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Thursday, 30 May 2013
The Bluth Family are back. The dysfunctional clan, who it's not glib to say (OK it is, but I'm going to) are somewhat like a 21st Century Simpsons with a fortune, have been resurrected by their creator Mitchell Hurwitz with the backing of the online streaming giant Netflix after they were dropped by Fox (the comparison with The Simpsons ends there really, with one dropped way too early by Murdoch's media behemoth and the other left running way too long).
Anyway, I was a tad apprehensive as to whether bringing back Arrested Development was going to prove to have been the right thing to do, but, having now watched the whole series (due to Netflix releasing all 15 episodes in one go on Sunday), I can honestly say that my fears have been completely assuaged and, in fact, I now wonder why I was worried.
One of the main reasons AD always worked so well as a comedy was the strength of the characters in it. Whether it be Tobias's uber-camp, fumbling idiocy, GOB's daft dreaming and complete self-awareness by-pass or Lucille's reprehensibly discriminatory beliefs and conniving control of her children, the characters are so well realised, and were throughout the first three series of the programme, that it was inevitable that this series would work as long as the writing was still as sharp, subtle and intricate as it always had been.
This has remained the case. In fact, this may be the most layered and byzantine series of the lot. The premise is that each episode focuses on one character and the whole series represents the story, but everything is so neatly done that one really cannot afford to miss a scene as it will almost certainly appear later on in the series as a pivotal moment. A bit like a concept album, this series of AD really challenges whoever is engaging with it to do just that and not to step away.
Netflix's original trailer for the show
Various farces occur and yet still seem believable due to the nature of the writing, but also cardinally due to the fine acting. For instance, GOB, who for what it's worth is my favourite character in the show, is played so brilliantly by Will Arnett that he comes across both utterly condemnable by his actions yet completely forgivable for his lack of intelligence - much like many a friend we all know and love. There is something rococo about the way each actor plays their part, as if they've gone Daniel Day Lewis and ended up making the characters extensions of themselves, forging a bond with the viewer which is so remarkable that it leaves one feeling as if they know and are a part of the Bluths in some way.
What are also key to the success of this series of AD are the slight changes that have taken place. Michael is now a far more pathetic character, crestfallen and unworthy and has, in turn, lost some of the moral compass that kept him above the other Bluths as a person. He has also seemingly lost his paternal control over George Michael in some way giving a slightly Oedipal counterpoint to their relationship. Indeed, the incestuous and maniacal relationships that have always pervaded AD still abound but have been altered to reflect the passing of time between this and the last series - so now George Snr. is in many ways now out-maneuvered by his formerly more naive and laidback brother Oscar, Lucille is a little more dependent on her children than she was before and Lindsay is further detached from Michael as his stock has fallen.
Great sitcom writing, and, in fact, great fiction writing in general often hinges on the likability of characters whose foibles are so obvious. As Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant did with Brent and Gareth, as Brett Eaton-Ellis did with Victor Ward and as Mark Twain did with Huckleberry Finn, Hurwitz has once again managed to manipulate otherwise dire views into both hilarity and a comment on ignorance and surroundings as opposed to innate evil or disquieting outlooks.
The new series of AD is wonderfully funny. I'd nearly go as far as to say that if Netflix want to find tax loopholes for the next 50 years they can, as long as they keep commissioning such commendable entertainment, but I cannot and so hopefully they can keep providing such fine (semi) original shows and also contribute a bit to our deficit. I'm sure that the ultra-Republican Bluths, on the other hand, would feel slightly differently.
Wednesday, 8 May 2013
Of all the accolades that Sir Alex Ferguson has received throughout his storied and glittering managerial career, surely number 1 on his list must be having a Black Eyed Pea name herself after him. Indeed it was that Prince William was thrilled at this same triumph and Steve Jobs was gushing when his company had the accolade bestowed upon it too. But Ferguson had the one who wees herself onstage in outbursts of punk irreverence and sings about her humps and her lovely lady lumps, as well as cleverly outwitting London's tourist board by confusing tourists into the city into thinking one bridge was actually the other (surely Fergie Snr. must have loved this, being a Glaswegian-cum-converted Mancunian).
Alas though, we have news today that he is retiring now with a huge old trophy haul, a ridiculous bank balance and, if his purple nose is anything to go by, a fine collection of single and double malts. His unmatched record stands by itself - perhaps only Jose Mourinho will be able to ever match or beat it (or, if he keeps on working on the principle of 'go and manage the best team in Europe, you're bound to win a European Cup', then Pep Guardiola may). So Alex passes, not with a whimper, but, rather, a blaze of glory - a 13th top flight title gained weeks before the season's end.
