Posts from 10th May 2004

May 04

Transylvanian Blood Vodka

Pumpkin Publog2 comments • 3,270 views

Transylvanian Blood Vodka

Produced in the foothills of the Transylvanian mountains to a recipe rputed to be the favoured drink of Count Vlad Dracula from the 15th Century, Blood Vodka is made with mountain spring water distilled twice for extra quality and during the process a natural “Fruits Of The Forest” flavouring is added which also gives the distinctive red colour.

Drink Blood Vodka cold for an exciting, refreshing taste or add a mixer and have a long cool drink.

I have just obtained a bottle of this stuff (free if your asking), with its terribly cheap “spooky font” label. Chances of it being any good are slim. But hey, if Count Vlad Dracula liked it…

You’re listening to the…

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 252 views

You’re listening to the…: The Streets’ new album is out today. Lots of people, me included, think it’s great. But what – or who – does it actually sound like? NYLPM presents its dinner-party guide to names to drop (or not) when you’re trying to describe A Grand Don’t Come For Free.

DIZZEE RASCAL: Every broadsheet review of AGDCFF has mentioned Dizzee, which is odd given that Mike Skinner sounds nothing like him. Dizzee’s production is further out than the Streets’ but he has more songs built round self rather than situation, and his lyrics don’t share Skinner’s love of observational detail. Also his flow is totally different!

WILEY: Another oft-dropped name, and a slightly closer call I think. Wiley’s MCing style is as unshowy as Skinner’s – what makes his record so charming is how reasonable he always sounds. But again the lyrical approach is completely different – Wiley’s focus is usually internal, his rhyming rooted in exact dissections of how he’s thinking and feeling. Skinner tends to explore emotion by dialogue or by descriptions of what characters are doing. In terms of technique too Wiley’s a master of the repeated end rhyme and Skinner never really uses it.

JOHN COOPER CLARKE: Some people put The Streets in a vague lineague of post-punk poetry with Clarke and Ian Dury the names that crop up most often. There’s a faint whiff of Streets in Clarke’s yarn-spinning style, and on tracks like “The Day My Pad Went Mad” he tackles everyday disaster in the way Skinner likes to. But Clarke is basically a stand-up, not a dramatist – he’s focussed on the one-liner, the clever rhyme, not on the whole.

BARRY ADAMSON: If Skinner’s delivery is hard to place, what about his music? The way Skinner uses a cinematic ‘vibe’ on his storytelling tracks reminds me a bit of Barry Adamson and his ‘imaginary cinema’ records, like Moss Side Story. Adamson’s arrangements tend to be a bit sleeker, but the big difference is in the approach to narrative. Adamson’s records are mostly instrumental, and all about mood – the plot of the imaginary film is more or less yours to figure out. A Grand also manipulates mood superbly but it’s all about creating empathy through narrative detail.

THE WHO/YES/PINK FLOYD/QUEENSRYCHE/ETC ETC: There really needs to be a better word than ‘concept’ to describe albums like AGDCFF. Generally the freedom of getting a whole 70 minutes to tell a story leads musicians to go mental with overcooked sci-fi allegories. Skinner’s ambitions are rather less brazen.

THE DIVINE COMEDY: No really! On first listen the record that AGDCFF reminded me of structurally is Promenade by the Divine Comedy, a story of an imagined day in the life of Neil Hannon, over the course of which he falls in love. I adored this record when I was 21 – the small scale of the concept seemed perfectly suitable for album-length and it seemed marvellously recognisable and romantic. Unfortunately I listened to it again last month and thought it was just AWFUL, crashingly unsubtle and with no sense of character or detail. A couple of very pretty tunes though!

BLUR: “Fit But You Know It” invited comparisons to “Parklife” thanks to its stoopid guitar beat. Skinner was apparently insulted, and rightly so: Damon Albarn’s sneering conception of ‘character songs’ is a million miles away from The Streets’ loving slices of life.

THE WEDDING PRESENT: David Gedge’s favourite technique – presenting half a conversation, as naturalistically as metre allows – lives on on A Grand. “Get Out Of My House” produces the same shameful, nagging recognition that “What Have I Said Now?” used to. Obviously the two outfits sound nothing like each other, but there’s a more subtle difference too. The Wedding Present – like a lot of indie bands – focus obsessively on love (and usually its failure), creating an aesthetics of rejection and self-pity which can be hugely seductive but is basically pretty limiting. Skinner unpicks romantic grief with equal delicacy but his records always fill in the wider context – mates, raving, nights out and in, bad phone reception, late DVD returns, etc etc. – that grounds the loving and losing. By showing what heartbreak wipes away he makes sure it never seems heroic.

MADNESS: I’ve left them till last because I think that they come closest in feel to The Streets. Early Madness, this is, not the ‘polished songwriting’ of “Our House” and after (still excellent, but in a different way). Madness came out of a multi-racial scene and built their sound on its beats, then won big crossover success with a series of songs rooted in everyday life, rich in detail and often told using monologue. Their comedy was more broad than Mike Skinner’s, their situations often more obviously dramatic and they never attempted anything on the scale of A Grand Don’t Come For Free, but tracks like “Embarrassment”, “My Girl” and “House Of Fun” seem to me to come from the exact same place as The Streets.

