Thursday, 22 February 2018

Sweden 2018 – Rolandz – Fuldans

Flipping heck, Sweden, it's coming to something when THIS is the only thing with a bit of life in it across the whole four MF shows so far? Do you still hide some manner of light under a secret bushel, or is this it?

These are clearly strange times!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Serbia 2018 - Umoran - Rejbass

The Beovisija final last night was a thing to behold, and whether intentional or not it transported us back to the competition's heyday in the late 80s when life was grand and before things started to get a little complicated round those parts. To be honest we could fill this blog with highlights for the next week - and still quite possibly might. There was lunacy, art-jazz, deep nostaligia and funtime pop stylings. But for us, this was the unassuming standout of the evening.

Actually it was so unassuming that we weren't even sure if it had started yet. Indeed, the start of the song could very easily have been the cellist's nan getting all previous with the claps. But once we'd locked into the groove this was quite the splendid affair.

After a confusingly sparse intro, and older gentleman with degenerate hair mumbled a few words to camera, before turning into the darkness and leaving us in the company of a man with the deepest voice in all Eurovision history. I'll swear the putty in out windows loosened after he appeared. I'll be passing on our glazier's bill in the morning. The whole thing then muttered on in loose cycles before it petered out at the end, but not before we'd grown strangely addicted to it's minimal roar.

Maybe not a tune for every listener's tastes, but we love the fact that songs like this even exist, let alone get a stab at representing their troubled nation on an international stage. It's things like this that make us deeply love that corner of the world, despite its many foibles.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Estonia 2018 - Evestus - Welcome To My World

While it's lovely that you're constantly dropping us your little hints and tips from around the strange creases of the national qualifiers of Europe, every now and again you get us quite wrong. For example, the Apocalypse mailbox has been full of links to this clip, suggesting that it's right up my street. But in this instance you couldn't be more mistaken. For this performance is absolutely terrible - and not for the reasons that you might think.

When I first heard that Evestus were having a pop at this year's Laul I was mildly amused. For years they've been the kind of third division techno goth band who you frequently see playing the third stage of a small-town Belgian Industrial Noise Fest. On a Sunday. Afternoon. They've always had the odd good song in them - hunt down the video for their horror jungle beatdown The Fall to see what they're fully capable of. But more often than not they just churn out the tired old tropes of the genre without offering anything terribly new or exiting - the Shed Seven of their respective scene, if you will.

But even we weren't quite prepared for quite how low they'd stoop in their attempt to tread the Eurovision boards. Where at best they can chug along a pretty hefty techno electro groove, here they just plod along listlessly, coming over like a car boot Marilyn Manson when he was on his terrible middle period. And then there's the other clear lifts. You thought that keyboard-on-a-spring thing looked cool? So did Nine Inch Nails when they pioneered it 20-odd years ago. And how about those ambiguous backing singers? Very reminiscent of pretty much any gig Ministry or The Revolting Cocks or even Pigface did in the nineties. Then there's the collapsing stage schtick that crops up in about one in five of the videos of this genre. And even the singer looks like a smart price Dani Filth in his half-arsed menace.

Now some, if not all, of these references might leave you a little puzzled, like we're making up our own language or something. But trust us, we're well versed in this field, and this mob aren't especially very good at it. I mean, how bored did that drummer lad look. He was clearly wondering about which pie he wanted to polish off once he'd got back to his mum's after the show and raided her fridge.

Add this as another to the long sorry list of reasonably decent genre bands who wimp out and deliver a deeply watered down song for Eurovision that's more what they think people will like than one that they're actually any good at doing. Gothminister, Nuteki, Kabat et al, come on down. But what's more worrying is that they've bagged the last-song-in-the-draw slot at the Laul final, which means they'll be able to pull off something pretty big and explosive looking, which would put them in real contention for the gong. Oh good lord, please no...

