Top Twenty (+1) Vids of the OO’s…ever!

In no order whatsoever her are 21 of my favourite tracks and/or vids from what some folk still call ‘the noughties‘. You’ll find no Scottish bands represented here as I’m going to have separate Top 10 lists for Scottish music, books, films etc in the run up to the new decade. Also, that allows me to include more music than I can fit into this list, but it’s hopefully an interesting selection and it’s a good representation of what I listened to in the last ten years. Up first is Emilliani Torrini’s haunting To Be Free:

Next is the most recent of this selection, its Wild Beasts XTC like All The King’s Men:

I know some people find them a bit arch, bit I love the Vampire Weekend. This is A-Punk:

Some of the best stuff from the decade came from Iceland. This is Mum with The Island’s of Children’s Children:

I’m always one for a disturbing video. These are The Doves with There Goes the Fear:,t=1,mt=video

Probably the best gig I went to in the last ten years was Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings at the Barras. The crowd was spellbound for the whole set. Pure magic. Probably my favourite singer around today, and this is the promo for Elvis Presley Blues:
Were Gorillaz the best thing Damon did this decade? It’s a close thing, but for the use of the legendary Sean Ryder I had to choose Dare:
I’m doing this over a few days, and today this is my favourite song ever. I need uplifted and this always does the trick. Lambchop and Up with People:

While I’m feeling all elegiac I think it’s time for Kate Bush. I love Kate Bush and this is King of the Mountains:

I imagine that The White Stripes will feature heavily in such lists elsewhere, but I listen to The Raconteurs albums more often. This was their debut release Steady As She Goes:

Next are two videos from albums I played almost constantly in the early part of the decade and I include them to represent the whole rather than loving these individual songs in particular. The first is Back of My Hand by Gemma Hayes from Night on My Side:

The next is from Zero 7’s Simple Things and features the fantastic voice of Sia who made some great music under her own name. This is Destiny:

Another of my favourite artists of all time is Polly Jean Harvey. Always brilliant even at her most challenging. One of the best albums of the decade was Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, and one of the best singles was this, This is Love:
One new voice that I fell for was Josh Rouse who released a string of albums that were effortlessly engaging, any of which I could have chosen from. This is Directions from the album Home:

I can take or leave Beck normally, but 2002’s Sea Change is not only his best work, but one of the best of the decade. I listened to this more than anything else in the past ten years, which is perhaps slightly worrying, but this is Guess I’m Doing Fine:

To prove it wasn’t all doom and/or gloom as far as my listening tastes are concerned, a couple of tracks that are pure pop genius. The first was one of those songs which everyone loves, and Outkast were making some of the best music around. This is the brilliant Hey Ya!:

This is a lesser known track from a band that had critical kudos but little success. Yes it’s a return to the eighties, but they were hardly alone in that, and at least they took inspiration from the better bands. This is Captain with Glorious:
Another band who lit up the decade were Arcade Fire. Again I could have picked almost any track but here’s No Cars Go:

I’m going to finish with three legends, at least they are in my house. The first is the title track from Dig, Lazarus, Dig by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds who, for me, get better and better:
This is a track from my artist of the decade, Will Oldham. Nobody produced so much consistently brilliant work in the last 10 years. This is from the Superwolf album that he did with Matt Sweeney, but to be honest I could have filled every slot on this list with his stuff and been satisfied. This is the beautiful I Gave You:

This list was originally going to be 20 songs long, but then I remembered the video that had me weeping uncontrollably when I saw it. A fitting tribute to a man and his music, made all the more poignant as it is sung by the man himself. Usually videos are used to promote the song, but when they are at their best the combine with the song to create something greater. This is a classic example. It’s Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt:

So, for what it’s worth, that’s my list. I’m sure if I was to start again tomorrow there would be some changes, but it’s a good representation of what I was listening to. What do you think? Already I’m thinking where are The Guillemots, The Decemberists, Common, Rachael Yamagata, The Sleepy Jackson, Lucinda Williams, Phoenix, Brendon Benson, Costello etc, etc, etc..??

Look out for the Top 10 Scottish songs/vids of the decade which will be coming soon, along with some other best of lists.