TANYA’S ROUND OF RUBBISH The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy and the Lash

I Hate Music1 comment • 535 views

The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy and the Lash

Now if there is any nationality who knows about drinking, it is the Irish. Unfortunately if there is any nationality that knows about maudlin drunken sing-songs with instruments with names which cannot be pronounced it would also be the Irish. Put it like this I always though the uilleann pipes were part of my lower gastro-instinal tract. Having heard them, I am not inclined to change my opinion.

Ah but the Pogues, the Pogues were a breath of fresh air from staid trad Irish music. Actually no, they were a breath of stale manky foetid air from the mouth of Shane MacGowan: and you have seen the state of his teeth, guess how bad his breath is. The idea was apparently to fuse raw punk energy to traditional Irish music. Instead they fused the lack of technical ability of punk with the introspective self-pitying topics of Irish ballads. Can anyone suggest the relevance of still moaning about the British soldiers of 1844 in 1984?

Rum, Sodomy and the Lash was their breakthrough album. This meant that they had frankly had enough of them in Ireland and sent them to the UK to muck up our charts. Just to ensure the album was piss poor they roped in speccy Elvis Costello, a man who knows how to strangle innovation way before birth. So we get endless mumblothons like the Band Played Waltzing Mathilda, and Dirty Old Town. Surely there is a law against an Irishman singing Dirty Old Town these days, Dublin really cannot be THAT dirty. And as for ruining Rum for me, well all they desrve is the Lash. Flayed alive in hell for every terrible song they wrote, ever diddle they diddled and for every tooth that has fallen out of Shane ‘Gappy’ MacGowan’s gob.

The Honeymooners is a low budget Irish romantic comedy

Do You SeePost a comment • 441 views

The Honeymooners is a low budget Irish romantic comedy with a solid script, attractive leads and a nice flair for naturalistic characterisation. At least it is when the camera is pointing at the action, and not flipping all over the gaffe. It is quite possible that the director bought a faulty DV camera. But it is more possible that he had no idea how to shoot a movie. I have not seen cinematography this bad since The Last Great Wilderness. Perhaps the problem is I associate piss poor camera work with grim and gritty realistic drama. And there is nothing further from realism than a romantic comedy.

In the last ten years there has been no Central London venue suggestion

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 674 views

In the last ten years there has been no Central London venue suggestion that made the heart sink more than ‘Let’s meet at the Moon Under The Water‘. Even if you disregard that they are Wetherspoon’s pubs, one needed to consider the very venues themselves. Two pubs, both vile in their own special ways, near Leicester Square tube with the same name. Both large (the Charing Cross Road one was huge), and rammed, it was enough to ditch a friendship.

Well the name confusion part is no longer an issue. The Charing Cross Road one, which I first knew as the Marquee (which in itself was the second venue for that rock club) is no more. Instead in its place, with minimal rebranding, sits The Montague Pike. It is unclear what Montague or Pike is being referred to, but also proprietors seem to have changed to Lloyd’s Bar. Seemed is the apposite word here, Lloyd’s is a mini brand of Wetherspoon’s, noting that some people like bars more than pubs. And the Moon under Water was far too cavernous to ever convince as a pub. It is of course too cavernous to convince as a bar either, but it means that they do not need to worry about serving real ales in there any more. Just take this as a warning. The Pike is still Under Water, and the pub is still crap.

Everyone knows that Boogie Nights

Do You SeePost a comment • 294 views

Everyone knows that Boogie Nights was loosely based of the life of John Holmes, right? That was the justification for putting the let-down last quarter in. The heist gone wrong section of Dirk Diggler’s life seemed out of place in the otherwise excellent Boogie Nights. Expanded on, with the real names put back in, it remains a pretty nasty tale and one which as Wonderland has now become a feature length version of the worst bit of Boogie Nights.

When a film starts with text to describe who the lead character is and why we should care, its a sure fire bet that we are not going to care. When a film finishes with seven ‘what happened next’ pages of text you wonder if it even knew what its job was in the first case. The mystery in Wonderland is simple. Was John Holmes involved in the Wonderland murders? The answer is, it does not really matter – why not arrest the guys who DID the murder. Holmes is presented as a needy, whiny loser, or at least played by Val Kilmer so that is the effect we get, so we certainly do not care about him. Instead we are offered his young girlfriend as a heroine, which fails when she falls for his charms (and one assumes his 13″ penis) over and over again. The innocent(-ish) victims in the murder are never presented as characters, only the drug dealing thieves are given any sort of character. Which leads you not to care.

Instead you watch to hear another early seventies soft rock classic, somewhat out of place in a film set in 1981, though not as much as Girls On Film is. And you watch Val Kilmer: a man who is certainly good at playing a big cock – its just the rest of his body that does not convince.