Posts from 14th March 2005

14
Mar 05

SONNY AND CHER – “I Got You Babe”

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#201, 28th August 1965

Devotees of the authentic might expect a love duet between real lovers to be particularly intense, or sincere, or believable. They are no doubt disappointed by “I Got You Babe”, where both singers sound like they’re in a radio play or running an awards show: step to the mic, deep breath, a-ha!. Sonny in particular is ridiculous – his “I guess that’s so” is solid mahogany and his wide-eyed grab at ‘romantic’ on “I got flowers…” a noble but total failure. When he tries gamely to match Cher’s natural dynamics in the coda, I sympathise, wincing.

None of this makes “I Got You Babe” anything other than a fine record. One of the things that makes bubblegum pop so infuriating for its enemies is that almost any flaw is forgiveable, even charming once the hooks have got you. This is also what makes it tough to write in detail about, of course. People complain – justifiably – that “but it’s great pop” is a rhetorical get-out-of-jail card, and sometimes all I can muster is a rueful “yup”. Sonny’s stagey shenanigans might detonate a more considered record, but this one shrugs them off. Maybe it’s the trumpet line, or the music-box keyboards, or Cher’s voice – or maybe it’s just that even Sonny can’t block the surge of goodwill as the song crescendoes to its last chorus, but as the curtain falls I find myself clapping.

Day 26: Clouds Across The Moon AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 LOUSY TUNES

I Hate Music3 comments • 874 views

Day 26: Clouds Across The Moon
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 LOUSY TUNES

I had to admit that I never expected to die on the Moon. Traveling to the moon was never really on my to do list (unlike rolling some heavy stones on the Rolling Stones and thinking up other poetic ways of killing rock dinosaurs). Nevertheless it was with a teary sayonara that I and Crispian ended up passing out as we were groggily asphyxiating.

So waking up came as a bit of a shock I have to say. I looked around to see where it was we had ended up, thinking perhaps that this was heaven. And then when I saw the large futuristic stereo equipment I considered the alternative: Hell. The truth was slightly more bizarre.

“Ah. You are awake,” a booming voice said I a turned to see a bizarre creature kicking Crispian to wake him. It was clear this thing knew who was the brains of the outfit. And what a weird creature it was. A man you might say except he had a huge bulbous cranium and head almost as large as his body. Whilst this, and his silver big collared suit made him look strange enough, it was the one prominent right ear which really marked him out.
“Who are you? Where are we?” I asked.
“My name is Deftu.”
“What like the lousy late eighties youth television strand that was the home to the surprisingly aptly name Snub TV. Snub it, I took out a hit on it.”
“It is an unfortunate coincidence. You are in my secret lunar citadel. I am The Listener.”
“I thought that was a now defunct magazine,” Crispian said.
“Another unfortunate coincidence. No I come from a race of cataloguers. It is out job to travel the universe recording all that goes on, and to never, ever interfere.”
“Oh,” Crispian said. ?Like Uatu, the Watcher. I read comics about him. But he always interferes.”
“I am Uatu?s replacement. I have been sent to listen to all human music and record it. And not interfere.”

You can imaginer the look of pure horror that crossed my face. If hell had a physical form, being in Deftu’s alien aspangly sandals would be it.
“Even Northern Soul?” I said, still shocked.
“All of it.”
“Fado?”
“All languages.”
“Mongolian semi-tone harminonic nasal singing.”
“Very popular in the crab nebula.”
“What! You are not just listening and recording. You are distributing this stuff?”
“Oh yes. It is my job.”
It was at this point I realised that I had a greater purpose in the Universe. And that was to save it from this intergalactic A&R guy.

“So how come you are on the moon and no-one has discovered you? We did not see you when we flew over.”
“Ah, I have special cloaking technology that creates a cloud actross my citadel.”
“A cloud, on the moon? That?s ridiculous.”
“That?s what I said to the Rah Band, way back in the eighties,” I muttered, as I tried to see a way of destroying this alien abomination.


