Tom Ewing

14
Sep 17

EMINEM – “Without Me”

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#928, 1st June 2002

without me Eminem produced “Without Me” himself, and the sound of this song is the best thing about it, a thick, soupy, snaky bassline and a brutally four-square beat. Ironic that this is the record where he calls out Moby – “nobody listens to techno!” – as the goonish thunk of “Without Me” is the most robotic version of Marshall Mathers yet. And the least funky, not coincidentally. It’s a production stripped back to make more space for Eminem’s tongue-twisting insults, and to be as legible as possible to the army of new, white hip-hop fans he’s presuming are out there, waiting out a turgid pop landscape until their rascal prince returns.

11
Sep 17

The Dan

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Walter Becker of Steely Dan died the week before last, and so I spent last week listening to each of their seven LPs, one a day. “The rim of salt around the cocktail of my taste”, I called them on Facebook: this last week I’ve been amazed all over again by how much I enjoy them and by how divisive they are (particularly among US listeners, where they seem to be a real line in the sand, even though most of my own connections there are strongly pro-Dan).

This is a playlist I made, three tracks from each of their albums. Not necessarily my all time favourites, just the songs that stood out to me most this time through the catalogue. RIP, Walter Becker.

8
Sep 17

Love And Rockets: Notes On A Re-Reading (I)

The Brown Wedge/Post a comment • 96 views

Repurposed and edited Goodreads reviews of the Love And Rockets Library (by Los Bros Hernandez; published by Fantagraphics).

Heartbreak Soup (Gilbert Hernandez)

This is my third or fourth time reading these stories, but the first for a decade or so. No criticism here – these are foundational for me, some of my favourite ever comics. The first time I read the early stories here – 25 years ago now – I remember feeling a little sad at how quickly Gilbert Hernandez moved time forward. The world of the first Palomar story was so charming I wanted to stay there longer – but time and change, the steady accretion of consequences and histories, is the essence of both sides of Love And Rockets.

human d

31
Aug 17

LIBERTY X – “Just A Little”

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#927, 25th May 2002

liberty x The remarkable speed with which their public turned on Hear’Say left things open for readymade rivals to add a twist to the story, and Liberty X – a band of Popstars runners-up – stepped up. Their angle was obvious – you, the discerning pop connoisseur, would show yourself a better judge of star potential than “Nasty Nigel” et al, rewarding the group with the real chemistry and talent. Hear’Say had been so popular they quickly became embarrassing: Liberty X would be reality TV pop done right.

This position was greatly helped by “Just A Little”, which really was a lesson in how to build a good pop single for a lashed-together group. It did two things that winners’ singles tended to botch. It sounded like its writers had bothered to listen to music from the last few years, and the group was blessedly unable to take the dire metatextual route of singing about their gratitude for winning.

26
Jul 17

21 Lists

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A list in which the descriptions match the wrong entries.

A list in which the order is determined drunk and the descriptions are written sober.

A list in which the order is determined sober and the descriptions are written drunk.

A list in which the reader’s task is to guess what is being ranked.

A ranked, definitive and fully justified list in which the contents have been selected by lot.

A list in which the descriptions are written by ex-lovers of the voters.

25
Jul 17

RONAN KEATING – “If Tomorrow Never Comes”

Popular13 comments • 1,574 views

#926, 18th May 2002

ronan tomorrow I have been playing a lot more country music than usual lately, thanks to recommendations by wise friends of foundational albums. It seems to me that listening to country is, inescapably, listening to tradition. Country artists emerge within a tradition and while they may modernise, criticise, expand, revive, reinvent or inherit that tradition, they do not reject it. Roberto Calasso, the Italian philosopher of tradition and ritual, was talking about Vedic seers and the Catholic Church rather than Garth Brooks when he waxed lyrical about how tradition confers a gauze of quasi-mystical legitimacy on individuals and institutions, but the point applies just as well.

Calasso is no idiot – a conservative via pessimism rather than conviction, he knows full well that legitimacy and tradition are just what happens when enough people have chosen to forget past thefts and usurpations. Country music isn’t really more authentic or sincere than all the other kinds, but the investment in tradition gives it an aura of sincerity, of straight-talking honest-truthing God-fearing realness, whose aesthetics and effects are visible enough even if the aura itself is often flimsy. (Calasso understands that the gauze of legitimacy is, by its nature, quite easily shredded – he just thinks that what happens after tends to be worse. What he makes of former Boyzone singer Ronan Keating is unknown, but may be guessed at.)

