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Monday, 28 November 2011
In July I was fortunate enough to see Ken Russell's film The Devils, in the most complete version available, projected at the BFI Southbank and introduced by Mark Kermode.
I had previously seen a dreadful, incomplete, fuzzy VHS - years ago.
The Southbank print was phenomenal. It was, and is, the best film I've seen all year - regardless of release. Primal, passionate, shocking in content and utterly committed.
Ken was due to make an appearance for a Q and A, but was too ill to attend.
Although I feel sad at Russell’s passing today, I would rather celebrate what was a long, magnificent and creatively full life. This guy (along with Nicolas Roeg) is responsible for some of the most vibrant and sensual British films of the late twentieth century.
He was also at the forefront of the most exciting time for television and the arts, and his ground-breaking documentaries increased people’s knowledge of - and passion for – classical music.
He was a visionary, no doubt. He also had a marvellous, healthy disdain for taste and decency – the two great enemies of art. He made films with images like this:
He launched some amazing careers and cast some of our best actors in unlikely, outlandish roles.
He made daring films in the US with people like William Hurt and Kathleen Turner.
Like this remarkable film:
And best of all, he carried on making extremely low-budget (no budget) films when he couldn't get backing and no one wanted to hire him.
Cheap and cheerful tat with sexy goths, in his back garden. Brilliant!
Probably absolute rubbish, but who cares? He clearly HAD to keep on filming.
My favourite Russell films are definitely THE DEVILS, VALENTINO (seriously, it's brilliant), ALTERED STATES, CRIMES OF PASSION and THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM.
Weirdly, although I like The Who and love Russell, I was never crazy for TOMMY.
Maybe I'll give it another go. I'm certainly going to watch a few of his others again.
So don't rest in peace Ken.
Wherever you've gone, keep raising merry hell..
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
I am aware that this photo is airbrushed to infinity.
I know Christina Hendricks (for it is she) is NOT Joan.
But who cares?
Isn't the whole point of 'glamour' that it IS a construct, a fantasy, a brief escape?
We know it's not real. The illusion is fleeting, fun, finite.
That said, I would happily leave society to live in this photo.
Sunday, 20 November 2011
Before I begin though, some thoughts:
This is the second year in a row I've done this. Noticed a few things:
1. I rarely – if ever – listen to an album the whole way through these days. I don’t know if this is impatience, a shorter attention span or the desire to hear as much new stuff as possible.
Probably a combination of all three.
I think this is why I like mixtapes so much.
2. I listen to less angry, aggressive music now than at any other point in my life.
Is it an age/mellowing thing? Hmmm.
Still enjoy digging out old ‘noise’ but there are no new loud bands that I am really feeling. In my teens and twenties I listened to predominantly noisy music – tuneful rackets like Husker Du/Fugazi or really agressive stuff like Swans/Slayer.
I should do some noise investigation in 2012…maybe.
Liked bits of Sunn O))), Earth and Boris that I heard a few years ago. I dig what I’ve heard of Mastodon too, they seem to have a dark funk about their sound.
3. I barely listen to guitar-based music. I thought the Vaccines album was fun though. And the Yuck one.
4. I like pop. And I mean glossy, really, really empty pop. Not in an ironic way either, it’s totally unashamed. A lot of the best pop these days is so stupid/funky/vapid I find it irresistible – even when I know it’s disposable and forgettable. In fact the emptier the better.
I don’t download much of it, seems to be very little need – most of it is everywhere anyway – but I like that it’s there.
(I went to the Middle East this year and some very cool clubs in Beirut. They REALLY know how to dance, dress and have a good time there, in stark contrast to the default ‘fear of music’ vibe that permeates quite a lot of London places. Fond memories of listening to an amazing mix of underground music, the cheesiest western pop hits and Arabic beats, all of which emphasise much booty shaking)
5. The more obvious 80s referencing is getting a bit tired now.
I'm more interested in how the post-internet generation are seemingly able to distil 100 plus years of music into really amazing sounds that couldn’t be made in any other era. Someone like Rustie or Micachu or Tobin or a band like Gang Gang Dance or Dirty Projectors or Vampire Weekend is exciting.
6. Hiphop feels like it’s gone the way of rock music now. Aside from some wayward geniuses and Kanye there doesn’t seem to be that much excitement.
I mean I still enjoy it, but the potency seems gone.
7. I’m too forgiving of vocoders, anything with MIDI samples, electro basslines and pop music performed by amazing looking women.
