Sunday, 27 June 2010

Hero for Hire: Los Campesinos! & Spotify, 2.0, v2.0

So it was the last issue of Redbrick I can ever legally contribute to. And they had a redesign and it was largely beautiful and I had a whole page to myself. And, lo!, the page was made of two things

1.
An interview with Gareth of Los Campesinos!. I've been sitting on this one for a while, now. I bring you this on the weekend I finally got Xiu Xiu, having admitted to Gareth I didn't get Xiu Xiu. Meeting the lead singer of one of your favourite bands is one of those life experiences that you can only build up too much and as such can only be disappointing. He was, after all, only human. That is the theme of my write-up.

2.
A re-do of my old Spotify 2.0 article, rewritten to be accessible to the proles. As such, it's probably a better piece, as I can only indulge myself 70% of the way. It's still got the violent imagery, though, you'll be pleased to know. You sick, sick puppies.

Number One, #1

#1: Katy Perry
California Gurls

Katy Perry, whatever you might think of her, is certainly an efficient pop star. She appears, here and there, just enough to keep her name famous. She chooses her collaboratiosn wisely - Timbaland, 3oh!3, now Snoop Dogg? This girl knows what she's doing.

And I retain a soft spot for the girl who sings things like "Daisy Dukes with bikinis on top."* In a world where even Christina Aguilera is experimenting with edgier music, she's the female Justin Timberlake, the money-making business-woman embodiment of pop. She looks like the girl from 90210 who looks like a cheap replica of Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. It's almost exactly the flip side of Snoop Dogg's guest vocals on the Gorillaz's Plastic Beach. The California tourist board must having an absolute field day with its endorsements. The song's name is spelt stupidly...

But, hell, it just works.

You're likely to be looking at me down your nose right now, but there's a sense that Perry knows exactly how far she can push things. That, if you're attuned to the right pop sensibility, Perry will never betray you.

In an alternative, better universe of the UK, something else is #1: Robyn, maybe. That's the same UK where we're not all in mourning about the football right now, one way or the other.

But California Gurls is perfect in-shower music, the kind of song you're just happy to come on while you rub shampoo into those follicles, or while you drive from A to B. It's a lower level of pop, maybe, but it's that pop perfected. Some people, no doubt, wish they could all be California Gurls.

Katy Perry

*An expression I understand, for no logical reason, to mean hot pants and a bikini top. If this is confirmed to be true, then something magic is happening within the work of Ms Perry. She might in fact be a witch.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

LOST: The Killing Joke

Did you ever hear the one about the 100 hour funeral?
lost_logo
Lost has always worked like a well-formed joke. At its centre, amongst all the stuff it catches flak for - the dips into melodrama, the mess of sci-fi ideas and apparently unconnected weirdness - has been an understanding of how a joke, that most basic shape of narrative, works. You set up some expectations, hold them for as long as you can, then knock them down.

If you don't want to know the punchline, stop reading now. Go and watch all of Lost and then come back. I won't be diving too deeply into spoiler territory, but avoiding discussion of important moments would rob this post-mortem of any actual insight.

Faith. Misdirection. These were the meat, the themes of Lost, and of the experience of watching it. The audience were the survivors on the Island, splitting into those with faith (those who stuck around till the end) and those without. The writers were the mischievous spirits behind the curtain slowly feeding us the mystery.
science-faith-cap001
The thing about Lost is, as it pulled back that curtain - as it did repeatedly, in circles of slowly increasing size - we saw that whoever it was that appeared to have all the answers, was only slightly less clueless than we currently were. In the end, even God doesn't really know what's going on, is just trying to do his job.

And that's the issue with the finale, where the writers stand naked before us and say, weakly, ta-da! There were no answers, really. Well, there were answers, here and there, and one Big Answer to one of those Big Life Questions, but that's not what we queued and paid our admission for. That's the thing about a joke. It all depends on pay-off: traditionally speaking, the journey doesn't matter as much as that punchline. And you laugh. Or you don't.

As a storyteller, Lost was one of those rambly comedians, strolling around the stage and trying to tell you about everything. And it's too much and it's ill-paced and you laugh here and there but it seems a bit messy. Except, afterwards, sitting in a bar with your friends you realise that that mess was crafted and honed, was on purpose.
118573_D_SUPPER_01b
...I've written and deleted several deviations from the theme now, on how Lost was like one of those escape-the-room puzzle games (each little clue opens up a new wealth of possibilities), or how it's ironic that a show that opens with a plane-crash ended up being more about the journey than the destination, or how Lost was like an astronaut (it comes back but it's never the same). It's probably telling that I'm struggling to stick to one metaphor explaining how I felt about Lost. It's a leviathan, a huge creaking rattling monster. Which, I guess, is natural for anything stretching over so many hours, so many years of my life, the work of so many different people.
I'll allow myself one deviation: Lost worked a little like pop music. It's silly, and it's the kind of thing people look funny at me for loving. But, at its best, it delivered a shock of basal-emotion that bypassed all the correct channels. Or it worked by bending a familiar form: whether soap-opera or sci-fi. The Lady Gaga of TV, if you will, meshing weird ideas and strong iconography into something that bent back on its ancestry. The earnest stuff didn't always work so well: in the same way I don't tend to respond to pop ballads as well as clever-clever-post-modernism-you-can-dance-to*.

At times Lost stepped out of itself a bit and said, look, you don't know if we know what we're doing. And we don't, in the way you think. And that was what a lot of the series itself was about. But then, in other ways, they knew perfectly what they were doing: how to wait the perfect amount of time before pulling the trigger and unleashing that trap door underneath your brain, most notably. How to tell a story visually, too. How to be funny. When they broke those rules, it was painful because you'd developed so much faith in this deified storyteller... This hasn't ended up anywhere near where it began, and I think that's fitting.

Whooosh.
Lost inversion






*For this reason I will never be one of those journalists who makes their name coining emergent genres.

About Me

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London, United Kingdom
Videogames, film, music, comics: feed them into the Alex-Spencer machine and out come neat little articles. Like the ones you're looking at here.