Friday, March 27, 2009

Pop molecule

I forgot to mention the subtle brilliance of the new Stereolab album in my last post. So, I thought I would mention it this time around. The sound of tomorrow (and yesterday), now.

It's been a while since Stereolab were one of my bands of choice, but, as the LCD song (almost) goes - I was there. I was there in 1993. I can recall first seeing them live in a tiny basement in Kingston upon Thames, at the suggestion of Mr Justin Spear (friend of the band and their tour DJ). I used to spend all of my spare money on records in the shop he worked in at the time. [He was my pusher, if you like.] At that gig, I bought Stereolab's first album, Peng!

Stereolab were a real turning point for me in my musical taste. They plugged me into krautrock, easy listening, French pop...given that I had been immersed in the outpourings of Kurt, Courtney, Thurston and Kim for some time, they felt light, enjoyable, refreshing. They were doing something a bit arty, but they didn't alienate you while doing so. They definitely weren't being cooler than thou: it felt like they wanted you to join in.

I went to more of their gigs, later. At one point, they even went Top 40. This felt amazing...a moment when something I genuinely loved crossed-over into the mainstream. Their most famous song, French Disko, includes some of the most incredibly smart lyrics ever to grace the charts*, along with a groovy, Neu!-like backing track. Clever and danceable - that's a rare combination.

When I lived on the Cally Road, I would occasionally see the Lab's second singer/keyboardist/guitarist Mary Hansen dashing about. She was tall, striking and had odd taste in clothing, so you couldn't miss her. I was always way too scared to approach her, of course. I remember hearing the news that she had been run over and killed while cycling and being absolutely gutted. She was just 36 years old.

A little while after that...well, as is sometimes the way, I got bored with them. It happens. Luckily, thanks to toocool, I have been reminded that I perhaps shouldn't have written this band off after all. Tomorrow is already here, indeed.


Meanwhile, back in the often seems to happen that after you have a great weekend, the week that follows is a downer. So this week has proved to be. Oh well. Here comes another weekend, so no matter.

* apart from the following couplet from The Sweetest Girl by Scritti Politti: "And politics is prior to the vagaries of science/She left because she understood the value of defiance". Which is just wonderful.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Tomorrow is already here

This weekend was a veritable feast of friends. We had visits from two folk, toocool and TL. We saw toocool not once, but twice, which was bloody great. As someone who lives in her head quite a lot - I just edited that from "occasionally" - I sometimes need reminding that being solipsistic doesn't help. Hell isn't other people.

I got to talking about friends with both of my visitors this weekend, mainly about how it's funny who you lose and who you keep. Facebook has helped me, marginally, but hasn't been good for everyone. Some people you are meant to lose; some you might not want to lose, but you do anyway; some you have to lose. That's the way things go and it's no bad thing...

I drank some wine and some brandies, laughed a lot, felt really cheerful, did a bit of work on the allotment, and enjoyed the sun. Plus, I listened to the amazing and rare artifact Denim Take Over, which is absolutely brilliant. Its like, da da da, we're a novelty band...

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rent a flat above a shop...

Google Streetview has launched, and today I found my old home on it.

The walls had Christmas cake-artex finish throughout, which made falling down the stairs painful (I still have the scars), and the living room was painted mental-home orange. The door still has the 62 on it that Mrs Hall made at work.

I had some happy times there.

Before I lived in the flat, it was the home of Steve Mackey from Pulp.

Every time I hear Common People, I like to think that the "flat above a shop" that is referenced is this place. Actually, when I see the video I like to sing "I wanna live like Sadie Frost/sleep with all the people at the bus stop/take loads of drugs and make bad films..." etc.

Wrong, yes. Slightly funny, perhaps.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Have you ever had it blue?

Last week's "excitement", captured here for your pleasure.

Belbury Youth Club at Shunt Vaults
I went along to this Ghost Box-hosted event with JJ and DL, and was happy to catch up with both NB and KS too. A couple of observations:

Shunt Vaults is an astonishing venue. I don't think I've been anywhere like it since...well, since ever. It's a series of arches attached to London Bridge station. As you walk in, you're confronted with the overwhelming smell of mould, which immediately gets into the back of your throat. It is atmospherically lit (in other words, dark), and vast inside. I fell in love with it and am now looking for any excuse to get along to the place again.

As for the content of the evening itself, it was OK. We were hindered in that we got there far too early and had no dinner beforehand (which necessitated a trip back up to the surface to get supplies in. Becuase we were in a train station, food options were limited: it was pasties/crisps or nothing). As such, we were hungry and a bit bored for the early part of the evening. By the time Broadcast appeared to improvise over a short film, I was feeling a bit hysterical and commented to NB that I would kill to hear Funky Town instead.

Following Broadcast, we stuck around to hear some music, including the theme tune to Teddy Edward and a moog version of Son of my Father. Then we all made like a banana, and split.