Monday, 19 February 2018

Latvia 2018 - Mionia - You

I was a bit behind catching up with some of this weekend's songs, and I was reading a heck of a lot of comments from folks saying what a lovely song this was and how beautiful Mionia's voice was. So understandably it was at the top of my catch up list when I finally got to sit down and have a good listen. But oh my days... One can only assume that none of the those people giving her vocal stylings were from the United Kingdom - or even ever visited for more than a long weekend - because wowsers her accent is shocking.

How so? Well remember how that German Lena clearly though that she was channeling her inner Kate Nash, but it actually sounded more like someone kicking a poorly dog? Well Mionia comes across as someone trying to sound like Lena kicking Kate Nash - with the expected horrifying results.

Now our international readers may be wondering quite what's so bad about it all - and to be fair to you all, if you love it then she's done her job perfectly. But if you're of these isles, those strangled vowels and variable regional accent attempts are like someone dragging their nails down a blackboard. Whilst screaming.

Now I don't want to do the girl a disservice. There's a really beautiful song in there fighting to get out, and when she's not singing "Luv" like a comedy Scouser, or over annunciating her hard consonants she's actually got a pretty decent voice. I just wish that she's kept to her own accent and didn't mess about with all that funny business.

You watch. It'll turn out that she's actually from Leeds now, and won't I look a fool!

Portugal 2018 - JP Simões - Alvoroço

Here's a fine little oddity from FDC last night. The first Portuguese show was a joy of understated delights and gentle Sunday night pop. But JP here have us something even more minimal. So laid back he was almost laid on the floor with a big straw hat on, he cooly mumbled through a song that roughly translates as 'Hooligan' (we think - Portuguese is never what it seems, and it could also mean 'Bustle', 'Tumult' or 'Rampage, among many other things), seemingly singing along with himself and hardly stretching a facial muscle.

So far so quiet. But at the two minute mark such a cacophony kicked in that it sounded like a jazz orchestra falling down the stairs - and continued like this until the end. But old JP remained up worried, and scarcely flinched, retaining his disaffected cool until the last racketous beat.

In a staid, sweet and often safe evening of music, this was a revelation of strange, and we wholeheartedly approve. And so did the jury who gave him a pretty decent mark. The good people of Portugal clearly didn't though, and it didn't get a single measly mark from them, missing out on qualification by a mere point. It was probably better that way, but oh what beauty we fleetingly glimpsed...

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Estonia 2018 - Indrek Ventmann - Tempel

There were some great performances in Estonia last night. And not just the songs. Someone had clearly put a lot of thought into the visual side of the three minutes last night, and where we could have just got a bloke in a suit stood there warbling, be got some lovely little three minutes of art.

Take this one, for starters. With Indrek you usually get simply a handsome bloke in a suit stood singing pleasantly but unremarkably. So full marks to him and his people or whoever came up with this splendid little piece of drama.

I won't give too much away, as it's best to let it develop around you. But I will add a couple of notes. That magazine you'll see fleetingly. It's FutureMusic, and I used to work on that! And keep an eye out for the mug... that's all I'm saying.

So sit back and enjoy three of the best minutes you'll watch all season - the song itself is almost an irrelevance!

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Ukraine 2018 - Yurcash - Stop Killing Love

You know us here at Apocalypse, we do like a nice full three minutes. Well prepare yourself for some cramming, for this lot deliver a full four-act stage musical in the time it takes to boil a decent egg. On this clip, the song actually starts at the two minute mark, but it's worth watching it through just for the added surprise when the musical events finally kick off. For what looked like it was going to be a standard pub rock work out turned into something completely unexpected and very unlikely.

From the first note it was clear that this was going to be a messianic allusion. The singer lad was decked out in sackcloth and affecting a Jesus Christ pose while his troupe behind him gave it the full middle east in their garb. And if that wasn't enough, a column of bloodied thorns wrapped around the mic stand, just to make you sure you know what they're getting at.

