Posts from 16th June 2005

16
Jun 05

COMES A BATMAN (Once again)

Do You See1 comment • 365 views

More scattered and general thoughts on ILE but here’s a quick take:

The advantage of knowing the general story of Batman without knowing the details is handily refreshing. It meant that I could and did enjoy everything from That TV Series to the weird white-eyed version in the 70s Superfriends cartoons to the Miller interpretations to the Burton films as they came, all spinning in their own universes. (The Schumacher films I did not enjoy. But that would take too long to talk about.)

So Batman Begins is something that I approached not cold but not well steeped either, a good balance for something that is meant to be an adaptation but not definitive, not the ‘true’ source. Some random flack article the other day reminded me that Batman screen versions have been attempted in various forms since the forties, so there’s an advantage in seeing this as a new, wholly separate attempt to deal with what’s still a handy story, in fact a striking one. If Superman was the messiah from the sky who had to learn how to deal with ‘being human,’ the all-too-human Batman was, as this great evisceration of Batman and Robin put it, “one of the few costumed crimefighters who chooses to be a superhero.” However this particular film was cooked up, that turned out to be the goal of this film, to outline one potential route and to make, hopefully, something entertaining and moneymaking out of it.

No worries there for Warner Bros., as this turned out to be something close to a slam-dunk, not perfect but really, really good. My feeling when I saw a trailer for the first time was that this could be a good film, not just a good comic book adaptation. It doesn’t quite get there but it gets very close, and in fact improves in the mind upon reflection, though probably that’s due to its strengths coming more to the fore as it’s thought about. Others observed earlier it was less an action movie than a suspense one and I think that’s spot on — the action scenes are directed/edited with more intent to actually *be* action scenes than Burton’s equivalents, say, but when Christopher Nolan and crew call up the idea of Batman as terrifying alien avenger and put that to play, the film is expressly on, full stop.

Well worth it and if you see it like I did on an IMAX screen, really well worth it. Just avoid having to crick your neck, though.

GUESS MY THzzzz

Do You SeePost a comment • 162 views

My theory of everything

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 228 views

It’s not often that Simon Renolds reminds me of Alexis Petridis, but his 10th June comments on blissblog have a definite echo of Petridis’s Lost in Music Guardian Review cover story from last October. As professional music critics both Reynolds and Petridis confess to feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of music released, in the case of the latter, and the generally ‘pretty good’ quality of most of it, for the former. Neither is a stupid man, and both are tantalisingly close to identifying the most significant developments in popular music at the moment, but neither is able to bring those developments into focus.

Let me ask you a question: what did the death of John Peel mean? Not on a personal level, but on a cultural one. The fact that Peel could not be replaced might be due in part to the man’s enormous and unique appeal as a broadcaster, but what it really signals is a massive structural shift in the relationship between the popular music industry and the public sphere. Because criticism defines itself in relation to the public sphere, the inevitable result is a felt crisis for what we might call generalist critics: i.e. those whose role depends consists in taking an overview of popular music as a whole, rather than in specialising in one genre.

Petridis and Reynolds testify to the subjective side of these events: more records, higher quality across the board. This seems like a problem because for anyone whose job is to sift through the output of the music industry and identify the most important or the best albums of the year, this will seem like cultural entropy: fewer clearly-defined peaks in the year’s product making it harder to discriminate between releases. Of course, no critic has ever managed to keep all of the year’s music in view at once, or would wish too, as pretty powerful filters instantly rule out certain types of music from being considered for the kind of attention (broadsheet coverage, awards, mainstream TV) that defines this interface between the entertainment industry and public cultural recognition.

(An aside: my happy hardcore theory for which I have very little evidence, is that the happy hardcore and handbag tradition has been the most consistenly good genre in British music of the last fifteen years or so, and with a pretty strong track record of chart crossover hits. This is music based around basic rythmns, highly repetitive, and ultra-melodic, which has consequently never been seen as worthy of serious critical acclaim, and at the point where cheesy trance crosses over into Friday night office worker disco music, it is the most widely despised and abused form of British pop. Being blanked by the generalist critics, and abused by almost everyone else, has been the best thing that could have happen to it, although it’s subterranean influence can be felt all over the place (e.g. Crazy Frog, obv.) This also makes Dave Pearce the most important man in the UK!)

