Eden Lake, the 2008 British horror movie written and directed by James Watkins, is squalid, brutal and nastily effective. A young urban couple go camping in a lakeside park in the Midlands which is shortly to be converted into a gated community. They provoke a local gang of hoodies and are protractedly terrorised.
I wondered if it was a British genre this civilisation-failure horror. Eden Lake has antecedents in Straw Dogs and The Wicker Man and parallels with the recent Straightheads. But a moment or two’s thought brought forth a ton of international examples. Wolf Creek, The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I’m starting to wish I’d seen either version of Funny Games. I think the metropolitan dread of what lies beyond the perimeter is species-wide.
So yes, this is grim. I watched a lot of it through my fingers. It’s adept though and it at least makes, maybe in a slightly facile way, an attempt to establish contemporary cultural relevance with its depictions of feral hooded kids and complicit parents.
Michael Fassbender (almost unrecognisable from last year’s Inglourious Basterds) is excellent as the idealistic but proud alpha male who can’t back down and semi-intentionally catalyses the confrontation. But it is Kelly Reilly (so scene-stealing in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes) whose film this is. The woman’s a phenomenon, and her trajectory from prissy alabaster schoolmarm to Rambo in a frock is the main reason to see this.
Wholly enervating as a moral spectacle, but undeniably a success on its own terms, this left me wanting to sit quietly with an improving book.
Apart from that and some muted rejoicing at Leeds United’s 2-0 victory over Colchester, when Leeds might be expected to be a bit hungover from recent results at Spurs and Swindon, it has been a day of listening to stuff.
I bought a bunch of new music last year and am pleased with most of my purchases. I didn’t quite get into The Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear as much as I thought I would. My two favourite albums in fact ended up being honest and uncomplicated pleasures from the spheres of rock and hip-hop: firstly Them Crooked Vultures and secondly Mos Def’s The Ecstatic. I was also fortunate to stumble across From An Ancient Star by Belbury Poly which is a spooky collage of what almost sounds like found music. Samples from school programme themes from the seventies and horror movie tracks. That sort of thing. I don’t know what any of it is or what any of it means but I ended up downloading a lot of stuff from the same label, Ghost Box, and haven’t regretted any of it.
There was a fine album of Townes Van Zandt covers by Steve Earle, reminding me of the time I saw TVZ supporting Richard Thompson in The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen. He wasn’t looking in very good health and, I believe, died not long after. I think he’s up in the tower of song with Don Estelle now.
I also exercised my penchant for loony women with pianos by buying, and enormously enjoying Far by Regina Spektor. It sounds quite sweet but there’s a painful acidity in a lot of the lyrics. I am especially fond of Laughing With: “Nobody laughs at God in a hospital. Nobody laughs at God in a war.” It’s very astute about the flexible nature of religious faith. Top-tastic.
Just a few weeks ago though, when I thought 2009 and I were finally through with each other, I was recommended The Phenomenal Handclap Band’s album from last year, and I absolutely adore it. My car CD player went a bit scatty last week and I couldn’t eject any of the CDs that were in it. Happily my reduced musical palette included The Phenomenal Handclap Band so I drove round listening to that until my stereo magically mended itself. It’s still in there in fact. They sound like 70s synth disco. Giorgio Moroder meets Meco’s version of the Star Wars theme. It’s hard to convey without actually playing you the damn thing. As (good grief) Elvis Costello once said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
Most of my musical recommendations come from the earnest music reviews in The Guardian and The Independent. Radio 1 has been entirely useless to me for quite a long time. There’s only so much wonk-aloid auto-tune catastrophe I can listen to, and it’s none. My listening pleasure is pretty much confined to the BBC digital channel 6 Music.
I have been a smitten fan of Adam and Joe’s Saturday morning show on 6 Music for about a year and a half. Their humour is so gentle it might as well be made out of Fuzzy Felt, but it regularly had me incapacitated with laughter, worried I was going to herniate myself.
Adam and Joe have gone now, sadly, promising with alarming vagueness to be back “later in the year”. It’s turned out OK though because their stand-ins are Andrew Collins and Richard Herring who are almost as funny, albeit in a more scathing and potentially dangerous way.
Collins and Herring (or Collings and Herrin) have been producing an unscripted weekly podcast from Herring’s attic every week for the last two years and I have heard every single one. It can be very funny indeed. It can also be hair-whiteningly offensive which is one of the reasons why I have stayed away from recommending it to the world.
If you think your sense of humour is sufficiently elastic you should certainly try the Collings and Herrin podcasts (they are free and available through iTunes). You should definitely give their Saturday morning show a go for the next four weeks whilst they are hosting whatever your disposition.
And when Adam and Joe get back, let’s just have a national holiday and day of jubilation.