BREVIEW: My Friend Dahmer 01.06.18

Words by Ashleigh Goodwin

When asking the ‘average’ person what their interests are, we’ve all heard the standard pastimes rattled off: socialising with friends and family, sporting activities, travelling, having a pint at the pub… And as I enter into the world of professionalism and small talk, I’ve realised this is a safe, relatable, and most importantly a socially acceptable list to recount in those awkward moments of introduction.

But it was after I inadvertently blurted out that my main interest were “serial killers”, with wide eyes and possibly over enthusiastic tone, in a work conference icebreaker not so long ago that I felt the pang of peer review and social acceptance. I don’t necessarily mean this is a bad interest, as I know many people who share it, but at the end of it all aren’t we all trying to fit in?

Due to this fascination, I’ve amassed bits of knowledge on Jeffrey Dahmer over the years from various sources: podcasts, autobiographies, biographies, films, interviews and documentaries. So, when I was offered the chance to sneak a first peak at the new biopic on the serial killer, My Friend Dahmer, I was genuinely overjoyed – jumping on a train from Bristol back to Birmingham to make the advanced screening at The Electric Cinema, as organised by Film Hub Midlands.

My Friend Dahmer is based on the 2012 graphic novel/memoir by American cartoonist John ‘Derf’ Backderf. Derf was an acquaintance of Jeffrey Dahmer’s throughout their time at Eastview Junior High and Revere High School from 1968 to 1978. The film adaptation doesn’t show this entire timeline or solely focus on Backderf’s friendship with Dahmer, like the graphic novel, but rather follows Dahmer throughout his four years in high school, charting his binge-drinking, the separation of his parents, his fascination for dead animal experimentation, and his desperate cries for attention to gain acceptance amongst his peers. The film shows Dharmer’s life up to the time just before his first human murder, two weeks after his graduation, ending with him picking up his first victim – hitchhiker Steven Mark Hicks.

My Friend Dahmer is also presented through the eyes of Dahmer himself, as opposed to the singular perspective of Derf in his graphic novel. Director and screenwriter, Marc Meyers, explains this switch was because “we’re all most interested in the life and descent of Jeff Dahmer. It’s the mix of Jeff’s school and home life that is the most compelling and important part of the story“.

Meyers does a great job with this film, carefully executing a cautionary tale that could have easily descended into the common pitfalls of the serial killer genre, such as glamorisation, dramatisation and desensitisation. Yet the way he captures Dahmer’s declining psyche, using subtle editing throughout the film, at times feels nothing short of masterful.

Meyers utilises all available factors, such as sound, the transition between frames, and the use of both establishing and close up shots, to create a deliberate and careful portrayal of Dahmer’s chaotic decent to the point of no return. I’ll admit, however, on occasion at the beginning the film felt slow and I was initially frustrated we were getting a lacklustre portrayal of the situation. But as My Friend Dahmer enters into its second half you realise this is a deliberate move to show the progression of Dahmer’s character and how he eventually gets to the point that he does.

During his school life, Dahmer was notorious for regularly faking seizures and mimicking cerebral palsy through speech impediments and certain ticks, in a bid to attraction attention from his peers. This worked too, as Derf and his classmates formed a “Dahmer Fan Club” due to how entertaining and interesting the found their ‘friend’ Jeffrey.

Derf, along with other peers, paid Dahmer to do “his act” at Summit Mall one afternoon; Derf has stated the event went down as “legendary”, as Jeffrey Dahmer spent around two hours terrorising shoppers by shouting in their faces, flinging their food trays from tables, and faking seizures in the middle of the complex. I felt this scene did a great job of summarising the tragedy that was Dahmer’s teenage years; the disconnect he had from everyone, his desperate need to fit in, and how he ultimately was nothing more than comical fodder amongst his peers.

