Showing posts with label pop. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pop. Show all posts

Friday, 20 April 2012

Was (Not Was) - '(Return to the Valley of) Out Come The Freaks' (1983)

For a time, this seemed to be the only song my parents would play during our long drives up and down the M1 every weekend; a most elegant and spirited couple making it easy on themselves by wielding the most efficient tool to pacify their unruly spawn in the backseat:

The pop world's most indelibly gorgeous piano line

It's good to be a Freak

Friday, 17 February 2012

Bronze Age Fox - 'Books' (2003)

A pensive song for the winding down of a working Friday. The wistful attitude permeating the melodies feels apposite for a band that lost the dream when a major label sought to steer their career

But then, these things happen

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

"I'm glad I got my suit dry-cleaned before the riots started"

Beck - 'Broken Train' (1999)

Bonus photography by Garry Winogrand, Nan Golding, Paul Strand and Philip-Lorca diCorcia, all friends of, or inspired by, Diane Arbus. Beck is pictured as a guest of Charlotte Gainsbourg
'Cause there's only rehashed faces
On the bread line tonight
Soon you'll be a figment
Of some infamous life
We're out of control
No one knows how low we'll go

Monday, 27 June 2011

Lest We Forget

It's been a shade over two years since the death of the King of Pop. Fortunately, Michael Jackson's regal leadership of popular culture, fashion and kinetic grace will be in bed with posterity for lifetimes

And there's still all that indelible music:

Monday, 18 April 2011

Shiina Ringo - 'Supika' (2002)

   I've been intending to introduce the music of Shiina Ringo to Mode Parade through a review of her extensive body of work; the nous and attention required to do so has unfortunately eluded me over the past few years. Suffice to say, nothing is new there, oh semi-regular readers

   So, to impel myself into some form of action, I offer up one of my favourites from her salad days; a cover of a comparatively conventional ditty by fellow Japanese rockers Spitz. This makes for a rather nice gateway to her 'Ringo Catalogue;' present and correct are the slightly woozy production tics and offbeat use of low-end that she likes, her soft-to-aggressive-and-back-again delivery, a distinctly feminine maturity - which I stress because most other Japanese female pop singers I'm enamoured of trade in a particularly kittenish or innocently/knowingly kawaii sensibility - and her ability to create some rather pretty melodies out of what would otherwise be construed as blithe and abrasive sonic chaos

   Even though she is not the song's writer (fun fact: the title, which I prefer to spell as 'Supika,' but is also (more) acceptable as 'Spica,' refers to the 15th brightest star of the night sky) Ringo Shiina is one of those disgustingly Machiavellian Japanese musical types that can do any and everything her way, which resulted in her becoming one of her country's most successful popular stars despite trading for a time in music that grew increasingly dense, baroque, fractured and foreboding to the extent that her third album, whose title contains the word "semen," was considered a commercial failure for falling under the million sold barrier, unlike her previous output. One would not be too surprised to learn she has some obsessive tendencies; that same album is also notable for a rigorous symmetrical arrangement that determined the order of her lyrics, the number of letters in song titles and the running order of the album itself

   She's quite a talent, really

MP3 here

With this hill road soon to come to a peak, so too are the ridiculous lies about to vanish
When I picture my favorite season on its way
With a beautiful cord at just the right time, I’m about to reach staggering heights
Longing for us to touch each other beyond words, I’ll push my way on to you

These painful palpitations rush out like powder
Just for now, I’ll look right at you and won’t run away
On a random serious night, why is it that I’m about to cry
Even as happiness gets interrupted it’s continuing on

If even a stray monkey can be in a good mood, then even an unchanging tomorrow is laughable
When I turn to look back, it was in a kind-seeming era starved of kindness

The beginning of a dream still has a bit of a sweet taste
Shouldn’t you carry the broken pieces you have in your hands?
The ancient starlight illuminates us – there was nothing in the whole world except for that

If I were to entrust the scraps of my heart to the flowing clouds in the southbound wind, I would follow...

