Tuesday 22 December 2009

If there was any justice...

...this would be the Christmas number 1. Forget Raging Against something. Forget Joe somebody. Enjoy Sir Bob of Dylanshire instead, and happy Christmas...

Friday 18 December 2009

Springfield, so much to answer for

It's a busy time of year, and I'm tired on so many levels, so don't come round here expecting an original post or any new thought, sorry. Instead, let me just point you at a couple of articles that caught my eye this week, since they both deal with things that have been important to me for a long time.

The first is an interesting article on The Simpsons and why it no longer matters. Now don't get me wrong, I like The Simpsons, and I love the early years, but the edge has long gone. For me, the problems started ten or more years ago, when a big chunk of the writing team upped sticks and went to work for King of the Hill. As someone in the next paragraph might once have said, that joke isn't (so) funny anymore.

So. Morrissey. He writes a lovely big long statement, almost a end-of-year address to his fans, and gives it to the True To You fansite. You can read it here. And the bit that everyone picks up on, the angle that is re-reported everywhere else, is that Mozza is "apologising" for his album, Swords. Well, that's as maybe. He does make an interesting point about the price and how it was marketed though. Whatever. I for one still hope it'll be in my stocking this Christmas, apology or no.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Wild horses

A lot has been written about Susan Boyle (précis: 1 - she can sing a bit; 2 - she's plain to look at; 3 - her album is selling like hotcakes because people can't believe that 1 and 2 can possibly go together). I could go on to talk about how Simon Cowell is killing music in the UK, or how Boyle's fragile state and spinster life have in no way prepared her for fame, but I won't - others have already done that. I will say that I'm glad her album is going to make Boyle a tidy sum, because I expect she'll be forgotten in a couple of years. The sun is shining, and she's making hay - good luck to her, I suppose.

The real reason for this post though is to draw attention to The Sundays. Boyle's cover of Wild Horses is getting a lot of radio play, and that's fine, but back in 1992 The Sundays covered it too... and their version is so much better. Unscrupulous downloaders may luxuriate in the unique voice of Harriet Wheeler and layered guitars of Dave Gavurin here.

Britain really does have talent - it's just that you're unlikely to find it on anything Cowell is involved with. Sorry to break it to you like that.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

The last of the Big Smoke

Regular readers of this blog (there must be one or two) will know that I like to take myself off to London a couple of times a year for weekends of culture - art, theatre, music, chilling on the Southbank, that kind of thing. It's lovely - you should try it. Anyway, at the weekend I took what might be, for reasons I don't intend to go into here, the last such trip for a while. We drove down on Friday afternoon and took up residence in an excellent little apartment in Hammersmith (I'm not going to tell you exactly where, because it is excellent, and if I spread the word too far and wide then next time I do get down to the Big Smoke I won't be able to stay there because it'll be fully booked, with you in it!). But I digress. After a brief bout of Christmas shopping in Muji at Covent Garden, we had an excellent dinner in 32 Great Queen Street, before heading to the New London Theatre on Drury Lane to see War Horse. And what a show that is - a true theatrical experience. Based on Michael Morpurgo's children's book of the same name, War Horse tells the tale of a boy and his horse and their experiences in the run-up to, and during, the First World War. In case you're wondering how they bring horses to life on stage, well, it's done with the most amazing puppets (right) I've ever seen - full-size horse puppets that are so well animated (right down to twitching ears) that you soon forget the puppeteers and become wholly engaged by the character of the horse. The show also provides a very vivid evocation of the horrors of WWI: the madness of cavalry charges into machine-gun fire, the lunacy of going "over the top", the terrible futility of trench warfare. Yes, it's a children's book, and yes, you have to suspend your disbelief a little bit to swallow the redemptive ending, but War Horse is a truly astonishing show, and genuinely moving to boot. I'd see it while you can if I were you.

