Friday, 31 December 2010

This is not an end of year round-up....

It's been an odd year for me, in a lot of ways. I left one relationship, moved house, began another relationship, and lost two jobs over the course of 2010.
Not ideal, in many ways, but then I am, somewhat perversely, happier than I was this time last year.
My last relationship just didn't sit right with me, and my living situation left much to be desired - my current partner is just about perfect, and I live somewhere that I actually like spending time in, so you can see how THAT side of things has picked up.

I've been through the employment mill this year, and have only actually worked for around two months. The rest of that time has been spent trying to FIND work. Ordinarily that would worry me senseless, BUT I happen to know that there is a new job waiting for me, one that I start on January 10th and hope to be in for a long time to come.

Everything impacts upon everything else, and so now that my love-life and housing issues are well in hand, and my job issues are about to be solved, I find myself in a pretty good place.
Sure, I'm not very musically or artistically fulfilled at present, but once things settle down elsewhere, I can attend to those needs.

I have a good feeling about 2011, which is a fucking relief for me.

Now, what has been floating MY boat this past year?

Weeeeeeeeeeeell, musically, it's a tough call. Sure I've heard some great records, but I feel like I'm still assessing them, like they haven't really sunk in enough for me to give concrete judgements, if you catch my drift.
I've had to listen HARD to a swathe of releases in order to review 'em, but I can't say as I managed to APPRECIATE 'em in the way that I would do under 'normal' circumstances.

I mean, I've greatly enjoyed records by Swans, The Body, Black Sun, Slough Feg, Rings Of Saturn and a bunch of others, but I just don't feel qualified to say which of them would be my 'Top Ten' or whathaveyou. I'm still listening and trying to catch up.

One thing that HAS been floating my boat this year is Jonathan Hickman's run on, of all things, FANTASTIC FOUR.

Yeah. I KNOW.

Suuuuure, I enjoyed John Byrne's run on it, back in the day, and yes I can dig Kirby's art (not so much Stan's writing though) on the early issues, but in the scheme of things comic-related, if you'd asked me a year or so ago what I thought of the Fantastic Four I'd probably have told you that I couldn't give a rats ass about 'em.

Boy how things have changed.

I jumped onboard during Millar and Hitch's run from #554-569 simply down to being a great admirer of Hitch's art and, at the time, a great admirer of Millar's writing. I stuck it out at the end of their brief but thoroughly enjoyable run as I was also a great admirer of Jonanthan Hickman's writing, and wondered how he would handle such a mainstream, flagship, title.

As it transpired he handles it better than I could possibly have imagined. His writing has taken the book from being something that I would never previously have even considered buying on a regular basis, to my single most awaited comic book every month.

I seriously cannot enthuse about this book and Hickman's writing enough. Sure, Dale Eaglesham and Steve Epting's art is good too, but it's Hickman I stay around for. Clearly in it for the long haul, he's spent the first part of his run setting up plot points that won't even fully bloom for a good few months, maybe even YEARS - something for which he has received criticism - which shows exactly how far ahead his mind is working.

The culmination of the current storyline will apparently result in the death of one of the team. Now, this is something that I'm sure ALL comic book readers are heartily sick of, the old 'kill-'em-off-for-a-while-then-bring-'em-back-again-to-boost-sales' routine...Superman, Robin, Flash, most recently Batman and Captain America...but with Hickman, well, I think it could be a lot more interestingly done than previously. He has the skills, and DOESN'T possess the motivation - the book is selling well, no further publicity is really needed - so I am more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt....of course....this is where I was 12 months ago with Blackest Night, and look how badly THAT turgid cocktease ended.

It seems that Fantastic Four #588 will be the last issue of Fantastic Four as we know it, and the next month will see the launch of a new title called, simply, FF.

Gimmick or NO gimmick, I'll be there.

So, it seems that next year holds some exciting things...well, for ME, at least...what with Fantastic Four/FF, and the forthcoming Green Lantern movie, amongst a plethora of other goodies.

