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30.3.06

The (ultimate) Guns 'n Roses Use Your Illusion mix?

Something about my love of Slash's sweet/fine solo tone made me do a personal compilation of that over-ripe, overextended, hyped over-everything double-single album by the Gunners. I still think it's music for bullies; there's a lot of tripe on the album; and it was cunning marketing to not release a proper double album but two overloaded single albums (bigger bucks for models and filmclips); and the sound takes me back to the very early 90s, when Nirvana and all that was just around the corner (though the Pixies had already happened); and that if you stole a car in Brisbane in 1990 then there was a good chance the Gunner's first tape would be in it, and when black t-shirts and tats and mullets were not yet exercises in visual comedy; and that when two guitarists play Gibsons through Marshalls they always sound the same; and Axl's schtick is very, very tiring after two point two hours and that after playing with Elton John at the MTV video awards it just wouldn't be the same; but nonetheless, here's my personal Gunners/Illusion mix (loosely faithful in order); it's heavy on the long songs of course, and all them sweet sweet Slash tones that make practicing hard rockers weep and weak with envy.
Coma | Double Talkin' Jive | The Garden | November Rain | Civil War | 14 years | Yesterdays | Breakdown | Locomotive | Estranged | Don't Cry (Alt. Lyrics).
73 minutes: that is, not cramming it all the way to 80. Have yourself a really super album.

posted by rino breebaart  # 8:48 pm (1) comments

27.3.06

Gus van Sant, Last Days

Even by arthouse standards of disengagement and snobbish distance, this film is a milestone in heavy-going, artless emptiness. I can't think of anything as mind-numbingly arch and failed and overextended except for maybe Brown Bunny, which has much in common here. A completely impenetrable lead character; a state of complete narrative sloth and breakdown; a hopeless cast (with the exception of Michael Pitt's accurately hunched shoulder blades); and a blandly perspectival play on repetition which begs 2x and then 4x fast viewing. If this film didn't have the clear Kobain-suicide context it'd quite possibly be the worst tripe ever filmed; that said, the context is far from sufficient to extricate this mess into coherent meaning and feeling. The same scenes and set-ups, the same unmoving shots, the repetitive putting on of clothes, the lamely sycophantic hangers-on, and even a totally-beside-the-point homoerotic scene which (even by van Sant standards) is in incredibly poor taste (as though he couldn't help himself, as though there was no other way to suggest depth and complexity and deliberate disadherence to Kobain-reality). The only nice touch, the only welcome relief from the glaring monotony was a guest spot by Kim Gordon as a record executive. Again, why not cast her as Kim Gordon, musician? Also, Asia Argento has some lovely tats, Gus, why couldn't you focus on them? I mean, your Kurt was so reductive and clearly damaged and incoherently aloof (sans explanation, source, drugs) you could just as well have spent all that film on Argento and her wobbly, g-stringed arse.

posted by rino breebaart  # 1:10 pm (0) comments

18.3.06

Georgian Architecture

I don't often write about architecture, but Dublin has such a rich preserve of Georgian-style buildings, indeed they so define the city's aspect and ambience, that after two and a half years it'd be slightly unfair not to have reported on them. By Georgian architecture I mean the 18th Century English design of (terraced) townhouses of flat and regular frontage with Palladian/fanlighted doorways, sometimes running for the entire lengths of streets; with a below-street basement storey (fenced off), a stepped access to the door (brightly coloured, sometimes flanked by columns) leading to a generous but compact entry-level, a series of high-ceilinged rooms on the first floor with larger windows, and usually two floors of decreasing height above that. As mentioned elsewhere, the general impression is of regular conservatism: the British design is thoroughly practical in terms of strong, easy construction and resistance to spreading fire (no balconies or extruding windows, and thick walls). But the external minimalism is betrayed by an inner opulence which can de staggeringly acute: fine plasterwork, chandeliers, elaborate marble fireplaces and of course huge paintings or panelling – in rooms whose height and sheer dimension profess a nobility we no longer cherish. These were, after all, the ordinary townhouses of the normal middle class as well as the excessively monied. The contrast between inner/outer is the crux of this typically British design (just don't remind Dublin too often… that what so solidly defines the city (after its people) is or was thoroughly British). The added Irish contrast to which is that the vast majority of Georgian buildings have now been taken over by businesses and commercial lets, eager to get historical frontage whilst gutting the noble interiors and squeezing in sublevels and subletters and cruel lighting. Which, residentially, was nothing new either over Dublin's last 150 years of poverty and crowding; now it's slightly odd to think these houses enjoyed their best years as residential homes. There has been a lot of senseless destruction and wilful decay, and some of the acts of preservation seem limited to the street-face or lip-service to the spirit of design, but there are cases of amazing restoration (see the James Joyce Centre on North Great George's Street).

