Posts from October 2016
The Queen Of The Damned soundtrack, released later in 2002, is a fearful pile of tosh, a body count of nu-metal second-raters which illustrates a dilemma the film didn’t totally resolve: just which children of the night was this thing aimed at – nostalgic goths, or their snarling mallrat stepchildren? Through the film stepped Aaliyah, ignoring the question by offering a third option. Recently dead, a bigger star than ever, her immortal character moved like “More Than A Woman” sounded – seductively unnatural, a vision of skin and metal animated in Ray Harryhausen stop-motion.
This is our only meeting with Aaliyah, but it’s not a typical Aaliyah single: she didn’t make those, the smooth adaptability of her singing encouraging collaborators to push their margins. And speaking of collaborators, it’s also our first directly credit encounter with Tim Mosley, Timbaland, who took her as one of his muses. We’ve glimpsed Timbaland by reflection, via imitators and co-creators, and even here he’s occluded – co-writer Static Major heard the original “More Than A Woman” and felt he could do more with it.
Implicitly, it’s Static Major we have to thank for the song’s lushness, breaking off from Aaliyah’s two previous Timba-produced tracks, the playful “Try Again”, garlanded with acid squelches, and the bubbling, desperate paranoia of “We Need A Resolution”. Brilliant, but emotionally ugly and self-lacerating, that song had been only a modest hit. After finishing the vampire flick, Aaliyah shot a video in the Bahamas for a more conventional follow-up, gorgeous R&B sex jam “Rock The Boat”. She took a plane back to the States. It crashed on take-off. All nine aboard died.
It seemed appropriate to return to writing with a piece about the refurbed (although that’s an understatement) Fitzroy Tavern and my continuing love/hate relationship with Sam Smiths. Huge swathes of the pub writing on FT is about Sam Smiths back to, at least, sixteen years ago (Was our Pete the first pub blogger? Yes, yes he was) and six of our twenty five Pubs of the 00s were Sam Smith’s houses, but I’ve not set foot in one of their establishments for a couple of years and not been a regular visitor for much longer. This is partly having more money to spend on beer, partly the increase in excellent places to drink excellent beer in central London but mainly a disdain for Sam Smith’s actions as a company (and Humphrey Smith in particular), whether it was closing a pub on New Year’s Eve because the landlord was selling full pints, kicking people out of a Soho pub for kissing or just replacing the wheat beer glasses so they are pint to brim. And that’s before we get to the farcical situation in Tadcaster where the brewery objected to replacing a bridge (which they’ve just backed down from).
I’d heard that the Fitzroy had reopened after a year and then Eve’s blog post about Sam Smith’s popped up in my twitter feed (thanks Boak & Bailey!). So when we were deciding which pub to go to for our regular Friday evening drinks I suggested we met there.
“All magic — I repeat, ALL magic, with no exceptions whatsoever — depends on the control of demons. By demons, I mean specifically fallen angels. No lesser class can do a thing for you. Now, I know one such whose earthly form includes a long tongue. You may find the notion comic.”
“Let that pass for now. In any event, this is also a great Prince and President, whose apparition would cost me three days of work and two weeks of subsequent exhaustion. Shall I call him to lick stamps for me?”
— James Blish, Black Easter or Faust Aleph-Null (pub.Faber & Faber 1968, p.25-26 Penguin Edn, 1972)
A man discovers that recent deeds have created for him a fierce and a bitter enemy. Sinister events unfold and it becomes clear a fatal spell has been cast. If it is not lifted, the man will die, rather horribly. In the event, friends are able to help, forestalling the danger and defeating the terrible foe. Victory is theirs — but at cost of their best opinions of themselves. No longer can they quite self-describe as decent, rational, civilised, ‘modern’. They have become what they fought.
More Ghost Stories, the collection containing M.R.James’s ‘Casting the Runes’ was published in 1911; Life’s Handicap, the collection containing Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Mark of the Beast’, was published in 1891. The short summary in the paragraph above accurately describes both stories.