Sunday, 19 September 2010

Metal Lust Object No.2 - Gübelin and IWC

Gübelin/IWC solid gold dress watch circa the 1940s

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

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Voluptuary

   One of my favourite cinematic misadventurers is Augusta Bertram, the titular relative to the reliably stuffy and highly strung Henry Pulling in 1972's Graham Greene adaptation, Travels With My Aunt, as portrayed in mercurial, bombastic and somewhat affected style by Dame Maggie Smith. This, of course, has much to do with her characterisation as a previously unworldly convent schoolgirl whose dalliance with an older sophisticate eventually transforms her into a trouble-prone, mendacious but fundamentally good hearted manipulator, and more importantly, a sensuous, consummate aesthete with more than a passing, and doubtlessly deliberate, resemblance to cheetah walker and epicurean profligate, Luisa, the Marchesa Casati, that infamous and bottomless well of extravagant vanity:

Portrait by Giovanni Boldini, 1908, from the private collection of Andrew Lloyd Webber

   In fact, Aunt Augusta's Casati-like "commissioning of her own immortality" forms a significant plot point as the story unfurls. She makes for quite a striking flame haired nude, if I do say so myself

  And what Augusta lacks in exotic pets, she makes up for in Louis Gossett Jr's bizarre but canny, quasi mystical but oddly grounded, and whimsical but efficient Wordsworth - a fictional personification of the word "protean" if ever there was one. However, given that she is rather dependent on him, he is assuredly of greater utility than wearing gilded snakes as jewelry

  The underepresentation of the film on the WWW might suggest it to be the sort of lost gem whose soundtrack will eventually be exhumed by a reissues label. It's not quite of that vintage, but it is more than diverting,  is leavened with soulful pathos in parts, and contains some minor comic gems, such as the amusing joke of Augusta's lavish and bohemian London dwelling being situated one floor above a working class pub. Aside from the grandeur that makes up the wardrobes and leisurely homes of Augusta, her friends, her lovers and her enemies, the film is a treat of foreign locales, the less suspect side of the nightlife and  the more conservative early 1970s menswear; usually 3 dependable visual enticements to watch the filmed works of the decade. There is also a cute hippie (Cindy Williams), who may serve to remind all trustafarians that they have precursors

  The other attraction to the film is its tendency to roam, both around the earth as Augusta, Henry and Wordsworth jaunt on their extended caper, and through Augusta's memories as she reflects on the woman she came to be. This facet makes for quite the balancing act against the madcap style of the rest of the plot and Smith's effusive performance; ultimately, Travels With My Aunt is a fine entry into the canon of curate's eggs that are nevertheless rather charming, due in no small part to a fortunate confluence of skill and vigour

   And if all else failed to entertain, there are always Anthony Powell's costume designs - they did win him his first Oscar, after all

Friday, 17 September 2010

Roll It

Not bad for a man named Lewis

   Posthumously speaking, Brian Jones is my favourite Stone; the butterfly to Charlie Watts' beetle (and this also takes into account Keef's splendid purple suit); never a grown-up, always a child. Where Watts today is precise, sharp and structured in his appearance to the point that he may as well be armoured, Jones' flamboyance at its peak suggested that a mere brush with his chimerical finery would result in a psychotropic trip

   And those caught up in his personal whirlwind must have suspected the come downs would be as debilitating as they were scandalous

   Brian is perhaps the quintessential Rock Polymath of Doom, since, as it is sometimes seen, with great ability comes great disaster. He was charismatic, popular, sexually overactive and indulged in a great many interests; one could see the self-destructive predisposition a mile off. He was a rebel within a band of rebels and a quintessential outside-insider, a feeling to which I can sometimes relate

   He was also a Peacock sans pareil, with a mid-to-late 1960s wardrobe  practically custom built to outrage the sensibilities of the most conservative echelons of sartorialism and stir the loins of the girls and women who flocked to the itinerant father of five and his bandmates.  With finery to source from the likes of Mr. Fish, Hung On You, I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet, and Granny Takes A Trip, Brian had little difficulty in establishing himself as a leader of the psychedelic plumage set

   Bandmate Bill Wyman later summed him up as thus:
There were two Brians... one was introverted, shy, sensitive, deep-thinking... the other was a preening peacock, gregarious, artistic, desperately needing assurance from his peers... he pushed every friendship to the limit and way beyond
   Of course, even without the motivation of court appearances to moderate his excesses, he was perfectly capable of affecting a more reputable presentation when the occasion arose; indeed, the earlier days of The Rolling Stones - interesting enough to serve as a reference for Stefano Pilati's Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche collection in Fall 2008 - feature a more relatively sober Brian, with he and his bandmates more attuned to the calmer attire of the earlier 1960s. I like to think that he was good at that, also:

   But don't think that I cannot appreciate the contrast; the immediacy of Brian's psyched out latter period may attract more attention, but these different modes instantly resonate with me, used as I am to modifying my appearance when social engagements call for it. That, by the by, is a choice I make - it's rather an interesting exercise in adaptability where I'm concerned

   Nevertheless, the Dandy In The Sky look that Brian made his own has such a compelling F-U grace to it that it rarely fails to inspire.After all, peacocks rarely exist to be 100% replicated; it is their ideas that are to be admired or reviled, absorbed or discarded. For all the white men who can be found fretting about their suitability for a wider palette of clothing colours, there's Brian's blithe mixing and matching; a riotous visual patchwork of glee for dressing up that doesn't occur to most fellows even once in a lifetime. Where concerns persist over the use of odd striped trousers, Brian went to tour sporting a dark jacket and corresponding tie (3rd photograph from the top), confidently displaying the desaturated version of his own adventurous glamour. When I need an interesting guide or 5 to donning neckscarves and other silken accoutrements, I have over a dozen pictures of Brian to show me how it's done