Meyers could have easily set this up as a purley comical scene, but uses it as a pivotal point within the film to show the severity of Dahmer’s rapidly declining grasp of normalcy. Again, the editing is great here and shows the raw emotion by using a series of close-up frames that focus solely on a tormented looking Dahmer. Quick fades and dissolves are then used to fit the crescendo of a piano instrumental in the background, effectively building the emotion of the narrative and conveying an increasing despair without any dialogue.

However, the main highlight of the film is indisputably Ross Lynch’s performance as the younger Jeffrey Dahmer. Lynch was previously known for his work on the Disney Channel, and this departure makes his delivery even more surreal whilst showcasing the wider berth of his acting skills. Lynch manages to pin-point Dahmer’s character, not only in his immediate appearance (Lynch is virtually unrecognisable with his mop like hair and large glasses) but in his slouched posture, his introverted mannerisms, and most strikingly his facial expressions and eye contact which convey emotion in each scene without saying a word.

Meyers also finds balance in his execution of Dahmer’s character, showing the stereotypically introverted and sinister Dahmer but also his collected and composed nature in a very self-aware way. This is reflected in the story of how Dahmer called the President’s office on a school trip to Washington and arranged a meeting with his friends and Vice-President Walter Mondale. Lynch re-enacts this with a great calmness and slight arrogance – the more confident side of Dahmer gives the character further depth and an indication of his multifaceted personality, which became a vital part of the man in later life.

My Friend Dahmer / John 'Derf' BackderfLynch’s performance is also made so captivating because many of the experiences and situations Dahmer faced through adolescence are those that can be commonplace for any teenager, such as loneliness, negligence and the struggle for acceptance. This humanises Lynch’s character, as it isn’t hard to relate certain aspects of his demeanour to someone you know. Backderf even stated that Lynch’s portrayal of Dahmer will “make viewers uncomfortable because it’s so familiar.”

My main gripe, however, is that I feel My Friend Dahmer portrays the ‘Dahmer Fan Club’ to be more compassionate than was perhaps strictly true – especially judging by Derf’s own account in his graphic novel, which repeatedly stated that generally they excluded Dahmer, didn’t give him much concern, and pretty much kept him around for entertainment.

However, in the film there are a handful of scenes where members of the group question if it’s “mean how [we] treat Dahmer” and later on that they should “leave him alone”. None of this is reflected in Derf’s original recount and feels as though it has been thrown in to the film to make his peers appear more sympathetic, or to make them seem more like invested acquaintances than they were.

This is demonstrated most prominently within the penultimate scene between Dahmer and Derf in the car outside Jeffrey’s house; Derf, after disassociating himself from Dahmer due to his overbearing weirdness, hesitantly discusses heading off to college and Dahmer’s future plans. At this point in Derf’s graphic novel I was practically begging for someone to ask Dahmer ‘are you okay?’, but it never came. By introducing the disjointed, flippant interests in Dahmer’s welfare at this stage in the film adaptation it felt unnecessary, disingenuous, and took away the severity of hopelessness and isolation of the central character.

Although also towards the end of the film the narrative shows Dahmer’s former friends and his parents all leaving him, instilling the audience with a heart-sinking feeling as we expect the inevitable. The scene where Dahmer’s mother, Joyce, leaves with his brother, David, is done in such a blasé way it almost becomes comical, with Meyers using this to encapsulate the tragedy of Dahmer’s teenage relationships and how utterly alone he really was. After Joyce leaves, the scene is deathly quiet as Dahmer falls to the floor and cries. You can see the angst and conflict in Lynch’s face, so much so you could arguably mark the point where all hope is lost for Jeffrey Dahmer.

There is a further absence of any full discussion about Dahmer’s struggle with his sexuality. There are a couple of scenes in My Friend Dahmer that hint towards this inner conflict, but this could have been expanded on rather than being just an undertone as it is such a vital part in the killer’s motives and central to the whole character of Jeffrey Dahmer.

I also have a feeling the film may hold more appeal to those with a pre-existing interest in Dahmer. For those with little interest in the notorious serial killer, it may seem slow paced and potentially anticlimactic and we don’t see any of what Dahmer is most known for, so I would recommend reading Derf’s graphic novel for a bit of background.