These painful palpitations rush out like powder
Just for now, I’ll look right at you and won’t run away
On a random serious night, why is it that I’m about to cry
Even as happiness gets interrupted it’s continuing on – it’s continuing on

Monday, 15 November 2010

Bubba Sparxxx - Deliverance (2003)

 I left off of mama's with my thumb in the wind
The leaves on the ground, winter's comin' again
Solid on the surface as I crumble within
But legends are made out of vulnerable men
So on the brink of death I still manage livin' life
'Cause so rarely in this world are these chances given twice
I indeed sold my soul, without glancing at the price
No instructions when I was handed this device
But with what I did get, I was more than generous
Put others over self on several instances
But I'm back on my feet without a hint of bitterness
And one way or another I shall have deliverance
So I say

   Another review that I wrote six years ago focused on the widely underappreciated sophomore cut from Southern boy and Timbaland alum, Bubba Sparxxx

   In 2003, Timbaland was perceived to have begun a decline in his creative and commercial prowess that would last until his recruitment of Nate 'Danja' Hills and their highly populist and propulsive creations for Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake in 2006. In truth, Timothy Moseley was as restlessly inventive as in previous years - when not mixing the clip-clops of horses with flamenco and updating  doo wop swing for an almost perfect r&b record that went unreleased - Simple Girl by Kiley Dean - he was interpolating and sampling recent hits into a country-slanted hip hop album that was as offbeat and contemplative as any Lee Hazlewood number 

   His MC friend wasn't half bad either:

    In which the best known of Timbaland's roster of underrated protégés hits back against the haters, the shamers and those who'd rather forget he ever existed. The essence of the album is Bubba's on-record character, more roundly developed and emotionally invested in than the previous record, with music and beats to match from Tim (with a little bit of Organized Noize to garnish). Importantly, Bubba's way with a rhyme and a microphone carry equal weight with Tim's surprising yet totally sensible bluegrass funk, country crunk, chase scene torch songs and ever excellent ass-shakers (Tim's diminished presence on the second half prevents this from being 2003's perfect hip hop album, but when on point, he's ever the hard act to follow - how the hell is 'Warrant' so confidently funky, mysterious and addictive when it's got barely no beats to speak of?)
   He's got a convincingly guilty conscience on 'She Tried', acts the good time party boy fool on 'Hootenanny' and the ultra-catchy top 10 single that never was, 'Comin' Round' (fiddles! synths! squealing tyres!), and he is straight up convincing about the New South signifier. I believe in Bubba when he's evoking a hard past that may or may not have been on 'Nowhere', because he's mastered the art of convincing soul-bearing on record. And when 'Nowhere', with it's last line of 'If I'm nowhere/let that nowhere/be nowhere near a worry' and the equally underrated Kiley Dean leading a lovely chorus of 'Cry Me A River' (what's done is done, eh, Bubba?), concludes its 5 mins plus of pure symphonic hip hop beauty, Bubba tells us there's nothing he can't Overcome and I hope he's right. Sooner or later, he deserves to have his Deliverance
Recommended tracks: Comin' Round, Nowhere, Warrant

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Research Turtles - Research Turtles (2009)

   So Research Turtles decided to send me their album gratis. And when it finally surmounted its rivals on my To-Do List, I settled down to take in some studiously hewn, power pop-infused rock by four young fellows from Lake Charles, Louisiana, who could not be more pleased to be calling their own tune. Moreover, they also happen to be dab hands at playing it - this, along with the following they are conscientiously amassing on the stage and through the interweb, should make a sizeable bargaining chip for any future recording contract

   In the meantime, the band has a craft to hone

   Jud and Joe Norman, the mop top brothers, share vocals and commandeer the bass and guitar, respectively, in a well oiled machine that is also formed from the excellently named Logan Fontenot, lead guitarist, and Blake Thibodeaux on drums and percussion, with Wes Anderson's Bill Murray-led The Life Aquatic inspiring the group's sobriquet and detailed, intuitive and heavy production from Justin Tocket. With such telegenic qualities, the four-piece have covered much ground in their bid to live up to their self-assumed mantle of "America's Newest Hit Makers," although I might suggest developing an addiction or five in order to efficiently generate the salacious tabloid material that would come with the territory

   Five-star status is normally greatly difficult to effectuate with a debut record, and in the interests of disclosure, Research Turtles The Album is no different - it holds much promise and delivers on it across the vast majority of the songs, but now and again, one hears the sound of a band starting to coalesce into a combo of worth rather than arriving at that place already. This is normally the result of Jud Nelson's songwriting rather than any flaws in the group's performances; 'The Riff Song,' for example, is realised in an endearing fashion of confident musicianship - and also strongly resembles Rage Against The Machine's indelible 'Killing in the Name' - but ironically, the songwriting is somewhat subordinated to the Riff itself when they could, and should, work as an equal partnership. 'Break My Fall,' the only other song I felt to be lacking enough for nitpicking, also sounds a touch sluggish in spite of its on-paper successes of decent riffing and relatively uncomplicated songcraft, which seems to be down to the unattractive vocal delivery and a main hook that is a little too languid to be greatly compelling - the lively jamming that occurs within two minutes literally resuscitates the song into a form of enthusiastic life

   Nevertheless, I really like what the four are capable of, thus far. By working within the tried and true framework of classic rock, and threading together influences from the fields of New Wave, psychedelia, AM pop, surf harmonies and touches of British melody (that which I usually like to refer to as "Kinksian"), the formula they offer is bright, immediate, mostly upbeat and unabashedly built for lingering when the record has long ceased playing. It's also, as the band allude to themselves, staunchly American - deceptively simple, rooted in rock history, attuned to hooks in their purest form, and polished to a self-assured, radio friendly sheen

  The bands the album evoked in my mind vary from the obvious to the recondite to the slightly unfashionable, and whilst the likes of The Knack, middle-period rock Cornelius (himself a grab bag of classic rock inflections done his own way), Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath's riff mastery, The Sweet, Shonen Knife and The Ramones are easy associations, I was surprised to find a  contemplative moment such as 'Kiss Her Goodbye' to be somewhat redolent of Ben Folds Five, a band, I should state, that I have always categorised as a genuine pleasure; never a guilty one. Truthfully, one can link a number of the Research Turtles' songs to those of older bands; the one I found most unexpected was 'Into A Hole's sonic link to Weezer's 'Susanne,' though the notion that the two bands share anything in common is easily confirmed somewhere between the start of the subtly enticing, groovy opener 'Let's Get Carried Away' and the midway point of spirited, future teen movie soundtrack classic in its own right, 'Mission'

   I particularly appreciate the foursome's refusal to maintain straight-ahead structures, as heard in highlights like the ska-kissed 'Tomorrow's Beatle-esque bridge and the micro rave-ups and gliding codas seeded within otherwise traditional power pop and radio-ready rock numbers like 'A Feeling' and the aforementioned 'Break My Fall.' Such jams go quite a ways to cementing Research Turtles' instrumental credibility. But never let it be said that these young men do not know how to enjoy themselves - my other favourites include their abandoned, amiably rocking party starters, 'Damn,' '925' and 'Cement Floor,' where the group's upbeat rock'n'roll tendencies are in perfect sync with their vigorous playing, simple singing and unfussy delivery

   I've never met them, but if fortune favours them, they might have the brightest futures of anyone else I've encountered this year. Good luck to them all


Research Turtles can be downloaded at no charge here. Their MySpace fiefdom is also present and correct

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Cake - 'You Can Have Him' (1967)

   Decades before Sugababes achieved a mild flavour of notoriety for performing their debut single on Top of The Pops with an unsmiling archness, the world birthed this:

   My sentiments regarding The Cake's showmanship could only appear trite; this Manson-James Brown-Ronettes hybridising should only happen in the theatre. What's so delicious about this performance is that it did not

   For unconventional band mascot/ensemble dark horse-status, the impassive baby doll that was Jeanette Jacobs is right up there with ABC's homosexual, Kid Swifty Lazar-esque midget, David Yarritu

Monday, 7 June 2010


These are dedicated to the drivers of Accra

Italy has nothing on you; here's to dicing with death for however long I can stand to share a road with you

Friday, 21 May 2010

Kahimi Karie - 'A Fantastic Moment' (1995)

   The charm of following a polymathic musician is in the phases they experience, always casting off their previous manifestations as definitive statements on their transitory fancies

   In 1995, Mari 'Kahimi Karie (カヒミ・カリィ)' Hiki and Keigo 'Cornelius (コーネリアス)' Oyamada were in something of a shared romantique nostalgia, or a relationship, to you and I. The Girlfriend was something of a sylph with a singing voice more incisively described as an airless, tranquil whisper, whose luminescent face, stoic demeanour and protean imagery that included Rococo opulence, French Mod Sex Kitten and Tokyo demureness made her a star; The Woman of a Thousand Fantasies, if you will

   The Boyfriend was running one of the trendiest yet most substantive record labels in the world - Trattoria Records - touring, remixing, producing and playing when he could and collaborating on portable record players, G-Shock models and other playthings that bore his brand. His latest incarnation at that time was an idiosyncratic bouillabaisse of 1960s psychedelia, 1970s heavy metal (he was a self-taught guitarist who developed through playing Kiss records), 1980s hip hop and 1990s electronic noise; at once the classic Japanese refiner of Western developments and the alien refractor of cultural traditions that he interacted with from afar

   Today's selection shows them in a very deliberate Gainsbourg and Birkin-like reverie; aside from their romantic status at the time, Karie can also speak French and English, and the 1960s and 1970s were rather a la mode in the Shibuya-Kei landscape of foreign musical history made modern day blended pop. Oyamada has long been an arbiter at home; his diverse musical knowledge threaded itself through every record he was involved in, no matter what year it was

   In either flavour, 'A Fantastic Moment' is probably one of the most beautiful pieces of music either has released. You barely even notice the Lou Reed sample

   A translation:

We run, cutting straight through the wind
Nothing can stop us as we head straight for hope
We might find it over on that hill maybe, I hope...

La la la when you gently take my hand
Everything around us changes to perfection
All of the world's sunlight shining just for me and you

...And the bugs, they laugh...
...Melting into the ground...

The two of us can do anything. Right?
See, we can even jump over that rainbow.

...And the time stands still...
...The flowers are waving...

The two of us are laughing high above the clouds
Our laughter leaking down as sun beams in the forest
Just now the rain of sadness is turning into a rainbow

Away with the gloom
The grass gently waves
And the birds peacefully fall to sleep

One day...everything...I hope...

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Gwen Guthrie - 'Hopscotch' (Larry Levan Remix) (1983)

Why worry about protean weather when we have disco?

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Pledge This

   Theoretically, it's to one's advantage when childhood friends embark on musical paths, so as to request of them, "Remember me when you're a goddamned rock star someday"

   Today, dear Tallulah Rendall is that friend for me. She's very good; more enchanting, off kilter and alluring than your average Girl With a Guitar. And her ethic cannot be underestimated. And so, I'm only to happy to create a post composed of some of her music and a link that details her quest to fund both the completion of her second album and creative endeavours by various artistic collaborators that will be inspired by individual songs from the record. Indeed, if like attracts like, then the visual aspect alone will be worth the contribution

   I've always been fond of the phrase, "Grass Roots Movement," and as for promotion, of self or otherwise, well... Mode Parade exists, no? Let's see if we can't bring this to life

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Monday, 19 April 2010

Supergrass - 'We Still Need More (Than Anyone Can Give)' (1998)

"Because here it comes
Here it comes"

   Last week delivered the news that Supergrass, previously enjoying a certain veneration within the canon of Britpop survivors turned good, had opted to part ways. And so, I opt to remember them in song; one of their own, of course

