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Wild Things Run Fast

If you’ve ever spent more than 15 minutes in my company, you’ll know I am a hugely obsessive Joni Mitchell fan. I am really into her 1982 album Wild Things Run Fast. Although – like the majority of Joni’s releases – the album did terribly on the album charts (spending 8 weeks in the US charts, peaking at number 32), it was an important release in terms of artistic development: a move towards 80s mainstream rock and a precursor for her later standards collections.

To contextualise, Joni had been all but excluded from mainstream radio airplay due to her mid-to-late 70s albums – which progressed from 1974’s commercial high Court and Spark through the experimental fusion-jazz influences of The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975), Hejira (1976) and Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977) through to the minimalist elegy to Charlie Mingus, Mingus (1978). Mingus was a career highlight for Mitchell, but absolutely ruined her reputation in folk circles and turned off a lot of early fans. Having explored her jazz pretentions, it was time for a change of tack. During a trip to the Carribean in 1981, Mitchell heard the radio-friendly, rhythmic music of The Police (who had been duly influenced by the World Music experiments on Joni’s Hissing album), Steely Dan and Talking Heads, and took on the influences of these new bands for the new project. The album also makes direct, explicit references to Mitchell’s own formative influences in 50s rock and roll.

Equally important was the relationship she was beginning with her new bassist and producer Larry Klein, who helped develop her new, popular style for Wild Things. Joni fell massively in love with Klein – marrying him in 1982 – which had a direct influence on the theme of the new album: a dissertation on love. The album was widely slated for its theme – the word “love” itself is used no less than fifty-seven times on the record – during a time when music was, generally, turning towards nihilistic materialism: the 80s we have been reflecting on culturally since the late 2000s.

On a personal note, when I was first getting interested in Joni’s back catalogue – during the early days of this 80s nostalgia period – I was only interested in her work up until this point: her harsh post-jazz 80s work couldn’t hold a candle to her early 70s folk. Hell, even Big Yellow Taxi – in all its simplicity – was preferable to the buzzing Casios and cigarette-and-age slaughtered vocals of Wild Things, Dog Eat Dog (1985) and Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm (1988). Like Joni sang on the culturally critical title track to Dog Eat Dog, “Nothing is savoured long enough to really understand”. Given time, the message of these 80s albums properly sank in. I now see them as far more mature and considered than her earlier forays into the true nature of meaning and love (especially 1971’s Blue) – perhaps due to allowing these earlier albums to sink into my psyche during the seminal years of my emotional development and slowly easing myself into Mitchell’s depth.

Less chronologically sound than her later love-thesis Both Sides Now (2000), which goes through the process of the joy of finding love to the drawn-out pain of losing it to philosophic acceptance, Wild Things jumps from snapshot to snapshot of different vignettes, pieces of advice and aspects of the nature of love generally.

  1. “Chinese Café/Unchained Melody” – 5:17 (Mitchell, Alex North, Hy Zaret)
  2. “Wild Things Run Fast” – 2:12
  3. “Ladies’ Man” – 2:37
  4. “Moon at the Window” – 3:42
  5. “Solid Love” – 2:57
  6. “Be Cool” – 4:12
  7. “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” – 2:36 (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller)
  8. “You Dream Flat Tires” – 2:50
  9. “Man to Man” – 3:42
  10. “Underneath the Streetlight” – 2:14
  11. “Love” – 3:46

The opening track brings in both Mitchell’s acceptance of her maturity (“we’re middle class, we’re middle aged”) and the first strong example of the social issues (of “uranium money booming in the old home town”) which dominated her follow-up album Dog Eat Dog and appeared sporadically on later albums, particularly Shine (2007). It also establishes the 50s rock and roll element, with snippets of Unchained Melody and Carole King’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (Joni Mitchell sang backing vocals on Carole King’s original version of this song). Unchained Melody is used to describe Joni’s growing need to find the daughter she gave up for adoption in the 60s – especially poignant on the line “are you still mine?” This is one of the finest examples of Mitchell’s postmodern technique of quoting a song out of context to shine a light on something unrelated (comparible to Harry’s House/Centrepiece on Hissing and the Canadian and American national anthems on A Case Of You (Blue) and the title track of Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, respectively).

The title track is the first little vignette of an unbalanced relationship with a man who, regardless of his lover’s attempts to temper his need for freedom (sound familiar, Court and Spark fans?), leaves only a trail of footsteps in the snow while the protagonist dreams of their long, solid future together. This song has a quick quote from The Troggs’ classic Wild Thing in the outro.

