Posts from 10th October 2003

Oct 03

A mention of nipples

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 332 views

A mention of nipples in BBC2’s otherwise pointless Grumpy Old Men show brings back a story that relates to a posting I recently made on Proven By Science, about losing touch with reality. Back in the ’60s a Marvel comic editor had a go at an artist, complaining that he had drawn a topless woman in a superhero comic. The artist retorted that it was actually Namor, the Sub-Mariner. The editor said, flabbergasted, “B-but… he has nipples!”

(To be fair, people had been drawing him without them for decades, but still…)

Desperation in narrative

Do You SeePost a comment • 268 views

Desperation in narrative: the voiceover artist in Wild Down Under, a wildlife show about Australia and thereabouts, did his best, but no one could make this feeble line dramatic: “And New Caledonia has its own monster, the giant gecko! It’s the world’s largest gecko, as big as a rat!” Given that they then moved on to the mountain parrot and then the kiwi, you can see why they were trying to liven things up a bit. The world’s largest cricket didn’t amp up the thrills any either. It also featured the very weird line “And as any teenager will tell you, the place to hang out is the car park.” Nonetheless, lots of pretty pictures.

So What?

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 457 views

So What?

At some point a girl I used to know told Gordon from Ballboy she thought his band wasn’t ‘avant-garde enough’ for her taste. Fair enough: churning out sub-Gedge indie platitudes over jangling guitars is hardly Gertrude Stein. Whatever, I’m sure she forgot the comment soon enough. But not Gordon. Oh no. Not only did Gordon go and write a song about it – in which the primary school teacher sneers at the girl who worked in a record shop – but he still seems intent on venting his anger at every possible occasion. Tonight, a home-town gig at The Venue in Edinburgh, he snarls his introduction to the song with real vehemence, 2 fingers aloft to the audience like one of his schoolkids misbehaving on a bus trip.

For Gordon, on tonight’s evidence, is an angry man. His T-shirt features a picture of a teddy bear and reads ‘Fuck Off’. His new album is entitled ‘The Sash My Father Wore and Other Stories’, and commits the long-term Ballboy live favourite with the chorus ‘You’re a big fat bigoted asshole’ to posterity. (As Gordon also points out, the joke’s really on the Celtic fans who think it doesn’t apply to them too). Indie anthem ‘Sex is Boring’ (with me) rages against difference, against pretension, against rejection: ‘I hate hip-hop, I hate trip-hop, I hate punk rock, I hate house music’. Tonight, his face given a skeletal mask by the lighting, he rants and rages over the heads of a crowd of local following and freshers from the uni out to see a Peel-fave. (NB The Edinburgh scenesters have long-since stopped coming to see Ballboy.)

Nor is it clear what he’s got to be pissed-off about, to be honest. For a concern which is always going to attract a limited following (Wedding Present by numbers with a dash of… well, whatever Scottish indie band your lazy reviewer feels like adding in this time round), Ballboy are doing pretty well. They get played on the radio — but they’ll never crash the playlist; they get reviews — but never more than 3 stars, ‘it’ll do if you like this sort of thing’; folk turn up to their shows; they get support slots (with, erm, Cinerama…).

Admittedly, if I were Gordon, I be pissed off about the god-awful sound tonight: standing in the centre of the audience is like listening to a dodgy bootleg, vocals way up in the mix, keyboards and guitar a sludge down below. And Gordon’s singing, it has to be said, sounds better when the rest of the band can take up the slack more: exposed like this, its a frail thing, and frankly a bit off-key. Besides, the audience know all the words, so they don’t need to hear him. But then if I were Gordon, I might have turned up on time, tried to keep my guitar in tune, and generally looked like I was having more fun.

Something about Gordon suggests an impotence: the impotent rage of someone who knows he’s never, never, going to be avant-garde enough, but feels really pissed-off that anyone should even expect that of him. Insecurity and shyness — about which so many of Ballboy’s songs, in traditional indie-schmindie vein, revolve — can often be accompanied by a surly, thuggish arrogance. There’s a fine line between ‘I wonder if she’ll sleep with me tonight?’ and ‘fuck you bitch why won’t you say you want to sleep with me!’ Tonight, ‘fuck you world’ is definitely the message that comes over most clearly.

