Posts from 11th December 2003

Dec 03


Popular8 comments • 2,642 views

#64, 1st November 1957

The jangling intro and solos on “That’ll Be The Day” still sound gorgeous – assured and effortlessly pretty – but the rest of it hasn’t aged well. Liking Buddy Holly surely depends on liking that nervy gulping thing he does with his voice, and I don’t. It’s a good gimmick, it means you don’t forget the song in a hurry, but it’s a bastard to actually listen to. Aside from that the record is okay, a jaunty song sitting on a chugalug rhythm, less charismatic than most of the hits that surrounded it. Close listening shows up a load of fine band bits – the heavy dragging drums leading into the last chorus; lots of little guitar licks – but none of it really adds up to more than an honest, adequate pop record.

Of course a REAL mathematician could tell what made

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 238 views

Of course a REAL mathematician could tell what made this number special just by looking at it

THE ADVENT CALENDAR OF ALCOHOL – 11th December (10%-11%): White Zinfandel

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 3,107 views

THE ADVENT CALENDAR OF ALCOHOL – 11th December (10%-11%): White Zinfandel

Its a red grape. But its a white wine (well pink – maybe even rose). WOW!

That is not what I am going to be talking about here. If you want tasting notes there are plenty of very accomplished websites that do just that. Instead I want to talk a little bit about the logic of wine snobbery. Especially how this relates to this particular wine. The Zinfandel name, the grape variety after all, is only really twenty years old. It is this lack of age, lack of history which makes people who think they know about wine turn their well couiffured nose up at it.

Its ubiquity and popularity, especially in the US where one in ten of all wine bottles opened are White Zinfandel, is also a problem. It is a very easy drinking wine, pinky and fresh. So the complexitites are not there but let us look at what we are going to be doing with this wine. Drinking it? Drinking with food? Taking it to a party and then pulling a beer out of the fridge instead? Let the snobs be snobby, they aren’t looking for drinkable wines anyway. They are looking for exciting mouth sensations. We are looking to get tipsy. And for that, the White Zinfandel at a handy 10.5% is as close as the wine world gets to a session lager. My mum likes it, my dad likes it – and on the wine front that is pretty unheard of.

Wine snobs would not be wine snobs if they liked White Zinfandel. It would be like Michael Jackson (Beer Hunter one) proping up the bar at a Pitcher And Piano extolling the beauties of Fosters. But just because something is popular does not mean it does not have any decent properties.

Weedy Eighties White People Singing About Soul Stars #1: ABC – “When Smokey Sings”

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The history of quiffs in pop is a surprisingly long one, possibly the fault of Elvis Presley an apparently noted rock’n’roll singer. (Noted by me for future appearances here). And whilst it is a singularly ridiculous ‘do, no-one wore one dafter that the singer of ABC – Martin Fry. Blonde quiffs are risible, and Mr Fry obviously got his surname from what the best use of all the grease in his hair would be. With his gold lame suit (accent nixed purposefully from that word) he was truely one of the most sartorially criminal people in pop in the early eighties.

Not only all of that but there was obviously something wrong with his ears. For in ABC’s tribute to Motown’s Smokie Robinson, When Smokie Sings, he appears to hear something quite different to the rest of us. When I hear Smokie Robinson sing I hear a sub-par soul crooner who even Motown did not rate much and who only became famous because of Motown rationing in the early seventies meant the UK got whatever crap the US did not want. What does Martin hear?


Enthusiastic But Mediocre

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Enthusiastic But Mediocre: Edward Oculicz’ new-ish blog which I’ve been meaning to link for ages, because of the great idea he had of going round Europe comparing what’s in each country’s pop chart. Of course now I do link to him Round 1 of this international showdown is over, but instead you can enjoy his Top 25 singles of the year.

You’re either S.W.A.T. or you’re not.

Do You SeePost a comment • 727 views

You’re either S.W.A.T. or you’re not. On this evidence, I’m not.

S.W.A.T., completing Colin Farrell’s journey of being good in bad films this year (Intermission excepted), is a film that does not really know how to proceed with its premise. Its premise is of course a TV series from thirty years ago which had a decent, though painfully retro, theme tune. Its plot was simple. You have a SWAT team, and they sort out on a week for week basis a large set of unrelated but tricky shoot-out situations. Its about as bog-standard as a standalone episodic policier can be. And this is the problem SWAT has, how does it escape feeling like just another ho-hum police drama.

