millionreasons: (photo)
As it was Christmas recently, I watched several films, all of which had girl in the title although not Gone Girl or The Girl With A Tattoo Who Kicked Nests And Played with Dragons. I saw:-

The Danish Girl

This looked sumptuous and was an endearing story of one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery. It was faction rather than fiction due to the loss of information about the case, and also because the film's director wanted to make a love story, even though Gerde, Mrs Danish Girl, was actually a lesbian. I read some criticism that trans characters should be played by trans actors - I would disagree with this for practical reasons (the film was about the actual transitioning and the growing dislike that Einar/Lily had for his body, which was displayed in its full maleness i.e. pre-transitioning). Also, actors do acting: that's their job. Ms Glenda Jackson didn't grow a penis to play King Lear. Eddie Redmayne did not have MD when he played Stephen Hawking. Daniel Day Lewis didn't develop cerebral palsy to play Christy Brown, even though he is known as the method actor's method actor. I am not comparing transgender issues to a disability, but the comparison to cisgendered persons playing transgender persons to blacking up isn't helpful - people can't change their race because they believe they have been born into the wrong body (unless they are Rachel Dolezal).

The Girl On The Train

Not as good as the book although which film is?* What I liked about the book was that the heroine was a fat, red, sweaty, damaged alcoholic who nonetheless solved the crime, and in this film she is the beautiful Emily Blunt. What was more unrealistic was that railside houses in the US are much further away from the tracks than in commuter belt Britain and you'd need bionic vision to spot shenanigans on a balcony. It was rather more difficult to conceal the identity of Megan's lover in a film; as soon as you don't see the face of the shaggee, you know something's up.

* High Fidelity, Brokeback Mountain, The Third Man, Breakfast at Tiffany's.

The Girl With All The Gifts

This started out great as you wonder why a group of army types are holding children captive, and then descended into a schlock horror as a "black guy dies first" gang wander through a CGI city on a quest to Doesn't Matter Where, but was saved by the surprise ending, which creeped me out somewhat. It was also good to see a non-London landscape featured on film (in this case the Midlands): we may "have no prairies to slice a big sun at evening" but we have landscape that can be used as Hollywood utilises the deep south or the mid west or Manhattan as an additional character in a movie.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

As if Jim Jarmusch made a feminist vampire film set in Iran. Hang on, Jim Jarmusch did make a vampire film, but it was awful, mainly due to the mis-casting of Tom Hiddleston who is great at being Tom Hiddleston (The Night Manager, High Rise), but not great at being a louche bloodsucker. Someone like Jared Leto would have been better in that role. Or maybe an actual vampire. When will vampire actors be cast in vampire roles?
millionreasons: (wine)
23rd: Brexmas. Dom organised a "last day of work" breakfast at 7 a.m, which involved getting up at 6 a.m. Oddly, given that I'm into my fourth REM cycle by then, I didn't feel tired until about 9 p.m. Maybe I should try this getting-up-at-a-horrendous-time lark more often. We went to Hawksmoor, which is known for its meat (indeed, it does a £36 all you can clog your arteries with mega animal brekkie) but the veggie option (wild mushrooms on toast with poached egg and Hollandaise) was pretty nice. The restaurant is very old school, with wood paneling and dim lighting, and soon filled up with city boys in last day of term Christmas jumpers. We arrived in the dark, but when we left, it was light, like a reversal of going to the cinema in the afternoon. I took the bus through the empty city to an equally empty Stoke Newington and was in work an unprecedented 45 minutes early.

25th: We walked over Wanstead Flats. When we lived in N16 North (the ghetto) it was just like a normal day; in E7, I thought Xmas might be different, but there were still shops open. We even saw one woman delivering pizza leaflets. We cooked nut roast, drank English wine, watched Xmas TOTP for the first time in 25 years.

26th: Driving north for Boxing Day reading James Woods' essay on going home, deliberate exile, secular homelessness. But even though I can appreciate the village where I grew up, now glittery with lights (not gaudy, never that), I haven't considered this home for a long long time. Unlike school-friends who tweet that it's good to be home in their childhood bed, more and more, I feel the north is not for me. The best bit of the day was picking out the notes to Oh Susanna on the piano as my nephew "played" the same on his keyboard.

