Posts from June 2014
All Saints’ pitch to be the classier girl group option rested on several things: their fashion sense, their songwriting, their metropolitan sophistication. But also their comfort with R&B – British cool, not for the first time, was being underwritten by familiarity with the music of black America. So “Bootie Call” is All Saints’ tilt at a straightforward, state-of-the-art, late 90s R&B single. It almost works.
Sometimes you’re reading a book for purely aimless diversion and it strikes you that someone — some book-burrowing Arne Saknussemm — was there before you. I can’t really claim that C.S. Lewis ever read Donald S.Johnson’s Phantom Islands of the Atlantic: the Legends of Seven Lands that Never Were (since he died some three decades before its 1994 publication), but I am morally certain he had visited some of Johnson’s sources, long before Johnson.
“You can interpret the lyrics,” huffed a Nazi goon caught nicking this song for the BNP’s website, “any way you want.” The specific double meaning of “if I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists” eludes me, but it’s true enough that the Manic Street Preachers’ lyricists had a taste for the oblique. Simple polemic was rarely their style: on their early records they favoured harsh, dense word-blocks, crushed by the transition to song into something barely singable, their uneasy imagery delivered by James Dean Bradfield as a compressed bark. But for all their rough treatment, the words mattered – for The Holy Bible the band took out double-page ads printing the record’s scorched, self-lacerating lyrics in full. They made records About Things, things number ones only occasionally break bread with: self-harm, depression, the decline of class consciousness. And here, apparently, the Spanish Civil War.
Well, friends – here we are at the end of the series. Most of the loose ends have been tied up, and I take back last week’s grumble regarding frustrating cliff-hangers. For the most part, I’ve been vastly impressed by the showrunners’ interpretation of A Song Of Ice And Fire, particularly their ability to condense hundreds of pages, axe dozens of characters, change fairly significant details and still remain totally loyal to the best parts of the plot. I still find this show highly problematic and wish some things had been done differently, but I don’t think it’s necessary or wise to flog a dead Dothraki horse. The Children provided resolution to the major story arcs, sent nearly everyone across their own personal Rubicons, and looked frigging impressive while doing so.
Bonjour mes amis! With all the thrill of the Pop World Cup you may have missed that there’s actually another kind of World Cup happening at the moment, related to a sport called football! And whether like me you’re in Paris for work, or just fancy a holiday so you can yell at the screen Abroad rather than At Your Local, here is a non-French-speaking guide to watching the World Cup in Paris.
Whom to root for
(In descending order. For matches between teams on the list, go with the higher-ranked of the two.)
- France: Obviously.
- Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire: Or as they’re known here, “basically France from before”. (Is this true? Not in the slightest! Does this matter? Also not in the slightest!)
- Belgium, Switzerland: Automatic approval of anywhere else where French is an official language.
- The Netherlands: The French electorate may disapprove of Hollande but Parisians apparently love Holland (I have no idea why, possibly just Van Persie’s glorious header winning all our hearts).
- Whoever happens to be playing Germany at the time: You’re not the boss of Europe, Angela!!!
Where to watch
As the weather is nice and literally everywhere is showing la Coupe de Monde, every twenty feet or so you’ll find a tabac with a terrasse and wine for less than €3 a glass. Sit in a corner table with a good view of the screen and click your teeth when tall thin disaffected men with scarves and cigarettes stand in front of you to chat about, who knows, Sartre or Proust or something.
During halftime some locals may attempt to engage you in conversation. Look apologetic and struggle through a short conversation about what you think is team affiliation: “Oh, oui, Uruguay, oui!”. Later discover you have inadvertently claimed to be from Montevideo.
After the second half the locals may invite you to come along to their friend’s bar for the 12am England match, as the tabac is closing. Agree enthusiastically with a pleased air of international friendship and solidarity. Everyone will head outside and immediately all pile into a car, leaving you slightly nervous but unable to politely refuse due to previous enthusiasm. Wonder what the Parisian equivalent of Zone 5 is and whether you will soon find out. Feel relieved but extremely bemused when the driver goes 100 yards in a straight line and everyone hops out again.
At the second location there may be the opportunity to bet on the game behind the bar. Place €2 on England with the expectation of losing but the faint vague hope of making back enough for une verre du vin (€3.19). When you return from the bar, a bottle of rough house red will have appeared on the table, as well as birthday cake for one of the locals. Text a friend to ask if they want to come along: “at a bar somewhere in the 11th or poss 20th, on big road, blue door, looks closed but we’re in here!!” Friend somehow figures out which bar you mean and makes it inside; assume this is universal Parisian superpower.
