The cultured teenager

the best of literature, film and music, shown through my rather short-sighted eyes

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Mass Hipsteria

Okay, I may not be the fountain of all knowledge, but logic is against hipsters; how can it possible to be ‘cool’ by specifically doing things which are considered not ‘cool’. Wearing unfashionable clothes, listening to obscure music and wearing comically large glasses. This is, from what I have judged, the Hipster ideology, and well, for the first two rules, I conform to this and am therefore accused as being a Hipster. My friends call me a Hipster, but, although I am not one, as I never really make much more than a half-arsed attempt to look cool, because if you knew me, it would be clear that any attempt would be futile, I don’t have an issue with the ideology. Take listening to ‘non-mainstream’ music for example; I do listen to music which isn’t popular in the vast majority, but this isn’t some egocentric quest for people to think I’m cool by listening to Mystery Jets, but mostly because what I like just happens to be unpopular. I have a clear cut opinion of the music I like and the music I hate, and the average person seems to like what’s in the hate pile, but every now and again things cross over. For example, some of my favourite bands, Muse, Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, The Black Keys, Radiohead, The Beatles, The Foo Fighters, are undeniably popular, but I would never consider not listening to them for that reason. I like Hipsterish music and unhipsterish music, which in turn makes me more unmainstream than Hipsters themselves achieve, through my ability to have an individual taste of music and opinion.

Just as much as I think popular music is, in the most part, less enjoyable to listen to than a recording of KFC’s most ardent customers emptying their bowels, I would say this about most popular culture in general. Popular fashion is similarly something I would never consider forcing myself to adhere to, but I am not trying to make a fashion statement by wearing unfashionable clothes to look cool, because what I wear is just what happens to have come into my possession after I have a poke around what has had the biggest price cut in the sales and contemplate whether or not I would give a crap if someone saw me wearing it. Yes, my clothes don’t look vulgar, but my aim is just to look relatively normal, not better than normal and not to look as though couldn’t give a toss, but just to fit in. But that is the issue with Hipsters, there aim isn’t to fit in, but to stand out, like a sore thumb in pastel coloured skinny chinos and espadrilles, and this is where the ideology collapses. If you are not doing what is popular, you should be doing that for yourself, because you enjoy other stuff, but not to make a point, because then when there seems to be someone stood around every corner doing exactly the same thing, with their floppy hair and large glasses, the word ‘mainstream’ just becomes reinvented, starting a new cycle of avoiding what is commonly considered cool. You are either cool or uncool, or somewhere in between, but you cannot be both, so just accept it, and allow me to listen Foals and watch foreign language films without people judging me for doing so. Regards 🙂

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Back in Blighty

However sad it is, I am ever so glad to have arrived back in England just to procrastinate using my laptop and actually find out about the rest of civilization rather than the small campsite in France where I spent my past week. Honestly, it was a very nice campsite, and an excellent holiday, made all the more relaxed by the vast amounts of cheap wine and even cheaper, even more dubious, French beer. Although Britain is obviously superior overall, I must admit that France does some things better; obviously including the cheap beer and wine. The first on my lists is markets; the French variation has rotund men holding wicker baskets filled with wheels of cheese and olives, whereas British markets consists of tarpaulin sheets tied together, upon which are, tea towels, what was left over from a car-boot sale, and an intemperate amount of jars of jam. Another is their knowledge of the English language, where British people make bold efforts to speak French but really understand very little, French people on the other hand act how we ought to, either they can speak the language excellently or not at all. At a vineyard we came across the  man selling the wine and attempted to speak French upon purchasing the rather delightful bottle of wine, he therefore acted like we could speak the language, didn’t even consider speaking English and watched our pathetic attempts to utter anything other than Franglais, apart from the odd bit of German. He may have just been lazy, but it was more likely a marketing ploy to get the customer in a position where they have no idea what they are buying.

