Month: October 2023

Knock twice for “no”

The Foxes Of Hydesville

Production company – Qcode

Rating – 3 brains

Seeing as Halloween is almost upon us, it would be remiss of me to not have another spooky podcast to review. This month seems to have been taken up with more earthly concerns so far. Well that, and the slew of advance episodes for release day reviews that I’ve been inundated with. Not any more though! To round October off I have my review of The Foxes Of Hydesville.

So what’s it about?

The Foxes Of Hydesville is a rather imaginative (and loose) retelling of the story of the Fox sisters. The siblings who literally kick started the spiritualism craze in 19th century America.

The story follows the abrasive, sarcastic and foul mouthed Leah Fox as she travels to rural New York State to investigate allegations of her sisters living in “The Spook House”. Leah and her friend Adelaide rescue her now notorious sisters Maggie and Kate and flee to the city.

Once there they gain even more notoriety, mostly due to Leah’s contacts, and Maggie and Kate’s strange ability to gain information about people from the dead. 

Is it any good?

There are pros and cons with this series. The sound design is brilliant, and the more dramatic events in the first episode or two are very well done. As is the voice acting. There are no dodgy accents here, and no wooden acting either.

Nine episodes is probably the perfect length for any series, it’s enough space to develop the characters and storyline, but short enough not to pad things out and digress too much. As has been the case recently, I managed to get through the whole thing in a day.

Now for the cons.

I can see why this is so popular, but it fell somewhat flat for me. There is very little of the actual Fox sisters in this story. It seems like the whole story is an excuse for Leah Fox to swear at old men. Actually, it’s an excuse for Leah Fox to swear at anyone really. 

While her choice of language and forthright attitude may be intended as “empowering”, she just comes across as a bit of a twat. I apologise for my turn of phrase, but I can’t think of any other way to say it that would do it justice (and I did try, I promise).

Final thoughts

I’m not sure what to make of this show really. It’s not funny enough to be a comedy podcast, and while the more dramatic supernatural events are certainly cinematic, they are not truly scary.

This series just seems like a missed opportunity. The story is written from the perspective of the sisters actually having mediumistic skills (despite deathbed confessions that it was all a hoax). I wonder why then, didn’t they either tell the story like that, as a straight spooky story, or play it knowing that it was all a con. Maybe it’s just me. I’m sure that Leah would have some rather robust assessment of my intelligence and parentage.

This series gets three brains because of the quality of the cast and the sound design. It would have been a two brain show otherwise.

It would have been nice to have devoted October solely to horror podcasts. Maybe I’ll clear my schedule next year and we’ll have four spooky reviews (or five, depending on how the Sundays land).

You can get Foxes Of Hydesville here:

The best school is old school

Class Of 88 review

Production company – Wondery

Rating –


Despite playing in metal and punk bands for nearly 30 years, I have a deep love for hip-hop. My cousin is more than partly responsible for that, although it wasn’t until the 90s I rediscovered all the hidden classics that never made it to the UK charts when I was young.

Growing up in the 80s you couldn’t escape this particular wave of music that originated in New York. Unfortunately, for every Fresh Prince, Chuck D, and Salt & Pepa you also had John Barnes with the England football team and every other cringe inducing non-rapper having a go. I mean, it’s not even “real” singing is it! (Sarcasm alert there).

So what’s it about?

1988 is regarded as the breakthrough year of hip-hop. It started to be viewed by the music industry as a valid genre and not just a fad. Although hip-hop was over a decade old by 88, it had still received hardly any play on MTV. Remember when MTV played music? Ask your parents, kids. When they eventually included awards at the Grammy’s it wasn’t even televised.

This led to a boycott by the winners. People who had risen to national fame, sold thousands of albums and yet were largely ignored by “the establishment”.

All this changed in 1988 though.  This was the era that rappers evolved from the original “one, two, buckle my shoe” style of The Sugarhill Gang or the Furious Five. Rappers like Rakim, KRS One and Slick Rick redefined how lyrics were written. Complex rhyme structures were conceived, and the subject matter of the songs changed too.

