Posts from 9th August 2003

Aug 03


Do You SeePost a comment • 365 views

YARRRRRRRRRR! Everyone else is at a great barbeque and I am sat at home nursing a hurt foot so it falls to me to mention Pirates Of The Caribbean, which we saw on Friday night. I am not the best person to review films, I rarely see any so my cinematic sensibilities are basically stuck at the “Look! It moves!” gosh-wow level. It might make me a good person to review this film, though. Anyway I thought POTC was GREAT if a bit too long. The final fight in particular could and should have been cut shorter: the “how are they going to beat him?” question that boosts tension in final-reel encounters was completely missing, as it was blindingly obvious how they would beat him, it was just a question of gnashing your teeth waiting for them to work it out.

In fact the action is the least good thing about the film. This is because pirate films are – or should be – all about atmosphere. As long as your Pirate Bingo scorecard is filled nobody in the film need actually do anything: it’s all about the gorgeous scenery, the even more gorgeous clothes, the grog and the lingo. Probably you need a swordfight and a plank-walk too but other than that you might as well just fill the screen with pirate ambience and wander off. So the convolutions of POTC outstay their welcome a bit, whereas the Disney ride it’s based on is a deservedly enduring classic despite being far less ‘exciting’. Still though, two hooks up.

Capleton-Lock Up

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 644 views

Capleton-Lock Up
It’s impossible to hear the vocal from Addictive by Truth Hurts without alarm bells tearing through your brain. So when Capleton manage to work the beat into something altogether more booty shaking, it’s quite a feat. Dancehall is something of a new buzz for me, as anyone who’s been reading ILM will have noticed. I guess it’s got more of an urgency to it than hiphop, and also I bloody love dancing. Lock Up makes me dream of spinning a few CDs in a club full of mates and pulling this as an ace-card, fuck dance lets jump.

Feeling quite stultified lately, possibly by paid writing having ruined my confidence, so maybe I need to get back on my feet where it all started. Or maybe this will make me worse, either way the real point of this post is to say congratulations to all involved in the FT relaunch, if I could make a living out of writing online I would. Tom once wrote his reasons for not writing for pay, I tried to find that piece and failed. But certainly paid writing simply feels like a way to listen to records and get paid for me, rather than any form of communication or art. If people are going to pay me to write then that’s great, but the chances of anything I do meaning anything to me are slim, as far as I can see.

The reality is I have to deal with editors and sub-editors and editors assistants who have no idea why someone wouldn’t like rock music. In these parts it’s easy to forget that some people automatically assume the only way you can’t love indie is by not hearing it due to the corrupt radio filling our ears with dop and pance and all the rest of the “superficial” stuff. When is it ok to have an axe to grind? If I don’t like a rock record I’m given to review, and tear it apart accordingly, the band get a bad review in a magazine with 20, 000 circulation. What about when someone doesn’t like a dance record? Someone ALREADY doesn’t fucking like a dance record, any bloody dance record.

Dance records don’t even reach the point of being torn apart by some wanker, they’re already not popular enough with the writers to get reviewed in the first place. The point being, my prejudices or axes to grind have some potentially productive end result. But it’s no life really, hacking away against an establishment which can never understand the point of the hacking in the first place. You either conform and take small satisfaction from reviewing records you love, or you give up. Either way one thing is clear, writing for money requires you to accept the utter dominance of rock music in every single thing you do. And it’s enough to fuel the fire even more. There’s something greatly ironic in the fact that those who champion silly and goofy and happy music end up the most embittered by trying to do so, and those championing the cult of the serious and the miserable are permanently self satisfied.

The beat goes on.

The artwork for Closer was delivered to Factory Records

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 198 views

The artwork for Closer was delivered to Factory Records two months before Ian Curtis’s suicide. Hyperreal Gothic statuary, tombstone typography: you can call this the “Premonition of Genius”, if you find any use for such ideas. Or you can face facts, and accept that right there on the face of every stately, exact and evocative Peter Saville design, from the late 70s to the present, stands a vast, unresolved, undeclared despair, that all art and all design and all expression are done and dead and over and impossible.

In life, when death arrives, we need ritual to structure and channel and contain the unleashed chaotic energies of loss: the rage, the confusion, the impotence, the rest. And some of us reach for the well-tried prefab ritual of religion, and some of us grope around to make our own maybe, and some – like Saville – somehow do both at once. And of course because he seems so militantly to absent himself, the richness of content is often actually something we ourselves supplied. Besides, any past-time pop culture stood on plinths in a museum can put you in mind of the Museum of Curiosities – and when it’s your own youth and dreams and hopes and passions reflecting back at you, how can the exhibit not be “Welcome to the Necropolis of Formerly Apparent Possibility”?