It tries by stapling on the “assembling the misfit team against all odds” formula to the first half of the film, and then being the best in the business who can sort out the crisis at the end, depite not being trusted. Except both of these plots are fundamentally at odds with each other. The first half plot after all is the same plot as the Police Academy films, and this certainly should not be as laughable. So instead our so-called misfits are notable for containing a crack ex-SWAT member (Farrell), a black cop (LL Cool J) and a woman (Michelle Rodriguez). We’re not talking bloke who does sound effects or tiny voiced lady.

Basically the film boils down to a few shooting set pieces and poorly judged bonding moments. An absolute mess, only slightly saved by its very charismatic cast. Andrew Farrell suggested to me that this was a film full of people who steal all the other films they are in, and that is true. They all have their moments here. But in the end, Jackson, Farrell, Rodriguez and J should use their credibility to actually get in decent films again.

On page 335 of The Complete David Bowie, author Nicholas Pegg

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On page 335 of The Complete David Bowie, author Nicholas Pegg describes a release called 1966 as, ‘Yet another reissue of [the Pye singles and B-sides]. For mad people there was even a 12″ picture disc,’ which is fair enough, but if ever there was a book for mad people, Pegg’s 559 page whopper is it. It would certainly drive you mad or put you in an irreversible coma if you tried to read it cover to cover, but as something to dip into over a leisurely breakfast, it’s ideal. The detail is overwhelming, stretching far beyond the music itself. 1995 album 1.Outside is apparently inspired by Bowie’s interest in, ‘the more macabre end of the performance art spectrum, notably Rudolf Schwartzk’gler, leading light of the “Viennese Castrationists” who had cut off his own penis’. Oh, go on, David. Pegg also reproduces an NME review of the same album by Simon Williams: ‘El Bowza’s latest lurch away from reality is entitled Outside, which is kind of about ‘outsiders’ and involves all these strange neo-futuristic characters running around El Bowza’s head and it’s sort of a concept album blah blah bollocks blah blah ARSE!!!!!!!’ A dead cert for Rock’s Back Pages. Bowie’s acting is given generous coverage , as are his interactive exploits and his paintings. This stuff is quite interesting, but I can’t remember why. I suppose it helps that author Pegg is an actor, playwright, theatre director and journalist, so he ought to know his onions. Mott the Hoople, Iggy Pop and other hangers-on or hanged-onners are covered, as are Suede, Bauhaus, Japan, etc. The book is described as ‘an indispensable guide for all serious collectors of David Bowie’s music’ and although there is also plenty here for the casual dabbler, this is where its chief strengths lie. No longer must Bowie freaks lie awake wondering what that strange sound is on Ashes to Ashes; it was obtained by ‘feeding the sound of a grand piano through a gadget rejoicing in the name of the Eventide Instant Flanger….set at maximum wobble,’ and anyone who doesn’t know is a right Bowie joey.

I find novels without dialogue relatively difficult to get through.

The Brown Wedge1 comment • 662 views

I find novels without dialogue relatively difficult to get through. This is possibly some kind of psychological block, my word is defined so much by conversation (and my banal contributions to it) that acres of prose on the page daunt me. This was possibly what left me rather unmoved by the first half of Something like A House by Sid Smith. I wanted to read it because its premise intrigued me. Jim Fraser, a Scottish deserter from the Korean War ends up living as a partial slave in a Miao village in China for 35 years. It is also pretty short so I thought I could deal with the lack of dialogue.

The lack of dialogue comes from the fact that Fraser never really learns any Chinese. This is made unclear by later passages where there seems to be quite complex communication between Fraser and the villagers, but the lack of direct speech manages to emphasize this point. Nevertheless the book failed to grip me in its first hundred pages. I suffered from One Hundred Years Of Solitude Disease, namely getting confused about the relationships between all the characters with the same names. Coupled with an, I’m sure deliberate but to me annoying, lack of sense of the passage of time left me only a vaguely interested bystander.

It is only when the book stops being about a bystander to Chinese history and starts getting personal that it really takes flight. But then it becomes absorbing. First we have the murder of the villages only child, and then the desecration of her grave. Finally we get to the heart of the mystery of why Fraser has been allowed to live there in the first place, and a shock it is too. By the time Fraser leaves, you are more than aware that the book only has a few pages to run which surely will not be sufficient to cap off this tale.

