Posts from 10th January 2006

Jan 06

THE SMALL FACES – “All Or Nothing”

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#223, 17th September 1966

You can still hear records that sound like this in the charts occasionally, because the big late-90s Britrock boom was built on this template and some of that generation of bands have lingered. It seems to be a model that guys like Richard Ashcroft, who take themselves and their music pretty seriously, reach for, and I can understand why.

The Small Faces have picked up an expressive vocabulary from soul, with lots of stock interjections and hints of call-and-response, even if there’s no actual response. It’s a music that values noise and technique (though not yet to the point where they become a priority) and I don’t know where that came from, maybe just from in-circuit cockfighting among the newer groups. And then you’ve got some vestiges of pop songwriting or reflex: those “ba-ba-ba-das”, for instance, and the dynamics – tantrum swings of aggression and volume – might be half-borrowings from the foghorn pop of Cilla, too. But it’s not as disciplined as pop has been – even if it’s only three minutes long it feels longer, feels like the band are giving themselves space and time to preen a bit.

This all combines into a sound I recognise as “rock” – whether it rocks or not – and react against, even though it’s interesting seeing it develop here. It’s deeply unfair to blame the Small Faces for the iniquities of their descendents, but I find “All Or Nothing” charmless anyway. I think the bullish interruptions – “Come on children!” “Mmm yeah” “You know what I mean!” and the familiar rest – strip out the vulnerability the song needs to be sympathetic, and leaves it red-faced, self-satisfied, even bullying.

Day 56: Thriller

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 496 views

Indonesia. Probably a really nice place. Probably full of great food, native culture that does not involve rhythm’s or instruments and great folk tales. That’s what I thought when I woke up, before toying with getting a ticket to Japan (the island nation, not the band, because clearly if I got a ticket to the band the band would not last long enough for me to stand on them. I hate Japan.)

However as soon as I left the hotel the country around me faded away. There, slap bang in the middle of the city, was an eyesore of remarkable dimensions. Forty storeys high, forty storeys wide, casting a malevolent shadow over the entire city. If I were not a strong woman it would have driven me mad straight away. I am not a woman taken easily to fear, but even I had to take a moment before shielding my eyes and commanding the nearest taxi driver to take me to the station.

I ran in, throwing money at the sales desk for any flight, anywhere out of this monstrous town. How could they do it I ask? What was the motivation to sell themselves to some sort of Satan. A ticket was passed to me as I ran for customs, just to get away from that landmark of lousiness.

“What made them do it?” I asked the stewardess as we left. “How could they do that?”
The woman behind replied, shocked at my disrespectful tone to her countries national monument.
“Do you not like it? Everybody likes it.”
“It is a sin against human nature, an affront to all right-thinking mankind.”
“No, it is just the Thriller in Manila.”

As if a forty storey representation of the worlds best selling album was a good thing.

THRILLER – Michael Jackson

I don’t know what school of genre studies Mr Jackson went to, but surely he has made a mistake. Any video where humans turn into werewolves, zombies and have a creepy Vincent Price voiceover would be described as a Horror movie, not a Thriller. Thrillers are exciting chase movies, tense spy stories and on the whole entertainments which whilst far fetched never verge into the fantastical.

Mind you, its a bit pointless lecturing Michael “DANGEROUS” Jackson on the meaning of words. He is dangerous only if you are an original part of his own body.

Thriller is often thought of as where the rot set in (it was certainly after Thriller that Michael set about his own face with such gusto). I disagree. Yes Billie Jean, Beat It and PYT are PY(ss)Poor. But ABC by the Jackson’s always set my teeth on edge. But there is no denying the catalogue of poverty that exists on Thriller. So here , for the first time, is Tanya Headon’s track-by-track guide to the rubbish on Thriller:

1: Wanna be Startin’ Somethin’: No, actually I’m quite keen on stopping something. This album. Now.
2: Baby Be Mine : Comment removed after legal advice and Jackson’s acquittal.
3: The Girl Is Mine: Imagine Michael Jackson and Paul MacCartney fighting over a girl. Then imagine the girl. No, that’s right, those are chains you are imagining.
4: Thriller: No. Horror.
5: Beat It: In the colloquial sense, as in FUCK OFF MICHAEL.
6: Billie Jean: Not your lover eh? Just “some girl”. I think you protest too much.
7: Human Nature: Not an excuse in a court of law for shitting all over this track.
8: PYT (Pretty Young Thing): Pretty Young always equals too young in my book.
9: Lady In My Life: Good lord, this track is so poor it barely signifies. It is rubbish though.
10: Someone In The Dark: Michael Jackson clearly trying to live out the “fun guy to be” with gag, but feeding himself shit.

