review

  1. EP Review: Panda Su – I Begin

    Packed with a cute, folksy vibe, Panda Su’s I Begin heavily utilises the understated vocal and instrumental sound that fans of female-fronted acoustic-indie acts adore. However, whether purposefully or not, founder Suzanne Isabel Ferreira tends to stumble down the path of irritating over-simplicity that Zooey Deschanel employs with She & Him, conveying a similar kind of loveliness but without the same sense of honesty necessary to make it believable.

    Whilst the EP plods along nicely and has its hum-along moments every now and then, it’s very hard to feel like this hasn’t all been done before. ‘Bee Song’ doesn’t really do a huge amount from start to finish, and displays a bland and somewhat careless vocal effort with next to no thought for melody or development. ‘I Begin’ is a more interesting track, employing softly cooed vocals and a warm, relaxing timbre throughout. The song’s outro somewhat lessens its calm allure, with a chorus of voices painfully drawling the same line until it becomes almost unbearable. ’Alphabet Song’ begins beautifully, with a gorgeously plucked guitar line and subtle electronic rhythm building into a Morcheeba-like ambiance. The vocals, however, massively take away from the track by once again not seeming to care for dynamics or melody, eventually droning through two renditions of the alphabet with a maddeningly dull monotony. Thankfully, the whole EP is saved by the closing track ‘Facts and Figures’, in which we can finally hear the true charm of Panda Su begin to shine through, with a genuinely endearing melody accompanying clearly emotionally invested-in lyrics, hovering steadily above a piece that dynamically moves, develops and climaxes wonderfully.

    I’m left feeling a little downhearted and frankly nonplussed by the attitude present on this EP. It certainly isn’t that Suzanne is talentless in either vocal, instrumental or compositional prowess – one listen to ‘Facts and Figures’ or ‘Éric Is Dead’ from Sticks & Bricks will make that starkly obvious - but after a few listens to her voice on I Begin, I can’t shake the feeling that she simply doesn’t care about what she is singing. Merlin Jobst

    5/10

    For fans of: Laura Marling, She & Him and Eels. 

    (Originally posted on Little Sparrow Reviews)

  2. Arctic Monkeys - Suck It And See

    Miseries! Haters! Naysayers! Lend me your ears/eyes! After a year out of the spotlight in LA (a bit ironic maybe?), Sheffield’s finest trundle back in the pop conciousness with their fourth LP “Suck It And See”. After the modestly recieved-yet-well aging Humbug saw the Arctics go stoner-rock, they’ve returned to the production arms of James Ford (responsible for “Favourite Worst Nightmare” and a handful of tracks on the debut). With the return of Ford, Turner & co have seemingly rediscovered their more accesible indie roots.

    Not to say that this is “Whatever People Say I Am: The Sequel”, far from it. I do believe some fans would benefit from accepting that Arctic Monkeys will never write about nightclubs, taxi ranks and dancefloors, and never soundtrack their nights out again. View any comments section to do with new Monkeys material and inevitably you’ll find a small section decrying the new direction in favour of the spiky, shouty sounds of 2006. Whilst an extra WPSIAM or FWN or two wouldn’t have hurt at all, the band have matured into a far better and lasting proposition.

    That’s not to say that this is an entirely different band; Turner’s wit and way with the English language still remains, Nick O’Malley’s basslines are as chunky and funky as ever whilst Matt Helders is clearly one of the best drummers of his generation (Jamie Cook’s pretty good at guitar too). Suck It And See just shows that the band has grown up and developed a new, if slightly retro, sound. And so, onto the album itself. Pre-release signs weren’t massively encouraging; uncharacteristically heavy rock-outs in the shape of Brick By Brick and Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair were the first things heard from the album, both of which were criticised for their lyrics, whilst the minimalist cover was so poorly received, you’d think they’d put Susan Boyle on the cover, legs akimbo and all. Personally I love the cover, but horses for courses and whatnot. And there is truth in the criticisms of the two tracks; Brick By Brick and Don’t Sit Down… are piss-poor lyrically, compared to the likes of The Jeweller’s Hands. But stick them in the context of the album and everything changes.

