Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Voice gets an embarrassing semi

Don't worry folks, just one more week to go. The excitement about The Voice quickly waned, and now we're just waiting for it to end, like putting a 'do not resuscitate' sign over an elderly relative's bed. Holly's still trying to sound excited about it all, but she must have seen the ratings numbers. After fifteen reminders that, this week, it's all down to the public vote, Tom tells us he hopes we'll make the right decision. Like switching the TV off and downing a half-bottle of absinthe. Jessie, on the other hand, cautions us that "If you miss it, you're not cool!", ignorant of the fact that we had to be watching the show in the first place to hear her warning.

The final part of the introductory segment sees Reggie promising a whole evening of singing. And Cheryl Cole. Holly joins him onstage wearing Poison Ivy's cast-offs, like a more attractive version of Stephen King in The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill. Will, on the other hand, has the Olympic torch jammed down the side of his chair. Better get used to that, we're going to be seeing it a lot over the next couple of hours.

First up tonight is Ruth, who's a great singer but a less than dynamic interview subject. Tom's a big fan, announcing "When Ruth opens her mouth, something original comes out." Which is more than can be said for his fellow coaches. Tom's chosen The Voice Within for her, but it's a bit of a cut-and-shut mess, rather than a complete song. It doesn't help matters that she's been styled like a fifty year-old gospel singer attempting a comeback on the gay circuit. Holly congratulates her, saying "You didn't just sing that, you lived it." Actually, she kind of yelled most of it. Tom talks about growing up in Wales, and tells us he's not trying to blow his own trumpet. I'm stricken temporarily blind by that mental image.

Regrettably, my eyesight returns just in time to see Vince in yet another awful outfit, understating the fact that "I guess I've always been a little different." He's struggling to find a song to sing for the semi-final, and tells Jessie "I wanna do a reefer." Maybe he can think better when he's chilled out. Sorry, my bad. He meant Aretha, because nothing says over-inflated self-opinion quite like taking on the Queen of Soul. In the end, he sees sense and picks Amy Winehouse instead. Tyler's backstage kicking himself for missing that particular trick. Holly asks him "What goes through your head when you're singing?" My guess would be the peroxide that's slowly seeping into his bloodstream. Tom tells us yet another anecdote about his youth - by the end of this series we'll have enough clips to piece together an episode of Life Stories. All that's missing is a few reaction shots from Piers Morgan. While Tom gets lost in his own reveries, Vince starts playing around with his lip-piercing, which creates the unsettling illusion that his face is slowly being pulled inside out.

Danny has given Max 'Every Breath You Take' but he's concerned that it sounds a little stalkerish. Perhaps someone can explain to him, the point of the song. Music history shortcomings aside, Max does a passable impersonation of Ronan Keating doing a tribute to The Police. In fact, the most notable thing about his performance is the fact that he's not wearing a hat. Will refuses to comment, and keeps clearing his throat, before saying "I don't want to say anything that's going to influence anyone." But I think we're safe on that front. When he finally does complain that the arrangement was too similar to the original, Danny butts in and tells him "You're a young Sting." Somewhere in Dublin, Louis Walsh puts down his mojito and speed-dials his lawyer.

Early favourite to win, Jaz is doing a gospel version of Let It Be, backed by a fifty-piece choir. Once again, the X-Factor vaults are being raided for a show that is different in name only. He looks very smart in his charcoal suit, but the camera seems more interested in the pattern shaved into one side of his head. It's hard to tell whether it's The Voice logo, or a mysterious crop circle. His performance is fine, warm, soulful and mostly in-tune. But it lacked the fire of a real church vocal, as evidenced by Joshua Ledet; second runner-up in this year's American Idol. Watch him have a crack at James Brown and you'll see what I mean. Not to worry - Tom's impressed, announcing "You can tell that Jaz does sing with a choir." That's because it was in the VT that we just watched two minutes ago. Will is coughing and hacking again. He either didn't really rate the performance, or he's coming down with TB.

Backstage, Reggie is doing another one of his shudderingly inept interview sessions with the contestants. How bad is it? Let's just say that the Azerbaijan hosts of Eurovision made it look effortless in comparison.

