Thursday, January 08, 2009
My first post of 2009 was going to be something more substantial than the below, and is still forthcoming. But, striking while the iron is hot and all that...
To Hamlet at the Novello Theatre in London, in which noted popular actor David Tennant miraculously recovers from back surgery and makes a triumphant reappearance as the tortured prince of Denmark. Now, I don't claim a great knowledge of the theatre. I've seen comfortably under 50 plays in my lifetime. But this was the second Hamlet after seeing Kenneth "Ken" Brannagh play the Dane in about 1990, and Tennant's was much the superior effort. Of course, I should qualify that by saying I'm vastly less stupid and oiksome than I was almost 20 years ago (!) and, for all I know, I may have been witness to what it generally considered to be the finest Hamlet of modern times. Oh well (I have to physically restrain myself from typing 'no matter'). This Hamlet, with Patrick Stewart as Claudius (and a particularly Stentorian Ghost), was thrilling, with Tennant prowling and sporting the stage like a thing demented (whither his slipped disc?). Never mind that Ophelia was somewhat duff. Polonius was pomposity personified, the scenes with Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and the gravedigger were hilarious and the whole thing was finally very moving, despite Gertrude dying to laughter as she went from full health to stillness in a beat.
Saturday, January 03, 2009
March is here! I love this time of year, when you can just sense Thomas’ “force that through the green fuse drives the flower” starting to build.
We visited the Victorian dinosaurs at Crystal Palace the other day. The park had been overseen by Richard Owen, arch anti-Darwinist and the man who first described the reptilian fossils that were pouring out the new world as “terrible lizards”, or dinosaurs.
But in the middle years of the 19th century (the park was designed as a companion to the Great Exhibition), not a great deal was known about how to reconstruct from the fossils how the living creatures may have appeared. The solutions were creative. Only have the head of a great sea reptile? Then hide the body by having its head poke terrifyingly from the water. Don’t know what the head of the dinosaur looked like? Face the model away from the audience. Most notoriously, they placed iguanodon’s thumb spike on its snout. Also apparent is the common presumption that the dinosaurs were akin to slow-moving and cold-blooded reptiles like the crocodiles, dragging their bellies and tails on the floors, rather than the highly active, often bipedal, poikilotherms they were, typically holding their tales aloft for balance. It’s not just dinosaurs. There’s a marvellous giant sloth (Megatherium), some colossal Irish Elk and some very odd-looking pterodactyls.
I’m rambling. What I wanted to say was this: it was a beautiful cold blue day. Exactly like a day in Autumn in fact. But instead of the melancholy of encroaching winter, there’s the excitement of approaching Spring, when the trees will “begin afresh, afresh, afresh”.
Goodness, I'm still rambling. What I really wanted to talk about was School of Seven Bells’ Alpinism. Here’s another band doing exciting research with drone dynamics, rather than just slavishly shoe-gazing. What does Alpinism sound like? Like the better bits of Golden Palominos’ album Pure. Like My Bloody Valentine with, like, audible lyrics and fantastic singers and harmonies. Like Imogen Heap, if her attempts to rock out weren’t somewhat embarrassing.
First song “Iamundernodisguise” sounds precisely as I always wish Ladytron would but never do. “Face to Face on High Places” has a chorus riding upon a truly swooshsome wave of noise, as does “Half Asleep”, even if the latter's chord sequence is hardly original. “Wired for Light” judders forth on a squealing middle-eastern figure (a la “Galvanize”), mixing winsome melodies with wide galactic spaces before ending in a blissful vocal round. It's delectably dreamy.
After that, the album loses some spark, and starts trading noise for nice, rarely a smart move: they start sounding like a second-rate Garbage. But, even if only for the first handful of songs, they make a joyful noise unto to the creater.