Posts from 22nd July 2004

Jul 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 5 / Girls Aloud – “The Show”

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Pop Factor: 807 Controversy Score: 153

A little cold, a little forbidding, perhaps even a little too well-drilled: typical Girls Aloud. Their singles are design objects: beautiful, impeccably put together, never neglecting the practical (i.e. you can move to this stuff), but lacking warmth. Which often doesn’t matter. And also – in among the shining sweeps and arcs of the synthwork a little flawed humanity creeps in anyway, from the clunky, cryptic words. The awful oversinging in the first verse is a sign of fallibillity too, and a less attractive one, but I can forgive 5 rotten seconds. 9 (Tom)

I hear this as another song about saying NO to sex: you don’t see the show until my heart says so! (But is the something special just a little bit dirtier: we’re surely out of Avril Lavigne territory here?) Or just about saying NO to men in general. I should have known, should have cared, should have hung around the kitchen in my underwear – Oh really? At what point was that part of the deal? But the war between the sexes being a dialectic, it’s no fun on your own, so we’re back into the show… So perhaps you SHOULD have made me? Should have made me do what it takes to keep you: and the flip retort flip-reverses. Did she want to be made or not? How could you have known? But you should have. 10 (alext)

A huge great fruit machine of a song, all flashing lights and improbable promises – if it weren’t for the fact that fruit machines are rubbish. A glamour mag of a tune, shiny pages of shiny pouting models and fold-out freebie perfume rubbing off like celebrity on your fingers -but glamour mags are boring. Chicklit lyrics – I know what I want and it’s you, but I’m going to faff about with other blokes for a while anyway – except chicklit is stodgy and smug. I can’t think what to say about this, how to explain that it’s just thrilling. The clipped vocals, the crunched-up synth, hook piling into hook like silver cars on a science fiction highway. Joy.

Plus, the power of pop telly is such that I cannot listen to this song without the image of The Blonde One doing her ‘get in the queue’ thumb-up handwave. Best dance move ever. 10 (cis)

Abba-esque in its catchiness, The Show is just so devilishly addictive. Pop is all about the in-group, being part of the masses. The Show seems to instantly draw you into the (female) circle, begging you, the listener, to sing along. Although I want to erase the synths – even though I realize that’s what makes The Show a hit – there’s never a moment I want to reach for the stop-button. 10 (Stevie Nixed)

A group’s not “Girls Aloud!” unless they’re afraid they won’t be heard. That they “hung around the kitchen in their underwear” reveals more than just their underclothes or their sense of how to play with propriety. It’s where they find comfort, sip tea, spoon some ice cream, crack jokes and pause for breath from the rigors of performance – where we’ll have to wait for them and that is that. These young ladies don’t rap so much as let off a rhyming stream of self-consciousness, a chant coating a dense, rushed and buzzing synthesized background. “That special something that they are hunting, they’re always wanting more and more” is not just a bridge, if I read Paul Morley’s “From moppets to puppets” correctly. “Nobody sees the show until my heart says so” is what they say to themselves to buck up their courage. The curtain rises and they hit the stage, but it’s not a musical. It’s just broads’ way. 9 (George Kelly)

Well sexy tune, with synth lines flashing across the mix like long legged dancers. BUT problems present themselves – it’s too fast and dense to dance to, like the girls have been shackled to a frantic dance workout machine. And the concept lyrics are great only once you’ve figured out what they’re on about.

Musically though, I get off on the tango-style sexuality that catalyses hi NRG production into a strident show stopper. The key to dancing to this must be to find a partner. And if I have any remaining doubts about how this song works, it’s only because there’s so much going on under the bonnet. 9 (Derek Walmsley)

Note to self: find a hairdresser who hangs around the kitchen in her underwear or die like Atomic Kitten trying. 9 (Diego Valladolid)

Two songs for the price of one – stellar pop! I bet they have a movie called Girls World before long, and that’d be a good thing. 8 (Jel)

Arpeggiated ‘title screen’ synths grind into motion, the echo of a ghost in the pop machine, some dark, vampish chills n’ thrills to come? The idea of the girls as mere joyless cut-outs almost appeals, almost a sense of guilt or even relief in hearing the tone of their regret so cold, depleted and possibly cyborgian. Whereas Alison Goldfrapp (the saucy mare) appears to willfully embrace the trappings of her strict machine, GA seem noticeably less thrilled by the prospect of mechanical oppression. No Orgasmatron for them, only gleaming but desolate cells, dancefloor prisons with no-one else around. Show, what show? Is it over? Has it started yet? Is there still time to go to the lobby and get ourselves some snacks?

