Posts Tagged Murder
After his sojourn in Los Angeles, which produced You Are The Quarry, his first album in seven years, Morrissey buggered off to Italy for a bit, living and recording in Rome.
The resulting album, Ringleader Of The Tormentors, was written with collborators old and new, in Alain Whyte and Jesse Tobias respectively, and roped in some bloke called Ennio Morricone to do a few strings. Tony Visconti, perhaps deciding there was no real future in T. Rex or David Bowie records any more, produced.
Thematically, one thing is particularly noticeable on this album: sex. It’s comfortably the most direct Morrissey has been about matters of the flesh, most notably on Dear God Please Help Me (featuring Morricone’s arrangement) which, inevitably, led to all kinds of conjecture about the exact nature of the relationship described. Similarly, At Last I Am Born, the, um, climax of the album, rounds things off with a crash, a bang, and a throwing-off off life’s worries.
Don’t worry, it’s not all bedroom frolics. Life Is A Pigsty begins with a Well I Wonder-esque drizzly intro, and rises above the sum of its parts to become a spectral, thumping, gripping, but ultimately simple presentation of life as a disappointment. Meanwhile, given the subject matter, The Father Who Must Be Killed is a surprisingly touching song: Morrissey both observes and directs a girl’s actions against her abusive step-father, before she turns the knife on herself, set to a rousing musical backdrop and a children’s choir.
The album highlight is You Have Killed Me, beginning with a growl of guitars and a clash of cymbals and ending with rising strings. Morrissey’s love of his adopted home comes to the fore, with liberal references to both the city (“Piazza Cavore / What’s my life for?”) and the country’s cinematic heritage, singing of himself, his love interest, actors and directors, in a lustrous mix of sexual desires. And the crowd goes wild.
My memory tells me that while this seemed a good album on its release, it didn’t really get much attention or acclaim. The ever-reliable Wikipedia suggests my memory may be about right, as it assures me it reached number 6 in the album charts before disappearing from the charts all together after just 3 weeks. (Of course, I could have made that up, and edited Wikipedia to make it look like my memory was backed up by some other source. I didn’t. But I could have)
Anyway… This album regularly veers between life-affirming optimism (The Birds In Your Garden, Sunrise) and spirit-sapping realities of life (Bob Lind, The Night That Minnie Timperley Died), and a few points in between (I Love Life, Bad Cover Version). Although at odds with a prominent pastoral feel throughout the album, this perhaps captures the mood and atmosphere around the band at the time, culminating in their ‘hiatus’ (in effect an unofficial/unconfirmed splitting-up) soon after this release.
Two personal highlights; firstly the opening two tracks, Weeds and Weeds II (Origin Of The Species), which give us Jarvis Cocker’s take on immigration and the fine British attitude to it, through the metaphor of plant life (“Make believe you’re so turned on by planting trees and shrubs / But you come round to visit us when you fancy booze and drugs”), and an initially rolling, uplifting tune, which becomes spectral in part II (sadly I’ll be damned if I can find any audio of part II online).
Secondly, Wickerman: a meandering, wandering tale which follows a river through Sheffield, taking in such sights as a burnt-down Trebor factory, “courting couples naked on Northern Upholstery”, and drunken Saturday night leaps off a viaduct – a fine example of Cocker’s story-telling, set to a haunting, orchestral-tinged soundtrack…
A few days ago, it was the 20th anniversary of the death of Serge Gainsbourg (and if that isn’t an appropriately respectful sentence to remember the passing of a cultural legend, frankly, I don’t know what is. Seriously, I don’t know what is).
Bonnie and Clyde, an album with on/off collaborator Brigitte Bardot, which he describes as songs of love: “amour combat, amour passion, amour physique, amour fiction”, features a remarkable title track. Gainsbourg romanticises the lives of the two protagonists, painting a picture of two lovers defending each other and their own actions (“they claim we kill in cold blood… we simply need to silence those who scream”) in the face of a society which is to blame for ruining the young Clyde and turning him from “un gars honnête, loyale et droit” (‘an honest, loyal, straight-up kid’) into a callous killer. This is set against rich, hypnotic music, in keeping with the compelling, self-assured nature of the lyrics; a special mention has to go to the bizarre, distracting, but somehow integral, background whooping. Needless to say, the pair of them pull this off while looking impossibly stylish.