Video Killed etc…

We will soon be overwhelmed with end of the decade round-ups and lists, but I had to share this one with you. Click on the link to find hours of entertainment from this list of the 101 best videos of the last ten years;

I think it’s a pretty comprehensive selection, with something for all tastes. Today’s favourite is the magical promo for Sigur Ros’s Glosoli from 2005’s taak… album:

The Camera Never Lies…

Camera Obscura were in good form last night at the Barras, and although it was a little light in terms of numbers attending, the relaxed mood suited their sound. Special mention to the guy dressed as a cow and his pal who was either Dracula/A Wicked Stepmother/ just an eccentric dresser. The addition of the string quartet on some of the numbers added real depth to music that some accuse of feyity, as if that’s a bad thing. It can be a gamble to throw a Springsteen cover in as they did in the encore with Tougher Than the Rest, but they pulled it off. Judge for yourself from the clip below as they do it for American radio:

Spinning Scotland

Those who are interested in the current discussions about Scottish Literature should have a look at the recently published on-line journal Spinning Scotland which itself is a spin-off from the conference of the same name held at the University of Glasgow last year. The breadth of subject is wide as well as deep, with articles covering time (David Lyndsay to Ali Smith), place (George Mackay Brown’s Orkney to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island) and method of delivery (film and comic strip as well as poetry and prose are discussed).
With articles written by authors from inside and outside Scotland this journal wears the nationality of the literature lightly, and contextualises writers as individual as Irvine Welsh, Fionn Macolla and Sorley MacLean by examining the work itself rather than feeling the need to justify why they should be discussed in the first place. A refreshing change.

The journal can be found at spinningscotland and makes for interesting reading.

Making drama during a crisis.

I’ve been given a load of VHS tapes to look through that are proving to be a treasure trove of old Scottish films and TV drama. It made me realise that Scottish TV appears to have stopped making quality homegrown drama, although there are plenty of shows that use Scotland as the backdrop; the recent, risible, Hope Springs being only one example.

The reasons for this situation will know doubt be financial, but after watching Peter McDougall’s Down Among the Big Boys (1993) and the Michael Caton Jones directed Brond (1987), I realised that this was not an excuse during previous recessions. Both of these films were filmed and are set during times of poverty in Glasgow that were far greater than that in which the city, or country, currently finds itself. That also applies to the early 80’s set Looking after Jo Jo (1998) and the sadly forgotten Jute City (1991), which, unusually, was set outside of the central belt in Dundee, something that occurs all too rarely. It boasts a great cast, although the standout for me is John Sessions which makes me wonder why did he not do more straight acting? They’re helped by a fantastic script by David Kane who went on to write and direct the films This Year’s Love (1999) and Born Romantic (2000) as well as perhaps the most recent Scottish ‘drama’ Sea of Souls (2004-07).

Actually, the difference between Jute City and Sea of Souls is telling. The first is a complex three part drama that keeps you guessing until the end. By the time Kane was making Sea of Souls the fashion in TV drama, at least in this country, was to make programmes which had different stories in each episode, a la Taggart (about which more soon). This was so viewers could miss out on an episode or two and not be lost. It was assumed that the watching public wouldn’t commit to three weeks or more of plot. This is palpable nonsense as can be seen with the success of various TV dramas in the US. Programmes such as LOST, Deadwood and The Sopranos demanded loyalty and concentration from their viewers, and received it. Of course this was partly due to the popularity of the box-set and DVR systems, but these programmes were successful as they were screened, and you couldn’t take a toilet break without fear of losing the plot, never mind an episode. It appeared that makers of British TV, not for the first or, no doubt, last time, underestimated their audience.
Surely this attitude should have changed. But if so where are the British True Bloods or Generation Kills? Hopefully the success of the Tutti Frutti (see A slight bruising of the crotch) DVD box set will convince those who decide such things that investing in new TV drama is worthwhile even to those who are more concerned with the balance sheet. It would be fantastic to have series written and directed by Lynne Ramsay, David MacKenzie or, in a perfect world, Bill Forsyth. If TV is healthy enough in the US for Spielberg (Band of Brothers), Scorsese (Boardwalk Empire) and Soderbergh (Unscripted) to be involved surely, at a time when it is increasingly difficult to get feature films made, broadcasters could use the talent that is on their doorstep to make groundbreaking TV drama? When the BBC is under constant scrutiny and attack one way to answer critics is to make programmes that unquestionably justify the licence fee (see Malcolm Tucker, Art Historian). Or they could make another series of Hole in the Wall.
In the meantime here are a couple of clips from two of the programmes mentioned above. The first is a brief clip from Down Among the Big Boys which features Gary Lewis, and, blink and you’ll miss him, a young Glaswegian hobbit:

The following is from Brond. As well as ‘introducing’ John Hannah to the world Brond had a fantastic cast including James Cosmo, Russell Hunter and the statuesque Stratford Johns. Brond is a really interesting drama, and would be well worth repeating (although Channel 4 tend not to do repeats from their early glory days). There are overtones of James Hogg’s novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), and it unusually, and successfully, sets a supernatural thriller in a modern urban landscape. The following is not the most dramatic clip, but it is the only one I can find. If you are lucky enough to have a copy of the series then I hope you share it around:

When in Rome?

