Monday, October 28, 2002

metroid fusion

let's talk about videogames:

They are, foremost, a guy thing. This is probably the one demographic assumption i feel safe making about them. This means that we get developers making a certain set of assumptions: this set of assumptions differs somewhat on different sides of the Pacific, but can be said to result in Lara Croft on one side and Tifa Lockhart on the other. This is oversimplification but will do.

Nintendo - as developers, not publishers - don't have a very good track record when it comes to female characters. Pauline, whose role was to stand at the top of the levels in Donkey Kong and go HELP HELP; Princess Mushroom (or possibly Toadstool), who was much the same only blonde; Princess Zelda (see: Princess Mushroom).

And Samus Aran, from the Metroid games, who was more or less an unkillable asexual cyborg, and who, unlike the others, is the character controlled by the player.

(and who nintendo has initiated a woeful tradition of showing in less clothing, the better the player gets at the game. this is not good. when someone completes Mario Sunshine in under two hours they do not get a picture of Mario in a thong.)

so, Metroid Fusion, out for GBA sometime soon: I won't summarise the plot, but at the end of the game it transpires that without the remote guidance of another character, Adam, Samus would have ended up killing herself and being responsible for the likely death of humanity.

Which means that the one female Nintendo character who isn't a princess in need of rescue (you could bring up mario 2 US to argue but please don't) is in fact useless without the control of a remote (male) presence, and this is horribly reductive, but i'm tired, dammit: if the player of the game is assumed by the game to be male, the presence of the character 'Adam' signifies that the viewpoint of the player is not Samus, but the man in control. And if the player does well enough, the reward is, sadly: cheesecake!

{and now, a review: the game plays exactly like super metroid, although littler, and with slightly better graphics, and is the reason i have got nothing done in the last four days. draw your own conclusions.}

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

ha ha

posts on electricrevival represent solely the views of their authors and should not be taken to represent those of the site as a whole.
Notes on Liberty X -

I love both the songs I've heard so far, the two singles 'Just A Little' and 'Got To Have Your Love'. Yes, the second one as well. Having not watched the original Popstars series they were built from, all I get is the perspective of them as you see them on TOTP and such, but knowing that they are derived from the TV series is what confirms them as anti-popstars.

"How do you have an anti-popstar?" I hear you cry. Well, Liberty X (or 'the X' as i shall refer to them from now on) aren't exactly 'star material' are they? They look like common people, act like common people and they certainly DANCE like common people (badly, that is). This is the key to their greatness because they work the overtly-sheened-production vehicle so that they come at the listener from a 'cheap and sleazy' angle.

The X (!) are the sound of a lairy, drink-fuelled post-club ejaculation in the back of a common male person's Corsa. If the slow songs on the album are the sigh of the unsatisfied female concerned in the liaison clambering out the door then I'm sold.
Destiny's Child's peak was of course "Say My Name", the anthemic tale of male uselessness that got women everywhere 'realising' how their man was such a shithead. But the reason I love this single (and I've only heard DC's singles so that's what I'm judging 'peak' on) is that it successfully combines the two faces of/in Beyonce's narratives.

The singles I remember from first album 'The Writing's On The Wall' are mostly accounts of the belligerent cementing of a strong female persona in a relationship. Men are constantly inadequate, and this is what makes them (the singles) brilliant. 'Bills Bills Bills' is a definition of the 'scrub' (shiver), a man so pathetic that he has to rely on his GYALFREN for money and transport etc, something that clearly angers Beyonce, so she threatens that if nothing changes "You an' me are through!". But while Beyonce clearly has little respect for them, she shows an underlying need for her man to take care of her financially, that she shouldn't be relied upon for cash since this is evidently the male role. And in 'Jumpin' Jumpin'' she purports - "Ladies leave your men at home/the club is full of bawlers and their pockets full grown" - indicating that a man's priniciple attraction is his wallet. This unveils Beyonce's complex that her man must pay her way in the relationship, however much she may claim that she depends on herself in 'Independent Woman'.

'Survivor''s singles show how this independent woman has fared now that she has made her mark. Whether they are about coping with being a woman in a man's world ("I'm gonna work harder" - suggesting she feels she needs to impress within the community of grey-haired, wrinkly white men running major record labels) or the rallying of women to feel better about themselves (a proposition far too caring and sensitive to be included in 'Writings...' singles, and also the basic message of 'Bootylicious'), or a sympathetic ice-cream tub on that sorrowful night in when your man leaves you ('Emotions' - the barren egg that could never have floated down 'Writing's...''s fallopian tube), the songs are more contemplastive, and lack the vitriol of 'Bills Bills Bills' or 'Bug A Boo', because Beyonce's world is no longer populated by scrubs but by the scrubbed-up, clean shaven hacks of the music industry.

'Say My Name' links the two albums' intentions since it simultaneously says "arent' guys shitheads?" (cf. the contempt for the male's actions during the songs verses) and "I need him to need me"( the chorus). The latter reveals Beyonce's inner control freak. She has to be totally controlling over her man's actions, she NEEDS him to say he loves her, however inadequate he is or however much he drains her credit cards and gas tanks. If he's seeing someone else, this means he can't love her, and her power over him is surrendered. This scares 'Say My Name''s female protaganist because she can't exploit HIS wallet if and when she needs to anymore, or even moan about how bad a boyfriend he is (which she obviously loves doing) if he leaves her.