This being said, My Friend Dahmer carries a lot for all film lovers to enjoy, such as the aforementioned performance from Lynch and the evident craft put into each scene; the colour pallet for the film is really enjoyable, recreating the era through a sepia quality and giving a portrayal of Ohio within the late-sixties that feels authentic and rich.

Overall, Meyers presents an honest look at Jeffery Dahmer’s unsettling and upsetting childhood. The film neither excuses nor sympathises with his actions, but still shows the extent to which Dahmer’s traumas and inner demons grew through the negligence of those around him, and eventually consumed him, in a process that is both fascinating and heart-wrenching to watch.

My Fiend Dahmer offers its audience a glimpse into the serial killer’s adolescence without assigning blame on certain events or situations that lead to his fate. But rather the narrative explores the factors that shaped Dahmer into the individual he became, without trying to answer the ‘nature Vs nurture’ debate – a conversation arguably best left to both the audience and wider society. Something to remember during that uncomfortable small talk at the office Christmas party.

My Friend Dahmer – official trailer

My Friend Dahmer is out in general release from Friday 1st June – coming to both independent and mainstream cinemas across the UK. For more on My Friend Dahmer, visit


BREVIEW: MK ULTRA @ REP 17.03.17 / Brian Slater

Words by Charlotte Heap / Production pics by Brian Slater 

THIS IS FAKE THEATRE. The commencing proclamation of Rosie Kay Dance Company’s MK ULTRA raised a snigger from the REP audience, steeped as we are in “alternative facts”. Named after Rosie Kay’s favourite conspiracy theory, MK ULTRA explores the occult in pop culture: shining a searchlight on society’s obsession with symbolism, hyper-sexuality and the Illuminati.

The show doesn’t shy away from its droll departure, spiraling into a psychedelic trip through conspiracy history; kaleidoscopic projections, bursting onto a stark triangle set, suck you into a twisted tale of truth and fake news. In preparation for this production, Kay collaborated with BBC filmmaker Adam Curtis to explore the sinister story of mind control and the far-fetched, far reaches of online conspiracies. Cleverly, Curtis intercuts snippets of young Brummies discussing the Illuminati: particularly poignant for the audience and a startling reminder of the prevalence, and passivity, of believers.

BREVIEW: MK ULTRA @ REP 17.03.17 / Brian SlaterRosie Kay encountered this youthful fascination with free will during dance workshops and “fell down the rabbit hole” during the three years of research which led to MK ULTRA’s home town premiere. Conspiracy buffs will already know that MK ULTRA was the code name for a CIA brainwashing programme in the 1950s and 1960s, but the uninitiated may be less familiar with the theory that Disney and the CIA have continued the experiments – collaborating to control favourite pop stars, who occasionally break free and act out. Footage of a mentally fragile Britney Spears viewed through the famous Illuminati pyramid feels uncomfortably voyeuristic. But what is proof? Are we controlled by a shadowy elite? Kay’s combination of daring dance, slick visuals and pulsing beats pull us down the rabbit hole with her.

The choreography in MK ULTRA is rightly ambitious and complex; from fluid innocence to, at times, the grotesquely sexual, we are forced to confront the conspiracy head on. The dancers frequently physically entice the audience, exhorting us to question what we think we know. Am I in control of myself?

Sometimes struggling with the frenetic synchronisation, the seven dancers still stun throughout the production; they become a beautiful seething mass in gravity-defying displays which draw loud gasps. The solos, almost MTV moments, are intimate and BREVIEW: MK ULTRA @ REP 17.03.17 / Brian Slaterultimately unsettling insights into a visceral struggle for free will. The dancers are the perfect puppets in this – at times I can almost see the strings, whilst Rosie Kay, as puppet master, is masterful.

