All entries for Tuesday 14 December 2004

December 14, 2004

Dan’s Review of the Year

Well, that was 2004. Okay, there are a couple more weeks to go but face it; the world’s just going to be pissed/hibernating/in Mexico for the rest of the year. So I hereby present my Review of the Year, in which I look back at all the great things that have gone down. Except me – I’m guessing you don’t want to hear about my sex life.

Music
For the Top 40 singles of the year, look no further than here. Here are the five greatest albums of the year:

  1. The Libertines – The Libertines
  2. The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come For Free
  3. Dogs Die In Hot Cars – Please Describe Yourself
  4. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
  5. Razorlight – Up All Night

I suggest you buy them all. That said, there was a hell of a lot of other great stuff produced this year from the Killers, the Zutons, the Ordinary Boys, Morrissey, Graham Coxon, Goldie Lookin’ Chain, N*E*R*D and Jimmy Eat World. And some new acts emerged to watch out for next year like Babyshambles, Bloc Party, the Futureheads and the Kaiser Chiefs.

Craziest of all, there was some really good non-indie – i.e. pop – music out this year. Scissor Sisters, Maroon 5, Kelis and the Black Eyed Peas are so annoyingly catchy, despite my attempts to dismiss them.

Film
There were plenty of half-decent films out but few truly great ones. A glut of comedies, from the Stiller-Ferrell complex, which is currently dominating Hollywood, dominated the releases. This is my top five:

  1. The Incredibles
  2. The Motorcycle Diaries
  3. Starsky & Hutch
  4. School Of Rock
  5. Lost In Translation

TV
Obviously, by TV I mean comedy shows – to be fair, British comedy shows. My top five:

  1. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace
  2. Peep Show
  3. Black Books
  4. Little Britain
  5. The Green Wing

Books
Are you kidding? I’ve not read anything from this year – fictional, at least. Might read Da Da Vinci Code before the end of December though. I’ll let you know what that’s like.

Obituaries
Okay, it’s not all great: here are some of the people I respected who all kicked the bucket this year…

  • John Peel
  • Marlon Brando
  • Ray Charles
  • Peter Ustinov
  • Brian Clough
  • Johnny Ramone
  • Ol’ Dirty Bastard
  • Alistair Cooke
  • The university’s very own Lord Scarman

I guess this’ll be the last blog I’ll write before jetting off to Mexico for Christmas. Perhaps I’ll be able to write while I’m out there, but I ain’t promising owt. So dear reader (shit, that's another dead one: Derrida!), have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


My Spiritual Pyramid Scheme Theory

Okay, it’s about time I had a rant about organised religion proper. This one concerns Christians – at least Christians who try to convert people. Evangelicals, I suppose.

I think the classic example in terms of denominations is the Jehovah’s Witnesses (“but in the Latin alphabet, Jehovah beginsh with an ‘I’!”), who we get a lot of up here in Newcastle, and I’m guessing elsewhere. The last time they came around all they did was ask casually about my religious beliefs then gave me a pamphlet, which went on about the Kingdom of God (which, for those of you who don’t know, contains many rainbows, and giraffes) without saying anything about who these religious nutjobs were until you got to the last page, where it said: “If you want to learn more about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, come along to…”

“Why do they bother?” you – at any rate I – ask. Well, to get to Heaven, not only do you have to subscribe to the one true religion, which according to Jehovah’s Witlesses/generic American born-again Christians is – surprise – their own one, you’ve got to convert a bunch of non-believers to your faith. This is because there’s only something like 144,000 places in Heaven and to get into that lucky few come the Apocalypse, the more conversions under your belt the better your chances. To convert heathens to one’s puritanical ways is a tough job, especially if you’re a Witness, not being allowed to have blood transfusions, celebrate Christmas, etc. – hey, if I were God I’d let them in on the basis of merely making those sacrifices – who’d give ‘em Hell after such a shitty life as that*?

What’s worse is the fact you’ve got to convince your converts that to get to Heaven they’ve got to convert as many heathens as you, and convince those heathens to do the same. Why, that’s gonna create a fuckload of people who’ve just given up their enjoyable lifestyle for one of chastity, etc., so that they can enjoy all the stuff they’ve missed on Earth in the eternal afterlife (they do fornicate in Heaven, right? If not, then what’s the point? I’d sure get sick of giraffes and rainbows), which far outweighs the 144,000 places that are up for grabs. Sorry, but a lot of pious, God-fearing people are gonna be disappointed at the end of the day (i.e. world).

You know what this reminds me of? In the eighties, I believe it was, there was a fad for these so-called Pyramid Schemes. Say a bloke comes up to you and says he’s got a sure-fire way of making a shedload of cash. All you had to do was hand over your lifesavings (or a fraction of) and then you had to get a bunch of your mates to do the same. You’d get a commission of what you’d collected and then make a veritable packet once you recruited enough people. Too good to be true, no? Correct: only the people who started up the Scheme would get rich; down at the bottom of the ‘Pyramid’, new members of the Scheme would run out of gullible people to ‘sell’ to, they’d lose their life savings and get rather screwed over. Do you see the parallels with Evangelism now? Do ya?

I call it my Spiritual Pyramid Scheme Theory. Or possibly Theorem. And it’s just one of many Evils of Organised Religion. And isn’t it funny how both are associated with the United States?

*If only they didn’t go around annoying people.


The Ordinary Boys – Over the Counter Culture

“Originality is so passé”, sings Sam "Preston" Preston on The List Goes On – Track 2 on the Sussex-based band’s debut LP – giving him licence to liberally rip off such musical luminaries as The Jam and Morrissey throughout the rest of the album. Once we have the boy’s acknowledgment of his debt to the greats, the listener can enjoy his tunes at face value. And they’re cracking – the title track is storming, urgent guitars building up to a blistering mute trumpet solo. The rest of the songs can’t top it, brilliant as they are (mostly).

Then you listen to the lyrics and that’s where the problem with the Ordinary Boys begins. For one thing, Preston’s trying too hard to produce witty, oh so British lyrics, in the vein of Mozzer, Davies and Dammers that it just doesn’t really work. Each song takes issue with an aspect of contemporary British life, creating a strong theme to the work, which is quite commendable but just leads to the Boys’ output being really samey. They don’t seem to have much of a message except that “Modern Life Is Rubbish”, and we all knew that after Blur told us a decade ago. Week In, Week Out attacks consumerism; Seaside and Weekend Revolution scoff at the drudgery of the British workplace. A solution seems simple: why don’t we just become carefree individualists? Because if you’d paid attention at the start of the album, 007, it seems we can’t: “Now it’s in to be out”, he sings in what I perceive to be a rather derogatory tone. So what’s it to be, Preston? Are you just taking pot shots at any lifestyle choice going so you can build up your Angry Young Man image in the eyes of the NME? Or are you just being ironic? If so, the Mozfather does it better.

Listen to OTCC for the tunes but skip Track 5, a cover of The Specials’ Little Bitch which has no place on the album – by all means play it at Glastonbury with special guest fat man, Phill Jupitus, but it’s too rubbish for anything more.


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