Scientist Stereotyped Boo-Hoo

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A recent survey showed that when children are asked to draw a scientist they consistently draw a figure “with wild hair, lab coat, staring eyes, coke-bottle glasses, a withered hand; in some cases they’ve even written the word “MAD” with an arrow pointing at the scientist”. Well I guess it might be a bit annoying if everyone always stereotyped my fellow professionals as loonies too (rather than humourless administrators). But is this really the kind of barrier stopping people get into science itself? Surely science being hard is the main barrier.

If our career advisors are just asking kids what they want to do on the basis of its image then sure a lot of scientists have a problem. And that problem is not the coke bottle glasses or the disembodied arrow hanging over their head saying MAD. Instead it is the sad truth that actual jobbing scientists often don’t get out much. They are stuck in the lab where comfy and practical clothing rules the roost. Not only that but science IS hard. Not at school level, not even so much at degree level. But if you are on the cutting edge, then you do need to take a bit of time to explain exactly what you are doing. Not easy in soundbyte culture.

So I think the loony mad scientist stereotype is actually a good one. First it assumes that scientist opt out of the rest of the world, making them to some degree cool. Second it marks them out as being special. And also, and most usefully, it attracts all the mad clever kids who would otherwise be committing fiendishly complex crimes.

Sexy Little Numbers

TMFDPost a comment • 212 views

More on the LRB/Runciman/Mourinho debate!

1. What Runciman misses out is the connection – especially long-term – between discrete results in football. This may well be subject to other statistical laws – or maybe there are other scientific ways to model it – but his view is too simplistic. When you toss a coin repeatedly, the result of each coin toss is entirely unlinked to the previous ones. Shooting a basket is similar, though of course the fatigue created by continuing shooting attempts will play a part.

But a team playing football? The results are very much linked over time. Most basically, a long winning or losing run may well mean a team plays different opponents in subsequent seasons. This will in turn impact on the quality of players the team can attract or retail. And even for clubs which stay in one division, ‘runs’ can impact on attendances and merchandising support, which again may well affect the team’s composition. So while individual games may have nothing to do with each other, a ‘run’ is significant in that it can make subsequent ‘runs’ more likely.

2. Runciman’s article is really valuable though for its comments on Mourinho’s good looks, which make a clear point that I simply haven’t seen articulated (or at least not so clearly) in football commentary. Not so much about Jose’s fanciability, though I think Runciman’s right in identifying it as a helpful factor. But the simple idea that a team will play better when there’s someone on the pitch (or touchline) that they want to impress/have a crush on is an intriguing one.

I thought the article that Mark refers to

TMFDPost a comment • 446 views

I thought the article that Mark refers to by David Runciman’s in the LRB was a necessary corrective to the myth of the manager he rightly takes to task. It’s analogous to the concept of the super-CEO.

Both make too much play of the effect one individual has and downplay the importance of chance, or the efforts of their subordinates and the the behaviour of external factors beyond control of the CEO/Manager. Both are self-serving myths in that are used (in business anyway) to justify stellar salaries at the top and downsizing at the bottom.

The myth in football is used to justify the idea that replacement of a manager is the solution. Ironically, the Leagues Managers’ Association would be far better campaigning to get their members acting like the big I am, as the idea that a judicious firing of a manager and the hiring of another will work wonders is encouraged by managers claiming such magical powers for themselves.

The interesting development is the type of person like Mourinho is, which contravenes a far more pervasive myth in football that the only person qualified to manage is the football man, who is grounded and suffused in the game. This invariably is an ex-player, and in a sense, the LMA is the SCR to the PFA’s JCR. Both are full of arcane rites, both are part and parcel of a system that they mutually reinforce, despite the occasional antagonism between them.

Mourinho is different. He wasn’t a player and doesn’t subscribe to the osmotic theory of management that managers arrive at a an understanding of the game through simply doing it. Mourinho prepares rigourously, and, whilst he can’t control every factor (despite presenting himself as being able to do just that) he works to remove as many elements of chance as possible. He’ll wind up referees, he’ll prepare dossiers for players, he’ll change teams around quickly in response to changes in the game. The main thing he does is prepare players to be able to deal with chance.

The simple truth between myth-making and Runciman’s statistical means is that the best teams win because they have the best players coached by the best managers. Good players can only go so far without decent management (hello Gerard Houllier!), whilst good managers can only take an OK team so far (hello Charlton!). Good managers sometimes don’t work out with good teams. It’s a funny old management matrix, Saint!

Which takes us back to the emblematic magical manager of myth, Bill Shankly, who said that a football pitch was no place for children. You needed adults who could take responsibility, make decisions and be trusted to respond to the game. Teams who are able to manage co-operatively on their own are best placed to master the variety of circumstances that could face them much better than dictatorial control freaks. As in football, as in life.