     

    Of the twelve tracks that make up Suck It And See, eight are the Arctics at their poppiest and most radio-friendly. There is a clear 60s pop, Beatles & Kinks influence that shines through. The guitar lines are clear and ring out, making the whole affair a lot more melodic than the heavier Humbug. She’s Thunderstorms, for instance, lingers in your brain long after hearing it, while The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala has summer hit welded onto it. But for all the shiny FM pop, the remaining four tracks could’ve easily slotted in to the Humbug tracklist. The aforementioned Brick By Brick and Don’t Sit Down… show that the band are still eager to turn everything up to eleven and rock with the best, and when listened to in context make the record that bit more fun and varied, but it’s Library Pictures (with its bizarre chorus of “Library pictures of the quickening canoe/the first of its kind to get to the moon" …sorry, what?) and All My Own stunts that are evidence of the spirit of Album Number Three lives on. The former sounds like the little brother of Pretty Visitors with its buzzsaw riffs and scattergun vocals, whist the latter is a slow-burning QOTSA-a-like, which is unsurprising considering it features a barely noticeable Josh Homme backing vocal. All My Own Stunts is probably the weakest track of the twelve, it never really goes anywhere, has no real hook and, other than a few solos here and there, kind of kills the momentum of the album.

    After the brief trip down memory lane, the remaining five tracks make up what is the best run of songs on an Arctics album since the second half of “Favourite Worst Nightmare”. Reckless Serenade is in the same vein as Hellcat and exhibits more of Turner’s wonderful way with words (opening couplet: “Topless models doing semaphore/Wave their flags as she walks by and get ignored" as well as "Call up to listen to the voice of reason and got his answering machine/I left my message but did he fuck back to me/And now I’m stuck still wondering how it’s meant to be”); Piledriver Waltz, first heard on the Submarine EP and pretty much unchanged here; Love Is A Laserquest (a classic Monkeys title) molds some of the country influence Turner has talked up into a torch song ballad; the title track which I believe is the band’s first bonafide classic song and closer That’s Where You’re Wrong, which sounds something like a more sophisticated A Certain Romance, with its incessant guitar line and wistful lyrics.

    "Suck It And See" has split opinion with fans, with some accusing it of being boring, one-tempo, pop and others hailing it as the band’s best so far (I’m in the latter camp, personally). Perhaps tastes have evolved in different directions; fans becoming enthralled by more complex, challenging music they wouldn’t have previously listened to without the Monkeys (the band were a introduction for many to the world of guitar music in the mid 00s). Or perhaps tastes haven’t evolved at all, as is the case with the small group still praying, never to be answered, for a second I Bet YoU Look Good On The Dancefloor. Either way, Arctic Monkeys are becoming a rare animal; a band that is both big and special with songs that are good and stand out in equal measure. The future’s looking pretty bright…

    9/10

  3. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2: A Review

    So yeah. It’s come that time when that boy wizard fellow has to do some stuff to save the world. It’s hard to ignore the Harry Potter franchise as it has shaped a generation some might say. Sales have been record breaking, in both the books and films, and it has seen the progression of a number of young actors from “those kids who can’t really act well, but it’s fine because LOOK! there’s Alan Rickman!” to “those kids who are actually not that bad”.

    And now we hit David Yates’ fourth Harry Potter film (3rd if you want to count Deathly Hallows as one. I think he was just trying to one up all the other directors to get the most films under his belt) and our eponymous hero has discovered that, to defeat Voldemort, he has to destroy his very soul separated into different items.

    What follows is my opinions on the film. WARNING: There may be brief spoilers in reference to previous films. For those not wanting spoilers, the long and short of it is it’s one of the better films but ultimately a bit disappointing.

