Clash scuttled along to the Leicester Square Odeon last week for the first European screening of the second live-action (okay, mostly CGI-action) Transformers movie – yes, we saw it before its stars showed up a few days later for the premiere proper. The follow-up to 2007’s successful first film, this sequel is again helmed by Michael Bay, a director hardly renowned for his subtlety on screen.

And, sure enough, Revenge Of The Fallen is all huge explosions, ridiculous battle sequences and super-kinetic chases from the very start to the Middle East-set climactic skirmish. We’re several thousands of years in the past to begin with, the storyline (sketchy though it is) beginning with the revelation that the evil Decepticons – the antagonists of this movie, its motion-picture forerunner and the cartoon and comics series of the 1980s onwards – arrived on Earth and got ahead with getting up to no good long before contemporary events. The robots may have departed, but they left behind some killer (literally) technology, including a weapon that can harvest the power of our sun. And now, in 2009 (we’re told the film is set ‘today’), they want that shit back. But the heroic Autobots – Optimus Prime and his motley crew of soldiers that mostly turn into cars; the Decepticons seem to have an advantage, as most of them can fly – aren’t going to let them ruin the home planet of their new mates, us.

And that’s the story, pretty much. The Fallen character is an old-timer who’s been pretty pissed ever since defecting from the path of all things wholesome – he turned to the proverbial dark side way back when, and now only a Prime, a relation of the very first Transformers, can stop him from making good on wreaking his Earth-destroying revenge. Optimus has to step up – and of course he ultimately does, albeit after a flirtation with deactivation (belated spoiler alert!) – and by the time nearly two-and-a-half hours have passed, various characters have been reduced to scrap metal, and our human protagonists – Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox and The Parents from the first film; oh, and some college dude pal of LaBeouf’s, who wets himself and screams a lot – are a bit dirtier than they were at the outset. A third movie is set up much in the manner of the first, as Optimus sends another message out into space, and then…

…All you’re left with, really, is a stinging sensation in your ears – this is a LOUD movie – and the feeling that the powers that be have taken a fun, family-friendly first film and destroyed it by cramming in more action than necessary into a boisterous sequel that’s so vivid with its depictions of carnage and chaos that, ultimately, it seems remarkably bland. There’s still plenty of silly jokes for the kids, and double-entendre funnies for mum and dad, but really: this plays out like one long advert for the masses of merchandise accompanying its release (not to mention the many brand names appearing on screen). The story is weak, and no one character enjoys enough screen time for us to really care about their fate, least of all The Fallen, who’s reduced to a supporting role once the first film’s villain Megatron (voiced brilliantly by Hugo Weaving) returns from his watery grave. There are budget-range video games available with more engrossing narratives than this, and while the effects are frequently amazing when appreciated in isolation, the constant barrage of them blurs the highlights into a whole that’s rather less impressive.

But then again, nobody was really expecting anything different, were they? If you disengage your brain completely there is pleasure to be derived from Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, and LaBeouf is clearly developing into an actor who’ll soon leave these sort of run-really-fast-and-duck-and-dive-and-scream roles behind; Fox, too, has her moments, and is on record as not personally liking the content of these all-action flicks – she’ll shine before long in a completely different picture. But, given the budget and the massive worldwide audience for this movie, one can’t help feeling short-changed once the credits roll.

Hollow, overly long and dangerously loud, this is a classic blockbuster in a modern sense: a certainty for critical lambasting, but just as sure to make the millions necessary to make another instalment.

4/10

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Trailer

Newcastle indie-rock five-piece Maximo Park have released the video to the second single from their third album ‘Quicken The Heart’, ‘Questing, Not Coasting’.

The group’s latest LP entered the UK top ten – read our review HERE – and previous single ‘The Kids Are Sick Again’ was seen as something of a return to the perky form of their irresistible debut, ‘A Certain Trigger’. Certainly there seems to be a fresh energy coursing through the band’s veins, as this new track’s a prime example of.

‘Questing, Not Coasting’ is released via Warp on July 13 on all regular formats; its video, which you can watch here, was directed by Grant Gee of Radiohead’s Meeting People Is Easy fame.

Maximo Park – ‘Questing, Not Coasting’

Our second exclusive video of the day (after THIS): the new single from Brooklyn soul-pop-cum-psych-rock collective The Phenomenal Handclap Band.

