Andrea Arnold’s debut movie, Red Road, is a shocking social documentary style movie that is breathtaking in its boldness and unflinching in its depiction of a Glasgow underclass that most of us do not know. American Honey does a similar job of depicting an American class that’s seldom caught on screen and was cast mainly from the street.
It too is pretty unflinching in its depiction of drug taking, young sex and the unwinding of an American dream; of sorts.
It’s a road movie that follows the fortunes of 18 year old abused runaway, Star, and her relationship with a group of young magazine salespeople touring the country looking for door to door sales in a variety of American housing schemes (both rich and poor).
It leads to an episodic series of events that range from amusing to totally horrific.
Arnold’s style is uncompromising. It, like Grand Budapest Hotel, is shot in square (Instagram) format which gives it a certain contemporaneity and the photography, that is mainly cinema verite, occasionally bursts into beautiful, glorious, rich warmth such that it takes your breath away.
It’s a compelling performance by Sasha Lane as Star and Shia LaBeouf also impresses as her mentor and, later, lover. Riley Keogh is also excellent as the aloof, slightly terrifying team leader who lives a separate life of relative luxury while her band of stoner sales people rough it in hostels.
But it’s an uncomfortable ride that rewards your patience.
Having been unable to get tickets for Glastonbury for a few years now I am about to experience the Catalonian equivalent with a cheeky wee trip to Barcelona for Primavera Sound.
Top of my list of, and possible, just about, ‘to see’ are…
- Bon Iver
- Kate Tempest
- Aphex Twin
- King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
- Magnetic Fields (Playing the ED Fest in August)
- Arab Strap
- the xx
- Sleaford Mods
- Jamie XX
- Songhoy Blues
- Van Morrison
- Teenage Fanclub
- Grace Jones
- Arcade Fire
- Wild Beasts
Of these my number one pick is King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Check out Gamma Knife, their best song. They have many best songs.
Not to be confused with The Penguin Cafe Orchestra that disbanded upon the untimely death of its leader Simon Jeffes in 2007, the Penguin Cafe is actually a different band, although it includes some of the previous members and is led by Simon Jeffes’ son, Arthur.
Live, The Penguin Cafe play many of The Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s favourite pieces and it has been my privilege to enjoy them live twice (Usher Hall, Edinburgh and Glastonbury) but they record in their own right and The Imperfect Sea is their third, and best, album.
I read that Arthur was concerned that this latest recording was taking them to new places and ran the risk of disaffecting long term PCO fans. I can reassure you Arthur that you have done no such thing.
It’s a bobbydazzler. It really is.
It’s far from imperfect.
The sound, as my good friend and long term PCO aficionado, Jon Stevenson, said to me the other day lacks some of the humour of the PCO and he is right. The Penguin Cafe are a more serious bunch of musicians and their output is perhaps more orchestral than the PCO which was more folky in totality, but this matters not a jot when the quality is so high.
I’ve listened to The Imperfect Sea 5 or 6 times in the last few days and there is nary an off note. Sure, the first time I listened I was riding my bike and the constant ‘ping’ of cycle bell on Cantorum was a mite discombobulating, but it’s endearing also and hearkens back towards the PCO’s playfulness. (It has a small debt to pay to the mighty Telephone and Rubber Band).
Ricecar, the opener, is a classic of sequenced music and is certainly of the PCO school.
Overall this is a mighty addition to the PC/PCO canon.
To regain full use of one’s hi-fi is a first world delight.
My turntable has been operating on a semi-functional basis for some time until I bit the bullet and took it to Hi Fi Repairs – a one man operation on Clarke St in Edinburgh.
The man is a genius.
He can repair anything; including my 30 year old Castle speakers and now my 30 year old Ariston Q Deck. (It seems it does go on and on and on and Ariston.)
So I have christened it with Talking Heads, Remain in Light.
Not a bad choice. Please enjoy with me.
This Romanian Yodelling song is utter class. I’m having some of that at 25/1.
And the teen heartthrob from Bulgaria is the ‘head’ vote. 4/1.
