Posts from 22nd February 2005

Feb 05


FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 728 views

3. Gemini – “Just Like That”

Sounds a bit like a late ABBA song? That’s because it is – recorded for ABBA’s never-finished 10th album, the original has slipped out in various mixes on bootlegs and a snipped was included on the band’s box set. Meanwhile in 1987 Benni and Bjorn wrote new verses and slowed the song right down, turning it into this weepie and giving it to Swedish pop group Gemini.

So appropriately enough, the verses sound like a chilly out-take from Chess (with fatalist melodrama replacing Tim Rice corn) and the chorus is solid ABBA, which is to say, pretty immediate. Do your best to ignore some of the production infelicities if 80s tinscapes aren’t your thing. The Gemini singer’s more overt lachrymosity is quite un-ABBA, though it works, but the adult ambivalence is very ABBA, and the line “He slipped into my life as smug as a cat” would be wonderful whoever wrote it.

Scatology Alert

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 611 views

Scatology Alert

Japanese firm invent in toilet entertainment centre.

But hold: closer reading suggests that Toto Ltd’s Z Series Neorest offers the worlds first autofragrance and stereo music system. Okay so it my be more advances than my version in being able to produce different fragrances, but are people really going to notice the difference between the Neorest’s stereo and the mono of my transarseteradio.

I expected M*A*S*H (the book)

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 198 views

I expected M*A*S*H (the book) to be like a poor man’s Catch-22, and indeed it is. However that poor man will finish it a lot quicker, be able to read good, hearty, storyful chunks of it on the crapper AND be acquainted with the madness of war.

Actually that madness of war thing. Surely one of the easiest things to write about. People being paid to shoot people who they personally don’t know or probably mind over poxy disputes about land. You try and fuck up showing the ironies of that one. Perhaps only Culture Club have really made a fool of themselves on this issue.

But back to M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker (I don’t ever remember a credit for him on the TV series, but could be wrong). All the usual bits are four-square and centre. Hawkeye Pierce, Trapper, Radar, Hotlips: all rattled of with a war is hell message of non-conformism. The problem is that as these are not frontline military personal there is never a feeling that these people are in danger. They are a step removed, commenting on the madness of the Korean war too, rather than being in danger of dying. The TV series reduced the core cast (got rid of The Duke as he was too similar to Trapper and Hawkeye) and via necessity of a changing cast invented some new ones. The formula though remains the same and the episodic nature of the book actually makes for an obvious sitcom.

The episodic book splits almost into thirteen short stories, with little excessive continuity over the span. So whilst the theme may reflect Catch-22, what it mainly reminded me of was James Herriot. M*A*S*H is the All Creatures Great And Small of the “war is mad” bookset, and therefore is probably best seen in film or television form. (And if its power is due to the cumulative effect of the episodes, the TV series with 251 is probably the most powerful: if time consuming, repetitive and often trite.)


I Hate MusicPost a comment • 405 views

Day 22: Miami

(Sorry for the delay: this Herculean outpouring required a Herculean actual pouring of gin. Fear not though dear reader as I expect another straight twenty days or so to be recounted over the next month or so).

Athens. Ruins. It was a dream that this time I could not complete. I did my bit for erosion by pissing on various town monuments (a Michael Stipe statue, a bench devoted to the other bird in the B-52’s) and then finally made my plans for getting to Miami. It was still a fail trot away, require some form of automotive transport. Whilst I could not drive, I did have an extraordinary long thumb (honed and sharpened through trying to stab Jools Holland in the eye. That guy is such a sucker for knots in a plank of wood.)

So hitching again, and this time a huge Coca-Cola truck did me the good turn of driving me all the way, and I only had to listen to ten different country songs. Often I would curse bog-standard country music radio stations, but on balance I would rather listen to the same inanity over and over than novel inanities…

I got into Miami quite late, and made my way to the shipping offices. They were shut but I managed to sneak round the back where there were some pallets to sleep on. However it was a fitful night, as the entire city seemed to pulse and vibrate like a varicous vein. As I slept I dreamt of Gloria Estefan and one of the great triumphs of my youth. Miami I hated, but I had struck back once upon a time.