The group – based around the founding duo of Daniel Collás (the Witch Doctor) and Sean Marquand (the Medicine Man) – release their new single ‘You’ll Disappear’ via Tummy Touch on June 29; the single precedes the UK release of their self-titled debut album, on July 6.

Compared to the likes of CSS, Tom Tom Club, The Go! Team and Sly & The Family Stone by publications such as NME and The Guardian, the band’s explosive live performance is soon to grace these shores – check their confirmed live dates as follows…

July
3 London Fabric
4+5 London Wireless Festival
12 Dublin Oxegen Festival

“Their live shows are more akin to a spiritual church revival than an actual rock show,” we’re told. Expect Clash to be front and centre this summer.

Newcastle post-punk heroes Maximo Park have confirmed details of their new single ‘Questing Not Coasting’.

Maximo Park are simply an institution in Newcastle. To slag them off in public is about as dangerous as walking around the city in a Sunderland top asking residents what Premiership games they will be watching next year.

Proud and passionate, the citizens of Newcastle mob any show Maximo Park play in the city. Recently the band played a free show in their hometown, with thousands upon thousands of fans showing up.

However a few fans may have let enthusiasm get the better of them. Just before the group were due to go onstage someone half-inched one of the band’s guitars, leaving them distraught.

Once owned by Joe Strummer of punk heroes The Clash, the instrument is absolutely irreplaceable. Maximo Park haven’t let this incident dent their civic pride, however, or slow down their work rate with a new single due for release later this summer.

‘Questing Not Coasting’ was a stand out track from recent album ‘Quicken The Heart’. The band’s third, it saw Maximo Park return to the rough and ready indie thrills of their debut. Direct and visceral, the record also contained some of frontman Paul Smith’s most eloquent lyrics to date.

Forthcoming single ‘Questing Not Coasting’ is searingly poetic, a cut above the the average indie floorfiller. The track will come backed with some special B-sides including the new tracks ‘Too Many Hearts’ and ‘That Beating Heart’.

The single comes with a spectacular video directed by none other than Grant Gee. Best known for his work with Radiohead, Gee was responsible for the celebrated documentary ‘Meeting People Is Easy’ as well as the acclaimed ‘Joy Division’ feature from 2007.

Riding a wave of acclaim, this summer could be a scorcher for Maximo Park. Always a festival favourite the band are due to open Glastonbury next month before packing up their teepee and heading to Isle Of Wight, T In The Park, Oxegen and many more.

Maximo Park are set to release their new single ‘Questing Not Coasting’ on July 13th.

Selling out within 20 minutes, touts reportedly selling tickets for as much as £90 – not many sets have been anticipated as much in 2009 as this performance by 23-year-old minor phenomenon Zach Condon and his band of compatriots that make up Beirut.

The February release of double-EP-not-really-a-new-album ‘March of the Zapotec/Holland’ may have been greeted with a pretty lukewarm reception by various circles of critics, but tonight is nothing less than a celebration of a man who has an enviable ability to seamlessley merge Eastern European and French Folk with Western pop and make it sound brilliant.

Beginning with one of their best-known songs, ‘Nantes’, is a bold and confident move, but in retrospect perhaps not the best idea as Beirut don’t find themselves in full stride until about three or four songs into tonight’s set. But if the opener may have come across as a tad flat, the undeniable brilliance of ‘Mount Wroclai’, the smile-inducing ‘Scenic World’ and the swaying ‘A Sunday Smile’ all more than make up for that. An alternative take on ‘Postcards From Italy’ is a treat to behold, as is a stiring rendition of ‘The Akara’.

Visually, it is safe to say that Beirut possess perhaps the coolest drummer ever to wield a pair of wooden sticks. Looking like Napoleon Dynamite after a few too many happy pills, tonight Nick Petree is the driving force behind the band, snare-rolling and grinning his way through the set as Condon dictates the instrumentation of ukeleles, banjos and trombones that surround him.

Finishing on an encore of Ko?ani Orkesta’s ‘Siki Siki Baba’, tonight is a stiff lesson in how to successfuly complement traditional musical forms with a contemporary twist. And it’s probably safe to say that, even if you have to stump up £90 for a ticket, it’s most definitely worth it.

Words: Nick Calafato
Photo: Louise Roberts

It’s remarkable that anyone so terrified of performing would decide to do it for a living, let alone become the noughties answer to Stevie Nicks.

