Posts from 26th March 2004

26
Mar 04

The Magic Flute, English National Opera, London

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 221 views

I was blown away by this last night. It was stunning in so many ways.

The ENO production pushed the humour to the front and the comic foil; Papageno hammed it up to the crowd. There is a lot of character and location movement in The Magic Flute and the set was cleverly orchestrated. A crescent stage, backdropped with spotlights, all trapdoors and shadowplay.

Pamina spent most of the night on the floor. A push from Monostatos or a shove from Tamino and down she went. Audience sympathy swayed between aggrieved heroine and get up, love. Her most powerful singing came from a horizontal position. Her wicked mother literally towered over her and sang two of all opera’s most difficult arias with glass shattering passion.

The second act is where the Mason imagery takes over. The symbolism is drummed home. Pyramids with eyes and effigies lying everywhere. When more than two people came on stage it required choreography to avoid cats, dogs and funny handshake memorabilia. Mozart was a recent convert to the secret society and his cast sing it from the rafters.

In the end sub-plots were reconciled, evil disappeared through the trapdoor and true love never sparkled brighter. An amazing production.

“There’s a voice, keeps on calling me, down the road – that’s where I’ll always be….”

Do You SeePost a comment • 1,512 views

“There’s a voice, keeps on calling me, down the road – that’s where I’ll always be….” Zatoichi is The Littlest Hobo. With a sword. And lots and lots of bloodshed. The kind of blodshed that would not have been suitable for Tuesday teatime, though I found the winsome adventures of a dull dog equally unsuitable for my entertainment. In Zatoichi, even the droplets of blood are entertaining*.

Like the minute mangy mutt however, the story of this (or any) particular adventure of Zatoichi has very little to do with him. He wanders in, almost like a force of nature, gets involved and solves a problem. Unlike similar characters, Drs Richard Kimble or David Banner, Zatoichi’s cure for said ills is usually massive bloodshed. Takeshi Kitano seems to enjoy the enigmatic icon, mumbling and shambling through the character motivational scenes of all the other characters. But we never find out who he is, why he is such a great swordsman – and it does not really matter. Kitano the director spends plenty of time distracting us from that in plenty of other ways.

Zatoichi has a lot in common with Kill Bill, in as much as it is a bunch of source material blended and thrown at a wall artfully to see if it will work. Generally it does. I missed Zatoichi himself in the climatic ensemble tap dance, but the film is willfully funny, dark and joyously bloodthirsty when it wants to be. There are issues about feudal Japan at the heart of the film, but only a curmudgeon would go to look for any overly serious theme (though the cross dressing Geisha is interesting). Instead take it as a primer, as a bit of cinematic fun, and take it as often as you can.

*Massive amounts of CGI bloodshed produces what looks like very unrealistic arcs and droplets. This is probably only because I am used to my bloodshed being explosive prosthetic pacs and sprayed out of squeezy bottles.

Much as the Publog keeps a keen eye out for new snack food produce,

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 474 views

Much as the Publog keeps a keen eye out for new snack food produce, Proven By Science will occasionally cast its eye at the scientific (and more probably pseudo-scientific) domestic products. And they don’t come more domestic than Domestos Pink Power. Its a bleach. In a bright pink bottle. And this seems to be its only selling point. It is unclear from the garish billboard ads if there is any other breakthrough in this product rather than the brightness of the bottle. Further research shows that DPP has a fruity, spicy smell – thus making much more attractive to toddlers wishing to drink straight from the bottle. But the big question follows: is the bleach itself pink. How exactly do you go about dying bleach? Isn’t it by definition impossible?

More product watch gives us new Sunsilk Shampoo which promises to turn your hair into tits. Or at least give you 36DD hair (a wholly unconvincing image which I can’t find on the web uses a push-up bra as a hair band). Anyway, the pseudoscience comes on the bottle. In the old days hair was described as normal, greasy, fine, dry – all words which in my mind can apply to hair. But this volumising shampoo is design for SAD hair. Hair that slouches home at the evening, puts ona Leonard Cohen record and cries into a half bottle of red wine. So if your hair is keeping you up by crying and listening to Suzanne, this is the shampoo for you.

Troubled Diva is playing a game

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 1,138 views

Troubled Diva is playing a game comparing ‘this week in pop’ across the decades, with a sort-of megamix for each day. Great idea, well executed. Currently the 1960s are winning: a shame I think as my own pop researches suggest that 1964 wasn’t all that. Mike Troubled (makes him sound like some third-wave punker) wrote to me about this a few days ago and of course I didn’t link to it immediately so you’ve already missed out on some of the fun – sorry readers!

