Posts from 27th July 2004

27
Jul 04

A little bitter, a little sweet, that’s how he likes his life to be

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 234 views

A little bitter, a little sweet, that’s how he likes his life to be: being a Marc Almond fan has actually been good fun over these many years now…half my life, I think, more if you count hearing That Soft Cell Song from an early age. Still have only seen him twice live, but both shows were spectacular, and man, all those albums and all those songs and all those performances, it’s endless. Not to mention the fact that he’s a very good writer of his own life, as the mighty fine autobiography Tainted Life showed a few years back.

And now In Search of the Pleasure Palace, something of a sequel to that book combined with a travelogue of some of his favorite haunts worldwide — or so it was initially intended. Indeed, what’s actually a bemusing and ultimately satisfying surprise about the volume is how Almond spends much of the time questioning the project even as he’s embarked on it — talks with the publishers are mentioned more than once, it’s not entirely clear whether he goes to every spot willingly or not, how often it’s tied in with other work, musical or otherwise, of one kind or another. He very carefully and cleverly seems to say all without saying everything — much like in Tainted Life, he’s definitely sharing a lot, but he is careful not to tell everything, either noting what’s missing with quiet allusion or more commonly simply not saying anything unless absolutely necessary, and only then does one realize that a trip throughout Rome with a couple of guides has also meant he’s with a ‘travelling companion’ of some sort, for instance.

There’s a strong undercurrent of bitterness and frustration running through the book too — not something off-putting as you might think, though at the same time it’s something which perhaps will only produce sympathy in those who know his earlier work. Without fishing for reassurances that all is well, Almond is sometimes quite blunt about his future prospects, grateful for the fanbase he still has but more than once talking about dwindling audiences on tours and speaking with a brusque clarity about (generally speaking private or corporate) shows and PA appearances that he’s done for the money, and doing so with a take-it-or-leave-it ‘this is the situation’ attitude which says a lot more than whatever remnants of the art-vs.-finance debate still exist.

It may seem like the lament of someone burdened with the kind of complaints we all want to have, but more so than the random stories one can encounter with all sorts of younger bands or performers who have hit the brass ring and live it up every night, this is the voice of someone who has moved beyond both that and the typical Behind the Music ‘yeah man, back on the road again, that tour I don’t remember too much of’ soft-focus reminiscence, someone who is saying, “This is my life, what I do and am known for, a performer and singer, and a lot of it is as much a drudge as any other job might be.” Which may also be a cliche on first blush, but the trick is this is the testament of the lifer, someone well into his third decade as an adult doing this work, who is adjusting to the change of career and the change in his age — his version of a mid-life crisis being another running thread throughout, whether prompted by memories of places he once knew gone forever or discussing the prospects for who might be able to hustle who in a Paris club. And so his words are laden with doubt and consideration, self-analysis and often worry — again, he knows what not to give away, to not tell everything or to hide away (part of his description of the book is ‘part fact, part fiction,’ and it’s pretty well impossible to say where the dividing line is at any one point), but he still focuses on those subjects to a striking degree.

And yet it is indeed a travelogue, with names and addresses and locations and advice for the traveller, whoever the traveller might be — no formal three-star rankings or the like, but plenty of description and sketches, of pagan parades and lost swimming pools in Barcelona, of shopping amid religious artifacts in Mexico, of a brilliant description on how in the world to get a fresh fruit breakfast in Las Vegas (and of being thought a weirdo for doing so), and certainly of erotic encounters or the potential for same. He knows his potential readers and is a perfect tease, saying only so much and never talking about whatever he might have brought to a successful conclusion — merely of conversations and moments of research in dark bars or in semi-empty fields where the most aggressive transvestites ever will have done with your wallet, valuables, and you if you’re not careful.

Perhaps his discussion of Russia is the most fascinating of all, a country he’s increasingly become involved with following an initial tour in the early nineties, a situation retold via diary entries that made one of the best entries in Tainted Life. Here he speaks first and foremost of a solo album, his most recent, Heart on Snow, mostly a collection of traditional and more recent Russian songs done partially as collaboration and partially as celebration — how it was originally supposed to be a small vocal-and-piano album done thanks to a rich Russian patron (easily one of the book’s best characters — a voluble Russian hyperpatriot convinced of the West’s corruption but also one of the most successful businessmen in his country, claiming to fight capitalist fire with fire) but turned into a near-endless series of recordings and more ambitious work at the patron’s request. Legendary singers are met and size him up quickly, inspired performances suddenly spark new life for all the performers, concert appearances in Moscow give Almond some of his best receptions in years, and eventually he gets an apartment in the city itself. For all that, he is refreshingly blunt about the nature of what faces the tourist in Russia — the corruption, the poor service, the awful food, much more besides. He loves the place for all of that but the most telling detail is when he says it’s best to have a friend with you for any museum you go to, and perhaps by implication wherever you go in the country — and to keep silent and never let on you aren’t Russian yourself, because then all the prices mysteriously increase.

