Monday, 31 January 2011

Pilgrim's progress

I was chatting to my brother the other night and the topic of film adaptations came up. He was lamenting the dire version of A Wizard of Earthsea that he'd seen. It hasn't been done yet, and so I don't think I mentioned it, but I've thought for a long time that The Last American would make a great film. The story covers the first few days of Ulysses S. Pilgrim after he emerges from suspended animation twenty years after World War Three.

It came out on Epic (a Marvel subsiduary) back in 1990 and I'm not sure how I would've heard about it. I imagine it was the artwork that persuaded me into buying them, though possibly the storyline - nuclear war was my most morbid fear throughout childhood and I find myself drawn to the topic (my brother's the same about sharks).

Post nuclear apocalypse scenarios aren't very fashionable at the moment but there was meant to be a trend emerging a while back for bleak sci fi (Moon being the only example I can think of right now).

The artwork, (by long time favourite and regular 2000AD contributor Mike McMahon) is, as befits such a storyline, brutal. Whatever humour can be mustered from the situation comes from the dialogue between Pilgrim and his three robot helpers (Able, Baker and Charlie - a nod to Huey, Dewey and Louis in Silent Running?).

Here are a few random pages that I particularly like. Copies can be picked up for buttons on ebay.

And finally, I'd have this as the soundtrack.

Laurie Anderson O Superman

It always seemed to me that this song was about the start of World War Three. The lyrics "Here come the planes" and then "Smoking or non-smoking" and "Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay theses couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" - highly suggestive to me of the bomber in Dr Strangelove, unstoppable once the process has been set in motion.

And the lyric asking "Who is this?" and the voice replying, "This is the hand, the hand that takes" a reference maybe to the bit in the book of Daniel when the hand appears and writes "Mene, mene, shekel upharsin" - I find it a pleasingly spooky idea that god might reveal himself, even if only to one person, at the climax of humanity's hubris.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

In the garden

When I was a kid I didn't buy albums, I didn't notice that groups tended to release song after song. I lived, as was only right, in the moment and was continually knocked sideways by random singles. The earliest that I remember being really addicted to were The Model, Senses Working Overtime and Golden Brown - all three of which, when I check, I see were released between Dec 81 and Jan 82 - pinpointing the dawning of my pop consciousness.

At about this time a genuine appreciation of their music, and a certain amount of peer pressure, led to me declaring that Madness were officially my favourite group and I bought my first ever album (One Step Beyond) and maintained a preference for this earlier, more ska-ified version of the band.

At the time I considered Madness's streak of pop genius (Tomorrow's (Just Another Day), Michael Caine and Yesterday's Men for example) as something of a loss of form and when the single Sweet Dreams came along what might previously have been just another one hit fixation saw the purchase of my second ever album Sweet Dreams and the Eurythmics assume the mantle of my favourite band (later sharing the honour with Talking Heads) until sometime in 1987, when Indie finally beckoned me across the generation gap.

So, the Eurythmics - as big a fan as I was I'd never heard of their first album In the Garden until I discovered it, oddly enough, while flipping through the collection of the friend who had introduced me to Spacemen 3. I gave it a spin and absolutely loved it: my old beloved Eurythmics but without the histrionic vocals and the worst excesses of eighties drum and synth production and, on the plus side, fuzzy guitars and the odd squeak of feedback. Definitely a great lost album.

Anyway, here's my favourite track off it, one of the more gentle tunes from Annie Lennox's endless supply of bummed out love songs.

Eurythmics Never Gonna Cry Again

Monday, 17 January 2011

Ahmes Meryet Amun

Following up on that exhibition of Ghanaian coffins I went to the British Museum the other day and tracked down the two examples they have there. They're in the Living and Dying Room - one was a big eagle very similar to one of those at the exhibition but it was the other one, in the shape of a giant Nikon camera, that was really worth seeing. It was, for reasons of space I suppose, very high up though, so you couldn't get a brilliant look at it. Anyway, having seen that I thought I might as well have a wander.