Ladies Man is a slow-burning, edgy number about a different unbalanced scenario, where the man is posed with the question: “why do you keep on trying to make a man of me – couldn’t you just love me like you love cocaine?” while our protagonist tries a different technique, offering almost entire freedom to her flaky lover on the basis of trying to fulfil the “straight ahead feeling” she has for him, “nothing slick”.

Moon at the Window is an ambitious jazz track based on a Chinese proverb, lamenting the tasting and tossing of love by people who just don’t know how to love – but at the same time thankful users like those described in the previous two songs can’t take away everything, even when it feels like their rejection has.

Solid Love is the first song which seems to describe her relationship with Klein and the sheer shock of meeting someone capable of carrying out a relationship without wrecking the dream: “we got a break – unbelievable!” The music is based on those Carribean rhythms, combining her new Klein-influenced sound with two-tone island reggae. A lesser artist would sound kitschy smiling “hotdog, darlin’!” into the microphone, but Mitchell makes it work – along with a catchy chorus that really deserved more radio attention than it received on release.

Be Cool is a lounge jazz track that tries to give advice to anyone whose “heart is on the floor ’cause you just seen your lover comin’ through the door with a new fool,” along with the lines of the old adage – there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

Mitchell included a pretty straightforward rock and roll standard, You’re So Square – best known in versions by Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly – which works very well alongside her heavier original compositions, keeping in step with the 50s theme.

You Dream Flat Tires is one of the album’s rocky highlights, with a great bassline by Larry Klein – and Lionel Ritchie duetting the chorus. It is the story of a love that started out full of hopes and dreams but quickly settled into uninspired languidity. The song poses the interesting question: “I know that you love me, but what are you going to let love be – just a vague flirtation or extra-special company,” alongside the album’s all important message: “love is precious!”

Man to Man features James Taylor on cheesy backing vocals, but is one of the most important songs on the album: the transition from transient short term loves and one night stands to, essentially, monogamy with Klein; questioning the value of all those lovers who wouldn’t stick around  and the apprehensive hopes that both she and Klein are able to “care and share – woman to man”.

Underneath the Streetlight is an original rock and roll composition which, essentially, charts the day to day life of someone feeling the full-force-fire of love: swearing their dedication to love on every object from a lamppost to a passing lorry; unable to even consider the route of the vehicle without relating it to their lover.

The album ends on a purely serious note – bringing out the Bible and adapting lyrics from First Corinthians 13. Love describes, like the opening track, the changing face of love as one advances into maturity and the necessity of love in one’s life: “if I didn’t have love, I’d be nothing”.

Several songs from Wild Things were also included on the orchestral remakes album Travelogue (2002) – an album in which Mitchell broadly tries to piece together an existential world view, with love as one of the centrepieces of the human condition. Chinese Café/Unchained Melody, You Dream Flat Tires, Be Cool and Love are among the best tracks on Travelogue, perhaps by virtue of translating better stylistically to a big band jazz arrangement than songs from other albums.

Essentially I recommend this album to anyone with a heart and urge you to let it sink in, past the slightly dated arrangements; and hopefully you’ll agree Wild Things, as a dissertation, is worth at least an honorary doctorate for Ms. Mitchell-Klein.

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PUBLIC NOTICE: Here we go again on our own(s?)

Hi. Remember the last time I changed blogs? Remember I made that big furore all about how this was going to be the blog I stuck with, through thick and thin like a shitty marriage? Turns out the marriage was a sham. I decided to move to Canada this week (yup!), so to celebrate – and keep my parents eyes away from my scatological, periodbloodical posts of old – my new blog can be found at (bookmarks at the ready, ladies!) http://haphazardimmigration.wordpress.com. This will begin as a travelogue, but will undoubtedly descend into the disgusting pictures of dogshit alongside deep, depressing and illiterate existentialism you know and love in no time. Trust me.

The decidedly least controversial post on this page

You know those times when you absoutely hate your life? You know, when it’s going nowhere and neither are you? You feel like life has kicked you right in the guts and seriously winded you. You can’t work. You can’t even construct a sentence, never mind take pictures of your sister’s rotting period blood in order to post the gruesome evidence on the net. At Easy Realism, we certainly do, and that’s partly why our offices were veritably shut down for a good four months.

I don’t have anything really juicy or salacious to write at all. In fact, this blog post was prompted lastnight when I read over a year’s worth of diary entries. I forgot just how much I have done in the past year – not just graduating, but actually writing the dissertation. That feels like so long ago now – and I’ll be damned if I can remember anything I wrote about.