It was 1990. My career as a music hater had only just begun (as the Carpenters would have it, Karen’s demise being an inspiration for this stunt). Many a time would I sneak into an indie disco and either attempt to literally hang the DJ or kneecap all the punters so the would be Sitting Down. But in truth it was the pop clubs that irritated me the most. The faceless masses in their white trainers at Ritzy’s in Luton: I knew they did not care for the music (they did not care for much except their long slow comfortable screws against the walls) and were therefore potential converts to my cause. However five hours in Goldiggers in Chippenham handing out anti-Brother Beyond fliers almost drive me mad. Especially as every hour, on the hour, they played Rhythm Is Gonna Get You by Estefan’s Miami Sound Machine.

The rhythm was never going to get me. Oh no. No way. However the incessant thud of it anglo-latin beats did get me thinking. Thinking that leaflets was no way to progress this campaign. And so operation Disassemble Miami Sound Machine begun. Namely, to remove a key steering pin from their tour bus.

The rest is a footnote in rock history. Rhythm did not get them, it was a nasty hairpin bend. Estefan broke her back, and was rebuilt as some sort of six million dollar torch singer. All very sad. All very tragic. All very career shortening, as beyond the one triumphant “I’m alive” hit of Turn The Beat Around (a paen to spanking) her career faltered. She became a Miami slightly less sound machine, and the world was a better place. Strike one for direct action. Look out John Denver.

Head-On is the best film I have seen this calendar year*.

Do You SeePost a comment • 343 views

Head-On is the best film I have seen this calendar year*. Even if it is not the tale of some grumpy London music hater (who I understand is restarting her tale of her mammoth global circumnavigation via music hatred this afternoon). Instead it is one of those “extreme Romeo & Juliet” films, a phrase which often neglects HOW EXTREME R&J actually were. Let us just say it is an idiosyncratic love story where two German Turks meet at a clinic after failed suicide attempts, marry and fall in love in that order. Then other stuff happens, usually involving blood, swearing and mid-eighties synth-pop.

There are some interesting threads which can be teased out from Head-On about love, life and the place of the Other in society. This is a love story which ranges from Germany to Istanbul, and in and out of various institutions. Nevertheless it is one of the most surprising films I have seen, one which genuinely leads you down an intriguing narrative path on a couple of occasions.

Most strikingly though is the cyclical nature of suicide attempts in the film. In particular, that both leads go into their suicidal benders listening to I Feel You by Depeche Mode. And I think we know what the local Headon would say about that.

*This may or may not be true, but I want someone else to go and see it to disagree. Put it like this is was the film where the disjuncture between expectation and actuality has weighed heaviest on the positive side.

I look at William Eggleston’s Los Alamos series, and I think

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 465 views

—there might be evil in the world, and human beings are destructive motherfuckers and there is not much we can do about that…But sometimes the dust settles, and even if it affects everything, even if it is in the dust and the air we breathe–even i fit kills us, even if it has a half life ten or a hundred times the life span of all of us; on a summer night in 1965 here was cotton candy, and pretty girls in red tights and a perfect white Buick parked near a brick wall and the perfect blonde boy taking silver grocery carts in, sometime near dusk

there were supposed to be 2k of these fotos of ten years taken all over America, taken in concentric circles outside of Memphis, where he has lived for most of his life, and other projects distracted him, so he never did the photos, but someone found them and reprinted them. Looking at them at 6am it is like the banalities of everyday life would save us from the apocalypse–like sodom and gomorroh being saved because the angels found not perfect men but perfect places.

and somewhere in all of this joy, my heart breaks.