    Part 2 pretty much picks up directly where Part 1 left us; on the beach outside Shell Cottage, a lovely seaside house used by the Order as a safehouse. Here they make their plan to find the remaining Horcruxes and defeat Lord Voldemort himself.

    The entire film lays the focus on Harry Potter himself, with only a brief stop at Severus Snape station. Hermione is ultimately reduced to being Ron’s love interest, similarly with Ginny Weasley to Harry. While they hold up at the start, especially during the break-in to Gringotts where it feels like the trio are off on another adventure, once they got their separate ways upon leaving the Room of Requirements later in the film, their roles are reduced from major co-stars to the level of Professor Sprout (who does make a nice appearance).

    In fact, there seems to be a lack of a decent female lead. As said, Hermione and Ginny are reduced to love interests and Luna is just a guide. Both Professor McGonnagal (Maggie Smith) and Molly Weasley (Julie Walters) do get their shining moments (both of whom were relatively quiet and then become total badasses in the face of adversity), but they are only brief. Even Helena Bonham Carter is sidelined, which is highly disappointing as she always delivers as seen in previous films.

    Despite this, the performance of Daniel Radcliffe is one of his best yet. It’s clear that, over the years being in touch with such stellar actors that have appeared in the series, he has learnt and developed his style and some of the more emotional moments of the film allow him to shine. As he surveys what his actions have done to his friends and his home, little touches in his expressions say something words could not. Similarly with Ralph Fiennes, his portrayal of Lord Voldemort hits its peak here with some truly sinister moments that is sure to send a tingle down many a spine.

    However, it’s the single focus on Harry’s struggle and no-one else’s, especially during the huge Battle of Hogwarts, that makes everyone else’s contribution less weighty than it could have been. A number of deaths occur, both minor and major, throughout the course of the Battle of Hogwarts but are left flat. They have the potential to be jarring moments that could make even the most battle-hardened of person shed a single tear but those moments are all too quickly passed over in favour of another Harry moment. It’s not as though they had a time constraint because this, after all, is the shortest of the films and could’ve easily done with another 30 minutes to add a more weighty impact to some of those deaths.

    Having said this, though, it is brilliant to finally see proper duels which have been teased throughout the series. Ever since the end of Order of the Phoenix, I have wanted more all out, balls to the wall, no holds barred duelling and Deathly Hallows Part 2 delivers. From Molly vs Bellatrix, to Neville vs The Snatchers, to little Professor Flitwick vs the Giants, spells whizz and zoom while the castle, once majestic, crumbles around them.

    But amongst all this is the truth about Snape. In one last trip into the Pensieve, everything becomes clear. What his motivations where and so on are all portrayed spectacularly by Alan Rickman who, otherwise, doesn’t get enough stage time. This is truly his best performance of the series.

    These performances and brilliant moments, such as the break in at Gringotts and the battles in the courtyard of Hogwarts, are marred by the fact it feels too rushed as I mentioned before. Molly Weasley’s shining moment, albeit it great, is too short. Many side characters don’t have enough room to shine. And it seems that, in a number of instances, Yates favoured action over emotion and, in the finale where emotion is key, it just doesn’t work. It’s linearity to get to the end is it’s downfall here. But the spectacle and the final victory of good vs evil is a fitting end to the series.

    Chris Taylor
    (originally posted here)

  4. MellowHype - BlackenedWhite

    Outside of Frank Ocean, MellowHype and in particular Hodgy Beats look most likely to outlast the rest of the collective. A lot of what appears on this re-release of BlackenedWhite isn’t too far removed from the hip-hop/R&B that populates most radio playlists, in both sound and subject matter (girls, weed, guns, cars). Hodgy’s voice is also a fair bit more accessible (or at least less menacing) than Tyler, The Creator's deep growl, landing somewhere in the middle of Kanye West and Childish Gambino.