What makes country music great is that this aura is itself a gateway to expression and tonal play – once the tiresome question of “do they mean it, man?” is taken off the table, the music is opened up more to camp, schmaltz, vulgarity, corn, lust, metaphysical awe and dread, and yes, honest attempts to couple with thorny adult problems and emotions, of which, whether I actually like it or not, “If Tomorrow Never Comes” is one.

18
Jul 17

HOLLY VALANCE – “Kiss Kiss”

Popular16 comments • 1,673 views

#925, 11th May 2002

valance “Freak Like Me” is a rare case where hit covers and mutations keep building on the foundations of a song, finding new things in it. At this point in pop, the opposite was more often true. “Kiss Kiss” is a good single – in the context of the charts, its dipping and rolling Turkish rhythms are delightfully fresh, a showy flourish across a grey backdrop. But hearing the singles it was based on – Tarkan’s “Simarik” and Stella Soleil’s remake of it as “Kiss Kiss” – lets you hear possibilities this version closes down.

12
Jul 17

2017 Albums I Like Part 2

FT11 comments • 576 views

horseface I am still listening to a new-to-me LP every day! A lot – in fact, most – of those LPs come from this year. So here are 30 MORE albums I’ve enjoyed a lot, in some kind of ranking. Confusingly perhaps, these are not all records released in April-June, but records I heard for the first time in April-June. That pedantic point is of interest only to me: what YOU want to know (maybe) is what these good records are.

1. HORSEFACE – Jaakausi (Charming Swedish post-rock, like a lost Too Pure signing)
2. POLO & PAN – Caravelle (Summertime bubblegum house-pop from France)
3. HAUSCHKA – What If? (Bustling future visions, like Olaf Stapledon with player-pianos)
4. JLIN – Black Origami (Intense, brain-twisting footwork epic)
5. ANGALEENA PRESLEY – Wrangled (Smart, tuneful, country; part wistful, part kick-ass)
6. SZA – Control (R&B act achieves the near-impossible by making 20something relationship angst compelling)
7. OMAR SOULEYMAN – From Syria, With Love (Does what the title says, and you could dance to it)
8. PARAMORE – After Laughter (Big, bright pop move from perennial emo kid faves)
9. OCTO OCTA – Where Are We Going? (Sparkly, expansive house music)
10. KENDRICK LAMAR – DAMN. (Hip-hop monarch embraces the banger)

10
Jul 17

SUGABABES – “Freak Like Me”

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#924, 4th May 2002

sugafreak At The Disco

A scene from Phonogram III: The Immaterial Girl, by Gillen, McKelvie and Wilson, published in 2015. It’s the early 00s, at a disco somewhere in the south of England. A group of people who love music so much it’s become their life and the tools of their craft – magic in the comic’s world; writing, DJing and blogging in ours – have been brought together to scheme and to dance. One of them is Seth Bingo, a skinny guy in a T-Shirt saying “Mutya Keisha Siobhan”. The final name is crossed out, with “Heidi” scrawled underneath. Bingo, affected but handsome in a gaunt sort of way, is talking to another thin white man, a morose husk of a creature called Indie Dave. “What is your take – “ Bingo asks – “on the Babes Of Suga?”.

“My real take?” asks Dave, “Or my ironic one?”. And so Seth Bingo lays him out with an uppercut, the art exploding in colour around the punch.

18
May 17

Alan Moore Knows The Score (It’s One Star)

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WatchmenWatchmen by Alan Moore
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Modern comics events seem to demand endless lead-ins and spin-offs, and sadly Doomsday Clock, from the blockbuster team of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, is no exception to this trend. Watchmen, the extended prequel to Doomsday Clock, feels wholly unneccessary to 2017’s much-anticipated DC Rebirth (TM) event. For a start, it’s not even by Geoff Johns – how big a clue do you need that DC see ‘Watchmen’ as simply a cash-in? The storyline has been farmed out to a British writer-artist team who are given the task of introducing us to the universe which will “collide” with the DCU in this winter’s mega-event.

It’s an important job and one which might have been suited to a special issue or even an annual-length story, but no – DC had to drag things out to 12 long issues – for comparison purposes, the Death Of Hawkman (in which Hawkman dies) was only alotted 6 issues. Watchmen includes several issues focusing on characters who don’t even survive to take part in Doomsday Clock! And don’t get me started on the sequences set on yet ANOTHER part of the DC multiverse, where pirates still rule the waves – yes, it’s a cool concept for an alternate Earth, but an editor should definitely have stepped in and asked for a bit of clarity.