Tom Ewing

27
Feb 15

FRAGMA – “Toca’s Miracle”

Popular54 comments • 2,200 views

#856, 22nd April 2000

fragma I don’t know that turning a meat and potatoes trance tune into a dance-pop banger passes theological muster, but as pop miracles go it’s a welcome intervention. Unless, that is, you’re Coco Star, the singer whose vocals grace “Toca’s Miracle”, an unasked and – she later claimed – unpaid borrowing from her 1996 “I Need A Miracle”. “The Millennium Prayer” was cheekily fingered as the first mash-up number one: “Toca’s Miracle” has a much stronger claim. And like the bootlegs of 2002, the Internet was at the heart of it – Star says that the DJ who’d laid “Miracle” over the rather drab “Toca Me” had grabbed her vocals off a file-sharing site. Meanwhile jobbing German producers Fragma found themselves – quite by accident, since the bootleg was none of their doing – with albums and follow-ups to arrange sharpish. How much had changed since Loleatta Holloway got ripped off for “Ride On Time”? At least Star got to appear in the inevitable sleazy video.

25
Feb 15

CRAIG DAVID – “Fill Me In”

Popular87 comments • 3,094 views

#855, 15th April 2000

craig david fill As UK Garage hit its end of the century peak, three things became clear. It could ring up the hits, like no underground dance scene since hardcore rave. It was exceptionally flexible – the strains in the charts became more melodic and soulful, while elsewhere the music was getting darker, dubbier and more bass-led or more minimal and MC-driven. That was a bit like rave, too. But the third aspect of garage was not like rave at all: vocalists and rappers were central to this music, and the fans knew who they were.

An eager record industry put these three things together and saw stars. New, marketable stars, addressing the business’ long-running (and aesthetically myopic) beef with dance music – its notorious “facelessness”. The question of what to do with UK Garage and its inheritors is a subplot that plays out across this whole decade. The outcomes are mostly frustrating – potential missed or misused, bright careers fizzling out, and an overall sense of an industry that liked the idea of young, black British stars more than it supported the reality.

23
Feb 15

WESTLIFE – “Fool Again”

Popular50 comments • 1,937 views

#854, 8th April 2000

westlife fool The fifth and final number one from Westlife’s debut, “Fool Again” is an unhappy ending on every level. For once, the lads don’t realise their mistake in time to turn things round and win back their beloved. In fact – gasp – she’s found someone else, leading to a coda in which the band drop the creamy close harmonies and indulge in unrepentant yowling and breast-beating. It’s an undignified sound, but it’s the only musical distinction in “Fool Again”: otherwise we’re in well-ironed, not actively unpleasant Cheiron ballad territory. The guys are good enough anaesthetists by now that nothing grates, and perhaps if you shifted enough of the blanketing away you’d find a pea of interest in the song. But probably not.

20
Feb 15

MELANIE C ft LISA “LEFT-EYE” LOPES – “Never Be The Same Again”

Popular39 comments • 2,110 views

#853, 1st April 2000

neverbe Left-Eye first: again, a major figure in 90s American pop shows up here as a cameo on a solo Spice single. This time, at least, you’re left with some idea of what she can do. Left-Eye’s elegant doodle of a verse is dropped into “Never Be The Same Again” before the final chorus, and makes for a pleasant but slightly flummoxing cameo. It’s the most skilful rapping on a Number One for five years, it’s delightful hearing that quizzical voice hopping around her rhymes like a kid over stepping-stones, and it maintains a polite distance from the entire rest of the song.

18
Feb 15

GERI HALLIWELL – “Bag It Up”

Popular48 comments • 2,238 views

#852, 25th March 2000

halliwellbag Go back to 1998, ask people to predict what a Geri Halliwell solo record would be like, and I’d say they’d have landed somewhere close to “Bag It Up”. It’s brash, plasticky disco, noisy and cheeky: if the role-switching promo clip didn’t get people talking, her BRIT Awards emergence from between a giant pair of inflatable legs would. It’s also the closest her solo hits come to a ‘girl power’ statement (something the video directly references). But where “Wannabe” offered its tween and teen fans a vision of girls-together cameraderie, making romance an explicit second to friendship, “Bag It Up” is a bit more forthright in its demands for autonomy. “Bag it up…boot him out…wind him up… do your thing”. Throw in the reference to smash-hit 90s relationship guru John Gray (the former Maharishi disciple who cranked out fifteen Men Are From Mars… books, as psychologists despaired) and the message is clear. Relationships, in this song, really are a battle of the sexes, and Geri is determined her side are going to win.

