Costello Country

This face has started popping up about the place again. It can only mean one thing; Elvis Costello has a new album out. True enough National Ransom came out this week and, as a long-standing fan, that makes me happy. I haven’t even bought the album yet but have listened to the first eight or so tracks on Spotify.

I pretty much love everything that this man does so I was never going to be the harshest critic. Having said that, I don’t think I’m typical of Costello fans in that I actually prefer it when he goes off on his legendary tangents into various musical genres such as classical, punk, opera, jazz and soul. Currently he’s in country… country. This album, as was the previous one, is firmly rooted in the country tradition. I’m not at all into country music but that doesn’t matter because everything EC does is always intelligent, thoughtful and sort of… a bit spiky. Because he brings this tinge of rawness to everything, he can work in any genre without it seeming cheap or cheesy. Like when he did that easy listening album with Burt Bacharach (Painted From Memory); those songs could have veered dangerously close to being elevator music if it weren’t for Elvis‘s acidic addendum.

Its too soon to form an opinion on this latest album (I haven’t even listened to it right through yet!) but so far I would have to say; yay its an EC record so its automatically superior to much of the other stuff out there; bah its not sounding like one of my favourites yet; yay there’s a couple of possible growers amongst the tracks I’ve heard so far; yay its an Elvis Costello album!! National Ransom touches on some issues of crisis and chaos that are very relevant in the world at the moment so in that sense it is very timely. But I just think its always the right time for an EC record.

WHO ARE YOUR CURRENT MUSICAL FAVOURITES? CLICK ON COMMENTS IN MINISCULE BLUE LETTERS BELOW AND LET ME KNOW YOUR VIEWS

DANGER: These photographs could damage your health!

My current favourite place on the net is http://goneeightyfive.blogspot.com/ It’s created by my new internet mate ‘Gone’, who takes amazing photos of derelict and abandoned urban scenes. I’ve no idea why but I’ve always been fascinated by those kind of places. There’s a whole gang of people into this kind of stuff apparently so maybe I’m not such a weirdo after all. It’s called Urbex (short for urban exploration) and I’m just learning about it from goneeightyfive and a cluster of other similar sites.

There’s a former dance/bingo hall in Runcorn called La Scala which has been left to go to ruins and it was Gone’s pictures of its sad interior that first drew me to his website. He’s also taken photos of old factories, bath houses, power stations, offices, cinemas and loads of others. I can’t figure out why I’m so hooked on these kind of scenes. They’re really atmospheric so maybe that’s part of the attraction but also it’s that feeling of connection with the past that pulls me in.

There are also photos taken from the tops of towers, industrial chimneys and cranes which are incredible and must presumably have involved quite an element of danger in order to get them. Shock! Horror! How could anyone do such things in today’s risk-averse climate?! There could be terrible consequences; someone might get a grazed knee or anything!!!! Maybe that’s part of the appeal too; there’s a refreshing absence of much consideration for the latest health and safety guidelines. But actually, my favourite photographs aren’t the danger shots but those of simple things like an abandoned wheelchair, a pile of broken bricks or a disowned coffee mug.

Take a look at the site and you’ll either think we’re all strange, morbid oddballs or you’ll be amazed by some truly atmospheric photography.

Thanks to Gone for allowing me to re-post his photos

It’s that time again……..

Look into those eyes… what other time could you possibly run into a charmer like him except for Halloween? On October 31 we’ll all be opening our front doors to kids dressed as skeletons or with blood dribbling from their plastic fangs. Then, when we’ve dished out ten quid’s worth of E-number saturated sweeties and the knocking on the door has stopped, maybe we’ll want to watch something suitably terrifying to complete the occasion.

I’ve yet to find a better film to watch on Halloween night than the appropriately titled Halloween; John Carpenter’s ground-breaking 1978 horror gem. I know it may be a bit wobbly by today’s standards and much of the shock value has been weakened by familiarity but it still beats most so called slasher movies by a mile. For me it wins because of its sheer simplicity and… purity if you can use that word when describing a film about a man who kills his own sister and then half the street wearing a boiler suit and a rubber Captain Kirk mask (it always makes me laugh to think that the scariest thing Carpenter could find for his killer to wear was not a drooling zombie head or a vampire face dripping in blood  but a latex reconstruction of William Shatner’s pale and chubby chops).

Halloween, the original or course and not the increasingly ridiculous and often hilarious sequels, set a standard in terms of sheer, nail-biting suspense that has rarely been equalled. That scene where the apparently slain Michael Myers sits up silently in the background unbeknown to an oblivious Jamie Lee Curtis who is doing that thing that only people in horror films do and hanging around after the seeming demise of the attacker so that said attacker can duly wake up and have another stab at it (literally). It might seem a bit of a cliche now but you have to remember that this stuff was a lot newer in 1978.

Halloween doesn’t bother with much in the way of character, plot or back-story. It’s just some bloke walking round a neighbourhood chopping up cute chicks. But its shown with such style and timing that, the first time you see it, you wish you’d put on incontinence pants, those ones with the reinforced gusset. Even the music (now legendary), composed by John Carpenter himself (that’s the second legend called John I’ve written about in as many weeks; it is a great name!) is perfect.

So if you’re looking for the perfect way to round off the 31st dig out that dvd of the original Halloween and just pretend you don’t know exactly when Michael Myers is going to appear in the background holding a bread knife. I would love to be proved wrong of course so if you have any suggestions of the definitive Halloween night film to watch please click on the Leave a Comment thing below and I’ll give it a try.

This photo shows John Lennon aged seven. Today he would have been seventy.

The young lad on the photo above is John Lennon. Lennon would have been celebrating his seventieth birthday this weekend if he had lived. It’s thirty years since he was murdered and his influence on music and beyond is still strongly felt. It could even be argued that his influence is actually stronger because he’s no longer with us. Writers, actors, songwriters, even Royals who die young seem to become frozen in our minds, their status as legends secured. Ironically, their mortality brings immortality.

John Lennon (just like Elvis Presley, James Dean, Jimmy Hendrix, Princess Diana) escaped the slow deterioration of his talent that his contemporaries have had to endure. He has never had to resort to guest appearances on The X-Factor, collaborations with Westlife, or (Oh God) panto! Does this mean that we over-estimate his ‘genius’?

To answer that question go back and listen to the best of his music, even listen to the worst of his music. Even if he had not been killed in 1980 and even if he had written nothing but terrible, cheesy pot-boilers for the next three decades and appeared on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here eating big, sweaty maggots… Even if all of that had happened the brilliance of the stuff he did pre-1980 would still stand.

10/10/10

My Toshiba on which this blog is written

On 10 Oct this blog will be one year old. I’m really pleased to have got more than three and a half thousand hits in that time. It might not sound like much but I really thought I’d only get about six hits a week, if that. To celebrate I’m going to have a change of theme. If anyone can suggest a good one please do. I like to include pictures and drawings and things so it has to be able to accommodate those. So watch out for changes on the morning of 10.10.10….. probably from about ten past ten.