Posts from February 2009

Feb 09


FT + Popular35 comments • 3,732 views

#493, 30th January 1982

Shaky’s first two number ones left us with an open question: was he attracted to rock’n’roll because of the wit and invention in songs like “Green Door”, or was he simply a hard-working stylist with decent taste in material? The shrill “Oh Julie” quickly resolves the issue: it’s written by Shaky himself, and is an excellent case study in why doing your own songs is not always a good idea. Julie/truly, baby/maybe, leave/believe – he clunks his way artlessly through the Ladybird Book Of Rhymes and the song’s one-trick melody certainly can’t save it. Nor does the Elvis imitation: it’s a source of relief when he shuts up and gets on with doing the Shaky shuffle. Short as it thankfully is, “Oh Julie” still manages to be one of the most boring number ones going: a painfully perfunctory exercise in the deliberately generic.

Feb 09

500: 78-97

FT9 comments • 724 views

dexys 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: A series of post-punk splinters, conceptual artists make good, and the birth of New Pop


BUCKS FIZZ – “The Land Of Make Believe”

FT + Popular77 comments • 9,732 views

#492, 16th January 1982

If “The Land Of Make Believe” is – as lyricist Pete Sinfield later claimed – a song about Thatcherism, then he has to be congratulated on one of pop’s more thorough veiling jobs. Thing is, the song doesn’t need added significance to be a striking and successful lyric: “Something / Nasty in your garden’s / Waiting / Patiently till it can have your heart” – strong stuff, especially sung in Bucks Fizz’s blandly chipper tones.


Feb 09

Popular ’81

FT + Popular/293 comments • 11,512 views

I give every song on Popular a mark out of 10 – these polls are your chance to nominate which YOU would have given 6 or more to. Pick as many as you feel qualify! My highest mark this year went to “Ghost Town”, my lowest to “Woman”.

Which of these Number Ones of 1981 would YOU have given 6 or more to?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

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And by all means leave comments on the year in general!

Hauntography: Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook

FT19 comments • 5,745 views

If you want to read it first, you can find it online here.
And if you want to know why I have written this, go here.

I read a lot of so-called genre fiction, but I have never read many ghost stories. Even my brief dalliance with horror fiction tended to lurch towards scientific horrors rather than the supernatural. As a rationalist, I have little time for the spooky. And I expect to not be blown away, as a short ghost story has very little room to manoeuvre outside a straight up tale of the unexpected with or without twist. In our circles this is known as “there b’ain’t a signpost ‘ere for twenty year”. I am of the opinion that ghost stories don’t have a lot to throw at me that will shock, and thus scare me. That said, I like good cinematic ghost stories, The Orphanage last year was one of my favourite films. So perhaps I should just enjoy the sensation without holding on for the scare.

So this is my first proper M.R.James story. I approached Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook without a forensic eye, I wanted to be entertained and to see what a good short ghost story could do for me. So I racked up lots of spooky music (thanks Spotify for Spooky Tooth) and read. And quickly got the hang to what seemed to be M.R.James’s core trick: obsessive detail. James is marvellously specific with his times, place and reference. He manages in a few paragraphs to sum up this French village and this haunted verger (I prefer the term to sacristan).


Feb 09

THE HUMAN LEAGUE – “Don’t You Want Me”

FT + Popular110 comments • 9,077 views

#491, 12th December 1981

It’s almost a shame that after three years making records concerning sericulture, medieval time-slips, singles-as-singularities, assassinations, Judge Dredd, Dr Who and whatever the hell “Crow And A Baby” was about, the Human League get to #1 with a straightforward song of embittered romance. They maybe felt the same: “Don’t You Want Me” was the fourth single off Dare, released at the insistence of the label. Who of course were quite right.


The Power Of Metro!

FT7 comments • 274 views

BLIMEY. I will be on Radio 2 at ten past six, talking to Chris Evans about Popular.

(I’ll delete this post after the event, so as not to clog up the front page. And I will get on which writing the next Popular entry, which is after all a great jumping-on point for new readers!)

More rubbish science

FT3 comments • 178 views

I just read on the BBC’s site that there really are intelligent aliens. This article may represent the research accurately, but that just tells us that the ‘research’ is a bunch of people making up shit and feeding it into a computer and acting like the results mean anything. A few problems with assigning numbers to any of these things:

1. Almost all of the planets so far discovered around other stars are gas giants, though they are sure they have detected signs of a few rocky planets very recently. Applying Earth models for the appearance of life and evolution is meaningless in these totally different environments.

2. We don’t understand the origins of life anything like well enough to guess how typical our pace was – though complexity theory offers hugely promising models for this investigation.

3. We only have any comprehension of the pace of evolution on this planet. There is no reason whatsoever to think Earth is any sense typical or average of rocky planets – certainly the other three in this system are not at all similar.

4. We have almost no idea of how intelligence evolved, beyond the basic requirements for survival, as seen in many animals. This makes it pointless assigning figures to how likely it is to evolve.

As far as I can tell these people have taken guesses based on the tiniest sliver of evidence as to how common rocky planets are, and then said something that amounts to “if lots of them are like Earth, lots of them will be like Earth => hurrah, intelligent life abounds!”

By the way, if you don’t think the BBC article is dumb enough on its own, read the comments below it.

The Incredibles Journey

Do You SeePost a comment • 368 views

So Bolt is a cute animal (Finding Nemo) with realistic fur (Monsters Inc) who is the star of a TV and believes the TV show is real (er – The Truman Show). His cute girl owner Penny (Inspector Gadget?) is also in the show, in which Bolt (Bolt) plays a superheroic dog (The Incredibles) who believes he really has super powers (Buzz Lightyear/Toy Story). However due to a mishap Bolt accidentally gets lost (Finding Nemo), needing to find his owner. Lost In New York (Home Alone 2: Lost In New York) he gets chatty with some pigeons (Valiant) who find him a cat (Aristocats) who is street smart to help him. Bolt still believes Penny has been kidnapped by the villain of the show and needs to escape from New York (Escape From New York), to get back to LA (Midnight Run), his home (The Incredible Journey). A picaresque adventure ensues (ALL LITERATURE EVER), interrupted by need for food (Ratatouille), the realities of how animals should behave (A Bugs Life) and how it is sad to be dumped by your owner (Toy Story 2 JESSIES SONG!!!). Somewhere along the line the travel by car (CARS). They pick up a hamster along the way (Hamstertouille).


How You Know You’ve Made It: pt 263

FT19 comments • 464 views

popular-clippingYes, yes – we’ve been mentioned in the Guardian, the Independent and FHM(!), but you know you’ve actually made it when you are mentioned in the real actual PAPER OF RECORD. No not the Times, (actually I think we have already been mentioned in there too), who uses that Murdoch rag as the paper of record any more? That’s right, there was a short article on Popular in this morning Metro. On their “web and weird stuff” page The Ridiculant, just below the five days old late story on Christian Bale’s sweary rant. What do you mean you missed it. Something better to do on the bus? I tell you this’ll be a clipping for the ages.

Of course I had something better to do on the bus so – as you can tell – this clipping is from the electronic version of the Metro.

Who knew there was an electronic edition? Certainly if I miss my fix of made up celebrity gossip*, reheated News At Ten and Nemi / This Life in the morning I now know I can get it online here. It does however beg the question: they may suggest Tom is a tad obsessive for this project. But what is more worthwhile? Reviewing every UK number one, or ARCHIVING EVERY ELECTRONIC EDITION OF METRO EVER?

*How is The Green Room still going? Actually is the Green Room still going? I haven’t read a proper copy of Metro for years as my bus doesn’t start at a tube stop. Its very sad.