Symbols, both subtle and sledgehammer, are sewn into the fabric of the show; pop culture references abound, from Michael Jackson to Mickey Mouse. Costumier Gary Card (whose celebrity clients include possible CIA puppet Lady Gaga) festooned the dancers with the iconography of the occult. Their decorated limbs reminded this fashion victim of the garish prints of Versace – himself a victim of mobster murder conspiracy theories. Deconstructed and frantic trap beats, interspersed with comfortably familiar classic samples, further compliment MK ULTRA’s crisp choreography and hypnotic visuals – adding to the discordant intensity of the production.

MK ULTRA is the final, political episode in a triptych from Rosie Kay Dance Company; previous installments, 5 Soldiers and There is Hope (covering war and religion respectively), demonstrate Kay’s commitment to creating dance that covers unusual but important ground. MK ULTRA’s programme asks the audience to consider how they experience the show, where they feel it in their bodies – something this cynic scoffed at. BREVIEW: MK ULTRA @ REP 17.03.17 / Brian SlaterBut this prolonged peek into conspiracy culture is stimulating and, occasionally, disorientating. My heart raced, brain strained, fists clenched, palms prickled.

But whilst the interval provided a welcome pause to absorb, the surprisingly saccharine ending to MK ULTRA comes almost too soon; like waking from a fever dream, it leaves you questioning and confused, but exhilarated.

Just as the dance company’s founder and director intended, MK ULTRA challenges the conspiratorial belief that, as individuals, we are powerless: It’s like we can’t control anything,” explains Rosie Kay – in her previous interview with Helen Knott for Birmingham Review. “It’s all controlled by this shadowy elite and there’s nothing that we can do. And of course, now more than ever, it isn’t. We’re the people, we have the power, we can change how the world is.”

For more on MK Ultra, visit

For more on Rosie Kay Dance Company, visit

For more from REP, including a full event programme and online ticket sales, visit

BREVIEW: BE Festival @ REP 21-25.06

BE Festival @ REP 21-25.06 / By Heather Kincaid

Words by Heather Kincaid / Pics courtesy of BE Festival

As events got underway on Friday 24 June at this year’s Birmingham European Festival, the atmosphere in the buzzing Festival Hub was noticeably different from the three preceding days. Where a mood of apprehensive optimism had prevailed before, now anxious faces engaged in animated discussions, asking urgent questions about the future.BE Festival logo

Few among the artists, attendees, organisers and others gathered there from across the continent will not be directly affected by Britain’s decision to leave the EU. Nevertheless, in keeping with the spirit of collaboration, co-operation and creativity in which BE Festival was conceived, directors Isla Aguilar and Miguel Oyarzun delivered a rousing speech, urging us to meet the news by coming together to show the world that a better Europe was possible.

Programmed well in advance, none of the shows at BE Festival 2016 were directly themed around the EU referendum, yet its presence could be felt in almost every aspect of the event – like a capricious ghost looming over the festivities, showing us Europe’s past, present and possible futures in a bid for us to understand the impact of Thursday’s decision.

Situation with an Outstretched Arm – Oliver Zahn’s ‘performative essay’ on the history of what has come to be known as the ‘Hitler salute’, explores the complex and inextricable connection between art and politics. In deconstructing the gesture in paintings and in practice, it demonstrates how aesthetics and symbolism play a vital part in the establishment of ideologies and in how we interact with them. At a time when both art and criticism are under financial threat, it feels like a bold statement asserting their importance in teaching us to identify and analyse power mechanisms.

Situation with an Outstretched Arm by Oliver Zahn @ BE Festival 2016Meanwhile, Xavier Bobés’ Things Easily Forgotten tells a story set against the backdrop of Franco’s Spanish regime, which lasted until 1975. With emboldened far-right extremists making news across the continent again, angered by mass migration and an increasingly internationalist outlook, it’s a potent reminder of how recently such groups have held real power. And how easily it could happen again if we fail to work together to prevent it.

