Archive for December, 2009

all aboard! britain’s most popular freak show experience

December 7, 2009

The Carny’s could never have hoped for mobility like this – where everyone is unwittingly a paying participant. Britain’s wonderful freak shows have not been lost, they have simply moved.. onto the trains. Sit on one for a small while and you will soon see what I mean.

There’s the completely synaptically-deranged couple, who choose a new seat every five minutes – either through some kind of agitated OCD or irrepressible repulsion to the person next to them. I was actually lucky enough to witness quite a peculiar instance of this the other day; a couple, one of whom bore more than a passing resemblance to Prince Philip (could it be he’s finally snapped?), hell bent on sitting as close to their luggage as humanly possible, without actually sitting next to it, resulted in some truly spectacular locomotive acrobatics. Then there’s the welcome return of the sideshow dwarfs – gloriously hyper-energetic folk, who tumble and somersault over tables and chairs: the oft-named children. These tiny models of the human form display the ability to quite naturally annoy literally everyone within a one-carriage radius. Screaming in utter delight as their harsh and cunning ring-masters (ma or pa) egg them on. This, I think, must be some clever design on their parents behalf, as it nearly always results in a glut of empty seating around them, a yawning void for yawning ma to stretch out in. Only for a minute though, as it is soon filled by some wide-eyed seat-hopping goon. The Bearded Man makes an initially unimpressive appearance, but then you look, and actually his hair seems to be fused with the fraying fabrics of the trains ancient seats. One, naturally, ends up concluding that he has, does, and always will live on board the train – feeding through the ever-growing grey tentacles that snake their away across the carriage and into your food and drink, sucking out all their nutrients like rapacious roots, leaving behind dead hairs, like anorexic soldiers, strewn cross the green battleground of your luggage; which you discover much later to your disgust.

As we tear through stations, the haggard, gormless mugs of witless pedestrians stare back at us – like rancid sheep in filthy petting attractions. And this is where the experience is at its most cunning; both us and them are at once the spectator and the spectacle – both have paid the price to participate in this nation-wide scheme; to keep the circus constantly in a state of operative migration. Who needs to stop for a meal, when there’s a Snack Bar? Who needs to get out for toilet break, when there’s a rudimentary puke-bucket with feeble flushing action RIGHT NEXT to your, yes, your! seat? I bet you’re not even astute enough to understand just how fortunate you are. And who needs to sleep in a lay-by or hotel overnight, when you have all the real experiences of the night-time, with none of the hassle of getting into a bed and sleeping under heavy, irritating, all-cotton blankets; or the nuisance of having to get all wet and soapy in a warm and soothing shower, not to mention the risk of getting shampoo in your eyes, under cheap fluorescent lighting? Losers! that’s who. The fiends bent on spoiling this truly awful (yes, I’m using that word quite pretentiously) experience for the rest of us!

In retrospect, this cirque du gare really comes as no surprise; on a train people become just a grotesque parody of people. But, I urge you all to get on a train nonetheless. We cannot let such an historic, an entertaining mode of transportation disappear.


post-script; is Carny unPC? Unsettled-entertainment-troupe-coordinators, otherwise.

raditude: conjugatin’ verbs with the greatest of ease

December 4, 2009

Superfluous blogs about albums abound, written by people whose opinions we neither share nor care for. But that’s no reason not to write my own. Even if it is trailing somewhat in the postulative wake of earlier, more on-the-ball blogs. And very much in keeping with the topic, this blog will not be wordy, not be laden with metaphorical malapropisms, not be plagued by Leviathan sentences. Mostly.

Pinkerton was panned by critics. It’s now a classic. Make Believe & The Red Album, it was said, were not of the intellectual, musical & emotional standard we wanted from Weezer, the standard being set by The Blue Album. But that didn’t matter – they were fun, well written pop albums.