The revisited furore over Roman Polanski raises fascinating questions over the relationship between an artist and their audience, and between the moral and the artistic. It can be reduced to one conundrum; namely does the private life of an artist/writer/performer affect the way that we interact with what they create? Does the fact that Polanski is, by his own admission, guilty of ‘unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor’ affect how we view his films? Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and Tess are three groundbreaking movies and show what a great film maker Polanski can be. But does the private life of the director prove problematic when it comes to enjoyment of these movies? I think, on some level, it must.
My worst dilemma arose with Woody Allen. He was (is?) such a hero of mine that I went through a period in my life where I would watch at least two films of his every week, and could recite ever word from Sleeper, Play it Again Sam, Annie Hall, Manhattan and Love and Death. I loved the man and his work unashamedly and without equal. Then came the scandal and sensation over his relationship with Soon Yi Previn. Now this is not an easy situation to understand, particularly if you don’t wish it to be. Allen was never married to Soon Yi’s mother, Mia Farrow, although they were a high profile couple for around 12 years, and they actually lived separately in different apartments in New York. Soon Yi was adopted by Farrow and her then husband Andre Previn. There was never a legal relationship between Allen and Soon Yi, and they are still together 18 years later with children of their own. So arguments can, were, and are, made to the effect that while this is a messy and unusual situation, there is nothing Woody has to answer for. Then you take into account the assessment of Ronan, ne Satchel, Farrow who is Mia and Woody’s son. He says: “He’s my father married to my sister. That makes me his son and his brother-in-law. That is such a moral transgression. I cannot see him. I cannot have a relationship with my father and be morally consistent…. I lived with all these adopted children, so they are my family. To say Soon-Yi was not my sister is an insult to all adopted children.” It is a powerful argument that should provoke second thoughts in even the staunchest Woody Allen supporter. Of course questions of morality, like artistic value, are actually individual even when they appear to be otherwise, and in the end how we come to view Woody’s, or Roman’s, films will change from person to person. All I know is that although I still watch Woody Allen movies, some of the magic has disappeared.

I also wonder if the perceived worth of the art, and therfore the artist, has a bearing on how we view the ‘crimes’ of the artist? Apparent objective moral probity often seems fairly random. Jerry Lee Lewis is still the butt of jokes concerning his relationship with his 13 (or 15 depending on who you believe) year old cousin Myra Gale Brown, while Elvis Aaron Presley, who at the very least was dating the 14 year old Priscilla, escapes most people’s opprobrium. Perhaps the ultimate example of this is to ask ‘How would the world have treated Gary Glitter if he had been in The Beatles rather than fronting The Glitter Band?’ I would hope such things don’t matter, but the example of Roman Polanski, and those who have vocally supported him, suggests they do.

The artist is trying to convince the world that their ideas, ideals and beliefs are the ones that others should share. I’m sure that many would protest that the work itself is the argument, but how convincing can that argument be if the life is not consistent or convincing? The important thing is to make up our own minds, and not have them made for us.

Sons and Daughters, love and laughter…

I went to see the Pixies play at the SECC on Sunday and they were blinding. I had been braced for disappointment from those who had seen them previously, but, for whatever reason, they were on the top of their form. After playing the whole of Doolittle, as advertised, they then came back on for an apparently spontaneous 40 min encore of early material and favourites. It was one of those nights where band and audience went for it together and this turned the cavernous, and normally vacuous, exhibition centre into a Barra’s like venue for the evening, a first for me.

The Pixies were more than ably supported by Sons and Daughters, and I want to ask why it is that Glasvegas are lauded yet Sons and Daughters are rarely seen or heard? Both deal in west coast influenced rock, both California and East Kilbride, but there is a sense of humour and style in the latter that is clearly absent from the former. Maybe it’s a case of familiarity breeding contempt but my heart has begun to sink whenever I hear James Allen’s honking vocals (in both senses of the word), and I would go for Sons and Daughters every time.

It’s purely a matter of preference but ‘mon the Sons: