Posts from 16th September 2003

Sep 03

Days of Plenty / Simple Pleasures

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 243 views

Days of Plenty / Simple Pleasures: while I’m wandering to and from work, or from pub to pub, or from gallery to gallery, David Batchelor (showing at the Anthony Wilkinson Gallery) must roam the streets of London looking for unburied treasure. He finds it, too, in the shape of materials to light up: grimy flat-bed trollies shining mysterious colours and promise from underneath; a box of wires lit up with the pulse of Xmas lights, shampoo bottles joined and lit from inside, former trash ridiculously bright and blank.

And then, marvellously, nothing. The Found Monochromes Of London 1-80: eighty photographic slides, each of white rectangles found on London’s streets. Often faded notices (something someone thought was worth saying, once) each rectangle seems to have a character and a emptiness of its own, but you’re also drawn to the London around them. Some parts are immediately recognizable, some look like generic anywhere-in-town places, others still are familiar but you just can’t put your finger on where they might be. And I’m wondering: what would someone want to say here? What would I want to say here?

And guess what I’ve been noticing all over the place for the past two days?


FT + New York London Paris Munich5 comments • 10,031 views

Popular: this is probably the most ambitious thing I have ever tried, so I rate its chances of success at about .2% (It’ll also take a good five years even if I do manage it.) Check back every so often, in other words, but it should be a fun little side project.

JO STAFFORD – “You Belong To Me”

Popular33 comments • 7,240 views

#2, 16th January 1953

Sophistication – this particular kind of sophistication – is missing from pop now. “Fly the ocean in a silver plane / See the jungle when it’s wet with rain” – Stafford’s lover can tour the world but he can never get away, and Stafford sounds so coolly unconcerned that you know she knows he knows he wouldn’t want to. The orchestra vamps behind her with a similar restraint. It’s a lovely tune and a decent performance, but Stafford’s voice is a bit too forceful and plummy – the song needs something deceptively flimsy, and Stafford on this showing can do sensible but not seductive. 6

DA BAND – “Bad Boy This, Bad Boy That”

FT + New York London Paris Munich1 comment • 713 views

DA BAND – “Bad Boy This, Bad Boy That”

Imagine you are an R&B singer. Imagine that you’ve been trying for a while to get your big break and have had limited success, but haven’t really blown up the way you’d like to. Imagine that you discover that “Making The Band 2” will feature auditions for a new hip-hop group on Bad Boy Records, a group whose career will be managed by P. Diddy himself. Imagine leaving your husband and child behind and auditioning for the show. Imagine getting into the group!

Imagine realizing that you’re going to be stuck in a house away from your family for several months while your group records its first album. Imagine getting caught in the middle of a ton of fights between immature alpha males jockeying for top position within the group and the ever-present spectre of your domineering husband. Imagine being asked to sing like Ashanti, Beyonce, Mary J Blige, [insert hot female singer of the day here, except of course Lumidee because everyone knows baby couldn’t carry a tune in a paper bag]. Imagine getting dumped on by the other woman in the group because she sees your role solely as “singing the hook”. Imagine finding out that your group’s kickoff single doesn’t even have you on it.

Thank God they picked such a hot song to kick things off, otherwise you might start to think that all of the stress and drama wasn’t worth it.

AL MARTINO – “Here In My Heart”

Popular152 comments • 18,695 views

#1, 14th November 1952

Deep magic from the dawn of pop. Except it’s not really magical, and it wasn’t exactly the dawn, and nowadays this doesn’t even sound like pop. But you have to start somewhere, and the British singles charts started here: a device to sell newspapers that ended up conquering my world. I had never heard Al Martino’s record before I downloaded it on a whim yesterday. It was easy enough to find, easier than it was to listen to twice.

What I’ve often liked about the charts though is their seeming arbitrariness. You can make a good guess at what will be Number One each week but you can rarely get it entirely right – I was surprised (and delighted) that the Black Eyed Peas hit the top this week; I was resigned and appalled when Gareth Gates and the Kumars clung clammily on this spring. So it’s fitting that the first No.1 sounds so overdone and undistinguished – it crashes into life well enough on a surge of strings but Martino’s cornball opera style is baffling to me: this was pop? Um, OK, if you say so.

But the question always has to be – what’s the appeal? Someone (who? why? we can’t really guess) was buying it – what did they like? Martino’s voice is damn versatile – it slides from bellow to purr so slickly over the space of one line, but it never lets the orchestra outshine it. Maybe that was the hook. Maybe what I hear as too-much a 1952 me would have heard as just right. I expect though I’d have thought what I more or less think now – that ‘Here In My Heart’ is OK, just a curio today; just a hit yesterday. And OK seems an OK place to start.

I saw The Addams Family movie on the television the other week

TMFDPost a comment • 198 views

I saw The Addams Family movie on the television the other week. I enjoyed it. (Please note that this is probably as close to a film review as you will ever get from me on FT, but before you point me in the direction of Do You See to exercise my new-found cineastic skills, hear me out). Although it was the first time I’d watched the film, lots of the script was familiar to me, because a decade or so ago I played a great deal on the pinball machine film tie-in.

The Addams Family is by no means a classic pinball machine (though a quick web search suggests it’s the best-selling ever!), but it was installed in a few of my haunts and we got used to each other. When the ball went down a hole, say, or you managed to trigger a feature, a little clip of dialogue from the film played, generally a laugh line or a few words from a key moment. More or less meaningless, of course, if you hadn’t seen the movie.