    That said, accessibilty doesn’t always mean the tunes are all that great. The hit-to-miss ratio is undoubtedly higher than "Goblin" as there are some fantastic tracks on here, but when they fall flat, the results are pretty damn bad. "Deaddeputy"'s production swallows up Hodgy's flow and is just a bit of an aural mess; sirens and gunshots make it seem amateurish. The warped beat to "Right Here" actually sounds like Gold Panda but Hodgy wastes it by sticking a generic flow about weed over the top.

    The album is also missing one of the best tracks from its original release; "Chordaroy" featured Tyler and Earl Sweatshirt, but due Earl’s mum not giving permisssion for his vocals to be used, it’s unfortunately missing here.

    The regular references to guns and weed do tend to make "BlackenedWhite" sound as if MellowHype have tried to make a GTA concept album or that they’ve been said game bit too much. That said, one of the highlights, "F666 The Police" is in that vein, and Hodgy goes hard whilst Tyler makes an appearance sounding invigorated.

    It’s not all second rate skate-rap however. New addition "64" is superb and probably features Hodgy’s best lyrics ("I never trust faith with my trust funds/ I keep it in a safe place nigga, lump sum", "Leprechaun, hexagon/I transform: Decepticon/Rasputin, I’m half mutant/fuck financial aid, cash students") and is probably the only rap song to feature the word rhetorician. "Brain", featuring Domo Genesis is a minimal chilled track, whilst the interplay between Hodgy and Mike G on “Loaded” is great. "Circus" stands out massively in both quality and sound; a sweet piano ‘n’ brass loop provides a brilliant close to the album and a refreshingly catchy and fun listen on what is quite an aggressive album at times.

    "BlackenedWhite" is arguably the best release to come from Odd Future so far (fanboys will scream how "Goblin" is humanity’s greatest achievement, whilst more sensible listeners tend to hype up Earl Sweatshirt’s album), but unless some serious musical maturation occurs, it’s unlikely the group will ever outgrow the hype.

    7/10

  5. Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat - Everything’s Getting Older

    Even before you turn on the first track of this album, it’s clear it’s not going to be a laugh riot. The cover art alone, with the portrait of a dogged, weather-beaten, world-weary face, doesn’t exactly scream “SUMMER POP ANTHEMS!!!”, and neither does the title. Instead, the collaboration between Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffat and instrumentalist Bill Wells is a melancholy collection, that sounds almost as if it could be the soundtrack to the inner workings of the cover star’s mind; the thoughts of a modern middle-aged man, the track "Cages" especially.

    Wells’ piano combined with Moffat’s occasionally dark lyrics recalls Nick Cave’s “The Boatman’s Call”, if Cave had been brought up in Falkirk instead of Warracknabeal, Australia. The music here is downbeat, but its occasional simplicity (for instance "So We Must Rest") turns the tracks into oddly uplifting lullabies. Moffat’s voice has a similar duality to it; it’s frequently soothing and pleasant but can also sound quite menacing or threatening at times, although this may be down to the Scottish brogue.

    The intertwining elements of the collaboration makes you wonder why these two haven’t been working together all along. "The Copper Top", for instance, is a perfect meeting of Moffat’s kitchen-sink spoken word and Wells’ beautiful composition; the violin lingers mournfully; the brass slowly seeps in to tremendous, heartbreaking effect. On the other end of the spectrum , "Dinner Time" is genuinely unsettling, especially when it comes on your iPod first thing in the morning as you’re waking up, as I found out the other day. Couldn’t get back to sleep afterwards. The constant cymbals, the rumbling double bass and jumpy stabs of piano are all nightmare fuel, and that’s before Moffat’s threatening growl struts in, talking about returning to his old home unannounced. It doesn’t sound unnerving, but it is. To return to the Nick Cave comparison, it could easily be an offcut from Murder Ballads.

