Monday, 11 May 2009

Review : An Essential Guide To Music in the 1970’s

An Essential Guide To Music in the 1970’s

Johnny Zero (if that is his real name!) has struck just the right balance here between cold hard statistics and commentary on the sights and sounds (well sounds anyway) of what was to my mind, largely a wretched decade for both fashion and music.

Top ten singles and charts for every week of the decade, appear alongside songs of the month, albums of the year, notable sporting events and a whole lot more. You may be inclined to think that such a book sounds like the work of a tedious pub bore. Well as one such bore, I say that this is one reference book that will be gracing my bathroom for many moons. First rate. Eighties next please?

Ciaran Flanagan

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Comics reviews: Unpublished

It were all different with comics when I were a lad let me tell you! It used to be the case that comics were just a bunch of funny pictures with people doing stuff and nothing more. A momentary distraction on a fine spring day before you went out to chase a ball around a field with thirty of your mates for four hours. They didn’t have a message or a point; they were just something you had. Like measles. All right, fair enough there might have been a message or two in the odd issue of Spiderman (chiefly, don’t be a criminal or have 6 foot long robotic arms protruding out of your back), and The Bash Street Kids was in my opinion an almost prophetic vision of the Asbo Culture that we live in today, but in the main just simple harmless fun.

But those days are long gone. The rise of the Graphic Novel as a format has brought a new generation of comics that aren’t aimed at kids and with it a whole new knowledgeable world wise, intellectual Guardian reading audience. How has this worked out? Mixed results I’m afraid.

Jamilti and Other Stories (Hardcover)

By Rutu Modan (Author)

Israeli born Rutu Modan made quite a splash with her first full length graphic Novel the suberb.Exit Wounds. The story of the relationship between an Israeli soldier and a Tel Aviv cab driver received critical acclaim and won the 2008 Eisner Award for Best New Graphic Novel .So her latest effort Jamilti & Other Stories an anthology style short story collection has a lot to live up to and I’m sad to say it falls way short. The seven pieces collected here are all over the place content wise. Some of the stories do have charm and one or two are quite readable but the differences between the various strips are so disparate that there is no real link. Just a bunch of stuff. And if it were supposed to be just a bunch of stuff that would be fine. But the whole book practically screams “Look at me. Look at how worthy I am. I am sooooooo poignant. I have much to teach the world about relationships and family. And Israel. ” Exit wounds had at is core a cohesive narrative and I feel that is something sorely lacking here. It all feels just thrown together.

I’m not saying there isn’t an audience for this type of thing because I can see them now, reading the book whilst stroking their chin and saying “yes, I understand. The world is a complex place, mmmmm, Christine pass me the houmous.” But from a strictly populist viewpoint this collection equals no buys. If I were a fair man I would say the strips were written over a period of nearly ten years so the difference in quality and content can be attributed to Modan developing her style over the years. But I’m not a fair man so I won’t. I will say however that the art is never anything short of superb ( strangely putting me in mind of late period Max Fleischer or Robert Crumbs more cohesive moments) .The strip entitled Homecoming in particular is a real stand out . But in the main I can’t recommend this. Read Exit Wounds instead.

The Burma Chronicles (Hardcover)

by Guy Delisle (Author)

Burma Chronicles is at the very least a novel idea. How do you best report on a year spent living in a strict military dictatorship with an appalling human rights record who use concealment and isolation as social control , where rumor is often times the most reliable source of information because ( literal ) scissor wielding censors monitor the newspapers ? Simple you write a comic about it. Which is exactly what Guy Delisle has done. A sort of graphic travelogue if you would. And it works perfectly. Delisle’s informal humorous style is perfect in a “confused outsider learns a counties foibles “type scenario. The artwork is stark minimalist and cartoonish which leads to a very strange feeling when reading. As if it was a Peanuts cartoon about life in North Korea (and having now just checked the press release I see that that is, in fact the topic of one of his previous books. whoops.) I can safely say I walked away from this with a wealth of knowledge about Burma’s people, lifestyle, culture and customs, a country that I had barely heard about before I started reading. Job well done on all counts