Category Archives: Music
By Spank The Monkey
At the Cannes festival last month, you could see – and hear, thanks to some conspicuous booing – the breakdown of the love-in between Western critics and Japanese director Takashi Miike, as his latest thriller Shield Of Straw got very short shrift indeed. Does this mark the end of Miike’s career as the go-to director for Asian weirdness? I suppose it depends on whether you trust the judgment of the sort of wankers who think that yelling at projected images will improve them.
Perhaps it’s the end of the respectable phase of Miike’s career – after a couple of years of working on the sort of serious drama that attracts festival programmers, he’s going back to just doing whatever takes his fancy. That’s not to say the boo-ers are wrong, though: in a career that’s getting close to hitting the 100 feature mark, he’s made a couple of undeniable stinkers. But no single film in his canon gives you any idea what the ones either side of it will be like. We can go back in time just one year – to June 2012, and the Japanese theatrical release of For Love’s Sake, now available in the UK – for a good example of that.
By Spank The Monkey
I don’t go to many first nights at the opera. As I settled into my seat at the Coliseum for the UK premiere of Philip Glass’ The Perfect American, his new piece about the final days of Walt Disney’s life, I suddenly flashed back to a first night I attended twenty-five years ago. That was also at the Coliseum, and it was for another Philip Glass opera. The Making Of The Representative For Planet 8 was his adaptation of a Doris Lessing sci-fi novel, and I can remember precisely one thing about it.
Roughly three-quarters of the way through Planet 8, there was a brief pause in between sections. Outside, there was a sudden commotion, and a police car could be heard roaring down St Martin’s Lane, its siren NEE-NAW-NEE-NAWing at full volume like they used to back in the eighties. The orchestra paused, waited for the noise to die down, and then launched into the next part of the opera. This being Philip Glass, it started with a simple repeated bass figure on the strings, just a pair of notes separated by a minor third. It went nee-naw-nee-naw. The audience laugh that followed was extraordinary – a sudden burst of guffawing, which was just as suddenly truncated as everyone remembered that the composer of both of those notes was sitting in the room with them.
Hello! Mostly Pop here again. This month we have artists looking back, looking forwards and some just staying right where they are, unable to do anything but repeat their horrific mistakes over and over. So prepare to dance like a fool, tap your foot like someone’s Dad and, if you’re anything like me, curl into a corner, gibbering at the shock of the genuinely new. How do you feel about disarranged body parts and pleather gimp cows? Nervous?
Niall Anderson has listened to to all of the Now That’s What I Call Music Albums so you don’t have to
The saddest and most interesting place I’ve ever been in London is the Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes. In its 1950s salad days, when it was owned by HMV, it employed 10,000 people, producing and packaging the label’s roster of recording artists. When I visited the site in 2008, it was owned by EMI and employed just four people: two of them part-time. A 17-acre site occupied by a maximum of two people daily, all there to manage the EMI archive. With its empty concrete offices and effusively strewn barbed wire, it was like visiting a post-apocalyptic prison camp.
I asked one of the archivists what he spent his time doing. ‘We’re only really busy around Christmas when the compilation albums get made,’ he said, and with that took me around the archives. Master reels of Beatles albums, signed gold and platinum discs by The Beach Boys, Scott Walker’s hesitant signature on a two-album contract in 1981 (only one album appeared: 1982’s Climate Of Hunter). Gold-dust for the archivist and pop aficionado. I happen to be both.
So as a tribute to the discouraged archivists, I decided I’d listen to EMI’s own historical effort at canonising pop: the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All of it. Currently running to 83 volumes (or 10 days of continuous listening), it has valid claims to being the biggest selling compilation series of all time. The Top Of The Pops albums aren’t pop enough! The Motown Chartbusters comps didn’t bust enough charts! Even unimpeachable pop blockbusters like Thriller and ABBA Gold haven’t sold in the quantities that the Now! series has. We’re talking about a collection of songs popular enough and deep enough to be worth an extended trawl. Ladies and gentlemen, this is it. This is pop. Continue reading this article ›
Continue reading this article ›
It’s January and, by now, you’ve probably read enough year-end lists to last you until, well, the end of this year. So here’s another one. The only difference is that all of these 2012 releases are available on Bandcamp, and some of them are even free. And if there’s one thing I can’t refuse, it’s free music (even bad free music; you don’t want to know how many Lil B mixtapes I downloaded in 2012).
Where Are We Now?
This month on Mostly Pop – old people! Well, some of them are merely getting on a bit in pop terms (ie they are now in their 30s), but some are proper old. Like David Bowie! Remember David Bowie? Ask your granddad etc. Anyway, as Jim touched on in his Music For Old People column last week, Bowie’s back after ten years of, I dunno, playing Call of Duty and wanking. This is his first single since some single literally no-one gave a toss about, and it’s my duty to review it because people apparently give a toss now, plus January is just the worst month for singles releases and I need material. Sorry, Jim, I do know he’s your turf.
by Victor Field
There are very few screen productions to have had entire books written about their music; Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings,Tim Burton’s Batman, Star Trek (but not Star Wars or Doctor Who, ha ha). The Music Of James Bond sees the world’s most famous spy added to that short list.
The appropriately initialled Jon Burlingame (no stranger to writing about spy music following his liner notes for FSM’s excellent The Man From U.N.C.L.E. albums) covers Commander Bond’s musical history from the late ‘50s US TV version of Casino Royale* to almost the present day – press deadlines mean Thomas Newman and Adull (er, Adele) don’t get a look-in with Skyfall – with a minimum of musicological textwork and a maximum of revealing information. Just as Burlingame’s TV’s Greatest Hits is an essential for anyone interested in small screen music, this is a must for those who have every Bond soundtrack from LP to download.
By Jim Eaton-Terry
Obviously there’s only one story this week. Like everyone (OK, like everyone over about 35 with an interest in pop music) I woke up on Tuesday to find my Twitter feed melting with the news that Bowie had reappeared with a new single, something I’d given up on years ago. In the time since it seems that pretty much every music writer worth reading has held forth on the subject so I’m not sure there’s much to add. The single is lovely, the video deeply peculiar, the cover is awful, and I’ve already ordered the album.