Posts from 15th September 2004

Sep 04

badgers couldn’t compensate at

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badgers couldn’t compensate at twice the price“!!

(for the benefit of the non-aged this is a roxy music reference)

Lore! That new Robbie Williams single may be the worst thing he’s ever released…

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Lore! That new Robbie Williams single may be the worst thing he’s ever released…

but combined with the new Beastie Boys single ‘Triple Trouble’ it has prompted me to think about the pros and cons of putting on a silly accent in a song for reasons hard to discern. On ‘Radio’ Robbie comes over somewhere between Roger Moore and Neil Hannon – but it doesn’t work for me at all but the song is so weak (I haven’t done my research but this can’t feature any residue of the partnership with Guy Chambers surely?) and perhaps it was felt this sort of gimmick was required as a booster. Then again, you might not even notice it, and it may even make a nice change from his usual jarring Trentian nagging tone. It is a dubious portent for how this proposed ‘Pure Francis’ material will go down though, and a tad irritating that ‘Radio’ will probably knock Alcazar or someone else good off the #1 spot.

‘Triple Trouble’ on the other hand is the sound of washed-up salesmen with the same old schtick coming through the other side, appealing again somehow. Adequate fodder livened up by comedy English accents from the boys themselves, of the more gruff Cockney variety this time if I’m not mistaken. The point? I have no idea, amusing though it is. And the only difference between it as a throwaway gimmick here and what Robbie does in ‘Radio’ may just be that one is funny and the other isn’t. I can think of a few other examples in hip-hop and related areas where it occurs (Ugly Duckling’s ‘Samba’ (“yoo rook marvellous”), The Streets ‘Too Much Brandy’ (“yes you’re paranoid!”) but if others spring to mind then do write in…

Oh NO!

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Oh NO!: thread bemoaning the apparently imminent floppage of “Chewing Gum” by Annie. I agree that it’s the lack of airplay and supermarket stockage that’s done for the song. I can understand why Radio 1 and Asda have stayed away, though – Annie doesn’t fit the usual bill for a Europop act, she’s a fairly tough sell, a clever, clued-up, fashionable individual who is making unequivocally pop music.

There IS an audience for this stuff, and not just on ILM. What there isn’t is a format for it. People in my office, for instance, love “Chewing Gum”, but they don’t buy singles any more. So sell them the album? Well, the problem is, because Annie is making commercial pop people won’t trust the album, they’ll assume it’s full of filler.

Annie, and “Chewing Gum”, are just the kind of things the download chart was made for. In a year or so, when digital distribution is even more commonplace and the download chart is less of a joke, it would do pretty well. As it is, the best chance of “Chewing Gum” being the hit it deserves to be is via adverts or soundtracks.

(And another thing: a low-end chart placing for Annie is in no way as unjust as Lene’s “It’s Your Duty” not even getting a RELEASE!)

FT Top 100 Films 30: BANANAS

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FT Top 100 Films

There are people who say that they only like Woody Allen’s early funny movies. Good luck to them i say, though I sometimes goggle when taht actually means anything before Love And Death. For such people Bananas is the pinacle of Allen’s career, and whilst I like it a lot, it is a minor Allen work.

As a political comedy it has very little teeth. Its take on the junta vs junta non-stop revolutions of Central America may well have been ripped from the headlines, but that is about all it is ripped from. No communism or Cuba jokes here, rather the everyman (or slightly less that everyman) becoming a revolutionary hero. As it happens that plot only takes up about half the film, the rest being disjointed sketch material (of which the opening office gym gag is priceless).

What Bananas does remind us is what a good physical comedian Woody Allen is. The opening sequence, where he demonstrates the use of the office gym, is surreal gags coupled with pin point timing. Allen is also well away that leaving himself in the background whilst the gag plays over him is the best way of stealing the attention. People who do not like Allen for his neurotic persona should love Bananas, because it is quite clear that Allen does not like it either. Ironically though, whilst its politics are about as deep as the filling in a Pukka Pie, he got it spot on. The CIA and other US departments were constantly assasinating and agitating in the region. Perhaps they would have done better if they had let Allen do the job for them.