    It’s not all horror and heartbreak however. "Glasgow Jubilee" resembles Glasvegas covering Talking Heads and contains the best opening lines of any song this year; “‘We could all be dead tomorrow’, says the whore to the hero/’For handsome squaddies like yourself, my fee’s reduced to zero/I can be your pin-up girl, your bargain Playboy bunny’/So they do it by the river, then she asks ‘Where’s my fuckin’ money?!’”, whilst "A Short Song To The Moon" is a sweet, old fashioned pop toe-tapper. In fact, there’s only one poor track out of the twelve; "(If You) Keep Me In Your Heart", which is more confused about what it wants to be than every teenager combined.

    The brilliance of the album is plain from just one listen, but revisiting it reveals more musical and lyrical gems every time. I’m sort of amazed at myself it’s taken me this long to track it down and actually listen to it. Here’s hoping the combination of Wells & Moffat continues for a long time.

    9/10

  6. Fair Ohs - Everything Is Dancing

    I think Fair Ohs knew what they were doing when they were naming this album. You’d have to have a heart and joints of stone to not tap your foot or nod your head to the London three-piece’s debut "Everything Is Dancing". Fair Ohs have mastered the art of melodic guitar pop with aplomb, capturing the essence of summer on these ten tracks.

    For a quick comparison, there are elements of Vampire Weekend ("Baldessari"), The Libertines ("Eden Rock") and early Foals ("Yah") scattered throughout; scattergun guitar riffs rub shoulders with nifty pop hooks and fat basslines. In fact, I’m still not sure that it’s not Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend singing on half of these tracks. The similarity is uncanny between Koenig’s voice and Eddy Frankel. Another quick, and slightly lazy, comparison is Avi Buffalo. Both bands throw out effortlessly positive and sunny pop music, but lucky Fair Ohs never fall into the impressive-but-boring guitar noodling traps that their American counterparts do.

    "Everything Is Dancing" is just a mighty impressive debut all around. Okay, they don’t exactly reach Richey Edwards in terms of lyrical content, but they shouldn’t have to (although it’s now just become a goal of mine to form a summery indie-pop band that writes lyrics as bleak and opaque as Edwards). Most up-and-coming bands would give half their guitar strings and their bassist to write an albums-worth of great pop hooks and riffs, whereas Fair Ohs seem to have accomplished it without barely breaking a sweat.

    The only place where the album falls down is the lack of one big catchy song or one massive chorus that won’t leave your mind for a week. It’s a horrible thing to accuse a band of being, but occasionally, the riffs and melodies do get a bit samey. The pace is broken up at times by "Colours"' psychedelic vibes, the lilting "Marie" and the Brian Eno-esque beginning of "Katasraj", which lulls you into a false sense of relaxation before exploding into a 100mph rocker, not too dissimilar to Hot Club De Paris.

    Regardless of minor gripes, Fair Ohs should find a place in the hearts of any music fans who enjoy the wonders of guitar pop and what should be the sound of summer.

    8/10

  7. Blood Orange - Coastal Grooves

    Listening to "Coastal Grooves", Dev Hynes is clearly in thrall of two things; late 80s pop and the modern equivalent of surf-rock (The Drums, Beach Fossils et al). Funky grooves and pop hooks populate every corner of the album, but “Coastal Grooves is a lot more guitar based than previous single "Dinner" would have led you to believe.

    For instance, the bombastic guitar solo on opening track "Forget It" drops in out of nowhere, and the same track uses The Drums’ method of employing a six-string as a bass, of sorts. The guitar sound itself is also very reminiscent of Theophilus London’s “Flying Overseas”, which Hynes featured on and produced. Half of the riffs on here wouldn’t sound too out of place on the soundtrack to Pulp Ficiton (Can We Go Inside Now being a prime example) and the intro "Complete Failure" is surely taken from some great lost spaghetti western.