I promised Tom that I would write an article for the recent edition of Freaky Trigger

Do You SeePost a comment • 380 views

I promised Tom that I would write an article for the recent edition of Freaky Trigger on the politics of Once Upon A Time In Mexico. A quick flick to the front page will confirm that this was once again an empty promise. Partially due to laziness. But mainly due to the fact that my initial conceit really was not strong enough. Once Upon A Time In Mexico has politicians in it, political acts are done, but there is no political content beyond the tentative suggestion that politics might be important.

This last point is not completely without merit. Most Hollywood product is loathe to tell us that politics might not only be interesting but worth dying for. When we get to see Senators or souvenirs they tend to be operating on a single issue level, or as bad guys. The only surprising thing about Arnuld’s new political career is that Hollywood had never cast him in such a role before. Not unsurprising really, politicians are not heroes in Hollywood.

Robert Rodriguez is not Hollywood, though he loves it and knows how to play its game to the hilt. And the political content of Once Upon A Time In Mexico is minimal: it boils down to corruption being bad and maybe we should give a decent elected official the chance to do his work. Johnny Depp’s CIA agent exists as an agent of chaos, he has no real idea what he wants to happen in Mexico, merely that instability serves the purposes of the US (this is as sophisticated, but as correct as the politics get). El Mariachi returns, this time not fighting for his life, or his girl but for his country and – gasp – the democratic process. Since he starts the film desperate and with nothing to live for, this isn’t a bad trade up.

The cartels and the instability is what made Mexico the country that could raise a killer like El Mariachi. In classic end of the West style Banderas walks off into the sunset knowing that his time has past. We probably won’t see his brand of guitar playing murderous mayhem again, and it is probably just as well. But will we see more politics in Rodriguez?

One of the most annoying

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 416 views

One of the most annoying things about Radio 1 (leaving almost ALL the presenters out of the equation for the moment) is their insistence on telling you things OFFICIALLY. If it’s not the Official start to your weekend, it’s the Official sound of the summer, or the Official station of some piss-poor festival, Official guide to surviving teen trauma, or even the Official day to change your pants.

But this unlikely coalition of Officialdom and (ha!) pop culture reaches its unholy apogee on Sundays, when Goodier-lite (honestly, it’s like they cloned the bastard) and personality-free-zone Wes presents the UK Top 40. (And while we’re on the subject, what’s with the ‘Hi I’m Wes’ shit: I just want to hear the charts, I don’t care who presents it, it could be a fucking machine and it wouldn’t make any bloody difference to me!!!!!)

Yes, it’s the Official UK Top 40 played ‘exclusively’ on Radio 1, and the FIRST place to hear the new no. 1: BUT ONLY BECAUSE THEY PLAY IT AT ABOUT 6:45!!! (Given that all the charts use sales for their top 10 so there’s never going to be an Unofficial No. 1). But why should a chart based (their proud boast) entirely on sales be any more official than any other top 40? As Tom points out, the number of people who have bought even some of the biggest-selling number one singles has been fuck-all, as a proportion of the population at large. Surely a chart which is based on what people are forced to listen to in shops, and what they download as ringtones, and even on which popstars are in Heat this week, is going to better reflect some spurious zeitgeist, than a record of which fan-bases have more spare cash for multi-CD singles than others?

So why is a Sales Chart somehow more Official? Is it some kind of sop to the poor buggers who actually forked out two ninety-nine for the dubious honour of owning a demo version of some shit album track, put on for the fans, and a remix of the last single, put on to entice any floating buyers? ‘Look — it was YOU that put this track to no. 1, not some motley cohort of pluggers, playlisters and promotions managers. Feel your power! Now BUY SOME MORE!’ Or is it ‘Official’ because the rockist stats-boys can fetishise it as somehow more ‘measurable’?