8. I use the word amazing far too much.
OK ENOUGH ALREADY
Can take or leave the album to be honest but this is EPIC
Not exactly a humming-along-while-eating-coco-pops in the morning number, mind
Makes perfect sense, given the continued trance/hip hop love-in
Souleyman tearing it up from a concept 'album' of exhausting possibilities
House-ier than the average tet
Near-comical doom-synth from the house of maus
Glacial tech from the goddess Halo
More blub-step. Prefer this to Blake though
Hazed out dubby goodness. Good album too
My new crush now that Joker seems to have gone off the boil. EARGASM at 0:38
Amazing year for the Estonian songstress, two albums two EPs. Great live too
2011s least toe-tapping album. More DEATH than RAVE
While Boards of Canada take a break this'll do nicely
Manic (depressive) Miner. 8-bit beats
Beats and rhymes
Asthmatic rap with added swag
Hiphop's two great over-sharers come together. Sweet
Sacrilegeous cover? Nahh, fresh homage surely?
Speaking of which, yeah - he's still got it
Knock me funk-conscious
BIG Atlanta soundz
Evil. The rest of the album’s pretty rubbish, sadly
The T'Pau revival starts here
The Pet Shop Boys revival starts here. DISTRACTING VIDEO
The Beloved/Johnny Hates Jazz revival starts here
The Luscious Jackson revival starts here
The Simple Minds revival starts here
The Toni Basil revival starts here. AMAZING pants
The Morris Minor and the Majors/Weird Al Yankovic revival starts here
(seriously though, even if you hate the lyric and video just listen to that 303, it's LARGE)
The Madonn.. (oh enough already)
Is this the Cardigans on ketamine? Sounds like it
We all have our dark secrets. My love of Ke$ha in all her empty glory is one of mine.
And she gets bummed by a unicorn in the video. Or something
Trad and lovely
Memo from Turner. His voice just gets richer and warmer by the hour
The most hated song on Iver's album is the only one I actually like
Sounds like Dylan's 4th time around covered by an even more depressed than usual Leonard Cohen
She's found her voice.....it's Suzanne Vega's
Lovely this though, as is the whole record. Terribly melancholic too
Underwhelming album but this really shimmers (and appears to be also based on Dylan's 4th Time Around. Weird)
Top ten 2011
THIS. By a MILE
Pure 80s aural pornography. Loved every single track on this record. Neon dreamz
Only KB can make rhododendrons sound filthy
Absolutely hammered this LP this year. AT a push, this is my fave track. Makes me think of Japan's The Art of Parties and Ghosts.
"She's contrived. She never USED to look or sound like that. She's had surgery. I heard it AGES ago.” Etc
It's well on the way to being the new Mad World (G Jules version) mind, through over-familiarity.
Hypnotic, lullaby perfection. Again. GREAT video
Sax-honking electro pop monster from an overstuffed, sometimes sublime LP
Lush John Barry intro. Dexterous, angular guitar. Creepy vox. Yes please.
Cracking single but
*that* voice would drive you fucking mental over a whole album, surely?
From 3:35 on
Monday, 15 August 2011
'An opulent, hollow bauble of a film...pretty but pointless.'
The delectable Louise Bourgin (above) aside, I wasn't too keen on Besson's The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec
Saturday, 13 August 2011
Ten great things from 2011 thus far.
It’s been a crazy old week, and I haven’t blogged – for various reasons - in a long time.
So this is more of the usual - films, music, telly etc. I don't really do politics here, even with the recent madness...
1. FAUST play power tools at Field Day
My friend Ben and I were at Field Day last week. The sound mix for some of the stages was a bit muted - but overall the day was pretty great.
An amazing, eclectic line-up and unusually sunny weather helped.
This being East London, twiglet-limbed fashion mannequins of both sexes roamed the fields, including some ridiculous Nathan Barley types.
Some absolute bumhat held a bath mat aloft throughout Wild Beasts' set.
The musical highlight was definitely a 12pm set by venerable Krautrockers FAUST.
Setting about their instruments with an intensity that would shame bands a third their age, they ended a vigorous set by playing, with much ferocity, various power tools.
And, I’m fairly certain some sort of lathe.
Great stuff (see 9:06 onwards)
Amusing postscript. We got talking to some Hoxton characters after the set, one of whom said, with absolutely no trace of irony: "Yeah, I saw a band use power tools at a venue in Shoreditch. They were using more complex musical structures though...."
2. The first hour of this..
For at least 50 minutes it's an uncanny, pitch-perfect valentine to Spielberg’s glory years.
Actually quite heart-breaking that Abram’s near alchemy for Spielbergian recreation doesn’t extend to co-opting his masters' genius for narrative drive and suspense.
But WHAT a first hour.
God knows what an actual ten year old, as opposed to a thirtysomething reliving their childhood, would make of it though.
3. Emily Blunt (and Matt Damon) in The Adjustment Bureau
The film itself is OK.
but the chemistry between Blunt and Damon is genuinely affecting, resonant and romantic.
Unusual, in modern American cinema.
And Blunt has a truly beguiling quality.
They should do another (better) film together.
4. South Park Season 15 "You're Getting Old"
I’m not an unconditional South Park fanatic, but weirdly, this episode was probably the most devastating and emotionally resonant thing I’ve seen on TV all year.
