But something seems to have happened to my mixtapes this year. I haven't relished and revelled in them like I used to; maybe because I've used up many of the tracks and themes that were 'immortal' and i'm just not discovering as much music as I used to; but this year my mixtapes have been slightly more direct than previously.
First, I did a compilation of different mixes of Klein Bottle Fish Tank. Only 17 minuets long, this charts the evolution of the track from fruity loops sketch through to the To The Boats..! cover of it, and into Unimbued's ambient soundblip of it.
Then I felt the need to compile all the original versions of tracks I remixed for 'The Page You Made'. It has always frustrated me that most people wouldn't investigate remixes of tracks they had never heard; I mean, frustrating in general, and also the feeling that people might skip over TPYM because they wouldn't 'get' the remixes. So I wanted to rememedy that, but also show my work by making those originals more accessible. So another rather academic collection.
Then I did this mix, which isn't a mix, it's just what I believe it the entirety of the Valerie back catalogue.
Valerie where a massively important band for me. I found them supporting Sleater-Kinney in Manchester, and they changed my idea of what you need to be in a band. It's hard to put into words, but everyone I brought to their shows was touched by their backhand genius. I just felt this needed to be online and accessible, not hidden away on random 7"s and 10"s. Their output, like their musical ability, was so limited, yet they were their doing it, an open invitation to get up and rock, as the results were so stunning.
Lastly, I curated this MJ Hibbett and the Validators retrospective. This one takes a bit more explanation.
Back in 2005 or so, Hibbett started a newsletter. I found hibbett on rathergood.com, when they put up an animation of "Hey Hey 16k". It was good, I checked out his website, and was so impressed by his songwriting that I picked up 'This is not a Library'; the song that really got me to splash out was 'Holdalls'. Ever since then, I have picked up as much Hibbett/Validatorage as I can get (although a few solo albums have slipped me by) because the songs are simply such a constant source of uplifting amusement. Its feel-good, like the film 'Together' is feel-good: wholesome, and wise, goodness. goodness that comes from knowing that the badness is behind you. Pain necessary to know has been known and dealt with, so now: Tell me something that you *do* like.
It's shocking the songs that didn't make it onto this collection, and I can't claim it's a best of, rather it's a collection of good songs by this one particular band. There's plenty more on their albums.
So the first series of CAS has been and gone and I'm left with some impressions.
Firsrtly, the thing that I'm reminded most of, is the technique of taking an established character and developing it for telly, and that's Nathan Barley. Because that achieved it in the same way, by adding a new main character who explores 'the world' of the person you're making the tv show of, who in both cases, takes the title of the show. and in both cases I felt that their role was a little over-blown.
But what Glinner has done, in turning a very successful radio show into telly, has been really slick. When I think of the CAS radio programmes, I remember them being piss-funny, but verging on the uncomfortable. The humor was slightly too close too a sort-of Mr Magoo, in that I wasn't sure how much of the humour was at the expense of CAS, who at times had clearly lost his marbles. The TV production has wiped that away with a really beautiful layer of pathos that has only added to the humour. Well, it's added to the humour that's there, but sometimes the episodes have felt a bit 'joke light', compared to my memories of the radio series.
For a first series, that's a bit strange. The great sitcoms have always veered just off tragedy; only fools and horses, at its best, was only so funny because the situation was so desperate. But I feel there's a lot of work and world building to be done before you can start dealing out the sort of pathos that CAS gave us in the first 6 episodes. Not that it didn't work, but it just made me feel 'well, this is a bit soon', like someone opening up about their ex on your second date.
So yeah, it was good. Well done Linehan.
But then, the laughs dried up half way through the IT crowd finale and I don't know why you just didn't make it funny instead of reference, and self-reference, heavy. It wasn't the kind of major-league sitcom that needed the sort of resolution you gave it. All we wanted was one more good episode, to go out on.
So, I feel like watching the Hobbit, and this makes me feel quite strange.
Because, I'm very aware that Guillermo del Toro was supposed to be directing the film of the hobbit. GDT is a good director, who's famous for making films that blur terrestrial and fantastic horror, and for films that paint outcast monsters as heroes. He's great at talking about how the scary monsters are the ones under your bed, he has a teriffic imagination, and talked passionately about dragons and his designs. He'd have been great for the hobbit, the childlike hero being thrown into a world of light and shadow.
But instead, he walked away from it to persue his own projects; tried to make Mountains of Madness, which got pulled; and made Pacific Rim instead.
I loved watching Pacific Rim, and would happily watch it again, but even as a GDT fan, I think it could have been so much better. It was exciting and thrilling, but it wasn't a masterpiece. And as I prepare myself to watch Hobbit, I have the feeling: I don't want to spend three hours watching the first third of The Hobbit. I want GDT's hobbit, with it's deep understanding and humanisation of monsters.
Pacific rim felt like top gun, or Thomas the tank engine, when adding some layers of deeper characterisation, dialogue, and even more ensemble, would have been lovely. GDT billed the film as an ensemble piece, and his drive - the fact that we have to work together to survive - comes across very nicely in a show-don't-tell kind of way; that family and ethnic bonds are less important than humanity coming together above those. But most of the ensemble characters are killed off after only a few sentences, and end up feeling like set dressing.
What it reminded me most of - and could have done with being even closer to - was the pat mills/dave gibbons 2000ad story, The Terra Meks, in the Ro-Busters series; a giant port guard robot must protect his town from rampaging demolition robots, who are trying to redevelop it out of existence. The final page, of the battered and torn robot (called Charlie), standing up and walking out of the sea, because he can hear all the humans singing 'you'll never walk alone' makes me well up even now.
So back to The Hobbit, part of my issue seems to be how painfully, indulgently slow it is. I mean, then dialogue, not just the pace (I've now watched half an hour of it). When I think of the hobbit, I think of the start, which must be 'in a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit' and nothing else. That line should not come after we see old Bilbo reflecting and talking to frodo and a story about the dragon, which manages to cut between three time zones in its opening framing story; it must start the film. The other thing I think of is the BBC radio production, which does the whole book in about 4 hours. And that is pacey, snappy, with dialogue that relishes in the humour and snap of excitement.
BBC: "I'm looking for someone to share in adventure" said quickly, makes it quite funny how over the top that statement is, especially to a cosy hobbit.
Jackson:"I'm... Looking... For someone.... To.... Share.... In an... ADVENTURE." Well no wonder the film is 9 hours long.
I keep coming back to it. I keep looking at it sitting on my net flicks account, '25 minutes watched'. I keep thinking, this is a children's book. A short novel filled with adventure, excitement, and ultimately, the notion that despite the subtitle, you can never go home again, because the round trip has changed you. Peter Jackson's first third is three hours long, and a PG.
I respect PJ. I think that it would probably work better, if you're telling the story of the transition between the hobbit and the lord of the rings, to integrate that story into the hobbit. But even then, 9 hours is more than. I have time for, and I'm a massive Tolkien nerd. A film of the hobbit should be like the first star wars film. Maybe a little longer than the average film, but an epic adventure that has a happy ending then and there. But then, this is the man who remade king Kong, which didn't need remaking, instead of Q: the winged serpent, which did. GDT's the hobbit is the film I want to watch. Anything else is a disappointment.
I'm sure, one day, I'll have a free weekend, and I'll watch the whole trilogy through, and I'll be able to pass comment on it. But I hope've explained why I'm not clamouring to do that right now.