Musical Discovery: ‘Run for Cover’ by The Killers

It’s hardly an unusual occurrence in the music industry: a band, returning from a lengthy break with a desire to try out a new sound, release something different before backing it up with a single that sounds familiar. Yet, this is The Killers we’re talking about – the group behind Mr Brightside who are still full of versatility after more than 10 years on the music scene.

Run for Cover is the latest single from the hitmakers’ upcoming album, Wonderful Wonderful, and follows on from The Man – a track full of falsetto and machismo. This time, however, Flowers delivers gritty and harsh lyrics about toxicology, dirtbags and a difficult relationship with a brand of rock that’s reminiscent of a previous hit (Spaceman) and the Kaiser Chiefs. It’s no surprise either, after the lead singer revealed that “Run for Cover was written about nine years ago for Day & Age but it wasn’t completely written”.

Opening up the track with driving drum beats and intense guitar riffs, a sense of nostalgia is created for fans – and that’s even before Flowers begins the first verse with Ricky Wilson-esque vocals. Then comes the chorus, which sounds both familiar and distinctive at the same time, with the usual blend of anthemic lyrics, stand-out guitar melodies and pounding drums. Whilst The Man offers a more laid-back groove to sway to, there’s no denying that Run for Cover will have fans rocking out when the band go on tour later this year and in 2018.

A Thousand Words: Is it bad to live a structured life?

It’s a question I thought about in the early hours of this morning: is it bad to live a structured life? I pondered it whilst reminding myself of the many tasks on my to-do list (see the picture below), and how much of my life is typed, written or stored in to-do lists, calendars and email folders like the one below.

As I’ve mentioned previously, this is not to say that I can’t handle spontaneity – the career I hope to enter is not always predictable. However, whilst I like to consider myself a very organised person, it seems as though confining myself to daily or weekly tasks only speeds up the passage of time. It’s as I write this that I ask myself if I need to be more spontaneous. How are we in August already?

After reading this, one could argue that I’m stuck in the present. Yet, that isn’t really the case. At the moment, I’m looking forward to attending Summer in the City this time next week and seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child the week after that. I also know that come the end of August, I need to start planning for university and that I’ll be going to the NUS Student Media Summit in London. It’s almost as if I’m going through the year, with little checklists along the way.

Now, I know I’ve most likely written about this before (albeit in a different way) but now begins the process of getting the final tasks done before it’s back to university in September.

There’s always something to look forward to.

Netflix’s ‘Atypical’ reopens the disability representation debate | The Friday Article

The debate around the representation of disabilities in the media has been re-energised this week, following the release of promotional material for the upcoming Netflix drama, Atypical. Making its way onto the streaming site on August 11, it centres on an 18-year-old with autism and his search for romance. If the cringeworthy ‘boy tries to find his one true love’ plot doesn’t raise your eyebrows, then the fact it’s been branded as a ‘dark comedy’ in news reports should have you worried. Failing that, then the trailer, released last week, gives us a glimpse as to what we can expect…

It’s The A Word meets The Inbetweeners. In the two minutes, we see family disputes akin to the former, and the awkward sexual humour of the latter. Whilst there’s no denying that mothers, fathers and sisters have their own reactions to a relative’s autism diagnosis (something The A Word explores rather well), the ‘sometimes I wish I was normal’ self-pity and the awkward dinner table discussions only creates this harmful idea that audience members can poke fun at the condition. If this show wants to be a comedy, then there’s other ways to go about it.

There’s also the risk of generalisation that comes with any show that tries to represent disabilities through one sole character, which is especially important to note when it comes to autism – a condition unique to everyone with it. Add that to the fact that British actor Keir Gilchrist – who plays the main character – isn’t autistic, then those on the spectrum have every right to be concerned that the portrayal may not be 100 percent accurate.

Thus, the question of whether the teenager – named Sam – could have been played by an autistic individual has been raised by people online, and it’s a valid question to ask.

Only on a couple of occasions has a valid reason been given for a neurotypical portraying a character with autism – one of them being the role of Christopher in the stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Even though it isn’t specifically mentioned in the book that the 15-year-old has Asperger’s Syndrome, many people have made the connection. However, with the show involving flashing lights, strobe effects, loud music and a lengthy monologue at the end, it’s understandable that neurotypicals play the demanding role.

