Sunday, July 29, 2012

Song of the day

"Space", by Magic Wands.

If The Cure had invented surf beat ...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Song of the day

"I'm Going To Spain", by Steve Bent.

What we have here is a one-off single from 1976, released on Bradley's Records, sometime home of The Goodies. Its main claim to fame would appear to be its spot on Kenny Everett's "World's Worst Record Show" compilation (seeing is believing). That is a little unfair. It is a perfectly nice snapshot of 1960s British pop (note the George Martinesque sliding strings near the start) filtered through the Chinnichap prism of 1970s British pop, while also putting me in mind of "Eanie Meany", by Jim Noir, which is a snapshot of 1960s British pop as rendered in the early 21st century.

But wait, there's more.

The Fall, as you know, have always had an ear for the obscure cover version ("Victoria", by the then forgotten Kinks; "Mr Pharmacist"; "There's A Ghost In My House"). It will come as no surprise to you, then, to learn that "I'm Going To Spain" appears on their 1993 album, "The Infotainment Scan". And a pretty nice job they do of it, too: it's a rare opportunity for you to hear Mark E Smith doing something that (loosely) fits the description of "singing".

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A few words about "Brave", a film from Pixar

Following on from the seemingly franchise-driven slight misstep "Cars 2" (which, in Pixar's defence, it really had to make; I don't see how you could ignore the fact that toy shops were still full of merchandise several years after the film all those toys were based on last showed in a cinema), Pixar has, much to the relief of those of us who have believed in Pixar for so long and spent nights lying awake worrying if, or more likely when, the Disney takeover would work Disney's particular form of anti-magic, gone back to what it does best: telling stories.

"Brave" is not merely the name of the film. "Brave" is also what Pixar was when it decided to make the film. For "Brave" is an unusual thing: an American mainstream film set in an imagined Scotland and with no concession to American audiences. (It is very Scottish. I kept being reminded of our first night in Glasgow in 1996 with Adrienne's aunt and uncle, when they had invited a number of their friends around to meet us and also to celebrate Adrienne's uncle's birthday: people talking to me in an almost aggressively friendly manner, with me failing to understand more than the occasional word but having a lovely time nonetheless.) Also, both of the main characters are female. (There are, I think, leaving aside the servants, only two female characters, but the entire film is built around those two characters. It is possible that their strength draws in part from their position in what is very much a man's world.) And, to put a complete end to the "Cars 2" complaints, there would appear to be no marketing, spin-off or sequel opportunities with this one. It simply is what it is.

Is "Brave" an act of penance, then? Presumably not, as Pixar's usual working method would suggest that the film would have been well into production before "Cars 2" hit the screen. Or, if it is an act of penance, then it must have been pre-emptive penance, if such a thing is possible. What it might be, though, is John Lasseter's tip of the hat to Hayao Miyazaki. We know that Lasseter was a driving force behind bringing the Studio Ghibli masterpieces to English-speaking audiences. There is much of Miyazaki in this film: the painting-like backgrounds, especially on the long-range landscape shots; the strong young female lead; the mystical elements (the forest sprites in "Brave" echo the dust mites in "Totoro", for example); the physical appearance of the witch, who is very much of a type with some of Miyazaki's elderly grannies and crones. (The witch, and her cottage, I am now thinking, must also be something of an homage to the witches that permeated the classic early Disney movies. Well, "duh".)

If you asked me to come up with a pithy mathematical calculation to sum up this film, then, it would probably be "Studio Ghibli meets 'The Secret of Roan Inish'" (a film, Adrienne and I discovered when comparing notes afterwards, that we had both been put in mind of): predominantly whimsical and mystical (the "Roan Inish" connection), but with just the right amount of mindless violence, suspense, and the customary race against time just before the finish.

Somehow I haven't managed to see any reviews or box office news, so I have no idea how "Brave" is playing out in the wider world. We couldn't convince the boys to see it, on account of word having gone around that it is a "girls' film" (which it most definitely isn't; or at least not only; well, okay, it does contain scenes of a girl riding a horse, but it's clearly not "Saddle Club"). But I am working on them, slowly, in the hope that I might get to see it again on the big screen rather than just on DVD later on. (Did I forget to mention that the animation, even by Pixar's lofty standards, is frequently how-did-they-do-that stunning?)

(Also, and again in keeping with Pixar tradition, we were treated to a lovely stand-alone short film as a curtain raiser for the main event. The only thing missing, which Pixar used to do -- although I can't remember if this was always the case -- was a trailer for whatever next year's Pixar film turns out to be. (It may or may not be a sequel to "Monsters, Inc". Another Pixar sequel? Well, the two wonderful "Toy Story" sequels suggest that there is no cause for alarm. Let's give Pixar the benefit of the doubt for now and work on the assumption that "Cars 2" was just an off year. Oh, and go and see "Brave", even if you can't find any kids to drag along with you. I promise you will like it.))

Song of the day

"Sit Still", by Each Other.

The guitars alternate between post-punk acridity and Postcard jangle. The voices put one in mind, variously, of The Raincoats and Electrelane. The combination is winning. A hit!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

YouTube of the day

I don't think I realised how much Gary Numan meant to me until I started watching this video (warning: it's a download quota crusher). I kind of got that feeling, which I haven't had in a long time, of being at the start of a concert and sensing that something very special was about to happen. Except it was happening on a tiny screen. And I was on the bus home. And it actually took place in 1979. Whatever. It goes to prove that being on the autism spectrum doesn't necessarily prevent you from knowing how to put on a good show.

(via Dangerous Minds)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Song of the day

"And I Love You", by The Darling Dears.

The vocals are best described, at least within my limited and possibly misguided musical vocabulary, as silky smooth Philly soul. The frequently over-mic'd backing track, by the wonderfully named Funky Heavy, would, had this record been made in the 1990s rather than in 1972, be called Trip Hop.

And this was "just" a B-side?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Song of the day

"You're My Drug", by The Dukes of Stratosphear.

Only a quarter of a century late, I sink my teeth into XTC alter ego The Dukes of Stratosphear. This slight detour came about after (if not as a result of) working with Todd Rundgren on "Skylarking". It may well be that this 25-year delay has served a useful purpose. Listening to an eighties band going sixties in 1987 might have just sounded either 1987 or 1960s, whereas listening to the same thing in 2012 allows one to hear a little bit of both sides of the equation: the spiky but sophisticated pop of mid-period XTC; and the influence on it of the music of The Beatles, The Kinks, The Beach Boys and, as evidenced on this phased-out gem, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. XTC, in all of their guises, never really put a foot wrong. They sit perfectly comfortably on any continuum that contains the names listed above.

Carl, aged 14, thinks "You're My Drug" is a very strange name for a song. He much prefers "The Mole From The Ministry", perhaps under the influence of the second Johnny English movie: "You mean there's a mole AND a vole?"