    Despite the flourishes of guitar, Hynes pop sensibility remains at the fore. "Sutphin Boulevard" is swaggering, cocksure and at times remarkably Prince-esque, and "S’cooled" is very much in the same vein. If there were any sense left in the charts, both would likely be crossover hits. The grooves are alos a major feature; "The Complete Knock" and "Instantly Blank (The Goodness)" being the poppiest think Dev’s ever produced

    What’s most clear is that with this change in sound is that Dev has his mojo back, both musically and it would appear in other areas. Lightspeed Champion’s second album was rather lacklustre (especially compared to the outstanding first), but “Coastal Grooves” sounds fresh and invigorated, and lyrically, Dev seems a lot less miserable than previous efforts.

    "Coastal Grooves" and Blood Orange were quite unepxected, but it seems working with popstars such as Solange Knowles has influenced Dev more than a little. The album is an intriguing meld of sounds and more than hints at the many talents of its creator

    Essential tracks: “Sutphin Boulevard”, “S’cooled”, “Champagne Coast”

    7/10

  8. Hudson Mohawke - Satin Panthers EP

    Fans of intelligent dance music, cover your ears. If you prefer to discover the subtleties and nuances in your electronics, "Satin Panthers" was not meant for you. Hudson Mohawke is the opposite end of the spectrum to your James Blakes, your Aphex Twins, your Jamie xxs, your Burials. Whilst not veering into the crime against humanity that is dubstep (of the Skrillex variety), Mohawke’s approach to dance music is loud, brash and colourful; like a panther in a pet shop, going for everything it can.

    Opening track "Octan" does show some restraint, relying on a twinkling synth loop with a slow-build riff layered on the top; merely a warm up for the remaining four tracks. "Thunder Bay" features gleefully cheesy synths and a big hook that begs to be played at full volume, whilst "Cbat" has the most simplistic but catchy melody of the entire EP. If neither it nor the glossy pop of "Thank You" are sampled for a rap or pop song, I’ll eat my hat. The former sounds like something that would appear on an Odd Future release, whilst slap a Katy Perry/Beyonce/Rihanna vocal on the latter and you’ve got a Top 10 hit.

    "Satin Panthers" makes dance music sound fun again, and it’s a refreshing listen after god-knows how long of glitchy, barely-there post-dubstep. It might just challenge Childish Gambino for EP of the year too.

    Hudson Mohawke - Thunder Bay by Hudson Mohawke

  9. Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch The Throne

    Gargantuan, monolithic, supermassive. The list of synonyms for large that will be thrown around in reviews of "Watch The Throne" is endless. After all, we’re dealing with the two biggest male, non-Bieber pop stars in the world; the World Heavyweight Champions of hip-hop and the most anticipated album since “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. Thesauruses wll be necessary.

    It’s not been plain sailing for the album so far. It took far longer than expected to create, early single "H.A.M." was universally panned (and relegated to a bonus track) whilst "Otis" has been divise amongst fans. Plus, there’s always the possibilty that an album such as this could either end up as a boring dick-measuring contest or two multi-millionaires phoning it in. Thankfully “Watch The Throne” matches expectations.

    I’ll admit on first listen, the album didn’t wow me. There wasn’t much warmth or power to the twelve tracks. Repeat listens silence all possible doubts. Dealing simultaneously with heavy themes such as race, black-on-black violence ("Murder To Excellence") and more frivolous subject matter such as Kanye’s trademark superstar boasting (“Coke on black skin got her looking like a zebra/I call that shit jungle fever” on "No Church In The Wild"), the album’s lyrical content should jar, considering it’s trying to hit on typical materialistic hip-hop fare and Gil Scott-Heron-esque social commentary at the same time, but somehow the two extremes work together.

    While the list of guests is nowhere as long or eclectic as “MBDTF”, big names pop up regularly both musically and on production duty. Beyonce, Frank Ocean, La Roux’s Elly Jackson and, erm, Mr Hudson all provide hooks, whilst The RZA, Q-Tip, Swizz Beats and The Neptunes all help Yeezy with producing the album. If I’m being brutally honest, a bit less computer-generated, synthesised back and more real instrumentation would have given “Watch the Throne” more of a varied sound, but it’s pointless to pick holes in something that’s already this good.

