The Patch

January 19, 2007

Friday 19th January

Filed under: Music & Film — Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 2:02 am

 Why I Am Not Looking Forward to The Simpsons Movie

There are some things that are inevitable this summer – Andy Murray’s glorious failure at Wimbledon; me getting some very burnt skin; and The Simpsons Movie becoming a huge hit in the western world. But the prospect of the latter only fills me with dread. For reasons why, read further.

You’ve all watched the programme, seen the trailer and may even have cared to buy one of the many t-shirts, and most of you will probably trek out in the middle of summer to your nearest cinema to see the legendary family in all their big screen glory. For those who do however, I would prepare yourself to be disappointed.

Unlike other adult orientated cartoon series that have ventured into various googleplexes across the world, well South Park, The Simpsons as a series is a dead dog repeatedly being hit over the head with the shovel of disappointment until its guts fall out, covered in hopelessness and cynical celebrity guest appearances. When Trey and Matt decided to turn their show into something that was ‘bigger, longer and uncut’ it was a shrewd decision. The show was at its initial peak, hyped by the controversy that surrounded it and utterly relevant to culture and society at the time. It answered questions that the creators were being asked concerning the taste and meaning of the show, running beautifully parallel along it, managing to be both a significant part of the South Park TV show world, yet also being a fantastic stand alone film, with great humour and an intelligent moral message at its heart. Ken Smith from Bath had this to scream on the matter “It’s one of the seven greatest films ever!!!” Alas, The Simpsons Movie looks like it will be nothing of the sort.

As a TV show, The Simpsons was a genuine inspiration – an original idea that had a perfect balance of story, humour, character and ethics. Note the use of ‘was’ there. Ever since series 9-10 or so, the show has taken a pitiful decline into nonsensical storylines; stereotypical and characterless characters; repeated and lazy jokes, with the whole thing reeking of apathy and cynicism. Ideas now balance on what big guest star they can get to sacrifice their dignity for 2 minutes on the biggest show in the land. The episode where ‘The Simpsons are going to England!!!’ may well be one of screen histories most depressingly poignant moments, as face after face of who’s who in the world of UK celebrity was reeled out amidst a tagged on narrative and painfully unfunny references. Awful.

What makes this even harder to take was just how brilliant the show was in its series 3-8 peak, where it was consistently in the top 3 shows of the year. Homer was a caring father, a loving husband, and generally a flawed, but decent human being. Classic episodes such as when he has to say goodbye to his mother again or when Maggie finds Mr Burns’ toy bear were wonderfully orchestrated pieces of sentimentality and showcased central characters of real depth and consistency backed up by a vast array of interesting and entertaining bit players.

The latest trailer has offered nothing to suggest that the film will feature anything of what once made the show so revered. Though the animation has taken on the pseudo 3D look of its cousin Futurama, insuring that at least this will be a venture that is pleasing for the eye, the concept and jokes fall flat on their faces. Homer has to save his family?!?! Dear God, what next!?!?! And with humour derived from the lowest common denominator of obvious puns and over the top slapstick violence, with no sense of a basis in reality (one of the many great aspects of the humour in peak Simpsons), this latest showcase of what is to come is a disappointment.

It’s just as well that this film promises to be the last of the family’s animated antics. Where once this was loved, being a well expressed take on the trials and triumphs of family life, basking in well paced, intelligent humour and clever storylines, it has become a victim of its own success. Constant demands for new episodes lead to a devastating slip in ideas and comedy, with only a hopeless shadow remaining. A hopeless shadow that shall be stretched out to 100 minutes in the summer.

The Greatest British Band of All Time: Part One

So, it’s that time of year again when people so desperately try to categorise and order every film, song, book and spreadable cheese to come up with the definitive answer to the question, “So, just what is the best?”. Not that I have anything against that sort of practice mind you. My very organisational nature demands some form of objectivity when it comes to quantifying the merits of the many and varied pieces that form the dazzling world of ‘art’. The idea of judging what is in itself an expression of the inner workings of humanity may seem a bit of a paradox – surely everyone is essentially equal and whatever we have to say or write or draw or whatever is all perfectly valid, with its relevance and meaning differentiating as each individual witnessing this art draws from their own experiences and opinions on what makes something worth creating – but, you know, it’d be stupid to take such a serious stance to what is really only a bit of fun, and quite often a good magazine seller. So I welcome these polls with open arms, even if it is for that tiny bit of validation that my opinion is the right one. Well, at least I usually do.

