Hooray for Torchwood

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Hurrah. No more secrets about the word ‘Dad’, no more secret swoons at Doctor Rupesh, no more pondering Lois’ fierceness, no more trying to remember how amazing Ianto & his sisters scene was, no more random muttering about the 456. After teasing you earlier in the year, Torchwood has finally aired and first reaction on twitter seems very positive. I can’t wait to see the rest of the series!

So now the issue is off the shelves, here’s my Torchwood piece for last month’s Attitude. It was my first TV piece and the first thing I’ve had to write that’s been over about 600 words since I left university. Lots of fun. See it after the bump

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Review: Black Eyed Peas – The E.N.D

Black Eyed Peas

Since the last Black Eyed Peas album four years ago, Fergie’s surprised us all by becoming one of the world’s most popular solo stars. Despite penning most of her album, Will.i.am had no such success with his own record, even if he managed to woo the UK by taking Queen Cheryl of Cole under his arm on Heartbreaker.

Now the pair are back with fellow BEP comrades Taboo and apl.de.ap for their fifth studio album. While Monkey Business was a fun party album, The E.N.D steps it up a gear and through the power of the mighty vocoder transforms the Peas into in your fave dancefloor creatures.

The dramatic Boom Boom Pow lays out the album’s intentions perfectly and with its “You’re so two thousand and LATE” snap gives us a brand new insult to throw out there. I Gotta Feeling practically screams it’s producer David Guetta from the off and fellow anthems Missing You and Rock That Body continue pummeling us with wild basslines and vocal snarling.

When it’s time to take a breath of fresh air from the all-night rave, Meet Me Halfway is there to show you what BEP doing a Coldplay song would sound like. Answer: very good. Fergie regains some of the softness she explored on Big Girls Don’t Cry on gorgeous love song Alive, but you’re advised to give her attempt at a Jamaican accent on the instantly skip-able Electric City a miss.

Daring and constantly innovative, the Black Eyed Peas have taken the techno/RnB door opened by Kanye West and flung it open wide.

Originally written for BBC Music

Beware the 456

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUMipXqC6Wo[/youtube]

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to the screening of the first episode of the next Torchwood series. Entitled ‘Children of Earth’ it’s a mini series that will be shown on BBC One at some undisclosed point this summer. As a massive fan of the modern day Whoniverse, it was exciting enough to see the show, never mind sit next to RTD in the orange juice and pastry lobby. I knew I was going to be interviewing lovely Welshman Gareth David Lloyd who plays Ianto the next day, but to make things even better we were taken into another room after the screening for roundtable sessions with John Barrowman, Gareth, Eve Myles and RTD himself. On a table with experience telly journalists all fighting to get their questions in it was quite an experience. Also watching a show with the cast and crew is a strange experience because they find random bits HILARIOUS.

My Torchwood piece (incidentally my first ever print TV article – exciting) will be on the shelves in Attitude out next week but here are some sneaky cuts that didn’t make it into the finished edition

* ‘I love his tongue in my mouth.’

* ‘He’s been my long time lover for years, that’s why we’ve given him more lines.’

* ‘I have to walk through the Tardis…’

* ‘It’s in John’s contract that we all look at him with doe-y eyes’

* ‘That person up there on the screen has changed my life.’

* ‘There are a couple more snogging scenes, but most of our time is spent saving the world’

Review: Escala – Escala

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After having been on our televisions now for many years, we’re surely all familiar with that certain glazed eye expression Simon Cowell gets when he sees the word ‘kerching’ appear. Before Susan Boyle trotted along, the most excited we’d seen him get on the oft cringe-worthy Britain’s Got Talent was when Escala, four pretty ladies playing a string quartet, powered their way through a classical adaptation of Wings classic ‘Live & Let Die’. While Simon and Piers might have been quick to over-enthusiastically declare the girls ‘totally original’, fans of near identical pretty-ladies-playing-a-string-quartet, Bond, were quick to shout up all this was done about eight years ago, even down to some of the song choices such as ‘Palladio’ and ‘KasHmir’.

Of course Bond weren’t riding the Cowell money-wagon, and when Escala want to record the Led Zep classic they have the added unexpected bonus of Slash rocking up with his guitar. Let’s make things clear – this is not a sweet classical album to sound track your middle class suburban dinner party. It’s a pacey, sometimes frantic trip through classical styles that lends itself to a fast, angry walk around the block or a particularly strenuous afternoon in with the Wii fit with only Ennio Morricone’s ‘Chi Mai’ and a toned down version of ‘Adagio For Strings’ leaving time for a breather.

Classical-o-phobe’s shouldn’t be scared away though. While the four members of the group might all be classically trained, Haydn and Mozart have been stored away for the future, with their debut concentrating on modern day composers such as Karl Jenkins and Craig Armstrong alongside pop songs like ‘Feeling Good’, ‘Clubbed to Death’ and amusingly Robert Miles’ ‘Children’. We might have heard it all before, but it still remains just as much refreshingly fun to listen to.

