Tom Waits Orphans
What a wonderful record. This is Tom Waits at his best. Very little of that over-wrought, over-mannered Kurt Weil avant-gardism that has marked his recent output, just pure emotion, wonderful music and fantastic lyrics. And even some explicitly political comment – first time as far as I know – with the great, ambivalent “Road to peace”.
BBC Radio 2
Radio 2 has added cheer to my festive season with the extraordinary Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio shows that they’ve brought across the Atlantic, as well as their exclusive gigs, including the great Bruce Springsteen doing a version of his Pete Seeger sessions. (Although he has a tendency to rock out a bit too much live. Less is more with The Boss.)
Although she came across a little irritating on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Lily Allen’s records have been just superb. Fantastic samples, lovely tunes, and lyrics that capture the London experience as well as Paul Weller in his prime did.
Other new music that has filtered into my ears, mostly via the blogosphere, has included Joanna Newsome, Neko Case, Jolie Holland, Micah P Hinson and Ani Di Franco.
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and Children of Men
These were my top two movies of the year. Three Burials [IMDB] was great story-telling, beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and had superb music. I liked the way the high art fragmented multiple perspective narrative cut against the nostalgic rendering of the John Wayne style purer than pure cowboy hero that Tommy Lee Jones played. Also a fantastic cameo by Levon Helm, one of my heroes. Children of Men [IMDB] had an extraordinary look, a collage of Banksy graffiti and Pink Floyd album art, Hamas funerals and the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. I liked the fact that it didn’t bother elaborately explaining the dystopian future it conjured up, just presented it – and in a terrifyingly plausible way. Michael Caine was lovely, too, as the twinkly-eyed lumpenbohemian hashhead survivalist.
Life On Mars and Lost
Life On Mars was the best TV of 2006. Why isn’t there more of that sort of stuff? Non-formulaic genre drama with good stories and good acting. I’m one of the few people I know that has stuck by Lost, and now fucking Rupert Murdoch has bought series 3, stealing it from Channel 4, so I may never know what happens next, unless I fork out lots of dosh. Grrr.
The Save Ladywell Pool Campaign
The success of the campaign to save Ladywell Pool in Lewisham proves that democracy can still work. Unfortunately, Mayor Steve Bullock’s obstinacy on the issue (well, that and Blair’s unpopular war in Iraq) cost the Labour Party control of the borough in the May local elections, but he finally gave in after an amazing grassroots campaign that managed to harness the power of all the political parties in the borough, without letting any of them set the agenda. Restored my faith in the possibility of politics.
Some crap things about 2006
Deaths of good peoples
Clifford Geertz, Murray Bookchin, Iris Marion Young, Pierre Vidal Naquet, Hugh Thompson, Ahmet Ertugen…
The Middle East situation
Kind of goes without saying doesn’t it? Too depressing to write about here.
The onward march of the crap-celebrity religion
Wives and girlfriends of footballers, endless reality TV game shows, Endemol, Paris Hilton’s pussy, Lindsay Lohan’s nipples, etc etc etc. I can’t fucking stand it. Maybe 2007 will be the year that talent and integrity come back into fashion as the basis for public esteem.
The Respect gains in Tower Hamlets
Fucking George Galloway.
I’ve been an EastEnders fan for like two decades now, but this year I’ve given up. I can’t be bothered any more. It’s just crap.
Some overrated things from 2006
The Arctic Monkeys
They kind of define overrated as far as I’m concerned. And, despite saying that, I don’t think I’d actually recognise one of their songs if I heard it now, so maybe I should retract it.
Hidden (Caché) and Volver
My God but Hidden [IMDB] was mind- (and arse-) numbingly boring. Not sure why all the intellectual types raved about it. And I wanted to like Volver [IMDB], but it was just not in the Almodovar premier league. Although Penelope Cruz, with her prosthetic voluptuous buttocks, was very sexy, and probably put in one of the best performances of her career, so maybe I should retract that too.
I can’t manage to get excited about the veil issue. I just can’t see why it’s such a big deal.