The majority of Pip Brown’s (AKA Ladyhawke) live reviews present a show beleaguered by shyness, and tonight it’s evident she’s not managed to overcome it yet.

Shuffling onstage, dressed in tight skinny jeans, an oversized Nirvana T-shirt and sleeveless denim, it’s clear why she’s caught the attention of the gathered asymmetrical-haired, indie fashionistas – even if she can’t quite look them in the eye.

When she’s not hidden under a mass of cascading blonde curls, she’s looking down at her guitar, the other members of her band or directly over everyone’s heads. Luckily though, while she might be low on confidence, she’s very big on tunes.

Far from being an awkward affair, Brown’s timidity now seems to define who she is. Far from being off-putting and eradicating stage presence, it’s somewhat endearing, making her ‘80s synth-heavy electro-pop all the sweeter. Kicking off with ‘Magic’, her debut album’s euphoric opener, it’s obvious just how well the immediacy of her dreamy material works in a live setting. Every track has a chorus to die for and never once sounds like mere pastiche.

‘Dusk Till Dawn’’s simple brilliance swoons and flutters, ‘Professional Suicide’ and ‘My Delirium’ pilfer Gary Numan, Erasure and The Pet Shop Boys, while ‘Paris Is Burning’ fizzes with energy – albeit it a nervous one.

If Ladyhawke struggles with the size of the crowd in the Cockpit’s main room, it’s going to be interesting to see how she copes with her forthcoming festival appearances. But if she’s going to produce songs this blissful and anthemic she’d better get used to the large audiences. After all, if you do the crime, you gotta do the time…

Words: Dannii Leivers

Belgian beat-mashers 2 Many DJs are set to return to the U.K. for a seven date tour this June.

The duo, who recently ram-raided the Clash’s Lifetime Top 50 Albums poll with ‘Nite Visions’ (see where their electro-rock opus came in our countdown HERE) are also currently working on various new projects.

The soundclash anarchists behind the ‘As Heard On Radio Soulwax’ series, are set to hit the U.K. to celebrate the launch of their new radio project, following the release of their Part Of The Weekend Never Dies documentary last year.

Now DJs are keeping busy by setting up their own station, Radio Soulwax. The launch will see the two providing regular updates, with brand new mixes, themed hours and guests appearances. Radio Soulwax will be free to air, with with no ads or sponsor involvement – ace, in other words.

You can also see footage of the pair’s recent live shows and more HERE, tickets available below.

2 Many DJs Live
June
5th Oxford O2 Academy
6th Manchester Academy Buy tickets here
7th Newcastle O2 Academy Buy tickets here
10th Leeds O2 Academy Buy tickets here
11th Bournemouth Opera House Buy tickets here
12th London Brixton O2 Academy SOLD OUT
13th London Brixton O2 Academy SOLD OUT

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Orange have unveiled a spectacular new competition to win tickets to this year’s Glastonbury festival. Titled ‘Spot The Bull’ all fans have to do is, well, spot the bull.

Desmond The Bull will be placed somewhere in the fields of Worthy Farm, and fans must guess where he has been delivered to. Twenty two pairs of tickets to the sold out event are available, and with a mouth watering bill this could be the best chance you get of claiming a ticket.

To enter the competition, simply head HERE and guess where Desmond The Bull has gone to. It really is that simple!

For hints and suggestions, check out Desmond The Bull’s Twitter feed HERE. The competition runs between May 26th – June 12th.

If you’re lucky enough to win tickets, Orange will also be looking after your well being once you arrive onsite at Glastonbury.

After a few too many you stumble towards an acoustic tent and become entranced by the Ukranian folk-jazz musicians you have discovered. Reaching for your mobile to text some friends you realise to your horror that the phone has run out of power. Stumbling back towards the camp site, you become hopelessly lost and wake up two days later in a portaloo.

Sound familiar? Well fear not festival fan, as Orange are here to help you. Launching an exciting new invention at this summer’s Glastonbury, the firm are set to unveil a pedal powered phone charger.

Created by GotWind, the renewable energy experts have really outdone themselves this time. The device harnesses kinetic energy from an air bed foot pump, a standard piece of camping equipment, which in turn drives a turbine within the Power Pump.

All told, the new Orange Power Pump is no bigger than a packet of wet wipes and can easily fit into your bag. Returning to Glastonbury with yet another unique invention, Orange will be hosting the Chill ‘n’ Charge tent, providing 600 mobile phone charging points, free internet access and live music.

