Posts from 15th June 2004

15
Jun 04

The Freaky Trigger Pop Panel

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 604 views

The Freaky Trigger Pop Panel: Do you have

– the ability to receive MP3-size files over email, once or twice a week?
– an interest in pop and a desire to comment on current records?

If so you might want to join the Pop Panel* – email freakytrigger at gmail dot com and I’ll send you some details when I get back from Glastonbury. If we get lots and lots of reponses I’ll prioritise people who write for the site or have been involved in the Focus Group (and yes I know you’re owed a focus group, sorry! The FTPP will run along similar lines so I’ll probably incorporate the last group in it.).

*we might give it a less rub name.

And that’s me off! Have a good two weeks!

ELVIS PRESLEY – “Wooden Heart”

Popular15 comments • 2,643 views

#115, 25 March 1961

Presley may not have written his own material but his influence on its direction is pretty clear – how else to explain the bizarre Euro-stylings that crept into his records immediately after his army stint? “It’s Now Or Never” just about pulled its operatic ambitions off, but “Wooden Heart” is a recasting too far, a real ‘what was he thinking?’ moment. (Likely answer: Deutschmarks)

It’s funny enough to be quite likeable but you wouldn’t want it jumping out of a playlist at you. Elvis sings the song – twee even on paper – in a comedy burgher accent straight out of Heidi, with a fey music box arrangement. Then he does it again – in German. That bit was surely the Colonel’s idea. Marketing gold it may be, but this is calamitous stuff for the listener: a rotten record. If even a quarter of the people who bought “His Latest Flame” a year later also shelled out for this, it’s proof that a big enough star really can release anything and get away with it.

Since Otar Left is the best French film I have seen in ages.

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Since Otar Left is the best French film I have seen in ages. This may be in part because it is set and stars predominantly Georgians. Or it might be because it is the debut feature of Julie Bertucelli whose previous gigs have been Assistant Directing on the Three Colours trilogy. What was possibly learnt from Krzysztof Kieslowski was how to shoot sympathetic character studies without ever removing the natural humour or drama of a situation.

Otar is a Georgian medical graduate who has moved to France (somewhat illegally one gathers) for work. The family back home in Georgia dote on his letter and calls, especially his very old mother. Then Otar dies, and his siter and niece decide to keep this from the ailing old woman. Thus farce should ensue. It rarely does. Instead we see the complexity in the relationships between these three women, love, annoyance and hate. And slowly, via the medium of knowing them we get to know Tblisi, Georgia and the world of the the ex-Soviet states.

In theme the film resembles Goodbye Lenin!, but this does not turn into a frenetic farce. The period detail of GL is replaced here by a fifteen year on disillusionment, a disillusionment with capitalism which nevertheless hides no real sentimentality for communism. Instead the suggestion is about looking to the future, and if that future is about illegal immigration, or getting what you can in the world then so be it. That is the capitalist way.

A nice companion to a film like Dirty, Pretty Things, this looks at the dangers of a clandistine life in its final third, and convinces us of its necessity. As a plea for tolerance and understanding it is compellingly understated. More importantly it asks the question about those little white lies: who exactly are we trying to protect in our family when we tell them. Odds on, ourselves.

EVERLY BROTHERS – “Walk Right Back”

Popular8 comments • 1,834 views

#114, 4th March 1961

The Everlys’ creamy harmonies, while gorgeous, can’t really lend this slushball lovers’ plea much urgency – luckily the arrangement picks up some slack by turning the chorus into a stomp before the track drowns in wimpitude. Highly accomplished pop whose politeness seems typical of the time.

PETULA CLARK – “Sailor”

Popular24 comments • 4,700 views

#113, 25th February 1961

Never a chore to hear a harmonica, but otherwise “Sailor”s easy tempo becalms the track too easily. A snoozer, and an oddly archaic one from such a young singer: Petula’s stout-hearted vocals and massed backing seem to hark back to the early 50s and the likes of Vera Lynn. The cowpoke arrangement just doesn’t fit her style well (and it isn’t terribly nautical either). A curio at most.

Girls Aloud-The Show

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Girls Aloud-The Show
Tom may have already written about this, but we can call this a remix. Obviously when the initial rush subsides we will all be properly capable of analysing this record, in a measured and balanced way. Ugh!


