Feb 13

The Matter Of Britain

Popular//41 comments • 3,706 views

The death that shocked me most that Spring wasn’t Kurt Cobain, or even Ayrton Senna. It was the passing of an owlish man in his 50s who people assumed – and hoped, in many cases – would be running the country before too long. Later on, John Smith’s heart attack became a locus for all sorts of counterfactual speculation – after the landslide of ’97 you heard people saying, well, tragic of course, you understand, but as things turned out not all for the bad…? And later – as the golden era of the Great Empathiser sank into a miasma of gossip, inertia and war – the wondering and what ifs turned sad and angry.

At the time – and since, really – what hit me was a sense of unfairness, based mainly on how hard Smith and his colleagues had worked. Also – and this didn’t last, at least not in this form – an irrational gloom, the feeling that things would never change, and that somehow the moribund, comical Tories would pull through again.

But then everything did seem to change, and quickly, with the facts of politics shifting last of all.


Jan 13


FT/1 comment • 1,432 views

(While I am in slow recovery from virus mode, here’s an article from the Tumblr vaults.)

I have been listening to the Village People’s discography recently. Village People albums may not have seemed especially good value for money, because they are all very short. But! While lesser bands might have wasted their time and yours on things like “experimentation” or “developing their sound”, every single track on the first few Village People albums sounds EXACTLY like the Village People.

That doesn’t mean the Village People can’t surprise you! On their second album there is the valuable Biblical history lesson “Sodom And Gomorrah”, for instance. “GIVE ME! JUST FIFTEEN GOOD MEN!” bellow the VPs. There is nothing quite as striking on Cruisin’ but it does have YMCA on it. If you were going to make an equation for Village People song quality it would be something like:

Q = Y

Where Q is the quality score and Y is the extent to which the song sounds like “YMCA”. So by critical science we deduce that “YMCA” itself must be of the highest possible quality, and so it is.


Jan 13

THE FT TOP 100 TRACKS OF ALL TIME No.5: Belle And Sebastian – The Boy With The Arab Strap

FT/9 comments • 1,423 views


Dec 12

Sic Transit Gloria Barlow

FT///42 comments • 1,865 views

When Was The X-Factor’s Imperial Phase?

I got bored with the recent series of the X-Factor, and I was not alone: the ratings this year have crashed by a few million. The post-mortems are beginning: the editor of the Radio Times wasted no time in crediting the Olympics and its awakening of a public desire for real heroes who train and sweat and ACHIEVE and BELIEVE. Stage school is no picnic, honey, you might reply – but the claim debunks itself anyway. The ratings crash this year is no one-off – it’s now a trend, after an even more dramatic tumble in 2011, a year with no whiff of gold.


Oct 12

Barlow Is A Feeling

FT/5 comments • 560 views

X-Factor 2012 Live Shows, Week 3

“Club Classics” week – but what could this mean, in the land of the X-Factor? If you guessed maximum rave alert, go to the back of the class. If, however, you guessed ballads and acoustic guitars, you win, and your prize is the approval of BARLOW, whose benedictions this week were in exact proportion to how unlikely you were ever to hear the music in an actual club.

We’re still in the “shaking out the no-hopers” phase of the proceedings here: it doesn’t, in the show’s narrative, matter in which order District3, MK1, Christopher, Rylan et al get the push, but drama there must be and so drama there will be.

To the disco!


Oct 12

Taking The Positives

FT/11 comments • 681 views

X-Factor 2012 Live Shows, Week 1

Last year I managed only two weeks of this before the faffery and tedium of the AGE OF BARLOW drove me away. So let’s see what happens this time. As usual I haven’t watched a second of the auditions, judges’ houses, etc – this is my first encounter with all the contestants.

The narrative around the X-Factor this year is one of decline – the show’s losing viewers, the format (apparently) feels tired. Also, while it’s the biggest entertainment TV draw in the UK just about, like Premiership football it took a bit of a moral hiding this year from sanctimonious Olympics-inspired columnists, keen to elevate people who run and jump over people who sing and dance. (Big secret: you can like both). Against the Real Role Models Of Sport the show ranges its usual parade of worthies and wasters – perhaps fewer of the latter this time, though. It also converts “Heroes Week” into “Heroes Week (Inspired By The Olympics)” though nobody does “Bonkers” so it’s no Olympics *I* remember.

So what happened?


Oct 12

Departing From The Script

FT//12 comments • 962 views

It’s time for my quarterly listen to THE UK TOP 40. Actually it was time a week or so ago but I didn’t write it up until a plane journey yesterday. So this is the Top 40 from 2 weeks ago (when our New Gangnam Overlords had only just entered at #37). As before, tracks are listed from best to worst order. No appeals allowed!

I think the number of records I liked is around the same this time as 3 months ago, but the chart feels more interesting – the grip of EDM is loosening, and it’s one of those charts which has a sense of nobody quite knowing where to go next or what’s going to work. Some of the variety is post-Olympics hang-abouts, though. Over to the countdown:


Jun 12

It’s The EDM Of The World As We Know It

FT11 comments • 1,023 views

It is time for me to get back in touch with The Kids, by listening to the UK Top 40 and putting it in order of how much I like it as I go. Best to worst.


May 12


Popular53 comments • 6,825 views

#695, 25th September 1993

At this point, what differentiates the hip-hop that tops the UK charts from the stuff which peeks in lower down is legibility: not too much slang, metaphors spelled out, a flow any kid could follow. At a time when the public face of rap in Britain was Snoop Dogg on the front page of the Daily Star – “KICK THIS EVIL BASTARD OUT!” – the material crossing over commercially wasn’t likely to cause any moral panics. So the “harder edge” promised by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince on their final album, Code Red, was highly relative.


Dec 11

The Freaky Trigger Readers’ Poll 2011

FT///7 comments • 717 views

Unlike the rest of the internet, here at FT Towers we like to make our end-of-year list at the Actual End Of The Year! And we need YOUR help to do it!

Send your top 20 tracks of 2011 to poptimistspoll2010@gmail.com* by 1am GMT on 30th December and we will post the results during the first week of January.

– ‘Tracks of 2011’ can mean something released as a single or on an album this year, or a track that emerged this year on the internet or a young person’s trendy mixtape, or singles taken from a 2010 album released this year. To be honest I will be pretty lenient about the whole business so put whatever you like.

– The order of your top 20 is important! Your #1 will be allocated more points than #20.

– If you can’t think of 20 songs then 10 or 14 or 2 is just fine.

– As per last year we are running this poll in conjunction with the Poptimists LJ community, so if you’ve already sent me your 2011 list over there, there’s no need to do so again.

That’s it! Get voting!

*Yes yes I know it’s last year’s email address. A big ‘whatevs’ to you too :)