27t:; Christmas-on-sea in Lincolnshire, a walk on the bright and brilliant seafront followed by a look around Sue's Curios, not so much a treasure trove as a place you'd not want to get stuck in overnight in case everything came alive.



We drive over the Wolds, icy windmills moving steadfastly through the snowy air, crispy white grass, brackeny hedges tarted up by twinkly frost, Dickensian corners on windows. Through little leave-voting Lincs villages rimed up with frost, their subsidised PV panels whited up, bare trees in diaphanous white sleeves, bushes stalagmited by the weather, cabbages in fields turned cauliflower, ice-white swans on a mirrored stream.

28th: A long day of relative and friend visiting, driving across Nottingham four times, setting off for the motorway as the day is falling, lights curl off into the Monet-ish grey distance, the diamond and gold of the tailback. We follow a stream of red down the hill to Cambridgeshire, like the Magi after the star. There is a murmeration of sparrows in the pink twilight, the birds joyfully whirligigging; people like seeing kestrels or hawks by the sides of roads, but this is better. At the end of the A1, the misty city rises out of the motorway like Oz.
millionreasons: (marnie)
I have finished Mother London and written a short review. Book no. 22 is another about London: This Other London, Adventures In The Overlooked City by John Rogers, which features, amongst others, a walk from Wanstead to Ilford, i.e. my (new) manor.
millionreasons: (marnie)

I started watching Seinfeld because I missed Curb YE too much. At first it was a bit like Friends, four people in and out of each other's apartments, low production values, nothing much happens. It got good around S4 when there was a season long theme of trying to sell Seinfeld - the series to NBC and the gang started to go outside – to a set, but it looked more real than Friends's Greenwich village. They also started to take the piss out of Jerry's stand up routine, which I imagine was quite old hat by 1997 and Elaine was given better storylines and allowed to be meaner.

The suporting characters were recurring and consistently amusing: Newman, Jerry's fussy parents, George's absurd mom and pop, the various nemeses of the guys inc. a young Walter White as a handsome dentist. It was funny to see now famous stars playing Jerry's girlfriends (Sarah Silverman, Kristen Bauer, Megan Mulalley), although none was allowed to actually be funny. Elaine was the only woman who's allowed to be funny. Imagine having Karen from Will 'n' Grace on your show and her playing the straight guy.

My conclusion: Jerry's the mensch, George is the schlub, Elaine's the shiksa, Kramer's the schlemiel and Newman's the schmuck.

2. Trapped

I don't usually go for big bearded bear men, but I developed a slight crush on Andri, the chief of police in a one petrol station town in the far east of Iceland, investigating a headless torso washed up in the harbour. Like Sarah Lund, he has issues: his two daughters becoming bullies, his ex-wife bringing her new boyfriend to stay, a Fargo-esque dumb colleague who lets a people trafficker escape. Scandicrime is back and this time it's Iceland, bitch! The snow comes, the populace is trapped, the big boys can't fly in from Reykjavik: it's all on Andri's hunched shoulders.

3. The Characters

Six comedians do a one off sketch show, featuring themselves as various characters. If this had been British, there would have been whimsy, or riffing/ripping off The Fast Show or Little Britain. Perhaps because there’re more grotesque characters in the US, it worked pretty well. Ep 1 was by  Lapkus, last seen playing the soft hearted prison guard Susan in OITNB, starring as a Paris-meets-Britney reality star as well as an emo pole dancer (at Dick N' Boners, a Hooters style establishment), and an appalling teen in a bus station. Ep 3 met Henry Zebrowski, whose appalling life was shown through flashback as he met God and we discovered that in past lives, he was a racist comedian, one of the other criminals at Gethsemane, a caveman trying to shag a stone figure and the worst date ever, turning up naked after having his clothes stolen. Ep 5’s highlight was Natasha Rothwell being a basic basic basic bitch.

4. Follow The Money

This Scandi-crime drama was not so much the Killing or the Bridge or even Trapped; it was more like the Wire, but featuring windfarms rather than drugs and urban blight. As well as the title, there was a nod to the Wire when Mads used an authorised wireptap for an entirely different case to eavesdrop on their man. Featuring the handsome but dodgy Sander as the head of said windfarm company and his ambitious but annoying lawyer Claudia, whose idea of a fun day out for her 7 year old is to take him to a factory in Jutland because she has to sack everybody who works there. Their antagonists were Mads and Alid, the archetypal maverick and dedicated rule follower, respectively.