It’s a quick read if you let it carry you away, a portrait of a life and a state of mind and successes and failures and in the end, of course, triumph — no new hit record or mansion on a hill, but a statement to keep enjoying life and what it has to offer, to make new discoveries while still celebrating old loves, and to see what happens next, wherever or whoever or whatever it might be. Right now, perhaps he feels differently again — but that can be a subject for a new book.

ON GETTING A LIFE

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 200 views

ON GETTING A LIFE:

one of the funnier and/or more charming aspects of the respectabilisation of political blogs in the US over the past three-to-five months has been the fact that
a. a whole bunch got invited to (and given fairly generous treatment at) the democratic convention, and
b. they have responded to this like their first ever big old FAP!!

ie the convention is primarily a mainstream advert for the candidate; but they are superexcited mainly about MEETING EACH OTHER!! of course this sorta replicates the shallow edutainmentization of the Corporate MediaTM, but it is also v.sweet and human and – actually – a GOOD thing in that (insofar as more and more bigwig journalists are recognising the freedom that having a blog on the side gives them from the crushing (not to say fraudulent) this-side-said-that-side-said “objectivity” demanded by american big-news culture, it rescues humanisation from barren “professional” StepfordSpouse&AnchorPerson “personality” (cf Julia-Lennon-Theory corollary there is no such thing as “backstage”)

viz 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and etc (scroll down generally for convention-related gossip)

[UPDATE: i am however by no means convinced that FAFBLOG has proper accreditation]

On Do You See they’re having a pleasant little chat about childhood and film

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 330 views

On Do You See they’re having a pleasant little chat about childhood and film, as set off by Police Academy gaining a place in the world’s first scientifically-based Top 100 Films Ever ever.

Now I’m so little of a film buff that films very rarely conjure deep feelings or deep-feeling memories. But I’ve been reading about licensing hours in Andrew Barr’s Drink: A Social History  and I saw a reference to lunchtime closing on David Stubbs’s Melody Maker reminiscences.

And I remember: it was a summer afternoon in 1988. I was out celebrating the new all-day opening hours with my friend Ian. The pubs were open: it seemed rude not to! Afternoon closure had been such a fixture that to drink through seemed like the golden joy of a lock-in, which had been such a rare privilege for a pair of 18-year-olds.

We got drunk on Newquay Steam Bitter, an early doomed attempt at selling premium real ale to the funny-top Grolsch market. And Ian worked in the kiosk at the local cinema and had to go to work so he dragged me along that early evening and let me in free.

Police Academy 5. I suppose I saw 15 minutes of the film before I was fast asleep, and that remains the only part of the Police Academy franchise I have experienced. Nevertheless I feel very positively towards the series because, for me, it still means afternoons in the boozer. And I’m convinced #5 is the best.

FT Top 100 Films #54: 24 Hour Party People

Do You SeePost a comment • 947 views

There aren’t many films that slip in an advert for their own DVD during the running of the film. Even more rare is this advert coming whilst the actor playing the lead character is comparing his portrayal to the real live person his character is based on also on screen. Metatextual? Oh, certainly, but also plenty funny too.

The main problem in Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson is Alan Partridge. Not that Wilson is not in many ways a character like Partridge, with his own airs, graces and an enormous amount of self-puffery. The difference is that while Partridge is a self-obsessed nitwit, Wilson is really rather clever. Admittedly with a self deflating air which often comes a-cropper, but nevertheless one whose misdeeds extend directly out of hubris rather than (complete) idiocy. Most of Wilson’s problems stemmed from allowing the kind of intellectual freedom he would need to people who have less use for such a commodity. Perhaps Shaun Ryder is/was a genius – but he is one who perhaps should have been kept on a shorter leash.

So as a biopic of Wilson, 24HPP fails by conflating him with Partridge. As a document of two distinct strands of Mancunian music it is a little bit more successful. However as a comedy the film lumbers around trailing a surprising amount of success in its wake. Musicians are not interesting. People like Wilson are, especially when the complicity the film has in perpetuating his myth is probably only equaled by the Howard Stern movie Private Parts. The willingness to constantly take the piss out of Wilson is sanctioned by Wilson, because he knows the joke is one everyone else. The joke being that his is not the Ian Curtis Story, the New Order Story or even the Happy Mondays Story. Wilson himself is famously NOT a 24 Hour Party Person, and yet the film about him seems to suggest he might be. The film is saying that if Tony Wilson did not exist, we would have to invent him. Oh, and Alan Partridge is a nice stab, but making him like uncool music and stupid was just lazy comedy. Wilson even has a laugh at the expense of Coogan. Who’s the genius?

