Category: Uncategorized

Long Live The Fall !

When is rock not folk ? When is pop not folk ? When it is the shiny product which can be good on the radio and the hi fi but if there was only that we’d be living in hell and sometimes we might walk into its regions eg radio in garages and shops. Yeah, that stuff has to be part of the mix and the mix would mean something while it worked on your body and mind. And part of the mix would be The Fall.

The music of The Fall was folk music about our strange everyday lives and folk music is where musical meaning and value is created and recreated. Where that precious commentary and thought which makes music mean something comes from.

The Fall could never be that shiny stuff that makes up the charts but it could still do a damn good imitation which was on a par with the finest radio music at least for those people who loved what the Fall knew and illuminated for us about the intersections that make up our musical, social, cultural landscape.  It was a place filled with political intelligence and it was addictive for those who got hooked on what was being said in so many constantly changing inventive new ways and new shapes. Isn’t that the definition of what artists should do ?

MES I thought had a lot in common with those other big auteurs of late 20th century music like Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, George Clinton. They were more than solo acts. They were band leaders with unique evolving bands and Smith deserves to be seen as amidst those creative orbits, that firmament.

The music was made out some sort of plastic organic material that only Smith had supplies of. Fall imitators have never been able to keep it up for long because they only worked with an imitation of that unique endlessly fertile creative stuff.

The Fall were a band who gave a shit about novelty and entertainment value but that was done with a contempt for the inauthenticity, the silliness and vanity of the mainstream. At the same time the stream of the main (mainstream) was part of the environment that the Fall nestled in, maybe sucked a bit of its blood.

The irony of the Fall was the good sort, a warmly cynical kind where everything was just a thing to be put into Smith’s world where it would dance for you in the way the Fall made it dance. Contention – cynicism can have a warm and funny side to it but kind of adores its own aggression because maybe aggression is just a form of violent happiness, amoral bliss which ultimately feels like goodness, while it laughs down every bit of content whilst redeeming that content within itself. Is that what makes cynicism different from nihilism ? The idea of a nihilistic Fall is ridiculous. Cynicism can retain a childlike optimism amidst its slashing insightfulness.

He has often been criticised as a bad human being. So was Miles. Perhaps what they had in common was a certain liberality in justifying their own pissed offness, of artists whose passions and aesthetic senses are constantly under attack from mediocrity. In this society and culture I think that’s understandable. And hey most of us never knew him so we should probably be thankful for that. Seen, read, heard in sporadic media appearances Smith tended to treat proceedings as a spurned poet with an air of slight surprise on these rare occasions he’d been requested to give his opinions. It was at these times you could see someone who threatened these complacent/fashion led environments with exactly something intended to refuse such environments with a background in sensory derangement that put all its assumed solidities in jeopardy. He was so totally at home in the media environment he made it all look like a mistake which he had every right to expect something better, possibly madder in its place.

It would be good to see The Fall becoming more widely known and enjoyed by the people of these isles. It would be a good measure of progress. As yet they remain sadly, a minority taste. However that huge body of work exists exists so that’s why we should celebrate Mark E Smith and The Fall. Fantastic achievement really.

Borg vs McEnroe – the movie

I loved this film. If you were to make a movie about a sporting rivalry, about a specific game it could only become something worthy of story with some depth if it was somehow about truth. This film is an attempt to portray truth using the simple materials available. It is a kind of illumination of why an event such as this resonates with us. Not just an excited novelised looking back but an attempt to bring out a certain essence  to remind us that what becomes special has at its heart a certain specific beauty in its enfoldment.  The film shows that the simplicity of sport  lends itself to a  of a certain clarification of what we are like. Sport tends not to be taken seriously by art but this film uses sport to show what is basic to our culture in adversarial matters, how sport is an aesthetic simplification of oppositions. This film takes something which we don’t give too much thought to and makes a case for its transcendence into something that is part of our modern passion. It reminds us that we are all caught up in an emotional battle for our own self realisation and if that means winning a tennis game then so be it. Then in its involvement of millions sharing this passion it becomes a symbol which is part of our very flesh, our bodies and minds. It is the sporting abstraction that allows it to be such a pure form of symbol. The film makes us realise what is spiritually significant about sport. When everything else in the world is jettisoned so the player can take part in this incredibly simple construction, a type of drama. How we use our emotions on that stage becomes the medium, just as profound as any other emotional response. The main emotion I experienced was one of relief, that sport, such a hyped grotesque phenomenon it seems sometimes has profundity beyond just being a capitalist entertainment. It is another site of struggle but that essence can only be illuminated at certain more perfect moments such as the place and time this film attempts to depict.

