Posts from 4th May 2005

May 05

Ashley Andel

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 612 views

Ashley Andel went to an art high school, and reads lots of art and design books, plus he listens to music loads, and reads magazines, lots and lots of magazines, porn, tabloids, art rags, and everything else–he works in a toy store, one of those who sells lots of pretty and clever things, figurines of elephantys, hello kitty televisions, sigmund freud action figures–that sort of thing.

So his art is collegey, with lots of source material from obscure german records to hustler magazine to family photos to photocopies from the big art books he gets from the library. he is sort of like sigmar polke, but polke is really clever and is full of himself, or david salle, but salle has a bit of a misogyny problem, something i never got from ashley. plus i think he really loves his source material, i think he gets a kick out it.

the other thing is that he is dirty, nothing is pure in his designs, they collide and interact and play together, and there are a million colours (well not a million, but in this i saw pistachio green,cheap strawberry ice cream pink, lemon yellow, powder blue, cowboy red gingham, the colours of kitsch and childhood–except kitsch suggests a lack of respect for his source material, and he loves it) and a million black and white imgaes (well not a millon but dozens esp. related to recasting and reworking representations of the human body, and dozens of words in dozens of fonts all over the place, but that lack of purity doesnt mean that there is not a general cohesiveness, maybe thats his skill, is his ability to play both ends against the middle, a cohesive chaos–if thats even possible.

lately his work has become smaller, more intimate, less direct and more decortative, but in a way that manages to complicate the rest of the texts, cnavases the size of a hand, in these bone whites and pale pinks, handsome and joyful creations that are riffs on visual culture, shorthand on things we see everyday, but stranger and more entagled. they are getting better and better–and i thik that he is the best artist working in edmonton, even if we are friends.

if he moved to vancouver or toronto, he would make a fortune, more then a fortune, he would be famous–i think he is happier where he is, and i doubt there are many edmonton readers of this blog, but its nice to see a local artist happy with smaller markets, and showing–he wouldnt show for a long time and wouldnt sell–then there were gigs in record stores and cafes–maybe people will sit up and look, when it is in a local place.

British Political Pop, 1979-1990: A CD

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 326 views

Read all about it. Copies of this will be given away free for the first few paying Poptimism customers tomorrow.

Even After Closing Time There’s Still Parties To Be Hosted

FTPost a comment • 1,021 views

Politics And British Pop, 1979-1990: A CD

Even After Closing Time…

This is the first of two CDs following the threads of British political pop from 1979, the date of Thatcher?s first election victory, to 2005. It is flawed and incomplete, due to being compiled in three hours with an MP3 collection, an erratic P2P connection and a handful of suggestions. The single biggest omission is ?Maggies Last Party? by VIM ? gmails of that very welcome.

You would no doubt have approached things differently, and I?d like to hear about that. The second disk will be dealt with in a separate essay.

THE GANG OF FOUR – “Armalite Rifle”
“I disapprove of it. And so does Dave.” In 1979 politics was part of the alternative music status quo. Bands like the Gang of 4 sang about nothing but. Nowadays bluntly political songwriting is very much a fringe activity and as likely to be mocked as lauded. How did this happen? On “Armalite Rifle” the Gof4 present argument and conclusion with an air of bleak reasonableness. Earnest, but compelling.

NOTSENSIBLES – “(I’m In Love With) Margaret Thatcher”
“She’s so sexy” Feeble jokepunk, taking liberties with the hated name in a way that dates it as much as the music. Not all political music was serious.

UB40 – “One In Ten”
“A statistical reminder of a world that doesn’t care.” My first ‘political’ memory is of seeing UB40’s video for this on a pop show and being hugely affected by the lyrics. Listening back it’s a bit ‘great chorus, shame about the song’. But it’s an early example of the kind of ‘state of the nation’ records that were a feature of the anti-Thatcher era.

THE SPECIALS – “Ghost Town”
“Too much fighting on the dancefloor” The British “Blowin In The Wind” in that its genre-breaking amazingness seems by itself to have convinced every rock critic that writing political pop is a fundamentally Good Thing. (Obviously “Ghost Town” is better than “Blowin In The Wind”, don’t get me wrong). This extraordinary record is also the rod that has been used to beat bands ever since – if Jerry and Terry did it, why can’t you?

ROBERT WYATT – “Shipbuilding”
“And a bicycle on the boy’s birthday.” From an aesthetic standpoint this is probably the best anti-war song ever. In terms of giving people something to chant or learn or rally to, it’s obviously less successful. “Shipbuilding”‘s role is to condemn, not prevent, so this hardly matters.

