August 22, 2012

Long have I grumbled…

…about the quality of the music in Korean bars and clubs. You can read a previous post about it here. I’ve also written my views on music before, here and here. I especially loathe, and really mean loathe, despise, abhor with all my heart and soul, the types of songs mentioned here. I went to a club the other day and still had to put up with all that shit, along with “let’s hear it for Nooooooooo Yawwwwwwwwwwwwwwk” etc and all that utter fucking garbage, with people swaying along and singing like it’s the best thing they ever heard. Music for people who don’t like music, is all it is. Fucking garbage. Utter. Fucking. Garbage. All of it.

Oh, and fuck Gangnam Style while we’re at it. I’m happy for
Korea, because it is perhaps one of their very first true global songs, so that’s great for them. But honestly. Fuck that shit. It’s a comedy record for fuck’s sake.

During one of my many drunken rants around a bar table here, my good friend Ben said to me, ‘Paul, let’s do a Northern Soul night in
Korea!’. Well, frankly, that’s the best idea in the entire history of ever. Fact. He’s done a bit of DJing before, and I have too, so the idea bubbled for a few days, and we still thought it was a good one, so went decided to go find a bar in Seoul that would have us. And we did. It’s called The Lounge in Hongdae.

Sometimes you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is. Whilst I can’t take credit for coming up with the idea, it was Ben’s, I certainly feel that it’s time to stop grumbling, and in the words of, well, everyone.

Do something about it.

Long story short. Short tempered Brit is inspired by friend to put money in cakehole.

We will be DJing soulful, funky, jazzy, dancey, swinging, cool,  and hopefully fucking GOOD music at:


9pm till 1am.

Then weekly Saturdays.

Gangnam Style will not be getting played.

August 01, 2012

Why I Despise Boy-Bands and Girl-Bands, and ‘Teen-Pop’ in General

What’s wrong with ‘teen pop’? I could say that they don’t write their own songs. But hey, some do, don’t they? Most of them don’t though, so there’s that to begin with. Most don’t even choose their songs, they are decided by record executives. And on what basis are songs selected? Positive message? Rebellious spirit? Something to say? A message? Nope. Sales. And the market for this type of music is? Impressionable youngsters. I see boy- and girl-bands as factory produced shit designed to fleece money from school children. To me, it’s as bad as putting junk food machines in schools. It is cultural and financial robbery. 

It could be argued that they don’t play their own instruments, beyond that, I doubt whether these singers and terrible (I’ll come to this shortly) dancers have any input into either song selection, or musical arrangement. Puppets on a corporate string. 

There aren’t any ugly ones either. Appearance has always played a part in pop music. I doubt Elvis Presley or the Beatles would have been as successful if they looked like me. Today though, looks are a prerequisite for any budding pop star. You may get a token ugly one in a ‘band’ like the ginger one in Girls Aloud, but that’s beside the point. Knowing a female who’s a mechanic doesn’t alter that statistic that most mechanics are males. Having a male friend who’s kindergarten teacher doesn’t….you get the picture. We used to get ugly pop stars purely because they were talented. Not now. Now you look at the ‘music’, not listen to it. 

Dancing. What is good dancing? Now I like dancing, I am hugely impressed by amazing dancing. I want to see dancing that makes me go “Wow! I couldn’t learn that dance if I practiced for a decade.” Anyone who knows me well knows that I have spent some considerable time on dance floors. I like dancing, I’m not great at it, but I’m not one of those stiffs who looks totally out of place on a dancefloor either. Dancing has been a big part of my life for a long time. I’ve been a big Northern Soul fan for longer than I care to remember, I wore out my bedroom carpet as a teenager practicing moves, I’ve DJ’d various genres of dance music, in short, I know a bit about it. I’m quite old now, and times and styles have changed since my heyday, but I still think I know good dancing when I see it. And I DO NOT see it in these boy- and girl-bands. What they are doing is synchronised, and I stress the word ‘synchronised’, rubbish. The next time you see one of these ‘bands’ perform their dance routine, look at just ONE of them and imagine them doing it alone, and compare it to a break dancer from the 80s, or a lindy Hopper from the 40s. They look pathetic. Also, I firmly believe that any semi-competent dancer could learn any of those faux-dance moves in a day. IN A DAY! There has been fantastic dancing in and around pop music since the 40s. Now we are spoon fed crap and told it’s steak by suits in factory-offices. Better not make it too complicated, they say. If the kids can’t do it, they won’t buy it. If we took this attitude to sport, we’d lose. 

