Posts from November 2008

30
Nov 08

I’ll show you to my bredren

FT2 comments • 194 views

“Am I allowed to swear?” Estelle is back in London after a European tour, and the deafening Indigo2 soundsystem is determined to help her mark out her territory from the off. She is decked out in an eye-watering sequinned dress (which worryingly seems to form a picture of Sinead O’Connor) and two-tone high heels, and proceeds to gleefully say ‘shit’ every other word, knowing full well that her entire family are in the audience. I’m sure she will wash her mouth out as soon as the gig is over.

28
Nov 08

THE POLICE – “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”

FT + Popular40 comments • 3,253 views

#467, 27th September 1980

A cold, claustrophobic record, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” picks meticulously over a grim situation – the interest of a young teacher in a much younger pupil. Sting’s director’s eye takes in staffroom dynamics, teen social hierarchies and the teacher’s own self-consciousness as he reaches in horror for the inevitable literary reference. Unlike many of Sting’s clunkers, the “Nabokov” lyric is in-character, and quite clever: the teacher’s avoidance of the fatal L-word is an attempt to duck the self-condemnation he knows is his due. Sting still sounds a little pleased with himself but it’s hardly a deal-breaker.

27
Nov 08

Don’t They Know It’s The End Of The World?

FT + The Brown Wedge13 comments • 1,632 views

With Rubicon and Persian Fire, Tom Holland proved himself a master of narrative history with a sizeable weakness for relating the ancient world to the modern. His third history blockbuster, Millennium, dials back the parallels but finds its narrative coherence threatened.

It’s still a very readable and interesting book – a thorough exploration of a relatively obscure period in European history, covering the time from the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 to the culmination of the First Crusade in 1099. Holland doesn’t dwell on either event, looking instead to less well-known – but more crucial – turning points: the victory of Otto over the Hungarians at the Battle of Lech; the rise to power of the Abbey of Cluny; the humbling of Emperor by Pope at the fortress of Canossa, which Holland contends represents the crucial division of Church and State on which Christendom was founded.

Woolworths RIP

FT17 comments • 673 views

I’m sure there’ll be a lot about Woolies on various blogs today: time here simply to note its role in the early 00s pop boom. For some value of “boom”: the singles market in the time just before downloads was a) tiny and b) dominated by Woolworths as the emerging supermarket chains mostly stuck to albums. I remember reading somewhere that 40% of all singles were sold through Woolworths in the early part of the decade, which would have made their central buyers the most important men in pop (defining pop, which nobody really did by then, as ‘what gets into the charts’). Since Woolworths worked to their OWN singles chart – determined on the Monday of release via pre-orders, market expertise, the operation of a ouija board, etc. – rather than the official one, this had a significant impact.

Woolworths downsized its singles displays a few years ago, though I think they still stocked physical singles: their closure is surely the real actual last nail in the coffin of the physical single as anything other than a specialist format (indie 7″s, dance 12″s, etc.).

26
Nov 08

KELLY MARIE – “Feels Like I’m In Love”

FT + Popular98 comments • 4,236 views

#466, 13th September 1980

One of the things that gives 1980’s number ones a queer, lopsided aspect is the way there’s not much of a middleground between hits which emerged more or less direct from youth subcultures and those shepherded into popularity by the likes of Noel Edmonds. In particular the pre-teen and tween market seems pretty dead at this point. This void would soon be filled with sound and light and ribbons and stripey noses but meanwhile pop was the stamping ground of young adults and not-so-young ones, a world in which hormone rushes had been replaced by messily consequential relationships.

25
Nov 08

Waltz! with Martin Bashir

FT3 comments • 272 views

In which the somewhat feeble journalist, coasting on past “not exactly glories”, goes undercover on the next series of Strictly Come Dancing. Unfortunately not being au fait with the current scandal on Strictly he does not realise that pretending to be one of the ugly ones out of East 17 is a pointless disguise. Indeed ex-ITV journalists are positively welcomed on Strictly Come Dancing. Nevertheless, as revealed in this groundbreaking documentary for Sky 2, Waltz! with Martin Bashir, will show that the judges eat babies, the pro-dancers are all genetically modified gazelles and Tess Daly is a man in drag.

