Posts from January 2004

30
Jan 04

Raisin Hell

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Raisin Hell: only last weekend I found myself talking with an American friend about the differences in quality and style between curries bought in the UK and those from the US. One of the dishes she liked about her favourite Stateside curry emporium was a mild curry with raisins.

It occurred to me that raisins have become a symbol of curry inauthenticity in the UK (look at Pete’s piece below’), but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, I seem to think that quite the opposite was the case in the innocent days of the sixties and seventies. Now the poor dear curried raisin is somewhere above flock wallpaper* and chicken tikka masala on the serious curryophile’s list of things to be disdained.

But I haven’t the faintest whether any of the Subcontinent’s many and various cuisines feature raisins: there’s no culinary reason why they shouldn’t. And even if the raisin was introduced to the curry in the UK, I wonder why it, in particular, has been singled out as a shameful curry faux-pas?

*Has flock wallpaper become the focus of retro-fetishisation yet? If not, it’s surely due some love soon’

The same dish – elsewhere.

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The same dish – elsewhere. I was at the cinema (quelle surprise) on Saturday and fancied a bite before I drifted off to the pub. A walk past Miso, on Haymarket, garnered the fact that they did a dish called Malaysian Chicken Curry and Rice. For a fiver (a whole fifty pence more than my usual, but Hey Big Spender as Dermot Murnaghan would say).

Miso is a vaguely Japanese noodle bar taking much of its lead from Wagamama with its stripped pine benches and shared seating area. Smaller, and the staff were skittish at best. I don’t blame them, because when my MCC&R was delivered I got a shock. There is no reason why one restaurant would serve the same dish in exactly the same way as another, but still I was shocked when it came on just one plate. At the Hare & Tortoise the very wet curry is in a seperate bowl to the rice. Here it was all lumped together. But then that is because the curry was not very wet. At a push if I had to describe Miso’s version of my favourite comfort food, the harsh answer would be Homepride Cook In Sauce Curry.

I have no idea which of the two dishes is more authentic. I don’t really care, I was not planning on a trip to Malaysia. I have my suspicions though that the simplicity shown in the Hare & Tortoise may lead to a more representative dish. Miso served very plain boiled rice with a thick curry sauce consisting of small chunks of rice, peas, peppers, odd tasting potato and onion. Same dish at Hare & Tortoise is chicken on the bone in a runny soup with tomato and the tastiest chunks of potato in the world.

I ate the Miso version. It took me back to childhood curries my Mum made; I was half expercting to find a raisin or two. But i won’t be going back to Miso again. I assume it stands for (warning potentially offensive language based joke coming up, Mi So Disappointed.

Polemic from yesterday’s Guardian

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Polemic from yesterday’s Guardian by a certain Steve Grand. Is this the same guy that worked on Creatures ‘ the A-Life game that I still haven’t seen.

Bonus A-life link: Stanislaw Lem’s Non Serviam ‘ a great story in a fantastic collection of short stories that every science geek should read.

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE — ‘The New Year’

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You’ll have to forgive me for being in a rigidly literal frame of mind, but when I hear cab dispatcher Ben Gibbard offer this couplet to the kids of America:

‘So this is the new year / And I don’t feel any different’

‘ I want nothing more than to take him out back and plant a few Skecher insignias betwixt his pert little fanny cheeks. (See for yourself.) Yeah, New Year’s Eve can suck, but not because of the lack of life-altering epiphanies available at the bottom of a glass of champail. (Like, duh.) (Really.) Possible solutions:

1) Instead of sitting outside tossing fireworks in your shoddy dress-up duds, start dipping into the hard liquor. FYI – boxes of wine do not count as ‘hard’.
2) Try chatting up some strangers — remember, someone you don’t know is possibly (hopefully) someone that doesn’t know you, either; strike that iron, Sparky!
3) If you are actually with someone, and if that someone’s special, find an empty bedroom or bathroom (preferably one with a lock) (and windows with convenient sightlines) and do what comes naturally.

Do NOT, under any circumstances, go wandering around in the snow shoeless and jacketless, wearing a pair of your dad’s old athletic socks and some pleated pocket-happy Bugle Boy slacks, cursing to yourself in regards to your sorry self and sorry state as midnight rolls around just so you can be some rock-hard tough guy that doesn’t need stupid shit like friends and love and an old fashioned good time. Sitting in the snow in such a state is a bad idea, too. Please also note — having a beer-fueled mope on someone’s fiberglass truck cover is quite gauche. Not that I have any first-hand knowledge about this sort of thing. Cough.

Had I heard ‘The New Year’ around this time of my life (age 19) (he hopes), I imagine the song’s crashing guitars and ebbing drums would be an appropriate soundtrack to such a scene. I might have also empathized with the lyrics, most likely because I was young, stupid, and drunk on Bud Light. Now, some fifty years later, the intellectual rebellion my younger self would have ascribed to this song comes off as mealy-mouthed bombastic posturing. Mr. Gibbard must know his shit if, later on the Transatlanticism disc, he sings about ‘the sound of settling’ — if anything epitomizes the middling half-hearted shrug of that sound, it’s this album’s opening number.