WHAM! – “Wham! Rap”
“Well listen Mr Average, you’re a jerk!” Revolt into style! The new pop era is often described as apolitical and compared to the few years previous, it was. It’s also described as crypto-Thatcherite: here’s George M. to remind us that the reality on the ground may have been different. No such thing as society here, true, but an enthusiastic endorsement of dole scrounging which wouldn’t have pleased Central Office.

CRASS – “How Does It Feel?”
“…to be the mother of a thousand dead?” One of the most common slurs on political pop is that it “preaches to the converted”. Yes, it does. So what? A lot of the early 80s anarcho-punk hardcore are still involved in grass-roots political and community schemes which have done a lot of small goods. This kind of fierce music acted as a spur and a glue, even if the system endured.

THE HUMAN LEAGUE – “The Lebanon”
“And where there used to be some shops” On the other hand most slurs are justified when it comes to pop musicians feeling they should “do something, you know, political”. The redeeming feature here is that “The Lebanon”, pompous echoed drums aside, is a great little tune from a band at least near their peak. Its contribution to geopolitical harmony may be minimal but I’d still play it out.

THE IMPOSTER – “Pills And Soap”
“And the camera noses in to the tears on her face” Elvis Costello addresses the nation in a song rich in disgusted wordplay and poor in listener reward. Another pitfall of the political song: often it doesn’t do anything except make you feel bitter and miserable.

THE STYLE COUNCIL – “Walls Come Tumbling Down”
“You could actually try changing things!” In my opinion the best thing Paul Weller ever did. Impossibly rousing, heart-on-sleeve, danceable, unifying – the dream of Red Wedge realised in three minutes. Pity those three minutes were as good as it got. Attempts to harness pop music for mainstream activism have been one major reason the ‘genre’ lacks credibility now.

STING – “Russians”
“How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?” Another major reason the genre lacks credibility now.

BRONSKI BEAT – “Smalltown Boy”
“You are the one that they talk about around town” Songs rooted in sexual and sexual identity politics were a feature of the post-punk era (neglected on this comp because I’m dense) and the occasional example hit big in the mid-80s. Good use of a video in tandem with a song, too.

MCCARTHY – “Red Sleeping Beauty”
“While there’s still a world to win” The strange tumbling rhythm of this suggests to me that there’s lots still to be written about mid-80s indie. Hopeful and bittersweet, which sums up indie’s attitudes to politics and romance, come to think of it.

SMILEY CULTURE – “Westland Helicopter”
“Life is like a ladder, Smiley” Toasting fantasia in which Smiley Culture buys Thatcher’s Westland shares in return for his villa. “I love your patter” says Maggie, or rather an increasingly shaky Maggie impersonator. The entrepreneurial culture skewered, maybe.

MICRODISNEY – “Gale Force Wind”
“Watch your friends become the kind you hate” The 87 election victory was the high watermark of the Thatcher era: the implosion of Red Wedge made political songwriting bitter, turning it away from rousing the troops and towards dissections of life in a Thatcherite world. The Pet Shop Boys’ Actually, recorded in 1987, is essentially a Thatcherite Britain concept album, as is Microdisney’s venomous 39 Minutes, from which this song comes.

“They came and drew us diagrams” More elegiac songwriting, this time about housebuilding: a faintly un-pop subject which serves as a more general metaphor for Thatcherism’s assault on community and social roots.

BILLY BRAGG – “Waiting For The Great Leap Forward”
“Mixing pop and politics, they ask me what the use is.” The obvious closer, this, a rumination on five years spent shouting back the tide, guitar in hand. The distilled sound of Labour’s ‘one more heave’ philosophy and still stirring despite everything.

And then what happened? Dance music, and Thatcher’s resignation, and suddenly the iron focus of opposition wasn?t there any more. Nobody was going to write a “Tramp The Dirt Down” about John Major. So what on Earth was pop going to do next?


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 409 views

As if my life wasn’t hard enough, look at what I have to face every morning at Waterloo station. There are rows and rows and rows of the below, stretching into the void like… something that would stretch into a void… like ENDLESS CHAINS OF THIRSTIES, perhaps.

Gordon’s Gin Proudly Sponsors Waterloo Station

I am currently still spluttering in indignation that Gordons are ADULTERING my precious Genever with ‘lemongrass and ginger’ so can’t form any more of a coherent reaction to it at the moment. Distiller’s Cut: DISTILL MY BUTT, more like. For fvcks sake if I wanted lemongrass in my g&t I would stick one in the glass and use it as a stirrer, comme les fait when they make bloody marys with the celery stick. BUT I DON’T WANT THE LEMONGRASS IN MY GIN SO I WILL NOT!!