In very different ways, Teatro Sotterraneo’s Reload and Aldes’ In Girum Imus Nocte both hold a mirror up to Western society today. Satirising the constant distractions of a labyrinthine Internet, the hilarious Reload looks at our restlessness, reduced concentration spans and decreased capacity to delay gratification when fed a constant stream of information and entertainment. With the Internet serving as the major battleground upon which the EU referendum campaigns were fought, Reload accidentally seems to highlight some of the problems with the debate: is it possible to really have a serious conversation or follow ideas through properly when fighting against a barrage of memes and soundbites?

Elsewhere, CollettivO CineticO’s Hamlet stands like a warning, showing us a kind of election by TV-style talent show with local contestants competing to be crowned as Shakespeare’s Danish Prince.

Presenting a far bleaker view of our world, In Girum Imus Nocte speaks to the frustrations of modern living that have caused many people to rail against what can feel like oppressive limitations in our society. Dancers move aimlessly, jerking and twitching like clockwork automatons in a world of grey and black, against a repetitive, ticking soundtrack. Occasionally, their drab routines are punctuated by outbreaks of mob fury, hedonistic celebration and bouts of deep, exhausted sleep. In such a world, change in whatever form it’s offered will inevitably be seized upon by some.BE Festival 2016

Perhaps the single hottest (and most inflammatory) topic in Britain’s EU debate has been the issue of immigration, particularly in relation to the ongoing Syrian crisis. An Wei Lu Li’s pointedly titled Democracy draws attention to the plight of refugees through a series of large-scale paintings located around the city.

The centrepiece of this city-wide ‘exhibition’ is Leviathan – a giant picture of a curled body on the ground in Centenary Square, only really visible in its entirety from the privileged vantage point of the Library of Birmingham terraces. Down on the ground, meanwhile, passers-by unwittingly trample across the body, gradually causing it to fade away. In a democracy, the work suggests, we’re all responsible on some level for the policies our leaders enact, even if we choose to ignore them.

Picking up on the same theme, W. H. Auden’s ‘Refugee Blues’ made an appearance in Los Bárbaros’ Things We’d Love to See on Stage. Though essentially a random collection of unrelated things, it also included “a politician doing politics” – which turned out to be a maneki-neko (beckoning cat figurine). “He’s not under Europe, but he’s probably pro-China, so we don’t know how that will work out,” joked one performer. The show took on a particularly poignant dimension when an opportunity for the audience to choose something that they’d like to see on stage themselves prompted a callback to an earlier item on the list. Previously, “maps” of Europe, Britain, England and Birmingham had been created out of piles of compost. After a member of the audience suggested “unity”, cheers erupted when another came forward to combine the maps into one pile.

Leviathan by An Wei Lu Li @ BE Festival 2016No single performance could have been better suited to the occasion, however, than Power to the People, a project themed around democracy, developed by a handful of last year’s artists through the BE Mix initiative – a brief, scratch-style residency that takes place after the festival each year. In the lead up to the show on Friday, performers on either side of a debate had been canvassing for votes for their respective ideas – one a piece directed by a single person, the other collaboratively devised by a team of five.

As with the referendum, the results of the vote on the day itself were pretty close, but ultimately the Five Directors Project won it. Next came questions designed to identify viewers’ assumptions. Is democracy really the best form of government? Does theatre at BE Festival confirm its audience’s biases? Congratulations to us, we collectively decided that the only power system that most of us have ever known was superior to any other. But since we also decided that the art we see should challenge us, the company went on to spend half an hour trying to prove us wrong…

If there’s one thing that BE Festival makes clear, it’s the case for even the most lighthearted of creative endeavours as something with the power to prompt reflection on the important issues in our lives.

With no sign of an end to austerity yet in sight, and the likelihood that Brexit will make it harder for British artists to collaborate with their continental neighbours, one can only hope that it continues to be able to serve this function.