I enjoyed this, on the whole. It was shonky at points, but enjoyable.

A couple of things jarred:
The embarrassing sex scene, which was more graphic than it needed to be, and for the choice of music in the background (old Len croaking Hallelujah. Incongruous).
The wigs, particularly Ozymandias's effort. I couldn't take my eyes off the line of glue around his forehead.
Ozymandias himself. One-dimensional, compared to the other turns.

Good stuff:
The performances were pretty solid, on the whole. Dr Manhattan was appropriately blank. Rorschach was well-realised.

The usual stuff that annoys me at the cinema every time annoyed me this time: the late start and the incredibly loud incidental music (which at one point made me jump out of my seat).

So what else is new? Ennui, mainly. Eight weeks to my holiday.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

We must repeat (OK LET'S GO!)

I have almost returned to the land of the living from a half-life that was a heavy cold. This started the weekend before last, but decided to emerge once more last Wednesday, turning me into a sniffling, feverish, sleepy dolt. As I've not been ill for a while, it was a bit of a shock.

It wasn't all bad. I caught up with some stuff I'd been hoarding on the DVR (30 Rock, Mad Men etc) and did some top staring out of the window.

Prior to getting ill, the swimming went well, if slightly less well than it could have done owing to a blocked nose, which made breathing underwater slightly more difficult than usual. Off to my class again tonight and I think it's going to be the same thing once more.

On Sunday we had DL and the Bell round for lunch. A shoulder of lamb, a banoffee pie, four bottles of wine and some brandies later, we set the world to rights. It's certainly cheaper and more fun than psychotherapy, even if it does give you a hangover the day after.

I am half-enjoying the Twitter phenomenon. I enjoy reading posts by the people who are being followed by the people I'm following almost better than following them, if you get me? I am already finding myself whizzing past Stephen Fry's posts. He is a national treasure but I am beginning to find him annoyingly chipper. Give me misery every time.

This week, it's culture ahoy, but I don't want to ruin a possibly gorgeous, review-heavy next post by giving too much away.

[Who the fuck do I think I am, Dickens?]

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Why don't you go where fashion sits

Following my review of the Brits, here is a dissection of the NME Awards (sponsored by Shockwaves, the people who once produced the best hairspray ever, Hard Rock. For this, I salute them).

Dear god, what a shambles.

Firstly, the live performances. I keep hearing how fabulous Glasvegas are, and it’s hard to agree with that when they can turn out such a shite cover of Suspicious Minds, complete with a self-consciously kooky posh girl wailing away in the background (Florence, of and the Machine, apparently). Another band wheeled on the dancing girls, presumably to disguise how utterly pedestrian they were (I can’t even remember their name).

The Boosh picked up an award for best TV show despite not having a series out in 2008. That goes to show the power of product placement – dropping the NME’s name into a comedy routine is a smooth move. The most casual mention of a band/product by Noel Fielding has a million edgily-haircutted teenagers reaching for their pocket money. [Which makes me wonder, can the Boosh’s popularity be linked in some way to the Kings of Leon’s inexplicable rise to fame? Ask me about them another time, reader – I had the misfortune of seeing their first ever London show. JJ’s verdict at the time: “like the Eagles”]

I was relieved that MGMT got some awards, because they are fun, at least. Also pleased that Richard Ayoade got the nod twice (he directed both the best DVD and the best video). Charlie Brooker looked awkward and dropped the c-bomb. Love your work, mister.

Aside from that, Oasis named as best band. Godlike genius award given to the Cure. Did the last 15 years not happen? I will be the first to admit that in the past I have liked/followed both of these bands, but to say that both are past their best is a very polite way to put it.

The Brits made me depressed, but the NME awards left me feeling that it surely can’t be long before the bloated corpse of British popular music is fished out of the canal. Although, with luck, the NME will be dead first. Hmmm.

Onto other matters. Last week Niece #4 came to stay with her fiancé, M. We enjoyed having them around the place and the flat felt a bit empty once they had gone. I love having guests. Please feel free to visit, one and all.

It occurred to me this morning as I was waiting for the bus into work in the sunshine that this time last year I was finishing up at the City job.

When I was a bit younger, dates of things starting and finishing always seemed very significant. After a school play/French exchange I would find myself thinking “three weeks ago I was preparing for the first performance” or “two weeks ago I was on the beach at Deauville”. For years after break-ups with boyfriends I would find myself getting a chill on the dates in question (particularly in the lean years, 1992-1996, when I had nothing better to do than feel sorry for myself, virtually unaware that there was a world outside my bedroom). On reading this back, I sound faintly autistic. That is probably a fair assessment.

These days, very few dates mean much. But perhaps I should make more of a big deal about the anniversary of leaving, because it was a major turning point. Few things in life will ever feel as depressing or bad as that job did. Simply not being in it should be worth putting a top hat and tails on and tap-dancing about every day of the week.

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