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The Sisters of Mercy didn’t release many albums, but almost all of them are perfect. The only exception is Vision Thing. While it must have fans, the only song in that captures the same mood as the rest of their work is Ribbons. Unlike Floodland or Some Girls Wander by Mistake, it doesn’t have the same dark intensity. The whole reason I love Post-Punk so much is that it doesn’t sound like rock and/or roll, so while Vision Thing isn’t bad, it doesn’t appeal to me at all. Mary Goes Round is similar, only they’ve put out a lot more music. Some songs, such as Mary Sleeps Alone, The Night, She Said, On the Sea, and The Promised Land are too perfect to exist. Many others, though, are simple rock songs, with none of the same atmosphere.

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At their best, Mary Goes Round sounds a lot like Asylum Party, which isn’t surprising, since both belonged to the Touching Pop movement. It seems like Touching Pop was just another term for French Coldwave, but it describes another side of their music. The Coldwave aspect is all about their stark elegance, while Touching Pop applies to their upbeat sense of melancholy.

Yesterday, a friend informed me that the British author Sue Townsend had just died, at only 68 years of age. Townsend was best known for the diaries of Adrian Mole, chronicling the life of a young pseudo-intellectual. When the first book was published in 1982, Adrian was only 13 (and a half), and by the final one, he was middle-aged, with three children. I’ve re-read all of them hundreds of times, and always come back to Adrian’s less-than-satisfactory life whenever I need cheering up. Hearing that his creator had passed away was a small shock to me- Adrian Mole has been such a constant in my life that the thought of his story coming to an end is a slightly jarring one. Then again, I guess his diaries couldn’t go on forever- Adrian the octogenarian would be weird.

When I first read The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, I didn’t actually like it that much. Adrian annoyed me- I just couldn’t stand his attitude towards everything.However, I kept on reading it, because it’s the sort of book you can just dip in and out of. Gradually, I came to like the character a bit more. He had a lot of faults, but they ended up making him strangely endearing. And I loved seeing how he developed as a character, and how the people around him changed, too. (He never did move on from his childhood love, Pandora, though.) As well as this, I really love the time period the first two books were set in- I’m a big fan of 80s music, so I find the bits where Adrian’s friends attempt to be Punk especially hilarious.

 

 

Some of my favourite moments include:

  • Nigel sticking a safety pin through his nose in an attempt to be punk, and ending up in hospital.
  • The Norwegian Leather Industry.
  • The endless stream of letters to John Tydeman at the BBC.
  • Adrian’s grandmother scaring off Barry Kent.
  • The “red socks” incident.
  • Big and Bouncy.
  • The epic class trip to London.
  • The birth of Rosie.
  • Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland.
  • Adrian’s (sadly short-lived) romance with Bianca.
  • Offally Good.
  • Christmas Day in The Cappuccino Years.
  • Mr Carlton-Hayes punching a man who was bothering Adrian.
  • Glenn Bott telling his mother’s latest bastard boyfriend that he’s the man of the house now.
  • How the final book ended.

DC Comics used to print what they called “imaginary stories”- short, non-canon tales that allowed  writers to do outlandish things with their characters that simply couldn’t happen in normal continuity. For example, Superman could rid the world of all evil, marry Lois Lane or even die. (These “imaginary stories” later became the Elseworlds series.) Archie Comics seems to have gone in a similar direction with two of its more adult publications, Afterlife with Archie (a comic that shows us what would happen if zombies were introduced to Riverdale) and Life with Archie: the Married Life (which presents us with two alternate timelines- one where Archie ends up marrying Betty, the other where he marries Veronica). While there’s probably nothing ground-breaking about either, they both sound worth reading, if at least to see what a darker version of the Archie universe would be like.

Recently, the latter has attracted a lot of attention after the announcement that it planned to kill off Archie in July. Obviously, Archie Andrews would never be killed off in the main continuity, but this is still a large step out of the company’s comfort zone. For a comic  publisher that’s largely seen as being stuck in the fifties, Archie has been doing pretty well at staying relevant. It earned my infinite respect for introducing Kevin Keller, an openly gay character, in 2010. (Keep in mind that Archie Comics is mostly aimed at a younger audience.) I haven’t actually read any Archie Comics in years, but all of these new developments have made me curious. (Of course, the newspaper Archie is still totally out of the loop.)

I’d expect this sort of behaviour from Reggie, but not Jughead.

While I’m generally in favour of the decision to kill off Archie, one thing that really bothers me is how it’s being treated more as a  hype-generating stunt than anything else. The final issue of Life with Archie hasn’t even been published yet, and now we already know the ending. Wouldn’t it have been a lot more effective if nobody expected it to happen? Deliberately spoiling the ending takes away all the sincerity. Story-telling isn’t meant to be about cheap attempts at pathos or manufactured moments. Now, none of us will ever get to feel the full emotional effect of such a conclusion, because we’ve already been prepared for it. It’s like those horrible adverts they put out at Christmas, deliberately designed to manipulate our emotions. Still, at least it gives us the chance to see all of these gorgeous variant covers for #37. And according to Jon Goldwater, his death will be a heroic one.

Francesca Woodman is the kind of artist whose style has been mimicked over and over, to the point where, even if you aren’t familiar with her name, you probably know her style. Achromatic photographs of waifs in deteriorating buildings, often naked, with their forms a little bit blurred. They kind of remind me of Man Ray’s work, except softer. It’s a unique aesthetic, and one that I’m particularly fond of, to the point of obsession.