   I'm perennially drawn to any form of underdog and so my choice is one not fondly recalled by the band itself, although that opinion may also be symptomatic of an unfondly remembered experience. A rerecording of a b-side during their second album's campaign, behind the boards are the Dust Brothers - John King and Michael Simpson - helmers of the ever-memorable Paul's Boutique by the Beastie Boys and Odelay! by Beck. Bearing the provenance of two of my favourite albums, this song would always receive an open-minded first listen from me. When last viewed, my iTunes displayed a listening count in the 50s - considering my mp3 files number in the thousands, that represents an addiction by my standards. Of course, optimistic itinerancy as fetching, upbeat song does easily fixate me

   'We Still Need More...' has place of pride with the various listeners of the soundtrack to the MTV Films-produced black comedy Dead Man On Campus, for which it was commissioned. The Dust Brothers irregularly supplied various films with original music around this period and produced around half of the soundtrack, for which they also served as executive producers. The following year, their facility for pop cultural anthropology through hip hop and electronic music would deliver one of my favourite ever scores for one of my favourite ever films, Fight Club

   The juxtaposition of vocalist Gaz Coombes' glam rock propensities with the surf rock flirtations of the backing exemplify the Dust Brothers' easy approach to recombinant genre play; it's to their advantage that the band had already written a strong enough song that could paper over any potential production missteps. However, responsible as King and Simpson were for encouraging scores of white men to sing over any "classic" hip hop breakbeat, indirectly or otherwise, their own approach was always far more nuanced, unprejudiced and witty than the obvious and capricious takes offered by their followers

   Its greatest trick is not that it is a Beck-like song that sounds expressly like a Supergrass one but that it sounds like a song produced by the Dust Brothers and still - due to the fact that it is augmented rather than outright altered - very much the creation of a band; a pleasing irregularity when Supergrass' own feeling was that they lacked control over its recording. Besides, all sounds better with strings

   As for Supergrass, a reunion would not be unanticipated

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Salon Music - 'Chew it in a Bite' (1996)

   Salon Music is Yoshida Zin and Takenaka Hitomi. In operation since 1981, their career encompasses intricate synth pop, full bore rock'n'roll, ethereal shoegaze, krautrock and breakbeat-impelled psychedelia

   I'm specifically fond of their version of 'Say Hello, Wave Goodbye,' recorded with Sparks

Thursday, 8 April 2010


   There was always something contiguous at first regarding my relationship with Malcolm McLaren's career; I darted around the cultural alterations left in his wake without either committing to them or initially realising what influence he'd had. Eventually, I'd come to know his name. He possessed one personal aspect that I believed held some appeal: artistic legerdemain that afforded him the deftness to make the intolerable, the aggressive and the underappreciated conventional without the sacrifice of their intrinsic characteristics. A sneak thief of genre with few peers - I like that about a person

   1946 - 2010. Good night, good night, good night

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Frame Yourself

Via NY Press, Run DMC's Darryl McDaniels sports his Ultra Goliath sunglasses at the height of the band's fame, although he's commonly (mis)perceived as a Cazal man. Originating in the late 1970s or early 1980s, the Goliath is also favoured by famed horror filmmaker and Grandfather of the Zombie, George A. Romero and worn by Elliot Gould in the Ocean's 11 trilogy and Robert De Niro in Casino, as well as by the late flamboyant actor and game show host Charles Nelson Reilly. My online colleague Matthew of Tweed In The City owns a pair made by Cutler and Gross

   I feel sorry for those who don't know what they're missing in the eyeframe world. The folks sporting over-or-undersized, heavily logo'd plastic jobs of questionable quality certainly don't merit my envy

Cutler and Gross, via Sunglasses Shop

Francois Pinton; clients included Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis

   In today's world, for design, craftsmanship or both, I can think of around five names to count on; Oliver Peoples, Ben Sherman, Tom Ford, Alain Mikli and, of course, Cutler and Gross of London. Again, note that I'm not claiming each brand combines both design and craftsmanship, although most certainly do. If you think you've spotted an odd one out, you're correct; I just rather like the aesthetic that this mod institution continues to push, plus I'm sure we all know by now that I'm not consistently fussy about where I shop. I also admit a certain fondness for makers I'm not very familiar with such as Kata and Rochas

Via Hub Pages; well it would be remiss of me to leave her out, wouldn't it?

Ben Sherman, via Uncrate. They bring to mind a larger pair worn by Jim Hacker in Yes, Minister, although his were reading glasses

Serengeti sunglasses via Sunglasses Shop. The maker generally uses glass photochromatic lenses, making them highly valuable

   I've always liked the idea of signature sunglasses and yet I feel that such "One Sunglasses Only" people of style are limiting themselves a touch. Of course, those I am thinking of, such as Malcolm X, happen to be dead. Stevie Wonder is such a man with different styles, all pretty much iconic by virtue of his face and look(s), but tragically (crass as this may sound), he has never known how cool he appears

From Wikimedia, Malcolm X and his Ray Bans Clubmaster frames

See here for a heartfelt homage to Uncle Stevie's eyeframes tastes

Marianne Faithfull

The late Richard Merkin

   Typically, I like to go vintage; though not typically an aviators fan, I've owned two pairs in the past: one 1980s pair by Ferrari and a more recent pair from Ray-Ban. Speaking of which, bypass the current Ray-Ban range and seek out their classic older offerings, made with far more attention to detail and sturdiness by  founder company Bausch & Lomb. Like its fellow iconic eyewear brand, Persol, Ray-Ban is currently owned by the Luxottica company and really was better made around 30 years ago

   I'm also quite fond of oversized eyeframes; the nostalgic images evoked in my mind are of Jewish businessmen, British politicians, Mob members and old school rappers. Designer Antonio Azzuolo personally favours old Christian Dior frames and each of his presentations have featured his models in large deadstock sunglasses. To add some perspective, here's an informative archive post from the Beastie Boys' message board, mainly focusing on the infamous Cazal lines:

"Carl Zolinni starting making Cazal glasses in 1975. Hence the name "CAZAL." I have one of the first Cazal's ever from 1975. They sucked! Cazal started to get good around 1978. Then the "Cazzie Craze" hit in '82. People were dying for these glases much the way people were getting killed in Harlem for their Jordan 1's and 2's in the mid 80's. Optometrists in NYC kept them in the vault and it was real hush hush if you had them. Then the optometrists made so much in NYC in the 80's on these things they all retired in Florida in the late 80's, where many of these glasses can still be found to date

"A big misconception was people calling them "Cazzelle". People pronounced them like the Adidas shoe "Gazzelle." Not true. I met with the president of Cazal once and he said they are "CAZAL." Some people think Cazal started the big glasses craze of the late 70's but it was really Neostyle that hit it off with their "Nautic" line. Also, Ultra's Claudia Carlotti and Versace lines helped kick off their stardom. Ultra Palm is the US distributor for Cazal and made Versace big in the late '70s. Persols were more late '60s with their wraparound line, so I won't mention them much

"Peace out,
   Latterly, Cazal has (of course) accredited cachet amongst today's day-glo scenesters, who are neither mugged nor killed for theirs unlike the aforementioned actual trendsetters. Whilst iconic for a certain era, they aren't generally for me. I am, on the other hand, a fan of the abovementioned Neostyle, as well as Alpina, Vuarnet, Playboy and Dunhill in its Optyl-manufactured era (the link necessarily directs to the history of another likeable maker, Carrera)

   The wild exuberance, brash sizing and ornate stylings of these frames was a consequence of sunglasses moving towards statement status in the 1960s; my overall favourites - Ultra's own name range, including the abovementioned Goliath and other appropriately-yet-whimsically named frames, such as "Sudan," "Zeus" and "Rangoon" - tended to let their size and shape do the speaking. Ironically, the frames that currently best fit my face are a pair of modern Dunhills, but sometimes, comfort wins out. Still, one has to love the classics:


   Want a New Year's Resolution? Frame yourself

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Cally Blackman - 100 Years of Menswear

   Ah, coffee tables

   Cally Blackman’s 100 Years of Menswear was curated with a more general, and pictorial, approach than was taken in other 2009 works such as Nicholas Storey’s History of Men's Fashion and Eric Musgrave’s Sharp Suits. However, it is no lesser for it and its juxtapositions of traditional style with the shifts and challenges of fashion are certainly worth more than the occasional glance. The languid posture of the younger, rockabilly-haired David Bowie on the cover, clad in a pale mustard shawl collared suit and a yellow/white horizontal striped  towelling shirt – ever straddling boundaries – typifies this approach rather well