However, with regards to the aforementioned The A Word, the reasons its creator gave to The Mirror were that it was “too big an ask for a six-year-old on the autistic spectrum to imitate a whole range of emotions in keeping with the piece. By definition they have difficulty processing and imitating.”

Whilst that is true, one has to ask at what point does such a role become improbable to someone with autism? To dismiss an individual with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) because autistic people struggle to understand emotions is unfair to those with the condition who are trying to pursue a career in acting – most of whom, one imagines, have probably developed their own thought processes to help them understand the emotions they need to replicate for their performance.

Nevertheless, in terms of Atypical, the demands of the role are yet to be revealed to the audience, and we can still question the casting team’s decisions. Though more importantly, there is another argument to be had here, in terms of representation off-camera.

It’s an issue raised by the actor Lenny Henry in relation to the BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority-Ethnic) communities. The comedian is quoted in an ITV News article, saying “if the pickers and deciders remain the same then nothing changes, because only what gets measured gets done.”

So, using that idea and applying it to the world of disability, just as much as it’s important that the actors are autistic, we must also campaign for those with ASDs to be part of the creative process – whether it be helping with the casting, advising the creators or even producing the show themselves. With the team behind Atypical giving the role to a neurotypical actor, one can only hope that autism charities in America and those with the condition were able to advise important members of the crew throughout the writing and production stages.

Although it may be unfair to judge a whole series from a two-minute trailer, the short insight we’re given is enough for audiences to discuss whether the show will do a good job of representing such a misunderstood condition.

Now we wait until August 11…

 

Review: ‘Child Taken’ by Darren Young

An investigative journalist looking into a missing person’s case is nothing new in the world of crime fiction (one only has to look to Mikael Blomkvist and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for a classic example of this), but as with most books in this genre, it’s about the characters. A struggling young reporter trying to get her big break at the local paper had me interested as a student journalist, and I soon began reading Child Taken by Darren Young.

Cover for Child Taken, with a child in a yellow dress on the beach, with her back to the camera, looking out to sea
Whilst it was the blurb which primarily had me hooked, part of me was curious to find out just how many stereotypes about newspaper editors and journalism would end up in the novel. Aside from the character of David Weatherall sounding a little like J. Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man movies and one day off too many, the Gazette‘s newsroom wasn’t too unfamiliar…

Admittedly, having read this book over the space of two or three months, the first half of the book has been somewhat forgotten. However, it can be described as a ‘slow burner’ of a novel. As the mystery unwravels over the course of 438 pages, it’s around two-thirds of the way in where the pace really starts to pick up, with action in every chapter.

It was at this point that I was reminded how good a movie or TV Show Child Taken could be. Written in an intriguing and descriptive narrative style, it was one of the few books which made me imagine every scene in detail. It made each action scene more intense, and the big finale even more impactful (no spoilers).

Gripping and thrilling with a perfectly constructed plot, Child Taken is a brilliant debut from the writer, Darren Young.

A huge thank you to Red Door Publishing for sending me an advance copy of Child Taken and apologies for the review going up late! Whilst I was sent a free copy, this review contains my honest opinion.

Musical Discovery: ‘Lifetimes’ by Oh Wonder

With the title track of Oh Wonder’s second album being a euphoric song with pounding drums and soothing harmonies, one would have assumed that Ultralife would have more of this heavy alternative sound, with quieter songs for balance. Follow-up singles such as Heavy and High on Humans also hinted at a similar path, yet the majority of the record sees Vander Gucht and West take on a softer tone. Despite this, there is one track with this particular style that stands out: Lifetimes.

At the heart of the track is the harmonies. Much like the male-female vocal contrast in Ultralife, we hear delicate high notes in Lifetimes – the repetitive line ‘doing it right’ adding to the distinctive chorus. It also adopts the slow build-up of the aforementioned single. Yet whilst there are structural similarities, there are some differences which show the duo are exploring new avenues in the wider album – take Anthony’s fast-paced, rhythmic vocals under a complex drum rhythm in the pre-chorus, for instance.

Whilst there’s no denying that Oh Wonder have a traditional sound which underlies every song (a sound which, one would argue, is somewhat similar to Of Monsters and Men), there’s a sense that Ultralife – the album, that is – is a ‘pick-and-mix’ record.

With Anthony and Josephine following the pattern of their last album and releasing Ultralife on a song-by-song basis, there’s a sense that listeners are invited to choose tracks which take their fancy. Whether it be electronic vibes apparent in SoloHeavy and High on Humans, or a more mellow sound heard in My Friends and Waste, there’s a fun element of choice for fans of this London-based duo.

A Thousand Words: A Collection of Exciting Occurrences

As the title of this blog post – a discreet reference to A Series of Unfortunate Events – suggests, this week has seen me plan a few concerts and performances for me to look forward to later this year.

The Hoosiers’ debut album, ‘The Trick to Life’ and their second release, ‘The Illusion of Safety’, both have pride of place at my home.

It started with The Hoosiers on Wednesday. The band, famous for their hits Goodbye Mr A and Worried About Ray, are stopping off in Lincoln as part of their Trick to Life 10th Anniversary Tour. Whilst I was fortunate enough to see them live before, their aforementioned debut album lies signed in a CD rack at home, with memories from a decade ago flooding back to me whenever I listen to it now. So, naturally, nostalgia compelled me to buy a ticket.

Yet, with tickets going on sale at 10am on Wednesday, I had feared that they would sell out whilst I was working. Thankfully for me, they didn’t, but anyone who has bought a gig ticket before knows just how urgent and stressful the buying process can be.

Look no further than later that evening, where a surprise notification on my phone warned me that more tickets were going on sale for a popular freshers event at 6pm. Out of the house, with a recently recharged phone, I remember hitting refresh straight after the clock hit 18:00 to tap on the new ticket link. The tickets were bought, and there was no greater feeling.

Finally, with just under three weeks to go until the big day, my tickets arrived for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. However, anxious about the view from the balcony and whether I may be unable to hear and see the performance, I asked about exchanging my tickets for a closer seat, which a wonderful employee at the ticket company was happy to do for me. I now look forward to sitting in the stalls for the show next month.

As Lib Dem leader, Cable’s coalition past is in the spotlight – he must tackle it head on | The Friday Article

As Labour and the Tories veered off to the far edges of the political spectrum, the Liberal Democrats were the middle ground for the electorate. Led by a young politician with no coalition backstory, simply a vision of an ‘open, tolerant and united’ Britain, those wary of Corbynism but frustrated with austerity backed Tim Farron’s movement. Whilst the growth in the party’s number of MPs was minimal, faith was slowly but surely returning to the Lib Dems. Yet now, the election of Vince Cable as Farron’s replacement could undo the so-called ‘Lib Dem fightback’.

Tim Farron slowly won back faith in the Liberal Democrats. The election of Vince Cable (pictured) threatens to undo that process. Photo: Liberal Democrats/Flickr.

It seems as though the Liberal Democrats could learn a few things from Corbyn when it comes to vanquishing your party’s haunted past. The allotment fanatic was able to drive out Blairism in a Labour that was stuck to the right of the political spectrum. Granted, a public apology was given by Nick Clegg for the mistakes of the coalition, but the fact that the video is remembered more for its catchy parody than the original, shows just how seriously everybody took the message.

So, aside from the fact Cable was elected with no opposition (we can save the debate about how democratic this is for another day), the electorate – and certainly young people – have not forgotten the tuition fee u-turn and countless other controversial decisions made between 2010 and 2015. In the recent election, the Liberal Democrats had the added bonus of ‘the progressive alliance’ on their side. Now, the subsequent assumption that the party will return to flirting with right-wing policies could not come at a worse time, when there is a need for centrist politics.

It would be wrong to assume that all young people were swept under the wave of socialism brought about by Jeremy Corbyn. However, Farron’s Liberal Democrats allowed some of them to back the party when tactical voting allowed that to happen. With promises of a second Brexit referendum on the final deal and the 1p income tax plan for the NHS, the appealing policies meant the party was a back-up plan for young people unable to back Labour. However indirect, the ‘progressive alliance’ or ‘anything but the Tories’ operation led to young adults putting their cross in the box for the Liberal Democrats. A realist would argue that it was a ‘last resort’ option, but an optimist would have  you believe that a sense of trust or faith was starting to develop in the minds of young people, despite the calamitous decision to break their promise on student fees.

However much it shouldn’t be, emotion-led politics means personality has a big part to play in today’s votes. As the coalition minister responsible for the privatisation of Royal Mail, the haunted past of the Liberal Democrats has been shoved back into the spotlight following Cable’s election. If the Lib Dems are to continue the laborious process of winning back young people’s trust in the Lib Dems (led by Farron), then a leader who is willing to adapt and tackle the issue head on could be the answer.