The next day we headed over to the Southbank, where our first stop was the Christmas market. If I'm honest, this was a bit disappointing. Don't get me wrong, the stalls that were there were great, and suitably Christmassy, but they were nearly all food outlets. This is fine in that it gives the market a lovely smell, and gets the tastebuds in the Christmas spirit, but I would have liked to have seen more stalls selling unusual gifts. Yes, there were some... but there weren't enough. That wasn't the only disappointment though, because we headed up to the Tate Modern next, specifically to see the Pop Life exhibition... and, to be honest, that was a bit of a disappointment too. Yes, I accept that a key aim of the exhibition is to celebrate the growth of commercialism in art, but that grates a little with me - I prefer the idea of art for art's sake, rather than churning something out just because you know it will sell. I did like Keith Haring's "Pop Shop" (his style is illustrated on the left), and Tracey Emin's work, love it or loathe it, at least feels very real and personal, but some of the rest? Jeff Koon's work with Ilona Staller (aka La Cicciolina) is exhibited behind closed doors because of its adult nature, and that's no surprise given that it's basically just giant close-ups, in different media, of them having sex. There's nothing wrong with this... except that when you read that Koons contacted Staller after seeing her in porn mags, engaged her to work on this with him, married her, posed the pair of them in increasing explicit works, and that in later works the Koons figure was beefed up and better groomed... well, it just feels like wish-fulfilment for the artist, rather than art for art's sake. Koons might like to dress this up as portraying a modern-day Adam and Eve, but really it's just self-indulgent, self-gratifying sexploitation. (This is where I should append "IMHO" but I just can't bring myself to indulge in such a linguistic transgression, sorry.)

What else? Well, talking of sexploitation, Richard Prince's original "Spiritual America" has been removed from display - this features a naked, 10-year old Brooke Shields, heavily made up and slicked down. It's been replaced by "Spiritual America IV", which shows an adult Shields recreating the pose in a bikini, ironically less heavily made up and without having been quite so vigorously baby-lotioned. If you believe the Tate, this replacement of the original picture with the more recent update was at the artist's request. If you believe the BBC News website, the change was made after a visit from the police... And now I know I'm going to sound pious and old-fashioned but Andrea Fraser's exhibit left me cold. She basically asked a gallery to find her a collector that would be willing to be filmed having sex with her for an hour, given that the collector would then pay a not insignificant sum to own the first copy of the resultant film. Is this art or is this, oh let's say, not too far removed from very clever prostitution? Is this art or has Fraser, like Koons, dressed porn up as art and hidden behind the shock factor? In the words of many (too many) a reality show, you decide. At least the exhibition ended on a high note though, with McG's video of Kirsten Dunst performing a pleasingly-faithful cover of the old Vapors track "Turning Japanese" whilst prancing around the streets of Tokyo, dressed in a colourful costume that seemed (to this boy, at least) to owe a lot to Manga and animé (right). I watched this all the way through... twice... Oh, and I did like Damien Hirst's "Ingo, Torsen" but that may be because I found watching twins knitting in front of Hirst spot paintings strangely hypnotic...

A mixed-bag at the Tate then, but a generally enjoyable (and genuinely thought-provoking) trip to London. And as if that wasn't enough, it also gives the perfect excuse to wheel out The Vapors themselves... enjoy.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Mopping up

None of these stories quite deserve a post in their own right, but they are all worth sharing with you, so here goes - a bulletpoint apiece.
  • Someone has complained that the new Marks and Spencer Christmas TV ad is sexist. Oh, for God's sake! Watch it (it's the one entitled "Christmas Ad", rather than the Wallace & Gromit one) and decide for yourself that it isn't. Frankly, who doesn't want to see a pretty girl prancing around in her underwear over the holiday period or, indeed, at any other time? Or am I now being sexist?
  • Tesco paid nearly £1 million for six bicycles. Yes, push-bikes. Ordinary push-bikes. Stupid Evil Empire...
  • For those of you who prefer over-hyped music stars to overpaid sports stars, you can now ditch Fantasy Football and create your own Fantasy Festival instead, and compete to win money-can't-buy type prizes in the process. Here's the line-up for the (admittedly unimaginatively entitled) Pipstock...
  • When The Muppets perform Bohemian Rhapsody, it's satisfyingly funny.