But that wasn't all. This moderately proggy workout flipped though the time signatures like a bored musician at a Rolodex, and more serious art bits were followed by strange comedy japes and showbiz singalongs. Seriously, if it hadn't be so jawdroppingly unhinged it would have been terrible. But just couldn't help yourself warming to it as the nonsense chugged along with a variety of chuggy riffs.

It was hilarious, ill-advised and absolutely bang on point all at once, somehow, and we were gutted when it didn't qualify. At least we think we were. Just imagine all that on a big Eurovision stage. It would have been a proper wonky treat!

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Israel 2018 - Netta Barzilai - Tik Tok/Gangnam Style

Oh my days she did it. Our girl won the ticket to Lisbon, and I'm already in the queue for the Israeli party! And just look at what she performed to get there. Week after week Netta showed her versatility and creativity and somehow managed to charm a nation to let her represent them on the biggest pop stage in the world. But the work starts here.

For a start, what is she going to perform? If Israeli telly has any sense they'd give her carte blanche to write and perform her tune in exactly the style that she wants to. Rather than their usual pop poppets who are bright-eyed and bushy tailed and ready to be moulded, Netta is a fully formed artists and shouldn't just be chucked a regulation frocky ballad from central songwriting. Although she'd still do one heck of a job on it.

And then there's the whole loopstation can of worms. Are the EBU going to let her show her full art and let her mix herself live on stage? Well they let Jowst do the muck about last year, so precedents have been set. But new provisions in the rules this year make recorded voices a lot more tricky to get past. But wait a minute - Netta's vocals aren't pre-recorded... they're recorded live on stage as they happen, only with a little bit of delay (and in a slightly different order). If they allow reverb and echo, how can they ideologically object to this?

It's going to be a tricky old path to negotiate, but we can't wait to see how it turns out, because it's almost certain to be cracking, whatever it is!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Iceland 2018 - Þórunn Antonía - Ég Mun Skína

When we first heard the Icelandic songs we thought they were a pretty uninspiring bunch. There was that intentionally comedy mum band, a whole lot of slow and mid tempo stuff, and a footballer. So it was pleasing to see that they'd really given some thought as to how to present each performance - whether that was the artful arrangement of backing singers, a sex pest on a bench routine... Or this...

Now we're not sure what they were thinking when dreamed up this particular spot of on stage malarkey, but we're rather pleased that they did. In fact, we can't imagine that anyone who ever saw a list of the stuff that goes on in this performance ever thought that it was a good idea to convert it into real life actions. But somehow they turned all that unlikeliness into three minutes that you're not going to forget in a hurry (although it's a crying shame that the same can't be said for the actual song that's hiding away weedily somewhere in the middle of all those stunts).

We thought Þórunn there looked a little anxious at the start, and that was hardly surprising, given what she had to execute as the three minutes elapsed. But her strange, jerky delivery and curious breathing shapes all wafted away once the strongwomen in bacofoil pants ambled on, and then it just got strange and stranger and stranger.

So sit back and enjoy one of the most unique three minutes of song that you're likely to see all season. It's a shame that it didn't get to the later stages, because a performance this odd really deserves a wider audience, whether the song as actually any good or not. And to be honest, we can't remember it at all. But you'll soon see why...

Ukraine 2018 - Kozak System – Mamai

I do enjoy a Ukrainian selection process. The songs alone make place it head and shoulders above most of the trailing pack, as far as variety, invention and downright excitement goes. But dig a little deeper and there's a whole load of political showboating to be found. Some of it subtle, much of it less so. After all, this is a country that sits very literally at the crossroads of history, and where even going to down the shops for your daily hleb can be a politicised action, so it's hardly surprising.

Take Kozak System here. To the passing punter it was a raucous punky ska-cum-hardcore folklore stampdown, with metallic fringes and little slivers of local traditional instruments infused throughout. It's the kind of thing we're more used to seeing come from Moldova in this contest, but spend any time in the old country and you'll hear this stuff coming out of cabs and barbers and towerblock bars wherever you go.

