Posts from March 2014

Mar 14

PWC14: Group C Finale (Japan, Cote D’Ivoire, Greece, Colombia)

FT + Pop World Cup 201418 comments • 2,104 views

shakira Welcome to the final Group C match. Let’s see how things stand.

This group is a 3-way scrap. Japan (managed by Patrick St Michel) sit precariously on top with 4 points and a strong %-point difference. Cote D’Ivoire (managed by Garry) also have 4 points, and after their win in the second game Greece (managed by Billy Dods) have 3. All of these will go through with a win, and Japan or Cote D’Ivoire will be safe with second place. Meanwhile, Colombia have 1 point, and would only go through with an outrageously unlikely scoreline and combination of results. Though in the Results section below, you’ll see that Pop World Cup miracles do happen…

Mar 14

SPICE GIRLS – “Spice Up Your Life”

Popular89 comments • 7,784 views

#775, 25th October 1997

spiceup The story writes itself: weeks of enforced grieving cast a grey spell across Britain that is broken – could only be broken – by the forces of Girl Power, in full returning cry. Pop is restored, joy is unconfined. And honestly the arrival of “Spice Up Your Life” did feel a bit like this. In just over a year the Spice Girls had become a touchstone in pop culture: Geri’s BRIT awards dress sealed that. There had been so many parodies, references and headlines that the group felt entirely familiar, looked on with the mix of fondness and complacency that gets people called “national treasures” in the long run. There would be a film, of course: nothing would seem more right and proper, except maybe the idea of their comeback single unseating Elton John and bringing the spark back to the charts. “Spice Up Your Life” enjoyed a tailwind of unusual goodwill.

Mar 14

This is no modern romance

Do You See18 comments • 3,842 views

This is a review (sort of) of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It is VERY FULL OF SPOILERS almost as much as it is full of FEELINGS. And it won’t make any sense if you haven’t seen it yet.


ELTON JOHN – “Candle In The Wind ’97” / “Something About The Way You Look Tonight”

Popular141 comments • 16,198 views

#774, 20th September 1997

citw Every Popular entry starts with the same question: why this record? This time it’s especially loud. “Candle In The Wind ‘97” is the highest-selling single of all time in the UK, almost 2 million clear of its nearest competitor. This is as big as pop gets. But “why?” might strike you as a silly question here, because its answer is so obvious: Diana, duh. So reframe it: why Diana?

The death of Princess Diana is recognisably a global news event, in the way we experience them now: the sudden in-rush of information into a new-made vacuum of speculation; the real-time grapple for meaning; and most of all the flood of public sentiment, deforming the story and becoming the story. It was also inescapable in a way nothing in my lifetime had been. But there are elements which feel very distant, and this single is one of them. It pushed the machineries of pop – literal ones, like CD presses and distribution fans, and metaphorical ones, like the charts – to their limits. HMV stores carried signs warning of a limit of 5 copies per person, and still sold out. There were reports of people buying 50 copies – for a shrine, perhaps, or just because CD singles had briefly become, like flowers and bears, part of a currency of devotion.

Mar 14

PWC14: Group B Finale (Australia, Netherlands, Spain, Chile)

Pop World Cup 201413 comments • 2,794 views

roku Welcome to the Group B finale. Let’s see how things stand.

Actually, this is a game where I wish I’d picked a less permutation-filled scoring system. Summary: everything to play for.

AUSTRALIA (Matt) have 4 points. A win or second-place means they’re home and dry.

NETHERLANDS (Job) have 3 points but a big %-of-votes lead over anyone else in the group, so in any kind of tie they will go through. A win or second-place will be fine for them too.

SPAIN (Carsmile Steve) also have 3 points. They will go through on a win, and should have a decent chance if second.

CHILE (lartsaegis) have 2 points and the simplest job: they have to go for the win. There is a potential combination which sees them go out even with a win, of course (and another where they go through with a 2nd place).

THAT’S ENOUGH PERMUTATING. Click to get to the songs, the poll, and the Group H results!

Mar 14

the shock of the library: oasis versus all of art and culture

FT31 comments • 5,217 views

george-harrison-wonderwall-music“Unless we can somehow recycle the concept of the great artist so that it supports Chuck Berry as well as it does Marcel Proust, we might as well trash it altogether” — Robert Christgau

“But rock criticism does something even more interesting, changing not just our idea of who gets to be an artist but of who gets to be a thinker. And not just who gets to be a thinker, but which part of our life gets to be considered ‘thought’. Say that – using rockers like Chuck and Elvis as intellectual models – young Christgau, Meltzer, Bangs, Marcus et al. grow up to understand that rock ’n’ roll isn’t just what you write about, it’s what you do. It’s your mode of thought. And if you do words on the page, then your behavior on the page doesn’t follow standard academic or journalistic practice, and is baffling for those who expect it to.” –Frank Kogan (responding to Xgau; update: see Frank’s comments below for link to complete piece, or go here)

“People who write and read and review books are fucking putting themselves a tiny little bit above the rest of us who fucking make records and write pathetic little songs for a living.”Noel Gallagher

Mar 14

PWC14: Group A Finale (Cameroon, Brazil, Croatia, Mexico)

Pop World Cup 201423 comments • 2,193 views

amanditititititita Welcome to our last Group A game. Let’s see how things stand.