He got there with good old fashioned hard work too. Sure he has a talent for building squads, but, by all accounts, he's a grafter is that Fergie, and he has justly received his rewards. His cantankerous manner - be it with the BBC, referees or Becks - gives off an air of an old-fashioned, no-nonsense coach of the ilk of Paisley, Clough and Busby. He has stuck with some familiar (familial?) people throughout his years at United, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes in particular , but also David Gill as Chief Executive of 14 years' standing deserves a mention. But it's clear that Ferguson is not one to get stuck in his ways either - his regeneration of squad after squad proves his ability to look to the new.
So it is, probably with a heavy heart, that many in the football world will wave goodbye to old Fergie. The Hairdryer, Fergie time, squeaky bum time, it will all go down in football folklore, while Manchester United, one feels, will continue to thrive with the wise old Scot now in a directorial position. So as he leaves, no doubt with the choruses from 'Shut Up' and, in a whim of poignancy, 'Where is the Love?' ringing around Old Trafford, Fergie will be elephunked, sorry, elevated into the heavens around the Theatre of Dreams. The streets of Salford and Trafford will be littered with grown men on the final day of the season, all tearful, arm-in-arm singing Fergie's name and hoping that tonight's gonna be a good night. Fergie will go out and smash it, like all his dogs, and that will be that: the end of an era.
For your listening pleasure... in tribute to Fergie
Thursday, 4 April 2013
Football's a funny old game innit? All of those highly paid men driving around in sports cars through kicking a spherical leather object around a pitch, often berated by the national press for their idiocy and lack of articulacy. Yes, footballers are constantly harangued for their lack of understanding of the wider world and their Twitter faux pas, generally providing zealous journalists with quality canon fodder. I mean, they're just a bunch of morons who've never ventured anywhere near Das Kapital or The Wealth of Nations, right? They seem to just be a rabble of doughnuts who wouldn't know an Autumn Statement or a Conservative Party Conference if it was rubbed into their stud wounds with TCP, don't they?
But wait, there's been news this week of one ex-pro turned manager seems to contradict this notion. It seems that Sunderland's new gaffer has an interest in politics so divisive it has got David Miliband all in a kerfuffle, causing him to leave the Sunderland board. This fellow must be a bastard! To rile a man who acted in various positions, most notably as Head of Policy, for Darth Vader himself - former Prime Minister and part-time morally bankrupt spin heavyweight Tony Blair - one must go to extraordinary lengths. Indeed, to disgust David Miliband, a man who acted as Foreign Secretary under Gordon Brown (yeah him, that guy who told us we'd hit "the end of boom and bust" while he was cooking the books with more alacrity than George Bluth in Arrested Development), I can only think that this guy must be some kind of maniac with a Mussolini fascination and subsequent complex...
Well, if we are to believe what we read, then, indeed, Paolo di Canio is a right old fascist. In fairness to our wonderfully leech-like tabloid press, Mr di Canio does seem to hold a fascist view or two (see the below picture of him gesturing towards the fans of SS (yes, SS!) Lazio in what can only be descried as a fascist salute).
So Paolo di Canio believes in a rather worn-out, stupid doctrine which is pretty evil and generally not very fair to gays and minorities and that. To boot he's in a position of reasonable power, which holds sway over Joe Public i.e. he's in football at the top level. It's pretty alarming, right? Wrong. Not at all.
Look, if Paolo di Canio is a fascist (which is an 'if' by the way - holding slightly fascist views doesn't make you a fascist nor indeed does making a fascist salute or inviting fascist iconography - remember Prince Harry?) , it's really not that big of a deal anyway. Yes, fascism is disgusting and stupid and yes it kills people if in power, but people are entitled to their political views, regardless of whether they are offensive or not.
This week we've seen a witch hunt, calling for di Canio to declare his views - which he has done, claiming, rather unsurprisingly, that he is not a fascist - but one has to ask whether if, say, a Muslim manager was appointed to a Premier League club, there would be a media circus around him asking for his views on women's suffrage and equality? Indeed, what about Catholic managers (of which there are plenty)? Should we not ask them what their views on homosexuality are?
The point I'm making here is that while fascism is abominable and its rhetoric alarming, one who believes in it should not be hounded or potentially overlooked for job positions because of his beliefs. There are plenty of ridiculous dogmas out there that people believe in, all we can do is debate rather than berate. Also, David Miliband was fucking off to the USA anyway, wasn't he?
