Posts from 3rd November 2009

Nov 09

PET SHOP BOYS – “West End Girls”

FT + Popular114 comments • 11,722 views

#563, 11th January 1986, video

Talk about intelligence in pop and you quickly find yourself on slippery ground. Behind every successful record there’s someone, somewhere with a good brain but the smarts required vary by case: initiative, speed of thought, low cunning, political skill, not to mention a host of effects and reactions so canny and quick we handwave them away as “instinct”. And that’s without even touching on composition, studio skill, technique…

So if I said something – and I very well might – like “Neil Tennant is the most intelligent man in pop”, let’s be clear that what I’m talking about is a kind of intelligence critics like me are comfortable with, understand, perhaps envy: an unshowy, wide-ranging sort of brain that in another life would have ended up writing minor novels or maybe reviewing them. An intelligence nurtured and to an extent measured by education: “West End Girls”, for instance, is apparently inspired by T S Eliot’s The Waste Land.


Johnny Alpha Mad Stronium Dog

Do You See + FT1 comment • 808 views

I have never been directly involved in an African civil war. I have read a fair bit about them, the tragedies drawn up on racial lines, the devastating effect upon the population and the vicious cycles it seems to set up. And more recently the stories of child soldiers, from as young as six, turned into killing machines, fighting a fight they barely understand with ferocious savagery. Johnny Mad Dog is the first African film I have seen to deal with it and is a powerful piece of work. Possibly because many of its lead actors are ex-child soldiers themselves, the question “what happens to these brutalised children afterwards” becomes even more germane. But perhaps its power is derived from its visual aesthetic: brutal, rough and surprisingly reminiscent of future dystopia comics.

There is a visual shorthand which for me comes from the tales in 2000AD, though others may lean on the Mad Max films. Post-apocalyptic wastelands will be full of kids wearing the most bizarre of get-ups, afro-wigs and shoulder pads, gun toting tots in ironically cute T-Shirts, tall strapping gawky lads in wedding dresses.


The Most Important Game Ever Made #19: Oh, Ha Bloody Ha

FT/1 comment • 370 views

Time to get political with ‘Taxman’:

That’s Junior Parker’s ultra-slow, ultra-mellow version, a chuckling drawl (“Aw, now this is awful…”) that makes it clear that Junior is having a whale of a time lounging in the shoes of the man to whom all monies flow. He’s recasting the callous bureaucrat as some kind of blaxploitational Kingpin Of Crime, divorcing the song completely from one cultural milieu – what does Junior Parker care about the Wilson government? – and plugging it into a completely different one, with frankly gorgeous results.

Great stuff! Not relevent, though. Let’s get back to the Beatlebots.


CLIPSE – “Young Boy”

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What I said about “Young Boy” back in 2002 on this site:

My favourite Neptunes production trick is their most retro- the explosive-horns-and-shouting thing you get here and to some extent on Beyonce’s ‘Work It Out’. It’s where their digital funk thing comes together best – they keep filling their tunes with zap-gun blips and dinky keyboards which are madly enjoyable but never quite top the first Kelis album, so the newer Neps directions you hear on the Clipse record are more rewarding. ‘Young Boy’ was my favourite Neptunes track this year, because the Clipse themselves are so laidback and contemptuous and because the hook is so coiled and compressed. (Plus their topics may be nasty but Pusha T and Malice are great storytellers – check Malice’s verse about his supertough Grandma!)