Sunday, January 25, 2009

Song for Sunday

Okkervil River – Lost Coastlines

Don't worry about the banjo, just give it a minute or two ...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Doors Open

Mike Mackenzie feels like a minor character in a Rebus mystery. He's an intriguing creation, but his Edinburgh is much flatter, more two-dimensional and much less interesting than the one Rebus inhabits.

The other characters are all recognisable representations of their real-life counterparts, but for me none of them came to life the way that Rebus and Shiv did.

The plot is fine and the action hammers along at a cracking pace, but there is something missing. Maybe it's me. Maybe I don't want to accept that Rankin's moved on, left Rebus behind, gone for good. It is an enjoyable read, but (another caveat) I just couldn't find the heart of these characters and I suspect it was a struggle for the author too. The perfect little details that rounded out Rebus and made those stories palpable just aren't there and the impression I am left with is of too much time spent making sure that the plot worked and not enough time spent making sure that the characters did.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Love is a mixed up thing

Love is a Mix Tape is a book about music lists, mid-90s alt-rock and sudden death, written by a self-confessed craven hermit. How could anyone who had actually read (or, let's be honest, even skimmed) the manuscript think that the cover above was going to be a good idea? The overall effect is topped-off by a lovely gold spine, with title reversed out in white.

I had read some mildly-positive reviews and almost bought a copy a year or two ago when it had the original trade paperback cover, but for some reason I resisted. When I saw the mass market version in a well-known discount bookstore a few weeks ago I almost didn't recognise it, but once I had made the connection was sufficiently interested to lash out and spend $5.

It isn't as bad as you might imagine from the cover – there are some good lines ("does your boy-friend wear glasses", "no a walkman") and touching passages – but overall it is not good.

It was probably never going to be the easiest commission, but how could it go so badly wrong? I can almost see the sales and marketing meeting:
Sales expert "hmmm, the trade paperback didn't take off like we expected, even with some good reviews and catalogue placement"
Marketing expert "what we need is a completely new direction ... can we try to tap into a slighty wider market than mid-30s, sad loser, music obsessives?"
Sales "great idea – lets go for the girlfriends of mid-30s, sad loser, music obsessives as well!"
Marketing "excellent – I'll see what we can come up with"

However, I really should have guessed from the titles of books advertised on the last few pages – Alice in La La Land, The Shoe Queen, Gucci Mamas and Not Meeting Mr Right ...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Song for Sunday

Frightened Rabbit – Heads Roll Off

More rich pickings from other peoples best of 2008 lists (last week's was the top tune in The Observer's end of year list). This week comes courtesy of my favourite blog-before-blogs-were-invented The War Against Silence. It means I am generally a year behind all the cool kids, but for someone of my advanced age and declining critical faculties I still feel that's not too bad.

My list is on its way ... promise.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pittenweem to the Rock'n'Roll Dream (2008 in Mix Tape form)

The Rip – Portishead
If You Want Me – Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
Quicksand – Dot Allison
Air – Expatriate
The Sun Smells Too Loud – Mogwai
Half Asleep – School of Seven Bells
Paper Planes – M.I.A.
Strange Overtones – David Byrne and Brian Eno
One Night On Earth – The Veils
Blue Plastic Bags – Malcolm Middleton
The Sixth Stone – Aidan Moffat and The Best-Ofs & Ian Rankin
If Looks Could Kill – Camera Obscura
Visitor – Nina Kinert
Driver, Surprise Me – The National
Down On the Ground – British Sea Power
Polmont On My Mind – Glasvegas
The Girl Is My Gun – Gersey
That Leaving Feeling – Stuart A. Staples

Anybody lucky enough to have a copy – hope you are enjoying it! If you don't then feel free to join in at home and make your own (or send me 5 good reasons why you should get one and I will put one in the post).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Song for Sunday

Happy 2009. Holiday hiatus over. New Year resolution is to write more regularly ... we'll see.

MGMT – Time to Pretend

The proper video is great and the cover version by Patience Hodgson and Broderick Smith on last night's RockWiz is also worth a look.