5. Love, Nina

Whimsical, twee, but also very funny. I think it would've been better if it had actually scripted by Alan Bennett though.

6. Mum

Stafan Grosilewski (Him 'n' Her) moves from Walthamstow, his to Chingford to Lesley Manville’s house. Her character, Cathy, has recently lost her husband, but not her son, Jason, who still lives with her and not his insecure girlfriend, Kelly, who practically moves in.

The men are hapless, the women are insensitive, the grandparents are hilarious. Someone said it’s about grace under pressure, but I thought it was more about the failure to communicate. Kelly’s mum loves her but shows her it by calling her a silly cow and belittling her. Family friend Michael loves Cathy but can’t tell her even after a Christmas hand hold. Kelly can't tell Jason she doesn't want to move with him to Australia and although he realises this, he can’t bring it up with her, instead pretending he didn’t get the job he applied for. No-one talks about death even though it runs through each episode. The characters aren’t as grotesque as the sister and brother in law and neighbour in Him 'n' Her, but they are very real. I loved the sister in law who was horrified by the wine choice in Cathy’s house. Jacob’s Creek?!

7. Don’t Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23

Perfect over-achiever mid westerner June moves in with Holly Golightly-on-MDMA soicopath Chloe. Off couple hilarity ensues. Strange then, that the best character is James van der Dawson playing James van der Beek. Over-sensitive, narcissistic, vainglorious, both desperate to move on from the Creek yet return to it, he nonetheless treats Chloe and June like princesses, to the extent of giving passers by money when Chloe steals their drinks. He has feuds with his nemesis, Dean Cain, and his secondary and tertiary nemeses, Fred Savage and Malcolm from Malcolm In The Middle. I didn't know he was funny!

8. The Outlaws

A very black comedy drama, rather than a Scandi-noir. Four Flemish-Belgian* women try to kill their brother in law with mixed consequences. Some of the humour fell a little flat to my English ears, but overall I was entertained by the attempted murders: paintball, electrocution, fake suicide, gas explosion, freezing, which always ended up with someone else getting hurt. At first, it seemed that the sisters' desire to kill Jean Claude is spurious: he's unpleasant to his wife, he won't lend one of them money, he maneuvered himself into a promotion over the eldest sister, he's obnoxious, controlling, manipulative, racist and insisted on calling his wife “mummy”, but as things went on it got darker, with the loss of an eye, attempted blackmail, and a rape resulting in pregnancy and forced abortion, and then you wanted him deader than dead. In the end, though, who actually dunnit was both a surprise and obvious – as all good murder mysteries should be. The local police were useless; fortunately there are a couple of dogged insurance agents on the trail of the black eyed blondes.

* Whenever they venture into Wallonia, the locals are portrayed as drunken, lazy, venal peasants.

9. Fleabag

This is not so much of a sit-com as a sit-traj. It starts off as a comedy about terrible people, and ends up a deeply dark drama about a disturbed woman. With guinea pigs. Worth seeing for Olivia Coleman playing the bitch, at the very least.

10. Stranger Things

I don't like horror, Stephen King or stories about kids, but I did like this series in its execution rather than its premise (secret lab, other dimension, children-eating monster). I was captivated by Winona Ryder trying to speak to her missing son via the medium of Xmas lights (this is the beginning of the Winonaissance I hope) and enjoyed the tale of the teenage love triangle - instead of bookish-turned-bad ass Nancy dumping douchey Jean Ralphio-alike boyfriend, Steve in favour of nerdy Jonathan, Steve changed and regretted his awful ways. Stand out star was psychokinetic El, the astonishingly good pre-teen actress who blew the part out of the water (or rather, tank she was placed in).

11. Mr Robot

Modern life is rubbish and also a bit like Fight Club.

12. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

The premise of this: over-achieving lawyer Rebecca quites high flying New York job for crap town in So-Cal because her first boyfriend lives there sounded meh to the max. But it's very engaging, for the song and dance numbers, for the enabling best friend, for the fact that love-object Josh is so unimpressive, for Rebecca herself: neurotic, self-loathing, pretty darn awful but ultimately lovable.

13. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

If we thought satire was going to be enough to stop Trump, we were wrong, but I enjoyed John Oliver's attempted take down of him. Joliver's charm is his English self-deprecation (Colbert is starting to get  a Jesus-complex, you can see it in his eyes) and his absurd similes. I have also been impressed with his feminism: there are only three writers (all male) on the show so he presumably has a lot of input, and they have interrogated the swimsuit edition of Men's Health magazine, the lack of sex education in schools, leading not only to unwanted pregnancies and STIs, but also problems with understanding of consent, the wage gap, and more.

14. Modus

Filling the Scandi-noir shaped hole in the BBC4 schedules and our hearts. The heroine, Inge is no Lund or Noren, but she is good, a profiler brought in to investigate a neo-Nazi serial killer along with the tall and handsome Stuart Broad lookalike cop, Ingevar. Little does Inge know (until ep 4 anyway) that her Aspergsy daughter witnessed the first murder but is unable to talk about it. Ingevar has his own demons, his daughter died aged six. Throw in a lesbian vicar, a TV chef, a hipster artist, lots of snow and stripped pine, and you have the perfect accompaniment to your hygge.

15. Luke Cage

Blaxploitation hero turned champion for our times, Luke battles drug dealers, corrupt councillors, and dodgy science in this superhero-without-a-cape yarn.

16. Black Mirror

Every story was a winner, although my faves were the sweetest (heaven is a virtual place on earth) and the darkest (the revenge tragedy).

millionreasons: (marnie)
It's been a shit year for many different reasons, not just Trump and Brexit and dead David Bowie. HOwever, some good things happened. I was hoping for 16 of them, but I could only come up with 12.

1. We bought a house! Me, Dave and the Nationwide Building Society own our own little place. Getting away from under the jackboot of Hackney Homes was the best bit about it.

2. We went to a pagan festival (dating back to 1994).

3. Lizzie Armitstead passed within a few centimetres of me in my home village.

4. I spent my birthday abroad for the first time ever (my 20th was spent in Crewe but I don't suppose that counts).

5.  Barcelona again to the Primavera Fstival, but my favourite day was the one in which we walked down the beach from Selva del Mar to Barceloneta, stopping to sunbathe, paddle, and eat at a beach bar.

6. Cycling up a mountain to see the Tour De France and the candle-light procession in Lourdes.

7. Wine-tasting in Sussex and 8. boats in Hastings.

9. Bumping into Chris Froome in the Olympic Park.

10. Allan and Lisa's wedding in a Devonian art deco Agatha Christie hotel in the last of the (Indian) summer sunshine.

11. Coffee tour of the City

12 I went to Glasgow to see Deacon Blue!
millionreasons: (marnie)
And now the end is near, and so we face the final entry. Is this the song of the year? Most probably, although I personally prefer You Made Me Realise, but then again, I didn't vote in the poll, and anyway, it was TWENTY EIGHT YEARS AGO. It's a good job that House of Love didn't survive into the mid-90s, i don't think they would have coped very well with the cor blimey cheeky chappie irony of Britpop.

Love: the fade-in, the assertive drums, the wah-wow guitar break, the echo fade-out, the fringes.

But I need you more than I need air
millionreasons: (marnie)
In which a woman treats le Gedge badly and he writes a song about it. Full of jangles, riffs, breaks, and hooks.

Take it away, Grapper!

Well that's fine/Idon't care anymore
millionreasons: (marnie)
This is the only JAMC entry on the FF - they were in a transition period between the barbed wire feedback of their earlier tracks and the smoother, more produced sound of their move from Creation to Warner's. This song has still got the heavy bass, thrumming guitar and sunglasses of the Psychocandy era, but it's less sprawling. I can imagine them performing it on Saturday Superstore.

millionreasons: (marnie)
1. Black - Sweetest Smile

In January, David Bowie died and there was an official mourning period during which every pub, club, party or anywhere else music is played, had to play a DB song. Colin Vearncombe also died but nobody much noticed. I'm one of the few people who can name a Black song other than Wonderful Life, without recourse to Wikipedia. This is my favourite. It’s tres 80s with its electronic drums and soprano sax solo but it has an uneasy bassline and haunting minimalism, I think.

