Author Archives: thededicatedapeman

“I’m throwing rocks tonight.” A discussion on the use of music in film


The scene opens on a set of white bowling pins in a typical American bowling alley. A beer is placed in a holder.  A ball rolls back into the holding bay.  It is picked up and bowled.  Strike.  Ash is tapped from a cigarette.  A ball is picked up. Sequence of various different sized Americans bowling.  Man sprays shoes.  Donny bowls a strike.

“I’m throwing rocks tonight .”

And so The Big Lebowski begins.  Alone, this scene would be uninteresting. Despite the Coen Brothers fantastic cinematography, most notably in the way the camera follows the ball as it rolls down the lane, alone this scene would frankly be dull. So why is it such a perfect opening for such a perfect film?

Bob Dylan.  I’m not going to sing praises of Bob Dylan, however much I would like to, because in fact, the song used over the Coen’s bowling montage alone, is pretty average.   But in the context of this montage, it makes perfect sense. The Coen brothers indeed have perfectly married film and music at the beginning of this film.  It gives a ironic twist on bowlers who are presented as being unremarkable, typical Americans, with music proclaiming there is something greater going on inside them, indeed the song is titled “The Man in Me”. It sets us up perfectly for the introduction to The Dude. Who is very much your typical American, though at least he’s housebroken. This irony about average people being great, really, is repeated again and again throughout the film. Whether it’s the paedophile Jesus, the Vietnam Veteran Walter, or the Dude himself, there is a constant suggestion that what goes on in their lives is somehow reaching towards something greater. But this all falls apart at the end, when they realise it was all one big fuck up.

The song “The Man in Me” is essentially used as a motif.  Good filmmakers, such as the Coen brothers, understand the power music can hold over a film. In Casablanca the repetition of the song “As Time Goes By” holds such emotional power over the characters that whenever we even get a snippet of the song, we know instantly what the characters are feeling.

Music in films however, can be used awfully.  There must be a certain subtlety to the way the music is used or it comes across as being a cheap way of covering up a montage. For music to be used in a montage, like in the Big Lebowski, to good affect the scene itself must almost be passive.  Take a moment to consider the way The Libertines “Time for Heroes” is used in American Pie: The Wedding. The song is, undeniably, fucking brilliant. And while to a certain extent it is about teens going nuts and smashing shit up, it does not match up with nerdy, uninteresting teens getting drunk and trying to get laid. The combination of the two serves neither the song nor the film well.

But music in this fils is not used as a motif. Instead it attempts to match a moment within the film with music that fits suitably, that’s not to say, that this cannot be done well.

Tarantino and Scorsese are renowned for their ability to do this and unquestionably are masters of their art. Take the scene in Pulp Fiction when Vincent arrives at Marcellus’s house and Son of A Preacher Man is Playing, the irony in the song plays perfectly off the characters.  Music should not be used as a cover up for a scene but should serve both the scene and the song, as Tarantino does here and as is done with Hallelujah in Watchmen. Whereas usually the song is taken to be a painfully ironic hymn to unrequited love, in this scene in Watchmen a whole new dimension is brought to the song. Love, both physically and mentally (there’s nudity kids) is presented as an escape from life, it is something sacred and something that cannot last. Hallelujah is a cry out of love in a world void of hope.

I couldn’t find the actual scene. I presume due to its sexual nature.

Music married with film can bring a new dimension to the scene and the song, but it is a delicate art and must be approached carefully. Finally I will leave you with another master of this technique. Here he uses music to create a feel to the film, and the mood of a  city. That man is of course Woody Allen.  Until next time.

The Dedicated Apeman x

How not to be famous

There was a peculiar aura around the Festival Republic stage.  The crowd stretched out all the way outside and triangles constructed of dirty fingers graced the air. As the crowd began to demand that the sacred band took to the stage a chant of “Alt-J, Alt-J” broke out. The atmosphere was electric and somewhat surreal as moments of silence brought more eerie triangles to the sky.  Even not being an Alt J fan, and to a certain extent actively disliking the band, I was caught up in the occasion. I sure as hell was ready to tessellate.

And then, a few skinny, spotty, spectacled teenagers nervously wandered onto the stage to remind us all that they were indeed human.  This, I understand, is part of their charm, and to a certain level it is endearing to see a few regular Joe’s on stage. But when the event is approached with such expectation, you want to see a fucking good show, and these guys were just too shy.

Nervously the lead singer mumbles into the microphone that they didn’t expect so many people, and to be fair they weren’t lying, they clearly didn’t expect it. They were embarrassed. The band did nothing more than attempt to recreate the sound on the record, they didn’t move about the stage, get the crowd involved or really act like they even wanted to be there.  You felt yourself willing them to get through the set, rather than dancing like a madman in the tiny bit of space you had found for yourself in the packed tent.