It’s A Kid’s World

Do You SeePost a comment • 423 views

It’s A Kid’s World

I can’t say that Pete is being harsh on Police Academy (below) but I think it tells us something interesting about our childhood tastes and our relationship to them. My guess is that – like The Incredible Journey and One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing – Police Academy appeared on the Top 100 List because it held happy youthful memories for somebody round that fateful table. The question is – is that reason enough to praise something?

Acting as a memory-card is something pop music, for instance, does very well. “80s nights” and nostalgic compilations are routinely sniffed at but the ability of a half-forgotten song to bring back sensations, feelings and images can be devastatingly moving or deeply joyful. OK it’s a fair bet that ‘devastatingly moving’ is not what regulars at Skool Disco are after but this doesn’t justify the dismissal of nostalgia from the critical armoury.

So should nostalgia be an acceptable reason for liking a film? The problem is, as Pete identifies, that material which makes a film fantastic to an 11-year old may well be hard to take for that viewer’s adult self. (Of course I have no idea if Pete did like Police Academy when small). Some types of nostalgia are indulged – why else do so many thirty-somethings put themselves through the antics of Jar Jar Binks et al – but comedy films in this instance date as badly as comedy records.

I’m still a bit wary of using hindsight so freely, though – surely one’s youthful adoration should count for something?

The IMDB doesn’t have Pauly Shore

Do You SeePost a comment • 688 views

The IMDB doesn’t have Pauly Shore doing much since 2001 except playing “himself”, so it’s surprising to see that he hasn’t quite got a firm grip on the role during Cribs. It’s also surprising to see him on Cribs period – I’d have assumed it was a repeat of an early episode except for a modern (eg “P.I.M.P.”) soundtrack (for all that MTV doesn’t play music videos, it does match the right bits of songs to the right visuals quite a bit), and Pauly keeps making jokes about how his life is a wreck.

And he does keep making jokes, in all flavours of bad. Homeboy impressions, showing us the names of the artists on his wall written on his hand, bursts of crazy eyes swearing and that old standby homophobia/philia (the last shot of him is him squirming on a guy on a deck chair, declaring himself “so gay” then leaping up and diving straight into the pool for a cleanse), and simple whiny self-deprecation. The only constant is his need to embarrass himself, like a comedian’s Tourettes.

It is for all it’s 5-10 minutes more compelling than any of his film work (NB I am not claiming to have seen 5-10 consecutive minutes of same). He looks like someone who has no earthly idea what magic key will make him famous again, and the suspicion is never far away that the answer to the main question is “He paid them”, that this is just a Pauly Shore demo reel 2003. It must have been one of the most uncomfortable Cribs ever to shoot, not least because at the end of the day, he is still living in a fucking mansion in the Hollywood Hills.

Like Ned, I can’t

Do You SeePost a comment • 291 views

Like Ned, I can’t really find the time to go to the cinema these days. However, I also have real trouble finding time for DVDs. Last night I felt like watching Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975). Actually getting through its 178 minutes (didn’t people have jobs/chronic fatigue in the ’70s?) was out of the question, so I have to base my appraisal on a fast forward/chapter-hopping scheme more or less corresponding to the time it takes Mrs KM to run a bath. First things first: lovely transfer. The film looks grand. Second up: amazing focus. Apparently Kubrick had special lenses made for this. It was all worth it! Third: like lots (three) of Stanlique’s films, lots of familiar faces from British TV, such as him from ‘Reginal Perrin’. Fourth: uses ‘chapter heading’ intertitles like in Brecht or Fassbinder’s Effi Brist (1974), and what sounds to me like an ‘ironic’ v/o a la Dogville.
All in all, I don’t understand all the hate SK gets. This was the first I’d seen of his stuff since the great disappointment of Eyes Wide Shut almost five years ago. If I find the time, I’d like to see the whole of Barry Lyndon. If a major trope in ’70s cinema is the complementing of Freud with Marx (or vice versa) you could place SK as someone who thought Freud contradicted Marx. In this sense his affinities with Ophuls go far beyond a love of ornate camera movements.

THE JULIA LENNON THEORY

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 494 views

THE JULIA LENNON THEORY

This is to assist people on TMFD where this has recently been brought up. Here are quotes from the nine occasions Sinkah has refered to this, with a brief commentary.

From :Why Can’t England produce competent drummers
the neutron is the julia lennon of particles!!