Cameroon (managed by Chris) have QUALIFIED from the group with 5.5 points. Either they or Brazil will now top the group.

Brazil (managed by Matt DC) have 4.5 points. Anything other than last place in this game will mean they qualify no matter what other teams do.

Croatia (managed by intothefireuk) have 2 points. If they come first in this game and Brazil come last, they will qualify.

Mexico (managed by Steve M) have been ELIMINATED with 0 points.

Thanks to all the managers for some great tracks. As usual, poll below the cut, along with the nail-biting results from Group G.

Mar 14

THE VERVE – “The Drugs Don’t Work”

Popular218 comments • 12,430 views

#773, 13th September 1997

verve ddw “Whenever we played that live there would be rows of grown men crying. It was almost like these guys couldn’t cry when they needed to cry, but that song operated like a pressure valve for them and it was okay for them to cry at a big rock concert.” – Richard Ashcroft on “The Drugs Don’t Work”

The list of number ones is not a complete history of anything except itself: it’s an iceberg party, a throng of bobbing and jostling tips – rock, hip-hop, reggae, indie, cinema, politics, comedy, charity, marketing and more, each one an incomplete and distorted story. But sometimes – when a berg seems over-familiar – the tiny and partial story told by the tip can put a new spin on it.

So the rock and indie number ones of 1996-1997 have seemed to me to tell a story about anxiety, a crisis of legitimacy for rock music. “Setting Sun” brutally demonstrated that it was impossible simply to pick up where the 60s innovations had left off. “Discotheque” suggested that other musics could no longer be easily absorbed into the working practises of a rock band. And Oasis were a walking declaration that a traditional band line-up should be the centre of pop, simply by right and by confidence – and it had worked, until Be Here Now showed the limits of this fiat rock.

Mar 14

Everyone should try it

FT + The Brown Wedge2 comments • 2,585 views

I’ve spent the last month or so quarter of a year thinking a lot about what I’m going to write in my last thing about Young Avengers. I had thought I was done, mostly in the sense that although the series had more to go, I’d got so behind in writing about it and was tired and busy and things kept happening but well. Hello. This …thing. Mogolith. Whatever. Has ballooned to more than 35,000 words at one point, been stripped back down to slightly under 5,000 and encountered every state in between. It’s not definitive but I think it’s what I want to say.

Saying I’ve been thinking about it that long makes it sound like this is going to have structure and depth and insight, like Tom’s brilliant piece. I spent ages thinking about songs and themes and I thought I was keeping some rough notes about it all in my work notebook (since these things tend to come to you in flashes of brilliance during a Tuesday afternoon meeting) so that I could pull it all together when I finally bought a new computer and had a chance to write.

I looked up said notes when I started writing this, in what feels like so long ago it must have been the paleolithic era. They were a bulletpoint that said “only feels.” Well, ok.

This isn’t quite a FreakyTrigger piece. I should probably put it on my Tumblr. I kept thinking I needed to write something that wasn’t personal, to detach it but I can’t and I don’t even want to now. Tom said the proper stuff, my original remit was gross sobbing and if it’s maybe more ‘sniffly, tearful, hopeful smiling’ then that’s cus a year and a bit has gone by.

I loved Young Avengers. Some people seem to have hated it but this isn’t for them. This is thousands and thousands of words that aren’t always dead-focussed on dissecting the comic (because this isn’t Silent Witness and it’s not a review) but if you wanted meta, well that’s all you had to say.
Honesty is an entirely different matter

Mar 14

PWC14: Group H Match 2 (South Korea, Belgium, Russia, Algeria)

Pop World Cup 201413 comments • 1,407 views

jambazi Even men with steel hearts love to see a dog on the pitch – except when it holds up a vital second group game in the Pop World Cup! In this case the rogue canine was cleverly disguised as a market research conference – sorry everyone. Back now, and so are South Korea’s Iain Mew, Belgium’s Glynn, Russia’s Chelovek Na Lune and Algeria’s Katherine St Asaph. The fans went wild for Girls’ Generation – can Korea do it again, or can their rivals catch up?

Four tracks, two votes – poll below the cut, and very belated Group F results too.