The objective side of these events is the increasing trend towards narrowcasting, not just in the media, i.e. the point of distribution of pop, but in the production of pop too. What Peel stood for was a space on Radio 1 for any — and more importantly ALL — kinds of alternative music. By the time of his death, this was completely anachronistic. The digital revolution in radio and above all the internet has made it more and more easy to direct what people want to hear straight at them. Why listen to all the reggae and jungle on Peel if all you want is twee indie-pop? Or why have to sit through cinerama when all you want is industrial and darkwave?

This seems like a bit of a shame to me: but then I’m aligned with Reynolds and Petridis on the subjective side of the dialectic. Most of the phenomena which obsess the bloggist/ILMweb fit into this pattern: the perceived decline of the charts, the weaknesses of the British music press, the tedium of miserabilist British rock (Coldplay/Keane etc.). The erosion of a central cultural public sphere cannot be acknowledged with that sphere, so what remains will feel and look hollow: the charts and the magazines both depend on a model where everyone has to take notice of some ‘event’ records. But the kind of popular rock music which has come to dominate that ‘centre’ is obviously a pompous and bombastic genre of its own, as more and more people simply ignore it, and its claim to grand cultural attention seems emptier and emptier. 6music for example, is a museum for old alternative musical forms, and there is a growing market for bands which don’t do more than sound like old bands, so their listeners can enjoy the sense of keeping up with the scene while not having to listen to anything unusual or unfamiliar. (And there’s not necessarily anything wrong with this).

So rather than thinking of the music world in terms of different genre categories, some of which feed into a central super-genre (which supposedly tells us about the nation’s cultural life as a whole), the decline of the centre means there are only the different genre streams, going stronger than ever. The division of musical labout inevitably means increasing specialisation amongst the workforce, and an increase in quality across the board. The law of diminishing returns will inevitably set in, meaning lots of very good but not brain-bustingly brilliant records being made. The renaissance of country, and of metal, are great examples of this I think.

This is good news for people who are obsessive about one genre, and for critics who focus on one genre. This is very bad news for anyone who likes to believe in the myth of a cultural centre (i.e. the myth which the cultural centre has projected about itself, and which generalist criticism has a strong interest in upholding, since its sense of cultural purpose is defined by it). However it is also good news for anyone who wants to hop across genres — pick pretty much any talked-about CD from one, and it’s liable to be relatively decent. Those critics who take genre seriously (e.g. obviously Eddy and Kogan) will not have problems dealing with this, in fact might not even have noticed the shift — which is not a new one, but one which has simply become more evident in the last year or so — since they weren’t so busy worrying about the centre in the first place.

I don’t really have a conclusion, and I suspect this will either seem obvious to you, or completely full of holes, so I’ll end with another aside, in place of ever getting round to writing about Rip It Up and Start Again properly. What it seems to me is the real motivation for the interest in post-punk is that this is a point at which alternative music as a shadow of the cultural centre / super-genre comes into being. So it allows the critic to fantasise an inverted world in which the alternative scene IS or becomes the actual centre: a pervasive fantasy in which Love Will Tear Us Apart beats Angels for whatever that preposterous award last year was. Simon is not simply imagining that things have changed, so the charge that he is being nostalgic is plain daft, but the most telling chapter of the book is the final one on MTV in which changes in media / distribution of music come into the foreground for the first time. There’s more to say about the ‘art’ question which overdetermines this and the nouveau-rockism issue. Anyway, this is all written through a hangover, so errors are inevitable!

Lambrini Girls Guide To Sport

TMFDPost a comment • 539 views

It would appear that Lambrini Girls do not know much about sport. However they
a) like drinking
b) like men
so are more than willing to learn. As long as that learning isn’t too complicated. For example, from the Lambrini Girls Guide to Football:

The Basics

Under no circumstances try to learn the real rules! The rules of football confuse most men so it’s best to just learn a few choice tips and facts to make sure you at least sound like you know what you are talking about.

The very basics of football are just that, it’s when you start to learn more that it gets complicated. Corners are taken from the corner, throw ins are thrown in. So just stick with the easy stuff and you’ll sound like you know your stuff.

The piece soon gets on to the important stuff about pulling at football grounds. However Lambrini girls seem to be of the opinion that every ground in the UK has a capacity of well over 30,000: so I guess they won’t be on the pull at Underhill.

