Saturday, 13 August 2011
reasons to be cheerful
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.