Music, or at least youth culture oriented music has always been about change. A voice, an ethic, a stance, something to say. Hippies wanted peace and sang about it, punks wanted change and screamed about it. Now we have this abomination. It actually doesn’t matter if the songs are any good – no doubt a few of them are – that’s not the point. We have been silenced by corporations. Punk happened because they were sick of shitty disco (not all disco is shitty) and shitty prog rock noodling. But punk also only happened because they captured an underlying spirit – the people themselves were pissed off with the same things. Who are those people today? The life has been sucked clean out of the popular music industry, and we’ve just stood by and let it happen. Granted not everyone – I know several musicians from back home who have spent years honing their crafts, they have certainly not stood idly by, but where is that underlying zeitgeist of rebellion? Of change? Of creative expression? Not all music has to be furiously rebellious like punk, look at the hippies, they did it with flowers. Music and cultural movements like hippy and punk felt like they were government toppling behemoths, changing the world. These boy and girl bands, teen pop in general do nothing, and say nothing. They are, nothing. Shitty dancers with auto-tuned voices and pretty faces, sucking the culture out of the world. 

You may think I’m taking this too seriously, that I should lighten up. It’s only pop music right? And everyone has different tastes. That’s true, and despite my stance laid out above, I have certainly, over the years, succumbed to a cheesy pop song. Many times in fact.  But there is no rebellion. The teenagers seem to have given up.

Maybe I’m just old and don’t get it any more. But this is how it seems to me. Teenagers today seem like a homogenous culture vacuum. When I was young, ‘cool’ mattered. I wasn’t that cool, but I admired and looked up to those I thought were cooler than me. 

It’s about time suits in offices stopped deciding what young people listened to. It’s about time something changed.

July 02, 2012

Simple Things

[This is an article I wrote for the school newspaper. Please bear in mind that it is aimed at young teenagers, whose first language is not English.]

There are several things I miss about being at home in England. The first is something English people drink a lot of. In fact it’s been the most popular drink in England for over two hundred years. 98% of people drink it with milk, and around 30% of people, including me, drink it with sugar. Can you guess what it is? Did you guess coffee? You guessed wrong! The most popular drink in England is tea! Not green tea, but black tea, which in England, we simply call ‘tea’.

In England, when you take a break at work, it is often called a ‘tea break’; this is because when most people take a break, they drink some tea.

This is the thing I miss most about England because tea, or black tea as it is called in Korea, is very difficult to find here. One time, I was in a store and I noticed that they had some black tea, and I bought all the black tea they had in the store, about six months’ worth of tea. I was very happy to have some tea.

In England, the average person drinks about 2.2 kilograms of tea per year. If you compare this with the USA, they only drink about 0.2 kg per person per year, as Americans prefer to drink coffee. They are missing the benefits of a relaxing cup of tea.

As you can see, the English like their tea! In fact, England is the seventh biggest consumer of tea in the world. We had tea shops over one hundred years ago, which are much like today’s coffee shops, except they sold only tea and snacks. It is customary to have a sandwich or a scone (a type of heavy cake) with your tea in a tea shop. Tea shops are very polite places, and it is normal to see ladies sitting alone drinking tea in a tea shop, but they would not go to a coffee shop or restaurant alone.