<i>Originally written for Orange Music</i>

Tiga says ‘Ciao!’

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“I had a great idea for the artwork,” smiles Tiga saucily, “It was going to be like a clock – the minute hand was the shaft of the penis and the balls made up the hour hand. Sadly it got left on the cutting room floor.’ It certainly might have made stocking the CD in HMV a bit difficult.

Initially turning our heads back in 2001 with a gorgeously dark cover of Corey Hart’s Sunglasses At Night, Tiga’s 2nd album ‘Ciao’ sees him taking a deliberately more serious approach. While his debut ‘Sexor’ was quite a heavy club record, ‘Ciao’s aim is to be a “proper album you can listen to anywhere, without skipping any tracks.” Produced mainly by Soulwax over in Belgium, a country Tiga describes as ‘steak, fries and a huge amount of sauce’, it’s an electronic album peppered with hits you can still dance to in a club (‘Mind Dimension’), rave out to while driving (the seriously epic ‘Love Don’t Dance Here Anymore’) or simply waggle your arse to while you’re doing the hoovering (‘Sex O’Clock’ – 6.09 apparently). Mission accomplished.

Having worked with Jake Shears previously on their silly cover of Nelly’s ‘Hot in Herre’ and Tiga’s last shot at chart success ‘You Gonna Want Me’, the glittery one was happy to be back in session on the heavy ‘Gentle Giant.’ “I love being in a studio with Jake because he’s got so much energy that he’ll go crazy and try something in 20 different ways just to see how it sounds. I’ve known him for years and it’s made me very proud to see how well he’s done.” Also involved on the track was LCD’s James Murphy – ‘the greatest producer in the world’. “I found him quite intimidating to work with,” Tiga confides. ‘He’s just so cool, with the whole punk and disco thing going on! Not of cool as me of course, but he was great fun. He makes you really argue for your point if you want to do a bassline a certain way. It made me stop being so lazy.”

The first single from the album is the deliciously silly ‘Shoes’. Sounding musically like something Peaches might trot out, with a stomach flipping bass and chatty vocals, Tiga demands for you to ‘take off your shoes’. Could we have found this diminutive Canadian’s secret fetish? “Oh no! I love shoes, but not like that,” he squeals. “I like gloves more! You feel strong when you wear gloves, particularly leather ones. I’m not a very big man, but gloves make me feel big and strapping, like I can break things!” Dressed quite plainly save for the biggest, brightest red trainers we’ve ever seen, Tiga knowingly tells us, “Shoes are an indication of what type of man you are though. I can tell almost everything from a man’s shoes.”

Sexuality is always something Tiga’s played with but despite not being gay, the scene has had a big influence on his music. “Montreal (his hometown) is a very gay city. When I started DJing it was in gay clubs, and most of my friends were gay. They had the best names. The first club was called ‘K-O-X’ and there was a regular warehouse party called ‘Sterile Cowboys’. It didn’t mean much to me at the time…” There was nothing though that could prepare him for the time in Denmark when a man bit his left ass cheek and ‘held on like a dog’. “It wasn’t the least bit a turn on,’ Tiga asserts. “I was wearing jeans but he actually broke the skin so I was bleeding. Yet he claimed he was a fan!’.

Written originally for Attitude Magazine’s 15th Birthday Issue

Review: Blok Busta, New Players Theatre

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Wandering into a London theatre to be confronted by only 14 other people two minutes before curtain call is always a worrying sign. Maybe it’s a hidden gem, we thought to ourselves. Warning: it is not a hidden gem.

‘Blok Busta’ is a brand new musical from TV scriptwriter and record producer Mike Bennett. Inspired by the glam music of the 70s, it tells the tale of a group of friends in the town of Glamsville who are terrorised by the serial killer Busta. His weapon? The power of disco music and a sprinkling of corn flakes (we have no idea). Aiming to be a farcical who-dunnit, the jokes come fast but more often than not create groans rather than laughs. Indeed the whole plot muddles its way from murder through schizophrenia, misogyny, threesomes before an overly intense and nonsensical ending.

Mixing actual glam hits such as Devilgate Drive, Ballroom Blitz and The Jean Genie with new compositions will go some way to satisfy a child of the day but few of the new songs excite. Al Howell’s sweet duet with Delilah, ‘Disco Dispair’, is a rare highlight as is the later power pop of Kandy Girl’s complete with dance routine and lesbian kiss.

In fact, it is only the lively nature of the young cast, who play all their own instruments, that manage to keep us in our seats for the duration. Ignoring a distracting performance from Susannah van den Berg as Tiger Feet and a whopper of a bad note from Mikey O’Connor’s Inspector Stone, the real delight is newcomer Clare Kinson who takes on the duel roles of perky teenager Delilah and saucy policewoman Jean Jeanie. One to keep an eye on.

Blok Busta continues at the New Players Theatre, Villiers Street until April 18 with tickets at £20.