But scratch below the surface and you'll find a whole lot more. Kozak is how the locals say Cossack - another group of fierce locals - and their members were at the very heart of the EuroMaydan protests back in 2013. So big are they locally that they've played shows at the Olympiysky Stadium, and you may even have seen them play a show on the big stage at the Eurovision Village on Kreshchatyk last Spring. On top of that, the subject of the song, Mamai, is an old Cossack folk hero who embodies the spirit of the Ukrainian people.

In fact, we're surprised that they didn't qualify last evening. Although perhaps they weren't there for the qualifying. Perhaps they on the show, you know, just to be seen, like. So next week, when you watch the second episode of Vibdir, if something seems a bit incongruous or ill-placed to you, just do a little bit of a background search while you watch. For there may be reasons that it's there way beyond the auspices of Eurovision. And we can't flipping wait!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Italy 2018 - The Kolors - Frida (Mai Mai Mai)

The thing that most of the rest of Eurovisionia never seem to get to grips with is that Sanremo isn't for us. It's a wholly local confection for those tuned to an Italian palate. They care little or less for the future of a song in Eurovision. They just want to celebrate the best of their grumbly old goats and terrifying women in song and a fair bit of chit chat.

So when a clearly Eurovision ready song does occasionally pop up in the contest it's generally not too much reason to get excited. A case in point is The Kolors here. In any other national final you'd have been calling up your bookmaker at the mere release of the promo pictures. But Sanremo's a much more nostalgic affair, and we're much more likely to end up with a pensioner grumbling about his knees than a vital young pop act like this lot.

And boy they're pretty. I may not be of the same constituent population as many of my fellow fans, but heavens, I still swooned when the singing lad ran his fingers through his floppy fringe and looked straight at the camera.

But one thing you can usually rely on at the Ariston is a bandwagon song - one that wasn't much fancied at the start of the week, but picks up a head of steam as the days roll by. The Kolors boys are already creeping their way up the betting, and if Meta and Moro overcome the self-plagiarism minefield they've laid for themselves and win the thing with their powerful anti-violence anthem, then there's a good chance that they will elect not to take the ticket to Portugal, and then the Italian berth at the big show is up for grabs. And then know what might happen...

If you've not seen this lot yet, tune into tonight's latest song marathon and see if they float your boat.

United Kingdom 2018 - SuRie - Storm

So the UK did their choosing thing last night, and there is much to mull over. But the biggest thing that we've learned is that if you put in the work you win the prize. As we know, SuRie knows this game very well, and pretty much had this thing won on Twitter over the last fortnight. She's been getting involved, retweeting all the most influential online opinion makers, and letting herself be interviewed by the top sites. All that work meant that by the time she walked out on that Brighton stage she already had the punters in the palm of her hand.

Job one done.

Having the experience of the big show as she does - albeit in a secondary role - she knows what works on stage. She might not have had the best song last night, but she gave the best performance by a mile. And so while the good stuff was under performed (Asanda for one seemingly struggling to breathe under the weight of expectation), and the rest upped their game with less winnable songs (the previously dull Jaz putting the whole of his life into his on stage efforts, delivering some of the most soaring vocals ever seen on a UK national final stage), our lass SuRie just smiled, looked straight down the telly pipe and charmed the hearts of a nation, like some kind of trendy supply teacher quelling an unruly mob of superannuated school kids by singing a popped up sea shanty with some charm and grace.

Task two achieved.

It was clear from about ten seconds in that she had that won, and while I was initially disappointed, I had that bloody song stuck in my head all night, despite going out for a practise with one of my horrible noisy bands directly after. Clearly it's way stickier than I ever imagined, so while it's not to my immediate taste it might just strike a chord with the voting public - if Denmark don't do the dirty on us and send one of many songs in their final with a similar vocal motif.