It captures, quite brilliantly, the moment(s) where everything you loved suddenly feels tired, exhausted and shit.
It’s not even a particularly funny episode - although the moment where Stan witnesses an endless parade of terrible movie trailers and you realise they are actual films rather than made-up titles (Mr. Poppers Penguins) is OUTSTANDING.
Apparently, it’s a mid-season finale but it actually felt like the last word from two brilliant satirists who maybe, just maybe, feel a little exhausted themselves.
As if the culture they satirise so brilliantly has become so shitty and incomprehensible that there is nothing left to say.
Amazing use of Landslide too.
5. the only music book to make sense of the now
The music book of 2011 and the only author to truly understand pop’s past-present-future-retro vortex and its current, seemingly endless capacity for reframing nostalgia.
6. British telly gets good again
This year, US TV took a back seat for me. My favourite show was on hold and won’t be reappearing on UK screens for ages.
This show, much lauded, left me utterly cold.
But the BBC upped their game. Considerably. Some of their flagship drama has been really interesting. There were shows that were heightened, flawed but gripping, like Exiles and ones that were stylish but frustrating, like The Hours.
But two really stood out from the herd.
One of these shows – which owed clear debts to genius British playwright and TV writer Dennis Potter - thought it was cleverer than it actually was (and it was pretty damn clever).
The other proudly and gleefully celebrated its own utter, rank ridiculousness.
They were both - for these reasons and many others - totally compelling, ferociously charismatic and the best British shows on TV this year, by miles
7. My favourite band of 2010, still my favourite band of 2011
The wondrous Warpaint continue to favour groove over riffs.
It keeps their music fluid, compelling and dynamic and gives them longevity, sensuality and power.
In the space of the last 18 months I have seen them play three amazing gigs.
They should really have a break though.
8. Forever 1985
Ford and Lopatin's Channel Pressure album distils my 80s fetish to an almost perfect degree.
For those of us who will never tire of that much-maligned decade, an era of gilded innocence and misplaced optimism, this gloriously indulgent concept album provides instant sonic time-travel.
9. The Acid House at the Royal court
Saw some excellent plays this year but this one has stayed in the memory.
Maybe it was the inventive decision to stage it in a mocked-up front room that the audience were invited to enter into.
Maybe it was the corrosively funny, consistently brilliant dialogue and performances - especially the luminous Vanessa Kirby and the ever-dependable Dennis Lawson.
Or maybe it was the fact that the writer Anya Reiss, who so brilliantly nailed characters with three generations between them, is only 21 years old.
Hmm maybe that isn’t a reason to be cheerful after all..
Finally, number 10
Regardless of this or any other year.
For the people I have met and hung out with, the festivals I have attended, the parties I have been to, the films I have seen, the parks I have walked in, the plays I have watched, the bands I have rocked out to, the shows I have thrilled to, the bars I have drunk in, the restaurants I have feasted in, the exhibitions and museums I have been enthralled by and of course the places I have lived in (two of which saw serious riot action over the last week) I salute you.
It doesn’t matter what year it is, being in London makes everything better.
It’s a great city, full of some great people and it can’t be beaten.
Monday, 2 May 2011
Mid year round-up (kind of)
Love The English Riviera so much I could've picked any number of tracks. This gets the nod for the Japan style guitar..
Another phenomenal new Burial track.
Not crazy about the one he’s done with Thom Yorke much, but THIS I love. Nice video too.
This hits all the right spots. From the blazing 2011 mixtape House of Balloons. 'The weeknd' is a Canadian R&B singer named Abel Tesfaye of whom I know nothing, but this is one of my faves of the year thus far. The production on this track is pure silk.
Thrillingly experimental pop shapes from a young artist who is already amassing a serious body of work.
Got a lot of time for Faris Badwan. I liked The Horrors even before they turned into Neu!
Anyway Badwan’s Cat’s Eyes project is a lovely, lovely, languid record, with cocktail lounge notes and heavy elements of maestro Morricone’s 1960s/70s work. It also has more than a hint of Broadcast (naturally, for the influences are near identical) and the wonderful vocals remind me of the much missed Trish Keenan.
A masterful return from one of my absolute favourite bands in the world and a group who have never disappointed me. Much expansion here on their ultra-minimalist sonics and a little 'Cortez the Killer'-era Neil Young in the guitar-as-landscape sound. Unexpectedly aggressive by Low standards too.
Yet more Morricone, via Danger Mouse and although I am not entirely convinced by what I have heard of this ROME project I am definitely feeling the Hotel California nods here. I fear this album may be a little bit polite and anonymous, as star-heavy collaboration records tend to be, but we will see. This is a very pretty groove and even Jones’ normally soporific vocal has an unexpected edge to it. She sounds like she’s had a heavy night on this.
New/old soundz for the kids. Nostalgia for me. It's 1990 again.