For once in my life, I DO have a good feeling about the forthcoming year. It's a strange feeling, but I don't want it to go away. I'm looking forward.

Face front, true believers...EXCELSIOR!

Friday, 24 December 2010

If music be the food of love, put that piano in batter #5

The album that I am about to lay on you here is, in my humble opinion, the second finest record that I have ever heard.
Now, I can hear you all out there wondering "The second? Well, I wonder what the FIRST is?".
It is 'Nothingface' by Voivod.

Undisputably so.

However, I am NOT going to post that here for your delectation as, firstly, you MUST already have it, and secondly, it doesn't need the exposure quite so much as the following near-flawless gem.

The towering work of twisted genius of which I speak is 'Dante's Disneyland Inferno' by the Sun City Girls, "a giant roller coaster of a double album in 35 sizzling chapters. A searing indictment of domestic servitude in the eighteenth century with some hot Gypsies thrown in", to paraphrase a great man.

Being of a famously mercurial bent, SCG very rarely managed to maintain their genius to it's fullest extent over the course of an entire album, invariably becoming bogged-down in either ridiculous shenanigans or aimless musical wandering - granted, with a couple of glaringly obvious exceptions such as 'Torch of The Mystics' and, to a lesser extent, 'Kaliflower' - but with 1996's 'Dante's Disneyland Inferno' they managed to sustain their twisted, impish vision for a double CD set that clocks in at over 2 hours all in, and NEVER lets up once.

From the severely creepy Voudun atmos of opener 'Sexy Graveyard', to the borderline-retarded stream-of-consciousness atonal jazzbo piano fuck-up of closer, 'Bird Of Prey', this recording covers every base that one could possibly hope to have covered within the repertoire of the three trickster-gods-in-human-form that are Sun City Girls.

You want creepy weirdness? Howsabout 'A Bad Dream' with it's closing question of "...Heh heh heh heh, any o' you new age women ever eat dog?", 'Jack The Ripper', the odd wordplay of 'The Harley Of Horror', the cut-up, dreamlike and occasionally shuddering-inducing 'A Secret Revealed Unwittingly', or the decidedly strange tale of 'Jessup's Diary'.

You want soused-sounding nonsense-shanties? Howsabout the bands call-to-arms and general statement of intent 'Soft Fragile Eggshell Minds', the drunken organ of 'A Man is an Insect is a Flame' and 'Six Kids of Mine', the bouyant-sounding 'Ruby on the Ferris Wheel', or the drunken lament of 'The Ballad of Co-Dependency'?

You want oddball semi-spoken-word jazzbo rambling? Hell, they got it in SPADES - 'Flesh Balloons of Tibet', 'The Geography of the Swastika', 'Joan Of Arc', 'Holiday for Shakespeare', 'Dan And Ross'.....I could go on.

They do it all.....and THEN some.

The lions share of this masterpiece is driven by 'Satanic Director At Large', the sadly deceased Charles Gocher Jr, percussionist and.....uhhh.....whatEVER-the-fuck, for the Girls (aside from the obligatory interjection from your old Uncle Jim), and his jazz sensibilities and screwball lyrical jive run rampant herein.

I really could wax lyrical about this damn thing ALL FUCKING NIGHT AND DAY, but I won't. I'll let you discover it for yourself. So, go get it.

Is it difficult? HELL yes, it's difficult - the first disc is emblazoned with a swastika that got me some VERY dubious looks when spotted (it's ok, it's not THAT one, it's the 'nice one'), but y'know, that makes it aaaaaaall the better, if you ask me. You gotta WORK at it, to reveal the creamy goodness inside.

Sadly for you, 'Dante's Disneyland Inferno' is loooong out of print in any format aside from as an expensive triple-LP boxset, but, y'know, it MAY be expensive, but maaaaaaan is it WORTH it. Hunt it out, you won't be disappointed.