Anyway, I had a day off work today – for a change – and spent it reading a few books on the couch. I bought about six months’ worth of reading material from the Borders closing down sale. (Which, incidently, is too painful to talk about)

One of these is Clare Carlisle’s “Kierkegaard: A Guide for the Perplexed”, in which I found the following passage:

As anyone who keeps a diary knows, a journal is a patchy and often disproportionately gloomy representation of life: when one feels happy, or is simply too busy, pages are left blank, whereas suffering and conflict may be described at great length.

In all honesty, I thought I was alone in keeping a seriously depressing read under my bed. Keeping a diary is obviously different to keeping a blog which is, in the case of Easy Realism, disproportionately attention-seeking.

As a sidenote, I had this weird fantasy earlier – on the couch – of writing a PhD comparing Kierkegaard and his pseudonyms to David Bowie: Johannes Climacus and Anti-Climacus as Aladdin Sane and Ziggy Stardust; Victor Eremita closing his hotel blinds as he waits for the gift of Sound and Vision, etc.

Anyway, I kicked life back, right in the nuts. I have started my visa application for Canada and… that’s pretty much the entire plan. Now, we shall end on a song. Everyone! “Oh, Canada, your streets are paved with gold! Our patriot games, are played in the snow…”

And it makes all the pain hurt

Anti-Catholic guilt

Cheers, Spotify. Not only have you given me access to all the Joni Mitchell albums I already own; but now every time I sleep with someone, I hear your stupid pro-condom advert play in my head. I was brought up Catholic and as soon as I manage to repress all the repressed baggage that comes with escaping the church, I get hit with “Yeah, man, lastnight I slept with Kelly, yeah?” and I get this horrible image of a black man impregnating Kelly Osborne and pretty much all hell breaking loose.

The only upside to this is that I am becoming increasingly impotent – a direct result of that Amy MACDONALT advert playing more than once.

Thanks, Spotify. Thanks for ruining life’s pleasures for me.

Remember MySpace?

I do – or at least I remembered I have a neglected-since-2007 MySpace page when I saw this t-shirt:

woodstock

Never mind the fact that Woodstock is in the public consciousness, in comemmoration of its 40th anniversary – nor that the Woodstock-Woodstock connection is very easily made – this is an obvious breach of copyright. Copyright belonging to none other than me. Sure, you can’t copyright an idea, and I never made the connection on a t-shirt; but I did express it on my goddamn forgotten, public MySpace!

myspace

ASOS I’m onto you. You’re going down like Rowntrees.

Crazy correspondence

This website rules! For example, I could imagine Kathy ditching the family with a note like this one; and this made me actually die. Actually.

I love websites like this. Crazy People is this weeks Texts From Lastnight; and is infinitely funnier than the Fail Blog. And in any case, if my Rowntrees campaign goes down the toilet, at least I know where to send the shameful evidence.

Geez a shot ae yer bike.

You know what, Natasha? You’re right. You’re fucking right. Rowntrees Randoms are a blight on the vernacular of youth. The minute big businesses or Madonna get a hold on something cutting edge, you may as well forget it like another notch on the Oxford English Dictionary’s lexical bedpost.

Not that using the word “random” was ever cutting edge – unless you define cutting edge as using the same word as an annoying substitute for a real adjective as every other thicko. And if you do, you’re too young to be reading this page. Go back to mourning Pokemon or “ironically” watching repeats of Power Rangers on whatever fucking exploitative channel owns the rights to the dead horse.

Exploitative, that’s the word I was looking for. Rowntrees should have known better. They pay research people not to be dicks. They have a cultural hegemony over our children (i.e. other people’s – I remain childless), and therefore have a responsibility not to perpetuate the misuse of what is, in fact, a damn fine word.

random (adj) lacking any definite plan or order or purpose; governed by or depending on chance “a random choice”; “bombs fell at random”; “random movements”.

Right. Rowntrees, was there no plan in your release of Rowntrees Randoms? It reeks of boardroom to me. The fact the word random has been used as not only the name, but pretty much dominates the entire ad campaign for this detestable product, suggests not a whole lot of thought went into milking this cash cow. You just got in there with bare hands and ripped those bovine nipples apart. Was the selection of the “random” shapes you’ll find in each packet actually random? Did ice cream cones and  car tyre morphs come out of the Rowntrees production line? No, that’s ridiculous. A lot of effort went into the creation of each mould – to make a limited number of glorified Fruit Pastilles in crappy shapes.

The biggest issue I have with Randoms – the biggest indicator of boardroom – is that the shapes have so obviously been through a long selection process to make them all pointlessly PC and child friendly.

Had Randoms been truly random, Rowntrees would have used all the suggested shapes from the brainstorming session – not just the “safe” ones. Don’t even lie, Rowntrees, the original ideas were dirty. You can only come up with so many “pineapple”s or “palm tree”s before you suggest something dirty like “fanny”, “swastika” or “chocolate spider”. I bet they had some killer ideas.

