Posts from 18th September 2003

18
Sep 03

JANET JACKSON – “Runaway”

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JANET JACKSON – “Runaway”

Everyone has a “dreary day” song; something that gets played on those days when you’re feeling down or slightly under the weather and you need a pick-me-up. This is one of the few songs Janet has recorded that panders to her gossamer-thin voice; any more muscle on the verses or chorus would turn the shimmer into an insufferable bludgeoning mess. Add to this the interweaving between the xylophone and sitar lines and the absolutely GORGEOUS backing harmonies (a wonderful duet between Janet and Pro Tools that uses the tinny reverb of mid 90s auto-tune to create the happiest choirbot in the world) and I can’t even remember the inconsequential thing that was weighing me down.

“Didn’t quite hit the note, that wasn’t such a good time” Aw, come here and snuggle with me, you precious little thing!

I love the British Museum

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 244 views

I love the British Museum, and go there a lot (it’s a five minute walk from work, a fine lunchtime diversion). But it does annoy me too. They closed the Japanese gallery a couple of months back, in favour of some more offices. I was told that it had just moved downstairs into a new permanent space, but now that’s gone too. There are about ten 20th Century Japanese prints in a corridor by the Korean section, but that’s your lot, and those are comprehensively overshadowed by four tremendous Korean monochrome paintings preceeding them. A strikingly feeble show. There’s no space now even for what was my favourite little exhibit anywhere, the pair of wall cases of inro, netsuke and sword parts that was where there are now only offices.

Frankly, it’s a bit shaky except on that accepted central narrative of the development of Western civilisation: Egypt, Greece, Rome. It’s a familiar story, and they don’t challenge or question it. Nothing to suggest how much Egypt got from elsewhere in Africa, nothing even to emphasise that Egypt is African, not proto-European. What they can fit in of their great African holdings (there’s as strong a case for returning some magnificent Benin bronzes as the ‘Elgin marbles’) is shoved in a backwater basement. The pre-Columbian American stuff is sketchy and without a well defined section of its own. China shares a room with India (the two most populous countries in the world, and arguably those with the lengthiest civilised histories), and the Korean gallery is often closed.

And there is also a difference on the level of individual exhibits in how they treat these more remote territories. We wouldn’t get 20th Century Greek paintings shown in the British Museum: the borderline between art and anthropology can hardly be drawn, but they are treating Japan and Greece very differently in this regard. Similarly, you’ll see some tremendous African carvings that are just labelled as ‘Nigeria, 1980s’ or some such – you’d never see an Italian sculpture just credited like that.

I guess the statistics of visitors mostly support the vastly greater reverence given to the Big Three, but that’s a circular argument, to an extent. The huge success of the RA’s blockbuster Aztecs show contrasts with the one room for Aztec artefacts in the BM. And might a good samurai show, well promoted, not do well? They have some great armour, swords, bows and the like in their storerooms. I wish they could regard these other areas with as much respect and interest as that offered to those so very familiar Western cultural ancestors.

GUY MITCHELL – “Look At That Girl”

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#12, 11th September 1953

Guy goes goggle-eyed over some broad (the swaggering horns seem to demand she’s called a broad) and when he thinks he’s got your tongue wagging in time he hits you with the punchline – he’s screwing her already! You dog, Guy! “Last night I held her tight, HA HA” (in truth maybe not quite that emphatically). The song then repeats with a lady-chorus singing about how fine Guy’s girl is and the main man Mitchell doing spoken-word interjects about how he can’t believe it either. It’s not even as if the tune’s a good one: it’s a galumphing brass-led lumber which is only slightly enlivened by the first guitar solo on a No.1 hit.

PINK — ‘Trouble’

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I was listening to Ultravox just before I downloaded this and imagine my glee when Pink’s new single starts with a hyper-authentic back-to-’81 tak-tak-tak bass sound. ‘Glee!’ I thought, ‘This is going to be like a Girls Aloud single!’. And I was right, hooray, in that it sounds like lots of different bits of old pop stuck together with now pop attitude. But I was wrong, boo, in that it isn’t as good. The song can’t decide whether it’s an icy Kim Wilde glide or a raucous Tina strut or a fuel-injected Go-Go’s romp — the only common factor is Pink, who is doing her Proper Rock Vocalist thing throughout but can’t quite pull the song together. She certainly doesn’t give the impression she wants to sing on pop singles anymore so why do people keep writing them for her?

I don’t think the Star Wars drought

Do You SeePost a comment • 428 views

I don’t think the Star Wars drought (presumably dating from Jedi Knight, the high-water mark for FPSs before Half-Life), lasted quite as long as Magnus does. The 2001 PS2 game Starfighter was a fine space fighter game, in the tradition of their older X-Wing and Tie Fighter series, with control simplified for console use.

