Posts from 2013

6
Nov 13

The Inch – Pilot (Tom Ewing Guest)

FT8 comments • 647 views

inchTen years, or considerably more, ago Friday nights were easy. Some of us involved in FreakyTrigger would go to the pub. We would have a suitable amount of beer, and then often as not retire to my house, where a few more beers were drunk and maybe some records were played. But how to choose those records? Well luckily, when we weren’t playing Genius/GZA’s Liquid Swords (which was actually quite a lot), we would pick some seven inches to play. I had a lot of seven inch records, and we discovered that about an inch of them was exactly the right amount to take us to the time we had to sleep. And my seven inch records were in no particular order (though they did contain much godawful 90’s indie to my now jaundiced eyes).

Of course life has moved on now, and it has been a while since we have subjected ourselves to an inch. But in taking stock of items at work (and anyone who listened to the Lost Property Podcast will know, this is where I get my best ideas), I realised we still have a vinyl jukebox, and we also have about 3000 jukebox records. In no particular order. SO I wondered whether it was worth resurrecting the old game (for game it was, with very arbitrary rules) and see what an inch of these records were like.

So when Tom came in to do his Lost Property Office, I also grabbed an inch of records and we had a go. The result is a little rough and ready, it turns out there is genuine skill in talking whilst cueing a record absent when you are doing it with CD’s or mp3s. There is some serious music chat, some guff and some guessing. I’d be very interested to know if you liked it, if you wanted to hear more and how you think it sounds. In the meantime, here is an Inch.

3
Nov 13

GEORGE MICHAEL – “Fastlove”

Popular72 comments • 8,438 views

#738, 4th May 1996

fastlove “All that bullshit conversation, baby can’t you read the signs?”. This is a curious record: there’s little in pop like the way “Fastlove” marries seductive form – the discreet grind of its mid-to-uptempo groove – with an impatient candour that undermines it. Other seduction jams enjoy their playfulness, however frank they are about its endgame. “Fastlove” is wary of allowing itself that generosity.

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11
Oct 13

Time Reconsidered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Who Eps: #18 RESURRECTION OF THE DALEKS

FT4 comments • 1,273 views

or “Lytton must be exterminated when it is convenient

… being a show-by-show TARDIS-esque (ie in effect random) exploration of Doctor Who Soup to Nuts, begun at LJ’s diggerdydum community, and crossposted at FT.

degaullekIn which 5IVE and disgruntled chums help a revenant but unrepentent DAVROS to infect his multitudinous metal brood with MORGELLONS the MORVELLAN DISCO VIRUS, as a reward for getting him out of jail. Or something.

[11.10.13: commentary updated below]

A notoriously very-hard-to-follow DO-YOU-SEE allegory for the utter lack of honour among the galactically villainous. Doesn’t help that from the off it’s a switchback of mistaken identity via doubles: meaning that coppers and soldiers and even daleks are not who you immediately think they are. Doesn’t help that I watched it more than a year ago, before various distractions intervened and derailed me, and haven’t revisited (bcz my “method” does not allow me to). So instead of discussing the plot I’m going to bore on abt the Daleks, turning the tables you might say hohoho *sigh*

The setting: two places and two time (Butler’s Wharf and a prison ship in space; 1984 and THE UNSPECIFIED FUTURE ) have been superglued together by a time-corridor. The prison ship is under attack by a space cruiser.

The upshot:

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10
Oct 13

Going Back To My Routes: Kanto

FT44 comments • 2,807 views

pblue “Isn’t technology wonderful?” says one of the inhabitants of Pallet Town, Kanto – your home in Pokémon Blue, and the root of every Pokémon game, and every Pokémon journey, ever since. It’s a statement of outright optimism from the dawn of the mobile gaming era. Mobility – the pocket power of the handheld device – is the central ideal of Pokémon. It’s in the miniaturised creatures your character carries around, and in the Game Boy he and they live on. Throughout all the games, your reality – trading and battling with friends, and latterly just passing strangers by – mingles with the gameworld. Your real journeys criss-cross its routes and cities.

Pokémon games include magical artefacts, fantastic beasts, haunted towers and psychic powers, but the world of the games is almost always a modern, brisk one. In Pokémon Blue you keep running into technology. Your climactic battle with the larcenous Team Rocket takes place in the region’s most high-tech corporation, you explore a burnt-out research centre, and your reward for becoming champion is a chance to capture the most powerful creature of all – not some ancient or primal force, but a clone in a set of form-fitting mecha-style armour. This constant genre shifting – explore a ghost tower one minute and a modern skyscraper the next, all in the name of adventure – is one of the reasons Pokémon is so beguiling.

beaten by a kid The lion’s share of attention and celebration the games receive go to their creatures and mechanics. The texture of Pokémon – its settings, stories and themes – gets much less love. But as one of the best-selling game franchises of all time, Pokémon is a core part of modern children’s literature – its lands, concepts and ideas as much a fixture in the imagination of its players as Narnia or Hogwarts. They deserve more attention, and these posts – one for each of the game’s six generations – are an attempt to do justice to these fantasy places which have occupied so much of my and my sons’ time.

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Going Back To My Routes: Intro

FTPost a comment • 912 views

super nerd This is a set of posts about the Pokemon series of games – one long post for each Pokemon generation.