The Lambrini Girls Guides to Rugby and Horse Racing are also on the site along with the Lambrini Girls ultimate sportsman, who would be made up as follows:
Jonny Wilkinson – Eyes
Andre Agassi – Smile
Freddie Ljundberg – Face
Frederick Michelak – Torso
David Beckham – Hair
Thierry Henry – Legs
Lawrence Dallaglio – Hands
Andy Roddick – Arms
Ian Thorpe – Back!

This Frankenstein would look a bit weird and not at all attractive. Most notable would be the black legs – though one wonders if the ladies are thinking of including the third leg when they picked Thierry?

Jonathan King’s Theory Of Pop Greatness

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 605 views

I remembered this in the bath this morning for some reason, and then have been reminded again by mention below.

When JK had a pop column in The Sun during the 80s – tipping among others Carter USM for greatness – he once devoted an entire piece to fulminating about the 70s. The stars in the 70s, he decided, were cynics and frauds who secretly hated and envied pop because they had been rubbish in the 60s, which was when the real talent had flourished. They became stars in the 70s only because all the good bands had retired. His evidence:

- Marc Bolan and Tyrannosaurus Rex – laughed at in the 60s, stars in the 70s
- Bowie – mod rubbish nobody bought, then folky rubbish nobody bought, then kaboom!
- that was about it, oh, maybe Alvin Stardust and Gary Glitter too

King made his own interest in this plain, stating very early on that HE had of course succeeded in the cut-throat world of 60s-dom with “Everyone’s Gone To The Moon”.

I don’t know if he had a point, not about the relative qualities of T Rex and the Piglets, but about the way some pop stars have been knocking around for a while before fame calls. Is there anything different about their output?

Unleash the inner Lambrini Girl

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 824 views

Lambrini is the tipple of choice round here at Pumpkin Towers. There is nothing we like better then kicking of our imitation Jimmy Choos and throwing back with a couple of girlfriends and knocking back a bottle of Council Estate Cristal. So how excited were we when we hear we could be the face of Lambrini 2005. Let us all enter the competition at http://www.lambrinigirls.com/. That said it seems to be a travesty that there is no London audition, I can’t beleive they think that all the classy Lambrini girls live up north.

The site has lots and lots of info for girls like us too. The Lambrini Girl Guides is not a fun gathering for underage drinks but rather a helpful set of hints on how to enjoy ourselves and other things we might need to know about if we are in the pub. For example, from the Lambrini Girl Guide To Cocktails comes this classic which I swear I saw Samantha in Sex In the City swig once:

Lambrini Blue:
Simplicity in a glass – 1 splash of Blue Curacao in flute topped with chilled Lambrini. NB Cherry goes a fab purple colour.

Hold up: since when have they been doing Cherry Lambrini! Alcohol heaven…

(I’m saving Lambrini Cream for a later date)

b-but it must be true it was on channel five

FT + New York London Paris Munich2 comments • 4,595 views

i. i meant to blog abt this an age ago (hopkin crazyfrog will back me up) but wz in shropshire last year and away from all computers when i discovered it (ie by the method of Watchin Telly) and forgot when i got back
ii. anyway it sorta kinda came up again in the st.et progs-abt-pop season at the BarbieCan, the one abt brit osmond-wannabe weenyboppers (=”twinkle twinkle little star”) (“Your search – ‘darren burne’ pop sensation – did not match any documents.”)
iii. which featured among others legendary song-plugger eric hall
iv. which reminded ME that i had not informed YOU that channel five had claimed that the song Killer Queen was written by F.Mercury abt E.Hall, who he had a monster erm massive crush on!!
v. meanwhile in unnerving news, the only person who made ANY SENSE WHATEVER in the twinkle doc = the young-ish jonathan king

Fashion Misses

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 337 views

I don’t know whay this has never occured to me in the five years the campaign has been running. But Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, laudable charity that it is, seems to have made one tiny error. Look at the target on the left. Where is it aiming? Between the breasts. Fashion targets breastbone cancer more like.

I was always disappointed that this innovative campaign was not followed up for men. Wankers Target Testicular Cancer perhaps, selling boxers with two little targets on them. After all what man is going to walk around with a pair of boxers with a target that aims just between his balls?

OI! GUARDIAN!

Do You SeePost a comment • 273 views

If you’re going to run a big story on the final Doctor Who episode, that’s great.

With news of a third series? Terrific!

And you even put a spoiler warning in halfway through before you give away some plot details – very professional.

Unfortunately the no-spoiler effect is somewhat ruined if next to the story is a honking great picture of…um, someone.

It’s the Face of Boe I feel sorry for, you understand, not me.