Our Ken

Image

In July I was fortunate enough to see Ken Russell’s film The Devils, in the most complete version available, projected at the BFI Southbank and introduced by Mark Kermode.

I had previously seen a dreadful, incomplete, fuzzy VHS – years ago.

The Southbank print was phenomenal. It was, and is, the best film I’ve seen all year – regardless of release. Primal, passionate, shocking in content and utterly committed.

 

 

Ken was due to make an appearance for a Q and A, but was too ill to attend.

Although I feel sad at Russell’s passing today, I would rather celebrate what was a long, magnificent and creatively full life. This guy (along with Nicolas Roeg) is responsible for some of the most vibrant and sensual British films of the late twentieth century.

He was also at the forefront of the most exciting time for television and the arts, and his ground-breaking documentaries increased people’s knowledge of – and passion for – classical music.

He was a visionary, no doubt. He also had a marvellous, healthy disdain for taste and decency – the two great enemies of art. He made films with images like this:

 

 

He launched some amazing careers and cast some of our best actors in unlikely, outlandish roles.

He made daring films in the US with people like William Hurt and Kathleen Turner.

Like this remarkable film:

 

 

And best of all, he carried on making extremely low-budget (no budget) films when he couldn’t get backing and no one wanted to hire him.

Cheap and cheerful tat with sexy goths, in his back garden. Brilliant!

 

 

Probably absolute rubbish, but who cares? He clearly HAD to keep on filming.

My favourite Russell films are definitely THE DEVILS, VALENTINO (seriously, it’s brilliant), ALTERED STATES, CRIMES OF PASSION and THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM.

 

 

Weirdly, although I like The Who and love Russell, I was never crazy for TOMMY.

Maybe I’ll give it another go. I’m certainly going to watch a few of his others again.

So don’t rest in peace Ken.

Wherever you’ve gone, keep raising merry hell..

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Last Orders

I am aware that this photo is airbrushed to infinity.

I know Christina Hendricks (for it is she) is NOT Joan.

But who cares?

Isn’t the whole point of ‘glamour’ that it IS a construct, a fantasy, a brief escape?

We know it’s not real. The illusion is fleeting, fun, finite.

That said, I would happily leave society to live in this photo.

Ear candy 2011

Loosely grouped

Before I begin though, some thoughts:

This is the second year in a row I’ve done this. Noticed a few things:

1. I rarely – if ever – listen to an album the whole way through these days. I don’t know if this is impatience, a shorter attention span or the desire to hear as much new stuff as possible.

Probably a combination of all three.

I think this is why I like mixtapes so much.

2. I listen to less angry, aggressive music now than at any other point in my life.

Is it an age/mellowing thing? Hmmm.

Still enjoy digging out old ‘noise’ but there are no new loud bands that I am really feeling. In my teens and twenties I listened to predominantly noisy music – tuneful rackets like Husker Du/Fugazi or really agressive stuff like Swans/Slayer.

I should do some noise investigation in 2012…maybe.

Liked bits of Sunn O))), Earth and Boris that I heard a few years ago. I dig what I’ve heard of Mastodon too, they seem to have a dark funk about their sound.

3. I barely listen to guitar-based music. I thought the Vaccines album was fun though. And the Yuck one.

4. I like pop. And I mean glossy, really, really empty pop. Not in an ironic way either, it’s totally unashamed. A lot of the best pop these days is so stupid/funky/vapid I find it irresistible – even when I know it’s disposable and forgettable. In fact the emptier the better.

I don’t download much of it, seems to be very little need – most of it is everywhere anyway – but I like that it’s there.

(I went to the Middle East this year and some very cool clubs in Beirut. They REALLY know how to dance, dress and have a good time there, in stark contrast to the default ‘fear of music’ vibe that permeates quite a lot of London places. Fond memories of listening to an amazing mix of underground music, the cheesiest western pop hits and Arabic beats, all of which emphasise much booty shaking)

5. The more obvious 80s referencing is getting a bit tired now.

I’m more interested in how the post-internet generation are seemingly able to distil 100 plus years of music into really amazing sounds that couldn’t be made in any other era. Someone like Rustie or Micachu or Tobin or a band like Gang Gang Dance or Dirty Projectors or Vampire Weekend is exciting.

6. Hiphop feels like it’s gone the way of rock music now. Aside from some wayward geniuses and Kanye there doesn’t seem to be that much excitement.

I mean I still enjoy it, but the potency seems gone.

7. I’m too forgiving of vocoders, anything with MIDI samples, electro basslines and pop music performed by amazing looking women.

8. I use the word amazing far too much.

OK ENOUGH ALREADY

Electronix 

Can take or leave the album to be honest but this is EPIC

Not exactly a humming-along-while-eating-coco-pops in the morning number, mind

Makes perfect sense, given the continued trance/hip hop love-in

Souleyman tearing it up from a concept ‘album’ of exhausting possibilities

House-ier than the average tet

Near-comical doom-synth from the house of maus

Glacial tech from the goddess Halo

More blub-step. Prefer this to Blake though

Hazed out dubby goodness. Good album too

My new crush now that Joker seems to have gone off the boil. EARGASM at 0:38

Amazing year for the Estonian songstress, two albums two EPs. Great live too

2011s least toe-tapping album. More DEATH than RAVE

While Boards of Canada take a break this’ll do nicely

Manic (depressive) Miner. 8-bit beats

Beats and rhymes

Hiphop’s two great over-sharers come together. Sweet

Sacrilegeous cover? Nahh, fresh homage surely?

Speaking of which, yeah – he’s still got it

Knock me funk-conscious

BIG Atlanta soundz

Evil. The rest of the album’s pretty rubbish, sadly

Pop poop

The T’Pau revival starts here

The Pet Shop Boys revival starts here. DISTRACTING VIDEO

The Beloved/Johnny Hates Jazz revival starts here

The Luscious Jackson revival starts here

The Simple Minds revival starts here

The Toni Basil revival starts here. AMAZING pants

The Morris Minor and the Majors/Weird Al Yankovic revival starts here
(seriously though, even if you hate the lyric and video just listen to that 303, it’s LARGE)

The Madonn.. (oh enough already)

Is this the Cardigans on ketamine? Sounds like it

We all have our dark secrets. My love of Ke$ha in all her empty glory is one of mine.

PLUS Vanderbeek.

And she gets bummed by a unicorn in the video. Or something

Trad and lovely 

Memo from Turner. His voice just gets richer and warmer by the hour

The most hated song on Iver’s album is the only one I actually like

Sounds like Dylan’s 4th time around covered by an even more depressed than usual Leonard Cohen

She’s found her voice…..it’s Suzanne Vega’s

Lovely this though, as is the whole record. Terribly melancholic too

Underwhelming album but this really shimmers (and appears to be also based on Dylan’s 4th Time Around. Weird)

Top ten 2011

THIS. By a MILE

Pure 80s aural pornography. Loved every single track on this record. Neon dreamz

Only KB can make rhododendrons sound filthy

Absolutely hammered this LP this year. AT a push, this is my fave track. Makes me think of Japan’s The Art of Parties and Ghosts.

“She’s contrived. She never USED to look or sound like that. She’s had surgery. I heard it AGES ago.” Etc

YEAH, whatever.

It’s well on the way to being the new Mad World (G Jules version) mind, through over-familiarity.

Hypnotic, lullaby perfection. Again. GREAT video

Sax-honking electro pop monster from an overstuffed, sometimes sublime LP

Lush John Barry intro. Dexterous, angular guitar. Creepy vox. Yes please.

Cracking single but

*that* voice would drive you fucking mental over a whole album, surely?

From 3:35 on