Music

Hurricane #1: Find What You Love and Let It Kill You

Photo: Dave Evans

Alex Lowe's resurrected version of Hurricane #1 has recorded an album that you just can't help but admire.


Hurricane #1

Find What You Love and Let It Kill You

Label: Tapete
US Release Date: 2015-11-27
UK Release Date: 2015-11-20
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Hurricane #1 started as Ride guitarist Andy Bell's thing. When the seminal shoegaze band went their separate ways in the mid-'90s, Bell teamed up with singer-songwriter Alex Lowe to form a band that has, for better or worse, gone down in Britpop history as brief and moderately successful side project thanks to their straightforward less gaze/more pop approach. Now, Hurricane #1 is Alex Lowe's thing. After tending to a solo career and undergoing treatments for cancer, Lowe has assembled a whole new Hurricane #1 lineup with himself as the only original member. With brothers Carlo and Lucas Mariani on guitar and bass and Chris Campbell on drums, the resurrected name records 11 new originals written during Lowe's chemotherapy period and named it Find What You Love and Let It Kill You.

I know what you're thinking and, no, it's not a downer. Find What You Love and Let It Kill You is the direct opposite, a deliberate choice made by Lowe. Not wishing to write songs that mirrored his experiences with his illness, Alex Lowe went and wrote songs with names like "Think of the Sunshine", "Leave It All Behind", "Coyote Ahoy", and "The Best Is Yet to Come". There's barely a minor guitar chord that registers anything resembling a dark cloud and even the slower tempo numbers come their own built-in sun rays. The bells and whistles of modern pop production are few and the acres-wide choruses are plentiful. The spring in Campbell's beats and the spry chimes from Lowe's and Mariani's guitars transport the listener back in time to a period where CDs were being sold by the billions and people gladly paid cash to hear the sound of the Gallagher brothers fighting with one another.

One song that achieves this end with gusto is the single "Think of the Sunshine", the one track to actually feature founding member Andy Bell (sixty seconds worth of backwards guitar towards the end of the track, in case you were curious). Everything about the song screams British Invasion. It's got the brisk waltz tempo, descending chords from major to relative minor, a big hook melody, and a chorus that ups the dynamics like a hammer striking a nail. The other ten songs achieve a similar spirit albeit with subtler means. "Has It Begun (Imitating Life)", for instance, trades the huge guitar sound in for some soft back porch twang. "Feel Me Now" and "Coyote Ahoy" may be boilerplate psychedelia, but it certainly beats badly-knit paisley. Average tracks like "Round in Circles" (which is an apt name, now that I think about it) are nicely offset by more rousing ones like the "Crash" (another apt name!), the closest that this Hurricane #1 gets to trying to break your neck.

Though Lowe's lyrics tend to wander into meaninglessness ("The best is yet to come / I know what you've done"), it's clear that Find What You Love and Let It Kill You is meant to be more therapeutic than artistic. In the album's press release Lowe pleads for us to not analyze his songs too closely and to "Think happiness when you listen to it!" Hey, fair enough. If cancer picked a fight with him and lost, then Lowe deserves all the success he can get. Hurricane #1 may have not had an album in 16 years, but Find What You Love and Let It Kill You is pretty much the work of a whole new band. In a just world, this album can market itself no problem.

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Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

In October of this year at the UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Kronlund spoke with PopMatters about being driven by questions rather than inspiration. She also reflected on the subjective nature of documentary filmmaking, the necessary artistic compromises of filming in Afghanistan, and feeling a satisfaction with imperfections.

Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

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