Thursday, 21 March 2013
Ah, St. Patrick's Day. Green shirts everywhere and the overriding stench of Guinness, sweat and the craic. It's pretty much the Hibernian version of "rum, sodomy and the lash" I suppose - maybe the wittiest quotation attributed to Winston Churchill, of which there are many . Anyway, it's a day for fervent flag waving, ritual singing and abuse of the liver reaching caustic levels. So, then, as I strolled through Clapham Junction on Sunday, it was to be that I was confronted by all manner of proud Irish men and women bumping into me and shouting at one another though clearly stood next to each other.
St. Patrick's Day is one of those celebrations with a certain charm about it, or so everybody tells me anyway, and not just a party for a nation, but for every Western nation, probably due to Ireland's main export seemingly being its own people. So it's a carnival, a delirious festival of green, white and gold for all to enjoy, then? Well, not really. It's basically a pious national day of pride which has become a hedonistic display of its people living up to every debauched stereotype about them - feckless, pissed nuisances and that sort of thing - in some kind of whim of identity politics.
Anyway, if another nation, say England, did the same thing, it's arguable that due to its colonial past and the fact that its flag has been robbed by meat-headed Nazi sympathisers as a beacon of the innate superiority of the "bulldog spirit" (or whatever other cliche those types may wish to use) over all other forms of national defence, that it would be perceived as a horrific, nationalistic display of Mussolinian proportions.
What, then, is St. Patrick's Day? Surely it's a nationalistic display of passionate, built-in feelings of the greatness of the Irish ergo the all day piss up and screaming of 'The Fields of Athenry' in the street in amongst the vomit and urine squelching underfoot. Why is it held up as such a cause of reverence and celebration then? One could contend that the answer lies in Ireland's history and its place as the victim at the hands of the English.
In the 'spirit of the underdog sense', Ireland as a nation seems to cause a wave of unilateral applause and fervour. Much like the idea of being Jamaican, the idea of being Irish has a special place in the hearts of many whose sole links to Ireland are through their grandparents or people even further back in their ancestry. Within this, it seems, everybody is expected to laugh and celebrate St. Patrick's Day as well, instead of standing back from it and all of its nasty connotations - namely those which tie any one person to a feeling of superiority due to a tenuous link to a bit of land somewhere.
That said, all of the Guinness and Jameson's bought over the weekend probably gave the economy a bit of a boost, so it has its positives. Somewhat like Christmas it should be used as a good way for people to get together, rather than as a day with any kind of literal meaning. This article, then, shows exactly the kind of harm that the more nationalistic thoughts of people involved can cause: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/hanging-out-at-liverpools-unofficial-st-patricks-day-parade.
Why even have or start a movement called Liverpool Irish Patriots in the first place? It's just as ridiculous as the EDL and BNP and clearly ramps up the extremism dial to 11. Such divisive groups will always cause stupid reactions from other divisive groups. It does nothing other than give credence to all of that nonsense of the 'Bulldog Brits' and the 'Plucky Paddys'.
Beautiful... A Youtube comment exchange on a clip of the riot in 1995 at the England v Ireland game, where England fans decided to throw various objects at Irish fans and the police.
Once again we see how religion divides us herein too, with Patrick being a patron saint of a nation. The idea of these patron saints is ridiculous - emblematic bollocks dreamed up centuries ago proven to be as much myth as anything else. What's even more ridiculous is that people today still buy into it, even with amount of information available to them.
It's St. George's Day next month, which means one thing: my Facebook and Twitter feeds will probably be filled with nonsense about Wooton fucking Bassett and how English people should be going nuts about how great this country is, but don't. Brilliant. At least there's a whole month in-between anyway.
Tuesday, 5 March 2013
Like a feral, rabid, uncontrollable species hellbent on permeating the human race, a craze of uber-catchy pop nasties are finding their way into our charts, bringing with them dance crazes and, shudder, that most mundane and decidedly tortuous of processes: 'office banter' (I cringe nearly as much at this term as I do when I see Micah Paris speaking about one of her new records on some sugar coated cunt fest such as The One Show on BBC1).
With all of the gimmicky, unfunny, everyone-can-laugh-at-this-as-it-appeals-to-the-lowest-common-denominator hogwash of Mr Blobby and ITV's Benidorm, these soon to be forgotten creations are inserting themselves into the orifices of the pop charts (never exactly a medium averse to infection by drivel) with unsurprising, yet nonetheless dismaying, ease.