In each episode, Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff talk to a different artist, or artists, as is sometimes the case, who were instrumental in helping hip-hop break through. There will be names that most people will recognise, although some that only the real fans will know.

Is it any good?

Again, I was lucky enough to get sent all the episodes in advance, so I spent a good morning listening to the whole lot in one go. It’s a very easy show to listen to. Will and Jeff are totally relaxed and obviously having a great time. I mean they are really just talking to old friends and reminiscing about the good times. Who won’t enjoy that?

From Chuck D telling the story of the Public Enemy gig at Rikers Island prison, to Will Smith’s failed attempt to woo Sandra “Pepa” Denton, to Easy E’s unlikely support of another female rap group in preparation for NWA’s launch of Gangsta Rap. The stories are as interesting as they are varied. 

Despite what the younger generation (my kids included) might think, it was this crucial time in the genre that really started the global spread of the culture. Not only music, but fashion, art and design, and even the English language would be very different if it wasn’t for this relatively small group of talented men and women. From being largely ignored by the media, we now have whole awards ceremonies dedicated to the genre.

Final thoughts

Before Jazzy Jeff had finished telling his story at the beginning of episode one, I knew this was a five brain show. By the end of episode one I wished my ratings went higher than 5. The whole series flew by in no time, and while I didn’t really learn anything new here, just hearing these truly great MC’s and DJ’s talk is just great fun.

As music podcasts go, particularly the ones that I usually listen to, this covers a rather narrow band. This is fine though. As I said at the outset I love old school hip-hop. Whilst I can feel my hair greying at the thought of music from the early 2000’s now being described as old school, people my age know “what time it is”!

You can get Class of 88 here:

Skeletons in the closet

Ghost Story review

Production company – Wondery

Rating –


When the advance episodes of this series showed up in my inbox, I couldn’t have been more intrigued. I really don’t listen to trailers or previews for shows. That way I can go into each podcast with no expectations other than a logo and a production company. Seeing as the nights are drawing in and spooky season is upon us, a podcast called “ghost story” should be perfect. Shouldn’t it?

Another thanks to GreatPods for sending me the advance episodes of this podcast, so I can get this release day special out to you all.

So what’s it about?

When he was a boy, journalist Tristan Redman lived in a haunted house. Things would move about on their own in his bedroom, and lights would flicker. Talking to a local resident (and definitely NOT a gossip), reveals that other people who lived in the house also had ghostly experiences. Including the vision of a “faceless woman”.

“So far, so what”, you may think. But that’s not all.

It turns out that Tristan’s wife’s great-grandfather (great-grandfather-in-law I guess, goodness so many hyphens), lived in the house next door in the 1930’s, and that his wife was murdered there. Possibly by her brother, who then killed himself. So now you have a building with a haunting that ties to a possible murder-suicide.

This sets in motion an investigation that spans a hundred years and uncovers the remarkable story of the illustrious Dancy family. Particularly Dr. John Dancy, whose wife was murdered. I only add that to clarify, because as Tristan says, every generation of the family has at least one John Dancy in it.

Is it any good?

Stylistically, this show sits between the paranormal shows presented by Danny Robins, and the hard facts of a Tortoise Media investigation. You should no doubt be aware of my love of both of these podcast institutions, and therefore it will no surprise that I wholeheartedly recommend this show.

The series is cleverly constructed and slips easily between these apparently disparate styles. As the story goes on, rather than close loopholes and solve mysteries, the life of John and Naomi Dancy become increasingly complex, and every episode uncovers some other previously unknown secret to the light of day.

If there’s any criticism I can offer, it’s that the paranormal researchers seem to be the weirdest stereotypical bunch available. Almost bordering on parody at times, they do nothing to actually shed any credible light on the paranormal aspect of the mystery. I’m not sure whether this was by design, although Tristan does seem to be quite open to his experiences as a child. Thankfully, the more outlandish characters seem to be kept to a thankfully short chunk of one episode.

Final thoughts

A delicious blend of true crime and paranormal investigation, Ghost story is more than the sum of its parts. What begins with a relatively simple premise, has soon grown into far more than the Dancy family could appreciate.