Perhaps I’m guilty of transferencism, channeling my frustration with a certain strand of popular music that involves the guitars and the whinging and the bombast into this innocent bystander. Or maybe it was Death Cab’s manifest destiny to glom onto their hoariest traits, and accentuate them to the point of parody. Or maybe I should stop all this doublethinking and just say what I now realize I should’ve said at the start:

Boo fucking hoo.

29
Jan 04

THE KALIN TWINS – “When”

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#74, 22nd August 1958

Hal and Herb Kalin’s only UK hit is a breezy little thing, floor-friendly and with enough quirky touches to suggest that something a bit more demented is trying to break the pop surface. It never quite does – the castanets are mere emphasis, never fiery; the backing vocals nudge at the edges of wackiness but then hold back. Enjoyable but minor – a sound jiving its way towards the generic.

LINK: The Kalins’ story in their own words – a jolly read!

Scientists have found a new form of matter

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Scientists have found a new form of matter. Marvellous! What? Bose-Einstein condensate what? I thought there were only solid liquid gas and plasma. They’re busy at it aren’t they those scientists?

Footballers Wive$ back on your ITV screens Wednesday 11 February

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Footballers Wive$ back on your ITV screens Wednesday 11 February. Can’t wait? Then try Footballers Wive$ fan fiction! (So I don’t have to).

Pop Life Blog

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Pop Life Blog: lots of very good stuff here! Derek was it you who works at a certain West-Central London second-hand chain and wrote to FT a while ago? If so I am very very sorry for not replying, no excuses, I am just rubbish with email. Anyway readers it is my loss if the content here is anything to go by…

Last night for the first time in my life

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Last night for the first time in my life I had one of those going-out-without-trousers dreams, an absolutely standard part of the dream lexicon but one that had not troubled me. I can only put it down to all the discussion on critical authority that was sloshing around the music blogs this week. Especially as what I was doing without trousers was visit a second-hand record shop that had set itself up in the basement of the Glasshouse Stores. I apologise to all the imaginary patrons of that fine boozer who had to catch an oneiric glimpse of my pallid arse.

Anyway the dream is also pertinent to today’s link – This Is Romo, a shrine to the short-lived 90s ‘romantic modernism’ movement which has become a byword for music press idiocy but with a kindlier eye looks more like ‘wrong place, wrong time’. The best thing about the site though is that you can judge for yourself! A fairly extensive MP3s page points to downloadables of the few Romo singles that actually saw release plus rarities and unreleased tracks.

A couple of the singles are testimony to how elastic the human mind can be when it’s decided it wants to like something. At the time, being broadly ProRomo (anything had to be better than Ocean Colour Scene and Cast!), I managed to convince myself that Plastic Fantastic’s “Fantastique No.5” was just ‘a bit disappointing’. It is not. It is one of the shoddiest, worst put-together, most ramshackle tracks you will ever hear: the absolutely flagrant ripping off of Roxy Music is profoundly embarrassing but also the only entertaining thing about it. It may even not be better than some Cast records.

But some of the tunes stand up well, generally the ones which took their cue from clubby pop rather than past outrages. The excellent Belvedere Kane MP3 isn’t working (you can get it off me on Soulseek if you like, though), but Orlando’s “Just For A Second” is, and sounds as flouncy, brave and out of place as ever. And the site has Hollywood’s “Apocalypse Kiss” – gothy handbag with big production and those flattened Europop vowels I love so much. Massively enjoyable – and free!

“Apocalypse Kiss” was an early production job for Xenomania, who do a lot of the Sugababes and Girls Aloud stuff. You can find Romo links everywhere if you look! They also remind me a bit of Tatu, who of course are entirely Romo, though it would be more accurate to say that Romo was a spirited runt in a litter that also birthed them. Trouserless Romo may have ended up but it turns out not quite as shameful as you may have heard.

THE EVERLY BROTHERS – “All I Have To Do Is Dream”/”Claudette”

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#73, 4th July 1958

The version of “‘Dream” I know best is Glen Campbell’s. It always seemed a sad song to me; lonesome and woozy. The Everlys’ recording is bittersweet at worst. The key line in the song is the ‘gee whiz’ one – “I’m dreaming my life away”. Campbell sings it like a man closing the door on the real world; the Everlys sing it like boys choosing to play somewhere else for a while. Their sweet, twined harmonies tell us that life is wonderful and endless, why not waste some of it?

“All I Have To Do Is Dream” feels like a big step forward for pop. From the first ringing guitar chord it sounds crisp, clean and gentle but still totally informed by rock and roll (if you couldn’t hear it in the way the drums twitch on the fourth beat you could flip over and learn it from “Claudette”). The lullaby harmonies are something fresh too, a new seduction technology that cracks teenage music right open. Compare it to Tab Hunter’s “Young Love”, the last big teen love ballad to reach the top, and Tab sounds grotesquely smarmy as well as ham-footed. When you add the harmonies to the echoing guitars “All I Have To Do Is Dream” becomes something more remarkable still: a song about a feeling whose sonics inhabit that feeling entirely.