Sunday, 26 May 2013

Play To Z: Them Crooked Vultures to Under Construction

Random Observations

  They might have found their sound with The Color And The Shape, but There Is Nothing Left To Lose was where the Foo Fighters truly locked in onto what they wanted their albums to sound like. There's the obvious single "Learn To Fly", a couple of rockier songs, a couple of softer ones, and the rest is just a bland soup for the ears. The whole album slips by like a dull afternoon or a midseason episode of a crime procedural. It is a Sonic Tuesday.

  This Is Happening arrived like a balm after a long period of not very good albums. They weren't bad. They just were just unmemorable. This Is Happening is memorable. It is memories. Places and time layered upon each other. Amongst James Murphy's wide-ranging and impressive skill set is an ability to balance a very specific sense of location with a universal accessibility. Each song creates a small world that feels real and familiar, like visiting an old haunt. It's a talent you find in the best novelists (and holy shit, take a moment to consider how great a novel by James Murphy would inevitably be) and a few great musicians.

  Ahh...The Three EPs. The Beta Band's first album, constructed from three previous EPs (as you might gather from the name). I got into The Beta Band because of that scene in High Fidelity where Rob says he will sell five copies of The Three EPs, puts on "Dry The Rain" and watches the customers in the store groove along to the emerging melody. I'd estimate that that scene sold a hell of a lot more than five copies of that particular album. I can remember buying it alongside some other records and while everything else got played upstairs on my shitty little Asda stereo while I studied or read, I somehow knew to wait for The Three EPs. I put aside time to listen to it. I played it on the good stereo downstairs in the living room. And it rewarded it me immensely.

  Oh hey, Thriller is still a great album.

  I've written in previous posts about my unending affection for The Go! Team, but it's worth drawing your attention to "Junior Kickstart" from Thunder, Lightning, Strike as quite possibly the best chase music ever, as evidenced by this video.

  Being an old country, England has a lot of odd laws that remain in force from earlier generations. Many of these are completely redundant and woefully out of date (things like all men having to practice archery on a Sunday) but I think it's safe to say the legislation that states that no couple are truly married until "Come On Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners is played at their reception is still relevant.

  To my future biopic's director - please soundtrack any fight scenes with "Crown On The Ground" by Sleigh Bells.

Eli's Coming

  I have written in the past, in various places across the Internet, of my long-standing affection for Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin's first venture into television before The West Wing. It's not a perfect beast, hampered as it was by network intervention and Sorkin's sometimes ham-fisted politicking, but it still holds a myriad of pleasures. One of these was introducing me to "Eli's Coming" by Three Dog Night, which serves as both the title and a recurring idea for the 19th episode of the first season.


  Dan Rydell, one of the lead characters and one my all-time favourite fictional characters, uses the phrase to mean "something bad" is approaching, "a darkness", having misunderstood the song when he first heard it. Even when corrected (the song is actually about a scoundrel and a womaniser), he continues to mutter it throughout the episode, as omens of tragedy appear. When, in the closing moments and in the middle of a live broadcast, they find out Isaac, the show's Managing Editor, has suffered a stroke, the song plays as they are forced to hide their concerns and carry on with the show.

Robert Guillaume as Isaac Jaffe

  The plot of the show mirrored real life - Robert Guillaume, who played Isaac Jaffe, had himself suffered a minor stroke and the show had to find a way to write him out for a period. Isaac's return and rehabilitation on the show all played out as Robert himself was undergoing the same thing, and watching as the cast reacts to this fictional news, one can only think that they must have reacted similarly in real life. It is a situation that tragically repeated itself on The West Wing when, in the final season, founding cast member John Spencer died of a heart attack and his character, Leo McGarry, is killed off in the same way. If you want to watch me cry like a baby, show me the episode "Requiem", revolving around his funeral. I will blub like an infant.

  The use of "Eli's Coming" in the episode is perfect. By foreshadowing not just Isaac's stroke but the song's significance so boldly, viewers are already set for something terrible happening. When it appears at the episode's close, it's like a well-executed reveal of a monster that has before simply hidden in the shadows. The song starts sparse, with little more than the wailed warning of "Eli's coming...girl you better hide you heart" before the instrumentation kicks in after 30 seconds, the song suddenly exploding with pace and life. It serves as a perfect auditory recreation of that stomach-dropping moment of bad news, followed by life rushing back in and reminding you that you are still here, in this moment, with things to do. It's an unconventional song to use, but it does a magnificent job.

Rediscovered Gem

"Get Off" by The Dandy Warhols

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