As the series progresses, there is a real feeling of trepidation from the men of the family, men who have held their ancestor up on a pedestal for so long. And that dear reader, is where I will leave it. I’m not going to spoil anything for you.

I do recommend you listen to this show though. Very soon indeed.

You can get Ghost Story here:

Welcome back, old friend

The Haunter Of The Dark review

Production company – BBC

Rating –

As you may already be aware, I have reviewed The Lovecraft Investigations previously, but I was so excited when series 4 dropped that I’ve decided to give this one a standalone review too. So without further ado, here we go.

Before I start though, spoilers are unavoidable due to the fact it’s a review of series 4, and the story continues on from series 3. I heartily recommend you go back and listen to the previous three series before listening to The Haunter Of The Dark, and even before reading this review. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

So what’s it about

This series takes place nearly three years after the disappearance of Matt Heywood. Kennedy has been travelling the world trying to find his whereabouts, but to no avail. Just when she thinks all hope is lost, she is contacted by the mysterious Marcus Byron.

Soon enough, Kennedy is back on the trail of mysterious cults and ancient deities. New allies and old friends work together to try and uncover the truth of The Haunter Of The Dark.

Once again, you don’t really need any knowledge of the source material. You don’t even need to like H.P. Lovecraft to enjoy this series. The story has been updated and adapted to the modern day, and the darkness is offset nicely with humour. This isn’t a comedy show by any means though. The overall mood is one of darkness and paranoia, and it’s amazing.

Is it any good?

Of course it is! The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward was one of the first podcasts I listened to, and therefore this series will always hold a special place in my heart. Thankfully this affection isn’t misplaced, because the series has been consistently brilliant, and this chapter of Kennedy and Matt’s investigations is no different.

Once again, the weaving of historical fact and fictional characters is so seamless you can’t see the joins. This is something that Julian does very well indeed, and just like in previous series, I may (or may not) have googled someone only to find they don’t exist. 

To be honest, I would never have guessed that this was the direction the story would go, not that it’s a bad thing, although my keen hearing did spot hints to where I was expecting the cast to find themselves in this series. I’m not telling you lot though, just in case it does go there at some point.

Final thoughts

I’m well aware that social media every so often exhumes the rumours of Guillermo Del Toro directing At The Mountains Of Madness, but I really can’t see that happening. For my money, the legacy of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction is more than safe in the hands of Julian Simpson. And thanks to the introduction of a character at the end of the final episode, I think I know where the story is going next (although I said that last time didn’t I?).

You can get The Haunter Of The Dark here:

Holy let-downs Batman!

The Riddler: Secrets In The Dark review

Production Company – Warner Bros. / Spotify Studios

Rating –

Back when I first started this blog (possibly even my first post), I said I would never review a podcast that was exclusive to a subscription service. I didn’t think it was fair because believe it or not, not everyone has Audible or Spotify (me included), and I didn’t want to leave anyone out.

So why am I reviewing a Spotify exclusive podcast you may ask? Well, it is something of an experiment. This is a brand new show, and the subject matter will no doubt see it climb the charts, so I took the challenge from GreatPods to listen to some charting podcasts alongside independent shows that people need to hear. I’m also a massive fan of DC Comics and Batman in particular. Enough of this nonsense though, on with the review!

So what’s it about?

Secrets In The Dark kicks off in Arkham Asylum. Edward Nygma aka The Riddler reviews a mysterious letter from Julian Day aka Calendar Man. Julian is in fear of his life, and he believes that Batman is after him. He has been seeing shadowy figures in the dark and he knows his days are numbered.

When Julian’s fears prove to be true and he winds up dead, apparently murdered in a rather tell-tale fashion, The Riddler seeks to escape from Arkham to solve the killing. What he uncovers is something much deadlier than he imagined. As the death toll rises, he finds himself teamed up with Batman to catch the murderer before his time runs out.

Is it any good?

You can tell this has a rather large budget. The music and sound design is great, and the voice acting is very good indeed, despite the scenery chewing in parts. Whether intentionally or not this really reminds me of the radio dramas of the 30’s and 40’s. Apart from the bad language.

