SOUNDTRACK: BELLE & SEBASTIAN-Write About Love (2010).
I’ve enjoyed Belle and Sebastian’s music since their debut album all those years ago. For some reason I didn’t get into this album as much as previous releases. In part it’s because the band has morphed quite a lot from what they used to do. It’s true that I have really enjoyed their more rocking songs on their more recent albums, and this one is full of them. It’s also true that a band needs to evolve, but somehow this album just never really gripped me. I think it’s because the album takes so long to start. The fade in is like 20 seconds! But I’ve listened again with renewed interest recently and I’m changing my mind a bit about it. There are plenty of great songs on this disc.
“I Didn’t See It Coming” is a classic B&S song (after that awful delay). It’s a wonderful duet with Sarah Martin (this is how to do a duet, guys–the ending is fantastic!). “Come on Sister” is one of the great faster B&S songs. The “gotta have a little FAITH” line is great and then the unexpected shift into the third part of the sing is just stunning. I also love “Calculating Bimbo” first because who would every have thought there’d be a song with that title but also because Murdoch sings it so wonderfully. I generally don’t like slow music, but there’s something about slow B&S song that I find myself leaning in instead of tuning out.
“I Want the World to Stop” is another wonderful “rocker.” It’s a fast paced little ditty with great backing vocals (and it always makes me go “two, three, four” before the chorus kicks in–always the sign of a great song).
“Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John” slows things down really far. Possibly too far for me. It’s a duet and it reminds me just a little too much of a Beautiful South duet (not a particular song, just their style). And I have to say that The Beautiful South would have done it better. After looking at the liner notes I realized that Norah Jones is the duettist here. I like that Jones has been providing her services across a wide spectrum of music (Foo Fighters, OutKast etc) but I really just don’t have anything good to say about her. The melody is nice though. I also didn’t realize that the sing came out on Norah’s disc before the B&S disc.
The album quickly redeems itself with “Write About Love,” a great keyboard fueled rocker (with backing vocals from Carey Mulligan who I don’t know, but who nails the song “I haaate my job”). “I’m Not Living in the Real World” has lots more keyboards and oooh vocals (it reminds me of a Who songs from Sell Out) and it’s sung by Stevie.
From the there, the disc kind of slows down. “The Ghost of Rockschool” is the least memorable song on the disc for me (although the horn section is nice). “Read the Blessed Pages” is so quiet (even for B&S) that it kind of gets lost on the disc. (The instrumental break is pretty though). “I Can See Your Future” opens with a catchy horn blast that kind of wakes you from the slumber of the previous song. “Sunday’s Pretty Icons” opens with a cool guitar riff, but it’s not all that memorable either. While these last few songs are fine, they’re not as strong as the beginning of the album. They kind of meld together.
So I guess what I’m saying is that the first half of the disc is great and the second half is okay. The good songs are worth it though. I’ll stop being so hard on the disc.
[READ: January 5, 2012] Machine Man
Don’t worry if you’re suffering from Barry blog overload, this post is about Barry’s new novel, which I just finished.
I have enjoyed Barry’s previous novels quite a lot. They typically deal with corporate skewering and this book is no exception. Except that the corporate skewering takes a back seat to the major sci-fi elements of the story. Before I mention the story itself, I wanted to mention the origin of the story. In the Acknowledgements at the end of the book, Barry explains that his fans had been nudging him to write something. And while he had been doing projects, he hadn’t written a book in a while. So he decided to write the book online. He wrote a few hundred words a day and posted them online. And then he sat back and waited for the comments to come in.
He talks about how he’s basically showing everyone his rough draft of a story and letting people tear it apart. But he found that his fans were supportive and even offered ideas (which he then callously stole, muhahaha). And so the story online is actually rather different from what appeared as the final draft. (No, I’m not going to read the online version, but you can. It’s available here).
Anyhow, as the story opens, Dr Charlie Neumann (I just got the bad pun of that name, shame on him and shame on me for not seeing it sooner) loses his phone. He feels totally cut off without his phone. The scene seems a little over the top (he checks his car while wearing only a towel) but it shows how technologically dependent he (and we) feel most of the time. This kind of mild slapstick scene resolves itself in a shockingly brutal way. When Dr Neumann gets to his office (he’s an engineer at Better Future) he finally sees where he left his phone. Unfortunately, he has already started an industrial vice and he’s distracted by his phone long enough to have his leg crushed by said vice.
When he wakes up in the hospital, he is surrounded by people trying to help him–nurses, doctors, therapists, but he’s really just distraught about the loss of his leg. And then he sees Lola Banks, who is bringing him a pile of artificial legs. Lola is quite possibly the first woman who Charlie has ever spoken to who seems in any way empathetic to him (Charlie is, admittedly a pretty cold and cerebral individual). She shows him some prosthetics which he’s not too thrilled by. But when Lola reveals that Better Future is paying for top of the line stuff for him, she shows him the highest end of the high end legs. And Charlie falls in love (with Lola and the legs).
Lola Banks proves to be an interesting person. Not ony does she not recoil from Charlie and his handicap (it is her job), but she seems to almost admire Charlie for seeing the beauty in the prostheses. Lola proves to be the kind of woman who falls for certain kinds of men, but with Charlie it’s different. Really, it is. Shut up, it is.
Although Charlie does see the beauty in the prostheses, he can’t help but see how they can be improved (he is an engineer after all). And so, he sets out to make the artificial legs not just replacements but better than their human counterpart. Better Future is on board with helping Charlie recover (which is quite nice, and somewhat unexpected coming from corporation hater Barry), but we see that Better Future knows what it has with Charlie–a single-minded, focused engineer. A man who only wants things to be more efficient. So when Charlie starts outfitting the prosthetics with motors (and considers putting in wifi) the company is kind of impressed. And so is Charlie. The leg is heavy and a little unwieldy, and it’s not very pretty (it has hooves), but it sure works.
The problem, as Charlie sees it, is that his intact leg is holding back his new invention. How can he fully test the artificial legs if his human leg is less than the prosthetic? (more…)
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