Monday, February 26, 2007

Weekend Update


I wasn't particularly caught up in this year's Oscar race. The acting races were pretty much set in advance, and the movies I really cared about weren't nominated. I was glad to see The Departed, and particularly Scorsese, get some recognition, but it wasn't a really important year to me. At least Little Miss Sunshine didn't win Best Picture, that would have invalidated the whole thing for me. Ultimately, I feel like there's just too many awards shows building up to it, I feel like I've been going over the best of 2006 for months now, and this is sort of an anticlimax.

Blog Critics

As I mentioned a while ago, I'm now doing some articles for Blog Critics. You can check out my articles here. There's only two so far, both adaptations of stuff I wrote for here, cleaned up and refined a bit. The advantage of writing for them is that I can get free stuff to review. Right now, I've got Amy Winehouse's 'Back to Black' and Sia's live album to review. I've got a bunch of other stuff on the way. I have to say, it's pretty cool to have access to stuff in advance, getting free copies just for writing about it. When I started this blog, it was primarily to process the works that mattered to me, now it's led to me getting free stuff. With my Blog Critics stuff, it's going to be less analysis, more traditional reviews, since they frown on spoilers. So, the two places will co-exist, and hopefully my Blog Critics writing will bring more people here. If nothing else, it's cool to get a Google News Alert with an article that I wrote.

Purple Rain

I'm listening to Prince's 'Purple Rain' right now. I'd always heard about Prince, lived through his journey from symbol to the artist back to Prince, but I hadn't really listened to his music. However, after seeing his fantastic Super Bowl performance, I decided to check out his body of work. I'm liking the whole album, but it's the title track that really gets me. There's a snippet of wordless vocals at the end of Tori Amos's 'Hey Jupiter' video that I've always loved, and it's apparently a quote from 'Purple Rain,' which features that same descending vocal pattern, an absolutely haunting line that just hangs in the atmosphere. It's a fantastic song and the rest of the album is great too. I've actually been listening to a lot of 80s stuff recently. I went through a serious classic rock stage back in high school, and I've always been up on 00s and 90s music, but the 80s sort of slipped away. However, I've been spinning a lot of New Order, and have been adding in Pet Shop Boys and now Prince.

The Future of Thoughts on Stuff

And, just a general note for everyone who reads the blog, but isn't interested in The Invisibles or Babylon 5. It's unfortunate that two huge review projects have to overlap, leaving me little time to write about anything else. But, after Babylon 5 wraps, I'll return to more general blogging, and after The Invisibles wraps, I'll probably take a break from these major series reviews. It's really helpful and enhances the work to write about it, but it's also quite time consuming. But, rest assured, more Morrison will be covered in the future, at some point I'll do an in depth look at New X-Men. But, probably not until the Summer.


Jacob said...

New Order, Prince and Pet Shop Boys. Bless. It does my heart good to see that at least some brave young explorers are willing to machete their way through the trackless jungle of modern musical crap to uncover the glorious lost cities of their forebears.

Based on this, here's some other suggestions, with apologies if I'm not telling you anything you don't already know:

Ever heard The Jam? They're more or less totally unknown here in the States but they were a serious influence in the early 80's UK, charting a perfect arc from straight, low-fi, uncomplicated punk to lush New Wave. Morrison titles a lot of his single issues (especially in Doom Patrol) after their songs, and rightly so, as I can see hints of how they must have shaped his outlook back in the day. The compilation album Snap! is more or less definitive; if you're buying tracks individually, I recommend "Mr Clean", "The Butterfly Collector", "Going Underground", "That's Entertainment!" and "Beat Surrender."

XTC - post-punk Britpop, not quite New Wave, even a bit prog - it's what they used to call "college rock" back before the word "indy" co-opted everything. Always fun and poppy and with bitingly relevant lyrics. Recommend the albums Oranges and Lemons and Skylarking, or the tracks "Peter Pumpkinhead", "Mayor of Simpleton", or "Here Comes President Kill Again."

Squeeze - a lot like XTC; in fact, they often shared bandmates and producers over oddly parallel careers. I don't like them quite as much, but conveniently all their best stuff is packed onto one handy compilation album, Singles 45s and Under. You may have heard their track "Tempted" on various 80's stations.

Elvis Costello - Probably my all-time personal favorite artist of any genre or generation. I'm not always enamored of his musical experiments but there's really no denying that he's one of the premier artists of the age. And I'll lay a friendly wager that at your approximate age and station in life you'll find a lot to relate to in his lyrics. He was actually the first songwriter I could relate to like that; nothing I'd heard before, from Iron Maiden to Nirvana, really seemed to bear any relation to anything I'd experienced in my own life and I was beginning to despair of ever connecting to music on the deep personal level that other people my age seemed to find so easily. He's got a great compilation album, The Very Best Of, that includes all the essentials and gives a worthy precis of a 30-year-career.

Oh and I want to say I'm really enjoying the Invisibles project, and eventually will get around to commenting when I can find the time to review my own issues. I hope some of the people who come here for B5 reviews might be moved to pick up the series as a result; I think they'll find a lot to appreciate.

Havremunken said...

As a B5'er who originally discovered this blog because of the Babylon reviews, I'm actively looking for The Invisibles; I've not read Patrick's reviews to avoid spoilers, but what he said about the comic in the B5 reviews made me want to check it out. If anyone knows where I can get it all in Norway... ;)

Patrick said...

I haven't listened to any of those artists seriously, though I've liked the bits of Elvis Costello I've heard. I'll probably start with The Jam, because of the Morrison connection. 'The Butterfly Collector' was a Doom Patrol issue, right? I've heard a lot of good things about XTC too, so they'll probably be next.

And, Havremunken, I can't reccomend The Invisibles highly enough. It's just as intricately planned as Babylon 5, with elements paying off years after they're introduced, and the whole picture only becoming clear once the series is through. It's my favorite work of fiction ever, any medium. As for finding it, the whole series is out in TPB, so you should be able to order it online somewhere, if not in Norway itself, I know it's available on Amazon UK. Start with the 'Say You Want a Revolution' TPB, and keep rolling from there. As with B5, it takes a little bit to fully gel, but it happens a bit quicker than on B5.

Jacob said...

Oh, I totally forgot the most obvious Morrison/Jam connection - Crazy Jane's new, integrated personality, Liza Radley, is another song title; her line to Cliff, "Love means nothing at all. Life means nothing at all" is direct from the song.

Patrick said...

Oh man, that was one of the best lines from the series. I've got to check out that song. Other 80s artists I've been listening to that I forgot to mention are The Jesus and Mary Chain, Duran Duran and the Cocteau Twins, all great in their own way. The Cocteau Twins sound completely otherworldly, like nothing I've heard before.

Jacob said...

That's funny, I just *coughcough* "obtained" the complete Cocteau discography the other day but haven't had a chance to give it a serious listen yet. Let me know what's good.

Re: Duran Duran. Maybe it's light pop fluff, but by god at least back then they knew how to do pop right. You should track down their videos, that's about half the fun right there (and were considered pretty influential/innovative at the time).

Re: Jesus and Mary Chain. Good man. If you haven't already, have a look at their immediate successors, My Bloody Valentine. In the same vein ("shoegazing" rock, it was called, cause while playing they tended to stand still on stage while just staring down at their hands or the floor) but with a less raw, more lush sound.

Another suggestion: the video for "Love Missile F1-11" by Sigue Sigue Sputnik. On the one hand it's pure '80s cheese, but on the other hand it's more experimental, innovative and political than almost anything you'd see today.