Sunday, April 30, 2006

Your kisses are wasted on me...

...don't let me stop you though. NS column on The Pipettes; lovely 60s girl-group style handclappy spring fun, for those that don't know - (and can't be bothered to read my 315wds on the subj).

By the way, who's everyone voting for on Thursday? I bet I don't get a single serious answer to that question. Even though there's a case for saying it is serious; if only in that every non-BNP vote reduces the proportion of votes they've accrued nationwide by one. In that sense, if you're thinking you're not going to vote because (a) you can't be bothered, or (b) you're protesting silently but devastatingly against Mr Tony B.Liar and his Fascist Conglomorate of Dubya's Poodles (yawn), then, well, you're a BNP appeaser. I would argue.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Why should the Russians get all the gloom?

I had quite a Ruskie weekend. On Saturday we trawled through as much of Russian Ark as we could bear before the sheer weirdness of it got the better of us (a muttering, dead narrator who is speaking Russian for the first time, and may or may not be senile, is your oh-so-accessible starting point, laydeezungennlemen), and then last night it was 'Russian Masterpieces' at the Royal Albert Hall, consisting of a bit of Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev before the main event: Shostakovich's incredible Fifth Symphony.

We decided – slightly whimsically, it's true – that Russians seem to devote more of their cultural output, their everyday thoughts, and their national identities to trying to work out what that identity is, than any other people on earth. They are profoundly self-reflexive. Russian Ark consisted of a series of dreamlike dialogues with random visitors to the Hermitage Museum about what Russia is, and was, and ought to be. The Ark of the title carried vignettes from Russian history in its bows, rather than elephants and hippos (though the odd hippo here and there might have livened up proceedings I'd venture). The music, meanwhile, just felt so Russian. Romantic, and ambitious, and bombastic at times, but still imbued with truly heavy-eyed sadness – a deep sense of melancholy you can only get from waking up at 11am to find it's pretty much dark outside and everything around you is made of concrete.

I say all this now because I awoke this morning to find Balham in the late Spring looking and feeling like downtown Moscow in the middle of January. It's April 24 for chrissakes! Give us some sunshine! Or at least some light! Or at least some warmth! Given how horrid it is outside (and yes, I am now taking the massive intellectual leap to the idea that weather is the sole determinant of national character, wanna make something of it?), I was wondering, culturally speaking, where are OUR tragedies? Shouldn't our cultural output be more melancholic than it is? I want your nominations for the best British tragedies, examples of the most perfectly articulated gloom. Here are a few off the top of my head:

There is a Light That Never Goes Out – The Smiths
Look Back in Anger – John Osborne
Last Resort – some Polish director, confusingly, whose name escapes me
Sittin' Here – Dizzee Rascal

Then some Jacobean tragedies I guess – The Dutchess of Malfi was pretty bleak, that’s the only one I’ve seen.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Watch out Gnarls Barkley...

Massive hat-tip to Ian for drawing my wandering attention to Jandek, a slightly unusual chap who's playing Devendra Banhart's day at the first ATP weekend. This is what Ian turfed up to explain the incomprehensible stuff playing out over his stero:

"He literally plays one dissonant chord throughout the entire album on his out-of-tune acoustic guitar, only picking at the strings differently for each track, (though sometimes he does not bother)."

His biog on Wikipedia begins "Jandek is a musician, presumably from Houston, Texas." A highly comic use of the word 'presumably' you've got to admit, especially for something as grounded in fact as an Encyclopedia. Meanwhile a comment on him on Allmusic reads "he's not afraid to laugh at himself once or twice either". Which is just as well, cause I certainly am.

It's all gone quiet over here

Sorry about that. Here's a Download column with a spring in it's step, if you'll pardon the pun. It probably won't be news to most of you cause it's about The Shins and I know most people have already made their minds up about New Mexico's finest. I for one am looking forward to swooning deliriously away in the sunshine at ATP come May...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Extraordinary Popular Delusions

From 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds' by Charles Mackay:

In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.