Box in My Head

For a significant part of 2021 I have found myself rediscovering some of the bands that I listened to a lot when I was younger. Mainly Blue Öyster Cult, which I discovered all the way back in the early 80s when I bought Cultösaurus Erectus. I have to admit that I bought this album because I liked the cover, but it has dated remarkably well.

The band is still going and, after something of a recording hiatus, released The Symbol Remains at the back end of 2020. It’s an excellent album, and one that not only demonstrates just how wide a range BÖC is capable of, but also one that improves with each listen.

Not surprisingly, Last.fm informs me that this is the album to which I listened to most in 2021.

There are a bunch of truly stand-out tracks on this album, but I’m going to start the year with Box in My Head, a typically sideways take on the sort of closeness that can develop over time.

Don’t Panic!

Today is the 25th May, which is Towel Day, an annual celebration of the works of Douglas Adams.

As such, now is the time of the year at which I grab a towel and remind you all that…

It’s a tough universe. There’s all sorts of people and things trying to do you, kill you, rip you off, everything. If you’re going to survive out there, you’ve really got to know where your towel is.

Stay hoopy, froods.

Leaving Lockdown

One positive bit of news that I almost missed is that Belgium now has a plan for leaving lockdown. The plan is, as ever, dependent on vaccination schedules but we should see a re-opening of restaurants and cinemas on June 9th.

Restaurants are already able to open their terraces to groups of four or less who want to sit outside, but with the upcoming easing of restrictions, we will be able to sit indoors a well.

As for the cinemas reopening, it’s not a moment too soon:

Things are looking up.

Chemical Warfare (Don’t It Feel Good?)

Spring has sprung, COVID infection rates are rising and, in Belgium, the anticipated easing of restrictions has been put on hold.

It’s a bit of a stretch, but now seems as good a time as any to turn to Bill McClintock who makes mashups, taking two or more songs from wildly different genres and watching what emerges. He’s really rather good.

I am sure that most people would never think that Slayer’s Chemical Warfare and Katrina and the Waves’ Walking on Sunshine might belong together, but the result is not only insanely funny, but a frighteningly catchy tune in its own right.

Take on Me

Lake Street Dive was formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 2004 and, according to Last.fm, is named after a street in Minneapolis. The band expanded into a quintet in 2017 and all members share writing and arrangement duties.

Their personalities, skills, and wide-ranging taste in pop, rock, R&B, and jazz have long blended together to make an impressively cohesive sound, both sophisticated and playful, combining retro influences with contemporary attitude.

Their tribute to A-Ha’s Take on Me really is rather good. Especially when the trumpet gets started.

Tell Me Where You’re Going

Those of us who were around in the 1990s may well remember Sleeper, yet another Britpop band probably best known for Sale of the Century. The band broke up in 1998 but singer-songwriter, Louise Wener continued to work on material along with Andy Maclure and Jon Stewart and, by 2000, had got as far as recording some tracks.

The band reformed in 2017 and released The Modern Age in 2019. Obviously, the hoped-for tours in 2020 didn’t happen but the band didn’t remain idle. They went back to those twenty-year-old recordings and came up with the “lost” album, This Time Tomorrow.

The opening track of this album is Tell Me Where You’re Going and it does feel very much like classic Sleeper.

I’ve always liked Louise Wener’s vocals. I still do.

The album is released by the band’s own label, Gorsky Records and is available from their online store.

And finally, I need to thank We Are Cult for pointing me in this direction.

Street Fighter

There are people who will tell you that a film is so bad it’s good. This is not a view to which I subscribe — a bad film is a bad film.

I do have to admit, however, that there are some bad films for which a single element — be it an actor, a particularly silly plot point, or whatever — is able to redeem the overall terribleness enough to provide the film with, at least some, redemption.

Street Fighter has Raul Julia.

Julia plays the evil General M. Bison whose evil plan to be evil must be stopped. The plot, such as it is, revolves around attempting to introduce every character from every Street Fighter arcade game and maneuvering them all to Bison’s secret fortress for the final battle that you know is coming.

In narrative terms the film fails completely. As an action film, the scriptwriters have simply introduced far too many characters to the point that each character (apart from Colonel Guile, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme) is afforded no more than a single brief scene to show off their talents.

But every time Julia’s wonderfully self-aware Bison turns up to deliver yet another scene-stealing performance, he lifts the whole film from the floor. Bison is every cartoon villain you have ever seen, and he relishes in his evilness. He is, consistently, a joy to watch to the point that you even start to find yourself appreciating some of the one-liners that the other characters have been given.

I’m not going to claim that Street Fighter is a good film, it isn’t. But by embracing the silliness, Raul Julia has managed to turn this into a very funny film and one that is a lot more entertaining than it deserves to be.

In 2020 I was mostly listening to…

Reel Big Fish, according to Last.fm which has counted up all of the tracks I’ve scrobbled over the year in order to tell me where my tastes have been over the course of the past year.

The Album I have most listened to has been Life Sucks… Let’s Dance by! the same band which, and I hadn’t really thought of it before, does sum up the year remarkably well.

The song I have listened to most, though, goes all the way back to 1997 with Save Ferris‘ cover of the Dexys Midnight Runners song, Come on Eileen.

So here it is.