Some writers deploy an unanswerable style.

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Some writers deploy an unanswerable style. Perry Anderson is one such: to read is to defer. Most of the time, anyway — but when the reader finds himself with the advantage, as I fear is the case here, the danger is that the whole edifice of authorial authority is severely weakened. Anderson’s comments on recent French cinema (not up to the standards of the early New Wave, apparently) are unworthy of him, but perhaps the piece as a whole can be read, in appropriately dialectical fashion, alongside this useful summary of one tendency in French cinema from Jonathan Romney.
As it happens the ‘extreme’ cinema is usually cited in narratives of French cultural decline (not Anderson’s — though he does a nice number on Houellebecq), and sometimes with reason. The problem with Romney’s piece is that he seems really to be writing about what’s surely the more interesting strand (though not, it seems, to commissioning editors) of current French cinema, and one he has championed elsewhere: the mini-genre about the living hell we call work.
Cedric Kahn’s Red Lights/Feux rouges, out next week, can plausibly be lumped in with these: it’s Godard’s Weekend but scary like The Vanishing and funny like Harry He’s Here to Help, and I loved it to bits. The casting of Jean-Pierre Darroussin, best known for embodying the noble Marseilles proletariat in Robert Guediguian’s films, as the depressive, boozing husband to Carole Bouquet’s ‘too beautiful for you’ career woman gives some sense of where Kahn is going: but just as the film’s protagonists, driving across France on a bank holiday weekend to pick up their kids from summer camp, exit the autoroute to negotiate the provincial backroads, so the film strays from the noir movie you might have expected from the set-up, usually by being as funny as fuck.
But locating the sources of my love for this film has brought me to the conclusion that, far from embodying some frightening new aesthetic of ‘extremity’, what the French cinema is doing best right now is fundamentally old-fashioned: elegance of technique and insight of dramatic material are the hallmarks of this film, as well as other recent films like Time Out/L’emploi du temps and even Demonlover.

Gronk board

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Gronk board

Another story on the theme of strangers in travel pictures.

Once when I was a teenager, I was in the Navy cadets. We went on a 3-day trip staying on a minesweeper.

The minesweeper was dirty and gray coloured and smelt like a hospital. It, and the men who lived in it, had just come back from the gulf. This was the early 90s, so it hadn’t been seeing active duty there, just patrolling.

We motored out of Rosyth, in Fife, north of Edinburgh and went up the Forth out into the North Sea, and puttered around for a while before coming back.

I remember two things about this trip.

The first was when they detonated a demonstration mine for us to see. We were meant to be awed by the power of the explosion and excited by the technology and career possibilities of the Royal Navy. But what really struck me was that a seagull happened to be in the vicinity of the explosion, swimming in the water. It was hurled up in a parabolic arc and landed a few feet away from the boat, lying on its back, its legs kicking pathetically. We debated whether we should ask the sailors to shoot it and put it out of its misery, but after a few minutes of jerky motion it was still.

The second was the gronk board. This was a cork board pinned up in the sailor’s mess, where we had our free time, and could chat with the enlisted men. The board was covered with poor quality snaps, some polaroids, some 35mm, of women in various states of undress and/or inebriation. The men explained that every time they put into port, they would try to take a picture of the women they slept with. They would then compare their snaps and for each stop, the ugliest of the women would go on the board.

I remember their expressions, smiling eagerly and/or lewdly up at the men, with no idea of where they would eventually end up and in what context.

Proper Singles Just Like In The Old Days

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The ‘enhanced’ CD of “Love Machine” is well worth your £2.99. You get a great sleeve, a version of the song which has actual bass on it unlike the MP3 doing the rounds, a Girls Aloud ‘game’ which won’t work on my office PC, the video, the video with karaoke (incidentally, you know what would revive the CD singles market? Singstar compatability.), the ‘Disco mix’ of “Love Machine” which is pretty worthwhile in that it does exactly what you’d hope a ‘Disco mix’ would do, and you also get a Proper B-Side.