It does face the question of what makes it a Star Wars game as such. There’s no cameo from any character from the films. This is on the whole a good thing – the books and comics are already slicing the main players’ lives up into infinitely thin strips of time to have wacky adventures in. Even Kyle Katarn, star of Jedi Knight, got “fleshed out” (mechanically recovered) in a trio of graphic novels.

There’s also no lightsabers (fair enough, they’re in space) or force powers (though they get tacked on for 2002’s Jedi Starfighter). But a few minutes’ play suggests that the most essential element of the universe is the sounds. The noise of laser fire in space is enough to convince you that this is a Star Wars game.

As was the case in Jedi Knight: Seeing Stormtroopers and shooting them up is fine, but to cut them down with a lightsaber that sounds right, and then take their gun and hear it fire is the real spine tingling moment. That, and discovering that the damn things really can’t shoot straight.

MANTOVANI – “Moulin Rouge Theme”

Popular8 comments • 3,283 views

#11, 15th August 1953

Something that hardcore nostalgists occasionally lament is the disappearance of instrumentals from the pop charts. They have a point, in that it’s very rare for a bad instrumental to be remotely as bad as a bad song. To be honest though even among the classics I prefer “Dreams” to “Albatross”; I prefer the MGs as someone’s backing band and I even prefer “The Only Rhyme That Bites” to “Pacific State”.

Listening to “Moulin Rouge Theme” it’s hard to shake the impression that people knew how to bash out proper instrumentals back then: an easy swinging rhythm, a bit of obvious local colour (in this case an accordion), and the listener is whisked away to the gauloise-scented backstreets of some Paris of the mind. Oh I can mock but it works: I was mildly yet thoroughly entertained by “Moulin Rouge Theme” and even a little unhappy when it ended. Even more accordion and it would have been better yet.

What’s Wrong And What To Do About It

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 320 views

What’s Wrong And What To Do About It is a weblog and a rather good one (it reminds me a bit of the long lost Blue Lines but a bit cheekier – I particularly liked the “Let’s Move Christmas” entry). More importantly though it’s the first weblog ever to put the Wedge on its sidebar. In true “gift economy” style we reward it with a link of its own. (Arts content: there’s a write-up of a dream about Charles Saatchi!)

EDDIE FISHER – ‘I’m Walking Behind You’

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#10, 26th June 1953

I’m genuinely pleased that Eddie Fisher got a second big hit, especially as it establishes the winning notion that if you’ve had one smash your second should be as like it as legally possible. ‘Outside Of Heaven’ saw Eddie standing in the crowd at his ex-love’s wedding: ‘I’m Walking Behind You’ ups the masochistic ante still further ‘ Fisher is walking behind his former girl up the aisle! The singing this time is almost as morose but twice as creepy, Fisher giving the title line an unpleasant twinkle even as he chokes back the tears. Sadly the somewhat pedestrian tune lets a grand performance down (i.e. I can’t remember how it goes, a deadly sin in the days when hooks were actually things like choruses. It might go ‘I’m walking be-HIND youuu!’ panto style but I fear that’s wishful thinking.)

I didn’t enjoy Egg’s return in Teachers

Do You SeePost a comment • 1,041 views

I didn’t enjoy Egg’s return in Teachers. A poor episode with the soundtrack compiler asleep in the corner ‘ I think I counted five or six Dandy Warhols tracks. The resonance between Teachers and DWs is intersting ‘ both seem to have a wide-spectrum pissing-people-off quality that fills me with a sadistic glee. Mmm, people getting red-hot annoyed over pop ephemera. Lovely.

I had to ask our resident fashion, beauty and French speaking expert

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I had to ask our resident fashion, beauty and French speaking expert for a translation of the title Le Chignon D’Olga. Like the subtitlers she replied – with I’m sure a smug look on her face – The Chignon Of Olga, or Olga’s Chignon. None the wiser I had to go back to the oracle to find out what a chignon was. She replied, again from the high ground of knowledge = power, that a chignon is a kind of hair cut, a bun but not exactly a bun because then we would just use the word bun to translate it rather than use the original chignon.

The annoying thing is that the character referred to as Olga in the film did not seem to have a bun. There was nothing particularly arresting about her hair. This kind of slippery definition fits the film perfectly, a slice of life gentle comedy about a family coping after the death of the mother. It is slow, it is thoughtful and does nothing particularly new, but it does have a sense of style and it does feel nicely rounded off at the end. It also has one stand out hilarious scene when our lead tries to impress said Olga by getting a friend to come on to her so he can act the hero. Coming after an hour of slow, awkward scenes, this moment of true comedy puts the whole thing into relief. You can say more with a laugh sometimes. More than a haircut certainly.