I am therefore going to write a homage to the french language through one of my favourite foreign films, ‘A Prophet’. Again similarly to the markets and booze, gritty crime dramas are another thing that foreign countries are far superior than England in the field of. This is one of the darkest, heaviest and consuming films I have ever watched, I would therefore advise anyone of a mild disposition, is xenophobic or just a bit soft to not watch this film. I loved it though. It powerful from the first few moments, Jacques Audiard’s intent and confidence is instantly announced through the striking images of Malik (Tahar Rahim) entering the prison. An object of immense vulnerability, he caught the eye of corsican mobster Cesar (played by the very French sounding Niels Arestrup) leading Malik to the prison-cliche position, of ‘kill or be killed’. The realism of Malik’s ordeal, pain and bewilderment creates an utterly intense setting for the grotseque, grim murder of Reyeb, hiding a razorblade in his mouth, before slashing Reyeb’s throat, and the vast flow of blood which followed. Psychologically, this is relentlessly brutal not only for the characters but for the audience as well, this film doesn’t follow the usual pattern of a weak prisoner escaping the pain and brutallity of prison, rather the opposite. You watch Malik’s desires for greater power and self-betterment, improving (if that is the right word) his criminal mind rather than rehabilitating it. A truly excellent film, though unimaginably dark and intense. If you’re into your films, this is a must see. Regards 🙂

5 damn good songs :)

These songs have been buzzing around my head recently so I’m going to throw them your way and hopefully they’ll be your cup of tea. They’re varying styles and genres but are all damn good and worth a listen.

1.) Crystal Fighters- Plage: I remember seeing this band supporting Foals; I had no knowledge of them prior to the gig but was more than satisfied by their terrific live display. This song seeps gorgeous summer vibes with Basque instruments that leave you wanting more and also a time-share on the coast of Eastern Spain. Enjoy

2.) Cage the Elephant- Right before my eyes: Although unfortunately there is no video for this song, it does not take anything away from the bands ruffian splendour, reminiscent of The Pixies at their best. This is my personal favourite from their new album, which I was fortunate enough to hear when they played Glastonbury; their gig was easily one of the most memorable performances due to the ecstatic atmosphere and crowd surfing that caused the lead singer to, no word of a lie, kick me in the head on two separate occasions being that I was at the very front, giving me good video footage of the kicking. Enjoy

3.) Dry The River- No Rest: Acoustic folk can make me feel repulsed but when you get the good stuff, you can’t help but enjoy, this band are one of the few folk bands not trying to be Mumford & Sons but getting equally good results from simple yet intense music. Although this song has a slow start, this is them simmering until the eruption which comes at about 1:45, with the scrawny lead singer’s powerful howls showing you how gorgeous and intense good music can be. Enjoy

4.) Gnarls Barkley- Reckoner (Radiohead cover):Again referring to Glastonbury, I was fortunate to see the wondrous Radiohead performing an almost-secret gig, seeing them play most of their last two albums which disappointed many of the call-themselves-fans there, whilst I on the other hand was entirely consumed by song after song, particularly ‘Reckoner’. This heart-rending version by Gnarls Barkley is less gritty and sardonic than the original but Cee-Lo Green’s voice perfectly bellows “Because we separate like ripples on a blank shore”. Enjoy

5.) Howler- I Told You Once: Kooky independent music is easy to find but usually of pretty poor quality, yet this young band from Minneapolis muster up much more than many established bands with a lot less effort. This song will make the most miserable sod smile, they seem like The Strokes for the lighthearted and that can only mean one thing; they’re bloody damn good. Enjoy

I hope you found at least one song there that you could listen to over and over until all other music becomes shoddy in comparison. Regards 🙂

Love David Fincher even more; Hate Justin Timberlake even more

Not long ago, I watched The Social Network and thought it was excellent; I am therefore writing about it because I enjoyed it rather than trying to make some pretentious teen-blogger statement that I have seen it and therefore am an intellectual into clever witty indie films and therefore deserve recognition. That’s one of my main reasons for writing this almost-review, as I read a review for it before watching it, which was exactly the up-itself pretentious message that everyone should appreciate the views of the American half-wit who wrote the review. It seems quite a pretentious film, however this view of it is focused on the main characters which are the snobby, arrogant elite minds of Harvard, however Sorkin and Fincher tell the narrative in a relatively simple manner about something incredibly difficult, making it surprisingly watchable and easy to eat popcorn to.