I don’t know if “Androgynous Girls” is a Proper Proper B-Side and won’t appear on the album, but it’s pretty good nonetheless. More streamlined Kim Wilde guitar-sample pop with a sweary chorus and the line “God’s got his rocks off today”, which (with the availability of a 7″) confirms that this is their Indie Single.

One man saw it coming

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One man saw it coming: The Society section of the Guardian is 25 years old, and has trawled its archives to celebrate. The second piece on this page, from 1982, (scroll down) is particularly interesting:

Some insights into the effects of modern communications techniques have now come out of a five-year experiment by the New Jersey Institute of Technology into new ways of letting scientists share their results with each other.

Over 1,500 people were provided with terminals (usually like small telex machines) linked by phone line to a central computer, through which messages could be sent to anyone else on the network.

It was soon discovered that a whole new medium of communication had been invented, with impact not just on the participants’ work but on their whole lives, leading to new personal relationships, new working methods, dependence, addiction, and at least two divorces.

Great British Crisps

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Great British Crisps

Newish wheeze from Walkers – crisps purporting to replicate the taste of ‘great British dinners’, very suitable for pubs where drinkers are missing said great dinners. Though if my table ever holds a baked ham as unpleasant as the Walkers variety I will hang my head in chefly shame.

Ham and mustard crisps were a real taste novelty a decade or so ago when Brannigans first arrived in boozers – a genuinely fiery crisp! Wow! They have set the standard for mustard-styled snacks – rather than compete Walkers have gone in the other direction and their “and mustard” is barely discernable. What you’re left with is a slightly sickly-sweet, greasy crisp with a hint of over-boiled ham: not enjoyable.

The beef and yorkshire pudding packet met with more approval. It’s very like Walkers Beef and Onion flavour, but there’s definitely something bready in there too. Halfway through it struck us – the crisps taste exactly like Fray Bentos pies! Once I’d realised this I munched my remaining share with great pleasure.

Indie Chicken

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Indie Chicken

(i’m such a bandwagon jumper (but also a fried chicken eater, so i couldn’t really turn down liz’s offer to join in))

#3 Favourite Chicken and Ribs, High Road, N15.

The problem with my journey back from the pub to my new house is that it’s about ten minutes longer than my previous journey, which is currently putting quite a strain on my bladder (I’m sure this will improve in time, I used to do the london-oxford trip and that was loads further). Anyway, this has led to me not really taking the time to properly sample my local fried chicken, but, in the name of indie chicken, I did so last night.

Unfortunately upon my request of “twopiecechickennchips please mate” I was informed that, in fact, they only had one piece of proper chicken left (this was just past 11, so not overly surprising). He tried to offer me some hot wings in compensation, but I’ve never really been a fan. However (possibly subliminally influenced by the name of the shop) I saw the three dark sticky blobs in the top of the cabinet and asked for the chicken and ribs combo. Possibly realising that he was stiffing me, he then charged me ‘2.49 rather than the advertised ‘3.49. I kind of realised why when I got home, as I reckon the ribs were probably 2 or 3 days old and had kind of melted into a big, overly sticky and sweet, far too chewy mess, and i’m normally quite partial to crappy chicken shop ribs. The sole remaining bit of chicken was also an oddity in that it was the bit with the breastbone in, rather than a leg or thigh, which meant it was a bit dry, and the chips were half old/half new. I think I caught them at a bad time though, my twopiecechickennchips the other week was prefectly acceptable, the service is very cheery and you get free mayo and lemon wipe sachets thingys, which is a step up from my old local indie chicken shop.

Frankly after the numerous pints of butcombe (and you can imagine the hilarity we had with that) in The Ship (FAP lies about the pork pies, THERE WERE NONE!!) any hot greasiness was welcome…