Although the film is something of a cartoon it’s witty execution wins over our lack of expectation. It is a ridiculous subject for a movie but that’s quite funny. Its very existence and its actual cheapness is er quite cool compared to Hollywood product.

Nathan Fake – Providence

whence they came. 2017 still the epoch connection to 1986 I guess. Tweaking continues. Gear fetishes. Bedroom solipsism the high practitioners have been British, home counties even. Belfast has a lot of it. We can relate to that idea of being psychically under attack and struggling with money that seems to fly around between shops and estates. Our own miracle gets frustrating because it is forced to be anti capitalist if it gave itself any name beyond dust coated wading. And composing with dust and ohms something rises out of the lake of plugged in amateur profs. And they’re just the slick ones.

So here’s another tweaked little miracle. Its an impression, a reflection about a load of stuff that you can decide is valuable I suppose but I think its too honed despite the honing being at quite a high level of awareness. So going by the method ( the probably pointless method) its an A grade which tells us something is amiss. Albums and presentations are more like births these days and what I like about this little child is its charm, its ability to separate itself from cliché. Its satisfying to audience and curate it but its so one like (there’s only one) derived from its fluid editing abstraction technique. And its independence is satisfyingly subversive but not in any actual emphasised meaning or anything. This record likes what it says about language and that’s its limitation on a better planet. But on this one, Earth its cool for the present day. There is a great lack of irritation in it which makes it so enjoyably harmless. In this day and age that raise it to the level of usefulness but only just which is enough and very pleasing. And it remains the first new record I’ve been interested in for years.

Bee Gees – Odessa

I recently (ok, it was March last year) said this album was as “unlistenable as Metal Machine Music”. I have realised that this is inaccurate. Although the Bee Gees have made some fairly unpalatable  numbers (the I Started a Joke type things) I don’t know if I jumped to a conclusion too soon based on a perfunctory scan. Perhaps my mood skewed my objectivity  but to call this album difficult on the level of Lou Reed’s “atonal” noise symphony is stupid. Last night I listened to a lot of Odessa and it wasn’t that difficult an experience. Perhaps unlistenable in this case means its just a bit shit and I couldn’t be bothered. And now for another sweeping statement that I need to be careful about. Er, its a double album from a quirk filled land of its own ? I really want to like it, saying as for some reason I went on to say it should be seen as a classic album by the music press. I’ll get back to you on this, maybe. Anyway this is a little repentance article for misleading my readers which was compounded by the fact I seemed to give the impression I knew what I was talking about. Ah, facts. Then again an opinion even if it was more generally accurate is not a fact. I’m getting neurotic. Oh the public shame. Kick me and come back y’all.

 

Bee Gees - Odessa (USA 1969)  double LP in original red velvet cover !!

What are you ?

Anyway, saying things are “unlistenable” is a rather contextually based statement. This record for me falls confusingly between music I’m drawn to and music I’m just not into eg take your pick, there’s always tonnes but the songs on this album are not exactly throwaway or filler you might find in many albums by many other great artists. Unlistenable is usually a word used for material of artists that have a very respected track record (no pun intended) who have made something rather challenging and beyond a certain norm where people give it a sort of mystically repellant quality which at least makes it intriguing and possibly cool. Metal Machine Music is a famous example. Odessa on the other hand and this will probably never be my definitive opinion on this is offputting by what seem to be an unpleasing version of the familiar that seems full of crassness you cant get away from. But still, like the Lou Reed record the door may still be open for someone to make us reassess this curious, unique but derivative at the same time etc thing from 1969.

