Tuesday, November 30, 2021

About pedantry

Someone called me “a minefield of information” today, which was rather lovely, so I didn’t pull on my pedantic trousers. I did, though, grimace inwardly when the sack of lumpy custard pretending to be the Prime Minister encouraged people to go “into the breach”, one of the more persistent and tiresome misquotations of Shakespeare; and when, even less forgivably, in the latest episode of Doctor Who, the unseen Lethbridge-Stewart is referred to as a Corporal...

Saturday, November 27, 2021

About things

Back in the days when blogging was a thing and people used to read this, every now and then I’d use a post as a repository for various bits of stuff and nonsense that had caught my eye over the past few days or weeks, a sort of snapshot of my cultural life at that moment. 

In that spirit, Matt Doran, the man who forgot to listen to the Adele album, offers an apology that sounds like something from a Stalinist show trial, except that I’ve got a horrible feeling it’s genuine. And just when you think being under-prepared is a sin, BBC4 runs a documentary about Geordie singer-songwriter Alan Hull, which kicks off with the presenter admitting he doesn’t know anything about Alan Hull. I’ve got a horrible feeling that the success of You’re Dead To Me has given the Beeb the idea that ignorance is a qualification.

Also on a musical theme, I offer you Olivia Lane’s review for Pitchfork of the new Robert Plant/Alison Krauss album, for no reason other than that she uses the words “effulgent”, “magmatic” and “empyreal” and doesn't explain or apologise, so there. Then there’s Andy Bull’s quip about the Tim Paine scandal: 

Paine sent an unsolicited “dick pic” to a female employee of Cricket Tasmania with the caption “finish me off right now”. Four years later, she has...

A line from Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ that made me giggle foolishly:

I arose and argued about trifles...

And this, via Richard Blandford on the Twitters, which also made me giggle, but not as much as the trifle thing did.

Monday, November 22, 2021

About music and books

Something I posted on Another Social Media Entity yesterday but also fits here, I guess. 
OK, a slightly long-winded question that may go on to be part of A Thing I'm Doing but who knows? Back in the olden days, lots of pop stars would get evangelical about their favourite authors and books, and many of us would obediently read said books (or at least strive to be seen holding them). So, Morrissey would plug Delaney and Capote and Wilde (but not Keats or Yeats), Robert Smith had Camus, Paul Weller Colin MacInnes, Edwyn Collins Salinger, Shane MacGowan Behan and Donleavy, and then the Manics came along and Richey would foist on us a whole bloody syllabus, from Plath to Mishima to Debord and plenty more. The question is, is there anyone doing something similar today? I know Mr Stormzy's pushing the value of higher education in general, and Dolly Parton's got her excellent literacy project going but I'm not aware of any big musical names pledging allegiance to any big literary names. Or does Rihanna want us all to read the new Margaret Atwood and I've just missed it? Please advise.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

About albums

In my epic tome about Radiohead’s OK Computer, I floated the idea that this 1997 work might turn out to be among the last of the classic albums, in which each track was intended to matter, in an immutable order laid down by its creators. Napster, iTunes and Spotify have worked to automate the techniques we developed making mixtapes in the 1980s, breaking The Long-Playing Record down into discrete tracks that can be rearranged and redistributed at will, always with the option to leave out the one written by the drummer.

Of course there was always the possibility that an artist would stand up against the shuffle button, defending the sanctity of an album as a coherent, linear work of art. The thing is, I imagined it would be an artist in the serious rock tradition, tracing a line from the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and, yes, Radiohead. I really didn’t expect it to be Adele.

More Adele-related shenanigans - the man who didn’t listen to the album.

Friday, November 19, 2021

About Brexit

A theory, prompted by spending too much time reading the Daily Telegraph: 

The great disaster of the 2016 referendum, for supporters of Brexit, is that they won. As a result, they lost the main focus for their resentment, their blustering indignation, their sense of victimhood. They need something else to give their lives some fragment of meaning.

And that’s how we got ourselves a culture war.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

About Electric Dreams

John Lewis has been criticised for the music used in its Christmas advert; not because it’s a lame, wimpy arrangement of a fondly remembered song (that goes without saying, sadly), but because it’s a lame, wimpy arrangement of a fondly remembered song that someone else had already done. Apparently a folk duo called the Portraits released something mighty similar as a charity single last Christmas.

Let’s be clear here. The Portraits didn’t write the song, ‘Together In Electric Dreams’; it was penned by Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder in 1984. Their claim is that they arranged and performed it in a particular way, and the people behind the commercial copied that. Now, I still maintain that you can’t copyright or plagiarise an arrangement, notwithstanding the imbecilic court ruling that the 2013 hit ‘Blurred Lines’ had copied Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up’, despite having no obvious connection in terms of melody, harmony, rhythm or lyrics. What happens instead is that as particular styles of music become popular, they bring with them particular tropes of arrangement or instrumentation or production (quiet verse/loud chorus, fretless bass, Auto-Tune, etc) and for a few months or years, it sounds as if everybody’s doing it, even if the songs themselves are different. 

Which is presumably why the Portraits offered up a lame, wimpy arrangement of a fondly remembered song – because they’d heard similar things done on John Lewis adverts. If it does get to the stage when arrangements can be the subject of a plagiarism claim – and I really hope it doesn’t – it could even be argued that it’s the Portraits who have absorbed the lessons of John Lewis Past, replicating the insipid abuse inflicted on the Smiths, Randy Crawford, REO Speedwagon and more and ruining the Oakey/Moroder song.

Anyway, here’s a recording that may be many things, but it’s far from lame and not the slightest bit wimpy. Take it away, Philip. And buy yourself a sofa when you’re done.

Saturday, November 06, 2021

About noise

Sad news from Barrow, where a public piano in a market has signally failed to create a harmonious atmosphere. “If they were playing Beethoven or Mantovani or something nice that would be OK,” says one local trader, “but it’s just kids jumping up and down on them and creating just utter noise.”

Leaving aside for a moment the aesthetic equivalence between Beethoven and Mantovani, some people would pay good money for a nice bit of noise.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

About books

There is doubtless a word for it, in German, if not Japanese: in a charity shop, seeing a book you’ve been meaning to read for years, then realising just before you get to the till that it’s your own copy of the book, that you brought to the shop a few months ago as part of an admitting-I’ll-never-get-round-to-reading-it job lot.

And of course another word for when the realisation doesn’t hit until after you’ve bought it.