Leanne's taking a crack at Whitney Houston, which is never a good idea. But maybe the fact that she's chosen one of Whitney's blandest tracks might stand her in good stead. Run To You is the one that no-one remembers from The Bodyguard, and she doesn't do too badly with it. A lot of people have commented that she reminds them of Adele, but she's actually a dead-ringer for Wynonna Judd - a red-headed country singer who's never said "Not for me, I'll just have a coffee" at the end of a meal. She hits all the big notes, most of them when she was supposed to. Danny responds by saying it made all the hair on his head stand up on end. But he always looks like that, so it's not a glowing recommendation. Holly comments that Leanne has really grown through the competition - so much for WeightWatchers QuickStart.

After threatening to spontaneously combust last week, Becky is toning it down this week. No screaming, no running around, and hopefully no unscheduled pre-watershed profanities. Instead, we get her lolling around on the floor, singing a Corrine Bailer Rae song so dull that it would make an elevator attendant take the stairs. Tom's reminiscing again, this time about light and shade. I'm guessing he's talking about the time he stopped using Just For Men.

Poor old Bo. She's had a hard life you see, because she's from a really privileged background. And sometimes, that's even harder than having nothing. Apparently, standing on the stage waiting for Holly to read out her name was just, like, horrific. But don't worry, there's a group of Rwandan kids having a whip-round for her. Inching us ever closer to absolute tedium, she's doing a Coldplay song. On the lyric about glowing in the dark, the studio lights dim, and the ultra violet shows up the neon splashes on her dress. The effect is not unlike those hotel inspectors testing bed-sheets for cum stains. Meanwhile, Danny's strutting around like Foghorn Leghorn on Viagra, so at least he's happy.

The final of the eight performers is Tyler, who saved himself last week, according to Will. Given that he's screeching his way through Bohemian Rhapsody in a prawn leisure suit, I wish he hadn't bothered.
His vocal has far too much falsetto, as well as a load of intermittent heavy breathing, which gives viewers the curious sensation of taking an obscene phonecall from PeeWee Herman. At one point, he's joined on stage by ten lookalike dancers in matching suits. And you thought the baking Russian grannies were weird.

With the contestants out of the way, Reggie announces that "everyone's talking about Cheryl performing" which must make them wonder why they bothered. There's a lackluster bit with the judges where Will makes up a rhyme that nobody notices, and Jessie starts killing flies with her bare hands. But wait, there's more. Cheryl not-Cole flings herself off a balcony in a pair of paint-splattered harem pants. It's very exciting, until the audience realises that for all her talk about singing live, that microphone won't need long in the recharge dock at the end of the night. Never mind, Holly was impressed: "I can't believe you took a swan dive off there. You're the bravest lady ever." Yeah, fuck you Dian Fossey.

The results show opens with a group performance (another trick lifted straight off the X-Factor). They're singing You're The Voice by John Farnham. Surely they must be running out of sings with 'voice' in the title by now?  Danny, Jessie and Will are all standing on their chairs, like disobedient kids. Tom would probably like to join them, but this isn't Cocoon. The singers are giving it their all, but with Will moonwalking along the stage with his Olympic torch, Danny and Jessie doing their best air-punching sex faces, and a giant collage of the four coaches descending onto the stage, they barely get a look in.

After a quick recap of last night's action, Jaz confidently declares that his performance will go down in the history books. But only if the kids in his school start vandalising them.

Enough of that, it's time to choose our finalists. Holly goes to Tom for his opinion first, and he looks genuinely worried, as though he just did a fart that felt a bit wet. Will does a weird Inspector Clouseau accent to talk about Jaz connecting with French people. Reggie doesn't know how to respond to that, but no surprise there.

Team Danny are up first, and predicatbly it's Bo and her hair band going through to the final. Max seems sanguine about the whole thing, but Holly sympathetically gives him a few moments to gather his thoughts. Plenty of time to come up with "Thanks for nothing, you fuckers." On his farewell video, Max asks rhetorically "What could anyone not like about working with Danny?" Christ, how long have we got?

Team Jessie is next, and once again it's all a bit too easy to call as Vince gets picked. The audience were choosing between an Amy Winehouse classic and a Corrine Bailey Rae dirge. Jessie pays Becky a complement, saying "There are so many things, vocally, that she can do." Unfortunately, singing in tune wasn't really one of them. There's lots of talk about Becky becoming a world-wide superstar, and I wonder what happened to Jessie's promise to always be 100% honest.

