Sunday, October 14, 2012

Honking Box Preview: The Great British Bake-Off

Just as a round-up of the hapless X Factor condemnees ahead of the Live Shows has become a yearly tradition, a spot of gushing ‘n’ guesswork prior to the final of The Great British Bake-Off is too becoming ritual. And with Series Three coming to an climax this week, it’s time to chew over (and swallow, cos only a complete fucking bonehead would spit out cake) this year’s platter of finalists.

From early shock evictees in the form of Victoria, to week-on-week skin-of-the-teeth survivors in the form of Ryan and Manisha, the selection of characters has once again been outstanding. But special mention must go to Cathryn, who began the competition as a trembling, don’t-look-at-me dormouse, before slowly morphing into some sort of apron-clad valkyrie, facing down Paul Hollywood’s judgements with egalitarian sass.

But, as ever, we’re left with three. However, whereas previous years have seen a general three-horse race for the prize, this year there’s been a clear leader from the outset. Perfect Brendan, whose lone hiccup throughout the series was during the semi-final, when one rogue strawberry half dared to droop out of its pristine custard gulag, is the obvious favourite, with an unyielding – almost robotic – determination to win. (And what Brendan did to the aforementioned strawberry’s family in cold vengeance for its foolish audacity cannot ever be uttered.)

Far more interesting finalists come in the form of John and James, interestingly the two youngest contestants, in contrast to Brendan being the oldest. Brendan’s precision and perfection and infallible skill come from years of flour-dusted trial-and-errors, a million miles away from James and his constant wing-it approach. But when his results are good, they’re very, very good indeed.

John, while likeable and a gifted baker, has perhaps had the least consistent performance across the series. But he’s entertained splendidly: calling John a wily minx; his cheeks acting as a redscale to indicate his level of flusteredness; attempting a gingerbread Coliseum AND PULLING IT OFF. He’s been good, but he’s most likely a bronze medallist.

It’s hard to see James, even with his inventiveness and quirkiness and knitted owl mascot, being picked over Brendan in black-and-white terms, but Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry can be hard to predict. And it makes for quite a final: a millimetre-precise, accomplished baker with throwback appeal; or a more haphazard, but hugely exciting, innovator.

Regardless, it’ll make for a fitting end to what’s been a gripping and entertaining series. And while, on paper, such words applied to a baking competition defies all kinds of logic, the execution has been truly brilliant. And to tide us over until the fourth series, we’ll amuse ourselves by playing YouTube clips of Mel and Sue saying the word “strudel” on repeat.

Monday, October 08, 2012

BIGkids - Never Grow Up (BIGkids Recordings)

Side projects are a funny old concept. Sometimes, they do great things, often outshining the day job: Codeine Velvet Club, The Last Shadow Puppets, Gorillaz. Other times, they pass without much noise, such as SuperHeavy. And then there’s the genuinely horrific offerings: Alex James and Betty Boo teaming up as Wigwam, anyone?

So as blue-eyed soul troubadour Mr Hudson sneaks out from under his urban credentials into candyfloss pop surroundings, it could be a recipe for disaster. But in practice, his partnership with singer Rosie Bones under the guise of BIGkids is nothing short of triumphant. Sugary and glittery and exuberant, sure, but definitely triumphant with it.

Never Grow Up is one big major key delight – traditional pop in the best possible sense, but fresh and flagrant with it. Even the more downbeat offerings fit into the overall tone – for instance, Good For You, whose simple earthiness is lifted by mischievous Tomy twiddlings. But amidst the day-glo friskiness, there’s taut, defined musicianship. Mr Hudson’s graceful tones and Rosie Bones’ rich, bluesy honk bring a real depth to proceedings.

The playful back-and-forths between the two is one of Never Grow Up’s key pleasures. But when they’re not engaging in a light-hearted lyrical duel, they’re equally as good when they form a team, purveying a genuine us-against-the-world, screw-the-rest-of-em attitude.

Never Grow Up recaptures some of the unashamed Englishness that made Mr Hudson & The Library’s debut album so effortlessly charming. His ditching of The Library and palling up with Kanye West inevitably drifted things Stateside, but he’s very much back to Blighty here, albeit with a very different tone. And as depressing as it is that Parklife and the Spice Girls now count as nostalgic references, it adds to the aforementioned Britishness whilst underlining the bouncy, light-hearted quality that makes Never Grow Up twinkle.

