JackGYarwood

A selection of reviews, blog posts and other jottings of interest.

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Punk in Africa: The sound of resistance

Posted on May 6, 2015

Punk music has never really had an easy time, but never has that statement been truer than in South Africa during apartheid. Not only were records by alternative artists not played, they were destroyed and legislated. Up until the early 1980s there had been only one mainstream band that had dared to be multi-racial, the music group Juluka. In fact, prior to this, it had been illegal for musicians of different ethnic backgrounds to perform together in a public place under the Separate Amenities Act of 1953. This didn’t deter the punks however. In Johannesburg, something was beginning to happen. In the 1970s, a number of promising musicians, from a variety of different backgrounds, started to form punk bands. Bands such as National Wake,…

Something Special: Horace Panter interviewed

Posted on May 6, 2015

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, The Specials were a rare group that successfully combined a political message with mainstream appeal. Their style, which combined the infectious rhythms of Jamaican ska with the social commentary of punk, continues to be an influence of many musicians, including contemporary artists such as Lily Allen and Tricky. Horace Panter (A.K.A Sir Horace Gentleman) was their bassist at the height of the group’s popularity, present as The Specials took the world by storm with acclaimed singles like ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘A Message To You Rudy’. Talking to him about the origins of the band’s more political side, he states: “When I was 10 I was in The Searchers fan club because I liked the way Tony Jackson…

Shovel Knight: Digging Up The Past

Posted on April 24, 2015

Over the last few years, retro gaming has seen a surge in interest, with HD remasters and remakes of games becoming incredibly common amongst developers and studios. Even Nintendo have got in on the act via their wonderful Virtual Console service, where they have begun republishing old titles such as the Legend of Zelda games on their brand new machines. The huge advantage of this is that it provides younger players with the chance to experience previously hard-to-find games; the disadvantage is that it also demonstrates how far the games industry has come in terms of gameplay over the last twenty-five years, with many such games retaining the same flaws as when they were originally released. In 2011, a group of former employees from…

Interview with game developer Chris Seavor

Posted on April 6, 2015

Lewd, rude, and excessively vulgar – these are all expressions that can be used to describe Conker’s Bad Fur Day, the 3D platformer released by Rare in 2001. With its overt references to sex, scatological humour, and excessive cursing, the game has become a cult classic amongst mature gamers, whilst simultaneously earning the scorn of parents the world over. But the game hadn’t always been this way. Originally the game was being produced as a more child-friendly adventure, featuring the cute and harmless character Conker from an earlier Rare release, Diddy Kong Racing. The game was being developed under the working title Twelve Tales, and instead revolved around the character collecting acorns and other items in a style reminiscent of later Rare platformers Banjo…

Interview with video game composer Grant Kirkhope

Posted on April 6, 2015

If you were a gamer growing up in the 90s, the name Rare is guaranteed to evoke warm memories of hours spent hunched over a controller, pounding on brightly coloured buttons. For a long period of time, the game developer – originally established in 1985 by brothers Chris and Tim Stamper – were one of the most well respected companies in gaming, with many of their releases becoming instant classics upon release. Grant Kirkhope was an in-house composer for Rare during this period, working on such games as Goldeneye 007, Banjo Kazooie, Banjo Tooie, and Perfect Dark, to name only a few. During his time with the company he helped to contribute to the vivid and lively worlds that Rare created, producing spectacular scores…

Whiplash Review

Posted on January 21, 2015

Drummers are used to being underappreciated by both their peers and by a larger audience. In fact, most drummers see very little return, financial or otherwise, for their lifetime of intense work and dedication. Whiplash, the second feature from writer-director Damien Chazelle, hopes to change this, pushing the drum kit and the drummer to the fore of the story. On film, drummers have always been underrepresented in comparison to other musicians, featuring primarily as supporting characters, as in This is Spinal Tap and Wayne’s World. For an accurate portrayal, fans of the instrument have instead had to rely on documentaries to fill the void left by the long lasting reluctance by studios to shine a spotlight on the drummer. This is what makes Whiplash…

On Reporting Suicide – and why media guidelines matter

Posted on August 12, 2014

Whilst some areas of the media may choose to ignore the advice of charities when reporting suicide, evidence suggests using media guidelines can save lives. Over the years there have been many studies into how irresponsible reporting can have an impact on suicide rates, so much so that most news organizations are now in agreement that there is a clear link between the two. But whilst the majority has acknowledged this there are some within the industry, and the expanded blogosphere, who have failed in the past to heed the advice of mental health charities when reporting incidents of suicide. Dating as far back as the release of Goethe’s ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’, in 1774, individuals have always been suspicious of a correlation between representations…

Britain’s Male Suicide Rate Reveals Painful Truth About Masculinity

Posted on August 11, 2014

“Man up!” – this is a phrase that I heard all too often from a friend I’d previously believed I could trust with my innermost concerns. I was made to feel ashamed about my emotions, and to feel inadequate in regards to my so-called “masculinity”. Fortunately, friends and family managed to successfully convince me to seek help, in spite of these powerful words and their effect on how I viewed my own mental illness. But others aren’t so lucky. This is where several mental health charities have stepped in. Throughout history men have felt pressured into adopting traditionally masculine characteristics; they are expected by society to be confident, strong, and unemotional, often at the expense of personal expression and, in some cases, their own…

Labour MEP: more women on boards would benefit the economy

Posted on December 4, 2013

ARLENE McCarthy, Labour MEP for the North West region has stated that the further introduction of women into the boardroom would have a beneficial impact upon the economy. Speaking to students of the University of Salford at the European Parliament in Brussels, she said: “We’ve already seen from research that if you have a woman on your board, your company is less likely to go bust.” “It’s good for the economy to have women on boards, and it’s good for growth.” A study performed by McKinsey & Company found that companies with gender balanced executive committees outperformed their all-male equivalents with a 56% higher operating profit. Mrs. McCarthy states that this is because women are more “risk averse”. She argues: “They make more sensible…

The Staves // RNCM Manchester // Saturday 2nd November 2013

Posted on November 5, 2013

The audience file into the concert hall; the performers tonight are The Staves, an acoustic folk trio from Watford, Hertfordshire. They have recently received acclaim with the release of their debut album, Dead & Born & Grown. The crowd within the hall seat themselves. The gig is about to begin. Stepping out first onto the stage is the support act, Christof; he is a singer-songwriter hailing originally from Holland. Christof quietly takes to the stage with the rest of his band. They pick up their instruments and begin to play their opening song. There is a shy aura about the musician, though this dissipates quickly as he strikes an opening chord. Amongst the memorable songs of his performance are the tracks ‘Love’s Glory’ and…