Team Tom are facing the music now, and it's the first shock of the night as Leanne goes through to the final. I felt sure that the stream of tears dripping down Ruth's decolletage had secured her place in next week's final episode. Tom says, every time Ruth sings, he has chills. Or maybe he just needs a nice blanket on his lap. He says he's going to do everything he can to make her a star. He may be in for a shock when he starts trying to call in those favours with the record labels. "Tom who?"

Kylie's up now, performing her new single. And at least her microphone's been switched on - we know because she shouts "Come on" part way through the song. The stage has been decorated with a wall of perspex panels covered in derivative peace and love graffiti. It creates the illusion that Kylie's been reduced to performing in a run down council estate youth club.

And finally, we come to Team Will, to find out how the public have voted. It's another upset, as Tyler makes it through to the final, and Jaz is left standing onstage in a baseball jacket and bow tie. Jaz is very grateful to 'Sir Will' and you can practically hear Tom Jones' heckles rise at the misappropriation of his hard-won title.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Shit a Brick

I'm going to come right out and say it: "I can't stand Samantha Brick."

Fish in a barrel, I know. But hear me out.

I don't hate her for her appearance. So what if she's labouring under the misapprehension that magic mirrors have her in mind when quizzed about the fairest in the land? And it doesn't matter is she's convinced that other women are jealously sniping about her mythical beauty, even when they're elbowing their mates, saying "It's that Aggie off of that show about loppy houses." 

At best, she's the face that launched a thousand shits, and at worst, she's the reason kids are afraid of the dark. But that's no reason to hate her. She can cover her camera lens with enough Vaseline to squeeze a cow through a keyhole, and it'd be no skin off my nose.

I don't care if she thinks she's a trophy wife, as she confidently argues in her latest article for the Daily Mail. Maybe her husband feels like he won the big prize, even if all he pulled out of the bran tub was an over-ripe banana with bad highlights. 

It doesn't even bother me that she speaks like an Apprentice contestant, when describing the early stages of her career when she was bringing home a 'six figure salary.' That £250 a month she's given to spend on clothes might make her "feel like a princess", but the sad reality is that a real royal would struggle to squeeze a gym outfit out of her annual budget.

What I hate is her craven trolling. The willingness to say absolutely anything, as long as it generates hits for Mail Online, and ensures that she'll get asked back on the This Morning couch to talk about it. 

For instance, she argues that she only works occasionally in order to keep her wits about her, so she can spend her days pampering her husband. Then, in the next breath, she tells us that she has her own income and career, and would therefore be able to cope perfectly well if she found herself alone.

Similarly, she demurely refers to her husband's "amorous advances" just moments after describing herself as a professional in the bedroom. Then again, maybe she is a pro on her back. At least that explains why she only gets £250 for a month's work.

I hate the fact that she proved how easy it is to go out of your way to irritate millions of people, in search of viral ignominy, and then claim to be bullied for voicing her opinion. I hate the fact that the internet is full of witty, incisive, carefully-composed articles written by amateurs, that struggle to amass a readership in the double figures. And yet she can fart out 1,500 words of inconsistent, poorly argued dross and score millions of hits.

If this would-be trophy wife genuinely believes that she's in the same league as Melania Trump, Georgina Chapman and Penny Lancaster, more power to her. But she doesn't. Instead, she's simply churning out more of the same bullshit that gave her internet fame in the first instance. 

Like the Big Brother contestants who re-enter the house, suddenly aware of the thing that got audiences talking about them in the first place, she's cranked her insanity up to eleven. And despite her calculated awfulness, it's hard to dislike someone like her without being accused of misogyny. Even though she's the one willing to sell out her entire gender for the sake of an editorial commission and another 15 minutes of notoriety.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Yawning and Fawning with The Voice

I was in two minds about this. You see, I've been away for a couple of weeks (very nice, thanks for asking) and was a little bit worried that I'd find The Voice a bit tricky to get back into. After all, its revolutionary new format means that there's a new surprise around every corner. So having missed two rounds of eliminations, I was concerned it'd be like trying to follow The Killing without the subtitles. It turns out that my concerns were ill-founded - this is more like picking up EastEnders after a few weeks off. Irrespective of how many deaths, divorces and false pregnancies you may have missed, the primary currency in Albert Square is still mournful despair. And so, with The Voice, it's still all about the judges, and has fuck-all to do with any of the contestants on stage.