The most striking thing about “The Show” is how it reinforces, for me, an idea which I think I gleaned from Morley somewhere or other. There’s a section in “Words and Music” where he is very verbose about Dr Dre’s productions and analyses them with some depth, and then concludes by saying “in other words, he is a cool motherfucker”. Dre’s beats, like ANY really tightly executed electronic beats, just reek of arrogance. There is something utterly uncompromising and unfair about those moments when production seems rock hard and untouchable. “Rubicon” has it, “Still Dre” has it, Vitalic has it, “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” had it but it seems to have faded with time. “In Da Club” converted it into medicinal strength crack and sold millions without losing a scrap of its original dignity. And “The Show” has this swagger too, without a doubt.


Whether the girls themselves are aware of just what a beat they’ve been given is unclear, though the important thing is that they appear to know exactly what is going on. “The Show” is the suffocating force of consumer driven pop music at its ruthless best, it’s the girl pop “In Da Club”, a behemoth of a production which will soon cease to depend on any opinion or anything beyond its own swaggering existence. This record is the most instantaneous pop or dance moment of 2004, the charts are its bitch.

ELVIS PRESLEY – “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”

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#112, 28 January 1961

Elvis takes a 1926 Al Jolson hit and turns it into one of his most audacious No.1s – a production so sepulchral that he had the studio lights turned off to do it and an utterly commanding performance. From a distance the record seems a piece of irredeemable kitsch – its hushed strum, measured delivery and wodge of mock-oratory point to a track taking itself far, far too seriously. But actually listening to its 3 minutes 7 seconds I find “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” completely believable. Its quietness is a clever stroke – it demands reciprocal silence, it makes me pay attention to a thrillingly direct Presley performance. The assertive severity of the arrangement means Elvis can be restrained, never really having to let his voice loose until the very final verse: instead he can use it to perfect a tone of polite disdain for his fickle lover.

And then we get the wonderful spoken word passage, in which the King turns positively Presidential. The curt “Honey – you lied” turns the song from a matter of heartbreak into a matter of honour, and as Elvis works through the theatrical metaphor I’m left amazed that he never won respect as an actor. (Maybe giving him Shakespeare to do instead of Blue Hawaii would have worked!). And as in many of the best revenge songs, the singer doesn’t just hurt here; he smoulders too.

Whilst obviously I am keenly aware

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Whilst obviously I am keenly aware that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, there’s still a degree of heart-warming satisfaction to a story like this, especially after the good news about the fit and proper persons test DB mentioned below.

JOHNNY TILLOTSON – “Poetry In Motion”

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#111, 14th January 1961

With the help of a sax as cheeky as himself, Tillotson gives a trifling song the big sell, and I buy it. How does it work? The teasy intro and chipper tune; Tillotson’s piping voice and the way he sings “mo-shun!”; the way he balances a little lust with a lot of real fondness and an aw-shucks glee at the female form.

Humble Pi

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Humble Pi: Portugal v Greece remains my favourite game of Euro2004 so far (that I’ve seen). Partly that’s because it seemed a fine clash between opposing approaches; partly it’s because the underdog won; partly it was the Greeks’ fine defending; mostly it’s that I’m off to Greece tomorrow on holiday so I’d already picked them as my second team.

I watched bits of both the 98 World Cup and Euro 2000 in Greece. There was always a taverna somewhere showing a game and the atmosphere was relaxed – watching USA-Iran in 1998 in the Wave Bar on Samos, drinking wheat beer and cocktails with the harbour lights glittering on the Mediterranean, still seems to me an ideal way for a neutral to enjoy football. But the Greeks weren’t involved in either of those tournaments. By my reckoning Isabel and I get to our apartments about a half hour before Spain and Greece kick off – it’s going to be (fingers crossed) a great atmosphere.

I had a suspicion the Greeks wouldn’t be pushovers – in fact I was assuming all the tournament guides knew something I didn’t, so written off were they (with none of the minnowish glamour of Latvia, even). They’d almost beaten England in 2002, they had beaten Spain last year and they’d rarely conceded in qualifying. I had them down as getting a draw against Portugal or Spain, beating Russia and going out on goal difference: now I wouldn’t be surprised if they get the chance to try their stifling game against France. If they do I sadly won’t be in Greece to watch it, but hopefully I’ll have a good story to tell back on this blog next week.