Friday 31 August 2018

Coincidence or no?

I rewatched Terry Gilliam's excellent Twelve Monkeys earlier this week, partly because it was referenced in the highly recommended Mark Kermode's Secrets of Cinema sci-fi episode, partly because it happened to be on the iPlayer and partly because I wanted to remind myself how good it is. And in watching it, I noticed something I hadn't picked up on before.

There's a scene roughly half-way through in which our protagonist, James Cole (Bruce Willis), beats up some lowlife before they beat him up. His heroine, Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe), fears that he has killed them, to which Cole replies, "All I see are dead people." Which seems to foreshadow the tag line from another Philly-set Willis vehicle, The Sixth Sense, in which Haley Joel Osment's character Cole Sear explains, "I see dead people."

Coincidence or intentional reference by M. Night Shyamalan? Who knows? And apart from me, who cares?

From one Cole to another...

Twelve Monkeys pre-dates Sixth Sense by four years.

Thursday 30 August 2018

The trouble with anniversary tours

I've nothing against anniversary tours in general. You know the sort of thing: "It's 25 years since Album X was released and Band Y are reuniting to play the whole album, in full - don't miss it!" Later this year, I will be going to see From The Jam on their All Mod Cons 40th anniversary tour - I've got no problem with that, not even the fact that only one third of the actual Jam is now involved. And in recent years I've seen The Wedding Present run through George Best too, which was blissful. So I hope it's pretty clear that I have no problem with the concept - it's rose-tinted nostalgia for the fans and a few quid in the pension pot for the band. Everyone wins.

Except... (you knew that was coming, didn't you?) Except I do have a problem when the anniversary excuse is tenuous and/or the act of celebration is unjustified. You might think something has triggered this mini-rant and you'd be right, for this morning I had an email from a local gig venue advertising this:

In celebration of the twelfth anniversary of celebrated million-selling album 'Twelve Stops and Home', The Feeling will be performing the album in full this October.

Where shall I start?

First off, who celebrates a twelve year anniversary? Even when there's a tenuous (and desperate) numeric tie-in with the album title? Secondly, who feels this album needs celebrating? So much so, in fact, that they feel the need to have a "celebration of ... [a] celebrated million-selling album"? (Really, who edits this copy?) And thirdly, are The Feeling suddenly so skint or in need of a career boost that this seems like a good idea to them?

Christ, if you really must celebrate a twelfth anniversary, why not look at a decent album, maybe Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. Except no-one feels the need to celebrate that because, you know, Arctic Monkeys are still active and producing new material. Still relevant. Still going forwards. Still all the things that maybe The Feeling are not so much, any more. And don't think I've just got it in for The Feeling - after all, last year The View were touting a tenth anniversary tour of Hats Off To The Buskers, unbelievably. My beef really is just anniversary tours that purport to celebrate something that really isn't worth celebrating, rather than just admit career stagnation and financial imperative. Gah!

Anyway, enough of me being a misery-guts. I leave you with selections from albums actually deserving of celebration, for 12, 20, 30 and 40-year anniversaries respectively. Which would you pay to see performed in full?

12 years

20 years

30 years

40 years

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Toes back in

I've been away for a bit, literally (holiday) and sort of metaphorically (offline). I've quite liked both, if I'm honest. But since I heard this on the radio yesterday for the first time in ages, I thought I'd post it here as a way of dipping my toes back in the water. You all know and love it already, I expect, because you're well-informed and of discerning taste. So here's Spitfire by Public Service Broadcasting.

Retracts toes...

Thursday 16 August 2018

Monday 13 August 2018

Manners maketh man

I was in the supermarket yesterday, coming towards the end of my shop. I fancied a bottle of ale for the Sunday evening ahead, and so made my way to the relevant aisle. I stood next to a man in his sixties, who was filling his basket with a fine selection of craft beers. I reached up to take a single bottle - up but not, in my view, across.

"An 'excuse me' wouldn't go amiss," said the other bloke, without turning to look at me.

"I'm sorry?" I replied, not really understanding what he was going on about. He turned to actually look at me then.

"An 'excuse me' wouldn't go amiss," he repeated. Now I was genuinely at a loss as to what I was supposed to have done, and for a moment couldn't think of anything to say, so he carried on. "You reached right across me there, without saying 'excuse me'."

