Filed under: Music
In a world obsessed with ironically appropriating the past, how do you go about making fresh, sincere and authentic music? Something that makes you forget about everything other than the sounds and words reaching your ears?
How? I don’t know. But Paddy Mann has done it with the new Grand Salvo album, “Death”. This exquisite “storybook” is without a doubt the Australian album of the year. In fact, it’s the best album I’ve heard in many years, period. It is not easy to make an album like this – and not just because the songs and arrangements are complex. The biggest feat that Mann has pulled off here (in a project that took over three years to finish) is to make music that is fully an expression of the poetry that he has written. The fragmented, achronological story of a Rat, a Rabbit, a Bear, a Bird and a Man, their trials, tribulations, love for one another, and eventual deaths, leaps out of the speakers and you feel like these characters are running, flying, hunting, and dying all around you. It’s been a while since a song has made me cry – I think the last one might have been “XO” by Elliot Smith – but that’s what the track “Bird” from this album did to me the other day as I was listening to it for the umpteenth time.
The key to this album’s success could be called “naivety” if Mann’s hand wasn’t so steady, so sure and determined. I think it might be better to call it “innocence” – but not one that comes out of ignorance. There is a weary, wary, loving, youthful innocence here. It’s not Indie, it’s not Hippy, it’s not ironic, it’s not self-indulgent, it’s not referencing anyone. it’s just fucking amazing.
Filed under: Film
The problem with Steven Spielberg isn’t that he makes bad movies. Lots of people do that – they’ve been doing it for a hundred years. The problem with Spielberg is that he makes bad movies extremely well. Hollywood had been churning out meaningless adventure movies for decades before Spielberg came along, but they appealed to a specific demographic. They didn’t ruin people’s appetite for slower, more thought-provoking films. Jaws, however, was such a well-constructed spectacle, such pure distraction, that it was as irresistible as refined sugar. Suddenly everyone wanted this stuff – at least a little bit of it, some of the time.
Released between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Raiders of the Lost Ark was conceived by George Lucas as an extension of the Star Wars franchise and a way to cash in on its most charismatic star. But one need only compare Raiders with the original Star Wars trilogy to see what unique gifts Steven Spielberg brought to his first Lucasfilm project. Whereas the spectacle in Star Wars is all about the compelling world that is created, Spielberg’s Raiders ignores the world and brings us intensely, alarmingly close to the characters at the center of it.
In The Empire Strikes Back we watch Luke Skywalker battle Darth Vader from a distance, observing their reactions to each other at the same time, as if we were hiding in the shadows of Cloud City’s lower decks. The viewer is afforded no such distance at any point of Raiders of the Lost Ark. With a virtuosic display of camera techniques – close ups, shot reverse shots, elaborate crane shots – edited together like the voices of a fugue, Spielberg’s mission is to eliminate any distance whatsoever, and to a great extent it is the viewer’s closeness to Indiana that prevents Raiders from seeming like the Star Wars clone it was supposed to be. The bottom line, however, is that Indiana Jones has never had any relationship with the real world (unlike Star Wars). It has always been about mindless entertainment alone. In a good way – if you like that sort of thing; which we all do.
So is it just my imagination, or is everyone taking the new Indiana Jones movie just a little too seriously? I don’t care if people dislike the film; it’s the reasons they give. I’ve heard disappointed reactions from at least four friends in the last week, and they’ve all used words like “ridiculous”, “unbelievable”, and “far-fetched” with negative connotations. My response to all of them is: when was the last time you watched The Temple of Doom?
The truth, perhaps a disillusioning one, is that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is of a piece with the entire series. Like its predecessors, Crystal Skull is a bad film, but it knows that it is; and that goes a long way. It’s better than The Last Crusade, and almost, but not quite, on par with The Temple of Doom. Raiders of the Lost Ark, the closest Steven Spielberg has come to making the perfect bad film, will never be repeated.
So if you’re an Indy fan, don’t be afraid of Crystal Skull. As the poster on the wall of the New Zealand Consulate in Flight of the Conchords says: “Don’t expect too much, and you’ll love it.”
Filed under: Music
Cat Power played one song from You Are Free and one from The Greatest, so they were they only two I knew in her epic two-hour-plus set (except for New York New York) during which she sang uniformly amazingly and held me utterly enthralled. Chan Marshall is a singular performer and artist and her band was fucking great. I didn’t even feel disappointed that she didn’t play my favourite songs…and that’s saying something.
Filed under: Film
1. Inland Empire (David Lynch)
2. Noise (Matthew Saville)
3. Sweeney Todd (Tim Burton)
4. I’m Not There (Todd Haynes)
5. Zodiac (David Fincher)
Filed under: Poetry
Warning don’t click this link if you have a very slow computer…