It is Aaron Sorkin’s dark, smart and snappy script which makes the film and increases the realism of the skillful character portrayals, particularly around the sub-plot of corporate espionage, causing me to hate Justin Timberlake even more than I had thought possible of anyone. Unfortunately on this occasion though it was his decent performance which makes you want to hug Eduardo Savarin whilst simultaneously mugging Sean Parker and Lord Zuckerberg of Facebook. As a patriotic Brit I feel that Andrew Garfield is one of the star turns causing a constant stream of sympathy from the audience whilst performing with wit and providing an emotive integrity to his character. Although this, it isn’t the performances or iconic moments that make this so watchable but the intricacy and genius craftsmanship of Fincher and Sorkin, cleverly, so the importance and relevance of this communicative revolution is highlighted, this is channeled through one of the best communicators whom has lived, being one of the best script-writers in Hollywood. But a good script doesn’t make a good film, and it is Sorkin’s partner-in-crime, David Fincher, who weaves the riveting narrative and characters into the audience’s minds. The clever intertwining of court-room battles of those against you and those who you never realised were against you, bring forward the question of “What are they actually like behind what they show me?” Quite an appropriate sub-topic considering this a tangent from discussing Facebook, which has the whole purpose of telling your ‘friends’ about yourself. However, some overly self-conscious people treat Facebook rather as there own advertising space and show off there best bits, both unsurprising and pathetic, but again this comes back to this excellent film and script as the words Sorkin wrote meant so many different things in the hands of Savarin, Parker and Zuckerberg, most importantly being success and it’s importance over friendship and integrity, or whether money is far more important.

I expect you’ve watched it, but if not it’s a must see as are most spawned from the great mind of David Fincher, particularly se7en and Fight Club, which I expect I may do a write-up of at some point. Regards 🙂

All balls in the air

I read. A pretty simple comment, but I’m a very sad lonesome child and therefore do properly read, currently reading five different books. But there is nothing quite like reading the last twenty pages of a book you have been so immersed in that outsiders would think you were on a hunger strike. Whenever I read a Nick Hornby novel I become so consumed I finish it by the next day, and don’t stop thinking about it until his next novels in my hand. Not that long ago I recommended Fever Pitch to a friend, who then replied, “I don’t read books about football”. I am still confused to why I didn’t punch her in the face; “ITS NOT JUST A BOOK ABOUT FOOTBALL, YOU DAFT COW!”. I’m a good English student (sorry for blowing on my own trumpet), targeted an A at A-level; I’m not a ten year old who only reads a book because it has a pop-art picture of a teenager doing an overhead kick on the front. If she had just read the first couple of pages she would have realised how wrong her original opinion was; yes, football is the major theme, but Hornby uses football to convey his emotions and opinions of society rather than telling a story to amuse primary school children. Football’s part in the novel is more or less to cement the idea of how integral it was to British society between 1968 (his teenage years) to 1992 (his adult years at the end of the book), although his passion for the game is often a curtain for his emotions surrounding relationships, whether family or girlfriends.

It is also significant that the book ends in 1992, where the sport became ‘Americanised’, becoming the Premier League and therefore a commercial enterprise worth millions of pounds rather than a cultural experience, which is how Hornby presents his addiction to the game. The novel is based around key Arsenal matches which show Hornby how football fits into his existence as he searches for the purpose of his life. This is an often witty and always heart-warming tale which is worth a read, footy fans and the unconverted alike, and if you are the stubborn cow who thinks reading anything related to football is a waste of time, well, I pity you because you’re missing out on a great book. Regards 🙂

3 great new bands for the week

1.) YUCK: I’m one of a growing number of fans who have been caught by the fuzz. Their ‘sound’ shows a revival of grunge and early 90’s college-dorm alt. rock, however with surprisingly catchy pop-style choruses. To simply categorize Yuck as the next not-that-successful grunge band would be idiotic, as their heartbreaking and endearing music sounds completely different to the Class of 91, although it contains a variety of familiar elements. Once broken down, you can here basslines reminiscent of early Pixies as well as Sonic Youth style snaking riffs, which combine to produce an effortlessly complete and surprisingly neat album. Please enjoy my personal favourite from their debut album, The Wall by Yuck

2.) TOM VEK: As some may have realised, I am using the term ‘new’ loosely, as Vek first appeared about 6 years ago, however I was none-the-wiser at the the time and also, slightly more significantly, 11 years old. On his latest album, “Leisure Seizure”, Vek hits you with his satisfyingly beefy sound, appearing to me as a 21st century David Byrne making music for stylised, cultured people in their mid-thirties who live in fashionable apartments and read NME. Monsieur Vek also has a timelss, perfectly produced lead single in the form of ‘A chore’, which has a warmth and jerky rhythm-attack that leaves you nodding your head until you get moderate whiplash. Listen and hopefully enjoy the beautiful melatron sound that is, A Chore by Tom Vek

