Posts from August 2006
sugar and spice – Cryan shames
Step back in time – Kylie
Your Honor – Regina Spektor
Noyfriend – Shimura Curves
Movin Day – Holy Modal Roundels
Never accuse over-priced stationer Paperchase of tardiness – the very second the season flipped over from the death-throes of Summer to crispy fresh Autumn, the window display in the Tottenham Court Road branch had an instant revamp. Any schoolchild who left their purchase of a new Back To Skull pencil case to the last minute will now encounter a rather different marketing strategy, aimed not at them but at the great unwashed student demographic, leaving home for the first time on their quest for cheap beer and new friends who will never know about that embarrassing incident in infant school when they ended up having to go home wearing the spare pants from the lost property bin.
Top Marx stationery will no doubt ensure our universities will churn out even more filthy commies than they do at the moment. Or possibly incite a bloody revolution, forcing everyone to file their course notes in some glorious new egalitarian manner. Fidel might be on his last legs but in the world of A4 ring binders, communism still lives!
First appearance at Number One for this hardy perennial: probably the best version to reach the top, which is saying something about the others as I still can’t stand it. The charm of the Beatles’ original – yet another Beatles song about togetherness, friendship, the importance of not being lonely – is that it’s Ringo singing it, and he’s not very good at singing so the help is tangibly needed.
So what happens when a great bluesy ox of a singer gets hold of it? The track gets quite a lot longer, and a great deal louder, and you can feel the charm being steamrollered out: who needs charm when you have force on your side? Ian Macdonald in Revolution In The Head mentions that the song became an anthem for “Woodstock Nation” and it certainly has an epic quality: everything in the song is massive, with Cocker’s performance probably the subtlest thing here. He stumbles and howls convincingly, but I still can’t help but regret that a sweet and hopeful song has got this Samson in the temple treatment. For me it’s an illustration of Cover Version Rule#1: if you slow something down, it becomes more serious. But that doesn’t make it more meaningful, and it surely doesn’t make it better.
Just started reading Dominic Sandbrook’s White Heat – as with the previous volume (a third is planned on the 1970s, hurrah), the anecdotes and local colour are easily as interesting as the analysis.
– Mary Whitehouse: ‘she especially criticised Doctor Who for its reliance on “strangulation – by hand, by claw, by obscene vegetable matter”‘
– The 1964 election campaign: “The greatest debacle, however, was Home’s final set-piece speech of the campaign at the Bull Ring in Birmingham, where the Prime Minister was systematically shouted down by hundreds of hecklers shouting “Tories out! We want Wilson!”…To make matters worse, he was also confronted by an alarming apparition in the front row of the crowd: a Homosaurus, a cardboard monster with ‘the body of a prehistoric reptile and the face of Sir Alec’. It was hardly surprising that, with the Homosaurus staring back at him, he should have found it so difficult to quell the hecklers.”
He also has a very good nose for the slightly clunky feel that a lot of 1960s public language has – caught halfway between Pathe News RP and a newer, more informal type of discourse. (Rejected 1964 election slogan: Tories Dodgy – Labour Swinging).
If you want an illustration of how much closer together the pop world of the 1960s seems compared to today’s, consider this sequence of events:
1. Teenage girl wins reality TV talent show.
2. Member of most famous and respected band in the country offers her a contract on an extremely high-profile new indie label.
Another week, another new big idea from the drinks giants – Smirnoff Source is that holy grail of the alcopop sector, booze water. Or “alcoholic sparkling water” to give it its full title. Aside from the sparkling element yr reaction is obviously: OK, just add water to vodka. Except don’t, because it tastes very nasty. But there’s a flavour element here too – it’ll come in lemon and orange flavours, with hints of the fruit.
This could potentially solve a major problem with alcopops: they are, in general, way too sweet and sickly. On the other hand I liked the idea of lightly flavoured non-alcoholic water too (Evian Twist Of Lime or whatever its called) – which are all catastrophic because the sweeteners are so strong in the flavour, much beyond the fruit. Since just squeezing a lemon into a glass of water produces very refreshing and tasty results I’m not sure why this is so difficult to get right. But I digress.
There is potential for Smirnoff Source – if Diageo’s other big launch (the boozy smoothie Quinns) succeeds it’ll confirm to the industry that there’s a market for less sweet and more natural flavours in the world of booze-that-doesn’t-taste-like-booze. They’re talking up Source as a refreshing competitor for lager, not as a rival to alcopops, which may just be brandshare protection for Smirnoff Ice but is going in the right direction.
UK readers will have to wait a bit to find out if they’ve got it right as Smirnoff Source is only being launched in Texas. (Fact of the day: alcopops are called malternatives in the US. Ew.)
Good ole whassisname. Libyan President. It changes a bit. Well here is how much it changes, from The Straight Dope. Why did I need to know? I guess because of the Opera which Asian Dub Foundation and the ENO have been kicking around like a football for ages, finally leaping on to stage next week.
So for your delight and delectation: here are the 32 Western spellings from the US Library Of Congress records**.
As soon as Flav appears after 6 seconds of, even for Anthrax, ridiculously fast heavy drumming, you knew something was up. This track takes the idea that Aerosmith and Run DMC (quite literally, in the case of the video, of course) had broken down the walls between Rock and Rap five years earlier and shows them up for the chancers they were. In barely three minutes of actual songy bit (excluding the pissing about at the end) Anthrax and PE Changed Metal Forever. OK, so admittedly this eventually led to Fred Durst, but it wasn’t their fault, there’s more ENERGY and EXCITEMENT in this one song than pretty much everything we would come to call nu-metal.
One of these people directed Volver. The rest are in it. Can you guess who is who?
There’s a little to admire about “Hey Jude” but almost nothing to love. For a start, it’s far too long: the most obvious of criticisms, yes, but the last two or so minutes of the coda are pure baggage, the sound of a band imposing themselves just because they can. The song comes from the start of the Apple period, in fact it helped launch the boutique label: that may explain why they wanted to get something Big onto the market, but the length of “Hey Jude” just wastes its expertly constructed build-up. It’s also from the era when Paul McCartney was trying hard to persuade the Beatles back on the road – for a non-touring outfit to invent the lighters-out stadium ballad is ironic, if not cruel. McCartney’s excruciatingly well-drilled “Joo-joo-judy-jude” yowls as the coda starts give some hint of how lucky the world was that the other three resisted his plans.
Lop the end in half and the rest isn’t so bad. “Hey Jude” crystallises a lot of familiar Beatley themes – you’re not alone, you don’t have to be ashamed of needing help, some of that help is best found in a huge great singalong. The track has undeniable weight but I always feel a little sorry for Jude, who starts off getting an avuncular chat and ends up squeezed in the world’s biggest bear hug. The song is at its prettiest and most effective when it’s at its most conversational – “Hey Jude, you’ll do” – but that delicate balance of intimacy and inclusiveness doesn’t last. If you’re looking for a Beatles singalong, “Yellow Submarine” is catchier, funnier, less bludgeoning and more adaptable.