Such peonrie. From now on I’m sticking to Tanqueray, Bombay, or Plymouth.

The Northern Line Platform Northbound At Waterloo.

Lots of planets have a Northside

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 302 views

Rob Shearman, the writer of the FANtastic (YMMV) “Dalek” episode of Who gave an online interview to fans shortly after the show went out. He had this to say on the subject of writing speeches for Christopher E

“Well, it was a worry to start with. We’d all been sent what Russell had so far written – and that was Rose, in which he plays a more enigmatic mysterious role. … I just wrote an imaginary Doctor the way I hoped he’d be, whilst being aware of the different rhythms of speech Russell had given him – his greater colloquial use, for example. Once Chris was cast, it got more refined. And I listened to that Orbital track ‘You Lot’ a great deal whilst writing the Doctor’s big speeches!”


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 404 views

It seems to be a perfectly bogstand piece of fantasy fiction. Princes and their squires in a feudal everyworld. Sure there are odd hints about “the wall” but the hints that things may not be what they seem are laid on delicately until the reader is shocked to find that this fantasy world is actually taking place in the far future on a giant spaceship.

Except they aren’t surprised at all because the book is called Mothership, the cover has a spaceship on it, and a blurb on the back that gives away every aspect of this twist.

I was talking aspects of plot development with some friends the other day, wondering that the fact that something I am writing takes a long time to get to anything that could be called plot. It was agreed that as long as the writing and characters are good it doesn’t matter, they will already know the plot from the blurb. Just make sure you use the blurb as a force for good, don’t let it undermine your hard work.

a plague of pseudo-moons

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 315 views

the more i read about the litter of space dust in orbit round all these other so-called “planets”, the more i like our own homegrown giant lifeless blob — it is big and it is clever


Blog 7Post a comment • 307 views

I wonder how newspaper editors (or publishers) prepare for the solemn duty of telling their readers which way to vote. Do they have a special election pen? These things are always written as if they’d been composed at a stout oak desk using the finest swan quill. Well, the ones in the broadsheets are, anyway.

As the editor of Blog 7 and publisher of Freaky Trigger I feel it is time to do my civic duty. It’s been more difficult than usual to find positive things to vote for: I think the Lib Dems have had a good campaign and are right on many things but electoral calculus suggests they won’t put on many extra seats this time. I think this country is a better place to live – from my privileged position – than in 1997 but Blair himself makes my skin crawl. I think the Tories have run the ugliest and nastiest campaign I can remember.

These are pretty common views for a mildly left-wing middle-class white guy, so I’m not going to expand on them as if they aren’t. It leaves my ‘endorsement’, such as it is, exactly the same as it would have been in 2001 and 1997. Vote against the Tories. If you live in a Tory seat, vote for whoever came second last time. If you live in a marginal, vote for whoever keeps the Tories out. If you live in a Labour-Lib Dem marginal, or in a Labour safe seat, then vote with your conscience (and have a look at yr MPs voting record, if sitting). I will be voting Lib Dem – Tooting is rock solid Labour and the incumbent, who was anti-war, is standing down. The new guy seems alright but it would be good to get the swing up.

There. That was easy. Don’t know what Murdoch makes such a fuss about.

How To Make A Mean Creek

Do You SeePost a comment • 388 views

Take one Mystic River and replace its cast with that of Stand By Me. Make them watch Deliverance, but not Without A Paddle. Add a surprising shake of Swallows & Amazons, and top it off with a dash of My Two Dads.

That’s how you make a Mean Creek.
Now the question for you is, did I like it or not?

Not British Politics

Blog 7Post a comment • 290 views

So actually something which might mean something (floating voter = disillusioned voter after all). Glutter is a blog run by a friend* in Hong Kong which probably started, like many a blog as a way of talking about the minutiae of Yan’s day-to-day life. While you can never shake that bit off of a blog, the increasing focus on the current political situation in Hong Kong, and the gradual erosion of civil liberties and free press has become much more of a focus. She recently was nominated for a Freedom Blog Award, and she did an interview with a Hong Kong TV channel about her blog. As usual in these situations, any attempt at getting her serious point about freedom of the press was sidetracked by the usual trivialisation of “what is this blog thing”. But rather than the usual annoyance you might get in the UK about this, Yan is probably right to see this as another extension of the slow curb of freedom of speech, and the complicity of news media in doing this.

*Okay, I haven’t seen her in almost five years, and last time we met we argued incessantly, mainly because I did that annoying thing I often do which is feign a strong opinion on something I know nothing about. I hope to see her in a couple of weeks where I won’t do this.