that now I do not like to think of maggots in his eyes

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 342 views

that now I do not like to think of maggots in his eyes

hopkin greenfrog and i argued abt betjeman in the comments to this post, and tim asked “Did he ever liked anything modernist (art lit music architecture whatever)”? So when i wz at a loose end at mum&dad s’s, i speedread bevis hillier’s YOUNG BETJEMAN, and found out quite a lot that surprised me

mainly that he was workin on the staff of ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW during its modernist internationalist prosyletising phase (late 20s, early 30s), and certainly definitely wrote (unsigned) captions etc pro le corb**et al, whatever his own feelings here*, and wz – tho already well off on his retrieval of neglected victoriana jag – very close pals indeed w.some of the writers and editors who were most fanatically modernist (admittedly some of them recanted later: or rather, became hostile to the general thoughtless triumphalist routinisation of what wz still after all romantic and embattled in the late 20s)

but i’m not sure that i know the answer to tim’s q entirely even yet: JB hid his strongest feelings in a layer of extreme contrarian perversity from the outset (fairly classic case of hipster irony masking unironic passion); eg he wound up his englit tutor (the humourless and anxious c.s.lewis) by insisting that LORD ALFRED DOUGLAS (viz wilde’s bosie) wz a grebter poet than shakespeare (lewis returned the favour by not letting JB graduate and giving him useless job references)

*strict modernists (among architects) afterwards came to feel he was always a sly traitor in the camp, but JB’s early sense that big business and artistic celebrity and show-off showpiece art were already always distorting the dream of modernism seems more prescient than reactionary

in ref his endless wooing of the aristocracy etc, there wz always a distinct element of “haha if these clowns accept me then more fool them and their so-called social standards” alongside the very obvious snobbisme: hillier’s stories veer from the ghastly (worst of evelyn waugh-type suckiness) to the genuinely funny to the fascinatingly alien (eg how TINY tween-wars “society” was; everyone really did know everyone else)

**of course le corb’s attitude to high modernism was conflicted also, despite its being his meal-ticket for decades

so in short i am undecided: i still suspect JB wd have found routinised brainless prince-charles-style “betjemanist” reverence very tiresome and dumb – he most often expressed his admiration by poking fun – and he really really did prefer the overlooked and the forgotten, which of course his own successful rediscovery campaigns was destroying

re john piper: piper wrote a piece in AR declaring the benign-neglect approach to ruins (as in france) way superior (from tha painter’s POV) to the over-fussy clean-it-up/shore-it-up care more commonly found in the UK back then (and i think still)

re pevsner’s famous belief that arts-and-crafts architecture prefigured modernist archictecture: betjeman was lesws convinced – he played along, but with a distinct teasing edge sometimes, in ref the more irredeemably non-modernist arts-and-crafters (he had a distinctly ambivalent love-hate thing goin w.arts-and-crafts, courtesy his distinctly ambivalent love-hate thing w.his dad the bespoke furniture craftsman)

JACKIE TRENT – “Where Are You Now (My Love)?”

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#195, 22nd May 1965

The sixties canon-builders and nostalgia workers have strip-mined these charts, so when I come across a hit I’d never even heard of, I have to wonder why. As you’d expect the answer is often – “because it’s no good”. This starts as a Bacharach pastiche, delicate if a bit prim, but quickly settles into a more comfortable routine: an old school strident ballad. Jackie Trent herself sings with a plummy, annoying, precision – check the “I don’t know when / I’ll ever see you again” couplet, where her just-so enunciation only draws attention to the somewhat unsurprising rhyme. However if it’s a posher, charisma-free Cilla you’re after then this is surely the hit for you.

(Obligatory Jackie Trent fact: written with Tony Hatch, who went on to do lots of good TV themes and at least one deeply irritating one, the Neighbours theme, whose lyrics were written by Jackie T.)

retrospective turner prize for the british empire at its implausible victorian height

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 362 views

retrospective turner prize for the british empire at its implausible victorian height :

i. for lord cardigan for modellin the cardigan, after
ii. leadin the charge of the light brigade right into the russian guns, then
iii. decidin that hand-to-hand skirmishin is beneath him as a lord so saunterin home BACK down the “Valley of Death”TM (live cannon still to the left and/or right of him) and off to his YACHT the DRYAD
iv. on return to england, while condemnation of the crimean war raged in the press, helped by many a letter from cardigan himself explainin how he alone was a blameless military genius, decidin to marry a girl called adeline, more than 30 years younger than him, even tho his first wife was still around, and…
v. thus ushering into the footnotes of deathless history adeline’s dad, mr SPENCER HORSEY de HORSEY of grebt glemham