That’s all, folks

August 28, 2009

Well, that’s it. No more education.

What now?

Job? Pension? House? Yacht? Helicopter? Wife? Children?

None of the above seem forthcoming. What to do… what to do…

A glourious return

August 24, 2009

Laurent

I had low expectations for Inglourious Basterds. I despised Death Proof and the truly abominable UK trailer for Tarantino’s latest film positioned it as some kind of terrible farce, with attention drawn to Mike Myers’ absurd cameo and Brad Pitt’s camera-mugging.

But it isn’t. It’s really quite wonderful. I should start by saying that if you’re not a Tarantino fan, you won’t enjoy this at all as it is, I believe, the apotheosis of his style. Like Kill Bill, the film is divided into separate chapters that the director claims are each inspired by a different genre of film-making. I could only pick out snatches of spaghetti westerns here and there but I’m inclined to believe him. Naturally, this practice does serve to stifle the narrative; in some cases a vignette seems to be developing toward something grandiose, only to be stifled by a sudden cut. Over the course of two and half hours, it is entirely understandable that some attentions may wander.

Furthermore, most of the film is in German and French. A brave decision and one that pushes it further from the realms of mainstream cinema. However, the director’s fondness for dialogue and wordplay translates seamlessly into other tongues. Tarantino’s passion for non-diegetic music is back in abundance, with blasts of Ennio Morricone and David Bowie to punctuate many scenes.

The final point worth noting is that Brad Pitt is barely in the film. He leads the eponymous “Basterds” of the piece but the film is more concerned with the life of Shosanna, played to perfection by Melanie Laurent (pictured above, preparing for battle). Sadly, she barely speaks a word of English in the entire film so has been kept out of the weak marketing effort.

Like Kill Bill (which I believe to be Tarantino’s greatest work), Inglourious Basterds is a film of vengeance. I wonder also if it’s meant to ape Nazi propaganda but from an American perspective (central to the plot is a fictional Nazi propaganda film). It’s also a comedy; some scenes are absolutely hilarious. But is it mainstream? Absolutely not. However, whatever your taste for film, I urge you to see it. I haven’t seen anything else like it.

Southern

I found her in a cemetery.  She was sitting against a gravestone, her head buried deep in a book.

‘Excuse me, do you have a light?’ she chimed as I walked past.  Disturbed from my stroll I stammered a lie, eager to be on my way, ‘Sorry, I don’t smoke.’

‘Nor do I.  I want to light a candle for Rosemary Miller.  Well, no matter.  I just wanted to get your attention.’

She produced a small candle, placed it atop the gravestone and promptly lit it.

‘Care to join me?’ she invited me toward the dewy grass in front of Rosemary’s memorial.  I accepted her offer.  Though she was clearly mad, there was something in her demeanour that was unquestionably charming.

‘Do you think Rosemary will mind?’ I gamely enquired.

‘I shouldn’t think so,’ the girl sighed heavily, ‘she died in 1893’.

I glanced to read the inscription.  She was right, of course.

‘So what brings you here?’ I enquired.

‘Oh I adore it here.  There’s so much more life behind these gates than beyond them.’ She gleefully waved her arms to emphasise the point.  ‘Just look at that apple tree,’ she gestured.  ‘Isn’t that the frothiest…blossomest blossom you’ve ever seen?’

I followed her direction.  It was no different to any apple blossom I had seen before, yet all I could do was nod in silent agreement.

‘There’s so much beauty in melancholy,’ she added wistfully, ‘if only people could see it.’

I let out a laugh, ‘Yes, when the melancholy fit shall fall, then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose.’  She looked at me, beaming.  ‘Sorry,’ I mumbled, ‘Keats…’

‘Yes, I know’, and I saw in her eyes a spark of recognition.

A cloud passed over and cast a pall.  I felt the cold gather in the small of my back.

‘What are you reading?’ I asked, motioning toward the book she was holding.

‘It’s Oscar!’ she yelped, ‘care to browse?’

She thrust the Wilde anthology into my lap and I flicked through the pages.  The final stanza of one poem caught my eye.

‘Very good’, I remarked, handing the book to her.  More clouds gathered overhead.  I stood up and wiped the dew from my trousers.

‘I really must be going,’ I stated plainly, ‘work calls’.

‘Oh,’ remarked the girl, a note of sadness in her voice, ‘well, hopefully we’ll meet again.’

‘Yes, hopefully.’

She waved goodbye and I continued my walk.  In the distance I heard her cry, ‘Rosemary says goodbye, too!’ I hung my head low.  There were so many things left unsaid, unasked.  I didn’t even know her name.

As I reached for the gate I sadly recalled the lines I had read in her book;

“It were better we should part, and go,

Thou to some lips of sweeter melody,

And I to nurse the barren memory

Of unkissed kisses, and songs never sung.”

I left the cemetery, lit a cigarette and pulled my jacket tight to my chest against the approaching rain.

Well, this is interesting. Weezer have suffered the most catastrophic career nosedive of any band I can think of (maybe equalled by the Smashing Pumpkins) and their recent live shenanigans seem to have been the product of the fevered meanderings of those rapidly approaching nervous breakdowns. Witnesseth my earlier post with the Kids and Poker Face covers for details on that.

But hark! A new Weezer song! Look at the artwork!

WeezerSingle

Could it be? A Weezer song about romance? No frat-boy posturing? Surely not!