Over the years I must have been in the museum literally umpteen times and out of all the monumental bits of Egyptian sculpture there this is easily my favourite - it looks exactly like an illustration by Moebius. There's something so satisfying about it, the shape of the hair (a Hathor wig according to this). I looked her up when I got home and found her in my copy of Faces of Pharaohs. I find it slightly mindblowing that, should I travel to Cairo, I could go to the museum there and gaze upon the actual (highly mummified) face of the woman whose three and a half thousand year old portrait this is.

Sunday, 16 January 2011


I stepped out of my front door yesterday to find a copy of Lightbulbs by Fujiya & Miyagi resting on the doormat (a nice big vinyl copy, on account of the great sleeve artwork there). It's another album I'd been led to by the inclusion of one of its tracks a MOJO cover cd. The track in question was the drowsily lovely Goosebumps.

Fujiya & Miyagi Goosebumps

For the first however many listens I thought this track was actually the last part of the preceding track (Hot Chip's We're Looking For a Lot of Love) such was the excellence of that particular bit of sequencing.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Creation myth

Here and there I've spoken disparagingly of Bobby Gillespie (his often painful media persona, the vast gulf between his opinion of his abilities and the quality of his musical output, his blathering on and on about being strung out on heroin). And so, in the interests of balance, some good things. His haircut, not so much these days but earlier on - a classic. And secondly, by and large I find Primal Scream's music a bit... bloodless, but here are two of their tracks that I must admit I do really like, Imperial from when I was young and When the Kingdom Comes from when I was almost young.

Primal Scream Imperial

Primal Scream
When the Kingdom Comes

Roving about for a little picture to go at the top of the post my eye was caught by the cover for Shoot Speed featuring Mr Gillespie in more innocent times, against a suitably pop art background. By co-incidence it features both the tracks. Only released in Japan for some reason, the tracklisting looks pretty good I think, expensive though.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Noli me tangere

A few months ago I got all excited about Soul Jazz Records. Scrolling through their discography I was struck by the songs on the album Polyphonic Voices of Georgia. The album information mentions that this music had been, "proclaimed by Unesco as one of the Oral and Intangible Masterpieces of Humanity". This intrigued me quite a bit and led me to this.

Anyway, one day over the Christmas break I arranged to go walking in the Peak District with some friends. As the train pulled out of Sheffield station I saw that picture of the weird creature above. Given the condition of the building I don't imagine it's going to be there for too long and I really wanted to take a photo, my own little attempt to preserve something that while not actually intangible seems destined for a fleeting existance. I'll be honest I didn't get round to taking a photo, but luckily the good people at Unurth have.

In further linkage the artist who drew it goes by the name of Phlegm and has his (?) own blog full of a load more fascinating images.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Further reading

I've just finished reading John Wyndham's Trouble With Lichen. I enjoyed it as much as all the others of his books that I've read, just about. Perhaps I'm getting used to his style. I've praised his originality before but I think having read 2000ad strips like Future Shocks and Time Twisters primes you for this sort of thing.

Back in October I took his The Chrysalids along as a holiday book. I'd nearly bought it once before at that book market under Waterloo Bridge, but I was put off by a terrible cover: an ant warrior thing brandishing a spear. Anyway, on holiday, as with all his books I polished it off in a couple of days. I found it his most disorietating book so far, and that's what you want from science fiction isn't it?

Like many successful authors his most popular novels get reissued as a set and all my copies come from different sets. My favourite of those that I actually own is the Midwich Cuckoos cover that I posted a while back, the rest are fairly bland. My Trouble With Lichen has a cover by Brian Cronin whose versions got a bit of a kicking over at Caustic Cover Critic a while back, and perhaps justifiably. I do like his cover for The Chrysalids though, which is the picture up there, out of all the scenes in the book one of the subtlest to choose from. If I was designing a cover for it I'd probably have gone for a nice, horrific depiction of the chief mutant Gordon Strorm.