Posts from 17th September 2003

17
Sep 03

JUNIOR BOYS – “Birthday”

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JUNIOR BOYS – “Birthday”

So, context: The Junior Boys make skippy, snappy 2-step ala Dem 2 and filter it through chilly-the-most nuevo wavo romanticism. Fair enough.

“Take all this weight behind me, and let it go.” He sings this, and then the chimes or strings or xylophone or synth or whatever it is ripples in counterpoint: if this was a Chuck Eddy book he’d probably talk about how the sound of the ripple – light, upward, maybe even jaunty in a dejected sort of way – is the sound of that proverbial weight being let go. (Except Chuck Eddy would likely hate the Junior Boys. So it’d probably be a clumsy device to him. But pop music draws nearly ever emotional response it can from clumsy devices, and whether said clumsy device speaks to you (Mary J Blige style histrionics vs. drippy Pavement guitar Cream of Wheat) is largely a matter of taste. The creation of a NEW clumsy device is a claim to fame on par with the guy who first isolated a breakbeat or figured out that a drop D chord makes for good nu-metal.) It’s a sad song though, in the end, because he doesn’t sound relieved when he sings the line; maybe resigned, maybe exhausted. Relief will come in time, perhaps, when he realizes letting go of the weight was a good thing, that moving on doesn’t equal sinking like a stone. It’s a feeling I understand all too well right now, which is why I won’t be listening to this much as the weather turns cold.

Fucking indie records.

GUY MITCHELL – ‘She Wears Red Feathers’

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#6, 13th March 1953

My listening self is currently adrift in time, split in three ‘ working in the present, listening to pop for pleasure; downloading song after song for this, enjoying right now the summer of ’60, listening for curiosity; and listening to the songs in order to write about them, which doesn’t feel like a duty exactly but is a little daunting.

Guy Mitchell’s ‘She Wears Red Feathers’ was a bugger to track down, not surprisingly perhaps since it’s a terrible record, grotesquely jolly and borderline offensive. She not only wears red feathers, she also wears a ‘huley-huley skirt’ and lives on ‘cokeynuts’. The inevitable wedding between this dubious vision and Mr Mitchell naturally takes place with elephants in attendance.

Three things vaguely mitigate. It was fifty years ago. There is a tradition of this sort of jungle burlesque in pop, from ‘Stranded In The Jungle’ to the Magnetic Fields. And the cod-exotic flourish that opens the record is pretty exciting. That’s as good as it gets, though, with the orchestra settling quickly into a nasty music hall stomp and the bad jokes arriving by the line.

PERRY COMO – “Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes”

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#5, 6th February 1953

I know this tune already, from a role-reversed version by (I think) Goldie Hill, “I Let The Stars Get In My Eyes”. That’s a terrific record, strident and fatalist. Goldie admits her starstruck whim has ruined her relationship – possibly her life – with such a deadened delivery the listener is left with no illusions that it could possibly have turned out otherwise.

Unfortunately that record isn’t this one. Como’s jocular finger-wagging has zero emotional heft, and just to underline how droll it all is he has a gang of back-up wags and a brass section laugh track. Perry has a fine voice and does a professional job but this is still a stinker.

Spontaneous Human Combustion!

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This wacky urban myth that CSI took it on itself to face last night (UK Channel 5): the oh-so-cool black guy who secretly gambles was sceptical, the dark-hair woman who caught a bullet for President Bartlett’s daughter was cheerfully up for weird science. They brought up the “wick theory” of SHC (viz: that the initial smouldering fire melts bodyfat into clothes, which then acts as a wick to burn with tremendous local heat, gradually reducing the body to ash, not inc.pedal extremities, nearby furniture, the can of kerosene by the TV etc etc). They got to the point where they were testing this theory with a dead pig in a dress out in the back yard – i.e. leadenly replicating decades-old strange-but-true TV documentaries – when I got distracted by some micro-drama over on Jamie’s Kitchen Revisited (UK Channel 4), so I don’t know if Mulder won the bet or Scully. They should have tried it out on a dead David Caruso in a dress. Or just sleeping.

And so it came to pass

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 442 views

And so it came to pass that my little corner of London was one which suffered a five day mains water outage which began at the end of last week. I didn’t know what was going on and the impact was softened by the tank of water in our loft. I noticed recalcitrance on the part of the hot water on Saturday, which by Sunday morning had become a no-hot-water-at-all situation, meaning I filled my bath with cold water and then a couple of kettles of hot to make it bathable on Sunday morning, glorying in how old school and Victorian I felt and blaming the whole thing on our boiler. Then the water from the tank in our loft ran out, too, and I realised we had a mains problem. It stayed like that for two more days. On Monday morning I washed in Evian: I’m so classy.

