Friday, 7 January 2011

The A-Z Of All-Time Great Pop Singles: "A"

A is for "ABC" - The Jackson 5

As near as dammit, the perfect pop-song, and a most appropriate place to begin my 'ABC' of all-time great singles. The Jackson 5's ABC is 2:54 of pure, unbridled, unselfconscious fun -it is a song that exists to remind everybody what pop music is. Exuberance, vitality, sheer youthful joyfulness - ABC is conceptually patterned as a lesson in love, but the real lesson here is in pop-ology. It is the York Notes of sweet soul music. Musically, it's as arresting as anything Motown ever did. ABC has the good sense to kick off with a fat, buzzing fuzz-bass line, before dropping into a steady pimp rollin' funk groove 5 seconds in; the mix is packed with loadsa conga, tambourine and jangling piano, and at some point around the 1:40 mark the J5 strip it all back to a breakdown like a kindergarten Temptations. Vocally it's just on another level; every line is delivered like it's the hook, and wildly creative things are done with the phrasing and arrangement throughout. I wonder what ever happened to that kid with the high pitched voice?

Sunday, 2 January 2011

2010 Review: A Year In Stuff I Liked

Album Of The Year
Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers - Wu Tang Vs The Beatles / Tom Caruana
Conceptually a weaker effort than Dangermouse's Beatles breakbeat benchmark 'Grey Album', but for my (admittedly Wu Tang fanatical) dollar this mash-up is a far more entertaining listen front-to-back. The tracks that work far outweigh those that don't, and a handful (the bludgeoning, 'I Am The Walrus' sampling "Run", a re-make of "C.R.E.A.M." almost as smooth as the original, & the centre-piece, show-stopping "Uzi (Pinky Ring)") have remained heavy rotation heavyweights on my ipod all year. Precisely the sort of post-modern irreverence that Lennon woulda loved.

Book Of The Year
Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams - Nick Tosches
Everything you need to know about mid-20th Century US pop culture is here. A serious - but never remotely dry - book, packed with punchy, profane prose, placing the vacant, solitary anti-hero figure of Dean Martin at the centre of a wide ranging cultural discourse on pop music, film, showbiz, television, sex, money etc etc...and however black the oblivion of Dino's empty megastardom gets, you still wind up with the impression of Martin as the Rat Pack's true hipster - a dispassionate, untouchable, grade-A bad-ass - "the cool guy's cool guy".

Film Of The Year
Toy Story 3 - Dir. Lee Unkrich
In which everybody is forced to recognise the shocking frailty of thier own mortality via a fiery pit-hell incinerator scene where Woody, Buzz and the Toy Story Gang take one another's hands and accept their own imminent and certain doom with quiet, heart-breaking dignity. Peerless popular art, bursting with imagination, and with an emotional depth of resonance greater than any number of the "serious" middle-brow movies with which Pixar will compete - I suspect fruitlessly, mores the pity - for a Best Picture Oscar come February.

TV Show Of The Year
The Office (An American Workplace) / Curb Your Enthusiasm
I'm gonna have to chicken outta making a definitive call on this one. Overall, these are very different shows; the former has a warm, beating heart the size of a watermelon and gets slushier by the episode, happily embracing it's position as the closest any post-Friends sit-com has come to reconciling the briefly un-cool merits of A Bunch Of Likeable People Who Actually Like Each Other mainstream comedy with the edgier, taboo-trampling brinksmanship of Gervais / Merchant's British original, while the latter is characterised by a no-holes-barred barrage of mind-boggling "WTF" moments that re-invents the Seinfeld formula of jaw-dropping social awkwardness + astonishingly tight narrative structures + self-reflexivity + people who hate themselves and everyone the know, on an operatic scale, making Gervais / Merchant's efforts seem conservatively quaint by comparison. I admire and enjoy them both equally. A dead-heat, then - The Office, for the sheer number of hours of pleasure it has given me this year, and CYE, for those spectacular, fan-pleasing Seinfeld reunion episodes.

Songs Of The Year

.1. In Tha Park - Ghostface Killah Crunching, distorted, heavily fuzzed, block-party rockin', psyche-soul, old-skool flavoured hip-hop ticks every one of my boxes. With deliberate nods to P Diddy's "Bad Boy For Life" and MC Shan, In Tha Park stands proudly along side the strongest Wu releases from any era. This is how that BlakRoc LP shoulda sounded.

.2. Groove Is In The Heart - Crocodiles Pure, unadulterated nostalgic 90s kid indulgence - shoegazing indie-rock fetishists covering a 'contemporary' 1990 pop masterpiece. About as authentic an impresssion of an ealy 90s John Peel session by some B-list sub-Chapterhouse outfit as one could possibly imagine. Smart, funny, trippy, and undeniably groovy.

.3. Boyfriend - Best Coast I guess basically like a gazillion records sounded pretty much exactly like this in 2010, but for whatever reason Best Coast's particular take on the year's ubiquitous early 60s girl-group + slacker 90s indie formula lodged itself in my skull like no other.