   It is light on words – though the paragraphs contain the necessary amount of elucidation – and heavy on imagery, which is, of course, the true draw. Unearthing a rich seam of photography from the early days of the 20th century onwards is an accomplishment I hope Blackman is proud of, and her consummate approach is testament to her knowledge and passion. Although she is careful to touch on the major – and by now obvious – style leaders and designers we all know (Astaire, Grant, Eden, Wolfe, Windsor, Saint Laurent, Gatsby/Redford, Jagger, Nutter, Ford, Lauren, Armani), a welcome inclusion of cultural context often pervades. I did wish at times that she would concentrate on some less trodden paths such as the aesthetes of Paris (although her curation of artistic styles in Europe between 1900 - 1939 is characteristically spot-on, at the very least, I feel that I know too little about the French creativity, dandyism and bohemianism of the period) the Suedeheads of the 1970s and the less clichéd side of Edwardian England, but there were, for me, genuine moments of enlightenment such as the Zazous of the 1940s, a nonchalant European counterpart to the Zoot Suiters

   The overall effect Blackman seems to aim for is one of clothing through culture and time of place rather than technicality, although the evolution of design and technique is obviously not ignored. Nevertheless, given that her foreword asserts that menswear is in fact as diverse and interesting and more influential than womenswear, the sheer variety of pictures almost flawlessly supports her on each point

   In this respect, and that of the changing fashions depicted within, the book champions a concept I'm rather attached to - menswear has far more to offer than we may think today. As the selection of modern day images of celebrities and fashion shoots somewhat ironically displays, we stopped trying, to our disadvantage, no less. It's cultural degeneration portrayed through morphing and dying sartorial codes; the old adage about pictures and words  is more than apt, for once

   The book is divided into sections by period of time and also by title. Naturally, my favourite section is "Peacock", which starts with the tweaks and experimentations of late 50s Continental tailoring and early 60s Pierre Cardin before flowering into the daring (and drugs) of the Peacock Revolution, the Counter Culture and the continued rise and rise of pop music. Second to this - despite its brevity - the use in "Suit" of a Laurence Fellows-drawn Esquire advert with the advice still intact (and an Anthony Eden-inspired one, no less) made me smile appreciatively. I don't yet have a third, but that will come in time - a strong contender is "Culture Clubber", since 1980s street fashion is rather close to my heart. 1980s hip hoppers and their oversized eyewear are more woven into my dress style than some might think

   Though this is not truly a history book - in this respect, we have enough of those - I was reminded why I, in my youth, thought I wanted to be a historian after my first read-through. It was not to lecture about Vietnam or The Battle of Agincourt; it was about learning about what changed and why. Pop culture dissection that so ably combines two of my interests is certainly worth purchasing, and so 100 Years of Menswear may become one of my favourite Christmas presents ever

   Even if it was from myself

Monday, 4 January 2010

Cornelius - '2010' (1997)

   This bears a warning - it should not be listened to, under circumstances, by those of a nervous, or staunchly classicist, disposition. For it is perhaps the most gleefully childish and senses free cover of Johann Bach's piece that exists. And I say that despite being no authority on Bach covers whatsoever

   Every Cornelius album since 1995 has borne a cover of a reasonably well known song; this rather makes that year's somewhat disquieting fusion of Vivaldi's 'Concerto No. 3 From The Four Seasons' and Black Sabbath's opening riff to 'Iron Man' (complete with bizarre neo-psychedelic electronics and the title 'Pink Bloody Sabbath') seem like relaxation music by comparison. But then how else should a downloaded MIDI over drum'n'bass and wild samples from deep space satellites and the Oscar-winning classic Amadeus make one feel?

   As far as I'm concerned, pretty bloody marvellous; at least where the first few days of this year are concerned. Happy New Decade, and do I wish that I'd been able to post this last Friday