'Say My Name' is a horrible, bitter, resentful and wonderful record. If it were made by a man, it would be mysogynistic, but its description of the femme fatale finally being flummoxed strikes the collective chord within its audience. It becomes a rabble-rousing anthem for emotionally weak teenage girls, who subconsciously wish to be the bitchy manipulative mistress who was often presented beneath the veil of 'the strong female' in the previous singles.

And, of course, they also get to accuse men of being cheating bastard shitheads.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

and now i want a hairband with cat ears on it.
I keep thinking I should give up on trying to learn piano. at seventeen I have all the ability of your average gifted six year old, or your average mediocre ten year old; it's worse when you consider I was once that mediocre ten year old.

I keep persevering - these are very loose definitions of "keep" and "persevere" - because I like the idea of picking up a new set of ears. The way I listen to pop music is one set of ears; the ears I have to use to listen to radio three or to try and pick out all these beginners piano pieces I can't even play, are another. And right now it feels, more often than not, like my attempts at a new set of ears are like this hairband with cat ears on it:

and every time I think about playing piano music I have to convincingly impersonate a cat.

but, although I have no aspirations of ever being a concert pianist - I do not wish to inflict upon anyone a new voice, because my old one is painful enough - I continue (this being a better word than "persevere") with piano, because sometimes I can almost hear with these new ears (and I am hating this metaphor already) and things don't sound better but different, and sometimes I can briefly hear all the old things I listen to with new ears (this does not yet work with morrissey, cf. below), and because, you know, fuck it: hitting keys is fun, and sometimes it is fun to wear the daft cat ears and look like an idiot.

morrissey charging £30 for brixton academy tickets has suddenly provided me with the motivation to not bother! hurrah!

Monday, October 07, 2002

"why is acoustic guitar a signifier for "songwriter"?"

Thom this is the point I was making.

Sunday, October 06, 2002

[full disclosure: i am seventeen]

notes towards an essay on the Smiths:


This is the first single they released after The Queen is Dead; the secret meaning of that record is that it doesn't want to be anti-royalist – Morrissey longs for a world where we could look up to the Royals, where you could say take me back to dear old Blighty and mean it – but in the real world the options are nine-year-old toughs peddling drugs or the church or going down the pub and the Royals are just tabloid-fodder. "her very lowness with her head in a sling " – sometimes you have to kill the things you love.

And this is where you go when you don't want to live in the real world: the Radio. The normal line with this song is that it's about Morrissey hating black music, but as a Morrissey-worshipping fifteen year old (yesyesshutupshutUP) it seemed to apply perfectly well to the manufactured pop I hated (or claimed to). But these songs were of course saying a whole lot to a whole lot of people who bought them; sometimes "hang the blessed DJ / because the music that they constantly play / it says nothing to me about my life" just means that "this music doesn't give me quite the particular fantasy image of my life I would like", and so putting this song on the radio is a rational response to that, because it is a fantasy.

This is perhaps the ultimate Smiths song – Morrissey's All-English Apocalypse, the death of everything he mourned in 'The Queen Is Dead', isn't explained here – "panic on the streets of carlisle / dublin, dundee, humberside" – and in Morrisseyland a song you don't like coming on the radio effectively is the apocalypse. And so "hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ.." is the response Morrissey would like, his listeners up in arms. And if you listen to the record whatever your private apocalypse is – personal or political or even if you just have nothing else to worry about but what is played on the radio - is part of this, because there is nothing here to tell you otherwise. Morrisseyland is open to all comers.


And here the personal becomes the political – "if it's not Love, then it's the Bomb / the Bomb, the Bomb, the Bomb / that will bring us together.." the realisation that however byzantine the world of personal obsessions and heroic reference becomes (and it was, and god knows how Shelagh Delaney feels), the real world will always begin to infringe: Steven Wells (I think) said he hated the Smiths because they weren't political (although he made 'Panic' single of the week because he thought it was), but the thing is that Morrissey avoided the political because he could, because outsiders had no place in it..

So there's this guy, right, and he's in love with this girl (or another guy; pop music is blurry around these lines), and he wants to ask her out, but he can't. He's too shy. So he persuades himself that she'll see they're made for each other. She will ask him out. Then she doesn't. So he starts to persuade himself that it's her that's being coy and she's being shy, and tries to think he can fix her of that: "Shyness is nice," he starts, but before long all he can do is be insulting and incomprensible: "Nature is a Language / can't you Read?" and then it's over before it began.

I'm not sure if fifteen-year-old-me "got" this record, but I can't say I liked it. Possibly I recognised myself in it too much.

shoplifters of the world unite

Section 28 might well mark the point where it became impossible for the Smiths to stay out of politics -

my only weakness is a listed crime
but last night the plans for a future war
were all i saw on channel four

- the point being that the real England's uncaringness in the face of a law basically designed to keep homosexuality from becoming perceived as normal is both a refutation of half of what makes up Morriseyland, and a horrible affirmation of the other half - those obsessions I haven't touched on of his: 'Skinhead', thuggishness, hypermasculinity. and the Falklands War is the point where 1,000 people are killed over an island with a population of 2,400..