THE RAH BAND – Clouds Across The Moon

Imagine the future. Where there is a terrible war pitting man against man in an interminable battle on the moon. I know, it is the product of a lousy imagination, a diseased imagination and imagination that could only belong to one-hit wonders the Rah Band. You see for the conceit of Clouds Across The Moon you have to accept the following premises:
a) There are clouds on the moon which has no atmosphere
b) That the war on Mars will go on forever meaning conscripts never return to see their loved ones
c) In this future there will be a communications system that will be constantly interrupted by storms in the asteroid belt which is neither between the Earth and Mars and equally has no atmosphere for there to be a storm in.

For me this is too much to swallow. Almost as far-fetched as a one-hit wonder band like the Rah?s having a hit with such a stupid record. As it would appear that in the future items as complicated as the modern mobile phone will be out-dated in favour of some sort of sunshine girls operator system. A system where Mars 247 is a phone number. Now consider this: if that is a Martian phone number then there is not much room for number expansion. 1000 phone numbers, no wonder no-one can get through.

The real excuse of course is that the poor sod has legged it to Mars to escape the harridan constantly pursuing him in her ra ra skirt. He has made up the war, his conscription and pretended that it is next to impossible to get through .Christ would you want to hang around with anyone in the Rah Band, especially not the goth bird. Instead you’d get your new squeeze to pretend that there is – ahem – a storm across the asteroid belt. All the while laughing your head off. Clouds Across The Moon = I’m Working Late Tonight Darling to the nth degree.

(So Much For My)Happy Ending Watch:

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 281 views

(So Much For My)Happy Ending Watch:

It seems to be a current obsession of mine that more books, films and whatnot seem to have incongruous happy endings. And I don’t just mean rom-coms. Books which are explicitly structured as tragic narratives seem more often to contort themselves into happy endings these days. I mentioned Vernon God Little on this front on the Wedge, Somersault wanders this road too. I am not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, any form of predictability can undermine a story. But I will note them when I come across them, and sometimes they are lousy.

So to Dead Air by Iain Banks. The book was lucky I even got to the end of it. I nearly did not get past the two page paean to Mark & Lard on Radio One, which was heartfelt, sycophantic and thoroughly out of place. I even threw the book across the room at that point (note to self I should stop doing this with library books). Anyway consider the following: the book is about a shock jock who angers all sorts of groups who may want him dead, is having an affair with a gangsters wife, and the clincher: the book is called DEAD Air. The whole thing builds to a violent crescendo which does not deliver. Why? Banks is clearly in love with his character, who he designed to be obnoxious. The book feels like it chickens out, and then gives him a send off he does not deserve. This could be considered a spoiler, but since the book is constantly being spoiled by Banks’s clumsy political editorialisms, it really is not worth the effort.

Don’t order the risotto.

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 385 views

This is a mantra I must take up full time. I have eaten three risottos out in restaurants in the last month, and been disappointed by all of them. My weekend savoury rice pudding experiment was at Branca, an Italian restaurant in Oxford. A smoked haddock & parsley omelette with a poached egg appealed: I was counting on getting a posh twist on kedgeree. Instead I got a gloppy load of Arborio rice, with tasteless green flecks and fish whose smoking provenance went as far as a packet of Rothmans. Maybe my home-made risottos are wrong, maybe I tank too much gutsy wine in, and have more bits to excite. But the only good part of this risotto was the egg seeping into the rice. And if I want eggy rice, I know plenty of Chinese restaurants that do it a damn sight cheaper. So note to self, don’t order the risotto.

Oh, and Hitch is the first Hollywood film to really rip-off The Office

Do You SeePost a comment • 287 views

Oh, and Hitch is the first Hollywood film to really rip-off The Office, in as much as it shows Hollywood has discovered just how funny bad dancing can be. And that is a dead horse flogged over most of the credits (where we also get to experience how unfunny a bad Will Smith song is).

Love, Sex and Watching (Love and Sex*)

Do You SeePost a comment • 274 views

Love, Sex and Watching (Love and Sex*)

The tagline of Kinsey is “Let’s talk about sex”. And they do. Zoologically. Kinsey is one of those films you can admire rather than love. It is stuffed to the gills with interesting facts, figures and characters but unfortunately has the pesky structure of Kinsey’s life to reign them in. But there is nothing wrong with having a film which makes us think. What it makes us think is still how much do we know about our own or others sexual proclivities? Which is where 9 Songs comes in.

