Music

15 March 2011
My Perfect Cousin

Fab.

Best line: His Ma bought him a synthesizer, brought the Human League into advise her.

This is particularly good because the record was released before the Human League were famous.  Or had even split.

19 December 2007
“I never thought I could be so disappointed by a band I didn’t even like in the first place” - Squander Two goes to a Verve concert …link
 
02 December 2007
Film Review: Control

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Sam Riley as Ian Curtis

Ian Curtis (in case you didn’t already know) was the lead singer of Joy Division.  He committed suicide in 1980 after which the surviving members went on to form New Order.  Control, a biopic of Curtis’s life was released earlier this year.  I went to see it.

Some thoughts:

1. It brings the music to life in a way the albums and CDs never could.  I never went to a Joy Division concert but this film feels like the nearest thing.  I cannot tell if what I am hearing is genuine Joy Division or a soundalike2.  Someone earnt his money that’s for sure.

2. I remember little about Ian Curtis’s death. I knew who Joy Division were.  I knew that all sorts of people in the know thought that they would be the next big thing.  I think I had listened to Unknown Pleasures.  I think I had because while discussing its gloomy content, a schoolmate advanced the opinion that Curtis’s talking about depression could help the rest of us.  It’s not exactly the thing you would say after Curtis’s death.

3. One of the great tragedies of Curtis’s suicide is that it launched Love will tear us apart to a wider audience.  This was a pity as it meant that Joy Division’s weakest track become its best known - giving many a totally false impression of what their music was like.  It would be a bit like basing your opinion of Paul McCartney on The Frog Chorus1.  Or the career of Field Marshal Montgomery on Arnhem.

4. Sam Riley does an amazing impersonation of Curtis.  But - and this is by no means a criticism of Riley - at the end we still have no clear idea why he killed himself.  We understand that he is desperately torn between the family man and the rock star - a tear embodied by the two women in his life - his faithful wife and his rock chick mistress.  In the end we are able to feel sympathy for all of them.

5. The film also fails to explain the origin of his gloomy lyrics.  He does not appear to have suffered from a history of depression.  Unknown Pleasures and to a lesser extent Closer evoke a world of darkness, decay, isolation, fear and desperation.  But I get very little sense of this world from the film despite being filmed in black and white.  Even the constant reminders that Curtis came from Macclesfield fail to invoke the expected feelings of despondency.

6. Samantha Morton as Deborah Curtis is fantastic.

7. Tony Wilson is credited as Executive Producer.  Tony Wilson comes off well.  Surprise, surprise.  May he rest in peace.

Notes

1.  Actually, I quite like The Frog Chorus.
2.  According to Wikipedia one of the tracks was indeed recorded by the actors.  Kudos to them.

18 July 2007
Bob Dylan.  I think he’ll go far

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The cover of Blonde on Blonde
Why isn’t Bob Dylan bigger than he already is?  Yes, I know he is a living legend an’ all but… well, it’s only recently that I’ve started getting in to him.  I bought a couple of his albums (Bringing it All Home and Highway 61 Revisited) when I was a teenager - as you do - and although there are some pretty good tracks on them - Love Minus Zero/No Limit is my personal favourite - the dirges, caterwauling and incomprehensible, slash, up-his-own-arse lyrics rather put me off.

Until recently.  Thanks to the wonders of Napster - download as much as you like for a tenner a month - I’ve been able to explore Dylan’s music to my heart’s content.  Oh boy.  If only I’d stuck it out to Blonde on Blonde.  Or given some of the early albums a shot.  And there’s all the 70s stuff still to come, which holds many a gem.  Apparently.

What impresses me is the unpretentious way in which he reveals his genius.  He just sings the songs and lets you discover them for yourself.  Or, as in the case of All Along the Watchtower, lets someone else discover them.  Many has been the time I’ve been vaguely listening to a Dylan song when I think: “This is a bit good” and then find the tears starting to well up inside.

Or maybe I’m just getting on.

20 April 2007
I have been meaning to mention indie band, The Arcade Fire, for some time but have never quite got round to it. Anyway, today I have the ideal excuse as they are subject to a half-hour special on BBC2 starting at 11.40pm BST.

One little gripe with the write up and Arcade Fire write ups generally. While it mentions their debut album, Funeral, it fails to mention the EP that preceded it. Both are exceptional - how often do you listen to a new work where every track is good? - it's just that the near-as-dammit-to-album-length EP is more so.

19 April 2007
The Telegraph profiles the Wurzels:

On May 5 1974, however, tragedy struck. Cutler was killed in a car crash on the way back from a gig in Hereford. As well as being personally bereaved, the Wurzels were now without their songwriter.

Like Joy Division after the death of Ian Curtis, they elected to keep going.

Words fail me.

19 March 2006
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Some readers may remember me banging on about Vashti Bunyan's Just Another Diamond Day some time ago. They may also remember that I was very grateful to the hardcore fans who kept the flame alive by passing around the half-a-dozen or so vinyl copies in existence amongst their friends. So, you can just imagine my shock when I found out that Laban Tall was one of these clog-wearing wierdos.

09 December 2004
Johnny Rotten’s stage persona…

…was based on Lawrence Olivier’s Richard III.

Obvious when you think about it.

28 November 2004
The Beatles, classical music and why the commies will never win

I’ve just seen one of the best programmes I have ever seen.  It has left me stunned, amazed, sad even.  It was a programme on the Beatles, part of Howard Goodall’s Channel 4 series on the musical greats of the 20th century. 

He began with the baleful influence of the classical avant garde.  At the beginning of the 20th century they had been granted the greatest legacy imaginable: the knowledge of harmony, melody and the other thing, rhythm perhaps?  And they threw it away.

What the Beatles did (though they probably didn’t know it at the time) was to pick up and embrace the very techniques that the classical avant garde had just thrown down the garbage shute.  Didn’t know rock was a conservative art form did you?

Of course, the Beatles weren’t the only ones to pick up the rules of Western music the classicalers had so carelessly discarded.  What made them great was their ability to combine it with many, many other influences eg rock, jazz, church, big band.  And then Indian (think Maharishi).  And then new techniques only recently invented in the studio eg. tape looping (think Tomorrow Never Knows).  (Ironically, this last form was originally invented by the avant gardists though it does rather put me in mind of monkeys and typewriters.)

What is even more amazing is that, according to Goodall, the Beatles had no formal musical training.  But what does this mean?  They couldn’t put a name to a note or a chord?  Didn’t know what a key was?

Goodall reckons (and I have no way of knowing if he is right or not) that the Beatles provided a shot in the arm to classical music influencing people like Glass, Tavener and Gorecki.

Oh and why the commies will never win?  Well, they can’t win formally - they know that.  So, what they have to do is to infiltrate institutions and destroy them from the inside.  That’s the idea of the Frankfurt school.  Their problem now is that as soon as they take over an institution other ones start to appear.  Here they took over classical music but within 20 years it had been superseded by rock.

One final thought.  I know we internet types like to think that we will supplant TV but there’s clearly life in the old dog yet.