Well, it is. And it’s really rather good. Obviously, it pales compared to anything they committed to tape pre-2000 but it’s still an enjoyably catchy little number on unrequited love. It even reminds me a little of Girl Afraid (strictly in terms of theme only, I hasten to add).

Hopefully the new album is worth listening to also. My hopes aren’t high for that, given the other new songs played on their current tour. At least we have this little dusty nugget. For all interested, it can be streamed here.

Two new Radiohead songs in as many weeks? It certainly looks (sounds) that way. I read a rumour that this song is a leaked Radiohead track. It’s yet to be verified by any trusted sources but that’s definitely Thom Yorke singing.

As for the song itself, I like it. It draws from their Neu! inspirations quite heavily and isn’t entirely dissimilar from Cuttooth, which can’t be a bad thing.

The only thing I find questionable is where this song came from. Is it a new recording or something that’s been dormant for some time? I’m tempted to say it’s new, given the sound quality. It doesn’t sound like a rough demo.

Regardless, I’m sure an announcement will be made shortly.

I’m not used to defending the indefensible. In truth, I’m not accustomed to defending the defensible either. Yet I’ve suffered a tremendous change of heart in recent weeks concerning what is perhaps Morrissey’s most reviled album; Southpaw Grammar.

This volte-face came about as a result of a recent gig in which Morrissey performed Best Friend on the Payroll, a track from this album. I was immediately struck by how well he performed it and, additionally, how good the song actually was. Southpaw Grammar is an album I have owned for several years (recently repurchased in the newly-released special edition) but have never been able to penetrate. Following the gig, I resolved to give it more time.

I am very glad that I did. There is, however, no questioning the album’s inaccessibility. The original release consisted of a mere nine songs, two of which stretched over the ten minute mark. One of these songs, The Teachers are Afraid of the Pupils, opened the album with a sample of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D Minor. Hardly the perkiest or most energetic way to begin an album. Another song opens with a two and half minute drum solo. Furthermore, released little more than a year after the sublimely elegiac Vauxhall and I, the album’s sound is a marked contrast that could only have confused and infuriated listeners. Critically, it was utterly panned. In 1995, Oasis, Blur and Pulp were at the forefront of British pop music. Though all bands owe a debt of influence to Morrissey and The Smiths, none could have sounded more different from Morrissey’s current work. A lacklustre performance of The Boy Racer on “Later…” (an episode in which Pulp also appeared) effectively displays the contrast. The band in suits, giving their all to a thoroughly unmoved audience. Fittingly, the song bemoans the narrator’s passing youth and envy at a more popular counterpart. Morrissey could well have been singing the song directly at Jarvis Cocker across the studio floor.

I’ve always enjoyed The Boy Racer and the new edition of the album has moved it up the tracklisting to serve as a ferocious opener. Yet there’s one song on the album that I had previously never listened to and am now utterly entranced by. The epic Southpaw previously closed the album but has now been moved to the middle of the tracklisting. As such, it serves as a centrepiece of sorts. Seemingly a tale of childhood loneliness transformed into adult longing, in which the paths of two kindred souls are destined never to cross, the song utterly transcends its lyrical obliqueness. Simon Goddard in his new book, Mozipedia, sums it up more eloquently than I ever could; “As a recording, Southpaw stands out as, potentially, the most experimental track of Morrissey’s career: five minutes of pop melancholy, sprinting in search of escape but tumbling helplessly into a trance-like abyss of sedated misery… As his voice finds its horizon and fades away, the instrumental coda’s trembling heart-strings and hollow, hopeless rhythms serve only to reiterate the never-to-be-lovers’ unalterable sorrow”. Not the happiest of songs but it makes the hairs on my arms stand bolt upright every time I hear it. Even Johnny Marr never managed that.

Southpaw Grammar is, beyond everything, unashamedly a rock album. Named for Morrissey’s newly-found passion for pugilism, it is both brutal and beautiful. It’s not his finest collection of songs but as an experience, it’s well worth listening to. The new edition is a worthy addition to any CD collection, with sleevenotes written by the man himself explaining the processes behind the recording. The sense of pride he feels in the work is overwhelming and one any fan should share.

Since his death last year, much has been written surrounding one of Heath Ledger’s final projects, directing a music video for Modest Mouse’s King Rat. The video was finally unveiled yesterday on MySpace (an auspicious platform, no doubt) and, um, I’m not sure if it’s any good.

EDIT: Sony’s lawyers have leaped all over this and disabled the audio. If you’re interested, I’m sure you can find it somewhere else.

Obviously, I agree with the sentiment but I can’t help but feel that it’s a little heavy-handed. Furthermore, the track itself is fairly weak, which certainly doesn’t help. The initial rumour was that the animation was to be handled by Terry Gilliam and I think that would have resulted in a far stronger product. Oh well, there’s always The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to look forward to. Maybe then the man’s spirit will finally be laid to rest.

A much more pleasant and surprising piece of news I read today was that Radiohead have recorded a new song in memory of Harry Patch, the World War I veteran who died two weeks ago. Apparently the song was recorded a few weeks before his death, inspired by an interview with the man heard by Thom Yorke some years ago. As such, the lyrics are all Harry’s own words. It’s available to stream here. A high-quality download, costing £1, is available from the band’s official website, with all proceeds going to the Royal British Legion. I highly recommend. It’s not the best song Radiohead have committed to tape but the passion behind it is strong and it’s been too long since I’ve heard Thom Yorke’s ethereal vocals backed by a haunting Jonny Greenwood string arrangement. It’s probably the best £1 you’ll spend today.