Tough Love

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thank God it's her, instead of Chris Martin

Continuing our Band Aid20 dissing theme from last week, here's this week's news.

Actually, we're not going to talk about that jizzrag of a record cause it's not worth it, instead we're going to talk about a real good cause.

This is 80s Australian pop megastar Collette. We've never heard of her before (sorry), but are reliably ensured by the lovely Alyson over at CFBgoespop that she is/was aceness in a fetching top hat.

Now, in an effort to spread the word about her loveliness and do something for a good cause at the same time, Alyson has promised to do something. If 20 websites mention Collette, she has promised to sponsor a child in Africa. This means that if we and nineteen other surfers/bloggers/students/people with dossy jobs write something about Collette, a child in Africa will be clothed, immunised, fed and guaranteed a better future than they might otherwise expect.

So, Collette: we've never heard you sing, but your bumfreezer/box jacket and studded belt combo is something we're hearting right now. Your cunning clothing customisation is also bringing back nostalgic memories of 'fun foam' pens, pin badges and Blossom (remember her, the mini-Streisand). This means we like you already. You can stay.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

FEED…THE…WORLD’(s publicity machine)

We were planning to write something nice and fluffy about how wonderful singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright is, but instead we’re going to have a rant. Possibly a long one, so make sure you have coffee and biscuits to hand, as you could be here a while.

Here goes: -

Live Aid III? What the fuck is all that about (Alfie)? Well, we know what it’s about: Chris Martin getting his knickers in a twist because he hasn’t had his smug public schoolboy with a conscience face in the papers for five minutes. Edit: sorry, Chris Martin getting het up because people are starving by their thousands in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Or is it? Sorry to say this, Chris m’dear, but the problem is not one of the aid not being there, as your woefully simplistic thinking implies. There is more than enough food aid and medicine available to save these thousands of lives and chances are it will get there in the end, whether or not you and your ‘celeb’ chums sing “Feed the World”. The problem is a political one, in that the Sudanese government is compounding the refugee problem by refusing to condemn or take action against the Islamist insurgents who are basically performing a land-grab in the north of the country.

So what does this mean, I hear you ask. Surely our efforts should be going towards putting pressure on our government to make sure UN action is taken against the Sudanese leadership’s astonishing dereliction of duty? Surely we should be condemning this situation as a failure of the rule of law rather than harvests?

But no, that doesn’t make sense, does it? Instead of doing all these things we’ll get that vampire toothed Kiss tribute band reject Justin Hawkins, Dido and Chris frigging Martin (surely the Linda Barker of indie) to sing a pop song about it. Because releasing a charity record is going to solve the world’s problems, isn’t it? Not that the only thing it’s likely to do is raise a few measly million quid (small change in the global aid stakes, folks) and give some third-rate popstrels another mention in Closer.

Of course, we wouldn’t mind anywhere near as much if the song itself was marvellous, albeit in a cynical and manipulative way. But Christ, oh m’Jimmy Boab, if Band Aid III isn’t the biggest steaming pile of wormridden llama shit to have graced the nation’s airwaves since . . . well, since Call on Me, actually, but you must be getting our drift by now.

It gets off to a rum start with Chris Martin and frankly the whole project fails to lose the smell of Coldplay worthiness from this moment on. The backing track has “We’re going to play our instruments like proper musicians, yeah” written all over it in boring muso letters three feet high. Then, just to compound the misery, Dido follows on and does her customary trick of singing way behind the beat, thereby ensuring the song loses what little impetus it has in the first place.

Even Bono, who managed to make a good job of the rather trite line “Well thank God…” in the original version manages to underwhelm here. He makes a half-hearted stab at the line which only underlines how much of his upper range he’s lost over the last 20 years. And at least Cher’s had the decency to cover up a similar degradation with increasingly outrageous costumes and plastic surgery.

All this, however, pales into insignificance beside the horrors that follow: the rap and the guitar solo. Both of these encapsulate the worst of the present music scene, in that no pop song is considered complete without some cack-handed rap and that the only way to credibility-ville is apparently via guitars.