PopNose V2.0

FT + New York London Paris Munich7 comments • 379 views

PopNose V2.0

NYLPM is four years old today, and it’s time to freshen up the format a little bit. What I’ve decided to do is bring PopNose, our MP3 blog, onto NYLPM. Hits ahoy! But PopNose itself wasn’t without its problems, which is why I shut it down in the first place. There was a danger of bandwidth overload, I felt legally somewhat exposed, and besides for all its popularity I had a nagging dissatisfaction with the feature. It wasn’t an ethical thing – our one track per album, 64 kbps zipped MP3s were shoddy and impractical enough to dampen my guilt on that front – so much as a feeling that the format was wrong. It encouraged people to download new music in a kind of voracious algae-harvester fashion, but did it encourage them to listen to it? To discuss it?

Then I remembered something ILM’s Donut Bitch had done a few years ago – a ‘listening chamber’ whereby anonymised MP3s were put up and the ILM readers discussed them ‘blind’. This had been a great idea and I can’t quite remember why it was stopped. Time to nick it, in other words. So here we are – the new PopNose!

THE CONCEPT

We will be putting up (ideally) one MP3 file every day, zipped and Tag-edited so it’s anonymous, and with no info other than discovery credit if we heard about the tune from someone else. The file will be available until the next file goes up (i.e. for about 24 hours). As soon as a file is deleted we will go edit the NYLPM post to reveal the track title, artist, and album info and a short review explaining why whoever chose it likes it, as well as suggesting where you can go and buy a copy.

In the meantime you can comment – and speculate – on the tune here in the comments box. The only request we make is this – if you know what it is, don’t tell! Enjoy your self-satisfaction, post something like “pffft, so obvious, I expected better of you” by all means, but no spoilers please – the truth will be revealed soon enough anyway.

And a final note – these files are as before for evaluation purposes only – we will be deleting them and so should you. They’re only 64 kbps so they’ll sound shit if you burn them anyway!

(Oh, and normal NYLPM service will be carrying on too, of course.)

Without further ado, then –

WIN – “Hollywood Baby Too”: I picked this because Win’s Freaky Trigger album gave this site its name, lo these many years gone. I’ve still not listened to that record since because I dread finding it’s rubbish – this though was my favourite track from their first album, Uh! Tears Baby: A Trash Icon. In the comments box Luc references 1974 and he has a point – what it reminded me of a few years ago was Oasis actually, that decadent Beatley overreach of the Be Here Now period except a whole lot more queeny and plasticky.

Win was an odd thing – a late-doors attempt at New Pop by Davy Henderson, who had been in the Fire Engines. The idea seemed to be to make big, trashy, sexually ambiguous hit singles but it never really worked: even when they ‘sold out’ and put a song in an advert it didn’t do that well. I still like “Hollywood Baby Too” – big dreams on the cheap, if somewhat cynical. You can find Win’s two albums fairly often on vinyl in second-hand shops and you should get change for a pound: on CD they’re a lot rarer, and sadly a reissue seems unlikely since even Henderson doesn’t think much of them now. He’s still doing stuff with The Nectarine No.9 (record company site here; records available from all good etc etc.).

(Come to think of it a Win revival isn’t totally unlikely given the success the Scissor Sisters are having with a not-too-different formula. Hmmmm.)

Fluffy Dub!

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 352 views

Fluffy Dub! Reasons to love Kelis’ “Trick Me”.

1/ Dancehall borrowings in R&B are a wonderful thing but lifting your groove from pop-reggae is more unusual and – yay! – more fun too.

2/ Kelis’ delivery of the line-drawing lyric is marvellously offhand, and nobody does offhand better than Kelis. It’s a strong lyric too – “Freedom to us has always been a trick / Freedom to you is whoever landed on your dick.”

3/ Noises noises noises! Hooks hooks hooks! The chicken-scratch guitar, the squelches, the “whoa-who”, and there’s still so much room in the track.

4/ The cute Pet Shop Boys reference!

5/ It reminds me of Norman Cook’s best record, “Dub Be Good To Me”, and in fact that whole turn-of-the-90s moment when ‘dub’ lost its fuggy cool for a moment and became just another pop buzzword, all fluffy and chart-friendly. Those Jah Wobble basslines on The Orb’s (so-called) “Ambient Dub” records, such a pleasurable, bubbling sound. It was around this time that people like Tiffany were putting “Dub Versions” on their B-Sides, too! It all went wrong when the Sabres Of Paradise’ “Wilmot” wasn’t a huge hit – on the LP it was all chopped and truncated, like Weatherall was suddenly a bit embarrassed by its cheesy skankiness. More fool him, it was terrific. And then the moment sort of passed.