There is a shot at the end of 9 Songs, where the camera pans out at a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club gigs audience. The couple in 9 Songs, for all the banal conversations and sex, are remarkably ordinary. That shot suggests that their story could be, bar a few details, the story of anyone in that audience. In pushing that identification out to the BRMC audience, and by extension the movie audience, it is really saying we are all a bit boring. And coming out of 9 Songs you do feel a bit bored, and hence boring. As such it is really a rather audacious movie. Winterbottom takes a romance and takes out all the interesting bits. Which is, oddly, where Hitch comes in.

Hitch is a potentially audacious romantic comedy in its own right. It posits the not uncommon idea that there are rules to dating, and if you crack these secrets then you can get anyone. And then, by virtue of the demand for conflict in a romantic comedy, then goes and breaks all the rules it sets up. Romantic comedies are by their very nature cynical movies, exploiting an audience that wants a happy ending that has been earned. And also that unlike Kinsey and 9 Songs, romance is nothing to do with sex. Hitch takes place in a remarkably chaste universe where ludicrously attractive people can end up with fat blokes because they like their personality. The films spends most of its running time dismantling all of Will Smith’s rules, and yet is too much in love with its central conceit to ever really convince. You cannot learn how to get a date from the titular character, but you are convinced there are rules to snag that happy ever after. And rule one: be the lead in a romantic comedy.

But if you want sex, go see some rubbish indie bands at the Brixton Academy. Bum sex in a hotel room is a mere 69 minutes away. Something that I am sure Kinsey would have observed and catalogued with a dispassionate air of the average member of the 9 Songs audience.

(*Not the lacklustre Famke Janssen and Jon Favreau rom-com of 2000.)

Country Glamour

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 1,046 views

Country Glamour: great title, great concept – “Country music sits with you at the bar while you down crap beer and wallow in your own misery. People who say “I like everything except country” are also, conveniently, the stupidest people in the world, and this shall be a safe haven from them. Country is as glamorous and airbrushed as any R&B starlet or dance diva, and each song covered will be examined through the prism of poptimism.”. If you like Anthony Easton’s posts on NYLPM, you’ll be keen on this.

Serendipity in the West Midlands

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 253 views

Serendipity in the West Midlands
The discovery of art in the provinces is my 2005 ambition. Fuelled by finding a gallery devoted to GF Watts in a small Surrey village, I’ve started looking elsewhere for small-town galleries. So I went to Walsall.

Women called me ‘love’ which I liked, although I called them ‘mate’ back. In a caf’ I asked if the vegetable curry was vegetarian. The woman sized me up and said, “no it’s got a donkey in it, love.” Walsall also has a funky bus station full of glass and a podlike canopy. I gave the leather museum a miss.

The art gallery is four years old and purpose built to house a permanent collection. That collection is built around 40 sculptures and paintings from Jacob Epstein, augmented by a lovely Modigliani and hundreds of woodcuts and antiquities. Space is set aside for temporary shows, but the floorplan on these upper levels is too open and the canvases looked timid and out of proportion. The roof terrace confirmed my first impression of Walsall as a bleak industrial town.

Giant Drinks

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 321 views

Giant Drinks

I’m a sucker for giant size drinks. They make me feel like I’m in the pub version of Mr.Greedy.* At an gimmicky Austrian restaurant in West London last year I enjoyed myself with one-litre steins, in Tampere I had the opportunity to go a litre better with a monstrous two-litre tube of beer. I passed it up, being the only drinker, but appreciated the visuals. The tube comes with a tap at the bottom, and sits solidly on your table, soaring a metre or more up. Attached to the top of this skyscraper of booze is a tube of iced water which pushes down into the beer, keeping it cold.

My sources tell me that these contraptions have been seen in Britain, in Hogshead pub. But the bar in Finland seemed half-filled with English drinkers and it was certainly new to them. They all wanted one, and they were all in front of me at the bar, turning my one minute wait for an ordinary beer into five minutes of frustrated technological awe.

*OK, my life is not too far away from this anyway.

New Kitkat Bar

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 365 views

New Kitkat Bar

Released on 7th March. It’s full of mango and passionfruit and I’m not sure what to make of it. The taste is confusing. It reminds me of the first time I watched the Crying Game and said, “phoar, wouldn’t mind a go on that” only to discover that all wasn’t as it seemed.

It’s a limited edition in a pink wrapper.