For more on BE Festival, visit

Follow-Birmingham-Review-on-300x26 Facebook - f square, rounded - with colour - 5cm highTwitter - t, square, rounded, with colour, 5cm high

OPINION: Full Moon in Libra 23.03.16 ‘Illuminate your true self’

Full Moon in Libra 23.03.16

Words by Joëlle O’Toole

The sign of Libra is ruled by Venus; the charm, charisma and beauty bestowed on those with prominent Libra chart placements are discernible, notable and characteristically Venusian. To me, Libra is Venus ruled – although some disagree with this. Aries is unquestionably ruled by Mars.

This is the only axis in the chart which embodies the polarity of Venus Vs Mars, female archetype Vs male archetype, giving Vs receiving, yin Vs yang. This is the axis of smoothing the waters Vs expressing the true self, and this is the message of this Full Moon. What is more important to you, how you appear to others (Libra) or how you actually wish to express yourself (Mars)?

The Sun is now traversing through Aries, announcing loudly that the spring has sprung and the Moon becomes full when perfectly opposite to the Sun, in this case at 4ºLibra. On this occasion, however, there is a partial lunar eclipse at the same time. The beautification which the Full Moon in Libra wishes to sing out to the world is obfuscated by the shadow of the earth. Expression is halted, beauty is obscured, light is shadowed.

So the question needs to be asked on this Full Moon, what is beauty? Is beauty the glow of expensive make-up on your skin, or the muscles bulging from your arms? Is beauty the perfectly coiffed hair and the waxed moustache? Or is it something deeper and more profound? Do all these things appear beautiful when cast into shadow, or does the visual translate into more meaningful depths?

Of course visceral appearances aren’t only about beauty, but also about acceptance. I watch the world around me and people trying to please, wanting to be liked, wishing to impress – desperately trying to fit in. I sometimes ask them why, I sometimes find myself doing the same, but most of the time I know why. They’re scared. You’re scared, I’m scared. We are scared; afraid that we will be alone if people don’t like us, worried that we will lose our jobs if we don’t agree with everything, concerned that if we stand out we will be ostracised and treated like we still live in a century where uniqueness was treated with burning or drowning.

We’re controlled by fear, dictated to, set into regimes of nicely presented suits and shiny cars; politely queuing behind lines and lines of others doing just the same. Most bristling with anger, frustration, obscenities on the tip of the tongue and sometimes tripping off it.

These same people spend time reading about extending their lives whilst not actually living at all.

This Full Moon chart interestingly brings in all the elements which add up to us creating and maintaining façades. The 27º Cancer Ascendant brings the family dynamic to the mix and the Moon is ruled by Cancer. In the chart the Full Moon itself lands in its home, the 4th House also. Asking the question, who are you when you are at home with yourself?

If you spend some time considering the elements you most like and admire about yourself and then match up these qualities with the ones which are encouraged by others, how do they match up? Are you surrounded by people who love the you that you love, or do you feel that you have to adapt to be more like they imagine you to be? Do you ever apologise for sharing your feelings, or talking about yourself? Do you feel that cannot be outspoken without evoking conflict?Libra.svg

And if you do evoke conflict, is it your conflict anyway? When you choose to strip away the pretences and the niceties, there will people who resist this shift in you and wish you to revert to what they expect. There will conflict from them; there will be those whose egos are threatened by truth, and others who simply become angry when witnessing freedom as they wish to live a life where they no longer have to tie themselves in knots.

None of these are reasons to respond however, think mirrors and recognise projection. Fear speaks in tongues and can be invoked by the most surprising of folk at times, but once recognised as it is; fear is powerless and easily assuaged.

There is a transcendental element to all this; echoed beautifully by a Venus-Neptune conjunction, already propagating spiritual love and transcendence, enhanced further by occurring in the sign of Pisces. A sign ruled by Neptune, so elevated in its own wisdom at times, Pisces can command the upper echelons of true love and revere Venus into exaltation in this sign. Venus rules the Full Moon of this chart and cannot be iterated enough when considering the essence of this Full Moon being about beauty and the over-shadowing of such. When Venus links up with Neptune it tells us stories of love being an effervescent, uplifting and magical connection which has no need for the visual, or even the physical. Physical, masculine, energising Mars is almost thrown out of the picture by this over-emphasised Venus position, but just manages to bring itself back into the picture by forming a sextile to the Full Moon position, from Sagittarius.