16
Feb 15

CHICANE ft BRYAN ADAMS – “Don’t Give Up”

Popular36 comments • 1,569 views

#851, 18th March 2000

chicane I like the brusqueness – and the ambiguity – of Bryan Adams’ feelgood advice here: “Don’t worry if the sun don’t shine / You’ve seen it before.” The problem is, we’ve heard this before too – “Don’t Give Up” is an unglamorous song about the unglamorous struggle of getting things done, set to a laborious trance backing. Perhaps there’s a virtue in effort, but this isn’t the record to sell the idea: to my ears, it’s one of the most doggedly boring number ones. If “Pure Shores” was running hand-in-hand over white sands under an azure sky, this is a pebbly trudge along Frinton seafront in overcast early March. As it trots through its subdued melody and dutiful builds, I’m left thinking Chicane wouldn’t have had a sniff at the top without the gimmick of “Don’t Give Up”’s unlikely frontman.

13
Feb 15

MADONNA – “American Pie”

Popular79 comments • 3,457 views

#850, 11th March 2000

madonnapie I can’t remember, did I cry when I heard about Madonna’s “Pie”? To claim I did would be a lie, in fact I likely smiled. A dance-pop version of one of the great rock totems, by an artist on a creative roll, teamed with one of the most sympathetic producers of her career? How could it possibly fail to enrage my foes and gladden my friends? In my head existed a version of “American Pie” that had a shot at being a great single, and would at least end up a marvellous joke. Yet neither outcome came true.

12
Feb 15

I Hope You Can Kill Me Before Graduation

The Brown Wedge2 comments • 177 views

Assclass Graphic novel reviews, originally posted on goodreads.com

ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM, Vol.1 (Viz Media)

This first volume unfussily sets up the hit manga’s premise – an octopus being has destroyed the moon, then become a teacher of a remedial High School class: his pupils have a year to kill him before he destroys the Earth too. He’s teaching them to do it. There’s high concept, and then there’s Assassination Classroom. Mangaka Yuusei Matsui, sensibly enough, introduces the idea quickly and with a straight face, before getting down to showing us how the manga will actually work. It turns out Assassination Classroom is an affable, low-key kind of a comic. Koro Sensei – our tentacular antagonist – is a pretty likeable fellow, but then so are the kids trying to kill him. The introduction of Karma, a particularly devious student, ups the stakes, and tilts the volume towards being a psychological duel a la Death Note… but then he turns out to be a nice chap too. The problem, bizarrely, is that this manga about murder, teen emotion and the destruction of the Earth feels oddly low-stakes so far. It’s crisply done, though, and Matsui is obviously growing into his ideas, so worth a look to see how things develop. (3.5 stars)

11
Feb 15

ALL SAINTS – “Pure Shores”

Popular51 comments • 2,638 views

#849, 26th February 2000

pureshores Scroll through the YouTube reactions or the positive reviews of this record and one word keeps recurring: “Pure Shores” is relaxing. All Saints’ bath bomb voices meet William Orbit’s hot tub production and the result – by comment consensus – is a few snatched minutes of bliss in a careworn world. At the turn of the millennium, the stock of relaxation in music was never higher. In an earlier entry I talked about the turn of the 00s as a “self-satisfied, low-stakes” era in British pop culture, a lull between the self-consciousness of the mid-90s and the defiant fixed grins of the mid-00s. A contented kind of time embraced a contented kind of music: chillout thrived.

It wasn’t just the times, of course: the success of chillout brands like the endless Cafe Del Mar compilation series also spoke to the unshiftable fact that the original generation of British ravers wasn’t getting any younger. There was a little of the old ambient house DNA in the chillout mix – Air’s proggish synth explorations, or the puckish whimsy of Lemon Jelly. But you could draw a stronger line back to the serious-minded atmospherics of trip-hop. More importantly, the success – and global pretensions – of chillout saw it travel on paths broken by the likes of Sasha or Paul Oakenfold. Dance music culture embraced the DJ jet set, and the idea of a shrinking planet – one where you might play downtempo beats in Montevideo before hopping to Kyoto for a big room set – played a big part in establishing superstar DJ mythology. Chillout music offered the sun-kissed day to superclub nights – and its easy, weightless, cultural blends were just as much a soundtrack for a globalised world. So what did you do with your days as a traveler in Ibiza, Goa, Sydney or Madagascar? You went to the beach.

10
Feb 15

Marvel Comics: A Character Guide

The Brown Wedge1 comment • 182 views

Marvel Comics’ famed innovation in the 1960s was introducing characters who were “human” with “relatable flaws” as opposed to the super-icons of rivals DC. These relatable flaws gave each Marvel character a core storytelling drive which has sustained them for decades. In the spirit of Mark’s in-depth analysis of the Marvel Cinematic Universe cast, here is a look at the central premises of Marvel’s silver age heroes, which together span the entire range of human experience.

spider dick


Spider-Man
: Everyone thinks I’m a dick.
The Hulk: I turn into a total dick.
Fantastic Four: My colleagues are such dicks.
X-Men: People say we were born dicks.
Iron Man: I am a dick, but I try not to be.
Thor: My old man is a dick (and as for my brother…)
Doctor Strange: I can’t do this dick job.
Captain America: Am I a dick?
The Avengers: Let’s be dicks together.
Daredevil: I can’t see dick.
Nick Fury: I can’t trust any of you dicks.
Silver Surfer: What is this thing called “dick”?