Monday, 20 March 2017

BEST SONGS OF 2017 SO FAR, part one

SHE LIKES MUSIC, A LOT
Because it is a sad day here at Eyewear HQ, and because music is a way to handle sadness, and large emotions, I turn now to our quarterly report into some of the key popular songs that have made their way as ear-worms into the hearts and minds of the writer of this post, since January 1, 2017 - in short, for the first 25% of the year, what are the top 25 songs so far?

This will be a countdown over the next few days.... and note, only songs that one can find on Spotify count. It has been a good year so far, for pop and indie music... new Shins, and Depeche Mode albums in the same month as the first album from The Jesus and Mary Chain in 19 years can hardly be said to be a bad time.... so, counting down from Number one, in anti-climactic order.... here goes.... the 25 best songs so far, for 2017....

1. 'Love' - Lana Del Rey
Arguably her best song - and, like all her songs - a microcosm of her entire canon - like Dylan Thomas', her work is always imploding inwards to achieve a sort of Ur-perfection of its own self-style.

2. 'Doomsday' - Ryan Adams
It is unclear who Adams thinks he is - this song sounds as if Bruce Springsteen had decided to rip-off Tom Petty. That being said its metaphysical conceits, and references to Dante are lovely, and the overall achievement is to generate a classic American rock song of rustbelt heart-break.

3. 'Crying On The Bathroom Floor' - MUNA
I have done this, have you? Sounding as iF 'Sweet Dreams...' had been slowed down like a sex-robot doused in an acid bath, the whole synth-sound melts into a mournful expression of utter loss. Beautifully cold and sad. A pure class-A coming down track.

4. 'Feel It' - Georgia
In similar vein, the cold, stabbing synth lines from this song could be from Men Without Hats, 1980. But the vocals and pop nous are Robyn's. A haunting dance track with an angry core of noir.

5. 'Going Backwards' - Depeche Mode
Arguably the most didactic track on a major new album - the band's best in 20 years - this is still startling for its misanthropy and bitterness. You might think a band whose leitmotif is kinky sex-play might be counted among those revelling in the end-times of the Brexitrump Era. But no, they actually mourn for a time when we were not cavemen, and had something "inside". Oddly powerful and moving, and vintage DM.

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MORE SOON....

SPRING RECKONING

POET AND WRITER, DR OKLA ELLIOT, DIED YESTERDAY, FAR TOO YOUNG

The 2017 spring has come, and in London it was a bleak, drizzly day, that reminds one of the Morrissey song, 'Every Day Is Like Sunday'.

I woke today to an 8 am email, from an American writer, telling me that the poet and Eyewear author (Bernie Sanders: The Essential Guide) Dr Okla Elliott had died suddenly Sunday. I know he had been through a lot, but he was young, and whatever happened, it is tragic, and shocking and saddening. No, it is suddening.

Of course, Derek Walcott died (sadly) the other day, too. A massive loss to world culture.

And we now know Brexit gets trigged on 29 March; and the Trump show keeps slouching on to its evil conclusion.

So, yeah, spring - welcome, and some good news please... I guess the Sesame Street autistic Muppet is good news.... a little late, but welcome.

And, yes, Eyewear DID have a great LBF17, and a superb launch on Friday of new books at the LRB... but for today, my heart is deep in thought about poor Okla. RIP.



Monday, 6 March 2017

FOR LOGAN, THINK LOLITA - the SECRET Ls at the GENETIC CORE OF THE NEW X-MEN CLASSIC

DANGER - SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Logan, the new film by James Mangold, and the tenth outing for the Wolverine character from the Marvel Universe, as played by Hugh Jackman, is receiving a lot of critical praise. Released March 1, the film has been called "the Citizen Kane" of comic book films, and compared favourably to the previous benchmark for quality in this sub-genre, The Dark Knight trilogy, by Christopher Nolan. It shares with that trilogy a gritty realism, a downbeat tone, and serious actors at the top of their game. It is however not an urban picture, but, as every critic has noted, a road movie/Western in its DNA. The cliché is to cite Shane, which the picture does itself, as the blueprint, but this is a red herring, since the actual Western it most resembles is The Searchers - let alone In Cold Blood or T2.

Mangold has co-written the film, at a time of Western darkness (Brexit, the rise of Trump) and the film opens on a landscape torn from Beckett by way of Bannon - loudmouthed American youths on stag nights chanting USA! USA! and a massive Mexican border wall. However, as a serious film-maker (his Cop Land and Girl, Interrupted are indie American classics of their kind), Mangold has mainly based his screenplay and directorial vision on a set of Oulipean puns.

In short, his constraint was to make a film with major allusions to other films that a) are one-word titles starting with L or b) titles beginning with L and ending with Ns. In short, for Logan, read: Lolita, Leon, Let The Right One In.

The 3 key elements of the film are derived from the film versions of Lolita, Leon, and Let The Right One In, in uncanny ways. (These are the Uncanny X-Men):

1. The young girl in the film wears sunglasses, is oddly mature for her age, dangerous, and goes on a disturbing road trip across small-town cheap motel America, pursued by a weird man that wants to possess her;

2. The main relationship in the film is between a pre-pubescent girl and a killer, and they form an unlikely, sentimental bond;

3. The little girl appears dark-haired, quiet, melancholy, and vulnerable, but when push comes to shove, can rip a room of people apart, with her bizarre abilities.

There are of course ways to also see the film as a reprise of The Tempest, or the latest Mad Max, or Rebel Without A Cause* (both films share a trio of damaged persons seeking a safe home) and the strength of Logan is that for all its allusions, film puns, and deep reservoirs of cinematic knowledge, it remains a visceral experience - perhaps, literally, the most visceral (it name-checks Nosferatu early on). The fight scenes are startlingly violent (perhaps the most violent I have ever seen in a mainstream picture), made more so by the humanity of the characters, and their vulnerability; the development of secondary roles, especially that of Caliban, is subtle and moving; the soundtrack is haunting and subdued, when not merely deeply troubling.

It is true that critics could easily claim this as yet another celebration of an American cinema that has valorised violence, lone-wolf gunmen in a wild west, and sentimental relationships where broken older men are idolised by children as would-be father figures. I prefer to see it as a hugely intelligent reprise of all that has gone before in its genres, and an attempt to introduce a whole new level of artistry to the action film. It is a must-see, and Jackman is already a shoe-in for a best actor Oscar nomination for this year coming.

* Logan is set around a series of set-pieces, which all concern a nominally (liminally?) safe space/hideaway, culminating in "leaving Eden" for the ironic new land of "Canada" across a vague border among deep woods. Every safe haven is violated terribly - from hotel and motel rooms, to cars, to rusted-out old factory buildings, to farmhouses - nowhere is safe, period. There are guns in the valley - and until the guns are gone, and the men behind them, then the peaceful, decent settlers are threatened with endless returning threat and death.

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