The other thing I miss most about England is chips. Chips in England are like what you would call French fries, except they are much bigger and softer, and made from real potatoes. The potatoes are peeled, and cut very thickly, then cooked in oil or fat. Fat makes the chips taste better, but you can cook them in vegetable oil too. The most famous food in England is fish and chips, but it is not ‘haut cuisine’, it is very ordinary food, which English people love, maybe like kimchi and rice in Korea – that is, it is everyday ordinary food, nothing special or exciting. Some days I wish I could just go to the ‘chippy’ (slang for a shop that sells cooked fish and chips) then go home and eat them with a nice cup of tea, with milk and sugar of course!

I like Korean food, but I really miss some simple English things like chips and tea.

June 05, 2012

Is Christianity the Biggest Threat to Korean Culture?

A simple conversation with my co-teacher got me thinking. He said that at Chuseok, he and his wife do not honour the spirits of their ancestors in the traditional Korean way (see below), and when asked why, he said it’s because they are Christian. I found this both shocking and sad.

Chuseok, a kind of autumnal harvest festival, is the biggest holiday event of the year in Korea, equivalent in magnitude, to Thanksgiving in the States, or Christmas (not an especially religious Christmas!) in the UK. In Korea families flock home to perform traditional ancestral worship rituals, be with their relatives, visit the graves of the recently deceased to tidy them and offer gifts of thanks (food etc.). 

Currently around 30% of Koreans are Christian, a number that is growing year on year since the ‘conversion boom’ of the 1980s. It’s an actively expansive religion, and if you don’t think so, ask yourself how many times someone has handed you a leaflet in the street, or knocked on your door, asking you to convert to Christianity. Atheists don’t do that nor, for that matter, do Confucianists. Confucianism, like Buddhism, is as much a way of life as it is a religion, a peaceful way of life that is embedded in Korean society and culture, even the everyday greeting ‘hello’ (ahn-yeong-ha-seh-yo) is literally translated as ‘are you in peace?’. 

The land of the morning calm does not need the ‘wrath of god’. Korea should stick to its own traditions and culture, which, frankly, are considerably superior to anything Christianity has to offer. Christianity is not ‘bad’ per se, good things may come out of it like charitable donations – let’s be clear, most charities are not religious - but Korea has its own, beautiful, peaceful way of life already, steeped in Confucian tradition and wisdom. That they would even dream of swapping that for flawed (look what the USA is doing with it) Christianity is heartbreaking. 

To adopt a spurious, faltering and flawed religion from another world will bring nothing but conflict and irreparable damage to Korea’s identity and culture. If you’re a Christian, you should think twice before attempting to convert anyone else to your belief system. You may think you are doing something awesome, but you might only be damaging centuries of culture.

May 09, 2012

This Gay Marriage Thing

  Just to settle the nerves of any family members who might be reading, I’m not gay. I may as well be with amount of action I get, but I’m actually not. I know some gay people though, and have at least one good friend who is gay, (Hi Doctor!) and quite frankly, I don’t give a fuck what sexuality anyone is (with the obvious exception of child molesters, who should seek help). However, I just can’t understand why people need to protest and demonstrate about gay people and gay marriages. What the hell are they doing?
Let’s get one thing straight right now. Sexuality, that is, what we are sexually attracted to, is NOT a choice. Some people like fucking cars, that’s up to them. Really, they do, it’s called mechanophilia (piss off spellcheck that is a real word). My point is, they didn’t CHOOSE to be attracted to cars, any more than you or I ‘chose’ what we are attracted to. If you disagree with this, you are a fucking moron. Really, a fucking moron. Go take a big flying fuck to yourself, because, as I already iterated, you’re a fucking moron if you think you ‘chose’ your sexuality or if anyone does. Sure, you can choose whether to act on it, but that’s different. Anyway, some people just like fucking cars. Can’t see the attraction myself. I love cars, but have never seen one I wanted to bone.

