Third

Simon and I have both agreed to post a review of the new Portishead album. Because there clearly aren’t enough of those on the internet already. Anyway, I think this means I got there first. Waiting for you now, Simon 😉

I will start by saying I love it.

The opener, “Silence”, sounds enough like Portishead to be accessible but there is a menacing portent about it all that signals a clear departure from their earlier albums. I like the abrupt ending although I understand that it doesn’t exist on the final release. Shame. For me, it just emphasises the driving repetitiveness of the rest of the album. It could go on and on and on…

“Silence” is followed by “Hunter” – which would be perfectly at home on the first Goldfrapp album but which is constantly interrupted by a chaotic switch in tempo that reminds me of that old Delgados record…”Blackpool”, I think?

 

My favourite track, “We Carry On”, is all driving, industrial monotony. It sounds like Portishead channelling early Pink Floyd, some Nine Inch Nails and a little Joy Division towards the end for good measure. When Beth Gibbons sings “The pace, the time, I can’t survive / It’s grinding down the view”, the song feels as though it’s doing just that: grinding you down slowly. “Machine Gun” and “Plastic” are also cracking tracks and send just the right kind of shivers down my spine.

But the banjo-filled ditty that follows “We Carry On” just jars. I really dislike its inconsequential mournfulness in the middle of all the pounding drum machine. In fact, I don’t find that any of the album’s quieter moments that satisfying, which sounds almost blasphemous for a Portishead review, I know. But I only really like “The Rip” once the loop gets going. Maybe that will change after a few listens.

That said, I *do* love this album. I like its bleakness and its brutality. My only real gripe with the album is the lyrical content. Some might say it’s not important but, at times, it makes me squirm with its adolescent woe-is-me lament, most apparent on “Nylon Smile” (I read a review that describes it as “Dido doing emo” – a little cruel).

But I can forgive them this because it’s the first album I’ve listened to in a while that has such an effect on my mood – to the extent that I can’t listen to it more than once at a time – and that’s quite something.

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Things I currently like

1. The advert for reading books which, in itself, is a bit weird and is like advertising eating or going to bed early, but which quotes from the brilliant novel “The Great Gatsby” which I will read again just as soon as I’ve finished “Microserfs” (wow, lots of “which”-es).

2. Dexter (I’m avoiding linking to the official site because I’m behind and it’ll probably have spoilers), which has always been pretty good but which has just got GREAT. I still find certain aspects of the series disturbing – I can’t get past feeling uncomfortable with Dexter’s adoptive father training him to channel his desire to kill – but, stylistically, it’s really impressive and the plot has definitely just picked up. I sort of saw the latest “big reveal” coming but it was satisfying all the same.

3. The journal that Omar got from etsy for me for my birthday and the sentiment contained therein.

4. The following songs:
“How My Heart Behaves” by Feist (see below)
“Red” by Elbow (which was equally brilliant live)
“Power Lunch” by Har Mar Superstar & Beth Ditto (which is ridiculous and yet strangely great)
“American Boy” by Estelle & Kanye West (no, really – I can’t explain it)
“Black & Gold” by Sam Sparro (even though the video is BORING and, as Chris and Omar point out, the song never really goes anywhere).

This is how my heart behaves

I definitely haven’t listened to this song on repeat all day. Nope.

Also, it made me realise I haven’t seen any good physical theatre since this. And that I miss living in Cardiff, where I could watch that kind of thing any night of the week. But just when I’ve started actually enjoying living in Worcester (it has only taken three years), I don’t really need that. And, besides, I am on a strict “No Social Life” diet until my degree is over and that includes cultural events (except maybe going to see There Will Be Blood tonight…Omar, can I think about it and see how much work I get done this afternoon? Oh, I’ve just got your text…).

But still, I have friends here now and I live in a nice area, where I can walk to work and it is not too far to town, which was always a pain when I lived in Tibberton. And I’ve built a life here. But I miss the things a city can give me…

(N.B. I know Worcester is a city but it’s not a real one, is it? Not really.)

Venting

I’ve been forgetting to read xkcd recently. I’m not sure if I’ve been feeling it quite so much. But this one seems appropriate.

Anyway, then I spent about an hour going through the xkcd archives instead of doing any real uni work but still couldn’t find the one I was thinking of (you know, the one where they drive out to the woods, and listen to the rain on the car roof? The alt text is something about playing fingertip games under a blanket…).

Sometimes I wonder why I actually write this stuff down…

EDIT: It’s ok! I found it! http://www.xkcd.com/283/
You must be so relieved.

Rules of engagement

Since Chris and I got engaged last year, I’ve been struck by how genuinely pleased people are for us. People we know, people we barely know, people we’ve never met before. We were in Heroes last night and I was chatting to a guy whose near-unconscious friend had latched onto us for some reason. Anyway, I pointed to Chris across the room (where he and Omar were being comprehensively thrashed by some randoms who had challenged them to a game of table football) and said he was my fiancé and the guy I was speaking to could barely contain his excitement. And he wasn’t drunk.

I’ve experienced this with almost everyone I’ve told. People go out of their way to say how genuinely happy they are (they always say genuinely – you know, to make it more sincere) and how they think it’s a lovely thing. It certainly is a lovely thing to have met the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life and I suppose people relate to that, because it’s what we’re supposed to aspire to and because we’re constantly hearing about the break down of relationships and the family unit. So when a couple decides to get married, others – however remote or closely related – appear to latch onto the optimism that that decision represents. When people respond to Chris and me in that way, it makes me realise that we kind of take that decision for granted and that we forget its implications.

I wrote the following quotation in my diary on 11th March 2000 (when I still kept a diary – funny how things come around). I was 17 and determined never to marry and, at the time, believed that Moby (yes, the great philosopher Moby) had an excellent point.

“I tend to be faithful, but unhappy. I aspire to a steady monogamous relationship, absurd and arbitrary though it is. But one of the problems I have in committing to one person is I know so many remarkable people. When you think about it, though, you don’t only eat in one restaurant for the rest of your life, and you don’t only listen to one record.”

Well, it’s rubbish frankly. It’s true that I also know lots of remarkable people, many of whom I love very, very much. But the commitment to a single person for the rest of your life is an entirely different thing to that which Moby is talking about. If anything, the polygamous relationships that he prefers and which I am now turning my back on are absurd and arbitrary actually. The commitment that you make when you marry transcends that, I think. And I think that’s why people recognise it as a wonderful thing, even in people they barely know.

On a different note entirely, I am only a year and a half behind the times but I am now obsessed with Sowing Season (Yeah) by Brand New. Note that the video I’ve linked to was taken in front of me at the Reading Festival last year. And that I was asleep against a tent pole whilst all that was going on and missed the entire set. Damn alcohol, cigarettes and sleep-deprivation L

From my notebook

“As I write, we have no electricity – at work or at home. It’s like someone up there saw me melt down yesterday and gave me the perfect motivation to leave the office, come home and do my university reading. No TV, no internet, no distractions.

Although my house – deathly quiet apart from the ticking of the kitchen clock and distant burglar alarms triggered by the power outage – is a little eerie…”

At that moment, the hospital rang to say that my friend had come round from her anaesthetic and was ready to be picked up so I never did get that reading done. Of course, if I’d just got on with it instead of writing about it in my notebook…