Because Odessa was quite enough of 60’s Bee Gees for me I have no idea what their other 60’s albums were like but this one seems like a good place to start. I was always intrigued by 60’s Bee Gees  but kind of knew I wouldn’t like it much. I haven’t listened to any of their other albums from the 70’s onwards either probably because you get the feeling everything else is just rehearsal for that radio lubricant (the familiar hits) that we enjoy and is integral to the sonic landscape

Looking at Wikipedia, AllMusic etc I discover that its now apparently considered a bit of a classic but I’ll only be convinced when someone can explain its oddness. I don’t think anyone who’s hailing it is making that good a case except saying it’s a well produced product. Its actually more interesting than that even though I don’t like it. Enough already !

Monday 17th May 2016 – an evening of urban fun and a movie

These events happen in Belfast. Belfast.

Haven’t been to the cinema for certainly over a year. On a whim decided to go to town after work where I had another argument with my boss the manifestation of which seemed to come out of nowhere. Out of my calm calm stylings it just explodes. It feels like manipulated tension. My protest felt like whining but I get the feeling I’m being toyed with. The focus seems to be turned on me as an unacceptable freak because of my response of dissatisfaction. But the information imparted, that there wasn’t much time in the summer for me to take leave came to me eventually as something which was acceptable to my calmer side which had been exploded I think by the way it was initially presented to me which led to me perceiving that two weeks did not seem to be open, a result of me not specifying on time as it was framed and I replied that wasn’t good and I thought everyone was entitled to  at least an uninterrupted week as a summer break But actually as it turned out a week in June and one at the end of August. Well, that’s not great but its actually ok in the circumstances. Do yo see what I mean. It was ok. But I am left with this person apparently shocked by my “outburst”. I was on my knees sweeping paper off the floor at the time when it was announced so I conducted the conversation whilst doing this and was then told to stop that as if it was rude.

Is it ok not to edit ? But anyway I seemed to get away with not being mortified in the last half hour of work which is usually the result of these moments and I could bring myself to get the bus to go into town on a fine May evening. I was happy enough as I thought I could just about defend myself if my behaviour was brought up again as an issue in my struggle to remain employed. Ha.

Anyway, I got a “day ticket” which entitles you to unlimited travel on Metro buses. I can’t get money from cash machines with my atm card which means I get money by getting “cash back” from my bank account in supermarket transactions so I ended up on the Lisburn Road Tesco where I got thirty pounds. Then it was time to imbibe something. The plan was that I would stay out until I was tired and then I would go home and go straight to bed and the next day I would get up about 7am in preparation for a visit to the doctor about this tingly feeling I am getting in my hands which is really bugging me and praying on my mind. Some problem with circulation but I need a tonic and some information. I’m writing this now just before I go to doctors.

I went to the Parlour, which is one of the closest public bars to the Queens main campus ie near to that big 19th century Hampton Court style frontage. Not a pleasant bar to be when there’s lots of people but very relaxing when not and there was hardly anyone there, all the students probably worrying about their exams. Its very dark so its a nice place to be inconspicuous. Its like an Irish country inn with a lighting problem which seems to be exploited to pleasant effect at the front area the light comes in the windows but your still in the dark and there are flickering lantern things and a fruit machine in the gloom under some stairs and very deep armchairs which hide you most of the way  – up to the neck ? behind the tables whilst obscure 70’s funk quietly rumbled out. This seems to be a bit of a trend currently.

Had a pint of Smithwicks. It was time to eat. Planned to go to Bishops, a fish and chip restaurant of local fame and note where you can (used to) sit in a takeaway bit with your box of  purchase but surprisingly it was dark and shut possibly forever it seemed. So I went to Kentucky and got a three piece meal. Num but I was feeling a bit lonesome and pointless partly due to the contrived and experimental nature of my evening adventure undertaken of course with no friendly companions. The food cheered me up though.