Review: Metro Station – Metro Station

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If Billy Ray is your Dad, Miley your little sister, and you want to have a career in rock music, you’d have to come up with something pretty amazing to be taken seriously. Latest Cyrus on the block, Trace might be trying to do just that as part of Metro Station, but their debut album leaves us feeling distinctly underwhelmed.

Originally released in the US back in 2007, it’s taken two whole years for the Metro Station sound to hit our shores. In that time similar sounding but much better bands like Shiny Toy Guns, The Answering Machine and Stefy all failed to make any impact at all over here. So what is it about Metro Station that makes them different?

Their first UK single ‘Control’ might have fizzled by without anyone noticing but it’s the 2nd, ‘Shake It’, that’s made us sit up and pay attention. Powered by a huge sing-a-long chorus that would have any dancefloor stomping and chanting along to. It’s a power pop, almost Disney, version of the darker emo sounds offered by labelmates Fall Out Boy. Similarly the gloomier ‘Wish We Were Older’ has a brilliantly goofy ‘Woah-e-o-e-o’ hands in the air chorus. The problem with both these songs and perhaps the rest of the album is that they seem to be built entirely to support the chorus with the verses being utterly unmemorable. Indeed songs like the twinkly ‘California’ and dreary ‘True To Me’ easily merge into the background.

Utterly harmless, Metro Station have shown they have the potential to write a killer hook. Their debut album is just not the showcase for that talent we were hoping for.

Review: Ronan Keating – Songs For My Mother

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Ahead of Mother’s Day each year albums designed to appeal to your mum trot out in stores around the country. As well as dabbling with a Boyzone reunion, 2009 is the year for Ronan Keating to make his mainstream comeback starting with a release of ‘Songs For My Mother’.

This, his fifth studio album, is a collection of covers recorded by Ronan with a live orchestra. It’s no rapidly chosen covers album though; instead it’s a group of songs Ronan remembers his mother, who he lost to cancer at the height of his success in 1998, listening to throughout his childhood.

Covering songs as cherished as Don McClean’s ‘Vincent’ and Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ is always going to aggravate fans of the original but on the whole, Ronan manages to create careful versions filled to the brink with emotion. Bob Dylan’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’ crackles with tears, popular Celtic folk songs such as ‘Carrickfergus’ and ‘The Wild Mountain Thyme’ are tender and the orchestral arrangement of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’ adds an extra layer of euphoria coupled with the sadness of the lyrics.

Only a cold heart could refuse to be moved by the gentle ‘Mama’s Arms’. Originally performed by American singer-songwriter Joshua Kadison, the heart tugging lyrics must have been hard to Ronan to sing, his voice cracking on the beautiful line ‘all you want is mama’s arms’. The mood is only ruined somewhat by the suddenly jolly ‘Suspicious Minds’ and echo-heavy cheese fest cover of R Kelly’s ‘I Believe I Can Fly’.

It would be easy to thrown scorn on ‘Songs For My Mother’ but instead it’s a sweet, and surprisingly enjoyable compilation of gorgeous songs. Perfect to show your mother how much you care.

Originally for Orange Music

Torchwood Returns

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The first promo shot for the new series of Torchwood has just been released by the BBC. Rather than a 13 week series, this year Torchwood is subtitled ‘Children of Earth’ and will run over five nights in one week, currently scheduled for June. In the next couple of weeks I’ll be interviewing (and trying not to visably swoon in the face of) Gareth David Lloyd who plays Ianto Jones in the show for Attitude Magazine. If you’ve any questions you’d like me to ask, feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll do my best!

Review: Taylor Swift – Fearless

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Taylor Swift is a Nashville girl. She’s very nice, very sweet, and not one bit a popstar designed to work over here. Everything about her is so very American that her long stay at #1 in the States comes as no shock. But Taylor having a big hit in the UK? No chance.

How wrong we were. Instead of drifting by, Taylor has captured the hearts of British teenagers with her slushy songs. Her first UK hit ‘Love Story’ is a simple tale of girl meets boy, falls in love and later gets swept away by her Romeo. There’s a subtle difference from the American original – a lack of twangy bassline. In fact ‘Fearless’ has entirely been slightly tweaked to zap out the country vibes and make her more palatable internationally.

The teenage audience is really the key to her success though. At 19 she personally knows the emotions of teenage girls, a knowledge she demonstrates perfectly on Fifteen singing “when you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe it” or when chastising her boy feeling on the feisty ‘Tell Me Why’.  It’s sickly sweet at times, none more so than in the schmaltzy ‘The Best Day’, an ode to her parents in which she labels her mom “the prettiest lady in the whole wide world.” Pass us the sick bucket.

Yet if you can get over the syrup, Taylor’s music is packed with delicate melodies and an idealised view of romance despite protestations on ‘White Horse’. “Fearless” could easily be described as dreary and inoffensive, but if you connect with her lyrics, then she could be the very person to help guide you through your first love.