Gainsbourg knows full well what he’s up to, and tells us as much in his introduction to the song (itself based on a poem reported to have been written by Bonnie Parker). I especially like the knowing, accusatory nod of “ça vous a plu, hein?”, directed at the same society which (of course) both caused and condemned Barrow’s actions…
Vous avez lu l’histoire de Jesse James (You’ve read the story of Jesse James)
Comment il vécut, comment il est mort (How he lived, how he died)
Ça vous a plu, hein? (You liked it, didn’t you?)
Vous en demandez encore (You asked for more)
Et bien, ecoutez l’histoire (Well, listen to the story)
De Bonnie and Clyde (Of Bonnie and Clyde)
Just a quick interlude in the ever-riveting series on cricket grounds, but this really is worth pursuing. My friend and blog rival Ray Wittering has made March his ‘Giallo Month’. If, like me, you had no idea what this was on first hearing of it, his own definition should help:
“Giallo films are Italian crime thrillers made between the mid sixties and the late seventies, although the peak period was was probably 1970-1974. A good giallo will feature:
- a convoluted plot that moves fast enough that you don’t have time to realise none of it makes any sense;
- a series of brutal, sometimes ingenious murders perpetrated by a seemingly unstoppable killer (sometimes masked, always gloved);
- stylish production, camera work, fashions and other mod cons;
- the most beautiful women in Europe, often in sexual situations;
- incredible music, composed by a genius (Morricone, Piccioni, Umiliani, Cipriani, etc.). “
This really, really is marvellous stuff. You might want to check out the earliest posts in the month for some background, and do be aware that “giallo isn’t for kids. The clips and stills to be featured will contain nudity and sadistic violence so, if you are bothered by that sort of thing then you will almost certainly be offended by some of the upcoming content”.
Country Of The Blind by Christopher Brookmyre (1997)
This is Christopher Brookmyre’s second novel, the follow-up to Quite Ugly One Morning. While his first novel began with a detective uttering “Jesus fuck” at the discovery of a stool upon a grotesquely murdered man’s mantlepiece (we’re not talking furniture re-arrangements, either – quite an opening gambit from any debut author), Country Of The Blind begins in a much more genteel fashion: with a cup tea. Admittedly, this cup of tea was prepared by a man who has just been arrested for breaking and entering, robbery, and, of course, quadruple murder. His new-to-Glasgow lawyer initially finds her only potential line of defence to be that he had previously made her, yes, a nice cup of tea. That, plus a mysterious envelope he had handed her, on condition that it should only be opened were he to fall foul of the law.
And so we get a quick overview of some of Brookmyre’s favourite topics: murder and stitch-up, the law and its long arm, Scotland and some of its seedier inhabitants. Allied to these throughout his novels are fond(-ish) reminisence of school days, computer games, music, not to mention his evident disgust at the British Conservative party, Christianity in all its organised forms, the Old Firm of Rangers and Celtic, the right-wing media, casual racism, and corruption of The Man’s and/or The System. Fortunately these topics are addressed with a monumental dose of humour and copious amounts of sweary words, often in his native dialect – so much so that one of his later novels includes a glossary (sample entry: moolsy – Selfish, ungenerous, disinclined to share one’s sweeties with half a dozen cadgers who wouldn’t give you the steam off their shite if it was the other way round).
His chief protagonist is Jack Parlabane, a freelance journalist with a fierce sense of moral outrage (coincidentally, against many of the more egregious subjects listed above) and a handy lock-picking toolkit. Parlabane is an immensely likeable character, despite (or because of) his ability to start (and win) an argument in an empty house.
The plot details of Brookmyre’s novels don’t really lend themselves to too much description. It’s a little like trying to steal just a small piece of a large un-cut cake: nibbling at one slice of the plot tends to necessitate revealing at least part of the rest, and so on and so on until you realise you’ve eaten the whole cake and spolit the fun for everyone. So for now, beg, borrow, or steal a copy of any of his novels.
Incidentally, I chose this particular novel of his simply because I had the immense good fortune to find a very good condition, first edition hardback cover of it in a second-hand bookshop in Whitby, for just £5. It’s not often the cosmos deals me such cards, let me tell you. It was all I could to remember to pay for it before I ran out of the shop with it tucked under my arm, cackling.