 

There’s something about bareness that I love. Nudity can be beautiful, in an asexual sort of way. In fact, one of the reasons I like art that depicts nudes is because it often comes across as being devoid of eroticism. What I like about is its blankness, its sense of absence. Even though a lot of her paintings don’t hide much (which, for the sake of not corrupting minors, I am not going to put up here), there’s little that’s explicit about them. Revealing, yes, but just as much internally as they are externally. You often have a lot of artists looking for any excuse to depict naked people for less-than-savoury reasons, but Woodman’s photography has much more depth to it.

Many of my favourite artists are the ones who can intertwine both style and substance. As I wrote above, Woodman has had a lot of imitators, and while they excel at the former, they tend to neglect the latter. I do enjoy their work, but they don’t achieve much beyond looking pretty. Woodman’s art is aesthetically pleasing on a more adult level.

Francesca Woodman, ‘From Angel Series, Roma, September 1977’ 1977

I often worry that, if this sort of trend keeps on going, her work will end up looking trite and cliched. And if it does, I’ll be partially responsible because, even before I knew of her, I loved putting stuff like nudes, doorways and wallpaper into my writing. (Then again, I’m a terrible writer, so none of my stories will ever get published, anyway.)  I know that the quality of her pictures will never decay, but it’s still a shame that everything unique eventually just gets done to death.

 

She really reminds me of KatieJane Garside in this one.

I don’t know that much about Woodman herself, and while I am going to do some research on her, a large part of me doesn’t want to. Sometimes, I’ll come across a book or a film that looks really interesting, and then I’ll end up slightly disappointed when I do read/watch it, because while it was good, it wasn’t as good as I imagined it would be. It’s probably silly of me, but I don’t want the same thing to happen with her. The one thing I do know about Woodman is that she committed suicide when she was twenty-two years old. Her photos are so fragile and youthful that they’re almost all like pictures of her suicide.

Green Glow

This has been an exciting week for fans of weird music. Not only did Quimper release their new EP on Friday, but The Residents are embarking on another tour and Peter Murphy is bringing out his tenth album soon. And today, the video for Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin’s Green Glow has finally arrived. This is her fourth music video so far, and it continues with the same brightly-coloured kitsch weirdness seen in the previous three.

Petunia’s songs tend to have stories behind them, and Green Glow is a fairytale in the style of Lewis Carroll, Angela Carter and Labyrinth. Chased through the forest by a bogeyman named the Cooker and watched by eyeless mannequin heads, Petunia finds herself following the Green Glow. It isn’t really clear what the Green Glow is, but it seems to be sort of like the Cheshire Cat- enigmatic and beguiling, but not malevolent. We also get to see Petunia jumping out of boxes, which is probably my favourite part of the video. I love boxes so much I could probably write a whole post about them. Petunia is exactly the sort of person who belongs in a box, too.

Quimper

Quimper is the kind of band whose music perfectly suits its name. Jodie Lowther and Johnny Vertigen piece together crystalline songs that chime on the surface but susurrate inside. It is electronic pop music that imitates dreams, with sounds so vague that they evaporate from memory as soon as they’re over.

It’s hardly surprising that they are on the same label as Gyratory System, Soft Bodies Records, which specialises in such music. Quimper’s new EP, Two Magpies, will be out on the 28th of March. Hopefully, all of the songs on it will be equally as quimperly as Feline.

Ad Reinhardt

It’s hard to avoid seeing things in terms of black and white. Looking at the grey areas is not easy- they’re all so numerous and narrow that trying to take note of all of them could lead to a severe mental overload. Maybe one way to avoid that is to just think in one colour. It probably wouldn’t be any better than the other options, but at least it would be interesting. I wonder what it would be like to view some of Ad Reinhardt’s paintings in terms of pure black.

Reinhardt’s most famous works were his black paintings, so-called because they resembled pure blocks of black. While simple, though, they weren’t quite as simple as that. Once you take some time to examine them, you start to see shapes, patterns, different shades of black and even different colours. It’s kind of like how a pattern of dots in pointillism can be put together to form a picture. It’s a different way of forming an image. These aren’t just a series of black paintings; they’re paintings of the colour black. Reinhardt made reproductions of blackness.

All paintings are abstract. I don’t think it’s possible to create art without it being abstract. Even the most realistic work of fiction cannot be properly synchronised with real life. A straightforward painting of a pipe is still really weird when you start to think about it. An actual pipe isn’t two-dimensional, and isn’t made of paint. You can’t smoke that painted pipe. Artists like Reinhardt do the same thing, just in another way.

I love Reinhardt’s paintings mostly because they combine subtlety and simplicity, two things that are often overlooked. (Also, black is my favourite colour.) Going to extremes is rarely successful, but with minimalism it works incredibly well. The more minimalist something gets, the more subdued it becomes.

Reinhardt said that art “should be still.” I like this idea, even if I don’t think it applies to all art. Stillness tends to interest me a lot more than movement, and Reinhardt was probably one of the best painters to capture that lack of motion. He referred to his works as slow art, which is a beautiful term. A lack of speed doesn’t necessarily imply a plodding boredom. The director Godfrey Reggio is famous for his slow-paced, engrossing films, ones which I’ve been meaning to see for ages now. Engaging with slow art does require a lot of time and attention, but it’s worth trying.

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