Posts from December 2008

Dec 08


FT + Popular64 comments • 6,502 views

#475, 21st February 1981

The extended artist credit is a giveaway: Aussie origins or no, this is a music hall number – perhaps the last such to get to No.1, complete with comical national caricature and audience participation. On record, the all-join-in section demolishes the song’s momentum, turning it into a chore. On screen, blackboard at the ready, Dolce made more sense, and at the time “Shaddap You Face” was a welcome relief after two months of piety. But almost anything would have been.

People upset that Ultravox were kept from the top by this have a good case: for a start, “Vienna” is a great deal funnier. The laughs in Joe Dolce arrive from i. the deathless comic value of a mock Italian accent, ii. the joy of yelling “Shaddap-a you face!”. I can vouch for ii, having submitted it to continuous testing that spring, but it’s not a gag whose appeal has crossed the gulf of years.

Dec 08


FT + Popular60 comments • 5,193 views

#474, 7th February 1981

A basis purely in sales makes the UK chart faster-moving than playlist-led equivalents, and more responsive to the pleasures of any niche large enough to hit its thresholds. It’s a combination of that and the BBC’s dominant media position that has made caring about it such a British disease. But its calibrations are fragile – the Top 40 is easily knocked off-course by events. It would take a few more years for the mechanism to appear by which non-pop news and the charts could link up: Lennon’s death was a massive story but also still a pop event, so it was pop which felt its impact most. To a fan, the procession of Lennoniana at the top end of the charts was dignified and just. To a kid who’d only just started to fall for pop, it was like the Top 40 was simply broken: week upon week of this hairy guy wandering round a big white house.


Dec 08

Little Horrors

FT2 comments • 335 views

The Children is the second British horror movie this year using the previously untapped fear potential of the under sixteens. But whilst Eden Lake put its Kate Ashfield-a-like heroine in a ripped-from-the-fever-dream-of-the-Daily-Mail battle with delinquent hoodies, The Children skews a little younger. And whilst it is true that small children have the ability to be remarkably creepy (see Poltergeist, The Shining, Look Who’s Talking) it is less clear if they can be actually menacing. The Children has a good stab at turning its little horrors into actual horrors, but has to rely on a little bit too much coincidence and adult irrationality in the process.

The scenario is a New Years Eve party in a winter cottage. The unseasonal half inch snow cover gives the film its excuse for no police involvement. While it is true that in the UK we cannot deal with even the smallest amount of snow, this looks pathetic and was probably a dud continuity decisions.


500: 17-31

FT16 comments • 650 views

A quick recap!

This is a series of posts “liveblogging” the Pitchfork 500, reflecting the book’s dual purpose as criticism and playlist. The ground rule is that I do the writing in real time as I listen to the music: no edits after that (except of typos). Posts in this series are intermittent, because I don’t have a lot of uninterrupted writing time.

Disclaimer: I write regularly for Pitchfork and contributed a dozen pieces to the book. I have no insider knowledge of how tracks were selected, had no say in the selection, and any commentary on the book’s purpose etc. is purely speculative.

In this episode: the book shifts focus to funk and disco, and then looks at what British punk’s originators did next…


Dec 08

JOHN LENNON – “Imagine”

FT + Popular134 comments • 10,174 views

#473, 10th January 1981

“John Lennon’s life was no longer a debate” – in a song which has a good claim to be the stupidest lyric ever recorded, this is a glimpse of insight. Lennon’s murder didn’t turn him into an icon – he was one anyway – but it froze his iconicity into a certain pattern: troubled genius, artist, lover and man of peace. The perfect demonstration of this was the release of Albert Goldman’s Lennon biography, which aroused raving outrage simply by detailing the numerous ways in which Lennon was a perfectly typical 60s and 70s rock star. There was more to him than that, but there’s more to him than “Imagine” too.


Popular ’80

FT + Popular/311 comments • 11,897 views

I give every song on Popular a mark out of 10. This is your opportunity to pick any that YOU would have given 6 or more to from 1980 – and you can talk about the year in general in the comments box.