No, I'm not talking about those bubblegum singalong boy/girl group numbers - they've been here for years and the odd one of those is good - or even those shoddy dance tracks made by Calvin Harris or David Guetta with Pitbull and some other jizz rag shouting incessantly over them. No, I'm talking about the viral YouTube sensation turned pop smash. I'm talking particularly about 'Gangnam Style' and 'Harlem Shake'. Chart behemoths in their own right, having been stupid videos sent around the interweb by various pests.
It seems that it has become a given that a viral YouTube hit that has a catchy song on it and pseudo ironic dance moves will chart well. It also seems that it's a given that some fucktard will perform the moves in some piss-ridden nightclub full of 'rah' types to rapturous laughter from his ballsack friends, all the while being touted as some kind of messianic creature by various chinny strangers around him pointing, saying something like "Giles, fucking hell man, that dude over there's doing the 'Gangnam Style', what an absolute ledge, yeah" or something equally as inane and infuriating.
There's no escape from these things. It's as if 28 Days Later is happening, only through the medium of utterly moronic sonic bollocks. The virals are viral, but publically. What next? Where will all of this pop culture perpetuation end? Music videos of music videos? (Fuck, Blink 182, you utter twats!) Endlessly repeated monologues? (Shit, that's me... here). A popular music form devoted to being about popular music? (Bowie, you git!). My fucking head hurts. I think it's time I lay down and think nice thoughts, like picturing each one of those gimp-clad shits being force-fed ball-bearings the size of ornamental globes... up their arseholes. That's better. Now, off to YouTube. Surely there's a nice documentary about Ballard or The Crimean War or something that everybody's watching that I've not seen. Oh no. The most popular lists are full of this other inexpedient shite. Maybe I'll shove great spheres into various holes of my own. I'll kick off with a horse meatball into my gob. Everyone will be doing it soon.
Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - 'Sacrilege'
Yeah Yeah Yeahs' wonderful new single, pre-released on the internet today, deserves attention. 'Sacrilege' sees the New York band back after four years away and is a fine return for them. Karen O is at her typical part breathy, part screechy best while Nick Zinner's axe mastery seemingly knows no bounds.
This single appears to see the band somewhere nearer their sound on 2006's Show Your Bones, in that Zinner's guitar is more fore-fronted, yet a full return to the garage rock sound of 2003's Fever to Tell is not quite apparent. The straight synth disco of 2009's It's Blitz! hasn't been completely wiped away, but is less noticeable on this track.
Leading in with a simple four note backing, with an almost Madchester drum pattern eventually joining halfway through, O effortlessly undulates between whispers in the first two bars in the verse and then into a distorted scream, the apex of which being "in our bed" in the second two. The song moves naturally into an intertwined chorus between Zinner playing a beautifully intricate guitar line in behind Karen telling us "it's sacrilege" in a high-pitched swoon. The song climaxes in a fade between O's sultry high end and a gospel choir taking over, providing an almost angelic end to a song that threatens to be the work of Lucifer at its birth.
I reckon this could be an extremely big hit for Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and rightly so as it is a stunning song. Here's hoping the rest of the forthcoming album matches it.
David Bowie - 'The Stars are Out Tonight'
Meanwhile, David Bowie released his second single from The Next Day (due for release on March 11th) this morning also.
As one would expect, one should never try to second guess what it might sound like before listening - it's Bowie! - and it doesn't disappoint in this vein. A slight step away from the slower ballad 'Where are We Now', 'The Stars are Out Tonight' is a brilliant mix of Dadaism as pop with a slight nod to the Ziggy Stardust period of his astonishing career.
The song careers its way through seamlessly with "ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh"s and a dramatically wailed refrain line being it's focal points and has an energy about it which takes you through a cascading myriad of sonically pleasing stages. The middle eight descends a touch, just pulling the track's momentum back for a second cleverly, before it gets moving again, giving it a neat structural design.
The accompanying video is equally intriguing, starring Tilda Swinton and various other androgynes artfully dancing around Bowie - who looks remarkably well for a man his age (especially given his recent illness).
If reports are to be believed, the album is to be awaited with infant excitement, with The Independent's Andy Gill calling it "the greatest comeback in rock 'n' roll history. Surely, if it were ever to be anybody, it would be Bowie who could live up to this kind of hyperbolic statement. I cannot wait.
'The Stars are Out Tonight'