Nadine’s opening line grates at first, like a chalk agonizingly scraping ‘TRITE’ on a blackboard, but there’s still the sense of hope in her brittle tone. The harmonies, particularly in the bridge and chorus are stark but satisfying in that synthetic style, with the call to be rescued perhaps cutting the deepest. Despite appearing locked in broody resentment (of themselves, of the other party and of the fact there were these things they DIDN’T do) their defiance, stubbornness, refusal to let go also resounds heavily. Like continuing to hurt was at least still a sign of life. Attracted by the sound I’ve wandered into the abandoned fairground, opened up an old door and turned the light back on, to find them all there in their individual cages – beautiful emotional freaks captured like birds. But their pleas sound too scripted and rehearsed. How to trust them? Is this the show itself? The doubt, the guilt, it’s all too much! I’m off for a cold shower… 8 (Steve M)

Strikes me as a hi-NRG version of some of the girly-groups who hogged the sound systems of cheesy meet-market dance clubs in the mid/late-80’s (Waitresses, Bananarama, Expose, Cover Girls). Which is no mean feat, actually. As with those artists, “The Show” exhibits a certain “becoming” facelessness. I can’t even begin to form a mental image of what these Girls Aloud look like, so anonymous and bland is their singing. Again, a good thing. The ravey hook of the chorus oddly reminds me of “Chime”. (I realize I’m probably alone here). Yeah, this track would have my gangly ass on the dance floor, Long Island Iced Tea in hand. 7 (Henry Scollard)

Some fiddly vocal lines, as when different voices sing on “I want you”, do them no favours at all (they’re pretty ordinary singers, and anything that draws attention to this is not helpful), and it’s not got the power of their mighty first two singles – the main vocal lines sound very mechanical and don’t really hook me – I think there is a disappointing lack of big moments. Nonetheless, it bounces along pleasantly enough, and I like the housey breakdown three quarters of the way through. 7 (Martin Skidmore)

As a kid, I would be a dancin’ with my-self uh oh oh to Axel F, performing for a hundred thousand strong throng of hysterical admirers. This has the same animus. Utterly relentless, completely lacking in pretention and fillled with some of the most bone dumb sillyass lyrics I’ve EVER heard (“shoulda known, shoulda cared, shoulda hung around the kitchen in my underwear”?); putting this on permarepeat hurts like an indian burn, but switching it back on after three hours of the new Devin tha Dude album feels fresh like an Altoid. A little online hunting suggests that these guys are the progeny of a Brit “American Idol” type show. Sometimes the suits get it right. 7 (Forksclovetofu)

This is good. I was searching those lyric sites again, so I could figure what they were saying at the ‘shoulda this, shoulda that’ bit. Oh all right, I looked them up so I could sing along. Happy now? Now if I started looking up the ringtone7 (Bushra)

Meh. Sounds like Sugababes covering the Spice Girls, which isn’t as bad an idea as I thought after a few listens. Still, I feel like I’m missing something w/out any sort of accompanying media blitz to give my formless, diffident feelings for the song some substance and structure. I need calculated marketing schema against which my passion and snarkery can flower and bloom!

The femme-pop over here in the Most Popular Country In the World…Ever! seems to eschew the glitz and glamour of electric dreams for guitar-based effrontery dripping with authenticity (Britney notwithstanding, of course, since she can do whatever the hell she wants) (and I think Fefe Dobson is rocking the 99 Luftballoons, but I can’t say that for sure). Between this track, the Rachel Stevens slab goodness, the Sugababes MP3s that repeatedly find their way onto my playlist, and the wonder that is Richard X, I find myself landlocked pop-wise (poplocked?), dreaming of a United States where Sheryl Crow ain’t a thang, The Matrix is just a movie, and Michelle Branch is getting Fischerspooner to produce her next record. So, hey, Tom or anyone else reading this – if you got some more, please send it, even if substandard. 6 (David Raposa)

Something clever about it being all Show and no substance?
Something about walking around stools?
Something about the Sugababes doing this sort of thing better?