Here the only hope is revolution: the armies mobilising to burn down discos and lynch DJs here face their last recourse, uniting to do nothing less than take over the world, but whatever is needed to make this song make sense isn't there. The thing linking shoplifting to homosexuality is apparently a quote from a film but on all of google I can't find what film; in the record where Morrissey reaching the point of asking people to DO IT his own personal reference universe reaches the point where most of them can barely understand.

Shoplifters is a magnificent admission of defeat, the point at which Morrissey admits that his little universe does not, can not work..

i tried living in the real world
instead of a shell
..i was bored before I even began

Morrisseyland is a nice place to visit but like all fantasies is not healthy to maintain. This is why so many listeners have (or need to) grow out of the band.

And so we go from the last verse of this song, being arrested for ahem "shoplifting" to Strangeways, Here We Come: the walls of Morrisseyland are crumbling, and this is what the record is about. "I Won't Share You" is an obvious farewell, but 'Paint A Vulgar Picture' is another, and a new beginning: the start of the process of self-mythology which replaced the inclusivity of the Smiths: from Viva Hate onwards the cover stars were gone. Morrissey was on the front of his records and Morrissey was his records and he wasn't writing for you anymore.

And really I Won't Share You is the ending: "this is my time". not Paint A Vulgar Picture:

they can never taint you in my eyes
they can never touch you now

it's a pretty lie and a miserable one, because Morrissey isn't the dead star he pretends to mourn, he's still around and last year the ninth compilation of Smiths material came out, meaning more than two for each actual album ; he's touring this year and if he comes to England I'll go see him ; he's looking for another record contract and if a record comes out I'll buy it. And as much as I would like to draw a neat line under this period of what I listened to, and claim I have grown out of the band, I can't, and I guess I can live with that.
scary thought: the gormless looking one in the new S Club 7 video is wearing the same outfit I am.

danny: "contestants who presented themselves as songwriters were shot in fields with acoustic guitars. While viewers should really expect this, it seemed like a case of "Oh, this one's a songwriter" "Chuck a guitar on his shoulder, then". They CAN play it, HONEST!!"

I don't really care about whether they can play guitar or not but why is acoustic guitar a signifier for "songwriter"? grr. Craig David and Mike Skinner are songwriters (avoid scarey quotes avoid scarey quotes) and no one chooses to pose them with a guitar. George Michael had an acoustic guitar explode in his video about a decade ago to say, you know, fuck this noise. is Academy thing a BBC show? it seems to be horribly out of date imagery. the only ACTUAL REAL POP STAR i've seen pose with an acoustic guitar to indicate authenticity is cough cough Liam Gallagher.

Friday, October 04, 2002

fame academy

At first I was mortified at this - the introductory performance (can't remember what song) was nothing better than a glorified school talent contest. The backing music consisted of cheap-sounding karaoke Casio beats, and the dance routines were dishearteningly poor. If it were a school talent contest, these would be the kids who stood onstage looking bored and waiting for their line cues.

Another gripe was that when the compulsory 'contestants at home' video montages were shown, those contestants who presented themselves as songwriters were shot in fields with acoustic guitars. While viewers should really expect this, it seemed like a case of "Oh, this one's a songwriter" "Chuck a guitar on his shoulder, then". They CAN play it, HONEST!!

Also, a good number of them were outside the age bracket the ITV reality pop shows set, so this obviously triggers theories that would contain the words "Popstars cast-offs".

Its the concept of the programme that interests me, though. The prize seems dubious (a year in the life of a popstar? Does this not crush the dream and condemn the winner to Hear'Say country immediately?) but the whole idea is that the fame academy goes better and beyond 'Popstars'. In trying to convey this, the judges have chosen people whom everyone will be convinced have the kind of talent that could get them into the industry by itself (hence the songwriter angle - a more 'honest' or, more aptly, 'genuine' popstar than the ITV variety) and the academy is just a shortcut. This is perhaps why they offer the year in the life prize, so that it seems that the academy has done more for them than simply training.

But will this training actually BENEFIT the contestants, particularly those who don't win? Of course, they've all entered for the recording contract but I wonder whether they buy into the fact that the songwriting teachers will try to alter all their songwriting styles so they can adapt to a mass market. The teacher categorically stated that she will teach 'How To Write A Hit Record' to the pupils, so any hopes they may have of 'pouring their heart out on tape' like many fledgling songwriters have can be effectively erased.

My point is that the Fame Academy will inevitably draw some of its students away from their field of expertise in music. Two that spring to mind are Katie, a classical opera singer, who will be trained to sing pop, and Marli, a piano teacher with a quite beautiful female jazz voice, which, if in the right band with the right songs, I think could make great music according to their own personal style and taste. Ultimately, I think the Fame Academy will deny these two poor souls their opportunity (or perhaps their right?) to do this.