Sunday, December 31, 2006

Lacking jaffas; G.W.Bush

The most inept US administration in history has managed another masterpiece: by taking Saddam Hussein to the gallows they handed him the dignity he'd never had in his lifetime. Sparing him the death penalty would have required some real jaffas, but I suppose that's telling. The Bush government doesn't miss a blip when it comes down to taking decisions that aim at inflaming tension. I guess it'll be all "mission accomplished" in the White House tonight. Hurry up quick, November 2008...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Scrooge appreciation society

Christmas gets on a lot of people's nerves. I'm one of them.

That bloody word, Crimbo. Oh doesn't it get on my tits.

The mental queues that could piss over the maze in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Think HMV Oxford Street on 22 Dec without doubt the biggest queue ever seen in my life. Along with any underwear section as you get elbowed left, right and centre by the hordes who are checking out y-fronts, socks and trunks for the second cousin's boyfriend that they briefly met in 1999.

The only time of the year in which no shame is there towards the most amazing waste of money ever - especially on paper, cards, useless decoration and clutter.

The unprecedented smothering of feelgood ads and crap TV programmes, expectations of how great and merry Christmas time should be, how it's all perfect with our wonderful families and friends and you're fucked if your having a hard time in life. Step in the growing army of those 'non-privileged' poor sods who have to work round Xmas time i.e. puke cleaners in pubs, shop assistants or NHS staff.

The saccharine music, the jingles, the overpriced reissues of trite Xmas compilations. As naff as anything humans could ever come up with since the olden days of Jurassica. And the bells are never enough to fill the air, and the cliched kids choirs are never high-pitched enough as you irately scramble for the remote control or towards the nearest department store exit. I suppose it simply brings my social ineptitude to the fore...And yet...

The artificial, rammed-down-your-throat, association with people you have nothing in common with -at best- or you despise -at worst. Which cunting masochist decided that extended family gathering have to take place at Christmas? There's got to be some bleedin' reason if you never otherwise spend time with those folks at any other time of the year ever??!!

All that solemn gift-unwrapping bollocks as your body get on painted-smile-mode cos chances are it's something crass, inappropriate or utterly useless you're unwrapping in front of embarrassing, scrutinising eyebulbs. And viceversa, hoping that your customary gift to the unknown characters you've seen about twice in your adult life is not gonna be deemed worthless. But can you blame them?? You've got to do it for Xmas.

And the moment the door shuts one bit of the family bitches on the other bit of the family...and the rows...and the wasted money...the showing off...the guilt-trips...the social ineptitude...and the whining grannie with the achey joints and the tension-spawn cooking that could -incidentally- feed the entire population of Ethiopia, forget Live 8 and Live Aid and Band Aid put together. And they all talk about pressure, stress and unwinding...

Oh aren't I bitter...Well, don't say it too loud, I know I'm not alone here...

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Jarvis Cocker Album

How we've missed him

A review of Jarvis' solo debut

If you're a Pulp fan no doubt you've sometimes endured the sad 'high fidelity'-like game of how-you-rate-Different Class against His'n'Hers, This is Hardcore and the sorry We Love Life. Few would be ready to dispute that the sensuous Different Class remains unrivalled and always will, put out -as it was- amidst the galvanising swirl of 1995. Yet Pulp fans need not despair. There's no actual need for the band to reunite and hark back to the glory days. The new entry The Jarvis Cocker Album would easily have a fair crack at a Champions League berth. Jarvis solo may be short of a killer-single (though the portrayal of today's UK "Fat Children" comes close, eye-winking as it is at Cockney Rebel's vintage brand of glam rock), but the tunes, the arrangements and the lyrics are absolutely spot-on, an indication of a massive return to form for the finest vignettist of his generation.

"Don't Let Him Waste Your Time" is Jarvis' way of starting with a bang. It could be T-Rex all over again until that pleasantly familiar voice kicks in, last heard as inspired circa 1997. True, a hand and a half is gracefully lent out by guest star guitarist and fellow Sheffielder Richard Hawley. Funny how the British press spent the best part of the last 20 years navel-gazing for Johnny Marr's heir apparent. Well, he's sitting right in front of them now. With a subtle guitar work that sounds nothing short of sublime, tasteful and discreet at once, Hawley's contribution to The Jarvis Cocker Album is just "the dog's". Or, for want of a better word, vital.

Jarvis' solo debut is music for grown-ups, testament to the fact that turning 40plus, a hubby and a dad is not always to the detriment of edge and inspiration. Lyrically as engaging, cynical and scathing as ever, the Jarvis Cocker of 2006 sounds all but content. For one, he takes on today's make-believe pampered world of telly and reality pap; "how come they're called Adult movies when the only thing they show is people making babies filmed up close", he protests on "Disney Time", the subject so depressing a platform that the dark sense of drama of the song wouldn't go amiss on Pink Floyd's The Final Cut. Except that Jarvis' tongue-in-cheek doesn't let him down, placing the track on a league of its own.

The aptly titled "From Auschwitz to Ipswich" beautifully sums up the post-9/11 sense of fatality and us-and-them paranoia: "They want our way of life/well they can take mine any time they like", he shrugs off, "like the Roman Empire fell away/let me tell you we are going the same way". "Big Julie" is possibly the most beautiful track on Jarvis. If you're insensitive to its vocal performance and its poignant arrangement, strings and piano then you may as well top yourself. A dark tale of a misfit, a solitary schoolkid who's well ahead of her peers, she knows "sex is just for when you've run out of things to say" and will have her own back one day, against a bleak backdrop of "stupid kids", "sweaty lads who get her down " and pervy "Sunday school teachers". Track 10 "Tonite" is a perfect exercise in genius musical arrangement, with Richard Hawley's swooping slide and pedal-steel guitar licks standing out beautifully.

As he puts out his darkest yet most accomplished album to date, Jarvis seems to invite us all to a mind-broadening exercise and finger-wagging at the nostalgicomics of "Common People". Not the one for you if you're looking for a student-union-anthem in the style of 94-95. Otherwise, great to have you back, finest bespectacled Yorkshireman of all.