   Certainly, he looked like the sort of fellow one might proffer to a hippy at a Dead concert to lick, but I enjoy that. I draw the line at his blazer suit and the fondness for python skin boots he shared with Keith Richards (though I suppose that he had to share a few tastes at least with The Glimmer Twins), but with such a bombast, there's usually a line that must be drawn somewhere

   Let us put it this way - he is not the Lapo Elkann of the 1960s - for a start, Lapo's binges seem to have had a more all-encompassing deleterious effect on his own creativity than Brian's did his. At least Brian had the good grace to keep it consistent

   Mick Jagger, appropriately, wore one of Mr. Fish's shirt dresses when performing at The Rolling Stones' free concert in Hyde Park, two days after Brian joined The 27 Club upon his death on 3rd July 1969. Having dedicated the performances to the founder who eventually became isolated from his peers, the band's frontman took a moment to play orator in memory of his one-time friend:

   Brian, as it is famously known, was ultimately discovered dead at the bottom of his own swimming pool at his Cotchford Farm home in West Sussex. It bears noting that in later years, the tiles from the pool were individually sold for around $210 per 6-inch tiles, courtesy of his own Fan Club

   Such as it was, Brian earned a place in checkered history. And popular culture and rock 'n' roll were certainly the more interesting for having had him there to develop their milieus in a most uncommon manner

   Roll with it

Further reading:

And a pictorial to close out proceedings:

Matryoshka - 'Evening Gleam Between Clouds' (2007)

Matryoshka is a Tokyo, Japan based band consisting of the track maker Sen and the female vocalist Calu. During the days when they were playing in the band Parachute Coats, their material was released as a 7 inch vinyl by a fan in Netherlands and received good attention in the club scene there. Only a year after the band was formed, they had already received sponsorship offers from Yamaha and were digitally distributed on their download site.

Their music can be described as Modern Classical, IDM, and Experimental.

Sleuth (1972)

To borrow a cliché, there can only be one. And with Messrs. Olivier and Caine in the headline, one should certainly hope so

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Belatedly, Joseph Ettedgui

   Early this April, my father received a card from Issy Ettedgui, with a heartfelt, touching and unlachrymose handwritten message regarding the peaceful passing of her husband Joseph that made a particular note of the affection he held for "his brother," for our families were close enough for me to refer to him, with a certain honour, as "Uncle Joe." That habit, as it seems to do when Britishers grow into their teens and beyond, had  indeed dissipated by the time I became a young adult

   But don't mistake a loss of formality for a loss of respect and admiration; I'm perennially inclined to admire men of taste, of class, of perseverance and of percipience. And perhaps our personal relationship also served to elevate Joe in this particular facet of my esteem, but there's certainly little wrong with that

   This post is an apology, for I do a great many things out of time and sequence. Perhaps those who choose to read this post might feel a morsel of understanding; a sympathy founded on the difficulty in composing and cohering thoughts regarding the death of a presence in one's life. But it is still rather belated a post, especially because Joseph was one of the vaunted few in the last years of the 20th century who continued to make fashion retail a sphere of interest. His patronage alone of Kenzo Takada's output in his formative retail years is proof of his nous for talent. We also shared a belief in a wardrobe that was built upon dependable, finely made clothes with ample room for the fashionable and the expensive to elevate it - a philosophy that more than hinted at his adaptability

   Amongst the various branded shopping bags that filled my childhood, the minimalistic black rectangles on a white background motif that signified a purchase from a Joseph shop always lodged in the mind in a manner that was both iconic and in tune with the visual modes of the 1980 - as stark and neat colour arrangements, Nagel prints, deceptively simple but striking aesthetics, pristine glamour, and so on. He may not have aimed his shops at children, but for a time, Joe's Café was a cherished, if infrequent, treat that forms a fond part of my South Kensington memories. I can only imagine what celebrated restaurant he might have overseen had he lived to see his hotelier desires come to fruition

   Even as he battled the cancer that ultimately took his life, Joe made time for me during my nascent forays into fashion-related work, and encouraged me not to discard my semi-romantic notions after the crisis that is financial eradicated my former livelihood. Indeed, given the upcoming evolution of my professional life, I believe that he was correct in his steering, although it is a shame that he could not be there for me to tell him the news. I spent a fair amount of time at the former Conduit Street site of his luxury goods operation, Connolly, over last year, covetously admiring the Charvet shirts and unconstructed sportcoats, imbibing the genteel and warm aura of its woody yet somewhat minimalist decor, striking up friendships and letting him know in which directions Mode Parade was pulling me that week

   I have always suspected him as responsible for my father's Habanos habit, though he was always a responsible and devoted man. Still, with his brand of unassuming charisma, I imagine that it would have not taken much convincing; it seems symptomatic of his trenchant way of discerning what one might need in life

   The photograph chosen for the remembrance postcard is an excellent, dégagé portrait of Joe reclining in a beautiful silk dressing gown, shirt, trousers and designer trainers; a happy, joyfully eyed depiction of Offbeat Informality, if ever there was one, and certainly an encouragement to those who knew him that we should not remain sad for long

Merci et Bon Nuit,


For Joseph Ettedgui; 22 February 1936 - 18 March 2010

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Ivy Friends (Plastic Curio Objects No.1)

Perhaps the only Trad memorabilia that I find interesting these days

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Smoking Shirt (Dance Dance Dance)

   Tintin said:

   So, I wonder what he would make of this:

   A flashback to more immobile times follows: