Posts from November 2011

Nov 11

CSI Antarctica

Do You See + FT16 comments • 1,664 views

It was always going to be hard pleasing me with a Thing remake. The John W. Campbell short story it’s based on was the subject of the inaugural episode of A Bite of Stars, a Slug of Time and Thou. Not having read it before then, I immediately took to its tight-knit team of scientists whose ability to rationally work through the horrific problems that increasingly beseige them is undermined by the M.O. of The Thing: it can become someone so completely that the victim may not even be consciously aware that he is no longer himself.

Every Thing fan who hasn’t read Ann Billson’s wonderful BFI book on John Carpenter’s The Thing should do so immediately; I quibble with Billson here and there but it’s a pleasure to read a good writer given free rein to create a searching, detailed love-letter to the object of her obsession.

The review you’re reading right now is not, unfortunately, that.


Nov 11

What Is The New Rock’N’Roll?

FT//20 comments • 807 views

On the “No Limits” thread I was reminded that it’s been almost 20 years since first comedy and then computer games were the new rock’n’roll. Are they still, I wondered? Surely the meme has spread, mutated and diversified since then? BOY WAS I RIGHT.

In the poll below you will see the first-page results of a Google search for “the new rock n roll”, in order. Hats off to the magical SEO monkeys of theosophy! Comedy is still flying the new r’n’r flag, thanks to Jimmy Carr: everything else is testament to the enduring (albeit tongue-in-cheek) pull of one of the great bullshit phrases of the 90s. All you have to do is vote for which of these pretenders is the real thing.

Which of these is actually the new rock n roll?

  • Maps 24%
  • World Sheep Dog Trials 23%
  • Knitting 16%
  • Theosophy 12%
  • Comedy 9%
  • Economics 4%
  • British Poetry 4%
  • Entrepreneurialism 3%
  • Transport 3%
  • Dance 1%

Total Voters: 95

Poll closes: 2 Dec 2011 @ 15:23

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2 UNLIMITED – “No Limit”

Popular111 comments • 9,668 views

#685, 13th February 1993

Delicious pop memory: Tony Parsons casting this song as an outrider of apocalypse on some late night culture or news show. He read out the lyrics slowly, in a tone of profound regret – how far had we fallen when this.. this thing could stand in for pop?


Popular ’92

Popular92 comments • 4,477 views

I give a mark out of 10 to every track – this poll is for you to tick all the songs you’d have given 6 or more to, and you can discuss the year in general in the comments box.

Which of these Number Ones Of 1992 would you give 6 or more to?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

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A year of few number ones, though it took me an age to finish. My highest marks were 8 for Shakespear’s Sister and Charles And Eddie; lowest was a 2 for Wet Wet Wet. Onwards!

Nov 11

I am the 0.00000001 percent

FT48 comments • 5,952 views

“Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny.” As [Uncle Andrew] said this he sighed and looked so grave and noble and mysterious that for a second Digory really thought he was saying something rather fine.

As I gave Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” an easy ten on Tom’s Popular thread I’d probably better expand — as usual, other people’s comments help me think this through, especially when they’re subtly wrong in ways that nevertheless seem self-evidently right. I think Lex is right about the bludgeoning, for example, but not the bludgeonee: and I think wichita lineman is right about the unconvincingness, but entirely wrong about any insincerity. punctum is absolutely correct about the performance as an evasion; the deep question — impossible to answer, essential to explore — being how much of this effect is conscious, how much an unconscious matter of singer’s identification with role.

I’ve alread tied this into the aria in the film Diva: I haven’t the slightest idea whether that film was in Whitney’s head, still less anyone else on the production team, but I think it has useful explanatory value all the same. To prove this I’m going to triangulate it with (i) John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band LP (though haha the two Unfinished Music LPs also totally fit, just go look up their titles when you’ve finished reading this), and (ii) Queen Elizabeth the First of England and Scotland.


Nov 11

WHITNEY HOUSTON – “I Will Always Love You”

Popular167 comments • 12,261 views

#684, 5th December 1992

If there’s a single technique which – however unfairly – defines 90s and 00s soul music for the British public, it’s melisma, and if there’s a single record that cemented that link, it’s “I Will Always Love You”, at number one for a whole winter, by the end of which it was fixed as either one of pop’s all-time great love songs or one of its most reviled dirges.

Certainly it took me a very long time to scrape away that reflexive distaste and try and listen to the record fresh. There’s no denying that Whitney Houston uses the song as a vocal gymnasium, but the repertoire she shows off isn’t just note-bending and belting. She goes hushed too, clips syllables when she needs to, and lets words drain out into sadness as often as she sets them spinning. As a rule she sustains the “I”s – an unwavering blast of strength – and goes to polysyllabic bits at the end of each “you”, which seems fair enough since the you is the lover she can’t hold onto and must walk away from. Like most songs damned as melismatic showboating there’s plenty of thought involved: technique is hardly ever ‘just’ technique.


Nov 11

Feelings are boring, synth lines are awsome

FT9 comments • 843 views

I am a great believer in seasonal music, from the laid-back summer beach track to the frenetic late-season club banger, giving way to the Winter Party Anthem. This last one is no doubt due to my feelings for the season but I doubt I’m the only person to find early dark and city lights and the crisp of frost in the air exciting- my favourite view is the lights down Penglais Hill to the storm-drenched seafront, salt freezing on the wind and smearing the lamps into streaks of brightness. This year Diwali seemed to indicate a final end to the overstretched summer, bypassing autumn entirely like some seasonal divination- the temperature finally dropped and my refusal to get my coat out before November seemed foolhardy for the first time*. Then the clocks went back, I was going to work in the dark and even if my scarf was making me sweat it was with some relish that I opened my music library to dig out the tracks designed for breathing slightly boozy clouds of condensation into your collar, waiting for the tube.

Some acts seem to “get” this- even if they don’t, there’s always a plethora of tracks that do. It’s just possible I’m imagining the season, picking up on tracks I like and projecting them onto the lights over Hammersmith bridge like an emotional batsign but it does seem to be that out of the darkness and mist comes something potent and palpable. If nothing else, a cynical attempt at being the track played at every new year’s party.

The important thing is that these tracks are in a cold climate- none of the summer sweaty closeness, although they’re quite intimate in a ‘piling into the warm’ way- but they aren’t unhappy. They might have a tinge of sadness in the way a lot of songs about going bonkers on the dancefloor do but they’re not unhappy (unlike Sad Songs In Snow which are a different, although equally wonderful, thing entirely) and they’re keen to be your friend.


Nov 11

Pandemonium – A Book of Stories from the center of the yikes (shameless plug)

FT1 comment • 520 views

Firstly, an apology: this is a post in which I am unambiguously trying to promote something – my shaky defense is that it is primarily the work of other, very talented people, and that it is a project with which I am very proud to be associated.

The freshly minted Pandemonium Fiction have compiled an anthology of new short stories to tie in with the John Martin exhibition at Tate Britain – the one that Mark talks about below.  The editors have gathered both up-and-coming and wholly established names, who between them have produced an smartly varied collection of stories on, well, the end of the world.  And its terrific.