“God Hates Fags”

There’s no doubt that there’s a strong element of religiosity amongst homo-haters. “The bible says this” etc. etc. Honestly. Fuck off. The bible says a lot of things. I saw a story online today where one guy is arguing that gay people will go to hell but fat (straight) people won’t, because they’re straight. I’m no theologist, but I am 100% fucking certain that gluttony is considered a sin. Fat fuckers. OBESITY is a fucking choice by the way. Get some exercise.

So, gay marriage then? Admittedly, it does seem culturally a little strange – but remember we have had thousands of years of ‘normality’ and that’s gonna take some undoing, but I personally am all in favour of it. If two people love each other, and remember that marriage has legal consequences too - such as inheritance and tax - then they should be able to do whatever they want. Remember, gay people have no choice about being gay (if don’t think is true you are a moron, see above), and should be afforded equality, just the same as anyone else.

In short, if you are an overly religious gay-hater who thinks all homosexuals are going to hell, then you’re a fucking idiot. kthxbi.

Which Accent Should You Teach?

A few thoughts on accents and other things...

In Korea, Korean teachers use an American English accent and vocabulary. However, I will contest that in some cases, the British English variations, especially the accent, makes more sense as some vowel sounds are more neutral. I would also like to make very clear that I’m suggesting that a blend of both accents is more beneficial when learning and/or using English, that is, take the best bits from either, and disregard the rest. Indeed, in most cases, the accents overlap anyway. Also, I am aware that there are other ‘varieties’ of accent, e.g. Australian, South African etc., but as these countries are entirely insignificant and have accents that sound like you’re gargling frogs, I won’t bother with any of them. One last thing, there’s no such thing as a “British’ or ‘American’ accent of course – so here I’m talking about the typical variations – the RP (BBC) English accent (Harry Potter’s or Kate Winslet’s, for example), and the ‘standard’ American (e.g. President Obama). Also, I am attempting to disregard patriotism here; trying to be objective. British English is far from perfect. Indeed, in my own classes, I often use American counterparts because they make more sense. Incidentally, though I’m using ‘colourful’ British spellings here, I only really bother with American ones in class.

OK, on with the show. Which parts of the American accent or lexis should be replaced by British counterparts, or vice versa? And why?

I’ll start with a couple that the Americans get right. Firstly, saying ‘zee’ for the letter ‘z’. Why do British people say ‘zed’? Many other letters rhyme with ‘key’ - b, c, d, g, p, and t. Also, the alphabet song doesn’t work if you say ‘zed’. We should really change this and use/teach the American variant in Korea. 

In British English, the following sentence doesn’t make sense “I forgot my wallet at home”. It should. We should use this, even back in the UK. It’s easy, convenient, and useful. 

Here’s one I think the Americans get wrong, and in my opinion, is actually getting worse. In the USA it’s quite common to misspell or misuse ‘than’ as ‘then’ because they are expressed so similarly, yet these vowels are disparate sounds in British English. We shouldn’t be teaching these as being so similar that they become interchangeable and inseverable. In British English the word ‘can’, for example, is pronounced very differently to ‘Ken’. In Korea, they have two letters very similar to the British pronunciations of ‘a’ and ‘e’, that is “ah” and “eh”, but I have actually heard Koreans pronounce ‘last’ as ‘rest’. Here the disparity, and consequent ease of separation, favours using the British. In New Zealand, it’s quite common for the ‘eh’ sound in words like ‘bench’ to sound like ‘binch’. This is the kind of thing I’m talking about, that is, we should use as close to the standard, universal sounds as possible, and the ‘a’ in ‘can’ is pronounced globally as ‘ah’ in every language or accent. It is, if you like, neutral. 