I wanted to write about something my sons cared about – pop music doesn’t quite cut it yet. And also I had that critical itch you get when you’ve spent a long time on something, the urge to somehow recoup it through writing.

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3
Oct 13

MARK MORRISON – “Return Of The Mack”

Popular88 comments • 14,596 views

#736, 30th March 1996

British R&B – like UK hip-hop – has tended to suffer credibility issues*. Back in the 50s and 60s, British groups lifted American sounds, but the American originals weren’t easy to find, and the signal could be scrambled in transmission. Productive mishearings ensued: the result, to a great extent, was the story we’ve been telling on this blog. By the mid-90s, things were different. News travelled faster, and production techniques were more transferable – the globalisation of pop apparent in the 21st century was well under way.

But they were also not so different – the British response to modern American music was still, typically, a slightly lead-footed imitation of it, just as it had been 40 years before. It’s the curse of the borrowing culture: you accept conventions as limits. When Britain did manage something more creative or divergent, the hybrid quickly got packaged up into its own genre – trip-hop, or later grime – and the more standard local product lapsed into general adequacy.

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17
Sep 13

THE PRODIGY – “Firestarter”

Popular172 comments • 11,364 views

#736, 30th March 1996

Twenty years after 1976, punk rock lived on – in the critical imagination, at least. It was part benchmark, part decoder ring: the moment and movement later upheavals had to match (but never really could) and also the handbook for understanding any development. Trends in newer musics would be analysed for parallels to those misty, gobby days. Was the emergence of gangsta rap a kind of “black punk”? Was rave dance music’s “punk rock”? Was the New Wave Of New Wave – well, the clue was in the name. The answer to any of these questions tended to be “no”.

Punk cast a long, increasingly ludicrous and annoying shadow. But it was a shadow a canny group could use as cover. The Prodigy drew blatant inspiration from punk – they called a DVD of their early videos “Electronic Punks”, and Keith Flint looked and sounded the cartoon part. They also, cleverly, set themselves up as a hostile force relative to their genre – one-time inventors of toytown techno, now scouring the charts (superclub dance included) with a purging anger. And this, more even than the spikes and snarls, was real catnip to the punkspotters.

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15
Sep 13

Ten Years In Ten Marks

Popular49 comments • 4,928 views

Ten years ago tomorrow, I started writing a review of Al Martino’s “Here In My Heart”. I’d never heard the first UK Number One, and thanks to P2P networks I had the chance. Somewhere between starting the blog entry and finishing it, I thought of reviewing all of them.

I had no idea how long it would take. That hasn’t changed: I still have no idea how long it will take. At the time, the No.1 was The Black Eyed Peas’ “Where Is The Love”, and we’ve had around 300 new ones since then. Unless the Official Charts Company dies before I do, the project is unfinishable – but I admit I’d imagined I’d have reached the present day before now. For a variety of reasons – job, family, fluctuating motivation, other things to write about – I haven’t managed that. Maybe by 2023!

Popular has been a terrific hobby. I started it when I was an established blogger but not a published journalist: I was feeling wrung out and underconfident, and wanted something I could write quickly and thoughtlessly, about songs nobody cared about: a reaction to the higher-powered, febrile blogosphere of the time, which was very focused on being up-to-date and expert. I wanted to be able to feel my ideas and opinions out, like I had when I started blogging.

The blog has now outlasted my part-time career as a music journalist, and probably played a big part in me getting those opportunities. I now think a lot more – sometimes too much – about each entry, but Popular is the most satisfying writing I do. I’m also conscious of the marvellous, entertaining, informative and – by web standards – fantastically good-natured comments each entry will attract – which also means I can leave stuff out, and zoom in on a particular feature or scrap of context if I want to. If I felt I had to be comprehensive I’d have given up long ago.

Thanks so much for reading, and commenting.

If not for the trick of putting a mark out of 10 at the end of each review, I would have far fewer readers. So here’s a Popular “highlights reel” centred on the marks, one entry/thread for each.

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9
Sep 13

TAKE THAT – “How Deep Is Your Love?”

Popular31 comments • 6,925 views

#735, 9th March 1996

The UK media has, for the most part, a tolerant, condescending view of pop fans. The girl sobbing and screaming over a band is part of the grand, cyclical parade of British life, to be filed next to thermos-clutching ladies camping out for the Harrods sale, or lardy men mournfully setting alight a season ticket. Every so often, though, the mood turns, shifting to concern, distaste, even fear as the fans go too far for their patrician liking.

Take That’s break-up was one such moment. Fans howled and shrieked on the national news. The Government (grateful perhaps for the break from its own long deathwatch) set up helplines. Others looked feebly on, asking the same question the fans were: why?

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8
Sep 13

THE SIXTH NOT REALLY ANNUAL FREAKY TRIGGER FOOD SCIENCE DAY – Part 2

FT + Pumpkin Publog5 comments • 780 views

Welcome back to part 2! See here for part 1.

5.58pm. A quick beverage pH check before the next round of experiments: the acidity of prosecco is 3, Badger’s Fursty Ferret is 4, a substance known as ‘Sainsbury’s Craft Brewed Lager’ is also 4.

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