Penguin opens the door to unsolicited manuscripts, and oh yeah, Disney sux

UPDATE: a list of major publishers open to unagented submissions is on the website

The good news: Penguin has joined the open call of Allen & Unwin and Pan Macmillan with its Monthly Catch. You can email an MS and synopsis during the first week of each month. It’s almost like the good old days when you could send your creature to the slush pile most any time of the year, but this is likely to get a reply a lot faster. Poetry, text books and scripts/plays not eligible.

The ugly: Disney, you suck. Corporate wankers corrupting Joy Division’s iconic Unknown Pleasures cover art with your pathetic mouse. Sod off back to screwing over fairtytales, you gits. And no, I’m not linking to it.

The American: nice shot, man

The American is the second feature film from Anton Corbijn, following on from the brilliant Ian Curtis biopic Control, and though this thriller is a different beast, once again the photographer’s eye is up front and centre on the big screen.

The story, about an tired assassin/gun maker to the nefarious who seeks a seachange and lurv after a life of loneliness and violence, isn’t remarkable, and there are occasional, minor bumps in the logic road.

George Clooney, and his co-stars, are superb; Clooney is so understated, as is so much of the film. Funnily enough, if an American studio had made this movie, well, it would most likely have been such a different fish.

But instead of sparking, flipping, roaring car chases and huffing foot chases and cut sequences of martial arts and amazing volleys of inaccurate gunfire all set to a thumping techno beat, we have a far more contemplative movie: it still has car chases, foot chases and exchanges of gunfire, but this is a character piece, and it’s beautifully done. Even the soundtrack is treated with minimalist regard.

Much of the charm is in the direction, with almost still images striking such emotional chords: Clooney framed in a cafe window, looking out, seeming so small and paranoid and very alone, is one that sticks in the mind. But these remarkably evocative images are everywhere, whether in the twisting streets of an Italian village or the panoramic landscape or the framing of the characters, making this a real joy to watch.

Bullseye.

Synth-driven goodness: O. Children and SPECTRA*paris

Two new finds causing some synth-driven excitement at the coffee pot today are O. Children and SPECTRA*paris.

The former hail from the UK and have just released their self-titled debut album — the tracks online suggest Joy Division basslines and a Sisters of Mercy meet Nick Cave sensibility taken into even darker, synth-drenched terrain. With a name taken from a Nick Cave song (a fairly recent one, too, the clever young things!), they’re definitely an outfit to investigate further. Maybe file with the likes of Interpol, Editors and White Lies

SPECTRA*paris offer lighter fare on their album Dead Models Society, but it’s equally compelling. Catchy synth beats are complemented with great washes of fill-sound, buzzing guitar highlights and, so very notably, the vocals of Elena Alice Fossi (whose accent adds fetching weight). I’m finding this more accessible (or less challenging) than the choppier cut’n’thrust of Coroner’s Sun, an album by her other outfit, Kirlian Camera, though it’s early days yet. Dead Models Society shows nice changes of pace from high-energy to meditative to down-right slinky, and throw a cool cover of Mad World into the mix. The pop sensibility should this see fit nicely in the background for the car or the commute, or with some track selection, thumping out at a party.

It would be easy to dismiss the outfit as a gimmick band, given their catwalk-ready all-girl line-up, but that would be shortsighted. Here’s a taste, the cracking opening track from the album performed live (the studio version has lots more oomph through headphones!):

Wolf Parade and other unknown pleasures

A tip-toe through MySpace revealed these nuggets:

Wolf Parade, based in Quebec, synths meet guitars, akin to She Wants Revenge blinded by a disco ball. Infectious beat but there’s more to them than that, methinks.

Still not sure about Semi Precious Weapons: once you get past the bang factor of their potty-mouthed eponymous track, I think they might be just another garage band (albeit quite a good one).

I thought I should’ve liked Pendulum (heading our way), what, with all that black and a single called Witchcraft, but alas, despite some promising moments, it was all just too slick and ran off the ears.

And I still haven’t caught up with the latest long-player from The Dead Weather, whose previous, debut, album gave the ears a grand old workout (thanks, Jack).

Which leaves me contemplating the forthcoming tour of Peter Hook “and friends”, the Joy Division and New Order bassist playing JD’s Unknown Pleasures album in full, with other choice morsels from the catalogue. I’m struggling: it might be sensational, or it might just be a tribute band that happens to include an original band member. The presence of a resurrected Wreckery as support spices the deal, but still …

Speaking of JD, I’ve been listening to a lot of them lately, through headphones, and been surprised to hear yet more nuances I hadn’t detected previously. Martin Hannett, you were a genius working with very clever young men.

And finally, two new releases to cause impolite degrees of salivation: a new album from Android Lust, and a re-release of Concrete Blonde’s Bloodletting with tasty, remastered extras.

Remembering Ian Curtis

It’s thirty years ago today that Joy Division singer Ian Curtis took his own life. So sad, and such a waste. To mark the anniversary of a great songwriter and performer, one whose music has affected me deeply, here’s a tribute video pulled from the interwebs, set to a suitable anniversary song, New Dawn Fades:

Could be a good night for a Twenty-Four Hour Party People/Control double – two exceptional films, the first about Factory Records and their artists, the second an amazing biopic.

Be still, my beating heart

Sticking my head up out of a pile of boxes, meerkat-like, to deliver an ode to Valentine’s Day: five love songs to help the heart beat stronger (some will be surprised to read that Love Will Tear Us Apart is not on this list).

1. Love Song, The Cure

2. Angel, Massive Attack

Watch the clip here.

3. Who Wants to Live Forever, Queen

4. To the Last Beat of My Heart, Siouxsie and the Banshees

5. Wild is the Wind, David Bowie

Jeff Martin, back in Australia

Cool news to come from the Armada gig at the East Brunswick Club last night: Jeff Martin, Canadian songwriter of note, previously of Ireland, has landed in Australia as a full-time resident. Although the travelling troubadour said he didn’t know just how much time he’d get to spend here.

The gig itself, being recorded, was damn fine, although the amount of inane crowd chatter during and between songs could be a headache for the final cut.

Martin, with Wayne Sheehy on percussion and Jay Cortez on bass (and other bits ‘n’ bobs, such as mandolin and harmonica), was in fine fettle for the two-hour performance in a hot, cramped venue offering superb sound. Seated mid-stage throughout in black shirt and jeans, he paraded a host of instruments during the night, including a hurdy gurdy, esraj, oud (won in a Cairo poker game) and theremin, as well as mainstay Gibson guitars, a classic Les Paul and an Australian-made 12-string.

The set list, similar to last year’s tour with familiar banter, ranged from Tea Party favourites such as Sister Awake and The Bazaar, to his signature solo tune, The Kingdom (album review here), again dedicated to Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires, and Armada tunes. He again offered crafty blends of NIN’s Hurt and Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, and Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love.

One highlight was Coming Home, given extra gusto by his announcement of a move to Oz, and the closing encore song, Black Snake Blues, with Cortez on slide guitar.

In Sheehy and Cortez, Martin has found ideal complements, and, combined with the regularity of his touring, must bode well for the Armada’s future. Or so I hope.