This month has seen the usually respectable Radio 2 offer up its choice for The Greatest British Band of all Time. A good idea for a debate you may suggest, but with such tawdry results, one has to question that sanity of such a decision. For the last few weeks Radio 2 commanded its listeners to phone and text in with their suggestions for who they thought deserved such an illustrious tag. And on New Year’s Day the five with the most votes were announced. Who were these five great pioneers of British music, challenging not only musical conventions, but those of society and politics as well, with the talent, skill and determination that would transcend them above the majority of what is surely pish in comparison? Well, these lot apparently: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Oasis and Take That. Well done Great British public, well done.

It is easy to understand many people’s disdain for such meaningless plaudits when results like this stem from thousands upon thousands of individual votes. But worse was to follow. With the final five sorted out, the debate started concerning who was the best of these five. Some sanity might resume you may think, as surely nobody could challenge The Beatles when up against such so-so competition? Surely?

The criteria were drawn up. What was to be analyzed when making such a decision were the following aspects of being a great British band: song writing, lyrics, live performance, originality and showmanship. Vital cornerstones of what makes someone fall in love with a musical hero? Well, that’s debatable. Arcade Fire remain, and probably always shall remain, the greatest live performers I’ve ever seen, have an awesome amount of showmanship, the most inspirational lyrics and epic songwriting, and with their spectacular use of orchestration and all out rock theatrics, are one of the most original bands of the last 20 years, and using solely this criteria they would march into the top five bands ever. But they aren’t one of the top five bands ever. They barely scrape into the top 50! There is so much more to determining such a lofty title, and that is just one of the many flaws concerning this quest.

The main one of course was the winner.

Queen.

That’s right.

Queen.

Just think about that for a minute. Okay, less than that. You don’t need a minute to realise what a ridiculous thing it is to proclaim Queen the greatest British band of all time. There was talent there. There was showmanship. There was originality. But dear God, Queen are not a greater band than The Beatles. Not even Brian May would dispute that, and he finds Anita Dobson attractive.

God it’s giddy up here on this rather tall horse, but still, this result is sodden with embarrassment on the part of all involved. Even the usually rather fantastic Mark Radcliffe. So, could such a judgment be made? To delve deeper into this mystery, I shall peruse each of the finalists in turn, and I may as well use those rather silly attributes to determine just what can be made of these pinnacles of British rock.

 

The Rolling Stones

Songwriting: Here considerations could be made for such a hefty tag to be given to Mick and the rest. Clever, bluesy rock numbers, with an underlying rock passion. Good good.

Lyrics: Not so good. Too sleazy and obvious to be of any real merit.

Live performance: I won’t be able to judge this properly having seen none of the mentioned acts live, but from all footage I’ve seen of them, they do know how to put on a show. Though the idea of them continuing to do so now is an unfortunate one.

Originality: Not an ounce. Blues and R’n’B had been around for donkeys. The only original thing about them was their skin tone.

Showmanship: I don’t really know how this differs in any great deal from live performance. Maybe just general rambunctiousness and personality. Meh, they seem adept at that. Good show.

 

Oasis

Songwriting: Iconic anthems for an album and a half; tired, tedious dross for the rest of their career.

Lyrics: Only of merit when keeping it simple and personal, e.g. the rather lovely ‘Wonderwall’; utterly awful when trying to be poignant and meaningful, e.g. the absurd ‘Champagne Supernova’.

Live performance: Again, I have yet to witness them live, and in their Knebworth days they do look as if they’re giving it their all, but of late really do not seem to care.

Originality: Well, they did come at a time when that form of aggressive rock ‘n’ roll was in the doldrums, and they did shake things up a great deal by not being like anything else at the time, but previous musical generations had seen it all before.