2. Citizen Helene - PS I Don't Love You.

I like their Marine Girls-y output. The singer, Helene herself, is such an utter talent.

3. Alessia Cara - Here

“I'm an anti-social pessimist”. Honey throated, Portishead*-sampling teenage songstress sings my introvert song. “We're congregating next to the refrigerator. I'll be in the car when you're done.”
*Isaac Hayes

4. Mass Gothic - Every Night You Gotta Save Me

Girl group drums, ooh-oohs, handclaps, tambourine, upbeat chorus chorus chorus; what's not to love?

5. Django Djano - Default

I heard it on an advert. So sue me.

6. Popguns - Send Me Shame

In March, Did died in the Brussels terrorist attacks, and in April, we moved house. Those three weeks were the most stressful of my life, dealing with bereavement at the same time as hard fear, caused by the seller making threats, that the house would fall through and we'd have to start the process all over again, having already lost one house and two buyers. We exhanged whilst walking up the road to the wake in Hartlepool and everything moved so quickly. The line in this song "And yesterday is like another year now" kept playing in my head. The four days in which he was missing before being declared dead on Good Friday moved at a peculiar slow-fast pace. The whole Easter weekend, especially with its themes of death and resurrection, was weird and fragmented and (in)distinct.

7. The Ramones - Blitzkrieg Bop

This was the last song played at Did's funeral/wake/party.

8. Delores Haze - Fuck The Pain Away

Swedish riot gurls

9. Ezra Furman - Take off Your Sunglasses

Gender-queer New Yorker, wearing his influences on his sleeve.

10. Deacon Blue - Love and Regret

I started cycling to work and regularly passed a boat on the canal called Dignity, so of course I started singing Dignity by Deacon Blue. This lead to listening to old DB songs, then found out that they were still going, then booked a ticket to go see them, then went to see them! They didn't play this song though.

11. LCD Soundsystem - I'm Losing My Edge

Best band at Primavera.

12. Lilac Time - Return To Yesterday

Brexit vote.

It was the day before the day before yesterday
When we thought everything would now go our way
We inherited a fortune of innocence
And they took it all away
We'll face this new England like we always have
In a fury of denial
We'll go out dancing on the tiles
Help me down, but don't take me back -

13. Marsheaux - Eyes Without A Face

[ profile] picosgemeos-recommended baroque cover version.

14. REM - You Are The Everything

In the autumn, I listened to Green for the first time in years and thought about what a romantic record it is. Full of love and warmth and humanity. I don’t really like REM because a) Michael Stipe’s voice b) that annoying video in which he’s hiding the fact he’s shaved his head c) they seem like a basic’s idea of an indie band, but these songs stuck to my head and wouldn’t leave.

15. Dawn Chorus And The Blue Tits - Teenage Kicks

I bought Sharon Signs To Cherry Red, released on Cherry Red, which is no longer a repository for depressed sensitve teens, but a
re-issue record label. The compilation features obscure female fronted (and mostly female backed) groups and singers from the early '80s, some of whom I knew (Marine Girls, Kamikaze Pilots, Grab Grab The Haddock, Trixie's Big Red Motorcycle, Mari Wilson) and a plethora that I didn't. Many of them sound influenced by the big names of the day: Blondie, Siouxsie, Clare Grogan, but some sounded different.

The key influential song Sharon Signs To Cherry Red is very funny and redolent of the Shangri La's output, in theme if not the execution.

16. James - What For

Trump's election.

Today, I won`t think of any sad things
Will not think of torture, or the rape of nature
Just today, I won`t touch those sickening papers
Will just let myself get swept away by this beautiful day
What for, tell oh me, tell oh me, what for
I would prefer to be anywhere away from here
I would prefer to be anywhere away from here
What for, tell oh me tell oh me, what for

millionreasons: (marnie)
There's another Weddoes song after this in the top 4. What will it be? This song, a Peel session track, shows a slight move away from the jangle-pop of George Best and towards the Steve Albini produced, harder, guitary sound of Bizarro. That said, the lyrics are still classic Gedge:

I spend hours trying to look my best/But I still meet you the day before I wash my hair
And can you really have stayed till three?/Orange slices and that Fall LP

Warm hands and the things you say/you get lovelier every day
millionreasons: (marnie)
Another contender for potential Top Indie Tune o'1988. This song has it all: jangly guitar, lackadaisical vox, sweet, quiet bits that descend into drummy racket and back again, raucous geetar solo.