Had they used the dictionary definition, Henry James stream-of-consciousness Rowntrees Randoms; I wouldn’t complain. Noone would. I bet they’d sell. Natasha, I know you’re into this as much as I am. How about we start a petition to get some new, proper random Random moulds made at the Rowntrees factory?

To get you in the mood – here’s a transcript of what the Rowntrees Rrrrrrandoms(!) advert will be like once we overturn the retrograde capitalist boardroom decisions of this once-loved sweetie company:

Rowntrees Randoms television commercial.

(Some pure bint in a weirdly manufacturer-free motor pulls up to a young Alex Salmond walking down a road. Any road. Anywhere within, say, 40 miles of central London.)

Thon Wumman (in her best telephone voice): “Esscuse me?” (she holds out a piece of paper she is RRRANDOMLY holding) “Do you know where Dover Street is, please?”

Thon Man (in a noticably more working-class accent than Thon Wumman): “No problem, fishnet stockings; your best bet is to follow your roadkill cat, go right past the rubber dildo, and then you need *noise* let meh think…”

Thon Wumman (looks RRRRANDOMLY uncomfortable)

Thon Man (popping a dolled-up jelly tot for inspiration): “Yeah! Follow your anal miscarriage until you get to the used tampon and then Bob’s your needle scarred prozzie. All right, uncomfortable stiffy?”

Thon Voiceover: “Billions of random combinations in every bag. Let your random side out with new Rowntrees Tourettes.”

To Renege

I genuinely meant to write a few blogs on my holiday in Croatia, but I don’t think I’m really up to it.

The holiday itself was really great, but I had a few melancholic days because of a number of things going on in my brain. Easy Realism doesn’t usually shirk from confessionalism, but I don’t see the point in writing down all the banalities of what was going on – especially now that they have, for the most-part, resolved.

Anyway, I have decided I want to work in Canada for a year, so I am trying to save at least £2000 by the end of this year. It isn’t going well.

I graduate in November and am seeing Fleetwood Mac in October, but other than that, I plan to work endlessly. I felt like, previously, I was “living for nothing” like that line in the Leonard Cohen song; but now I have something to work towards. It is a little healthier than working towards nothing; but the melancholy remains in the fact that this 200 word blog is the most I’ve been able to produce lately.

A less convincing bleach job than Kathy’s hair.

I would like you to consider this blog a preamble to the upcoming Croatia issues, to be posted over the coming week (or month, or sporadically, or not at all – you know how patternless my updates are).

To contextualise, I was in Croatia last week and will write a series of blogs on what I did there, contrary musings and outright lies. This was my first proper holiday abroad in about six years; so I wasn’t used to holiday clothes, tanning, beaches, foreign people, currency that isn’t Sterling, or flip flops.

My ineptitude as a globe-trotter resulted in this purchase – a pair of £12 shoes. For the beach. Or whatever.

IMG_1993

Yeah, that’s right. Following a long line of ridiculous fashion purchases, those are bright orange canvas shoes. Orange canvas is, of course, only really acceptable in Rousseau. After considering the place of these shoes behind the silver jeans and endless “smock-like shirts”, I thought the best course of action was some hardcore bleaching.

White is always acceptable. Unless you consider white jeans – especially when attending a formal award ceremony (though they do go largely unquestioned in a strip club).

The shoes underwent a triple bleaching with Domestos, Cif, and – for good measure – a different bottle of Domestos.

IMG_2009You can see the bleach not really affecting the outside of the shoes, but affecting the inside. This produced a really cool – but totally pointless – effect:

IMG_2012And also some pretty sucky effects:

IMG_2001And on the outside, the only white was a patina from the cocktail of bleach products.

IMG_2015By this point, the smell was getting to me. And the rest of the house. I was thinking about weird Victorian abortions and – since my crappy shoes could survive being drenched in bleach – whether or not I would survive if I drank straight from the Domestos bottle. I decided it was time to end this obvious failure of an experiment.

IMG_2029Surely jamming the shoes carelessly into the washing machine will do the job? All that bleach and washing powder will get rid of the embarassing colour – it must!

IMG_2099…Or just turn them pink…

IMG_2102

…And rip the soles off them

Epic shoe fail? I think so. I can’t decide whether the biggest insult to this fashion injury is that:

a) I spent over a tenner on shoes, just to ruin them with my incompetence

b) They were effectively replaced by a £3 white pair from Primark

c) The stupid orange shoes were next to a white pair in H&M

d) I overspent on holiday (see aforementioned incompetence) and could really do with that £12 right about now…