When young (with Factory mainly) Saville was wild and free; later on he had a name but also a mortgage, and pragmatic compromise ruled him, alert sadness the sign of the change: thus the catalogue’s version of the tale – in which a claim for bold originality is cast as the most hackneyed critical narrative of all. The essays switch between a nostalgia for the given writer’s own wilted salad days and a hack torrent of professional buzzwords: “post-modern appropriation”; “recontextualisation”; “referentiality”; “retrievalism”; “subversion” – the usual (highly) suspect latinate parroting of a flatulent ‘What’, to hide away from the awful difficult deep force of a ‘Why’ or a ‘How’? Here’s a more telling story: when young, with an absolute free hand – including budgets which beggared his employers – Saville made a mausoleum out of every single project. Later, a hand hired for the cachet of his off-the-peg wilfulness, but always under constraint, he merely continued ruthlessly to glimpse or highlight or cut to the mausoleum in every single project.

Spread out carefully here in glass cabinets, a sleeve or poster next to its occluded source – some moment of force or potential in 1830 or 1890 or 1920 or 1950 shut down and buried by the ordinary LookAtMeNow march of fashion-shift – you notice two things: one, that he always reached out to sources with vigour and power in the original, vigour and power that he loved and admired, word and colour and image and space, and two, that every ounce of his own gift as a designer is thrown into the weaving of counterspells against the original, to freeze-contain its revenant effect in the world, to quiet the dead, not to waken them, to refuse to work so unguardedly on others, ever, himself. I will not be haunted; you shall not be possessed: what was once can be no more. There’s a lifelong mistake at the root of all this: the wide-flung rigour with which it’s repeated proves this, and helps undo it.

There aren’t many online pages about Robert Kanigher

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 285 views

There aren’t many online pages about Robert Kanigher, and given that he died last year most of what Google turns up are obituaries. Entirely properly, these tend to stress his many worthy and creative achievements in comics and don’t write very much about what his stories tended to be like. The other sites tend to be dry checklists or hands-folded reverence, miles away from the blood-and-thunder of Kanigher’s writing. (This is pretty symptomatic of the piteous state of online comics crit in general, to be fair).

As a writer, Kanigher was the absolute best kind of hack – inventive, unpretentious, completely unafraid of being ridiculous. Al and I never collected his stuff but if you found a Kanigher-scripted story in the 10p box you were guaranteed a laugh at least. No idea was too hokey for a paycheque – a Haunted Tank? Great! A blind gunner! Terrific! Oh, and let’s do a deaf one next! GIs would fight dinosaurs, Wonder Woman would find herself saddled with Wonder Tot, and I think it was him who turned Lois Lane black for a day. He could do sentimental, and he could do just plain mental. And none of this seems to be really celebrated online, sadly.

You can tap into Kanigher’s lunacy yourself if you like. We used to sit in a pub thinking of stupid ideas for war stories – you’d come up with a title, usually “War’s No Place For A…” and then shove any noun in and the end. “War’s No Place For An Anteater!” “War’s No Place For A Swinger!” and so on. The story would fall into place immediately. One of the obituaries online tells the story of how the art editor returned a page of wrongly-formatted art with “Drop an inch” written across the top. Kanigher spent his lunchtime writing a story called “Drop An Inch”. That is exactly how comics should be done.

A corollary about genre fiction

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 243 views

A corollary about genre fiction (following from my Block-blog below): there are genre fans who are uninterested in the works admired by people who are more general fans of the medium, SF fans dismissive of Dick, Delany or Ballard and so on, for their general lack of interest in the science bit. I was in a Yahoo group devoted to DC war comics for a while, kind of pulled in by a friend, and their criteria for great comics were entirely alien to me – they loved Russ Heath for his accuracy, while I found him a bit dull, and disdained the mighty Bob Kanigher and thrilling Joe Kubert (most notable work: Sgt Rock) because they tended to be less realistic. Since Heath was drawing a series called The Haunted Tank this seemed a particularly dumb attitude, but I eventually teased out that it meant that Heath always put every rivet in the right place. Similarly, I imagine that fans of the whodunnit are likely to value a fresh and clever puzzle that follows the rules (I don’t know what these are, but maybe not cheating by hiding clues from the reader or using gimmicks like long-lost twins might be among them) without much regard for the quality of the prose or the depth of thematic content or whatever more general literary criteria you choose. Obviously they aren’t in any sense exclusive and some writers can score high from many angles, but these differing sets of criteria are interesting, I think, even when they don’t make much sense to me as ways of assessing how interesting something is.