It’s a similar story with ‘o’ pronounced more like “ah”, and I’ve seen a poster here spelling Bobby has “Bah-Bi” (in Korean). Again, I think we should not encourage this, as the differences are too subtle, and foreign speakers of English will just default to the (phonetically) nearest letter/phoneme. Here, we should use/teach the neutral variations of ‘o’ and ‘a’, as they are closer to how these letters are pronounced in all other languages using this alphabet (or any alphabet where one grapheme/symbol equals one sound, like Korean, Russian or Greek). Occasionally I modify my heavy Northern English accent to be more apprehensible to Korean students, and I’m sure (and I hope I don’t come over as arrogant for saying so) but I’m sure some of us could look at our accents and adapt them a little for the classroom. One last point on this – I have not covered here the British use of long ‘ah’ in words like ‘grass’/’grahss’. No British English teacher should be teaching this, period. I mean full stop!

Not that there’s anything wrong with the American variation, but word-final ‘r’ sound in words like ‘butter’ or ‘older’ should be taught using the British variant. Word-initial or -medial r-sounds like ‘ran’ or ‘orange’ are the same in either variety, but the British English (perhaps wrongly) doesn’t really pronounce the word-final ‘r, ‘butter’ becoming ‘buttuh’’. However, as Asian students struggle with r/l differentiation, anything to ease this difficulty is a bonus. There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘but-uh’. It would be understood by anyone. This makes even more sense when using word pairs like loyal/lawyer. 


Personally, I tend not to bother with British spellings of things when teaching. I am not on some personal crusade to promote Anglo Saxon heritage – the American will do just fine thank you, though it’s worth pointing out that whilst the USA thinks it’s so amazing for spelling ‘organize’ with a zed, I mean zee, because that’s how it’s pronounced. Well, why not change wise to ‘wize’, eyes to eyez’, etc? Just a small point! In sum, I don’t bother with British spellings in the classroom unless to point out differences or if talking about the UK etc. 

To summarise then, I think American spelling is fine in the classroom, and really the British is not worth pushing, certainly not because of some political crusade anyway – it’s the students who are important in this situation, and anything that makes their learning easier is a bonus. However, I feel the American ‘o’ is too similar to a globally (Italian, Spanish, German etc.) recognized ‘ah’ (grapheme ‘a’) sound in some words and we should if possible use the common or garden ‘oh’ sound in words like ‘olive’, not ‘ah-live’. We should also, as English teachers, in my opinion, not lean too heavily towards ‘eh’ for the letter ‘a’ (ah) in words like ‘bank’, as Korean students will simply mistake this for ‘e’. A student saying ‘bank’ in the British or neutral (ah) vernacular will not be misunderstood anywhere in the world including the USA, a Korean student saying ‘rest’ for ‘last’ most certainly will. 

I hope this has come across as reasonably balanced. It’s not my intention and I’ve gone to some pains to point out that this isn’t me being pro-British – in many cases it makes more sense to use American English, or parts of it, in a Korean classroom, but we must be careful. Language is about understanding and communication, and anything that leads to a more central and universal comprehensibility should, in my opinion, be adopted – an Esperanto of accents, if you will.

March 25, 2012

Scottish Independence

I’m English, but I know Scotland better than most Englishmen do. I grew up there on account of my dad’s job, and to this day I support a Scottish football team, Dundee United. This means I still have many, especially online, Scottish friends, both from my childhood, and from the world of football. Whilst I’m not Scottish myself, I certainly have a bit of a handle on the place, including the abounding ‘arrogant English bastards’ mentality.

Everyone has their prejudices, the English hate the French, the French hate the English, the Canadians hate America, The Mancs hate the Scousers, the South hates the North, and on it goes, but this Scottish independence thing is bugging me right now. Not because I don’t want them to be independent, frankly I couldn’t give a flying fuck one way or the other, what’s bugging me is that Scotland seems to think that we (English) are shitting ourselves somehow about them breaking away. I can tell you as a proud Englishmen that a) no-one here gives a fuck if you do or don’t and b) no one here thinks it would be bad, good or indifferent for England.  

I’m from the north of England, Hull to be precise, and London/Whitehall has been fucking us just as much as them since time immemorial. Do Scots think your average Scouser, Yorkshireman or Geordie has much time for the goings on in London? Do you think they’d tell the lot of them to ‘get to fuck’ at the first opportunity? The English government is London-and-the-South-centric. Thatcher is hated in Scotland, well, take a walk around Liverpool, or Newcastle, or Leeds and ask about the old fucking witch. The answers will be the same.