As if I needed any more proof of this, Saturday's show passed me by in a flurry of underwhelming performances and crushingly familiar exchanges. Most notable, was Jessie J cutting down every time he dared to speak the truth about Danny's piss-poor song choices, shouting "Only constructive criticism guys." That's why the ratings are dropping like pensioners on an ice rink.

Looking back at the 'highlights' (a subjective term if ever there was one), it's clear that none of the performers really managed to distinguish themselves with any style or finesse. Bo dressed up like Mad Max-era Tina Turner and hyperventilated her way through a Rihanna song. Aleks yawned through a performance so laid back that Holly practically needed to hold a mirror under his nose to check he was still breathing. And Becky spent longer crimping her hair than she did learning the lyrics of her song. Jessie told us that her protege was going "To put some Vince on it", which presumably means bleaching the fuck out of it, and piercing anything that isn't already nailed down. And then there was Toni, who seemed to confuse having an emotional connection to the song, with staging a complete psychotic breakdown. By the end of it, all she could say was "That's Tom Jones" when the Welsh wonder piped up.

Watching the results show on Sunday, we were also treated to a recap of the group performances, as the contestants got to sing alongside their celebrity mentors. Jessie J began hers by demanding a do-over because her microphone wasn't working. As she kept shouting "This is live TV, this is live TV," no-one seemed brave enough to point out that it was her ear-piece, not her microphone, that was on the fritz. And given that her diva strop was motivated by her desire to "make it perfect", this was clearly an ambition she dropped the moment the technical issues were resolved. Danny's bunch sounded a little better, but their ambivalent 'too good for a TV talent show' attitude made them look less like a musical group, and more like the anxious occupants of a sexual health clinic waiting room.

In fact, the only surprise in the whole show was Holly greeting Max on stage and 'accidentally' flashing her knickers at the nation. Which was probably just as well, since we're all bored of talking about her tits. For Sunday night's show, Holly's done away with all the flouncy dresses, and is presumably en route to a fancy dress party as Lady Gaga.

There's half an hour to fill here, so we kick things off with a performance from Team Tom. They're doing Shake It Out by Florence and the Machine, which perfectly suits their overly shouty style. Tom describes them as a delicious hors d'ouvre, and tells us that he can't wait for the main course. Look out next week - he'll be here at 5pm for the Early Bird Special. Reggie Yates, who has renamed 'Fashion Obama', reminds us of the world-class performances from last night, but I'm worried he got his channels mixed up and was actually watching American Idol in his dressing room.

In the recaps, we're reminded of Jessie telling Vince that "It's a pleasure working with someone who knows who he wants to be." A gay Brian Harvey by the looks of things. It's time for the audience results, and Vince's offbeat fashion choices have obviously worked in his favour, since he's through to the semi-final. As he hugs Becky, she screams "I love you." Somewhere in the production galley, the sound mixers are relieved that that the crimp-haired croaker didn't let another unscripted 'fuck' out.

Since we're all a bit sick of our contestants and their egotistical mentors, let's have a guest performance from Paloma Faith, who's channeling Carol Decker and Deborah Harry, and looking a lot older than her 27 years. Then it's Danny's turn to hear the results of the audience vote. Bo gets the save, which comes as no real shock, since the other three make Matt Cardle look motivated and passionate. Danny says he's not surprised, since "Bo probably gave one of the better performances of the night." There were only eight to choose from, so that's hardly emphatic praise.

In the green room, Aleks is sulking like he's been told he can't have pudding until he eats his sprouts. Reggie tries to connect with Toni about moving Jessie J, and there's a staggeringly inauthentic moment where he threatens to cry if she does.

Decision time, and Jessie J complements all three of her singers before choosing Becky for the semi.
Holly tries to get the other two to enthuse about the mentor that's just sent them home. They give some muted gush about how inspiring she's been, but the look on their faces suggests that they're going to be arguing backstage over who gets to shit in her handbag.