Dizzee Rascal’s rap sounds horribly out of place in a song structured 20 years ago by Midge Ure and Bob “Grumpy Old Man” Geldof. In terms of sonic shock, it’s roughly equivalent to tuning into Radio 3 to hear an announcer say “And next here’s Chas and Dave”.

But the guitar solo. It goes on for four million years for a start, and we have The Darkness to blame for it. May they burn in a hell stoked by The Who’s trashed guitars for their crimes against rock.

Finally – and we mean finally – they get to the chorus, which comfortingly enough sounds like the celebrity cats’ chorus we’ve come to expect. Shame you can’t hear much of it thanks to the FUCKING Darkness, mind.

So in short, pledge the £3.99 to charity, buy the new Girls Aloud single (because if they get a No 1 their management might let them actually wear some clothes and it's getting cold) and give this a wide berth at HMV. It deserves your contempt, good intentions or not, so show your support for the cause by supporting it, not Chris pissing Martin.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Things we are *hearting*

This week we are mostly *hearting* this – Kelis and Andre 3000’s Millionaire.

Now we’ve always liked Kelis. She was a sassy lady from the start, and Kaleidoscope is one of the few R&B albums we can listen to without getting crushingly bored halfway through. When she came back with Milkshake though, we did get a bit worried. As good as the song was, it seemed to our eyes that she’d traded in her sparkiness for typical oversexed R&B slush diva status.

Millionaire, however, turns out to be rather nifty. This may have something to do with Andre 3000’s presence here. The man can’t seem to put a foot wrong at the moment, and he certainly lords it over this particular single. So much so that it might be more appropriate to call it Andre 3000 feat. Kelis rather than the other way round.

But there is a good reason for this: Millionaire is slow-burning aceness. A pop R&B track that tips more than a wink to drum n bass, it’s offset beautifully by Kelis’s understated and slightly plainitive vocals. It also has a clever, if a tad misogynistic, rap from Andre and manages to be one of those rare songs that ends before you want it to.

But one final thing. Kelis, dearie: enough with the hair straighteners already. They make you look a bit like Wesley Snipes in Too Wong Foo: Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar. And that’s not a good thing.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Land of the Free, home of the Knave

As one of the most depressing election battles of this generation creaks to an uncertain close, here's the cartoon we think best sums up the unpalatable choice facing America.

Of course this still means that Bush is still a blindfolded, culpable, neocon-buttboy, craven, lie eating, small minded, Godnut, pretzel chewing, monkey mating, windowlicking, freedom-hating simpleton with a baseball instead of a cerebral cortex. He's also a distant cousin of John Kerry, so it appears.

Which proves conclusively that the US is the place where you can be born into nothing* before rising to greatness on your own merit.

*Nothing - More than $100 in liquid capital, extensive family connections and a place at a prestigious Ivy League College (New American Dictionary: 2004 edition (revised)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Fangs for the memory

Hallowe’en round our way (South Manchester if you give a fig) is usually more of an occasion for anxiety rather than American popculture influenced ‘scary’ fun. Most of the kids nearby don’t need to dress up as the spawn of Hell – it’s their natural state. Although admittedly, a Magnum 45 pointed in your face is a whole lot scarier than a werewolf mask, so they’re technically getting into the spirit of things.

We’d blame the parents, but hey if you’re not old enough to smoke yourself, what right have you to tell your offspring not to set fire to someone else’s doormat?

All of which made us almost thankful for moving to a mould-infested basement shamehole with a concealed entrance. If nothing else, it kept the cast of Bugsy Malone (without the blanks) away from our front door, which meant we could watch a film in peace.

It’s just a shame the film we chose was Van Helsing.

Now we did choose it for a couple of very good reasons. Firstly because we’d force ourselves to watch Mad About Alice if it had Hugh Jackman in it; and secondly because we saw the trailer at the flicks and thought “This looks mildly diverting, but only on DVD”. It was only when we paid the rental fee that we wondered whether the stirring trailer music may have affected our judgement. By then, however, it was too late.