I’ve got a Scottish pal, who shall remain nameless here, who when England are playing football, against anyone, starts banging on about the ‘English bastards’, and Highland clearances, and William Wallace and all that stuff.

Anyway, the upshot is this. No-one really cares other than the Scots, who are doing a massive ‘fuck you’ to England, so they think, but us English, we don’t give a fuck if you stay or go, it’s that simple.

Just to confirm, I’m not anti-Scottish, quite the opposite, but as for this ‘
England is shitting itself at the prospect’ thing? Not a fucking chance. We simply don’t care.

February 27, 2012

Five Movies That I Rate That You May Have Missed

Let me start by saying I’m not that much of a film buff. I do watch a few movies here and there, and some of these below I may have watched some time ago, not like this week or anything! Some are fairly modern, some are not. But I highly recommend all of the following…

This is one of those claymation efforts, like Wallace and Gromit, though it’s not for kids, well, young kids anyway. Brilliantly funny, amazingly animated, and a true story. It’s narrated by Barry Humphries, who you may know better as Edna Everidge. Mary is a young girl in Melbourne, who decides, at random, to write to a stranger in the USA.

Escape from Sobibor (1987)

This is a TV movie about the Sobibor Death Camp in Nazi-occupied
Poland in WW2, with Rutger Hauer and Alan Arkin - both solid actors,. Way better than your usual made-for-TV productions, it pulls no punches about the bleakness and harsh realities of a death camp in WW2. Hardly cheerful, but very good. Unavailable on DVD I believe, but it’s downloadable, and also the whole thing is on YouTube.

Match Point (2005)

Written and directed by Woody Allen, though not a comedy, and not the kind of movie you’d typically associate with him. A dialogue driven thriller, full of twists and turns, with a great finale. In my opinion a good movie starts and ends with a good script. This is one of those movies.

Lilya 4-Ever (2002)

As bleak a movie as you will ever see, and mesmerising with it. It’s about the sex trade - not a fun topic. Set in
Estonia, and all in Russian, this gives an insight to everyday life in a poorer part of Eastern Europe, and what fate might bring if you take a wrong turn. Very, VERY grim from start to finish, but spellbinding and heart-wrenching nonetheless. Incidentally, despite the subject matter, there’s barely any nudity in this movie; having said that, it’s definitely not for the faint hearted, easily offended, or youngsters. It will stick in your head for days.

Yes that does say 1944! I saw this a few months ago as it’s listed on IMDb’s Top 250 at number 54 – i.e. very highly regarded, and rightly so. Walter is an insurance salesman, and an ‘average Joe’, who has an affair, and together they plot to kill her husband and collect the insurance. It has one of those jaw dropping plot twists in the middle which I love. A great movie, with wisecracking 1940s dialogue all the way through, which, if I’m honest, dates the movie terribly, but even that cannot detract from a masterpiece.

February 20, 2012

Suicide Lyrics Might Be Just What You Need – My Top 10 Northern Soul Dancefloor Bangers

What the world needs right now is another fucking indie guitar band right? Fucking wrong. If I hear one more wistful solo acoustic guitar intro, I swear I’m going to prison.

I also can’t abide ‘fandom’. I’m not really a fan of anyone or anything (football teams aside, which is different and relates to regional rivalries). Not because I’m above it or anything like that, I simply don’t get it. For example, I knew a girl years ago who was a huge fan of the Pet Shop Boys. She liked EVERYTHING that they did – every song, every haircut, every album cover, everything. To me, this just seems like a kind of blinkered positive prejudice. Being a fan of people, I just don’t get it. Like some of their stuff? Sure. Everything they’ve ever produced? Come on, that’s impossible.