Another musical interlude now, as Jaz and Tyler squeal their way through Roxanne. At one point Will has climbed up on his chair, but it's unclear whether he's feeling the music or waiting for an emergency rope ladder to descend.

Danny's now facing the tough choice. He tells us "they're all on a level playing field of talent." Another example of the faint praise he's an expert in. After a spot of telegenic dithering, Danny chooses Max, who runs offstage grasping the hands of the audience. Meanwhile, Holly is left onstage to console the other two with the promise "You're going to do amazing things." She's right; pantomime season is just a few short months away.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Will Britney Do It Again?

It was the worst-kept secret in Hollywood, when Simon Cowell finally confirmed this week that Britney Spears will be taking Paula Abdul's seat on the X-Factor judges' panel. The press had been rumbling for weeks that the Toxic popster would be signing a $15 million deal to mentor one of the categories in this year's sophomore season of the floundering show. Even so, many people suspected that this was just another example of Simon's ability to make something out of nothing - like last year's convoluted Cheryl Cole saga, which managed to make Mahabharat look like a five-minute short. Since it was first revealed that Nicole Scherzinger, Paula Abdul and Steve Jones wouldn't be returning, pretty much everyone who's ever even visited an HMV was rumoured to be in the running for a place on the panel. So many people will have, quite rightly, assumed that this was just more mindless conjecture in the absence of anything concrete. So seeing Britney Jean Spears standing alongside Cowell and co, dead-eyed and snapping her gum like she was waiting to clock off from a late shift at the local KFC, still came as a genuine surprise. She might have countless sales records under her increasingly strained belt, but eyebrows have to be raised at her ability to counsel and mentor young hopefuls. Her fiance Jason Trawick was recently made her co-conservator, giving him joint control (along with her father) over her personal affairs. Food, clothes, personal appearances - the whole shebang. Given that Britney still needs such control to be exerted over her own life, makes her appointment as an X-Factor judge seem cruelly cynical. Perhaps if Britney herself seemed more interested in coaching would-be singers, this wouldn't be quite such an unpleasant twist. But fans of the X-Factor will remember her embarrassing appearance on the UK show, when she managed to appear as utterly disinterested in the format as my dog when he watches me eating tofu. After stomping around the stage like a child protesting an early bedtime, she struggled to understand Dermot's questions about the contestants' own performances. It was quite clear that she had no idea about any of it, and having already struggled to mime on her feet, her ability to think on them became all too apparent. Not to worry though, there's another new judge to take the pressure off Britney's damaged shoulders. Nineteen year-old Demi Lovato was ushered in as the other new signing. Contracted for the bargain price of $1 million, she's the free toilet bag that comes with a fifty-quid bottle of eau de toilette. Despite her tender years, Demi has forged a pretty successful career - even if she remains largely unknown outside of the US. Another Disney starlet who shot to fame alongside the Jonas Brothers, Demi has released several albums and can at least cut it as a live singer. Unfortunately, she's also had her fair share of personal drama, including an extended stint in rehab last year for drug abuse, self harm and eating disorders. Personally, I can't think of a safer pair of hands for a bunch of naive wannabes. So what the hell is Simon Cowell thinking? Maybe he's planning a reality TV restaging of Salò. Or perhaps he's trying to take the heat away from the increasing publc perception that his modern day gladatorial TV concepts are unnecessarily cruel to their contestants. By selecting judges whose own mental wellbeing seems to hang by a thread, he can distract us from worrying about the performers and focus on the celebrity car-crash instead. After all, we might get upset at the sight of members of the public being played for fools, but we have no such qualms when it comes to torturing the rich and famous. Why else do you think that Survivor was quickly replaced by I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here? When asked by TMZ whether he was worried about Britney's ability to cope with the pressures of live TV, Simon answered, "Not at all." It's up to you to decide whether that's a vote of confidence in her favour, or a telling insight into Simon's true aspirations for season two. Best hide the hair clippers and golf umbrellas though, just to be on the safe side.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Big I Am

