Posts from September 2008

Sep 08

Its Not Easy Being Green

FT4 comments • 187 views

On the face of it, there is little that Imperial Life In The Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran and the musical Wicked have in common, except that they both feature a location called the Emerald City. And indeed if you remove the circumstantial fact that I read one and saw the other in the same week you would be correct. Nevertheless this coincidence of circumstance impels me to write a joint review of both with a vague suggestion that this conjunction will shine some sort of unforeseen light upon both works which makes the experience richer.

It almost certainly won’t.


Sep 08

ANITA WARD – “Ring My Bell”

FT + Popular85 comments • 6,282 views

#438, 16th June 1979

“Ring My Bell” is a disco masterclass in how to use the treble – the bell itself (sounds like it’s off a bicycle!), the laserbeam bleeps, Anita Ward’s impishly breathy voice, and the skritch-skratch guitar in the middle of the stereo pan, halfway between a mouse and a typewriter.


Sep 08

A Bite of Stars, A Slug of Time, and Thou – Episode 10

FT + Slug of Time Podcast + The Brown Wedge3 comments • 1,102 views

“Track 12” by J.G. Ballard gets Slugged this week, with Richard Thomas joining Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to discuss it. Elisha reads this odd story of revenge via home recording in case you haven’t; music comes courtesy of John Foxx, Stereo Total and Iannis Xenakis, and there’s a miniature laboratory cyclone thrown in for good measure.

Produced by Elisha Sessions

Sep 08

BLONDIE – “Sunday Girl”

FT + Popular43 comments • 4,058 views

#437, 26th May 1979

I prefer Blondie when they’re poking their noses where they didn’t seem to belong, applying their touch of devastating cool to disco or rap or reggae and getting clean away with it. “Sunday Girl”, delightfully frilly though it is, doesn’t floor me in the same way. In a way its weirdly reminiscent of the Grease singles, a pastiche of something I can’t quite put my finger one – except this doesn’t come alive for me until the last twenty seconds or so, when Debbie Harry suddenly gets some snarl in her voice and the handclaps and guitars start to surge… and then it’s over. Pretty, thoroughly pleasant, beautifully crafted, but too pert to excite.

Sep 08

ART GARFUNKEL – “Bright Eyes”

FT + Popular77 comments • 6,634 views

#436, 14th April 1979

Who wrote “Bright Eyes”, and why they wrote it, I don’t care. I know, but I don’t care. You can talk about all that stuff Because all “Bright Eyes” means for me is this:


45 Things: An Audio Appendix

FT7 comments • 679 views

I have a new Pitchfork column up, called “45 Things I Love About Pop”, which as titles go is among my more straightforward ones. A lot of what I talk about is helpfully linked to thanks to the wonders of YouTube: this post is designed to sweep up some of the other bits and bobs which that fine site hasn’t got. So you get (audio under the cut):

Frankie Goes To Hollywood – “Two Tribes (Carnage)”: to be honest I can never remember which Two Tribes remix is which but they’re all pretty awesome – well, except Hibakusha with the vomiting noises halfway through.

The JAMS – “Whitney Joins The JAMS”: Mission impossible they said!! I think I wrongly credited this to the KLF in my piece.

Thieves – “Unworthy”: As also featured in my top 100 songs of the 90s, way back when.

Sabres Of Paradise – “Wilmot”: This is the full-length version, not the single/video edit linked to on P4K.

Seeed – “Release”: No bogling indie girls, sadly, but here’s Seeed at work on the famous ‘Cure Riddim’


Sep 08

Comics: A Beginner’s Guide: Crime/Suspense Thrillers

The Brown Wedge5 comments • 854 views

I usually start with my favourite work under consideration, but for the last entry in the series, I am saving the best for last. Crime is obviously central to countless comics, but I am not really talking about the superhero comic, not Alan Moore’s excellent Top Ten, a superhero Hill Street Blues, or even things like Ed Brubaker’s Gotham Central, which is still in that world, almost constantly conscious of the existence of Batman. Frankly, comics have given us very little centrally placed in the genre to match up to the many great crime novels or movies – though actually I have high hopes for Darwyn Cooke’s upcoming adaptations of some of Richard Stark’s tremendously hardboiled Parker stories.

Really, this heading is just for me to talk about one eight-page story, which only loosely belongs here. It’s widely considered the best short-story ever in comics – this may be a fair assessment, though I mention a couple of other contenders in the War and Koike & Kojima entries in this series. Whatever, ‘Master Race’ is a genuine masterpiece. You will often find no mention of the writer – it’s just discussed as Bernie Krigstein’s comic. The script in itself is daring: in 1955, the Holocaust was not much referenced in popular culture. I imagine it was still too raw, too hard to assimilate into anything but the most serious coverage, so writer (and editor of Impact, which ran this story in its first issue) Al Feldstein was taking a risk in including details of its horrors. Krigstein for once got permission to do things more or less his way – he had had regular battles with EC about changing the panel layouts he was given (EC habitually had the borders and copious caption text all set before the artists got at it). This time, he even got to stretch a 6-page script to eight pages, though I have seen it said that he had wanted 12.


Sep 08

I Know What It Means To Work Hadron Machines

Proven By Science6 comments • 239 views

With so much stuff whizzing around the internets, accelerating barely-humorous* claims of big bangs, and all-devouring black holes zapping around one way, and conspiracy nuts spiralling out of control going the other way and throwing out like actual death threats to physicists, what does the resulting explosion of uninformed daftness tell us about the small-scale fabric of culture itself? Follow the tracks of the memes as they galvanise those around them and work backwards to the source…

Pop cultural candidate #1 has to be Dan Brown’s ‘Angels and Demons’ which features a finished LHC (as did Brown imitating ‘Decipher’ by Stel Pavlou). I have not read it, but it sounds particularly bonkers — I look forward to the forthcoming film. CERN even have a page for A&D fans explaining the reality. But that (appears) to be largely about a large bomb — it’s not the source of end-of-world-ism.

It’s got a sort of negative echo of Y2K about it all — those who know that there is little (i.e nothing) to worry about, are actually going out of their way to stress that this is the case, as it might lose them funding. The Y2K fear and uncertainty was, by contrast, a great source of cash.

It also feels like — finally an end of the world i can relate to! A bang not a whimper! A Statham/Cage blockbuster firecracker of doomscience instead of the media drip-feed namby-pamby melting ice caps and ‘won’t someone think of the polar bears’ editorials. Like boiling frogs, we can only get agitated when the threat is instant but fictional, not incremental and more likely.


APC: “She’s A Lady”

FTPost a comment • 212 views

As Martin S pointed out on the “I Will Survive” comments thread, Pulp have borrowed both lyrics and hooks from this song, the latter in their epic His N Hers track “She’s A Lady” – which shares a theme as well as a partial chorus with “IWS”, though Jarvis’ crack-up and recovery is a lot more grubby and ambiguous than Gloria’s.

This version – recorded in 1992 for what I think is a French radio session – cranks up the intensity even further thanks to layers and layers of penetrating violin. It also, attentive Pulp fans will realise, switches the punchline at song’s end.

GLORIA GAYNOR – “I Will Survive”

FT + Popular33 comments • 5,787 views

#435, 17th March 1979

It’s not unusual for songs to become cultural fixtures, but it’s a little rarer for their emotional use to be so generally prescribed: “I Will Survive” is so ensconced as the go-to cry of defiance for the jilted girl that it feels more ubiquitous than it actually is. I can’t remember the last time I heard “I Will Survive” on the radio, or at karaoke, and it’s almost impossible to imagine it ever being used seriously on TV or in a film now. But none of that lessens its familiarity.