Number One Hits of 1980: Which would you have given 6 or more to?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

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Dec 08

ST WINIFRED’S SCHOOL CHOIR – “There’s No One Quite Like Grandma”

FT + Popular66 comments • 8,820 views

#472, 27th December 1980

For every pop lover there comes a moment of reflection and perhaps even self-doubt, when they turn on the telly and see that for the first time their contemporaries are top of the charts. There on the screen are people your own age who spat in the face of caution and jumped two-footed into the pop life, living the dream while you sit at home in your lonely fandom drawing cheques on rock’n’roll you know deep inside you can never cash.

Of course, when it’s St. Winifred’s School Choir up there this painful realisation is a little bit easier.


Dec 08


FT5 comments • 2,543 views

19. Shut Up And Dance – I’m Ravin’ I’m Ravin’

How many times has a melody stalled on the tip of your tongue? Na-nur-na-nur NAH-ah NAAA. Dammit, what is it? Where on earth is that from? Na-nur-nah wee-woo-WEEEE-urr-wooo. You can’t remember what comes next, but if someone could *just* give you the first bit of the chorus you’d surely be able to hum the whole thing, even though you don’t know what the song’s called. Or who it’s by.


Dec 08

The Poptimist Files

FT7 comments • 1,137 views

This post is simply a way of getting all my Pitchfork columns linked to in one place so I can put it on the sidebar.

Poptimist #1: Music Hall, the Beatles, the power of the crowd.
Poptimist #2: Spoilers in music, MP3 blogs, the delights of conversation.
Poptimist #3: Thrill-Power Overload! 2000AD at 30.
Poptimist #4: What I like in music writing (Eshun, McDonald, Sinker, Kogan, Robinson)
Poptimist #5: ABBA – the story of a band that grew up.
Poptimist #6: Are The Smiths funny? How Big Facts come to control bands’ stories.
Poptimist #7: How to get rid of your record collection and what to do next.
Poptimist #9: Good taste and the slow death of British pop music.
Poptimist #10: In which Britney Spears makes the best album of the last five years.
Poptimist #11: Use other tests please.
Poptimist #12: Of Pop and Polls and Peel!
Poptimist #13: Marketing is nothing to be scared of.
Poptimist #14: The moment before punk: experiments in antediluvian archaeology.
Poptimist #15: A life in favourite albums.
Poptimist #16: Speculation vs Annotation, Final Crisis vs Secret Invasion
Poptimist #17: What might a history of pop be like?
Poptimist #18: 45 Things I Love About Pop
Poptimist #19: Triangulation, drug of the nation.
Poptimist #20: The incomplete story of robots in pop.

Dec 08

The Broken World – Tim Etchells

FT + The Brown Wedge//Post a comment • 168 views

When I found out my favourite theatre director in the world had written his first novel I was intrigued, but also somewhat trepidacious. Tim’s theatre writing (which I talked about a bit here) is so strongly of and about theatre itself, would he trip up in an entirely different mode of writing? Would what he produces that makes forced ents such a theatrical force work on the page?

So I was in borders with a gift voucher, unsure of what to spend it on, when I remembered and picked it up, not quite out of duty, but frankly without any great expectation (not unlike when i got the new girls aloud alBUM).

It is ASTONISHING. I can’t remember the last time a book, a BOOK, has hit me like this, it might have been shampoo planet (yes, i read it before generation x, because waterstones in cheltenham didn’t have gen x) or My Idea of Fun, fifteen years ago. You might think “ah fanboy, bound to like it” but it’s so far away from his theatrical writing, and yet contains hints of all his beautiful little linguistic ticks that made me cheer inside when I spotted one.

Anyway, it may be the best novel yet written about blogging, the argot is so spot-on, the way the unnamed narrator, like all bloggers, moves away from the Proper Subject At Hand (a walkthrough of mindbogglingly complex computer game) to talk about himself, his friends (who are all referred to by their internet names throughout), his crappy job making Cooked Circular Food (a beautiful neologism that i intend to use at Every Appropriate Point) and everything else in his real life. There’s clearly a deep love for the subject matter, alienation and distance has always a key driver in forced ents work, but an embrace of distance, that it’s a good thing, and this links so strongly with how people immerse themselves in MMORPGs that it was kind of inevitable that Tim would see the potential in them.

Really, I can’t recommend it highly enough, and am worried that i’m doing a shocking job of describing how great this book is, but I HAD to tell you about it.