The actual TV production was a step in the right direction, too. Just the right blend of nostalgia and wit, playing to the home audience but still being inclusive to the folks at home, a panel who actually knew what they were talking about - Rylan a particular revelation, and in Måns a proven host with the right levels of professionalism and self-depricating humour to pull it off. Oh, and Mel cut the "Eurovisj" cringes down to an absolute minimum, too.

We're not quite there yet, but each year is a marked improvement on the last. We've unlocked another achievement and levelled up once more. Now all we need is that killer song to lure in a continent and we're laughing.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Israel 2018 - Netta Barzilai - Wannabe

Oh my giddy aunt! Good friend of the site Ido just dropped me a note, suggesting that I should stop whatever I was doing and watch. He wasn't wrong. This clip comes from Israel's The Next Star show, the process used in part to find their next Eurovision act. We hope it's Netta here, and when you see this, so will you.

When we saw that she was doing a Spice Girls cover we must confess that our heart sank just a little. We shouldn't have worried, because this lass completely and utterly made it her own. Mucking about with a loop station, she not only made her own unhinged beats, but battered the lyric to a pulp with an incredible vocal display.

I never usually trust the term "Made For Eurovision", because it rarely ever actually means anything of the sort. But surely this lass would only enhance the show with a gurt big banger. We'll be watching the Israeli process a whole lot closer from here on in!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Italy 2018 - Lo Stato Sociale - Una Vita In Vacanza

Alright you, drop everything you were doing this week - it's Sanremo time. Five glorious days of pure Italianosity, and old men and young women grumbling syllable-heavy songs that wouldn't make any sense in any other country than this. Plus chat. A lot of chat.

But somewhere in among all that talk there's a lot of musical splendidness, and these boys offered up one of my highlights of the season so far. Starting out as a slightly awkward indie Euro disco number with a mumbling, lost looking singer, this soon picks up the pace, and the shout-a-long chorus just builds and builds as the song grows around it. And then, at about the three minute mark, something absolutely perfect happens. (OK, so we've seen this particular added extra doing the rounds on the Somewhere's Got Talent circuit, but that scarcely matters in this instance, as it was both utterly charming and totally unexpected).

As often happens at Sanremo, you can fall in love with a song that you know is going absolutely nowhere, but that you can't help hoping that it drags itself to about the halfway point to make it all feel worthwhile. We just wonder what they've got up their sleeve for the rest of the week.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Hungary 2018 - Andy Roll - Turn The Lights On

We've been doing this sorry old blog for long enough now that we're beginning to get a feel for the kinds of thing that you, dear reader, really rather enjoy. And so it was that as we were watching the most recent Hungarian under-final, this rather curious gentleman shuffled into view and we just knew that we'd be getting a whole bundle of notes and messages over the next 24 hours asking us what we thought of him. And yes, we did - it was possibly our biggest mailbag yet... well, apart from the usual cease and desist notices from Sasha Bognibov's people, of course.

So here it is, the fruit of your wonderings - the very singular style of a lad called Andy Roll. One part of us hopes that he's normally in a double act with Jimmy Rock, but that's by the by. Anyway, we have so many questions that will probably never be answered. The chain of events led him to be standing on that live televisual stage, for starters. Which one of the schedulers thought, you know what, that Roll fella stands as good a chance as anyone... let's bung him on. The kids will love him!

And at what stage in his life did he reckon that pop glory was for him? I have to say that the name is vaguely familiar, so I don't know if he's tried his hand at A Dal before, or I once saw him back in the day when he played regional non-league ice hockey for his village third team.

But most of all I was wondering quite where he got what looks like a child's raincoat made out of meat to wear for his big moment on the box.

But having said all that, after all my gentle mockery, by the time he's done his gruff voiced bit and the dancers all come out with their torchy hands you begin to root for the fella. And by the time he gets to the hands in the air, under the carpet chanting end bit we were up on our feet and swaying our arms about like a man trapped in quicksand.

So Andy Roll, we salute you. We salute you for being the only act in that show the other night that we'll remember a year from today. Well you and that good looking laddie with the spoons.