3.)BRENDAN BENSON: Again, this isn’t exactly new, having produced the amazingly good ‘Lapalco’ in 2002, however this time I was eight. I have known and loved him for a few years now, however I have only just been immersed in the sheer brilliance of his solo material, having previously adored him as part of Jack White’s other band, The Raconteurs. I’ve been listening to his first album over and over again; it has a masterful comfort that makes me sing along, even during the first time I hear one of his songs. His songs are a sweet reminder that the singer-songwriter doesn’t have as irritating as Jack Johnson, but can actually have some sort of panache and be slick and sardonic, leading to the irrepressible addiction to ‘Lapalco’. I hope you enjoy this much as I do, Tiny Spark by Brendon Benson

Those are my recommendations of what to listen to over the next week, and hopefully you will enjoy these bands as much as I do. Every week I will do a top 3, varying between books, films, TV and music, and hopefully you may discover your new favourite band. Regards 🙂

Why do you wear that stupid bunny suit?

Probably my favourite film containing a bunny called Frank. And for those who have not yet seen the darkly funny ‘Donnie Darko’ I urge you to do so now, unless you aim to lose people’s respect. The main character, Donnie, obviously, is one I can compare to myself in few ways; I’m not quite as mentally disturbed as he is nor particularly similar in appearance, however his distorted vision of what is around him causes me to question my own perception of what is really happening around me. I don’t expect an ominous monologue from a demonic-looking rabbit who sounds suspiciously similar to James Duval, however I feel someone ought to do similar and reach into my only slightly disturbed and sadistic world, grab me by the scruff of the neck, and shout down my throat, “Just look at whats happening around you!”. There should be an epiphany similar to this looming, because somewhere there is a jet engine hurtling towards me that I’m not aware of. It also causes the always irritating idea of fate to get back into the conversation, however this is probably as irrelevant, or even wrong as numerous other ideas within the film, including the only slightly noticeable wormholes. I do have a vague belief in fate, but as long as I can convince myself that I control my decision making and be spontaneous, I will be a happy bunny. OBOE! Was it fate that caused me write that? No, if fate exists I still have spontaneity although I was always going to be spontaneous.

Anyway, I ought to give this post a shove back to its original topic. Back to Donnie Darko, it also leads to the question of freedom concerning your actions, whether or not you are manipulated into doing deeds unknown to your conscience. The series of crimes commited by Donnie cause me to laugh, whether that is the sadistic side of me or the fact these are commanded by mysterious talking rabbit. Nonetheless the shifts in tone, from misery and realism to dark humour allow a variety of intriguing characters come to the forefront; one notable example being Patrick Swayze’s motivational guru. It is definitely a superb film, however has no distinctive genre; rather a merging of several, including psychological thriller, coming of age drama and a moving romance, but it is not the variety of themes and questions raised by it which cause it to be so vivid in my mind, but is its striking images, performances and surreal yet dark mood (which was a highlight due to clever choices of music such as Joy Division and Tears for Fears). To close, I hope you can now see that none of us are actually the centre of an elaborate fantasy, however as long as we amuse ourselves with such exhilirating fantasy worlds we can convince ourselves that we are the ones that everybody else revolves around. Regards 🙂

The intimidating first post

I’m already ideas a-plenty of what to write about, but lets kick off with a classic album. Every post, will basically be me advertising one thing wedged in my head encompassing the best of many forms of culture. Music, is probably the one though which makes me moan the most, but also squeal like the little girl we all become when something so awe-inspiringly brilliant finds us. This divine album I will be making a promotion of is utterly different to most things I like, possibly making it memorable and therefore addictive. If someone told me to listen to some Rock’n’roll crossed with acid house and gospel I would intentionally hate it, but Primal Scream, show music as the art-form it is, as shown from the ever-psychedelic ‘Screameadelica’. I only listened to them a few times until recently, when I saw that they were playing Glastonbury, as I was one of the smug sods there, who go on about how amazing the live music was rather than wading through two foot deep mud/excrement. This led to me discover this fudging amazing album; an album is only amazing if so good you don’t notice the naff songs, however in this case they are mostly naff songs but produced exquisitely by Andrew Weatherall. No it didn’t change music for ever, but reignited British dance music with the druggy optimism of the early 60’s; although it was written by ecstasy-fueled Glaswegians, it produced some epic (horrible word, but it is perfectly suitable) songs, despite my non-existence at the time, showed the “blissed-out brilliance that perfectly sums up the mood of the early 90’s”. To finish with, here is an amazing performance that I was both lucky enough and willing enough to spend £200 on a series of gigs, to have the good fortune of witnessing live. Regards and please enjoy Come Together by Primal Scream, live at Glastonbury

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