I went to Botanic Gardens where I notice there are few places where you can sit where you don’t feel rather exposed but there is a little tree and foliage filled mini foresty bit where I found a tree and sat against it. It was a great spot and quite secluded for a park where there’s always people moving through. Pleased that I had found this place which I’ll definitely return to I moved on down Botanic Avenue and went to the Empire Bar which is a big old building beside the railway line which is more like a theatre in design. In fact its two theatre like spaces on top of one another. The upper one has concerts of tribute bands, retro music nights and local bands too. I’ve never been to the famous comedy night at the Empire, I assume its still on. I had a pint of Guinness which I downed quickly as I’d decided to catch the movie at 9. The cinema is part of the university campus, just up the street.

Going to films you haven’t a clue what they’re about can leave you open to self inflicted misery but this time the random choice worked. Hoorah ! My experimental evening actually came off.

 

Mustang  – a film from Turkey directed and co-written by Deniz Gamze Erguven

 

Mustang poster.jpg

 

The further we travel from the centres of our late capitalist west the more films seem to be about, “issues.” Issues that often seemed to be about the old meeting the new. This film does it with a sledgehammer but its really good. A film that would have a much broader appeal than a lot of foreign movies because the subject matter is very accessible.

If you only knew a few things about what happens in societies where traditional ways of life are still immensely pervasive you would know that in some places in the world the lives of women are highly regulated and they are subject to being married off into arranged marriages quite often in their early teens.

This film begins with an introduction to a group of teenage girls who actually turn out to be sisters doing things you might see in an American teen movie, frolicking in the water with some boys at the seaside on the day school breaks up . The rather ignorant viewer such as myself may say to themselves, well that doesn’t surprise me really, the whole world is becoming like this now, although it seems the girls could come from anywhere really which seems a bit of a flattening out of identity. A couple of scenes later we are presented with the girls outraged aunt and uncle who have heard about their “behaviour” and we realise that what might have seemed normal in some societies is the “issue,” of the film. It is actually the central event that leads the girls to be practically imprisoned in their family home.

What seems clear as well is that the girls behaviour is westernised, a direct result of something that has come from outside Turkish culture. It is a surprisingly strict distinction which is demonstrated in quite an angry way which sticks two fingers up to any one who would want to stop these changes from being accommodated. The girls love acting in a rebellious way which connects for them more naturally both hormonally and culturally. This unstoppable drug of social and romantic freedom is portrayed as a powerful force that it would be foolish to try and hold back and makes a fool of what is wrongly perceived as the cornerstone of tradition ie. a strict stale morality which turns off any interest in the children leaving them to the mercy and uneducated dangers of wild rebellion . This is because we are seeing through the eyes of the girls how little the traditional code means to them as it cannot deal with their collective celebration of their youth and beauty which they know is alien and makes them like aliens both to themselves and to their elders. They have become little punks just like many trend obsessed children these days but their rebellion has more meaning. The poses are similar but its a real war. It isn’t the more nihilistic meaningless ungrateful rebellion of our own pathetic youth which just is and wouldn’t make much subject matter for a film to be a bit harsh but then again adults in our  society, the new generation of elders are still dominated by conservative ideas which in liberal societies is a miserable and nonsensical state for our minds to be in in 2016 so no wonder our children act like something’s wrong. Its complicated and I’m getting off the subject.

The film is possibly mocking its societies traditions to show that if tradition cannot integrate western liberalism, which may have awful elements to it then tragedies will continue to take place. But the final message is almost shockingly positive although this family has been destroyed, but destroyed by attitudes, not something that had to inevitably become reality.

I also liked the way the film shows viewers in more fully westernised countries that the freedoms that many more individuals enjoy in these societies are a cause for celebration, not to be taken for granted. It is our own western ideas that we are seeing in action in films such as this, carving up the old ways, which is a call to recognise our universal responsibility but also, power.

The film is the director’s debut movie and is based on her own experiences.