Showmanship: Noel seems a genuinely smart, funny guy who cares about what he does and can come up with an amusing comment. Liam seems like a tosser.

 

Queen

Songwriting: Epic at times. Downright fun at others. Very talented musicians playing some very good songs really. But ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ remains the most over-rated song ever. There is also no great consistency in their work, and the bulk of album tracks are really not worth it.

Lyrics: Camp classics on the whole, with a sly humour to them. Fun more than meaningful.

Live performance: Here is where they shine. Well from what I can gather. They do look as if they’re having fun.

Originality: More so in terms of attitude and appearance than music wise. Opened the door for openly camp and outrageous musicians who like to dress up a bit. And they did help craft glam rock and evolved somewhat after.

Showmanship: Yeah, Freddie was a bit special when it came to this. Over the top and sparkling.

 

The Beatles

Songwriting: Masters. Covering every genre and instrument with remarkable ability. And always consistent with albums boasting a full house of memorable moments.

Lyrics: Early stuff was well measured, if slightly twee, boy girl shenanigans, but later years saw the great minds of Lennon and McCartney take apart society, politics, religion and love to great effect. Except ‘Yellow Submarine’ which is just stupid.

Live performance: I’ve never seen too much footage of proper live gigs, apart from the one at the baseball stadium where nobody could hear them play because of the screaming. I assume they must have done something to merit that sort of reception.

Originality: Okay, the ‘Fab Four’ days may have seen them copy copious amounts from early rock ‘n’ roll greats, but try finding anything that sounded remotely like Rubber Soul or Sgt Pepper’s or The White Album before they did it.

Showmanship: Lennon was a master of publicity and controversy and certainly knew what to say and do to get attention and entertain the baying media. And McCartney was a most dapper chap, what with his boyish good lucks and such. George was cool. Ringo liked to bang things. Superb.

 

Take That

Songwriting: Well Back For… Oh what’s the point?

This time last year they wouldn’t have got into a top 50 greatest British band ever poll. This time next year they wouldn’t get into a top 100 greatest British band poll. Good timing for a come back like. And they’re song was played at the end of the trailer for this. That is why they have crept on to this. There can be no other reason.

 

So, looking at each act through these particular lenses, it is maybe possible to see why it was these five artists that were chosen to represent the elite of Britain’s music. Well four of them. Take That are yet to matter outside the conjoined worlds of pop music and marketing.

It is also quite possible to see why Queen may have chosen as the greatest of them all. But as alluded to earlier, the criterias were retarded and this whole thing smacks of irrelevance. Irrelevance I have chosen to write 1,500+ words on it. But this is merely a preamble, as shall be embellished in the next paragraph below your very eyes.

You may have seen at the top of this article in that there title it says ‘Part One’. Well there’s a reason for that. I won’t let you guess it as that would be too patronising. Wouldn’t it? Well ‘Part Two’ next week shall see the real criteria to judge a band’s merits and I will reveal who truly are the five greatest British bands ever. Look forward to it.

 

Record of the Week

What delight shall be offered up this week that has made me all giddy with glee this week then?  Why, it’s only Fingertips by They Might Be Giants of course.  Far more than just those guys who did that song about Birdhouses then the Malcolm in the Middle theme tune, They Might Be Giants have consistently proven to be one of the most dynamic, progressive and intelligent pop bands out there, and this song perfectcly displays their incredibley well crafted and humorous song writing.   Comprised of 21 parts, Fingertips is their Bohemian Rhapsody, yet without the overplayed, over-rated tawdriness.  An outstanding feat in songwriting that is amazingly, for its composition, never annoying, with each part doing its job and combining with the others to spectacular effect.  And the video that You Tube link is for is also pretty nifty. 

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2 Comments »

  1. really nice interesting article, and a perfect day off from the intriguing but often grim world of politics 🙂

    Comment by Amie — January 19, 2007 @ 11:11 pm | Reply

  2. “that song about Birdhouses”

    Schurely it was about the distant relation of a lighthouse?

    Comment by freshlysqueezedcynic — January 20, 2007 @ 3:32 am | Reply


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