Posts from 14th August 2003

Aug 03

THE POSTAL SERVICE — “Against All Odds” PHIL COLLINS — “Against All Odds”

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Further proof of my indie deprogramming – I downloaded the Postal Service’s puddly version of Phil’s monster ballad and the wind-machine original and Phil’s version sounded so much better than the Postal’s blips-and-raindrops twee-out even though my pet had just died!

Though actually the Postal Service version isn’t bad — for one thing it’s a really great song and they don’t fuck it around. For another I have a sneaky liking for this synth-pop subgenre of weedy vocals wed to decaying sonics — consumptive covers of The Smiths and John Lennon (by SchneiderTM and Lassigue Benthaus respectively) have been fixtures on my playlists recently. It’s gimmicky and deeply indulgent but they just sound so pretty, the big-eye paintings of the IDM world.

Phil’s original makes mis-steps too, mostly down to Phil himself – all those awful soulful ‘ooh yeah’, ‘ooh hoo’ asides when the song is all gritting teeth to block the tears because – crucially – you’re a middle-aged man who listens to Proper Music and has a Proper Life and that means you don’t cry. And the ending is rotten. Even so when the drums come in it’s a gut-punch moment – the bone-dry hugeness of 80s rhythm pads has never sounded so lonesome. The ur-version of “Against All Odds” will always be by a drunk divorced man in a suburban karaoke, singing his desperate heart away – Phil’s original is just a guide vocal.

[UPDATE! It’s the male “I Will Survive” isn’t it? Oh dear.]

Sometimes David Bowie’s love of technology is the funniest thing in the world.

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Sometimes David Bowie’s love of technology is the funniest thing in the world. There is nothing new about seeing live events in a cinema. They used to do this with boxing in the seventies. If you can’t be arsed to travel and want to recreate the lousy Premiereship vibe you can often watch away games on the big screen at your local stadium. Only Bowie though would think of adding the interactive buzzword to the mix.

Surely Bowie has already been bitten on the nose by interactivity. Anyone remember the Glass Spider tour. You could ring a special hotline to request tunes for the night you went. Unfortunately the hotline mysteriously “broke down” when Bowie realised that everyone was voting for the Laughing Gnome for a laugh. Why on earth won’t this happen again. Or more importantly will everyone in the UK buy a ticket and half an hour in let’s start a chant for Tin Machine. And then nick next door to watch Terminator III.

OK, I know that my continuing attempts to map prog rock onto old-skool pre-thatch socialism

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OK, I know that my continuing attempts to map prog rock onto old-skool pre-thatch socialism have truth in them somewhere, bcz the idea maddens the right idiots – but yes, I also know it doesn’t quite fly yet really. It was nice thinking a bit about it while watching Good Bye Lenin!, which is wise and fair and winningly untriumphalist about self-delusion, innocent or deliberate: a teenage son not only hides the unfolding news of the Fall of the Wall from his dangerously ill mother, formerly passionate in her good-hearted loyalty to the East German belief-system and its achievements, but (physically) builds his own wonky version of how history ought to be about to go, to make her last sickbed-bound days better. I guess it was asking this question: “What if to be naff is actually to be human?”

Boycott RIAA

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Boycott RIAA – quite interesting as a news point, not sure what the money you give them for mugs, mousemats etc. will actually be used for (not some file-sharing legal defense fund, probably). The central problem though is that a boycott of the RIAA will have the effect of reducing record sales if successful – and falling record sales are what the RIAA are using as an excuse for their strongarm tactics anyway!

There’s only one teaching-related show worth the bother

Do You See1 comment • 333 views

There’s only one teaching-related show worth the bother of turning the telly on right now, and it’s certainly not Teachers (sorry Alan). It’s Rule The School, which not even Children’s BBC seem to be making much of a noise about – it doesn’t even seem to have a page on the CBBC site. They’re showing it at 5 on Thursday afternoons and at 7.40 on Friday mornings, denying it the Sunday late morning slot which could make all the difference to its popularity.

The premise is simple: bunch of kids get to run a school where the pupils are actual real teachers and the lessons are in ‘cool’ things such as text messaging and dancing like Justin Timberlake. Maybe the familiar roles helps the reality TV format work well, because the kids very quickly settle down into being harsh (minor indiscretions can lead to detentions involving listening to Scooter at top volume) and the adult pupils get down to acting like kids right away.

Like all the best reality TV, the programme works because you quickly start relating to the participants as real people, but you also start seeing them as archetypes. Of course, some of the archetypes you’re forced to invent on the fly. Archetype invention is great fun in itself but what drives my enjoyment of the show is still mostly like (the dance ‘teacher’ is ridiculously cool and already the best teacher in the world and he’s only 12 or something) and detest (the beardy ginger ‘pupil’ thinks he’s smart but he’s a plank).

For the first time in months

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For the first time in months Pret A Manger have a new sandwich ‘ Gourmet Prawn whose ingredients somehow manage to avoid red onion and indeed are (as listed) appealingly simple. Extra large prawns. Mayo. That’s it. The prawns are only extra large compared to the tiddlers you get in train station prawn sandwiches but they are genuinely juicy and prawnish, and the mayo is very pleasant with a tiny dash of spiciness.