I saw Dinosaur Jnr at Primavera last year and they didn't play this song. What a mess.

Sometimes I dont thrill you
Sometimes I think I'll kill you
Just don't let me fuck up will you
Cos when I need a friend, it's still you
millionreasons: (marnie)
Should this have been number 1? Debatable, but a moot point now so let's just enjoy the crack of drums, the opium-hazy vocals, the snarl of guitar. It's the tension between the blissed out and the aggression that makes this song. I love the instrumental break, the unease as you wait for the drums to smack back in.

millionreasons: (marnie)
These songs are so familiar that it's hard to think of something original to say about them. So let me tell you about a Pixies themed bar in Stockholm called Debaser, where each cocktail is named after a Pixies song. A Gigantic is grogg, fruit cider and vodka with a dash of herring (possibly).

my big big love!
millionreasons: (marnie)
We're now at peak vernacular Wedding Present stong ttiles. After "I'm not always so stupid" and before "Nobody's twisting your arm" comes "Why are you being so reasonable now?" There is a French language version of this song too - "Pourquoi es-tu devenue si raisonable", but it doesn't really work, because French people don't speak Leeds. It would really be called "Bof! Pourquoi tu es con?" or something.

I kinda miss the days when men teamed flowery shirts with drainpipe black jeans and DM boots with impunity.

millionreasons: (marnie)
This song starts straight off, no intro, immediately into Guy Chadwick's wall of sound, coming off somewhere between the Beach Boys and the Jesus and Mary Chain. I love the part of the video when the camera focuses on their heads, bobbing from furious guitar playin; it looks kinda sexual and it's all over in 3 minutes 22.

millionreasons: (marnie)
We're into the top ten, people. From here on in, it's all as you would expect, but at number ten we have an anomaly in the form of Nick Cave. I thought this was going to be a cover of Ultra Vivid Scene's Mercy Seat, but no, it's Cave in Full Goth mode, banging on about death. It becomes quite catchy when the chorus is repeated over and over and the reference to Christ in the manger makes it almost a Christmas song. Almost.

millionreasons: (marnie)
The Inspiral Carpets! What are they doing here? And so high up the chart! This has got the distinctive Inspirals Hammond rippling through it, but it sounds a lot more poppy than their later output. You can hear the beginnings of blokey indie anthem singalongs that dominated the guitar-based world for several decades after this.

millionreasons: (marnie)
I'm surprised that this song is higher up the FF than Suedehead; although this does have the lovely doomy bass, skreeky violins, and clatter of drums, it descends into a dulish dirge with Moz moaning about the seaside and a petulant young miss stomping around in the video. No doubt I was as equally sulky at that age, but I always enjoyed wandering around seaside towns - these places have a kitsch charm of their own.

Come friendly bombs and fall on Southend.
millionreasons: (marnie)
Patsy Kensit reviewed Morrissey's first single in Smash Hits, saying that she knew suedeheads were skinheads, but this song appears to be about a girl. Oh, Patsy. The video, though, is about James Dean Morrissey posing artfully around James Dean's home town (I didn't know that the tiny child who delivers Le Petit Prince to le Moz is actually his nephew).

As for the music, I presume Morrissey's direction to his musical partners was: Make it sound like a Smiths B-side. It's lovely though and I'm surprised that it's not higher up the FF, given that it got to number 2 on the real chart. Although Morrissey playing the bongos in a field full of cows is a bit much, even for Mozzer.

millionreasons: (marnie)
It's the final Fall (down)! This is almost twee with its xylophone, jingly guitar and hotsteppin' bass. Fortunately Mark E is here to moan and shriek all over the top of it, but it remains quite joyous.

Cabbing it uptown/You're moving it uptownYou taxi it uptown uptown

January 2017

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