Business-wise, it’s probably not going to shift a squillion-odd copies. But Never Grow Up has a list of merits as long as Kanye’s rider demands. Above all else, it functions wonderfully as a good mood inducer, and displays a side to an artist most of us were completely unaware of. Possibly, even Mr Hudson himself.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Honking Box Preview: The X Factor

Welcome to the first blog post round these parts for some considerable time, and to our annual rundown of the X Factor live show fodder. You know the deal – work, summer, DIY, etc etc. Hell, if X Factor contestants are allowed to wheel out “this means everything to me” 16 times an episode, then we can regurgitate the same old excuses too.

So, aside from the presence of new judge Nicole Scherzinger on the panel (and deliciously, hated by the British public solely for not being Mel B), does this year’s X Factor have anything genuinely new to offer us? Read on...

Kye Sones
Who? Chimney sweep turned AOR busker type. Not a million miles from a certain Matt Cardle.
Ideal Theme Week: ‘Rock’ Week. While Tulisa gives her girls Ke$ha songs again, Kye will tackle a Train ‘classic’.
How will Syco bollocks up his career? A watered-down ballad as a debut single. Perhaps one penned by Gary Barlow.
Deserved placing: 5th
Likely placing: 1st. The White-Guy-With-Guitar epidemic that’s poisoned American Idol is heading thisaway.

Melanie Masson
Who? Vocally: absurdly noisy belter. Professionally: full-time fairy. Visually: Nicola Roberts’ reflection in a haunted mirror.
Ideal Theme Week: Rock Ballads. She’ll obliterate Bonnie Tyler’s back catalogue.
How will Syco bollocks up her career? Ill-selected PAs in chavvy nightclubs, album of covers for Mother’s Day, back to being a fairy within a year.
Deserved placing: 9th
Likely placing: 9th – that almighty holler will get pretty old pretty quick.

Carolynne Poole
Who? Fame Academy finalist, but for X Factor purposes, she didn’t actually exist prior to last year’s Judges Houses. Very, very good.
Ideal Theme Week: Shakira. No, wait, come back. Her Underneath Your Clothes back on Fame Academy was rather special indeed.
How will Syco bollocks up her career? No promotion beyond a performance Loose Women, on which she’ll eventually become a panellist.
Deserved placing: 1st
Likely placing: 3rd, if she’s lucky. There’s a touch of the Ruth Lorenzos about this one...

Lucy Spraggan
Who? One-trick Victoria-Wood-a-like, who’d have been far better suited to Britain’s Got Talent.
Ideal Theme Week: Self-Penned, Quasi-Touching-But-Mainly-Comedic Acousti-Wank Week.
How will Syco bollocks up their career? They won’t have a clue how to market her. In fairness, would anyone have a clue how to market her?
Deserved placing: 8th
Likely placing: 6th – it’ll be interesting to see how the public cope with hearing the same near-parody effect applied to every track, week in, week out.

Jade Ellis
Who? Single mum with half a head of hair, and a pleasant, low-key rasp.
Ideal Theme Week: Britpop Week. Not cos it’d suit her, just cos we’d quite like to see it.
How will Syco bollocks up their career? An album of dull-as-dishwater REAL JAZZ, as previously tackled by terminal dullard Rebecca Ferguson. Though, in fairness, it’s served her well...
Deserved placing: 3rd
Likely placing: 10th – not a whole lot of screen time + a unique quality = ITV1 VIEWERS DOEZ NOT WANTS.
Ella Henderson
Who? Likeable belter. In-show quirks include World War II hair, and the fact that she’s 16. The judges may have mentioned that once or twice.
Ideal Theme Week: Soul Classics. Inevitably, the closest X Factor will get is Songs That Have Been Played On American Radio At Some Point.
How will Syco bollocks up her career? By shoehorning her into a black frock and an Adele-by-numbers album. See also: Leanne Mitchell. (Y’know, her off The Voice. Look her up.)
Deserved placing: 2nd
Likely placing: 2nd – she’s good, but not White-Guy-With-Guitar good.