OK, I started this update because I wanted to list my Top 10 1960s soul tracks. This might seem like hypocrisy, having seen the above – and I am, I guess, a fan of this genre – but I’m not a fan of any of the people involved, either on the scene or behind the music. I don’t feel negatively towards them either, I just like the songs, that’s all. Northern Soul suits me just fine. The records are, by and large, anonymous, even though you may see the name on the label. Who are ‘The Epitome of Sound’ or ‘The De-Lites’? We’ll probably never know. And that’s just the way I like it. Also, in regard to time – it’s static, that is, it’s nearly all 60s and 70s soul. Furthermore, in
England anyway, it was all popular long after it was made – a retro scene. Which means new music only meant newly discovered tracks, not new music per se. Liking something just because it’s new is another hang-up of mine. New does not necessarily equate to ‘better’.

What makes a good Northern Soul track, you may (not) be wondering? Well, it’s a dance genre, if you can’t dance to it, it ain’t Northern. That’s not strictly true, but we’ll go with it for now. Suicide lyrics are often a winner too. ‘My baby left me and I’m gonna throw myself under a train.’ Not an uncommon theme. Sad songs when you’re sad, right?

So without further ado, here are my current (it changes) Top ten 1960s Northern Soul sounds, in no particular order. Also, because this is a blog not a statistics log, I’m gonna tell you about each one’s personal history to me, if there is one, or about the track. Or something…

The Epitome of Sound – You Don’t Love Me

Quite possibly the finest song from the entire decade, of any genre. I first heard this when I shared a flat with a good old buddy of mine Raymie up in
Dundee. That was back in the days of cassettes, and I literally wore the tape (his!) out listening to this. Unfortunately for anyone who spends any time with me, I’m one of those people who, if I find a song I love, plays it until I’m sick of it, which is usually long after everyone else has become sick of it. This song is in many a Northern Soul fan’s top ten. And mine. The lyrics? We’ve all been there…

The De-Lites – Lover

Don’t know much about this, other than owning an original copy will set you back the price of a family car. A modern-ish discovery for me, no story – just liked it on my headphones. Love the simplicity of it. Simple. Dancefloor. Banger. I would sprint to the dancefloor if I heard this (unlikely) in some club.

Poor old Tommy. He’s wasted his whole life chasing one girl, who up and went off with someone else, then he wrote a song about it. Suicide lyrics aplenty. Strictly speaking, this is a kind of Latino 60s soul track. But hey, genre boundaries do overlap, and you’ll hear this at many a Northern Soul night. This is probably the song that I sing to myself the most. Not because I’ve cried my own life away, it’s just catchy as hell. I used to hear this song at various Soul nights and didn’t know what it was – I even used to sing it to people to try and find out. Eventually did. What a story.

Little Nicky Soul – I Wanted To tell You

She’s a bad girl, and Nicky wanted to warn you. This song is virtually perfect. The vocals, the backing singers, the melody, the ‘swing’ of it, the lush guitar overlays, everything. I’m no musician and don’t know all the terminology, but hey, this is just

Love hurts. Stings like a bee in fact. This was favourite track last year on my hollybags traipsing around Lao. Reminds me of cheap whisky, Beer Lao, jungles and girls. Well one girl in particular. 100 plays on my iTunes here, still not sick of it. Simple, spacious, and dripping with ‘it’. A stunning, gorgeous track. This is the kind of Northern Soul that those who like ‘jazz, funk and soul’ don’t get. It’s not jazzy or funky. Don’t get me started on jazz and funk, not if you wanna go home before dawn. Not a fan.

The Servicemen – I Need a Helping Hand

One day God (I’m not religious) made some backing singers, the finest in all Christendom. He said “Go forth, and find ye The Servicemen and ye shall be remembered for evermore by working class blokes from up North.” And they did. When the backing vocals kick in on this, my jaw drops and my body hair tingles. Nice xylophone intro too. Reminds me of the
Philippines 2010, where it played into my ears the whole trip. Drunk, girls, dancing, nightclubs, meeting my good friend Alex. Good times to a great song. This is probably my number one song right now. I just don’t get sick of it.