Without A (much of a) Trace

Do You SeePost a comment • 258 views

Before the hordes arrive talking about Life On Mars (aka Goodnight Sweeneyheart) I caught the first episode of the new series of Without A Trace last night. What a misnomer that title is: every week there is a trace, THAT IS THE POINT, THAT IS HOW THEY FIND THE PEOPLE. Anyway, Tony LaPaglia, the actor with the worst grasp on accents working today (his Australian comes out whenever he shouts) and his team got involved in a story whose plot was a few shades off identical to The Interpreter. Fictional African country – check. Nice girl white assassin – check. However what Tony’s team had on their side was that they were just interested in the missing person aspect. Which means from a crime clean-up rate they also managed to pull in
a) Two murders
b) Gun running
c) Assassination of a foreign national
d) Embezzlement
e) Underage teenage pregnancy.

That’s a clean-up rate.

Oh, and you know its a Jerry Bruckheimer production as the episode cleanly has a “This Week One Of The Team Must Die” stamped all over it, and you just know that it isn’t going to be Marianne Jean-Baptiste whose heart stops for a few minutes in the show. And now I have to watch next week to find out who.

ruin to the left of us, ruin to the right of us

Do You SeePost a comment • 315 views

k-punk makes an interesting point here on icons vs “madeleines” and the capacity for time-travel… that the things that take us are increasingly overlooked and private and unexpected, rather than public and shared (though i do wonder if our sense that this is a problem ONLY WE HAVE EVER FACED isn’t more to do with the extreme temporal parochialism of our age)

anyway rather than get into that, i just wanted to note in passing the strongest madeleine-effect i had from an artwork recently = in front of one of JEFF WALL‘s photos at tate modern, of a little street-furniture monument (a stone ball on a pillar) in an otherwise empty canadian street, except for cars

wall is more famous for the pics he does which elaborately restage some incident he saw but maybe didn’t photograph — or else restage eg hokusai’s “papers blown by the wind” — but this pic wz unassuming and unpeopled, and (unlike many of his pics), NOT pregnant w.the sense that something strong is ABOUT to happen; more than nothing had ever happened…

anyway it called to mind welwyn garden city, where i wz taken often as a child to visit my mum’s parents (but have never visited since they moved in i think 1966)… and i don’t know why it reminded me of this

Footballer Kills Crisp Brand (pot Noodle Saved)

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 331 views

There are lots of angles with which you can look at the sad news that Golden Wonder have gone into administration. You can hark back to nostalgia, when a bag of Golden Wonder were in every child’s lunchbox. You can suggest that the increase in health eating has cut the market in unhealthy foods. Perhaps selling Pot Noodle to CPC in 1995 was an error (still, it means the Pot Noodle is saved!). However the Telegraph is taking a different tack on this: namely that Gary Lineker is to blame.

Indeed the tide is turning against the FA Cup eared TV cleancut sports presenter. Surely I and my companion on Sunday were not the only one bemoaning the choice of Spurs vs Leicester as the BBC flagship choice of the 3rd round of the FA Cup. Previous cup clashes between these two teams have been deathly dull, and surely the only reason the match was picked was that Lineker spent significant parts of his goal-poaching career at these teams. With a World Cup coming, one wonders if the BBC are wise to pin their hopes on Gary presenting – now he has been revealed as the man who killed the Wheat Crunchie? I (golden) wonder too?

An apology – and a victory!

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 400 views

Apologies to my fellow music haters who have been waiting with baited breath for the conclusion of my epic world trip. The truth is that the next episode is so shocking that I have barely been able to write it for the pure vision of music horror it presents. Combine this with the largest disappointment of my music hating career* and things got a bit slow around here.

Well, no longer. For I have received the best news a music hating girl can get. I HAVE WON. You read that right. I HAVE WON. Perhaps in a minor way but consider this. “I Hate Music” is hosted on Freaky Trigger, a website which, until recently, was sullied with non-stop commentary on music and pop in a site called NYLPM. Well the instigator and owner of said NYLPM has decided to call it quits, throw in the towel and submit to the inevitable. MUSIC IS CRAP. This is why he can no long live the lie that writing a weblog about music presents to him. Soon he will have come over completely to my side and will join me, lying in wait for Kelly Clarkson as she goosesteps out of her London hotel on the way to a Top Of The Pops performance.

NYLPM is no longer, and I Tanya Headon, Am victorious. And so – back to Manilla…

*Kate Bush. I thought I had scuppered her with the Red Shoes thirteen years ago. I thought that, as per the Powell & Pressburger film and the Hans Christian Andersen “fairy tale”. Not only had I saddled her with a lumbering concept of an album for the fey haired nutsack warbler to sing about, but I had also slipped her a real actual pair of red shoes which would curse her to dance for eternity. I had not counted on the fact that Kate’s – ahem – interpretive style of dancing would break the curse on said shoes, not being able to cope with her pretending to be an aboriginal tribal dancer, a post-apocalyptic land girl and a man who somehow manages to fit a child in his eyes. This was demoralizing and made me hibernate.