It’s been very difficult to buy a nice prepackaged prawn sandwich for ages now, curious since as we all know from Roy Keane they are the food of choice for the moneyed classes. Even deli prawn sarnies are often far too watery and tasteless, and most of the off-the-shelf ones are downright disgusting (Sutherlands, as stocked in the garage opposite our house in Oval, take a particular prize for cheap mayo sickliness). So thumbs up to Pret for making a pricey but highly edible go of it.

Nobody I know likes Channel 4’s Teachers

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Certainly nobody else who blogs at freakytrigger, so this isn’t going to make me too popular. Yet Teachers is a funny show – it sits not too far away from shows like Two Pints of Lager – so why should there be such disdain?

I don’t expect too many people remembers John Godber’s Chalkface – it was an attempt to do Grange Hill from the teacher’s POV. It didn’t last long. In the end every schoolkid can empathise with schoolkids, but few adults empathise with teachers. Most adults are more likely to mildly resent teachers. This may be partly why the profession (“ha, that’s a joke”) commands such little respect. Who the hell cares what sort of life they have and why make a show about them?

My guess is that the premise of Teachers-hate comes from this manifest attitude and the suspicion that this show, with it’s laddish and crude humour, is somehow trying to “correct” this image, to force feed the idea that teachers are in some way likeable or at least human. Nobody wants to be “corrected”, and when you combine that with the worst excesses of the teacher that’s trying to be down with the kids, well… Plus there’s all that awful indie music, and it’s just the inane humour of “…and that was just the teachers” isn’t it?

Wrong. Despite the title of the show, the characters actually aren’t teachers at all – all that is in the background, and that’s where there is room for many sight gags (oversize biology diagrams, kids being beaten up, “whacky” stuff in the schoolyard). No, in the end, Teachers is an office comedy – it has comedic (i.e. transparently unreal) characters sparking off one another. I was a bit worried with the first episode of the new series because it was a one note show, dragging out the “How can you tell if a new friend fancies you” lore. To be fair, it had its moments, and it was a way to introduce Lindsay (to replace Susan). Luckily episode 2 had a lot more going for it, building on previously hinted at aspects of the head, the secretary and playing with the caricature of Penny. Kurt and Bryan seem stuck forever playing the standard chick-lit convention of the “boys who can’t grow up” – perhaps, after the Penny restructuring, even that’s up for grabs.

I like the whimsy, god help me I like the indie music drip fed in the background, but most of all I’m thankful these are not real teachers. John Godber did that and it was bloody depressing viewing.

Norman Phay on the Human League

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Norman Phay on the Human League – it is very odd to read Norman’s stuff without his ILXoR turbohacker stylings, but this is great stuff – simple, direct, good points well made. More!

There is a picture that hangs in our back hallway.

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There is a picture that hangs in our back hallway. It’s an original – pastels on paper – in a rudimentary, colourful style. The artist is my fiancee, Isabel, and the subject is our rabbit, who died yesterday. She was very important to us and I could write a lot about her but it wouldn’t feel right or be very interesting to the rest of you, so I want to say something about art instead.

The picture by generally applied artistic standards isn’t very good, but of course I love it, more so right now. Most of the writing about art on this weblog will be about looking at art, experiencing it, enjoying it or not – not much will be about doing it. But more so than music and perhaps even more so than writing everyone can make or ‘do’ visual art and while 95% of the time you’ll make something hideously embarrassing you will sometimes make something that works, that is special and captures its subject in some deep way. Freaky Trigger is all about communication, but some art need only communicate something to its artist. (This picture of course communicates to me too, and here I am communicating to you, so our ‘manifesto’ has not been entirely betrayed!).

So anyway, if there is something that you love, have a go. Draw or paint it, or sculpt it, or take a picture of it – or dance about it or sing about it or even write about it. For God’s sake don’t share what you do with the world if you don’t want to, and think twice even if you do, destroy it at once by all means or put it somewhere private – but it’s worth trying. Isabel did and because she did we have something that’s enduring and special to us.

(Another thing: all you cunts who gasp and crow over ‘outsider art’ or ‘naïve art’ or ‘kitsch’ or ‘trash’ art – that stuff is by people who are just trying to capture something important to them, it may be a little odd or a bit crap but it deserves more respect than you with your laughable madness fetishes give it. And if our painting ever ends up in some charity shop being pointed at by some sniggering hipster bastard I swear I will return from my grave and with ghostly fingers pull his guts out through his arsehole.)

More things I’ve cooked

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More things I’ve cooked

a simple one this one, to accompany my char-grilled lamb chops and boiled new potatoes last night I fried up some cubes of pancetta til they were nice and crispy. To the pan I then added a finely diced shallot and some slices of the new mono-bulb garlic from Sainsburys (it’s good, not too strong, but just strong enough for something like this) When they were softened a handful of frozen peas were added to the pan and left to soften, just before they were ready, I put a knob of butter and a dash of water in (wine would have been good but I didn’t have any open as I was making it up as I went along) and a generous clump of spinach. Lid on and two minutes later a green, garlicky, smoked bacony pile of loveliness.