Dedicated to classics and hits.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Show Review: Blur @ The Hollywood Bowl

Blur as they were.


Show Review:
 Blur @ The Hollywood Bowl

  Last night, Blur played the Hollywood Bowl as part of their two city tour of the United States, theoretically in support of their recently released LP.  In reality,it was more of a two decades in the making victory lap, building on their 2013 show at the Coachella festival.  In between songs, Damon Albarn told a story- first, he said he'd been coming to Los Angeles for 26 years now (Damon Albarn is 47).  He described how, inevitably they'd drive past the Hollywood Bowl between their hotel and press ("Radio, yes it was always radio.") and they would pass by and he would say, "Oh, that'll never happen for us, I guess."
Blur now.

 It is, perhaps, a little cheeky to say such a thing after the Coachella performance in 2013.  In fact, Coachella appearances are often used to set up such a show at the Hollywood Bowl, and the timing here would seem to bear that out.  Damon Albarn has got around to other things with varying degrees of artistic and commercial success and all the other members have maintained various levels of public visibility.  I've personally experienced The Good, The Bad & The Queen in concert, like everyone I've heard the Gorrilaz singles ad nauseum  on alt rock radio and I've not heard his solo record.

  I couldn't help but reflect on the recent three part BBC 4 series on "Indie Music" that I've been watching courtesy a vpn program installed on my girlfriend's macintosh and watched on her apple tv.  And because we're watching it "live time," by last night I'd watched the first two chapters but not the third.  And I was sitting there, and watching Blur and thinking, "Blur is the third chapter to the BBC indie documentary."  I mean, not by themselves, but they are alongside Oasis, Pulp, etc.

  The first chapter of the BBC Indie Music documentary focused on the initial rise of local clusters of bands, labels and venues, from Manchester working down all the way to Coventry.  Here, indie music was essentially individual local scenes with labels inspired by the example of the Buzzcocks AND releases on major labels like The Sex Pistols, and they were largely "punk."

 The second chapter of the BBC Indie Music documentary focused on the development of a national and international infrastructure for the distribution of indie bands through both indie labels and major labels.   Critical here were the fanzines, the Rough Trade network of record stores and visionary United State record executives like Seymor Stein of Sire Records.

  The second chapter also discussed the parallel development of dance music within the indie framework. A major revelation from the second chapter of the BBC 4 Indie Music documentary is the incredible commercial success of dance-art acts like the KLF and the status of artists like Rick Astley as "indie" artists.

  More than any other band of the final indie renaissance of the early to mid 1990s, Blur stood astride all of these developments.  They broke through with a dance number, found English success with a number of albums that wittily dissected the foibles of modern life and failed to find the kind of commercial success in the United States that would have solidified their success as an institutional modern rock act along the lines of U2, Jack White and the Foo Fighters.

  So this performance, coupled with the recent Coachella appearances, doesn't "writer a new chapter" but it add a kind of coda.  If one considers recent scientific flirtations with the idea that there are millions of different dimensions, each with its own reality, surely there are more than a few where Blur plays Dodger Stadium, but living in a reality where they play the Hollywood Bowl, even if they don't sell out the Hollywood Bowl, isn't a bad place to be.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Under the Net (1954) by Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch




































Book Review
Under the Net (1954)
by Iris Murdoch

  Under the Net was the first novel of Iris Murdoch.  Under the Net is a real audience pleaser, mixing elements of a philosophical novel with those of picaresque and utilizing an appealing milieu of post-war London and Paris. It remains her most popular novel (she published over 20 during her lifetime) and is a mainstay of "Top 100 novel" lists of all types.  Her protagonist is Jake Donaghue, a translator of French best-sellers and sometimes writer who is determined to work as little as possible.  He bears a strong resemblance to Murphy in Samuel Beckett's novel, Murphy.  Upon his return from Paris, Donaghue is ejected from his rent-free apartment by Madge, who is set to marry or at least co-habitat with wealthy bookmaker Sammy Starfield.

  This eviction sets in motion the mechanics of the plot, which expands to include a pair of sister singer-actresses, a friendly philosopher, the owner of of a fireworks factory, a socialist rabble rouser and various mis-adventures in and around London and Paris, culminating with Donaghue taking a job as an orderly in a hospital- the exact same position accepted by Beckett's Murphy in that book.  Murdoch was frank about acknowledging the creative debt, but her book is light and airy, where Beckett's Murphy was as dark as novels come.

  Although none of the characters serve as a direct stand in for Murdoch herself, the entire novel is a great example of why people found her so interesting- she combined intellectualism with a sexy, fun lifestyle in a way that anticipated the sexual revolution of the 1960s.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Molloy (1951) by Samuel Beckett

Book Review
Molloy (1951)
 by Samuel Beckett

  Samuel Beckett is another Nobel Prize winner (1969).  He's best known for his play, Waiting for Godot, the original "play about nothing," which has inspired a half century of post-modernists across the world.  His novels are less well known, but his canonical status as both an o.g. post-modernist AND a direct link between modernism and post-modernism(via his relationship with James Joyce) ensures that his novels are well represented within the 1001 Books project.

  Molloy is the first book in a trilogy of novels published, in French, in the 1950s.  Beckett was famously quoted saying he wrote in French because it allowed him to write "without style."  He also translated the books himself, and it's hard to tell that one is reading a translated work when you read Molloy.   Molloy is "about" the eponymous character of the title, a vagrant writer living somewhere in Ireland.  Molloy resembles both a character from his 1938 novel, Murphy and any number of characters from a James Joyce novel.  The idea of an intellectual drifting at the fringe of (or outside of) respectable society has been so well established by the 60s counter culture that you have to pinch yourself and say, "Hey, Beckett was writing this novel in 1950!"

 When it comes to the works of the 20th century avant garde, I'm at a distinct disadvantage because I read these books in intellectual isolation.  It's hard to say what is even the point of engaging avant garde art without a community surrounding you to discuss and validate the time spent taking in works of art with complex and non-obvious meanings.  For example, Molloy is studded with references to Dante's Inferno... I had no idea, because I haven't read Dante, I don't know anyone who has read Dante, and I don't know anyone who has read Beckett.   So much of avant garde art revolves around having a community to validate your choices, otherwise it's like...why not read best sellers?

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