Take on Me

Lake Street Dive was formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 2004 and, according to Last.fm, is named after a street in Minneapolis. The band expanded into a quintet in 2017 and all members share writing and arrangement duties.

Their personalities, skills, and wide-ranging taste in pop, rock, R&B, and jazz have long blended together to make an impressively cohesive sound, both sophisticated and playful, combining retro influences with contemporary attitude.

Their tribute to A-Ha’s Take on Me really is rather good. Especially when the trumpet gets started.

Tell Me Where You’re Going

Those of us who were around in the 1990s may well remember Sleeper, yet another Britpop band probably best known for Sale of the Century. The band broke up in 1998 but singer-songwriter, Louise Wener continued to work on material along with Andy Maclure and Jon Stewart and, by 2000, had got as far as recording some tracks.

The band reformed in 2017 and released The Modern Age in 2019. Obviously, the hoped-for tours in 2020 didn’t happen but the band didn’t remain idle. They went back to those twenty-year-old recordings and came up with the “lost” album, This Time Tomorrow.

The opening track of this album is Tell Me Where You’re Going and it does feel very much like classic Sleeper.

I’ve always liked Louise Wener’s vocals. I still do.

The album is released by the band’s own label, Gorsky Records and is available from their online store.

And finally, I need to thank We Are Cult for pointing me in this direction.

Street Fighter

There are people who will tell you that a film is so bad it’s good. This is not a view to which I subscribe — a bad film is a bad film.

I do have to admit, however, that there are some bad films for which a single element — be it an actor, a particularly silly plot point, or whatever — is able to redeem the overall terribleness enough to provide the film with, at least some, redemption.

Street Fighter has Raul Julia.

Julia plays the evil General M. Bison whose evil plan to be evil must be stopped. The plot, such as it is, revolves around attempting to introduce every character from every Street Fighter arcade game and maneuvering them all to Bison’s secret fortress for the final battle that you know is coming.

In narrative terms the film fails completely. As an action film, the scriptwriters have simply introduced far too many characters to the point that each character (apart from Colonel Guile, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme) is afforded no more than a single brief scene to show off their talents.

But every time Julia’s wonderfully self-aware Bison turns up to deliver yet another scene-stealing performance, he lifts the whole film from the floor. Bison is every cartoon villain you have ever seen, and he relishes in his evilness. He is, consistently, a joy to watch to the point that you even start to find yourself appreciating some of the one-liners that the other characters have been given.

I’m not going to claim that Street Fighter is a good film, it isn’t. But by embracing the silliness, Raul Julia has managed to turn this into a very funny film and one that is a lot more entertaining than it deserves to be.

In 2020 I was mostly listening to…

Reel Big Fish, according to Last.fm which has counted up all of the tracks I’ve scrobbled over the year in order to tell me where my tastes have been over the course of the past year.

The Album I have most listened to has been Life Sucks… Let’s Dance by! the same band which, and I hadn’t really thought of it before, does sum up the year remarkably well.

The song I have listened to most, though, goes all the way back to 1997 with Save Ferris‘ cover of the Dexys Midnight Runners song, Come on Eileen.

So here it is.

Time Warp

Tenacious D‘s cover of Richard O’Brien’s timless classic was released in October and appears to have been released in order to encourage people to vote in the US election. I didn’t see it then, which is why I’m posting it now.

While not the greatest version of Time Warp ever recorded, the video is worth watching for the stream of celebrity cameos that keep popping up. Some of them I even recognised.

Inheritor

Inheritor is the third novel in C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series and follows on directly from Invader, the second book. The series is broken up into trilogies, so Inheritor also represents the end of the first trilogy, and what an ending it is.

Six months have passed since the reappearance of the starship Phoenix — the same ship which brought a colony of humans to the hostile environment of alien atevi nearly two hundred years ago. During these six months, the atevi have reconfigured their fledgling space program in a bid to take their place in the heavens alongside humans. But the return of the Phoenix has added a frighteningly powerful third party to an already volatile situation, polarizing both human and atevi political factions, and making the possibility of all-out planetary war an even more likely threat.

As with the previous novels, everything centres on Bren Cameron, the human representative to the atevi who now finds himself having to face three ways between the atevi, the planet-bound human population and the crew of the returned starship which has sent down two representatives to the planet — one to the atevi and one to the human population.

Cameron then finds himself trying to deal with both atevi politics, an overwhelmedh spacefarer who has never stepped foot on a planet and a human government whose conservative and populist elements are deliberately seeking to undermine him. And if he gets it wrong, war is looking like a very real possibility.

What makes this novel, as well as the previous novels in the series really stand out for me is the sheer alienness of the atevi. Their politics, culture and society are all non-human in ways that are often opaque and which consistently defy human expectations. This is emphasised by C.J. Cherryh’s consistent refusal to provide any point of view other than that of the main character. What Bren Cameron knows, the reader knows and — importantly — what he doesn’t know, neither do we.

This allows for a novel packed with plot threads and conspiracies working within conspiracies, all hinted at but never clarified. And it all comes together spectacularly in the final few chapters.

The more I read of the Foreigner series, the more I want to read.

Guns of Navarone

The song, Guns of Navarone was originally an instrumental single recorded by The Skatalites back in 1961 for the film of the same name.

Being the age I am, however, it is probably unsurprising that I first encountered this song when The Specials covered it back in the 1980s. I loved the song then, and it still makes me bounce today.

I recently discovered that Jazz Jamaica also have a cover of Guns of Navarone, proving beyond all doubt that great songs never die.

Optimism

The worldwide release dates for Wonder Woman 1984 are out, according to which the film will open in Belgium on 16th December. Which came as something of a surprise to me as Belgium is currently in lockdown until 13th, at least.

I know this is being reviewed tomorrow, and that cinema chains are pushing to be allowed to open again, but I don’t seriously think that this is going to happen.

Cinenews has a more realistic date of 23rd December but even this assumes that the lockdown will end this year. I’m far from convinced that this will happen, but if it does we will at least have a Christmas film to look forward to.

And there’s a trailer, which does look good.

One way or another, I’m sure we will be seeing this.