So when watching the film, all the best moments were coloured by little shocks of recognition from my days on the pin table. When I hear Gomez saying ‘fumes, toxic waste’ it’s all ours’ I’m immediately thinking of the pleasure of locking a ball in the Swamp. It feels good but it distracts me from the film as I try to remember what exactly I had to do to ‘WAKE THE DEAD’ or whatever.

And I’m left feeling like the film’s a spin-off from the pinball machine, and the story is like one of those narratives you get on fan-sites, where loads of a band’s song titles are tacked together to form a story which makes little or no sense. Loads of good one-liners though, and gratifying to see how many of the phrases broadcast across the bar were very, very mucky indeed.

The Buzz

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Pop Quiz Report

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 205 views

Pop Quiz Report

Pub: The Rosemary Branch, Shepperton Road, N1. It looks like this is the latest addition to the estate of the Remarkable Restaurant Company because it has the same style and the same beers as The Approach and The Swimmers. Still a good thing but too many of these and the formula will bore. It seemed like an extremely friendly kind of place, though.

Prize: beer vouchers worth ’20, ’10 and ‘5 for winners and runners-up of the main quiz. Rolling jackpot currently at a low ’25 having been won last week (at a handsome ’70) by the nice Go-Betweens enthusiasts we got talking to.

Quizmaster: really very good, didn’t take it too seriously or too un-seriously. Didn’t see it is his opportunity to perform. Friendly at all times but batted back requests for clues with a smile and a “well I’ll be telling you the answer in a minute anyway.” His brother’s doing the quiz for the next few weeks due to his music-related commitments, apparently (i.e. he’s off being a sound engineer on some tour). Bearing that in mind, could have done with a slightly better p.a.

Quiz: decent. Monday nights, except Bank Holidays. Picture round followed by one round of 20 questions and one music round (a straightforward ‘name the song and the artist’ round, no messing about). After that, a devilish 3-question jackpot round. ‘2.50 entry fee per team. Maximum team size seemed to be six but that wasn’t too clear.

Questions: the chasm between the easy questions you need to make it fun for all and the sheep-from-goats questions was a little wide sometimes (“From which song did “I’m never gonna dance again / Guilty feet have got no rhythm” come?” vs. ‘How many top ten hits has Dannii Minogue had?” or “Which future international star was sacked from a Saturday job in a BHS stockroom for not wearing a shirt and tie?”). But fun. We only had one point of issue with the questions, which is a miracle in itself, and even that wasn’t really an issue: “Meat Is Murder” was referred to as the second Smiths LP. Thing is, if he’d said it was the third we’d probably have told him it was the second… you have to let them know you’re watching them.

Will I go again? Of course. We have a ’20 beer voucher to spend.

There are only two reasons to read the

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 332 views

There are only two reasons to read the Evening Standard in my opinion. This nastily right wing London newspaper is only edged out by the Daily Mail in offensiveness and because it employs two great regular columnists. On of them is Victor Lewis-Smith who writes about TV (in the end) and the other is Lindsey Bareham, with her daily recipe.

Luckily, after getting three of her books for my birthday I probably have little need to read her column again. Except one of the most striking thing about Bareham as a cookery writer is how much she seems to go out and eat. At least once a week in her Standard column she mentions how she had something great in some such restaurant and then proceeds to tell you how she thinks they did it. Actually the usual line is, ‘I went home and after some experimentation came up with this version, which in replacing the X with Y is even more crispy/crunchy/chewy/moreish/tasty.’ It is a no nonsense form of blowing her own trumpet which also succeeds in making the aspiring cook think that by making it they are part of the great cook gang (it is a restaurant recipe so great). Bareham understands that recipe cooking, that is cooking something new, is not a million miles from going out. We want it to be good and we want it to be different. Trying something new takes a special effort, as does going out. Bareham possibly understands this because she used to be a restaurant critic before going into what many might see the business of churning out recipes.

My favourite Bareham book is In Praise Of The Potato, which is a book solely about cooking potatoes and recipes which feature them prominently. It has just the right amount of theory and practice, she is not hectoring and tells you plenty of ways to vary the recipes. Fundamentally you do get the feeling that she has made and eaten every one of the three hundred odd recipes – tasting and testing them to get them just right. The Sri Lankan Chicken and Potato Curry I made on Saturday is now a solid staple for me, even if it relies on roasting and grinding about twelve spices, the whole thing is never daunting. And I have not even gone into The Big Red Tomato Book and A Celebration Of Soup yet – await further reports.

Watching the downhill mountain biking on BBC2 on Sunday

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Watching the downhill mountain biking on BBC2 on Sunday it struck me that this is what they do in Switzerland in the summer. What to do with ski run when it runs out of snow? Answer knock out a basic trail through the nearby woods and get people padded like the Michelin Man to bomb down it on very expensive bikes. Beyond that it did not seem a hell of a lot different from downhill racing. Cowbells were even heard.

How popular the sport is though seemed tested by all the competitors we saw being permed from four countries (5 UK, 6 French, 2 Canadian and one Japanese). Not only that but the times which were being improved on were often smashed by chunks of four or five seconds at a time. From someone used to the split second timing of skiing, this is a huge gap suggestive of a pretty flimsy sport. I also thought one of the key points of mountain bikes were their abilities to actually go up hill. I’m not suggesting I could have negotiated these courses on my Raleigh Budgie, but bombing downhill seems only mildly removed from half the stunts on Jackass.