Despite being presented by Martin Bashir, I think I would rather see Waltz! with Martin Bashir over Waltz With Bashir.

22
Nov 08

W. Was A Brolin Stone (Production)

Do You See + FT3 comments • 236 views

There are two great, if not stone cold classic, aspects to Oliver Stone’s W. Put aside the fact that Stone has somehow managed to wander back from the wilderness of his own self-indulgence and succeed in making entertaining a film no-one really wanted to see, there are two things which will make this seemingly ephemeral election stunt film linger in film history. The first is simply the central performance. Josh Brolin is mesmeric in the lead role. Is he playing George W. Bush? Not for a minute. Most of the time he seems to be channelling Dennis Quaid with a Bush accent at his most starry, perhaps Quaid was injected in his Inner Space capsule and is controlling Brolin. That might explain how Brolin has gone from shitty bitty parts and bad guys two years ago into this confident, bulletproof performer. But there is never a moment in this film you don’t want to watch him. He oozes unpredictability in a role which is all about the predictable. We know what happens, we know when it happens and we have pretty firm ideas how it happens (which the film is in no hurry to disagree with). And yet in making George W.Bush not necessarily sympathetic, but endlessly watchable Josh Brolin is really just saying how great he is. And I would rather watch a proper star play with an audience than an impersonation any day.

But this hints to the other area of greatness in W. When Oliver Stone announced the project, it was easy to imagine what he might turn out. Released a few weeks before the election to remind Americans of the terrible mistakes they had made in the previous elections, W. clearly had to be a partisan Democrat’s film bashing the Republicans.

21
Nov 08

THE JAM – “Start!”

FT + Popular61 comments • 3,412 views

#465, 6th September 1980

Not everyone in 1980 wanted to break from the past, but “Start!” is more than just recycling – in fact it’s one of Weller’s more experimental hits. The “Taxman” riff holds the track together, taking the place of a chorus, lending beat and muscle to an otherwise piecemeal record. There’s not even an attempt to disguise the source – especially as one of the fragments the riff glues together is a solo lifted nakedly from the same place. Playing this unifying role the “Taxman” lift is working like sampled breaks will come to operate – and in fact the beatwork is the star of “Start!”, those urgent, clipped shakers and brushes upping the track’s momentum considerably.

20
Nov 08

DAVID BOWIE – “Ashes To Ashes”

FT + Popular105 comments • 2,910 views

#464, 23rd August 1980

One metatextual break-up record succeeds another: but here David Bowie is breaking up with himself, and pop is breaking up around him, its structures fragmenting and sickening as the track lurches on. The music is a patchwork – snips and echoes of riffs or phrases jabbing across each other, somehow resolving into a song. Bowie himself starts to sing unsustainably high, his vocal line tumbling down and melting on re-entry – “Do you remember a guy that’s been” sounds like “Duhyuh remember agatherspear…”. Where you can decipher them the words are paranoid cut-ups or just nonsense playground rhymes like the chorus – “funk to funky”?

19
Nov 08

The weather is actually never mentioned

FT1 comment • 252 views

Jamel DebbouzeHenri Bergson, in his 1901 essay Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic, says that all comedy can be boiled down to noticing mechanical behavior in something living. Laughter is an acknowledgement and reminder to ourselves (and others) to be more sensitive to reality – to try to follow the real contours of life as they happen instead of following some predetermined pattern.

The mind, distracted by something, fails to notice the lamp post, and the body – in its mechanical way – just keeps on going.

There’s little that French people laugh at more loudly than seeing someone stumble into something, and though there’s not much physical stumbling in Agnès Jaoui’s new movie Let’s Talk About the Rain, there’s an awful lot of the metaphysical kind.