All of that is bollocks. I cannot put my finger on why I do not like The Show. My critical faculties tell me that I should. And yet the curse of Girls Aloud is that if I see them, I hate them. They should be like Kraftwerk and send out mannequins of themselves, because after seeing the debut of this on CD:UK I disliked it. The more I hear it devoid of them, the more I like it. In this ying-yang battle the song is caught halfway so it gets a 5. (Pete)

Quick Question

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Quick Question: what was the first pop song to introduce the idea of jealous people/haters envious of the artist’s success? Does this particular ‘meme’ have a pre-80s or pre-hip-hop life? I’m sure it must but can’t think of any tracks offhand that fit.

Not entirely surprising

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 115 views

Not entirely surprising but oh how I wish I had 15 million quid to splash out on this and annoy the neighbours. Add to the list of lovely buildings that never were…


Proven By SciencePost a comment • 377 views

Guys – the next time your partner complains that you’re not listening, just explain that it’s a natural reaction

Vote Beaker

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 307 views

Vote Beaker: “the nation’s favourite fictional boffin” is the BBC’s latest wheeze.


Do You SeePost a comment • 871 views

FT Top 100 Films

Why did they drop the word Incredible from the title of the Hulk movie last year? Did they feel pointing out the lack of credibility in a tale of a man who gets angry and turns into a nine foot two year old whose lost his blankie would be the last straw? Well it did not work. The very lack of credibility of a story is often its saving grace. The Incredible Journey is much more credible than the Hulk. Indeed its very credibility means that without the soubriquet “incredible”, people may take it for a true to life tale of household pets overcoming all odds. Like at the end of the news.

This is the 1963 version by the way. Not Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, which was one part the original and one part Look Who’s Talking Next (with all the shit jokes that entailed). Instead a nicely gentle Disney live action movie with the daddy of the folksie voice-over ensuring that even when things get hairy (and they do) the five year old audience is never too scared.

There might be some questions asked about the anthropomorthology going on here. Two dogs and a cat traveling this distance to be with their master. What cat you know would give a fuck? But unlike later kiddie movies with animals, the narrator is left to try and ascribe the motivations of these animals. A harsher storyteller may bang on about how nuts these domesticated animals were to trek out into the wild. But they are animals. They should have vestigial survival instincts wrapped up in their bonce somewhere. The question should not be if these creatures could survive in the wild, but exactly how feral they will be when they get to their destination. The astonished shock of the owners at the end when the animals find them perhaps should have been mixed with a degree of fear. Perhaps the animals would be happy to be “home” but their new found viciousness should make sure it will never happen again.

But I guess Disney were never going to end the film with the two dogs and a cat ripping the throats out of their estranged owner. That would be incredible.

Do not base your knowledge of 19th century travel

Do You SeePost a comment • 226 views

Do not base your knowledge of 19th century travel on the Jackie Chan/ Steve Coogan Around The World In 80 Days. Its setting at the turn of the twentieth century gives it a number of problems, not least that the route taken by Fogg is frankly ludicrous. He takes about twenty days to get to Turkey, all by train. The Suez Canal had been open for a considerably longer period at this point and if he wanted to get to India by the fastest route possible this was surely the way to go. And even giving him twenty days to get from the Himalayas to Hong Kong misses the key point that much of this job is done on foot and via the not particularly handy Great Wall Of China.

Luckily the China detour gives us the excuse for the one long pure combat sequence in the film which Chan and his young charges relish. The rest of the film seems a mish-mash of inaccurate travelogue, inaccurate history lessons and dodgy art history (an awful lot of dodgy art history – suggesting that Schwarzenegger was the initial model for Rodin’s the Thinker is pushing stuff a bit). At the moment they invent one of those terribly Victorian flying machines – cf Young Sherlock Holmes – you fear they might not even use the twist in Verne’s book. They do, luckily, but the wind is aleady taken out of its sails by the victorious if a minute late arrival from the sky. 

And the Richard Branson cameo? What were they thinking? (I hope they were thinking he might give them some money, because they need it).

