Born on this day: Malin Oppedal von Schack.

31.01.2014 • Permalink

Pete Seeger is one of those artists who have always been there on the periphery; my mother liked (still does, as far as I know) folk music and when I took up the guitar, I inherited several songbooks containing chestnuts like Where have all the flowers gone and the like.

Reading about the man as I grew older, I learned the story of how he allegedly almost took an axe to the wiring during Dylan’s first electrical set (It turns out he didn’t, though he admittedly thought it was an infernal racket.); I learned about his political activism and him being an outspoken communist, though he later denounced the Soviet union; I read about how he was blacklisted during the McCarty years and how it took years before he was allowed back into the public eye. It was an eventful life, no matter how you looked at it.

Regardless, it was the music that mattered in the end. I won’t lie: I don’t often sit and listen to his recordings. Truth to be told, I don’t think he was much of a singer, and there are many versions of his songs out there that are far lovelier. (I suppose it may be less truthful, but give me a nice harmony any day.)

Truthfully, though, it doesn’t much matter. Whether it was Seeger originals, or songs he collected and recorded, they’re the kind of songs that live their own life and can be remolded and repurposed by pretty much anyone. Without Seeger’s black-and-white original as a jumping-off point, The Byrds couldn’t have colorized Turn, Turn, Turn and beamed it down to us from Heaven.

And cheesy though it may be, the Norwegian incarnation of My Rainbow Race found new relevance when 40.000 people in Oslo sang it to protest the horrific actions of the terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. It was a simple and moving testament to the power of song, and as fine an epitaph as I can think of.

28.01.2014 • Permalink

Be Here Now

Tom Ewing is trying to get ahold of Q magazine’s review of the sodden Be Here Now, which led to this, my somewhat ranting, peripherally related response below:

From Select’s review of Be Here Now. – thanks to @davidcorway on Twitter. The prize of this genre – Q’s notorious 5-star review – remains elusive: if anyone has a scan, please let me know.

Unfortunately, I’ve lost both the Q and Mojo issues that contained the Be Here Now reviews, so I can’t help out. I had both, though, and I seem to remember the Mojo review (a “classic” rating, if I recall correctly) being the worse offender.

I have rambled about this before (and probably will again), but I hope Charles Shaar Murray is ashamed of himself for writing something like “whoever made this is fucking smart (hi Noel!)” (or words to that effect) in all seriousness. (I’m pretty sure that’s close to verbatim.)

Being Norwegian, I remember how a-ha’s ascension to the top of the Billboard 100 with Take On Me was a bona fide BIG FUCKING DEAL, reported on in ALL national media and commended by royals and prime minister alike, so I can appreciate that the Oasis experience was fundamentally different if you were British.

Of course, a-ha did something no Norwegian group had done before them, which is why it was a cultural milestone. We’re a small nation, but a proud one, etc. (Also, I was nine; Take On Me was for obvious reasons far more important than the threat of nuclear war.)

But for a country with the musical pedigree of The Beatles, The Kinks, Pink Floyd, XTC, The Clash, a Flock of Seagulls and so on, to collectively lose its shit and canonize Oasis the way it did … honestly, how did that happen?

An awful, lifeless Oasis concert in Oslo in 1997, where opening act Ocean Colour Scene easily outshone the headliner (and think about that for a second!), proved to be the last straw; the hyperbolic kerfuffle surrounding both Be Here Now (“I dig their friends, I dig their shoes,” indeed) and the Oasis live experience (dour and charmless) was clearly nothing but smoke and mirrors. I felt disappointed, but it taught me a few things.

It showed me that critics aren’t necessarily any wiser or blessed with more refined taste than the rest of us, and it made clear just how much context actually matters. I won’t deny that Oasis had some nifty singles, but I think that unless you were there in that one lager-fueled moment in Cool Britannia, it was all a bit baffling.

This was all over half a lifetime ago, and while those rave reviews, when held up to my own experience, felt like something of a betrayal at the time, I almost struggle to understand why, though the simple act of not being young anymore is likely reason enough. (I did say “almost”.)

I suspect that in the future, pop stuff will mostly be filtered through the prism of my daughter’s experience. If she’s anything like me (and man, I hope she takes after her mother), she will most likely obsess about one thing, then another after that, and then rebel against those same things, and it will all seem vaguely alien and inexplicable to me; just as it should, and just as the mania that surrounded Oasis does in retrospect.

In the end, though, it’ll help her grow into herself, a person with her own goals, opinions, likes and dislikes, and for that reason alone, even the shittiest pop song, even Be Here Now, can have noble purpose.

(End of braindump vaguely related to Ewing’s original post.)

20.01.2014 • Permalink

Kristen Stewart to star in romantic remake of ‘1984’. The film will feature Stewart [in] “a slightly updated version of the 1956 film “about love in a world where love really doesn’t exist anymore.”

You’ve probably read this on the Internet already, accompanied by GIFs of exploding heads and the like. To be honest, I never quite thought to read 1984 as primarily a romance, nor do I think Orwell intended us to. I could, of course, be wrong. Since we for the most part have invited Big Brother into our lives of our own accord, perhaps this shifting of focus is appropriate after all.

Stewart will presumably play the part of the telescreen.

17.01.2014 • Permalink

The Raid: Redemption is rightfully considered one of the best – if not the best – action flick of the last decade. It was, frankly put, incredibly exciting and the follow-up promises higher stakes and bigger things. I won’t lie – I’m extremely excited about this.

15.01.2014 • Permalink