I’d like to say I’ve grown up with Desert Island Discs, but the truth is I was a terrible snob about ‘middle class radio’ in my disapproval of it as a youth. I was brought up in the punk era. DID did not fit with the zeitgeist. (I didn’t even give Led Zeppelin the time of day then, for God sake.)
I remain a terrible snob in different ways today.
For example, when it comes to class and political affiliations I’m a mess.
I feel like a Liberal but don’t vote Liberal. I voted Yes for Independence in Scotland but am beginning to mistrust the SNP as they have unfettered power. I deplore the Tories, but love Kenneth Clark. I would not vote Labour but hugely admire Jeremy Corbyn. I love the Greens but they are too hippy dippy for me.
When it comes to music I can’t abide the current state of the charts but am fully doting on BBC Radio 6 and its general output, yet when I open The Skinny to look at their best of the year I barely recognise a band and worry that I am losing touch.
My best of 2016 included David Bowie, Radiohead, De La Soul, King Creosote, Nick Cave, A Tribe called Quest, Massive Attack, Mogwai, Pixies.
Dad Rock (and Dad Hip hop) if ever you saw it. Not one a day under 50 years old and Seaford Mods are not far off it either.
So where does DID fit in to all this?
Right at the top of the tree. That’s where.
My aforementioned ‘political disdain’ for Radio 4 has long been eroded and DID sits as the King of the BBC’s castle, patrolling the battlements the real life Queen, Kirsty Young. Surely the greatest voice and most empathetic interviewer to ever grace the world of radio.
I listen to the archives and cannot bear the sound of the Wicked Witch of the West that preceded her; Sue Lawley. Where Kirsty embraces, Lawley shunned. Where Kirsty giggles, Lawley sneered or simply tossed off a harumphlike snort.
Parky was good though and so was Roy Plomley in that so very BBC era.
The beauty of DID is that it gets under the skin of its interviewees like no other programme. Sure, the music can be special but the formula (and it’s ingenious mixologist) works at pulling the truth from people. Not the scandalous truth but the personal truth.
How they really felt about their mum and dad.
Why they were turned from the straight and narrow for a while (no REALLY why).
What embarrassing (but not headline) secrets they have.
How childhood bullying made them.
These sorts of things.
If you want to hear that in an absolute nutshell listen to the enthralling interview with Kathy Burke. And try not to cry.
Listen to how Atul Gawande saved thousands of lives by creating a checklist for surgeons. Genuinely inspiring.
I’ve not yet heard the Tom Hanks interview but I understand he was reduced to tears by Kirsty, but in a very nice way.
Lemm Sissey, a poet, was another who brought me to tears as he told his adoption story.
This programme does not tolerate big heads. How could you show off with Kirsty anyway? Although, there was probably more opportunity in Lawley’s days, because I think she was more in the thrall of her big shot interviewees. Kirtsty often is too, but in a completely different way. Like a little girl mouth agape at her first Spice Girls gig sort of way rather than a Lawley “look at me interviewing Henry Kissinger ” way.
The list of the most chosen pieces reflects an aspect of the show that I think represents its strictly middle class past, because over the last ten years this picture must have changed.
Beethoven – Symphony No 9 in D minor ‘Choral’
Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor
Schubert – String Quintet in C major
Beethoven Symphony No 6 in F Major ‘Pastoral’
Elgar – Pomp & Circumstance March no 1 in D Major ‘Land of Hope and Glory’
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No 5 in E Flat Major ‘Emperor’
Elgar – Enigma Variations Nimrod
Beethoven – Symphony No 7 in A major
That’s not exactly Radio 1 (or 2 for that matter) is it?
Interviewees divide, for me, into two groups. Those that truly love classical music and their list is wall to wall classical with a token Frank Sinatra thrown in, and those that think a token classical piece or two will make them look more profound. I’d likely have no classical in my choices but if I were to play that game it would be either Faure’s Requiem or Barber’s Adagio for Strings.
Look. There. I’ve done it.
But that minor criticism (and it’s of some of its interviewees not the show itself) Desert Island Discs really does deserve the tag “National Institution”.
Here’s to my grandchildren enjoying it at the turn of the 22nd century.