Something Like A House is a book about China, but it is more importantly a book about race. I am generally not a fan of afterwords in books, often places for authors to valourize all the research they have wasted. Here however the later revelations in the book seem so monstrous that they demand a grain of truth. Smith delivers, and the fact that I am about to follow up some of this research with a sortie into the SOAS library justifies this method. A slow start, but a tremendous finish.

‘Cause Hotmail sucks, Tom didn’t get my focus group ballad in time, but here are the scores and comments I got.

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Ultrabeat – Pretty Green Eye 3
If Crystal Gale sang it with Autoharp by June Carter Cash the words would be prefect.
As it is, it reminds me of A Night at the Roxbury, which makes it just pathetic.
S Club 8 — Sundown 8
The absolute robotic perfection of this suggests that the English have a secret factory somewhere in the midlands designed to pump out self referential plastic pop stars. This is a good thing.
The Rapture – House of Jealous Lovers 7
Garbage cans percussion that pounds and propulses violent, ugly noise. Reminding the Garage Rock Stars how dangerous Rock and Roll used to be. The scream, the lack of control, the paranoid terror, it’s all here. What is missing is a siren, it needs a siren.
Rachel Stevens – Sweet Dreams My LA Ex 9
Happy on the outside and sad on the inside like most of the really excellent Brill Building song s but built for the 21st century. She has perfected when to be silent and when to speak, her phrasing is exquisite.
Pharrell feat Jay Z — Frontin 9
Really minimalist, in the way that the percussion and electronic effects are used to support a narrative which is surprisingly beautiful. Breaks wide open when Jay Z comes in and it becomes a discussion between ‘singing’ and ‘rapping’
Nelly P Diddy Murphy Lee – Shake Ya Tailfeather 5
A single so obsessed with making sure that it is a number one that it manages to stuff everything in with out meaning anything, or even being very memorable.
Mark Owen – Four Minute Warning 1
Marc Almond’s urban grime cleaned off before he goes into another studio loft.
Lumidee – Never Leave You (Uh Oh) 9
Fucking gorgeous. They enter my brain and haven’t left for weeks, I sing it in the shower, I sing it on the bus, and I hum it under my breath in class. I wish love were as happy and optimistic as this song.
Jamelia — Superstar 5
Generic dance hit, with scratching, inoffensive.
Girls Aloud – Life Got Cold 5
Deeply lonely, frustrating, and sad. Who knew there was a dark side to texting.
Dido – White Flag 10+10
This has a tenderness that recalls early Joni Mitchell but the sheer self-loathing of these single makes the listener want to love her as best as they can
Daniel Bedingfield – Never Gonna Leave Your Side 2
Sweet and gentle, but nothing special.
Busted – Sleeping With The Light On 0+0
Mawkish and sentimental, emotion by focus group.
Blu Cantrell feat Sean Paul — Breathe 9
it reminds me that dancehall was street music, where the one with the most powerful voice would win.
The sound effects come straight from the Shangri Las.
Blu Cantrell has the pipes to be another Roberta Flack, why does she not have a larger Career.
Black Eyed Peas – Where Is The Love? 10A definite lovely beat that does not overwhelm, and a refrain that becomes more and more haunting with each repetition.

Joe Brainard

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 1,201 views

Joe Brainard is known (if he is known at all) for his clever twists on Ernie Bushmillers Nacy (Nancy as a Boy, Nancy in Landscape, Nancy as a Drawing by Di vinci, Nancy as a de Kooning painting ad absurdum) and his assemblages with flowers and madonnas. If yr a poet, he is best known for his work with the New York School, working with Koch, Berrigan, Ashberry and O’Hara.

I guess with his work in the low, and the literary coupled with a connection to collage, assemblages and found pieces, that he could not draw or paint. I always thought he was so good at the above media that he did not need to. Looking through the catalogue for the 2001 retrospective at Berkley there are two oil paintings that betray those thoughts. Done of a white whippet called Whipperwhool, they are a solemn connection to the rest of his work. There is the quoting of Fairfield Porter( who he corresponded with), of course but there is something else beside.

In 1974, the dog leans across a broad green couch, an odalisque that resembles elements of Titian’s Urbana, Goya’s Madja, and Manet’s Olympia. There is a 1972 recreation of Christiana’s world, but where everything overwhelms the pooch, and then there is the singular canvas from 1973, where the dog leans into himself, directed inside and away from humanity. He manages to make the dog look monastic.

On the websitethat comes from the estate, these are placed in the category of portraits, but that would assume something human–they are uncannily canine, expressing emotions that would seem out of place with humanity but not with dogs.