And with that, he turned and walked off before I could even begin to defend myself.

But he wasn't done. From the safety of the far end of the aisle he stopped, turned back to me and called out, "All courtesy is gone!" And then, so was he.

This rankled me, and it's rankled me ever since. Moments before I'd arrived in the beer aisle I passed another shopper just as a punnet of strawberries fell to the floor from his overfull trolley. I immediately bent to pick it up for him, he said "Thanks," and I said "You're welcome." See? I am not a rude person. So the thought that some old boy was going to go straight home from the supermarket and pontificate to his long-suffering wife about the decline of moral standards and the loss of common courtesy, using me as an example, really, really bugged me.

There's only one song to go along with this, isn't there? And I heard it on the radio at the weekend too, which reminded me of how good it is. It's quite fashionable in some quarters to knock Sting, call him pretentious, mock his affectations, all that. He didn't help himself with that album of lute songs either. But I loved The Police and I still have a lot of time for their frontman. I slightly surprised myself by remembering all the lyrics to this too, and had a little radio singalong. Maybe they've stuck with me because they suit my world view, what do you think?

I don't drink coffee I take tea my dear
I like my toast done on one side
And you can hear it in my accent when I talk
I'm an Englishman in New York

See me walking down Fifth Avenue
A walking cane here at my side
I take it everywhere I walk
I'm an Englishman in New York

I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York
I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York

If "Manners maketh man" as someone said
Then he's the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say

I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York
I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York

Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety
You could end up as the only one
Gentleness, sobriety are rare in this society
At night a candle's brighter than the sun

Takes more than combat gear to make a man
Takes more than a license for a gun
Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can
A gentleman will walk but never run

If "Manners maketh man" as someone said
Then he's the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say

I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York
I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an Englishman in New York

So I'm trying hard to suffer ignorance and smile, and keep on being myself. Here's the song.

Thursday 9 August 2018

Not (just) another throwback... about a timeless look

Sharon Tate died 49 years ago today, murdered by members of Charles Manson's family. She was 26.

The thing that stops this being just another throwback Thursday post, keeping the blog ticking over, is the observation that, by the tail-end of the 60s, Sharon had adopted a look that was very 2018. Here are some pictures which, in my inexpert view, look like they could have been taken yesterday. What do you think?

You see, by contrast, this was number one in the UK on 9th August 1969. The song stands up well... the look, not so much. Being timeless is hard.

By the way, normal blogging service will be resumed very soon, i.e. no more "about" posts, Wordless Wednesdays or Throwback Thursdays. Probably.

Friday 3 August 2018


Back in another life, when I used to sell hi-fi, it was easy to sell an expensive pair of headphones. I'd talk about the audible range of the human ear being 20Hz to 20kHz, then I'd show the aspiring audiophile the headphone stats on the back of the box. "See, with these cheaper makes, that top out at 17k, you won't be able to hear the top end." The Beyer and Sennheiser practically sold themselves.

This morning, I caught two minutes of an excellent kid's TV show called Operation Ouch, in which twin brothers and doctors Chris and Xand van Tulleken look at health issues and the human body, in a primary-friendly way. Dr Chris was looking at how the ear works, and why hearing degrades over time. As part of this, he (in his mid to late 30s) went head to head with a 7-yr old in a high frequency test. Dr Chris topped out at 16kHz. The boy was still going strong at 18kHz.

Me? I could just hear 14kHz.

Too many gigs, too many clubs in my youth, and just too darned old (I'm a fair bit older than Dr Chris). If you want to try your own hearing out, there's a good high frequency test that you can depress yourself with at, although I refer you all to my old man's comments on ageing before you try. And if your hearing is better/younger than mine, don't feel the need to tell me... I probably won't hear you anyway.

Only one song for this, the obvious choice. Don't turn it up too loud.

Great moments in music video history #3a and #3b - Love's Great Adventure and Closer

Personally, I quite like it when a music video steps outside of itself. The first example I can really remember was a past-their-best Ultravox offering up this breather a mere 30 seconds into the video for Love's Great Adventure:

And then there's Closer, from Travis, which I've featured here before. Check this out from around 2:45, with peak outside-ness from 3:06. No points for ID'ing Ben Stiller.

Can you think of any other videos with a pause in the proceedings?