So, observe: Raditude. Pitchfork gave it 4.5 out of 10. But every free-thinking music fan knows that was inevitable – if only Animal Collective had released it; it would have been one higher, it would go up to 11, on the basis that Animal Collective were being diverse and creative, ever changing. (I draw your attention to their recent review of Animal Collective’s latest single receiving 10/10 for being consistently different, whilst Tom Waits receives 8/10. But then. He only has one song anyway. Right?) However, it wasn’t by Animal Collective, it was by Weezer, and as a result it wasn’t creative or diverse, it was puerile, silly, dumb. But they were wrong. It isn’t silly. It’s great. It’s bitchin’.

More diverse than The Blue Album, Weezer cover; punk pop, pop, electro, hip hop, bangra and ballad. Can’t Stop Partying, undoubtedly an ironic paean to the party-scene massive, initially grates, but give it time. After this time you’ve given it, like sarcastic wine, it stands out as one of the best tracks on the album – with ‘Lil Wayne guesting, it’s Cuomo’s semi-rap building up to the greatest anti-climactic chorus ever. It’s heart-pumpingly underwhelming. Clever song writing, reflecting the hollowness of hedonism? Lack of a catchy hook? Who cares, it’s fucking cool.

Can’t Stop Partying aside, the choruses are still there, and they are still massive. (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To, Put Me Back Together, Tripping Down The Freeway; refrains made from the stuff to make goths weep for joy. Whilst I’m Your Daddy has an electro-tinted bridge that makes the most club-averted among us wonder if, actually, it is quite fun to be in a club… (clue; it isn’t). Cuomo pulls all this rap, all this electro and all this poseuring off so well because, I think, he’s so un-rap, un-electro and un-poseur. He’s the kid that sang about Kiss posters In The Garage, the kid that got Tired Of Sex. He’s so sincere at his attempts at all these chart-topping genres, and it works, because you can just imagine him in that garage, listening over and over to all these records and working out how to do it. And when he does it, he does it well. There’s also a less pesudo-psychology approach to this; he’s doing it because he wants to do it, because it’s fun – and it’s still done well that way too.

The majority of complaints often involve the words ‘Blue Album’ and ‘intelligent’. People have been expecting another The Blue Album since The Blue Album. So, buy another copy of The Blue Album. Why should a band release another album like that? They’ve already done it to near perfection once already. “God, I wish The Beatles would release another With The Beatles, this Sgt. Pepper stuff’s nothing like their early stuff.”. Weezer already did smart, they already did the emotional album – they’re not whining about it , there’s almost nothing down-beat about Raditude. If Weezer wanted, Weezer would release another ‘smart’ album. But maybe they just want to make fun music. There was never a mission statement, never a carved-in-stone tract; we must remain geek-rock & season our output with a peppering of pop culture references.

There’s the issue of the album art too. It is perhaps the most un-Weezer of their album covers thus far. But, if we’re learning anything today, it’s that Weezer seem to want constantly to be as un-Weezer as possible. Which is exactly what makes them Weezer (there’s a Pitchfork sentence or two for you, if ever I wrote one). I didn’t like it at first. But I got over myself. They don’t care about my stupid opinion, let them put whatever they want on the cover. Granted, in prog, in trendy indie circles, the artwork can often be as important or as influential as the music itself. But since when did Britney’s last album have cover art that was integral to the listening experience? Could you follow the evolution of the album sound over the gatefold-artwork of Black Eyed Peas’ latest? Raditude is fun, party, pop music. They didn’t hire Peter Blake,  H. R. Giger, or use a Bruegel to pretentious effect. They used something fun, and useless.

So, this might not be the Weezer you grew up with. But it’s still Weezer, and actually, for all its apparently throw-away sentiments, it shows that Weezer have in fact grown up. Pinkerton was emotionally fraught, and that’s okay because they were still a young band then. Now, however, they aren’t so young, and perhaps they’ve realised that people don’t want to spend their time wallowing in Mancunian misery, they want to be forever young and fancy free, they just want to live by that old adage; have… a good time… all the time.