To recap – this year’s Glastonbury will boast performances from Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Franz Ferdinand, Doves, Maximo Park and many more between June 25th – 28th.

Adored around the globe and with enough indie-rock cred to last them into rehab, Black Lips are a chaotically brilliant live band, or so this Clash correspondent remembered…

We left Manchester’s Roadhouse venue two years ago having witnessed a tight, sharp, on-top-of-their-game rock group touring their superb ‘Good Bad Not Evil’ album to much acclaim (review HERE). Two years later and they find themselves upgraded to the larger Academy 3 on a gorgeous bank holiday evening. Maybe it’s the sunny weather, or perhaps the £13 door price, but a distinct lack of pizzazz greets the Atlanta four-piece onto the stage.

The fist-pumping first six rows of the crowd do their best to rouse their heroes, and things begin well with the honky-tonk drawl of ‘Drugs’ and the garage avalanche of ‘Katrina’: a bass-heavy reminder of the New Orleans-striking hurricane. Bassist and singer Jared Swilley maintains a cool demeanour whilst others over-egg their parts around him: to his right guitarist Ian St. Pé resembles old-time rocker Jimmy Nail with his denim and dodgy teeth, while stage left the usually enigmatic Cole Alexander seems sadly incapable of belting anything out, delivering instead flat, flustered guitar and vocals.

But there’s still something special lurking behind the wasted, heroic chic. ‘Cold Hands’ could be an outtake from the classic garage rock companion Nuggets, while ‘Bad Kids’ is a life-affirming ode to youthful rebellion. Elsewhere, new material fails to ignite, but ‘Buried Alive’’s comic book horror showcases the band’s wayward genius splendidly.

At the finale fans climb onstage for a good old boogie: quite the spectacle (we learn later that Cole’s guitar is stolen), but also an ancient stage act that appears a little, well, desperate. Pack this rock ’n’ roll circus into a smaller venue and you may witness one of the gigs of the year – but the feeling just isn’t here tonight.

Jon McClure’s band of indie pirates Reverend & The Makers are due to return with their second album ‘A French Kiss In The Chaos’.

Always outspoken, Jon McClure stunned his fans last year by announcing in an interview that he was finished with the music industry. A long time hero in his hometown of Sheffield, the announcement brought an end to one of the most dramatic rise in fortune ClashMusic have borne witness to.

A mentor to the young Alex Turner, Jon McClure formed Reverend & The Makers in 2005 and quickly began making waves. Signing to Wall Of Sound the band released their single ‘Heavyweight Champion Of The World’ in 2007, sweeping into the Top Ten.

Debut album ‘The State Of Things’ was a huge success, entering the upper echelons of the chart and spawning more hit singles.

Yet all this was brought to a shuddering halt when drummer Ruchy Westley left the group last summer. Jon McClure then promised to split the band, stating that he was ready to quit the music scene for good.

However since then McClure has rarely been more involved with music, launching the group Mongrel and preparing to curate his own festival named Tramlines.

Most recently, Jon McClure played a house gig as part of the Instigate Debate program. An attempt to engage young people with politics, McClure took part in a discussion with a Labour MP before performing some classic tracks in front of a handful of lucky fans.

Inconsistent, then, but also talented, Reverend & The Makers are one of the most talked about groups in the UK.

New album ‘A French Kiss In The Chaos’ is another blast at modern Britain. Little has been heard of the new material, but forthcoming single ‘Silence Is Talking’ is a combative return. Riding a euphoric wave, the song could well become the soundtrack to your summer with its singalong chorus set to reverberate around festival campsites near you.

Musically, the forthcoming album blends Reverend & The Makers heavyweight grooves with 60s psychedelia. Retaining their distinctive sound yet eager to experiment, recording was handled by none other than Jagz Kooner – the man who produced Primal Scream’s epic ‘XTRMNTR’ album.

Reverend & The Makers are set to make their live return this summer, after being added to the upcoming Oasis tour at the personal request of the Manchester legends. McClure’s indie tearaways will star at some of the nation’s biggest venues, including Scotland’s Murrayfield Stadium as well as three nights at the hallowed turf of Wembley.

Reverend & The Makers are due to release their new album ‘A French Kiss In The Chaos’ on July 27th.