The Charades – Key To My Happiness

Short at 2 minutes and 9 seconds, but a spine-tingling electrifying blast of awesomeness. Rolling piano riffs, a ‘wall of sound’ type production full of atmosphere, and a singer who wants to repossess the key to his happiness. Interesting. Another ‘lost that girl’ song.

Clyde’s in trouble. His girl has left him, and wants to get under a train, which I’m told is not a good idea. Again, not strictly a Northern track this one, more of an early 60s R’n’B number. Thumpingly fast tempo, great singing, suicide lyrics – the winning combination. The kind of thing you’ll hear at a Mod’s do. MODS! Don’t get me started on them either. Funny little men in fancy dress who think they’re better than you.

Nice organ and brass intro, and you guessed it, suicide lyrics. Take your wistful acoustic guitar ramblings and ram them up your indie hipster ass. This has that banging tempo that you need at 3am in a roomful of sweaty blokes off their heads on…

The Vibrating Vibrations – Surprise Party for Baby

I like this. To be honest, it’s a ‘nothing special’ kinda track. The lyrics are unusual for this type of tune – a guy is organising a surprise party for his woman and is worried if she will show up. Just a nice track, and probably the most ‘Motown’ sounding track on this list.

Jazzers, funkers, hipsters, acoustic guitar philosophers, and especially Mods can kiss my sweaty balls. That’s all folks.

January 05, 2012

The Shawshank Redemptions

Aren’t these internets great? Here you are, reading my printout, and you might be anywhere; Colorado, Bognor, Lucky Slap or Cockermouth, and I’m in Korea. The southern one. (I was back in England at Christmas, and lost count how many people genuinely asked “North or South Korea?”) Back to my point. Internets…

These days, computer technologicalisation rules. The web two point oh. User updates - like this one - user reviews, user input. No longer do I have to read a (probably paid) reviewer, or the advertising, to decide if I’m to buy a product, and anyway now I can steal it off the internets. But before I steal it, I can actually check if it’s any good or not, from real people.

You might use another, but one ‘real people’ site I use is the Internet MovieDatabase (IMDb) for my movie informations. I especially like the user rating – a simple mark out of ten. It’s usually a fairly accurate reflection of whether the movie you want to plunder is worth the download. But, be warned, I’ve had some Warninks. Just a little advocaat joke there.

When looking at the ratings I always consider a couple of things:

  • If it’s a comedy – add a mark, because comedy is very much a matter of personal taste. A good movie is a good movie, but one man’s joke is another man’s groan (see “Warnink’s” above). Comedy movie gets 6.7? Think 7.7.
  • New movies often get a higher rating because gushy young blabbermouths dash home and give the movie they just watched in the cinema 10/10 because it was, like, awesome.

Also on the wonderful IMDb, is a list, by user rating, of the top 250 movies of all times. As you’d expect, the top twenty is festooned with an array of cinematic exemplars: ‘The Godfather’, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, ’12 Angry Men’, and so on, all rightfully lauded artworks. However, one thing irks me. The bloody Shawshank Redemption! How in the name of holy fucks is that the number one rated (by users!) movie of all time? It’s a damn fine flick, great in fact, but the best ever? Who in their right flipping minds can say ‘TSR’ is better than, say, ‘Citizen Cane? Better than ‘Goodfellas’? ‘Taxi Driver’?

Maybe it’s those fancy words in the title? Maybe people like the over-riding message of freedom and justice (rather than the film’s actual technical merits)? I don’t know. I can’t help thinking that those who rate it so highly have only seen about six films in their entire lives, because there is no way whatsoever that TSR is better than most of the other 249 on the list.

To summarise then. Is TSR a good movie? Undoubtedly. Is it the best movie ever? Absolutely fucking no chance. If you think so, go and watch ‘City of
God’ (number 18 on the list) and explain to me why TSR is the better film.