Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jo Mango – ‘The Moth & The Moon / The Black Sun’

One song stood out from Sunday’s BandStAnd gig at St Andrews’ diminutive (and cosy) Barron Theatre. It was about books, and the most striking line was this:
imagining touching was reading and reading was knowing and knowing was possible
Half sung, half whispered, dead simple. It made me want to get back to some kind of reverence for the physical form, the tactility of books, which was originally something I wanted to explore with this blog, though I don’t think I have, much (the post on Saint Joan is an exception). Allen Ruppersberg’s 2006 show One of Many had a lot of this idea in it, too. Impressed by the song, and always a sucker for packaging, I couldn’t resist buying the record afterwards. Which comprised: two etched 10" singles, one black, one white, a large two-sided poster, and a sleeve. The etchings and the poster illustrations were of moths, for ‘The Moth & The Moon’ (the books song) and, more impressively, a circular ball of airborne starlings for ‘The Black Sun’. These were the only songs included, meaning that, at £15 for the set, they averaged £7.50 each. I haven’t quite worked out whether they are worth such an outrageous outlay (it’s possible – both are slow, delicate, trance-like), but I prefer them to the album I downloaded afterwards for about £1.50, which seemed on first listen a bit over-tasteful. Maybe I am becoming a capitalist, at last.


Update: the songs definitely are worth it, and you can hear or buy them here:

<a href="http://jomango.bandcamp.com/album/the-moth-and-the-moon-the-black-sun">The Moth and The Moon / The Black Sun by Jo Mango</a>

Saturday, September 18, 2010

George Herriman – ‘Love in a Kestle or Love in a Hut: Krazy & Ignatz, 1916 – 1918’

And so Fantagraphics’ Krazy Kat reprint series, having picked up a previous, stalled attempt with the 1925-6 Sunday strips in 2002, finally loops back to the beginning. Now, there is no period of Krazy Kat which is not worthy of attention and love, but I’ve been looking forward to this for ages, because of the larger cast of characters who populate the earlier strips. Here are some of the regulars in a grocery store:

The Krazy of these years is so gallant, forever dashing hither and thither to help out some creature in distress (Mexican jumping beans which have bounced illegally over the border, a hen’s unguarded eggs, orphan kittens hungry for ice cream), but the help itself is often more the result of luck than judgement. In the above strip, the potatoes are saved from a hungry Ignatz because Krazy has nephews and nieces staying over in the cellar, and their luminous eyes in the dark (‘the eyes of the potatoes?’, you are supposed to think) scare him off. Between gallantries, Krazy is curious and whimsical, refusing to operate at anyone’s pace but his own.

(The middle panel there makes more sense once you know the phrase ‘rush the growler’ – it means ‘to take a container to the local bar to buy beer’.)

In Bill Blackbeard’s brief epilogue to this volume, he compares Herriman to Dickens, amongst others (Lewis Carroll, W. C. Fields, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce – I love the extravagance of these claims), which I suppose is true in the way he uses great dollops of colloquial language as texture, but there is no overbearing moralising. Krazy is tender hearted, lovable and off his head (just as Ignatz is sensible, devious, avaricious and somehow lovable too), and readers are free to do with these examples what they will.

One more thing – did you ever wonder how birds and fish take their offspring out for an afternoon stroll?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tiger Hook of a Tender Trap

When I woke on Monday, I was too happy to see
By and large, I don’t get obsessed with individual songs all that often. There have been a few this year – Spare Snare’s ‘And Now It Is Over’, The Nectarine No. 9’s ‘Susan Identifier’ – but it still feels like An Event when it happens.
And then on Tuesday there were doves flying round me
Which is exactly as it should be, of course. A song which is not also An Event is not really a song at all.
On the Wednesday, chapter third
It was bad timing, perhaps, that when I belatedly caught up with the amazing back catalogue of Amelia Fletcher a few years ago, her current record was Tender Trap’s 6 Billion People, as unmemorable a piece of plastic as she has put her name to.
On the Thursday, all alone
This time though, it’s different. In ‘Counting the Hours’, she is amazing once more, gloriously teetering on the brink of love or more likely heartbreak, because the highs of wishing are worth any comedown, the not knowing an infinite warmth inevitably and quickly cooled by dread and then disappointment. The melody spirals upwards on rails, following its own logic, underpinned by two chords so ordinary you wouldn’t have thought they could support its urgent luminosity. And unlike, say, Tracyanne Cambell on similar territory, with Amelia it is the happiness which lingers. How does she do it?
On the Friday I just sat, counting the hours

Tender Trap’s Dansette Dansette, which has plenty of other delights besides ‘Counting the Hours’, is out on Fortuna Pop!

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