Who? Horrendous, 1D-lite trio who claim to be all about the harmonies, yet sound like a dozen battery hens being ironed in unison. Fun fact: managed by Global Radio. Fixed? The X Factor?!
Ideal Theme Week: One Direction.
How will Syco bollocks up their career? By accidentally turning up their mics at T4 On The Beach, thus showing the world that a band full of Louis Tomlinsons is not a good idea.
Deserved placing: 11th
Likely placing: 8th – piggybacking on The Wanted’s fanbase can only get you so far.

Union J
Who? Horrendous, 1D-lite quartet, who represent the Frankenbands this year thanks to a fourth member squished in at the last second. Better than GMD3.
Ideal Theme Week: One Direction.
How will Syco bollocks up their career? It’ll be an intentional sabotage so as not to detract from One Direction. Or GMD3, whose uber-management will be having a quiet word with Syco.
Deserved placing: 10th
Likely placing: 4th, following the moment Louis gives up the ghost and just hands them You Raise Me Up.

Who? Boy-girl rap duo who brutally turfed out their founding member during their audition, then sabotaged the brilliantly-named Lightbulb Thieves at Boot Camp. Utterly ruthless.
Ideal Theme Week: Black Eyed Peas. Or, y’know, Love City Groove.
How will Syco bollocks up their career? Completely unaware of how to handle anyone who isn’t a throwaway boyband, Syco will force Labrinth to lay down one track with MK1, before forgetting about them altogether. Celebrity Big Brother for the white girl.
Deserved placing: 8th
Likely placing: 11th – that new-fangled rap music? On ITV? Oh goodness, no.

Jahmene Douglas
Who? Quite literally, Leighton from Trollied.
Ideal Theme Week: Anything prior to 1970. His At Last proved it nicely. His Moves Like Jagger proved it horribly.
How will Syco bollocks up his career? He’ll crumble into a quivering mess before he’s even reached his covers album. It’s unlikely they’ve learned from SuBo, and Jahmene might well be the proof of that.
Deserved placing: 4th
Likely placing: 5th, if his nerve and/or bladder holds out that long.

James Arthur
Who? Misshapen, soulful guitar-wielder with a distinctive voice and Deirdre Barlow’s glasses circa 1989.
Ideal Theme Week: Sting Week, or Damien Rice Week. He’ll have to make do with Big Band Week, when he rolls his eyes through Mack The Knife.
How will Syco bollocks up his career? They’ll do their damndest to emulate Ed Sheeran, note for note. James won’t play ball. He’ll cuss them out on Twitter, get dropped, and be back to playing the student union by 2014.
Deserved placing: 6th
Likely placing: 7th – it’ll be self-sabotage to get the hell out of the madhouse.

Rylan Clark
Who? Loathsome, fame-hungry mincefest. Most punchable contestant since Frankie Cocozza.
Ideal Theme Week: IBEEFA!! Innit! Oh my God!!!
How will Syco bollocks up his career? Rylan will do a fine job of that all by himself. Syco can put their feet up and watch him explode in a shower of glitter and complimentary lube.
Deserved placing: 12th
Likely placing: 12th – it’s hard to know what sort of moron Rylan will appeal to.

And let’s not forget that a 13th spot is up for grabs in the live shows, meaning one judge will have one extra contestant. Fighting for the dubious honour of not being good enough to get through originally are simpering Scouse weepathon Christopher Maloney, passable Essex teen Amy Mottram, permatanned heavage-fest Times Red, and Matt Cardle 3.0 (or Kye Sones 2.0) Adam Burridge.

Times Red were by far the most impressive at Judges Houses with their beatbox-and-guitar interpretation of Ain’t No Sunshine/Let’s Get It Started, and far outshone the other three acts Louis selected. But Amy or Christopher will be a far more likely prospect. Not an interesting prospect, admittedly, but a far more likely one all the same.

For those of you asking about a liveblog this year, it’s probably not too likely – hell, it took a few months to even get a bogstandard blog post up and running again. However, we heartily endorse Jack Seale on the Radio Times, or Stuart Heritage on the Guardian. Or, if you’ve got a real boner for hyperbole, stating the bleeding obvious and general gutter-journalism, there’s always Digital Spy.
Still, no doubt we’ll be tweeting the bejesus out of it. After a horrific start to the series, with scripted conversations and contrived hashtags, it’s at least picked up as it’s progressed. But even then, it’s safe to say The X Factor has finally gone off the boil. Then again, in all fairness, how good can anything that’s not The Great British Bake-Off actually be?
Creative Commons Licence
The Sloppy Dog by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.