Oh. And I loved it.

Saul Bass at the Design Museum

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 700 views

It’s hard to watch half an hour of film title sequences without the films. It’s like foreplay without fucking, over and over again. Still, you take what you can get. This Saul Bass exhibition is well worth the effort. The denial and frustration only serve to heighten the pleasure by focussing the mind monastically on the matter in hand. Bass was the graphic designer behind the iconography of films like The Man With the Golden Arm and Vertigo. He did posters and title sequences and he never put a foot wrong. This wonderful exhibition allows us a peep at the creative process by gathering preliminary sketches and tests, as well as letting us bask in the glory of the finished products. His title sequences draw you into the story before it’s even begun. It’s like the film has a one-goal start.

Letters, press packs, photos and other artefacts illustrate the process from start to finish, making us wonder how film marketing got so hectoring and vulgar. Having said that, a Burger King Psycho Special is an enticing prospect, as is a MacDonald’s Bunny Lake Is Missing Happy Meal.

Also featured is Bass’s work on corporate identities and packaging. This is less immediately appealing, but does contain my favourite piece, a kind of proto-psychedelia meets Mr Magoo horseradish package which accentuates the presence of the word ‘horse’.

Bass moved on to make his own films, which are also seen here. A row of small screens allows the visitor to get a taste of them, but unavoidable practical difficulties mean you’ll have to get hold of them yourself if you want to actually hear the soundtracks and get the full-on experience.

The last room is devoted to the later work Bass did with his wife Elaine, much of it for Martin Scorsese, like the beautiful lace and roses of The Age of Innocence. Scorsese has supplied a kind of afterword which is well worth reading on the way out. In fact I think the style of this review might have been heavily influenced by it.

It’s appropriate that an exhibition devoted to an aspect of consumerism should have the effect of making you want to take everything home. Along with Mr Scorsese, I can’t recommend this exhibition highly enough.


Do You SeePost a comment • 302 views


mum s: “the other one i hate is mr grek”
sistrah becky: “mr who?”
mum s: “he’s everywhere: he’s very ugly and green” ”
sistrah becky: “the incredible hulk?”
mum s: “no!”
sistrah becky: “the jolly green giant?”
mum s: “NO!! Mr Grek!! He has ears like arum lilies!!”

He does, too:

I went to see the stage version of When Harry Met Sally last night

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 193 views

I went to see the stage version of When Harry Met Sally last night. Yes, yes, purely for research purposes, though it was actually quite a light, fun evening – which reminded me that like any form of entertainment sometime theatre should be just a bit of fluff. (Some people might exclaim that with all the musicals strung up and down Shaftesbury Avenue/Broadway all you get is fluff – but that is often heavy, overblown fluff). I was ostensiably there for research on theatrical adaptations of films, so I sat there with the film script in hand ready to notice major changes. It was not all that necessary. There was a noticeable gear shift when the adaptation turned to the initial script. The adaptation barely changes a word, except to change the harder to stage secquences. So the initial car journey turns into a flat painting gig (which ill fits the lawyer to be), and the aeroplane meeting is transplanted to a gym.

I did not really need the script though to get the gist of the staging. It was all there infront of me. The play was done within a black framed box, with dimensions not unlike a nice widescreen cinema screen. The filmic origin was further emphasised by the constant scene bookends where the front of the stage literally turned into a cinema screen and the cute old couple stories were projected on stage.

So what was the point? Well the full audience (predominantly female) seemed to lap it up, which was as much point as you needed. The story had been moved forward in time to culminate on New Year’s Eve 2000, but little else was changed. It did its money scenes (the orgasm and the split screen telephone call) rather well, but fluffed the ending. But the ending in the film is all voice over, short cuts and the only part that would transfer badly. The reimagining of this bit did not really work. But I did finally find a reason you might prefer this to the DVD (not just the night out). It doesn’t have Billy Crystal in it. Michael Landes’* Harry was much less punchable than Crystal’s. Proving oddly that, at least when it came to casting, the idea that it had to be you is not necessarily the case. 

*Though it was annoying when everyone in the theatre was going “What have I seen him in?” He was the first Jimmy Olsen in The New Adventures Of Superman. OKAY!