Posts from 24th May 2004

May 04


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MIDI MAXI AND EFTI – “Bad Bad Boys” (aka PopNose13)

So Mark S messaged me – “Have you ever heard of Midi Maxi And Efti?”. I had not. He told me he hadn’t either – except he dimly remembered Frank Kogan raving about them. I was intrigued. Partly because Frank Kogan is worth paying attention to, partly because of the band’s name. Generally with names you can have a guess at what you’re going to hear. The last track I’d downloaded blind had been “The Groke” by Frost Jockey – I was expecting something chilly and electronic and that is what I’d got. But Midi Maxi and Efti? It sounded like an Eastern Bloc cartoon series – could be anything!

It turned out to be Swedish Reggae – result! I have grown very fond of early 90s Euro-rap – that combination of disco, digital skank, pop know-how and deadpan naif vocals you hear on Dr. Alban and Ace Of Base records. The appeal of European pop is always part-projected: I want to believe in a version of pop uncontaminated by notions of artistry and driven by novelty. The reality is much more complex.

It strikes me that there are at least two strains in what I think of as ‘Europop’. The first is deliberately artificial, extravagant, bizarre – Aqua, Eiffel 65, the bombast of snap, the tottering kitsch of Army Of Lovers, Alcazar’s disco follies. The second is down-to-earth – Lene Nystrom singing about office sauce; dental student Dr. Alban rapping about his producer’s flat and young son; Midi Maxi And Efti and their songs which sound like beginner’s EFL exercises.

MM and E are three girls from Eritrea who came to Sweden (according to their excellent self-titled album) ‘six years ago’, which would have been 1985. They sing about friends and boyfriends and making music, sometimes about their homeland. “Bad Bad Boys”, their easiest song to find because of a soundtrack appearance, is typical – a sizeable hook and a weird vocal style, like bored playground chanting. The album is based pretty heavily on pop-reggae but each track adds something fresh to keep the hooks sharp and the interest alive – there are a couple of wonderful shimmering songs that sound like a bubblegum Orb.

There’s something childlike about the record which makes me suspicious of myself for liking it. It has that just-discovered-music feel that The Shaggs are supposed to have – except of course The Shaggs are just strange kids making an awful racket whereas Midi Maxi And Efti are backed up by a pretty slick operation, including Stakka Bo and members of the Army Of Lovers. So I like to think that what I’m hearing is an enthusiasm for pop that speaks to my own.

Before and After Para-Science #2

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Before and After Para-Science #2

So here i wz in Wales, during a little break from ferrying my invalid mum’m’dad around, and i wz making notes on a piece frank kogan commissioned wms contributors to write, ages back, which in my case is coming to be abt family holidays and family beliefs, and DEMONS and GHOSTS!! And i wz writing a paragraph abt the fact that since 1972 we lived in a house which around consider haunted – esp.the ppl who sold it us (tho they did not tell us till many years later abt the “Dark Gentleman” in the Guest Room) – but NONE OF US have never once felt or seen anything weird or unhomely there EVER.

Anyway at the exact moment* i wz writing this, my parents’ daytime carer, who’d let herself into the house to take care of some domestic chores while there wz no one else there, RAN SLAP INTO A GHOST and had to run away!!

My theory: ok we do have a ghost but it is so scared of US AS A FAMILY that it totally hides at the bottom of the garden the whole time, and had popped in for a good safe haunt while everyone wz out

[*actually i have no idea if it wz the exact time or even the same day…]

When artistic choices go wrong.

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When artistic choices go wrong. Emile, an attempt at a Proustian remembrance of a Canada past from the view of an exiled academic, is not unusually in using a wistful look to signal a flashback to echo memory. Ian McKellan as Emile, can be set off by almost anything: a manky old typewriter, playing with an engine or painting a wall. The artistic decision here though was to segue into the memory, to have it play off the previous scene. And thus it retains McKellan, doddery and old as the youthful version. A bold choice which does not really come off, especially considering the brothers with which he interacts in the past with are played by rather generic buff outdoorsy types who seem to bear no relation whatsoever with a character like McKellan. Perhaps that is the point, but McKellan’s English accent (picked up from forty years of exile) distances the whole thing, and he is not exactly putting in the effort.

When funding decision go wrong. Emile is a Canadian/UK co-production, one assumes based firmly on McKellan’s casting. Unfortunately his presence may guarantee funding, it also insists on the implausible English exile and torpedoes the film. And as the central character needs to be sorrowful but convinces as someone who was seriously neglectful of his responsibilities, McKellan is just too much of a twinkly uncle.