Here’s where I will probably alienate a lot of you reading this. I really didn’t like it much, I can’t explain why. I listened to the entire series in one go and was left feeling unsatisfied.

My kids have started using the term “NPC” now for people who are a bit weird or who do strange things*. This is probably the best way to describe any of the characters in this podcast, apart from The Riddler himself. There was no real depth to any of the characters and it felt like they were only there to advance the plot, or die. This might seem a rather obvious thing to say, but they were noticeably shallow.

I think I’m a bit fussy with the caped crusader, and all the costumed cackling psychopaths that seek to rule Gotham City. The last decent Joker was Jack Nicholson (although Cesar Romero was the GOAT), and I can really take or leave Killer Croc et al. There is an element to this story that seems like some characters are getting mentioned just for the sake of it. They only appear to get killed off, and I can’t really see the point of that. Maybe I should have listened to Batman Unburied first, to see if it made more sense.

Final thoughts

This show has done nothing to make me like the character of The Riddler any more. He’s still an irritating nerd that acts like a petulant child. Although I do like the idea of casting him as an Indian computer hacker. 

As I was listening, I kept having the feeling that I really should be enjoying it. Rather like eating salad. And rather like eating salad, what should be zingy and flavourful and interesting, is really just a mouthful of leaves. That’s what this show is like. This was the biggest let down. It’s BATMAN for god’s sake.

If there’s one thing that has come out of this, is that I’ve started reading my batman comics again, if only to remind myself of how good DC can do it.

You can get The Riddler: Secrets In The Dark here:

*For those of you who don’t know, NPC stands for Non Player Character. A term first used in the role playing games of the 70s and 80s, but in this case more related to the people who fill out the computer generated worlds of Grand Theft Auto and The Elder Scrolls.

Never did me any harm

Scarred For Life review

Rating –

Something that I am eternally grateful for is growing up in the 80s. We had the best music, the best kids movies and the best kids TV. We could spend all day out and… yes. Ok. I know. I’ll shut up. You get the idea though.

We were also the last generation where adults didn’t pussyfoot around us. We had films and TV shows that would never be shown to kids now, as well as some truly chilling public information films. As such we were well aware that motorists wouldn’t try to avoid us if we ran across the road, or that we’d get snagged on some underwater junk if we swam in the old flooded quarry. Oh yeah, and “Protect And Survive”.

So what’s it about?

Well, I mean, it’s about all the above really. This show is a homage to all the things that made us Gen Xers a hardy bunch, and the darker influences of the current Hauntological movement. The main focus is on TV, all of those square eyed kids (me included) grew up watching stuff they weren’t supposed to. Although the stuff we were supposed to watch was also pretty weird and scary. I can’t imagine a primary school nowadays showing a class of 8 year olds the film Watership Down for example, but I remember more than one child leaving the room in tears when it was played to us.

Each episode, the hosts Andy Bush, Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence interview a different celebrity. They are encouraged to bring in three “scars” and discuss just why these things were so scary. What I found surprising here was the number of title sequences to TV programs being mentioned. I can relate to that. One of the earliest things I remember scaring me was the intro to Tales Of The Unexpected.

Episode one (actually episode two. The first episode is the hosts discussing their “scars”) sees a great interview with Jamie Anderson, son of Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson, and a writer and director in his own right. Episode two sees the guys interview actor, writer, and filmmaker Andy Nyman. His film Ghost Story (based on a stage show fo the same name) definitely has the feel of a much older style, and is one of the scariest modern horror films (and one of Paul Whitehouse’s best acting roles).

Is it any good?

If you are of a certain age then you will no doubt grow all misty eyed (and slightly wary) at the discussions of Mr. Noseybonk, Candy and Andy et al. A few years ago I showed a picture of Mr. Noseybonk to my kids and he still has the power to terrify kids, even now.

If you were born after 1990 (or heaven forbid 2000) you will listen with equal parts horror and disbelief. But as a preemptive answer to you young pups, yes we did watch/listen to/read this stuff. Yes we did do this stuff, and yes, this is what passed for entertainment.