Accidentally lock yourself in the toilets and emerge ten minutes later to the entire bar smirking at you. Mumble something stroppy about Lafayette and Washington and sit down.
At the end of the match, dramatically tear up your reçu de €2 and say: “Ugh, Rooney.” Everyone will nod in agreement and sympathy.
Try to think of any French players’ names to discuss and fail.
Say feelingly, “Poor Casillas.”
Everyone will nod.
Key vocabulary words and phrases
La balle: Ball
Un but/le gardien: Goal/goalkeeper
Le arbitre: Who is this idiot?
Le, uh, de Angleterre, you know, Monsieur Rooney: The England team
Larmes de Ronaldo: One of the most glorious sights of the tournament
Le prolongation: Overtime (or indeed regular time depending on how poorly your team is playing)
Ce un coup!: Holy shit, that was a beautiful shot!
Vraiment? (delivered witheringly): Stop rolling around like a prat, he barely touched you.
Xaviiiiiiii: Wail of dismay from Spain supporters (obsolete)
- Coronations are dull things
- You read enough Vertigo comics in your youth (or, last week) and you have had sufficient for the next decade of ingénue audience identification figures having a world of wonder shown to them by an unreliable trickster.
- You’re no longer in your late teens, and you’re a little irked at another piece of culture that insists that the secrets of life and the universe are locked in hearts that, looking back, you remember as a little underdone.
The Wicked And The Divine #1, by Freaky Trigger friends and favourites Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, is out this week. There’s going to be a bit of coverage of it here, partly because I interviewed Gillen and McKelvie about it last week for Pitchfork and the full transcript is long and interesting. But mostly because it’s a very good comic, which promises to use pop and pop stardom to tell a story about life and death.
I wanted to have time to write a proper review, but I want to have time for a lot of things, and I don’t always get it. So instead here are twelve excellent things about the Wicked And The Divine #1, arranged to give an illusion of coherence.
THE PREMISE: What first excited me about WicDiv (as the kids might be calling it) was the simple conceit. 12 gods are resurrected on earth every 90 years – this time it’s as pop stars. Fun, high concept. But look at what’s being claimed here: the Gods aren’t coming back to Earth as actors or, god help us, entrepreneurs. They’re pop stars – recognisable modern stars as well as archetypal ones. So the comic makes an argument that pop IS vital in 2014, that pop stars CAN be as vibrant and life-changing as they ever were. As a pop fan, that thrills me.
All the other eleven things include SPOILERS – don’t read the rest of this piece before you’ve read the comic!
It’s wall-to-wall Wall action this week, with Jon Snow ‘n’ Pals finally facing Mance Rayder’s United Army of Free Folk. There’s not actually a lot of story to tell (or recap) to be honest. It is, however, visually a stunning episode, reminiscent of S02E09’s “Blackwater”. On the plus side, it’s fast-paced and packed with fierce battling and derring-do, but on the bigger minus side, the cliff-hanger ending was beyond vexing in a way I can’t elaborate on without massive spoilers for possibly the last episode or maybe even next year. This is the crux of my beef: the Wall’s storyline has been moving glacially all season and even with an entire show dedicated to this story arc, where things happen loudly and bloodily, the end is unsatisfyingly vague and it’s just not good enough, dammit!
“No Matter What” has an elevated position in Boyzone’s catalogue. It’s their big crossover hit, the one by songwriters of real mass-appeal pedigree – Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman – and the only one to have done well in the USA. You might see it as Boyzone asking to be taken seriously, except it fits so well with the stately, windy ballads they were already making: this isn’t a stylistic change so much as a levelling up in songwriting competence. There’s an efficiency to the hook and a solidity to the structure here which you’d expect from two men made swinishly wealthy by their ability to pull out a show-stopping ballad.
هشت سال از صدمه هرگز من خواب – for those of you not fluent in Farsi that is (er, according to Google Translate) “Eight years of hurt never stopped me dreaming”. Yes, Iran – managed by Wichita Lineman – are back in the semi-finals of the Pop World Cup after their 2006 defeat at this stage, but standing in their way is England, managed by Ronald, at this stage for the first time in the PWC era. And whoever wins will have to take on defending champions Nigeria, aiming to make it two in a row after very narrowly beating Chile – who will fight the loser here for third.
SF2: England v Iran - Which track do you pick?
- ENGLAND: Foals 56%
- IRAN: Persian Empire ft Rai 44%
Total Voters: 89
Poll closes: 16 Jun 2014 @ 13:00Loading ...
We’ll run this game until Monday – songs under the cut and our final farewell to South Korea.»
- IRAN: Persian Empire ft Rai 44%