Again we must bring expression of one’s truth back into the picture, and also remember that the axis of this Full Moon is Libra to Aries. A Full Moon cannot exist without it’s opposite, just as light cannot be discerned without the shadows cast. In just the same way beauty cannot be conceived without the absence of such, so the shadows cast by the eclipse of this Full Moon will be as revealing as they are diverting.

I invite you to ask yourself during this Full Moon what it is that you love about yourself the most and how true to this you are. For the closer we appreciating our own beauty, the more those around us will be allowed to see us shine and start to see us as we really are. Beauty isn’t in the eye of the beholder, beauty is behind the eyes of the subject and exists most vividly within the inner world of the subject.

Let the shadow cast by the earth over this full moon, reveal to you how to ‘illuminate you true self’.

Joëlle O’Toole is a freelance astrologer, offering bespoke readings, natal & solar return charts – beginning on your birthday, telling you about the coming year. Prices start at £50.

For more information contact Joëlle at

BREVIEW: Victories at Sea @ Hare & Hounds 21.01.16

Victories at Sea / By Joëlle O’Toole - Birmingham Review

For the full Flickr of pics, click here




Words by Helen Knott / Pics by Joëlle O’Toole

Victories at Sea / By Joëlle O’Toole - Birmingham ReviewVictories at Sea have an eye for detail. They are fastidious about everything, from the sound of their snare drum to their matching black clothes.

It’s the main reason it took them almost six years to release their debut album, Everything Forever, as apparently they only manage to write four new songs a year. But this obsessiveness is arguably both their biggest strength and biggest downfall.

I’m at the Hare & Hounds, the place where Victories at Sea launched Everything Forever back in October 2015. And the first thing you notice about Victories at Sea live is that for a band with only three members, they take up a lot of space. Massive analogue synths jostle for position with guitar pedals and a laptop, alongside the traditional guitar, bass, drums set up.

Perhaps surprisingly given their name (which, for some reason, led me to expect an evening of expansive Post-Rock) the sound all this equipment generates is that 80’s revival stuff made so popular by bands like Interpol. Imagine a dancier Editors and you won’t be far off the mark.

Indeed, Victories at Sea have supported Editors on a number of occasions and in some large venues. I can imagine this working very well – the band have a commercial sound, and are both confident and professional live performers.  Songs like ‘Up’ and ‘Florentine’ (which could both easily be found on a Foals album) are certainly catchy and no doubt thoughtfully structured.

Victories at Sea / By Joëlle O’Toole - Birmingham ReviewThe trouble is the sound is so slick and controlled it starts to feel overproduced; nuances between songs get washed away in thick waves of reverb. As my friend said to me afterwards, “I enjoyed it quite a lot considering they only have one song”. Even adding computer samples doesn’t really help matters; in fact, as it makes it more difficult for the songs to change tempo or time signature, it actually only serves to exacerbate the problem.

And there isn’t enough bite or soul present tonight to elevate the songs above anything more than Indie dance floor fillers, for this member of the audience. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that per se, and certainly the people dancing at the front of the packed crowd are having a great time. But there are bands around at the moment, Savages for example, who are approaching this type of music in a more interesting way to me.

It would be good to see Victories at Sea be a little freer, more organic – to give their songs the space they need to breathe.  And they write good songs. But perhaps they could be a little less obsessive in their search for perfection.Victories at Sea / By Joëlle O’Toole - Birmingham Review

And as for album number two? Well, getting it out before 2021 will be a huge step in the right direction.

For more on Victories at Sea, visit

For more from Static Caravan, visit


For more from This is Tmrw, visit

For more from the Hare & Hounds, including full event listings & online tickets sales, visit

Follow-Birmingham-Review-on-300x26Facebook - f square, rounded - with colour - 5cm highTwitter - t, square, rounded, with colour, 5cm high