Wild at Heart seems to be the one universally accepted dud in David Lynch’s back catalogue. There are the early oddities (Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Dune), his masterpiece Blue Velvet, then the nightmarish trilogy of Fire Walk With Me, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. Wild At Heart is dismissed as Lynch lite, his one attempt at a mainstream lovers-on-the-run movie fatally flawed by compromises to commercial acceptability in the wake of Twin Peaks.
Having spent most of 2011 trying, with varying degrees of success, to listen only to music released this year, the albums I’ve loved the most have invariably been odd and angular takes on pop. They’ve also mostly been fronted by women
Whether I think about Tune-Yard’s dazzling, incomparable, almost indescribable WHOKILL – without doubt my album of the year, the first record I’ve ever heard to be as exciting as The Pop Group and still work as pop music – or Let England Shake, with PJ Harvey stepping further away from straightforward rock than she’s ever been and, in the process, producing her best album since 4-Track Demos, most of the year has been spent listening to music by women taking music places it’s never quite been before.
This month we have new records from two of the most interesting big names in pop, what the editor tells me is sludge-metal from Mastodon and some laughable overreaching from Florence Welch. Because I don’t actually get paid for this, I haven’t subjected myself to more than 30 seconds of Loutallica, but I have listened to David Lynch’s album…
After a summer of not listening to much, going back over the year and and realising I was wrong about some things (James Blake gets better and better) and right about others (PJ FTW!) we’re back to business this month
St Vincent – Strange Mercy
The record of the month, without a doubt, is St Vincent’s Strange Mercy. I first discovered her through this brutal, dazzling live version of Big Black’s “Kerosene” earlier this year. The album – her third – is absolutely astonishing. There are a lot of singer-songwriters around who can put a neat song together and deliver it prettily – I rather like the Laura Marling album – and there are a lot of producers who can construct intricate soundscapes. No-one I can think of puts the two things together as beautifully as St Vincent does here. Continue reading Mostly Records – September 2011→
This was never going to be as dazzling as it ought to be, and only mildly disappointing is about the best possible reaction to these two finally making an entire album together. There’s a distinct sense of two artists doing what they do – as the song says, you know me by now – but it’s a schtick that’s still not worn out its welcome. Kanye is just coming to the end of his imperial phase, Jay-Z is maybe a shade too magisterial, but at this point a sub-par Kanye/Jay-Z record is still better than most of the rest of what’s out there. Continue reading Mostly Records – August 2011→
Starting by talking about Lady Gaga risks straying into Mostly Pop territory but it’s an album so fair game. That Charlie off Busted thing last month had guitars on and did I complain?
Anyway, what’s fascinating about Gaga is the distinction between her persona and her actual records. If you read the interviews, look at the pictures, and watch the videos with the sound off, you’d expect monstrous, futurist pop. By rights she ought to sound like Björk fronting Army of Lovers.
“You’ve got to be a genius to make a movie this bad”
The Devil’s Candy is like no other book on film I’ve read. A former financial journalist, Julie Salamon was film critic for the Wall Street Journal when she gained access to Brian De Palma’s production of Tom Wolfe’s satirical novel. Her first idea was to give an industrial view of the filmmaking process and show the complexity of the contemporary cinema industry, and she does that, but she also wound up on the set of one of the most spectacular commercial and critical flops in the history of Hollywood.
There are plenty of books – great books – about the art of film. There are books about the politics of the industry and the studio systems. And there are books of gossip about the ludicrous egos of everyone involved. The Devil’s Candy touches on all those areas, but where Salamon really excels is at showing the sheer number of different processes involved in a blockbuster movie. Detailed but never dry, she gives you a view of everything from the costume shop to the ever-expanding budget.
Salamon follows the process from the first deals to the public reception of the film. She spends time with everyone from the location scouts to the director as they embark and then continue into disaster. That disaster shadows the book from its cover on, but Salamon never pre-empts her story: it’s only in the final third that you start to understand the sheer scale of it, and begin to feel something of the pain that might result from devoting two years of your life to a film that becomes an international punchline.
I’m going to start by stretching the definition of a new record to breaking point – not only is this not new, being a compilation, it’s also not a record as it can never be released:
But nothing new I’ve heard this month – this year, in fact – comes close to matching this lovingly compiled unofficial best of the KLF for energy, for ideas, or for simple cheek. Tom Ewing has assembled a guide to the only truly lost pop group of the last 20 years, from the piratical hip-hop of Burn the Bastards through the hits and the scams of the Timelords and Stadium House to their freeze frame into legend.
Over the course of less than 5 years, the KLF invented at least 2 now-forgotten genres (ambient and stadium house), recorded half a dozen brilliant top 10 singles (even if you don’t count “Doctorin’ the Tardis” under “brilliant”) and took the idea of the pop group as scam to its vanishing point. Then they deleted the back catalogue, left the building and, with a discipline no equivalent act has ever managed, vanished. Even 20 years later I keep half-suspecting every new European comedy dance act has Drummond and Cauty pulling the strings.
There have, however, been some new albums released this month (even if the second best – which I’ll talk about next month – is Kate Bush’s collection of old songs recreated to get closer to the sound in her head).
Perhaps the most perfect example of an adult rock album I’ve heard since Pulp’s We Love Life, Build a Rocket Boys transcends being a comfortable prog-inflected set of elegantly nostalgic songs about aging, family and regret.
Lippy Kids is the centre of the album and the video above shows everything there is to know about the record; elbow look and feel like a group treading water, but inject every song with enough passion and craft to lift it.