The web is rather poor on reading materials on the experience of living in these buildings, and frankly I can't afford the rent to even begin conceiving a work on the subject, but I have to admit that after two years of mild bafflement and occasional slow drives down streets of sheer British planning, or sneaked peeks at normal lives under noble ceilings (and alas, so few interiors seen and experienced), I have warmed and melted to the aesthetic purity and elegance of the design, especially as part of a consistent, uninterrupted street of townhouses. With silver grey cast-iron streetlights, stone pavements flanking a broad street, and of course the cold black chill of Dublin winter casting an abstract stillness. There's an air of logical townplanning and coherence, the pleasing ideal of uniform exteriors and inner individualism, as well as the only-remaining vestiges of a sensibility appropriate to what JJ called the Second City of Empire. Because the Georgian buildings attest to the only Golden Age of Dublin (that is, by a retro-definition of sorts: a nation's Golden Age can be determined by its strongest architecture, cf Amsterdam, Venice, Vienna, Paris etc) which peaked in the 18th Century.

So, with all that in mind, I set off late on a weeknight to take some photos of Georgian buildings. Possibly with an eye to a future small-format coffee table book, stacked prominently for tourist's eyes ("Georgian by Night"). There are moments in winter especially where the crisp chill and the amber-yellow floodlights on some buildings seem wholly congruent for a Northern city, especially with a skinful of brew. There is a calmness, a wet blackness, and a reassurance that people can live like noblemen in these. That these buildings are carriers of a continuity with the past, in starkest contrast with thoughtless oblivion...

posted by rino breebaart  # 6:50 pm (0) comments

11.3.06

Duke Ellington, Blues in Orbit

There's a tendency to think of the Blues as an easy genre for amateur guitarists and old black singers with lotsa heartbreak, an all-too-familiar vernacular riddled with cliches and guitar faces. But jazz did manage to do something amazing with the blues, with swing and the blues together. And it was The Duke who turned the blues into a sophisticated artform. A complex, composed and supremely flexible artform. First he made an ensemble of distinct voices, and then scored them with adventurous elaborations of the blues mood. There's not a single three-chord progression on this album; just superlative little pockets of blues in and around three minutes in length. Moody chords and warm solos. Hodges in fine, clear form. Nance, Carney, Strayhorn. All in compact/expansive jazz miniatures. Laid-back, lively and amazingly free with its genre, really putting the format out there, composing by tonal band colours, a supreme understanding and mastery and brevity. Not a cliche to be found.

posted by rino breebaart  # 10:34 am (0) comments

8.3.06

Jean-Luc Godard, Alphaville

What a very strange film. Largely plotless, obsessed with stairs and corridors, liberally plagiaristic with SF, dystopian and comicbook tropes, completely impersonal and yet strangely consistent and whole. Consider its lineage: Le Mépris (1963), Bande à part (1964), Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965), Pierrot le fou, (1965), Masculin, féminin: 15 faits précis (1966) – this is a director at the height of creativity and stylistic diversity. There is also quite simply no other film in this mode – bristling with cerebral shadows and future-paranoia and a weird, a-violent inertia. There's a hint of classical Modernism throughout – the sets, the orchestrated music, the old-school idea of the automaton and the machinic dictator with his ruthlessly logical programs. Another director working today would've made this with much more sinister music and references, with a greater sense of historical inevitability and politico-cultural reality. Would have made the timeless, ahistorical trap of the present (theme) something shorter and more blandly superficial, filled with useless products and a culture of irresponsibility. Question: how can you make a film about conscience in the era of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair? Answer: you go for the throat. Our idea of the future is the inevitability of the next invasion; we no longer have a vision or a capacity for big humane principles. I'm in a good mind to chase up Eluard's Capitale de la Douleur in preparation for the work on torture I'm dreaming up.

posted by rino breebaart  # 2:19 pm (0) comments
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