And oh Christ m’Jimmy Bob, isn’t this a silly film. (So much so that we mean silly in the Monty Python and the Holy Grail “Camelot is a silly place” sense.) The feature film equivalent of one of those dreadful Cheshire / Essex women who’ve had every cosmetic, beauty and makeover treatment known to man and still look a cocker spaniel with highlights. A severe case of too much money, not enough taste.

The plot (which in modern blockbuster style is something the film has both not enough and too little of at the same time) goes something like this. Hugh Jackman is Van Helsing: monster hunter extraordinaire. A man without a past thanks to amnesia (another one of them roles, eh Hugh? Time to sack the agent, perhaps?) he works for a secret branch of the Catholic Church.

After a wince-inducing Paris-bound first scene, where Van Helsing squares up to a bad CGI Mr Hyde, he returns to Rome from where he’s sent to help a doomed family of aristos vanquish Dracula from Transylvania. Said aristos are played by a Kate Beckinsale (sporting a pair of unfeasibly large tits and the worst Mittel European accent we heard since Aaliyah said “I vont for you to kill her” in Queen of the Damned) and some random bloke who died in the third reel. Of course if there had been a God then Kate would have copped it and the random bloke would have spent the next hour gaying it up with Hugh, but this is Hollywood. Here disembowelment is morally preferable to a same-sex blow job.

Anyway, this being blockbuster nonsense you know the score from here. Van Helsing struggles and triumphs against the Dark Forces, nearly getting turned into a werewolf on the way. All standard stuff, I hear you cry. Why get so worked up about a mediocre American ‘event film’ – they’re two a penny?

Well, it’s like this. It’s too much. Way too much. In fact, we seriously believe that the first script conference for this movie went something like this: -

Producer: Okay folks, Van Helsing. Mysterious supernatural superhero squares up to the world’s Dark Forces. What are we going to do in it?

Drone Writer 1: We could have Dracula. The punters expect him. But if we have Dracula we have to have the brides too, don’t we?

Producer: Sure. A bit of tit and ass never did a family film any harm.

Drone Writer 1: But does this mean we have to have some pointless CGI monkey-business where the Brides grow wings and go a bit ‘lumpy-vampire-head-from-Buffy’ on us?

Producer: Only if they’re a bit shit and talk with silly accents.

Drone Writer 1: Thanks.

Drone Writer 2: I think we should have Frankenstein.

Drone Writer 1: As well?

Drone Writer 2: It’s post-modern, you clutz.

Producer: No, no, I like the idea. The more the merrier.

Drone Writer 1: In the same film? Have you seen Alien v Predator? Oh well, if it’s going to be a dog’s breakfast why don’t we have werewolves as well?

Producer: You know, that’s a very good idea

Drone Writer 2: How about Jekyll and Hyde? We don’t even have to cast anyone for that. We can do it all by CGI.

Producer: That’s a great idea.

Drone Writer 2: Oh, and how about a comedy monk to be Van Helsing’s sidekick. He can start off being all brainy and Q from James Bond like but then gradually turn into Norman Wisdom’s religious second cousin.

Producer: I like it!

Drone Writer 1: Are you both insane? It’ll be horrible and no one will get any screen time because we’ll have to spend so much time explaining away the new characters.

Producer: I don’t think that’s a problem.

Drone Writer 1: I give up. If it’s going to be like this, why not make Van Helsing something dark and mysterious called ‘The Left Hand of God’ or something which is revealed at the end and never explained?

Producer: Hey, are you a fan of John Nathan-Turner era Dr Who as well?

So rant aside, this film epitomises everything that’s wrong with Hollywood at the moment. Scripts written like a game of Consequences by writers / producers / directors convinced their audience are incapable of sequential thinking. Actors who can’t act because they’re too busy trying to work out what’s grappling with them on the blue screen. CGI papering over the cracks, even though it’s only ever 80% effective.

But Hugh Jackman is fit. And you get to see him in his pants at the end. He’s been working out. Ooh.

See. All better now.