From: S&D – Kiss w/out make-up
in kiss’s case julia lennon = diana ross

From: Should groups always write their own songs?
bez is the secret linchpin in my “julia lennon is a member of the beatles” theory (which is mine not frank kogan’s)

From: TS: Tony McCaroll vs. Peter Criss
i know the answer to the “least talented member” question, but i have paraded it so often on ilm that i am going to pretend to be offended that dave q doesn’t read my wack theories (the name of the theory is JULIA LENNON IS STILL ON-STAGE btw, but that is not terribly helpful heh)

From: defending the indefensible, pt 1: the doors
ha i tht the “morrison hotle” was a cool new term for jimbo’s mojo! IT IS NOW!
i like all the doors EXCEPT morrison but hey, he’s the one who got them in one place so he’s OK too, on the “julia lennon is the fifth beatle” principle

From: Miles Davis vs. David Bowie
stockhausen = physical space as a compositional parameter (maan) (KS being a hippie considers space benign: MD ? korrketly ? => impenetrable murk is the julia lennon of the “best” 70s miles)
hiphop doesn’t use space; nor does trip hop => actual real descendent = PARIS AU PRINTEMPS poss?

From: Beatles: Classic or Dud?
sorry alex i wasn’t shouting at you, it is just a missing part of my “julia lennon theory of who’s in the band”: i like that song too, tho i think white album is in general a bit TOO diffuse (= they were no longer writing songs to impress/amaze each other, but had actually broken back into their constituent individual parts)
ps anyone who thinks ringo is not a perfect pop drummer is some kind of devolving zappa-fan imo

From: Why are music critics afraid of writing about love?
this thread is already being hijacked and-or stratified away from some of the things it could also be about viz
i. it is a band = it is a polyamorous gang-bang
ii. julia lennon (or equiv): also know as “who is the bez in yr marriage?”
iii. l.reed hearts j.cale (and similar IN EVERY COLLECTIVE)
iv. star: “i fucked the audience they were gagging for it” => audience: “star is so tripping the gagging was directed quite crosswise to that so ner”
vi. “i love everything so why do i hate [insert trivial nodepoint of flaring disagreement]
vii. “we don’t talk any more”

From: i am in love with john lennon…again, so just try and shoot me down haha…..or john lennon vs paul macartney
“oh my love” has the most beautiful melody he ever wrote i think: i assume he was trying to write something “japanese”-sounding, given the actual shape of the tune (minor and augumented seconds blah blah)
it goes straight into “how do you sleep”, which despite its bad-boy rep as second-person hostility is fairly lame, and not just bcz it’s a triumph of flatulently projected self-hatred (“you lived with straights who tell you, you was king/jump when your mamma tell you anything”: haha does the name JULIA LENNON mean anything to you john?) (also ringo’s zomboid drumming deliberately sucks energy out of the arragement, which is already proto-oasis

I think from this selection of answers it is quite clear what the Julia Lennon Theory is. Obviously I will not state it for fear of getting it wrong and making a fool of myself. But put it like this, it makes Patsy Kensit a much more important person in music history!

On Scientists and Statistics

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 666 views

On Scientists and Statistics
 
“The Law of Large Numbers guarantees that one-in-a-million miracles happen 295 times a day in America”
 
Of course this is only true if you make some truly bizarre assumptions, like only one potential event with one in a million odds per person per day (given the US population of 295 million).  How on earth do they figure that out?
 
In fact later in the same article they attempt to quantify the volume of events, observing that “In the course of any normal person’s life, miracles happen at a rate of roughly one per month.”  Surely that would mean 10,000,000 one in a million miracles a day in America.
 
You’d think they’d be a little more careful when the New Scientist ran a major story on how poor most scientists are at statistics a couple of weks ago !!

Last nights horror TV battle.

Do You SeePost a comment • 561 views

Last nights horror TV battle. Five: Aliens. Chest bursting, acid blooded, shiny penile biolologically unlikely* horrors did battle with:

Channel 4: 101 Embarrassing Sexual Accidents. Like 101 Things Removed From The Human Body this was another jokey trawl through real life actual trauma. I only got as far as 10 this time (half as far as I got with “Removed From the Humang Body”) and frankly had pretty much had enohg with number one, the man who tried to give himself a blow-job with a vacumn cleaner and managed to stick his member in the whirring blades of a particularly poorly designed 1960’s job. It was fun enough hearing the story of how he blamed a psychotic hooker (shades of Aileen Wuornos) but the later photos of bruised, bent and fractured penises made me run for the arms of the lovely Xenomorph on Five.

*If its acid blood quickly eats through the metal in the Nostromo, then how exactly does it keep it in its body?