this was a period (ie 19th century) adaptation, while an overweight and unprepared Brando is horrendous. Watching it again felt like rubbernecking at the scene of a tragedy.

This article was written for culture zine The Dish. To view the article on the site please click on the title.