Posts from July 2009
So far in the video decade we’ve mostly met promo clips that enhance their records, at best bringing their imagined worlds to life, at worst providing a harmless bit of period diversion. Even when the video is absurd – Bonnie’s glowing choirboys, for instance – it’s been somehow responding to and enhancing an absurdity in the record. “Hello” is, I think, the first song to be destroyed by its video.
1984 was pop’s year of war. I’m not talking about Macca or Nena or Frankie: it was the moment I most keenly felt the charts as a battleground. There was a cosmic struggle raging in the Top 40 between the awesome and the terrible and in some huge and undefinable way it mattered which side won each week. Before this point I’d experienced the charts as a source of pleasure – the bad stuff rubbed up against the good but it hardly bothered me. After this, my concept of what pop included started to expand – the war continued but with the Sunday evening chart only one of its (many, many) fronts.
Here’s something I did for fun yesterday: a graph showing the % of UK #1 hits with female lead vocals, year by year. (Shared male/female leads counted half)*.
(Click on it if you want it a bit clearer).
The red bars are the percentage of female leads for each year. The line is a trendline – a rolling 5-year average (so it lags behind the red bar peaks).**
What does this all say?
My head that is. Ichi, the recent Japanese samurai bit of fluff is a puzzling piece. Not to be confused with the brutal, mental but considerably better Ichi The Killer by Takeshi Miike, Ichi is a gender swap run around at Zatoichi (also recently made in a lot better form by another Takeshi – beat this time). Zatoichi as you may recall, is an itinerant blind musician who is more than a bit handy with a samurai sword, and wanders feudal Japan righting confounding many a baddie with his odd excellence at swordplay. You know, for a blind man. There are plenty of stories of the underestimated blind warriors, but Zatoichi is probably the most developed (perhaps with the exception of Marvel’s Daredevil who has unfortunately by secondarily crippled by the Ben Affleck film). Anyway, what does a female Zatoichi, or daughter of Zatoichi, offer us that the big Z himself doesn’t? A commentary of the role of women in feudal Japan? A commentary of blind females in feudal Japan. Sexy swordswoman shits and giggles? Er, none of the above. Ichi mainly offers a cartoonish plot, and the character development of a hugely lame comedy sidekick character.
In the beginning was the ban. Oh, there’d been a Frankie before, and a “Relax” before, but the ban was the B of BANG!, that Paul Morley-driven hyperconcept which when completed would lead to….. well, something. (A computer game, as it turned out.)
The ban, of course, was consensual. Relax, in its flesh-and-leather sleeve, ached for punishment – as public and official as possible. Mike Read duly doled some out. The record became an instant legend and soon had the sales to match the publicity. Classic McLaren playbook, as many a veteran must have pointed out. And the really clever thing was, when you played it it was hardly obscene at all: its filth was all in the aura and the rumour.
Cheese stats: A soft raw-milk cow’s cheese from Lyon, France
Bought from: Une Normande à Londres
This is a small round cheese, packed in its own little clay dish, pale and creamy with a white bloom on the outside. Breaking into it was harder than anticipated – it looks like a cream cheese – and the cheese was firmer and more elastic than anticipated. That said, it’s still a soft cheese – just not as soft and squishy as it looked.
It’s tangier and sharper than expected, too, and far more bitter. There’s a strong herbal taste, and some mouthfuls taste very strongly of rosemary. If I’d been guessing about the beast this cheese was made from, I might have said goat, and not cow, because of the tanginess. It’s also quite salty and creamy, and there are slightly nutty undertones.
Cheesy conclusion: This cheese appears to be a mild-mannered little round bundle of creaminess, when sitting in its pot in the cheese stall, but was surprisingly robust when we ate it. I liked this cheese, but I ate it alongside the U Bel Fiuritu, and that totally stole the show.
Cheese stats: A soft cheese made from a blend of goat, sheep and cow milk, from Italy
Bought from: Gastronomica
This is a Three Beast Mashup Cheese, made from milk of cow and goat and sheep. I thought that it might be a bit of a stunt cheese, but it worked really well. It comes in a small round, and is creamy-white in colour. Towards the soft drippy squishy sticky exterior it tastes herbal and slightly rancid, in a good buttery way. Further inside it’s a light, fluffy – almost marshmallowy – cloud of salty creamy goodness, with a good lemonish tang that stops it being too cloyingly sweet or overwhelmingly creamy.
I can definitely detect the influence of goat in the cheese – it’s got a real tanginess – and of sheep in the creaminess. The cow contribution is harder to pin down; possibly it’s working more as a unifying influence for the other two milks.
Bad Vegan chum declares it much tastier than it looks – she was expecting something much milder.
Cheesy conclusion: I wasn’t sure if this would work, but it was both tasty and interesting.
And so its BRITAIN’S GRAND CANYON WATCH, with a new contender throwing his deep and awesome hat into the ring. Because London already has a Grand Canyone of course, which I always assumed would double nicely as BRITAIN’S GRAND CANYON. But no, apparently Deptford (and its curiously bloody sewage) has a rival in County Durham – the only English county so insecure it needs the word COUNTY in its name.
Marvel at the terrifying landscaping power of WATER, the damp destroyed. Thrill at the way it has gouged MUD (that notoriously stubborn substance) out of the local landscape. And boggle at the way the locals in the piece really think they can compare a ten foot deep trench to
a) a deep ravine
b) Niagara Falls
c) the Grand Canyon.
Frustrating thinkpiece by Ann Powers on Lady Gaga and an apparent turn to theatricality in pop. Frustrating because what I want it to do is zero in a bit more on what Gaga’s “persona” that “never breaks” is and instead it keeps trying to look outward and connect every current dot. There’s plenty of counter-trend stuff out there – worldwide, the Kings Of bloody Leon are as big if not bigger a deal than Gaga – so a macro piece like this is bound to look a bit flimsy. Powers is always insightful and there’s a bunch of good individual points but the whole feels a bit underdone to me.
“In love our problems disappear”: ever since the high days of the Beatles, Paul McCartney had a thing about love. Even after – especially after – he’d had to play the hard-nosed one and break up that band, “love” remained as a presence in his songwriting, something increasingly abstract and mystical: a universal solvent.
Future history as outlined by Google.
WORLD WAR III: Has its own Wikipedia page which is inconclusive as to whether this has already happened.
WORLD WAR IV: The “Long Struggle Against Islamofascism”. We’re apparently in this one. Though George W Bush claimed it was merely World War III.
WORLD WAR V: Feeble attempt at comedy by Uncyclopedia. Clearly they do not appreciate the severity of our war situation.
WORLD WAR VI: Took place on Club Penguin!! Digital cyberwar knows no boundaries of space, age, or numeric order.
WORLD WAR VII: Documented in song by Sum 41, this is a war between humans and genetically enhanced monsters! Hard to pick just one dispatch from this moving account but it might have to be: “Until the day a leader emerges / With mind powers like electric surges”
WORLD WAR VIII: Following this devastation the only documentation of World War VIII is a man shouting “World War Eight!” into a microphone repeatedly.
WORLD WAR IX: A hardcore band. I picked “Gangbang Island” to listen to but you might want to try something else. That’s the freedom we fight world wars to defend.
WORLD WAR X: A blog written in a strange future language. Or Finnish.