Because let’s face it, it can hardly be a popularity contest. Just because enough zealots go out and buy an Iron Maiden single on the day after Boxing Day to grab the New Year number one, does not make ‘Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter’ the most popular, or the most listened-to, and certainly not the best, single of that week. Why should the fact that some sad-sacks are still buying the Black Eyed Frigging Peas single outweigh the millions of right-thinking folk who HATE it? (But could never be arsed to actually buy a single, (increasingly the act of eccentrics, perverts and sociopaths).) But then perhaps that just makes the charts even more like a popularity contest (rather than some fuzzy pseudo-scientific yard-stick) in that its all about compromises and peer-pressure, and no-one really likes the person who comes out on top in the end.


Proven By SciencePost a comment • 2,357 views

Spamwatch: the FT email accounts are still getting lots of boring old African dictators but an exciting new trend on the horizon is the garbled subject spam. First off Rayad Corkhill mails me to say “YFggh GGet a huge dink dxxr”, then it’s Ovia Awdi’s turn with “h N joy a raaise in your troouserr portfoli” and now I am contacted by Mead Lechmann who implores me “Unnn Rocckk that boody connfideennttlyrw”. WHAT ARE THEY ON ABOUT? Well OK it is obvious what they’re on about but in an era of spam at least attempting subtlety (“Hi there!”; “Why haven’t you mailed me?”; zzzzz) this sort of thing seems absurdly blatant. And the effect is oddly poetic too – Rayad Corkhill’s genetic viagra is plainly so amazingly strong that even his subject lines seem to be issued in the throes of a body-warping hulk-esque transformation.

As in a meal, so in our cookery course

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 304 views

As in a meal, so in our cookery course, the bahjis were only a starter. This week we moved onto our first curry, with basmati rice. Now I didn’t actually pay any attention while CB made the rice (it was supposed to be collaborative, but my onions were burning at the time), so I can’t give you any hints and tips on that front I’m afraid. Washing the rice seems to be dead important, but perhaps we might try a little less butter next time around.

However, as in a meal, so etc., it was the chicken curry with cream that was the focus of the evening. The trick here turns out to be — and perhaps you already knew this, but no book had ever explained it properly to me — that the onions you put in the curry to start with are not supposed to end up an obvious part of the final product. So no stir-fry-style chunks, these onions have got to be FINELY chopped. And that’s as fine as you can possibly manage, mind. Then you fry them; and this is really frying them, for what feels like hours — certainly enough time to chop up the chillis, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and all the rest. Of course this is the point where my onions start to burn, rather than turning a nice golden-brown colour, but they do get rescued in time! So when you add the yoghurt and spices to the onions, you’re trying to make a lovely, rich, smooth and above all thick (that’s the job of the onions) sauce — in fact, blending the whole lot in a mixer helps.

At which point we were rapidly heading for what looked — and eventually tasted — more like a decent carry-out feast than anything home-made I’ve ever dared to give the name ‘curry’ to before. Fantastic. And there’s still 7 more classes to go!

Irony and its Malcontents

FTPost a comment • 2,488 views

“ROCK AND ROLL is the spearhead of our attack because it is so effective and so much fun.”

– John Sinclair, revolutionary and manager of The MC5, November 1968 from the first ‘White Panther Statement’.

No matter how or what you choose to put on the turntable, it should be obvious that music is fun, that pop music is fun, that the Marlene Dietrich or Edith Piaf or Johnny Cash record I’m listening to is fun. See, dying on the back of a beautiful career resurrection, Johnny deserved plaudits – he had fans and influence and all that – and he got his resplendent obituaries, as if they somehow justified his life, his addictions. Sean O’Hagan typed his way round JC’s ‘latent sense of evil’. He nodded appreciatively to the fact that Cash was, apparently, ‘the first existential pop singer’. Maybe: there’s always something beautiful about skirting death and religion in music, about people who can break your heart while rolling in the aisles on Dexedrine and amphetamines.

But there’s also something beautiful about odd rockabilly singing and peculiar anachronisms. There’s something beautiful about how a suburban 21 year old can feel such unmitigated glee when hearing a frail 71 year old intone Depeche Mode songs on CD b-sides. There’s something beautiful about dancing to songs called Ring of Fire and A Boy Named Sue, about listening to pompous albums in which an odd countrified rockabilly singer goes to the Holy Land and recites messed up parables about cutting out your mother’s heart. There’s something amazing about singing songs called Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog and Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart to convicts. There is something amazing about listening to ironic pastiches of an ironic medium, performed and enjoyed first time round with dollops of irony, and playing them to your friends with an ironic smile and an unironic tear creeping across your face.