The interviews are funny and very entertaining, and also the reason for my current YouTube search history. Thanks to Mr. Nyman, I’m currently working my way through the Thriller TV series

Final thoughts

I’ve been a fan of the SFL Facebook page for a very long time now. When I heard they were releasing a podcast I eagerly awaited episode 1. You may think me somewhat premature by posting this review when there are only three episodes released, but then my review of The Estate only covered two episodes so it’s not entirely unheard of.

The guys at SFL have also released a series of books. I think I know what I’ll be asking Father Christmas for this year!

This review is also my 100th blog post! I didn’t think I’d get this far, and I can’t think of a more worthy review for my centenary. Here’s to another 100.

You can get Scarred For Life here:

Shaving with Occam’s razor

Some Dare Call It Conspiracy review

Rating –

Tying in rather nicely, albeit unintentionally (but then that’s the nature of synchronicity isn’t it) with last week’s post I am going a tad more serious with this one. I say a “tad”, because today’s review doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I only discovered this show a few eeks ago when I was scrolling Twitter, and saw a post by host Brent Lee about the structure of the World Trade Centres. So of course, I immediately subscribed, and about 15 minutes into the first episode, this podcast had already jumped to the top of my review list.

So what’s it about?

In each episode, the hosts Brent Lee and Neil Sanders take a deep dive into a subject beloved of conspiracy theorists. From David Icke’s royal reptilians to COVID vaccines, to Jeffrey Epstein to climate change.

In the earlier episodes they are joined by guests and they examine the aforementioned conspiracies. The later episodes are almost solo efforts. There is a huge series by Neil Sanders on Cambridge Analytica that covers the COVID lockdown, the recent elections and data mining. Brent Lee’s episodes on the Grand Conspiracy Myth are also brilliant, and while they are a touch more serious than Neil’s output, they are no less entertaining and infuriating in equal measure.

The early episodes follow the same format each time. The first half of the show, the guests and the host discuss that shows topic from the perspective of the conspiracy. The second half of the show dismantles each point with evidence and critical thinking. The later ones are really just the hosts presenting former blog posts in an audiobook style.

Is it any good?

These are not bitesize episodes by any means. They regularly clock in well past the 90 minute mark, but then I would prefer it that way. These are subjects that should not be glossed over. Whereas conspiracy theories are often reduced to soundbites and memes, the counter arguments have to be watertight.

This fact means that each episode is a weighty undertaking. This isn’t some breezy podcast that you can drop in and out of. It requires a fair amount of concentration to get through, only because the detail requires it. This is quite easy thankfully, due to the fact that both the hosts and the guests are entertaining to listen to. The generous sprinkling of humour throughout also helps stop this just being a stuffy lecture.

These episodes are quite literally lessons in critical thinking. There is a great deal of history, psychology and even virology crammed in to each subject. The interview and subsequent debate featuring “Swaledale Mutton” is an outstanding example of that. The main thing that I think is important to mention, is that at no point to Brent or Neil say “There is no such thing as a conspiracy” . To do that is ridiculous. The point of this podcast is that yes, conspiracies are real, but they are not in the places most people look. Listen to the Cambridge Analytica series for proof of that, just dont blame me for any dental damage from gnashing you teeth.

It’s funny because it’s true

Final thoughts

Due to the uptick in the popularity of conspiracy theories and right wing propaganda on social media in the last 4 or so years, I would say that this podcast is absolutely essential listening. Despite the episode length, I can really see myself going back and listening to some episodes more than once.

This is a review I tried really hard not to get all ranty about. Not because I don’t believe what the guys say, but because I know so many people who despite preaching “do your own research”, do the exact opposite and seem to thrive on the very same confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance that they sneer at “the sheeple” for believing in. There were many times during these episodes I actually got angry, not at them, but the fact that critical thinking and common sense seem to have fallen so far from the norm. Their arguments make sense, and they have the paperwork to back it up. As I type this last section I realise I may sound as fanatical as the most paranoid conspiracy theorist. This is a fact that is causing me some stress.

You can get Some Dare Call It Conspiracy here:


Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