    Track for track, there’s probably only two not-so-good songs featured here; "Who Gon Stop Me", a foray into dubstep, sampling “I Can’t Stop” by Flux Pavllion, which only really picks up halfway through when Jay steps up, and "Made In America", which employs the blandest AOR synths possible and has Frank Ocean eulogising icons of black culture and Jesus, something that would make the rest of Odd Future choke on their upside down crosses. Outside of those two, "Lift Off" is a swaggering pop anthem that wouldn’t have been too out of place in Beyonce’s (who sings the hook) Glasto set; "Niggas In Paris" is exactly what you’d expect from Jay & ‘Ye (even sampling Will Ferrel in Blades Of Glory); “That’s My Bitch” is the soul-pop cousin of “Monster”, even featuring Elly Jackson of La Roux on the chorus and one hell of a middle eighth from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon (I couldn’t even tell it was him on the first few listens); ”New Day” samples Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” superbly and finds the pair talking about their as-yet-unborn sons ("My dad left me and I promised I would never repeat that”, “I’ll never let him leave his college girlfriend/And get caught up in the groupies and the whirlwind”, “I might even make him be a Republican/So everyone knows he love white people”); "Gotta Have It" has the best opening line in “LOLOLOL, white America/Assassinate my character” and is one of several tracks to sample James Brown, while "Why I Love You" is a grandstanding finish, sampling the hook from Cassius’ “I Love You So”, sung here by Mr Hudson, and undoubtedly the melodramatic highlight.

    So, “Watch The Throne” is a landmark album, no argument. But it’s not a life-changing album, not a world-stopping one, but simply a big, fat, great hip-hop album. A benchmark for anyone else who wants to challenge the champions.

  10. Captain America: The First Avenger review

    Captain America; where do you start? Well this second film adaptation of the character (after the dreadful looking 1990 adap) starts in the modern day with the discovery of Cap’s shield in the frozen tundra and thus begins the most pedestrian of superhero movies in a long while.

    The titular Captain is Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a pencil thin wannabe soldier who is transformed by government scientists into a latern-jawed walking muscle. Evans plays the role ably, making Rogers honourable and somewhat likeable, where he could’ve bee too much of a goody-two-shoes. But he’s also pretty boring.

    It may be British cynicism, but a hero who’s your typical all-American guy, just wanting to make the world a better place and playing by the rules doesn’t make for an interesting character. There’s no personal conflict or journey he has to go through; just a dweeb who hates bullies, who then gets to kick the ultimate bullies’ (the Nazis) asses. Nice superheroes never tend to be too great or interesting; compare the likes of Superman and Captain America to Batman and Iron Man, and the latter make far more compelling characters.

    The fact that we already know there’s going to be an Avengers film featuring the Captain sort of ruins any suspense or possible attachment to the character. It’s a typical prequel problem; you know he’ll survive, regardless of whatever scrapes he’s involved in. There’s no real urgency either. The film takes an hour to reach any sort of action sequence, which is then wrapped up in six or seven minutes. That said, it is most definitely a comic book film and it knows it. From the tropes and cliches used to the to the framing and cinematography, Captain America is pretty much a comic book brought to life.

    However the cast of The First Avenger is pretty top class. Evans; Dominic Cooper, perfectly cast as Howard Stark (Iron Man’s dad); Stanley Tucci as the father figure scientist; Hugo Weaving as the villainous Red Skull and Toby Jones as his scientist sidekick. Tommy Lee Jones is the best thing about it as the gruff, world-weary Col Chester Phillips. But even a talented cast like that can’t turn water into wine. The film’s too formulaic, too franchise-y; to use an all-American/Avenger-related metaphor, if Iron Man was a bald eagle, then Captain America is merely a pigeon.