What has this to do with my pub life? Well, on Sunday evening after another spectacular Tayyabs curry, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thought of his toilet, and I realised with some horror that I probably only had a single flush left before desert conditions struck. Being a sensible sort of fellow, I figured that that single flush should be saved for emergencies. The answer: trot down to the pub! A very pleasant half an hour in the gentle Sunday evening quiet of wood-panelled back room in The White Horse, Peckham Rye (outside the drought zone, apparently). The exciting last quarter of an hour of the Barcelona game, some decent small Tom Phillips prints, the call of nature and a delicious pint of IPA. Under the circumstances, what more could I ask?

Days of plenty / Glasshouse Stories

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Days of plenty / Glasshouse Stories

It’s a glorious day outside but even before you step into the near-pitch blackness, it’s already an intimidating experience. By the time you even walk into the exhibition space at the Chisenhale you’ve had your eye colour checked and according to the results been instructed where to start with the Faisal Abdu’Allah’s The Garden of Eden. Shrouded in black felt, it’s a colourful steel and glass construction, some kind of slightly sinister Willy Wonka greenhouse.

Eyes of blue or green? You get to walk inside this sparkling deep red hall of mirrors, and you get to read the secrets to life engraved only just visibly on the floor. You may be vaguely aware of shadowy figures on the other side of the glass, you may not. You’re not even sure whether an outside exists.

Eyes of any other colour? Through another gap in the felt, you see the same structure from the outside. You can see them inside, reading words invisible to you. You wonder what they could possibly say. You wonder whether the people on the inside can see you.

Put that way this pavilion / parable might seem corny and obvious, but the whole thing’s subtler than that because there are pleasures and comforts and discomforts in the inside and the outside. Like being watched by shadowy figures? Enjoy the chance to be a bit of a voyeur in a risk-free conscience-approved art environment? How do you feel about that?

DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS – ‘Manhood’

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I think it’s safe to say that Kevin Rowland means it (see Pete’s entry below). Meaning it is pretty much what Kevin Rowland does. There was a character in 2000AD called the Mean Machine, who had a dial on his forehead with numbers from 1 to 4 that regulated his aggression. Entirely predictably this soon got turned up to 4, and equally predictably it then got stuck there. Kevin Rowland has an invisible dial on his forehead that regulates his sincerity and it got stuck on 4 a long time ago.

‘Manhood’ is the new Dexy’s Midnight Runners single, their first since the theme from Brush Strokes towards the fag-end of the 80s. Kevin is in confessional mode; he croons, he cajoles, he scats, he talks to his backing band (yes! fanboy punches air!), he is as always unflinchingly honest (at one point he talks about a failed relationship with ‘Michaela’ and I would be fairly surprised if there wasn’t a real Michaela, called Michaela, out there listening and possibly wincing). If you’re in a nostalgic or fannish mood it’s all quite marvellous.

With more sober ears it’s a slight record, a jaunty slip of a thing built on a Motown groove not far from ‘Chain Reaction’, but it’s no disgrace. It would have nestled pleasantly on a Too-Rye-Ay B-Side: thinking of it as a 2003 single does it few favours. But as Tim pointed out to me once, Dexy’s Midnight Runners were one of the few bands never to have released a bad track: as of ‘Manhood’, this remains happily true.

You’re confusing me, Dave

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You’re confusing me, Dave. You seem to be talking about something called “The World Cup.” Can it be that you mean The FIFA World Cup’?

Intermission

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Intermission:

Starts well by destroying the charm of the Irish, and of Colin Farrell.

Delivers on what Ocean’s Eleven might have promised, but only promised to promise: A caper film where the emotional underpinning is at least as important as the caper itself.

Could maybe only be here and now: the American fetishisation, the scumbags curious about getting woks, oh god the Clannad.

Reminds us that “Out of Control” is a great single.

Shows us the actor in his element – compulsively watchable, always dangerous. And yer man Farrell’s not bad either.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is a populist composer, an unashamed Tory, and an easy target

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Andrew Lloyd Webber is a populist composer, an unashamed Tory, and an easy target, so it’s hardly surprising that given the golden opportunity of his new art exhibition the Guardian enjoys a good old sneer. Bar a handful of old songs I have no love for Lloyd Webber but this article left me irritated: its criticisms seem terribly vague. Victorian art, we are told, was solid, thorough, and middlebrow, and (therefore) lifeless and lacking “magic”. These are largely un-words – ‘life’ and ‘magic’ work like ‘soul’ and ‘energy’ do in pop criticism, as comfortingly indefinable brain-sheaths for critic and readership. The Victorians may well have been bad at art, but why is their “irritating…thoroughness” so soulless where the detail-rich art of previous eras is presumably more successful? Jonathan Jones takes for granted an airily romantic view of capital-A Art that pits the “academic” against the “aesthetic”: if you’re at all moved to question that view, his specific criticisms seem footling.

Michael Billington’s friendlier review (scroll down) saves the day by mixing interesting ideas with still quite sharp criticisms. It makes the same point as the lead article – Lloyd Webber’s art collection is an extension of his self; if you disapprove of his composition you won’t much like his curation either – but in a far less unsympathetic way.