Something has gone seriously wrong with The Voice. It was supposed to be an innovative new platform to launch a previously undiscovered talent. I don't know about you, but I couldn't give a shit about the contestants, since most of them sing with all the tenderness of Ian Paisley berating a careless waiter. Instead, the only true star emerging from this ear-punishing ego-fest is a man who doesn't just murder music, he defiles its corpse in a manner that would make Buffalo Bill want to sleep with a night light. And yet here we are, celebrating the man who once thought nothing of punishing the world with the one-two assault of Meet Me Halfway and Boom, Boom, Pow. To be fair to the BBC, scoring a mentor of Mr Am's status was something of a coup, especially when compared with the usual level of influence exerted by talent show judges. As a multi-million selling, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and producer, he certainly casts a significant shadow over the music industry, albeit one that looks as though a corner of his head has been cut out. The papers have been full of revelations recently that Will was angling for a permanet role on one of Cowell's ratings juggernauts. But since we now understand a little more about how his preferred judges get their space on the desk, Will was unlikely to do what was needed to secure a spot. Still, Simon's loss is the BBC's gain as Will's appointment as a mentor on The Voice has single-handedly turned an overly worthy talent show into must-see TV. Unlike his many rap and R&B contemporaries, who spend their time reminding everyone just how unequivocally heterosexual they are, Will has surprised viewers with a far more cuddly and accessible persona than anyone was expecting. Perched in his high chair, with his legs barely making it to the studio floor, he's more like the Bo' Selecta bear, but without any of that unsavoury tail business. Over the course of the last few weeks, he's also revealed an uncanny knack for humour, although the jukebox jury's still out with regards to how much of it is intentional. Either way, comments like "Wowsers, those are some pretty dope trousers," and "You got soul in a bowl, you got soul on a pole" are still a lot more interesting than the tedious platitudes and half-hearted compliments that the other mentors manage to muster. Even if it does sometimes sound as though he's channeling the spirit of Dr Seuss. Whether he's commending contestants on improving a "katrillion per cent" or flirting with a Glaswegian granny by telling her that he was "on the edge of [his] seat like melted chocolate" - there's no denying that Will's the real star of the show. That ridiculous Go Hard Or Go Home jacket might make him look like the Jetsons' microwave, but it's all part of his quirky appeal. So who cares if he spends half his time Tweeting, when he's supposed to be watching the performances? Once my ears start ringing, I tune out too. Or perhaps he's just as underwhelmed as the rest of us by Reggie Yates' meaningless bulletins from the Twitter wall in the green room. He understands that it's not enough to flash a hashtag on screen and assume that'll engage the fans. He's taking part, adding to the conversation and connecting with the viewers. Which has to be more fun than sitting through the performances. So I salute you I don't care if you could give Shania Twain lessons in unnecessary punctuation. And I'll never grow tired of your incessant 'whoop whoop whoop' noises. Because as long as the camera's on you, I'm spared another shot of Danny's rock-n-roll duckface, Tom's occasional lapses into bewilderment or Jessie's constant spotlight seeking. And don't worry about the haters - they're so two thousand and late.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Death and taxes

I'm what Stephen King lovingly refers to as his 'constant reader'. For the last twenty-plus years, I've stuck with him through thick (The Stand Complete & Uncut) and Thinner.

My first taste of the Maine man's writing came at the age of 13, when I picked up a dog-eared copy of Carrie in a charity shop, intrigued by the image of a glassy-eyed girl drenched in blood. Since I was about as adept at making friends as a wasp with a social disease, the plight of teenage outcast Carrie White struck a chord with me. And despite the book's somewhat laboured epistolary style, I found Carrie's telekinetic revenge on her high school peers to be curiously cathartic. The only joy in my weekly PE lessons came from imagining the basketball backboard as a deadly weapon. It's no wonder, then, that many fans like me felt that the book (and its excellent film adaptation) were mischaracterised as horror pieces, when the reality was far more tragi-comic.

My second sampling of King's work was much less complicated. When my Mum first brought home IT from the local library, I was bewitched by its cover which depicted a run-down clapperboard house transformed into the leering face of clown. Challenged by my own coulrophobia to pick up the doorstep-sized tome, I devoured it in three days. I think this early introduction to King's occasional bouts of verbosity helped me to develop an early tolerance towards his longform approach. Admittedly, it's not a view that's shared by more fairweather fans, who carp that much of his output is so overwritten that it could give Lou Ferrigno back pain.