The closest dictionary definition irony comes to this kind of irony is ‘incongruity between what is and what is expected to be’. Which kinda means listening to records people wouldn’t expect you to listen to is always ironic. Which means, dependent on the particular context of your friends and acquaintances, your whole rack is ironic. It’s all debased beyond recognition. It’s all devoid of any of the things you got into music for. It’s just ain’t right.

No. Irony is just another way of enjoying music. Another way of getting the kind of fun that even those who saw rock as a tool, like John Sinclair and – to a lesser extent – our parents, just had to embrace. Sure, irony’s not necessarily MEANINGFUL and EMOTIONAL and ALL THOSE THINGS WE’RE TOLD GREAT MUSIC MUST BE but it can be, it really can, and, anyway, IS THAT THE POINT? Music is about fun and diversion and imagination and getting a sense of community and all the things you know instinctively the first time you hear any music, let alone the first time you hear music you actually love – even the real POIGNANT stuff, like most of Johnny Cash, is more about fun than MESSAGES. But a record being enjoyed ironically is seen as the ultimate death toll for both the music and the person enjoying it. It probably stems back to the need many felt, and still feel, to defend music against allegations of faddish, depraved twaddlisms. To admit that you’re only enjoying the damn thing, that you were enjoying the enjoyment rather than the music itself, well, it lets prigs and censors inch their way towards ‘your music’ – look at what’s happening with UK garage and gangsta poses and, let’s face it, look at what’s happening with the continuing condescension towards ‘chart pop’. So, rather than being a successor to skiffle, rock and roll is now seen as the illegitimate child of some notional ‘blues’. It makes the whole enterprise seem so much more PROPER, less fly by night and ironic. It stops them painting you as either stupid or corrupted or both. Irony doesn’t kill off ‘meaningful’, really heartbreaking stuff like Johnny Cash and Scott Walker and Dionne Warwicke and whiny old Dylan and 60’s pop and garage music of all types and loads of 80’s electro and the best house and trance and techno. It just means you can like its fractal magnificence in yet another way.

And of course, the ironic enjoyment can be a pose, which can be fine, but it can also be damn annoying. But why stop people enjoying music? Censorious, ignorant and just plain boring if you ask me. It takes the assumption that ‘it’s all about the music’ and clamps your feet and lips tight. It’s never just been about the music, and it’s never just been about the music and the fashion and the tribalism and the art either. It’s always been about taking the piss with friends, pissing people off with friends, pissing friends off with people. Building your beatific lands against the oh-so-elegant sub-strata of music, revelling in and rebelling against genre and boredom and the like. If you ever needed proof that fans should look after music and not musicians, this is it. See, only the ironic will understand that this argument is nonsense, that it doesn’t matter, and it’s only the ironic that will find it fun.


written by Jim Robinson

We love Perry here at the publog,

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 519 views

We love Perry here at the publog, partially due to the wallop it packs alcoholically but also its relative scarcity. Until now it seems. Ladies and gentlemen, but mainly ladies because yet again its mo’bouze aimed at you, I give you : Kitsch. This 7.9% (YOWSA!) bastard child of Pomagne and a Pear comes in a novelty mini-champagne bottle and the public will be encourage to drink it through a straw. Presumably to knock the punters off their classy stools before they have even settled down.

We demand MAN PERRY soon, all this sweet Babycham stuff is giving the might pear cider a bad name.

Viz Comic availible in pubs for £1 with purchase of a pint

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 424 views

Viz Comic availible in pubs for ‘1 with purchase of a pint. Note that is purchase of a pint, not a bottle of Newcastle Brown. Or a eight pack of Ace. Or a three litre bottle of Tasha Slapper’s fave White Lightning. It is marketing synergy like this that will stop the comic/real ale industry from dying out. Or maybe not, but the last line of the article is pretty on the money: “Viz readers are essentially blokes in their 30s who spend an awful lot of time in pubs.”

This markerting technique is merely a varient of a “buy a Bailey’s Glide and get a copy of Heat free” campaign of a few weeks ago. Except people are more likely to buy the ale.