Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Despite not actually having an entry to post today, I cannot help but write something to point you towards these fine sites:

How to shave a cat's nose.

Pictures of stoned people. Very funny despite its predictable nature. However I have a picture of my mate Dave which puts even these examples to shame. When I acquire a scanner there will be some very interesting scenes between my friends and I....

Thanks to b3ta for these.

Monday, September 15, 2003

I need to somehow express my frustration with the current musical situation. It was Saturday morning television and I watch aghast as a young and ordinary teenager has her moment of fame. This was television karaoke: yet another achievement in the field of piteous turd for the modern broadcasting industry. And this girl was truly truly shocking. I say with genuine truth that I struggled to find a single point during her performance when her voice was synced in tune with the song. And then my eyes widened as my tortured ears communicated to me the news that she was the defending champion returned back to defend her crown! Gadzooks!

But all this wasn’t the reason I was struck with sorrow and pain due to the state of the musical status quo (although at least we’re pretty much shot of that shower of pony-tailed tossers). The real reason for my despair is due to the style of singing adopted by our young wannabe vocalist. Whiney, undulating, over-expressive, pretentious cuntery. Otherwise known as the tremolo or falsetto effect.

It is not just this one unfortunate girl I refer to. Last week my own father forced me to sit through many damnable minutes of BBC’s copycat show Fame Academy. We appear to have been subjected to a wave of vocalists who all sound like they are all attempting to find the exact vibrating frequencies of various bits of equipment around the studio. Although Britain’s own Mr Craaaaaiiig Daaaayvid, who’s voice vibrates like a lady’s favourite toy, is at least trying something interesting by striving for the exact frequency of the female clitoris.

Good music, for me, has originality as one of its very core values. So when all the “talent” is all trying to sound like everybody else I must come to the judgement that this is not good at all. If the youth of today (I cannot believe I’ve just written that – at 26) want to sound like a good soul singers, perhaps they should listen to the superb talent that was Stevie Wonder at his height in the seventies rather than Mystiq from now; or better still go for something more leftfield and genius like Mike Patton. Not much hope of that last one sadly.

It is little wonder then that the British music industry can now be seen choking on its own faeces. And one does not need a good grounding in logic to realise that poor imitations of pseudo-American culture are not going to be enough to take the world’s music scene by storm. I speak from at least a tiny bit of knowledge here: I spent some time, albeit four years ago, as an A&R scout for a record company and music publishers. Today’s major record companies look only for artists that will virtually guarantee them top 20 singles. Which means superficial, commercialist jism. There are several problems with this. Had bands like Radiohead, Blur, Black Sabbath and even The Beatles been starting out today, they would genuinely struggle to get signed. Not every band reaches their potential with their first album. Those quality young bands that do get signed invariably get stuck with a smaller record company and long-term success is far from guaranteed. Secondly, sensationalist bollocks will not still be selling records in even a few months time, let alone years. Bang goes the profitable back catalogue sales. Thirdly, nobody outside of British primary school playgrounds gives a fuck about S Club. How do they expect to break foreign markets with this twaddle?

I shouldn’t complain too much as a music fan. Only the mainstream has been afflicted with this clearly finance-induced disease. If you look hard enough (that is of course the whole problem – you have to look. And look hard.) some really fantastic stuff is there to be found. And there are labels, such as Warp, who do a sterling job. But while interesting music gets pigeon-holed into ever decreasing niches of the public consciousness, shitty commercialist toss is all our young charges will ever aspire to.

Cuntery is the word I believe I have been searching for...

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I went through Birmingham the other week. Not, I’m extraordinarily speedy to add, because I was visiting the middling city of our fair but occasionally xenophobic nation, but rather whilst undesirably passing (much like I might pass water whilst suffering with a bladder condition). And whilst I whistled hurriedly through the Brummie streets, I noticed two remarkable things. Firstly, there was no precipitation whatsoever falling from the skies. And secondly, the new Bull Ring Shopping Centre. And a huge construction it is too; a curving swathe of metal wholly adorned with thousands of silver-grey discs. A far cry from the old Bull Ring building: a typically sickening 1960’s design. Squares and rectangles of concrete and glass, fashioned together in a horrendous way that one would never imagine possible with such a collection of straightforward shapes.

A news item on the subject later that week replayed footage of the opening of the original sixties carbuncle complete with fanfare and enthusiastic midlanders. Surely, I thought to myself, these sixties disgraces seemed like attractive modern architecture to those at the time. Which makes me wonder how the new Bull Ring will be regarded in forty years from now. Like a big lumbering shit no doubt. The new Bull Ring is a classic example of knee jerkism – everything about it is an attempt to scream, “I’m not born out of the sixties, I am original and new godammit!”

Which is why it is poor fare indeed. The architects have taken the old building and deliberately made the qualities of the new one exactly the opposite. And so the new Bull Ring in fact is born right slap bang in the middle of the ricochet of all the dodgy sixties architecture you’ve ever cringed at. I suppose it will do the job required however; thousands will flock to the shops within, bringing with them their big fat wallets, no doubt encouraged by their curiosity of the dazzling fa├žade.

In case I give the impression that I am just a Londoner jealous of a city outside of the Capital getting an apparently fetching bit of eye candy, I feel the need to add that I was on route from the beautiful northwestern city of Chester. And believe me when I say that our Roman occupiers did a much better job of designing attractive buildings then we often seem to be able to muster now. And so the trend of ignoring Roman ingenuity continues apace. After the Romans scampered back to Italy many centuries back, their sophisticated technology, farming, irrigation, transport systems, etc. (I refer you to the “What did the Romans ever do for us?” speech from Monty Python’s Life of Brian) was thrown out the window by us Brits and we embarked upon the grim life of the dark ages for the next few tens of generations. It is almost enough to make you believe that the Daily Mail was up and running and pushing out its own brand of backwards conservatism all the way back then.

Have you ever sat on the train and caught the eye of a fanciful lady or gentleman across the carriage only to then notice she/he is reading a copy of the Daily Mail? It’s a nasty moment I can tell you that for nothing.

I arrived back in London and on my route I did not fail to notice the collections of satellite dishes our country’s homeowners are amassing upon our exterior walls. And so the triple forces of technology, economics, and communications create a situation in which we actually pay money to adorn our buildings with odd silver-grey discs. To avoid such an unpleasant architectural scenario we must thus look to invisible ways of piping mass communication media into our living rooms such as cable. And so back comes bastard NTL into the conversation.

I genuinely despair.

But worse is to come and ironic too. For here I present you with news that my very abode is located within one of those 1960’s-style office buildings. So interesting it is indeed that the only reason I should be so reliant on the analogue cable service of the aforementioned NTL is because my landlords, in their infinite wisdom, feel that no silver-grey discs (or dishes as they are more commonly known) should be allowed to ruin the display of blue-coloured rectangles that my solidly rectangular building proudly displays upon my locale.

Is this a wise move designed to fend off the architectural rebounding of the Brummie town planners?

Will I ever get reliable television coverage of the football season?

Will the Bull Ring turn out to be as monstrous a building as its predecessor in forty years from now?

Why do you never get turkey soup?

Find out the answers to these questions and more in the next fabulous incarnation of Charging Through The Midfield.