Pop-rock-indie-whateveryouwanttocallthem stars nowadays, seem to be embarrassed about fame. Alt J could barely cope with the hype that surrounded them, and neither, it seems can the Vaccines.  Their new album, while having a few strong moments like the closing track Lonely World, is a confused mess, with at the heart the problems Justin has with being famous. While songs on the first album made no real sense like “Wetsuit”, somehow singing that nonsense felt so right, but singing “I’m no teenage icon, I’m no Frankie Avalon” just doesn’t click. It’s just there’s no way we can relate to it. There’s a certain energy in the first album which seems to have gone, and now we have some twenty-something men wishing they were women.

We need more bands like Tribes.  Tribes just sing it like they fucking mean it and have a good time, and guess what, if they have a good time, we have good time too. They were probably one of the best bands at Reading.  They strode on to the stage and played their music loud and jumped about and had a good time and the crowd responded like a crowd should. If you’re going to be a musician, don’t be afraid of it, go up on the stage and declare yourself to be the best.

The sooner bands stop trying to be original and deep, and instead just sing what they want and how they want, the better. Bands like The Black Keys, Tribes, Alabama Shakes, hell…. The Palma Violets (if you don’t know them check them out) completely get this. And I hope more do too, soon.

Why I Don’t Like Frank Turner

Why I don’t like Frank Turner. 

Hello avid readers. I figured that this post may gain somewhat of a negative reaction from some of you as Frank Turner is quite a popular guy. So I’d like to start by saying that this is my opinion, you are very much entitled to your own, even it may be completely misplaced… in my eyes at least.

I thought I was going to love Frank Turner.  A lot of the music that I really, really love revolves mostly around the lyrics. And… through the grapevine, I heard this was Frank’s strongpoint.  I’d heard his little song about Winchester and thought it was ok, if a bit annoying. And when I heard he had written a song called “I knew Prufrock before he was famous” I thought that was it… I would love him. It was a cracking title, but no more than that.

Frank Turner’s lyrics are dull and bland. They simply aren’t poetic. Many of you may say this isn’t the point, and that with songs like “Thatcher Fucked the Kids” he’s deliberately just being angry, and pointedly political. But, this is where it all sort of goes wrong for me.

Now, I wanted to stay clear of making comparisons to Dylan with Frank.  I have a tendency to compare people to Dylan, but when I read in the NME that Billy Bragg said that Frank Turner followed in the line of politico-folk singer songwriters “I see a line that runs through Dylan, Joe Strummer me and Frank.”  I could no longer avoid the comparison.

To begin with. Dylan never consciously tried to be a political songwriter, and he strayed away from this by about the time of “Bringing it All Back Home” and his political songs, were still beautifully crafted, angry, poetic songs. He wrote incredible lyrics. There’s no getting away from it.  Take the opening lines of Chimes of Freedom,

“Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll

We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing

As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds

Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing”

You can’t say that’s not poetic. I’m not going to get too weighed down in what I mean by “poetic” because we all have our own definitions of words, but there’s no denying Dylan’s poeticism.  Dylan speaks with anger, but still poetically, and makes a point that is clear, but at the same time, multi layered. I don’t want to get too deep into what I mean by that, this post isn’t about Dylan. But, the same cannot be said for Frank,

“Whatever happened to childhood?

We’re all scared of the kids in our neighboorhood;

They’re not small, charming and harmless,

They’re a violent bunch of bastard little shits.”

There is nothing clever about those lyrics. You might think I’m saying that because there’s swearing in it, and that it’s being blunt. But, it Is just poor writing.  The swear word is just planted in there as if to say, yeahhhh look at me, I can swear, I’m a punk folk singer, yeahhh.  . Swearing in songs can be used well, if you want examples of this, go to the Libertines…

His points are pretty clear, and there’s nothing clever about them. He sort of just says them. He also name drops ridiculously. He mentions Jack Kerouac, Baudelaire, TS Eliot in his writing, but it’s so unsubtle, that It really is just name dropping.  Something in his lyrics just seems false. I’m not convinced by anything he writes.  (He describes Jay Jay Pistolet from the Vaccines as being the last of the romantic poets as well, which is a bit bizarre.) Anyway, at the heart of Frank‘s writing is a big hypocrisy. He pretends to be a sort of Working Class Hero, and is portrayed as such in the media (in NME they describe how he was once a struggling song writer e.t.c) but… he went to Eton for christsake! Eton!

Now this would be fine, if his songs were good. But they’re not.   And I think this is why his song writing is so stilted and unconvincing. How he has managed to convince so many is beyond me. He is an average singer, average guitar player, and his songs all sound the same. There must be clearly something I’m missing. Try to explain it to me if you like… but many have already tried.

I just don’t like Frank Turner.