Nonetheless, I soldiered on through his back catalogue, discovering the wonders of The Shining, Salem's Lot, Cujo, Christine and The Dead Zone. As a young child, I'd loved the dark and distressing worlds conjured up by Roald Dahl, and felt that, in many ways, my love of King was a natural extension of this. I became convinced when I finally got around to reading his classic short story Gramma, and noticed the similarities to Dahl's comically creepy George's Marvellous Medicine.

Having caught up with his back catalogue, I soon found myself buying each new book as it was released. Over the years, King churned them out with a level of prolificacy that would make James Patterson look like J. D. Salinger. Of course, not everything was a gem. King himself claims to remember very little of The Tommyknockers, since it was written at the height of his cocaine abuse. I also struggle to recall much of that particular work, although my septum took less of a hammering for it.

The nineties were an interesting time for King, as he toyed with the idea of slowing down his output, and exploring concepts of the resolutely non-horrific variety. His triptych of feminist stories, Gerald's Game, Dolores Claiborne and Rose Madder won him few new fans, but amply demonstrated an emerging political voice largely absent in his earlier work. There's a widely held belief that people grow more conservative as they get older; one trend that King seems more than happy to buck.

As the author turned his back on the supernatural scenarios that had once been his bread and butter, horror-averse critics belatedly began to recognise the quality of his writing. Free from the dripping corpses, paranormal disturbances and "pendulous knots of intestines glistening like bloody rope", they were free to discover his uncanny ear for dialogue and fascination with small-town mores. They also applauded the intertextuality of his literary universe, that skilfully wove connections between disparate tales separated by time, space and even genre.

Along the way, King also kept his writing fresh by exploring different formats, from the serialisation of The Green Mile, to the first widely distributed e-book, Riding The Bullet. He followed these with a combined approach in a serialised e-book, The Plant, which he bravely opted to distribute online using an honour system in lieu of a fixed price model.

It probably helped that his filmic output had also slowed down, leaving studios to focus on his better work. Frank Darabont and Rob Reiner, in particular, can claim responsibility for rehabilitating King's reputation on the silver screen. Darabont delivered a trio of impeccable movies - The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist, and Reiner gave us Stand By Me and Misery. Some of them may have taken a little longer to find their rightful audience, but they're all generally perceived as classics in their own right.

Now in his mid-sixties, King is finally making good on his promise to slow down. Although few years pass without at least one new title hitting the best-sellers list, he seems to be easing slowly into a kind of semi-retirement. As well as running a couple of radio stations in Maine, and penning a ceaseless stream of recommendations for other authors, he also writes a number of magazine columns which allow him to cast a non-fictional eye on real-world events.

So I was delighted to see him hitting the headlines again this week, as he authored a coruscating critique of right wing politics for The Daily Beast. Entitled 'Tax Me, for F@%&’s Sake!' this diatribe rallies against the Republicans' habit of looking out for the interests of the top one per cent, and telling the rest of the population to go fuck themselves. He argues that high earners, like himself, should be paying more taxes. He also makes a compelling argument against the viewpoint that rich people can simply donate more to charity, and that this will solve the world's ills. In spite of his own charitable giving ($4 million a year), he understands that these discretionary donations won't impact "the care of [America's] sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny."

Lamenting the right wing's unconditional love for the unfeasibly wealthy, he writes "They simply idolize the rich. Don’t ask me why; I don’t get it either, since most rich people are as boring as old, dead dog shit." Now imagine how much more interesting Question Time would be if the writer of Firestarter went head-to-head with Louise Mensch.

King's increasingly liberal viewpoint should come as no surprise to anyone who read his recent political satire Under The Dome. But they may be shocked that he's able to articulate it in a piece of work short enough to be read during a toilet break.

Perhaps the best thing about King's screed, is the closing paragraph. It proves that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, he does have a few good endings left in him:

"Last year during the Occupy movement, the conservatives who oppose tax equality saw the first real ripples of discontent. Their response was either Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake”) or Ebenezer Scrooge (“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”). Short-sighted, gentlemen. Very short-sighted. If this situation isn’t fairly addressed, last year’s protests will just be the beginning. Scrooge changed his tune after the ghosts visited him. Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, lost her head.
Think about it."

If it's years since you last read anything by 'The Master of Horror', maybe these 1,600 powerful words will convince you it's finally time to revisit Castle Rock. You might be surprised by how much the old place has changed.