What’s new?

This is a particularly irritating way to start a conversation; similar to saying ‘how’s tricks?’. No-one is quite sure how to respond to either of these, and I’m not even sure what the second one means, unless you’re talking to an member of the magic circle, which seems unlikely.

The only acceptable answer to the question posed by this blog is: nothing. Nothing’s new. We as a nation seem to have run out of ideas. Everything is a re-working of something else, and if it’s not, it’s simply a straight repeat. I do genuinely worry that in popular culture, we’ve run out of stuff. There is nothing new, and it’s just something we’re going to have to get used to.

TV is one of the worst culprits, with I heart 1975, the top 100 best family animated musicals ever, take me out (bawdy blind date), Have I got news for you, Have I got old news for you all spamming the airwaves with their unoriginal tune. TV is stuck in a mass of repeats and nostalgia, and when someone tries to be original (10 o’clock live) it’s unbearably bad, pandering to a Guardian-obsessed sub-species of uber-cool City dwellers and students that don’t really exist anywhere. Films at the cinema tend to be part of a ‘franchise’ , such as the Fast and the Furious, which I now believe has churned out 5 films (when did film sequences become ‘franchises’? I’m pretty sure I never admitted to watching the later offerings from the Police Academy ‘franchise’), or re-makes of successful films, such as the Italian Job. The hangover wasn’t particularly original, but it was quite funny, which means the inevitable sequel (a la SATC) where the plot is indentical, just taking place in a different time zone.

Theatre, often a bastion of originality, is not immune. The Mousetrap inexplicably enters its sixth decade (surely even tourists are now bored?), the Rattigan revival continues to celebrate his centenary, and there’s Jersey Boys and other assorted singalongs from the past to entertain the proles.

Music, surely? Well not really. The last really original thing I heard was The Streets in 2002, and Mike Skinner ended up sounding like the voice of the whinging chav generation. The last band I went to see was Suede, and they were going through their back catalogue of albums, one by one (again). They were great, as always, but these songs are nearly 20 years old. Manufactured pop is back in, just like the 1960s, and everyone who was anyone has reformed, from Pulp to Dollar, to feed the nation’s bottomless appetite for nostalgia. The best music programme I saw recently was a retrospective of 1990s music on bbc4, and my twitter timeline almost exploded as other 30-somethings relived the days of Doc Marten boots and global hypercolour T-shirts. I listened to some Gil Scott Heron just after his death, and the commentator prounounced that his tunes were ‘as relevant today as they were in 1971’. Maybe so, but that’s because there’s been nothing new in between. Fashion? Judging by the 70s revivial (and 80s revival) of recent years, I sense not, but at least no-one’s going to force me to grow back my PJ and Duncan-style 90s curtains.

So what is genuinely new? The only thing I can come up with is reality TV, specifically to incorporate ‘scripted reality’. Jersey shore, Geordie shore, Made in Chelsea. This is the present, and maybe the future.

So next time you’re asked ‘what’s new?’, assuming that you have irritating friends, you can tell them.

‘Nothing’s new; and so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back caeslessly into the past…’.

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Face the Music

Everyone’s a fan of lists. Channel 5 in particular. List shows seem to have spawned from programmes such as ‘I love 1973’, and the public’s love of nostalgia in general. They started with the ten best films, or albums, which seemed fair enough. Suddenly ten wasn’t enough, and we moved into the top 100 best…, and the categories became rather more desperate too. I’m pretty sure I’ve spent a Sunday night watching the countdown of the ‘Top 100 love scenes in family movies from the 1980s starring Molly Ringwald’. Whereas the original list shows meant that some pretty big decisions needed to be made, nowadays it’s more tricky just finding enough examples to cram into the list. What’s left to do? ‘Top seven days of the week’? ‘Top 100 colours’? I, for one, am on the edge of my seat.

This all acts as an introduction to this particular entry, which is a list about albums. Ten year’s worth of albums in fact. Starting in 1991, purely for the fact that it’s a palindrome, and for someone as ‘curious incident-y’ as me, that’s where you need to start.

In a bid to remove all controversy, these aren’t necessarily those albums that I think are the best of that year, simply the ones I reckon I’ve listened to most often. They’re probably the albums that I liked most in each particular year, though I seem to remember that as an angsty 15 year old, music was one of the main ways that you fitted in, and if you carried round a vinyl copy of ‘blood sugar sex magik’ in an Andy’s records bag, a reasonable amount of cool would be heaped upon you even before you opened your zit-encrusted mouth in front of a moderately attractive girl.

1991 – Nirvana, Nevermind
1992 – Tie: Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted and Sonic Youth, Dirty
1993 – Suede, Suede
1994 – Portishead, Dummy
1995 – Oasis, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (of course)
1996 – Cake, Fashion Nugget
1997 – Tie: Prodigy, The Fat of the Land and Ben Folds Five, Whatever and Ever Amen
1998 – Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane over the Sea
1999 – Moby, Play (and may I be forever damned for this, especially given the number of times I played porcelein)
2000 – The Avalanches, Since I Left You

What a very depressing list. I wasn’t aware that I’d spent my time from the age of 15 to 24 desperately trying to fit in with the crowd, though my listening tastes would suggest differently. 1998 represents a high point, with 1999 the nadir.

When I’ve recovered from my despond, I shall compile a 2001-2010 list, which will hopefully be less predictable and formulaic.