At the start of August I blogged about the new single from Manic Street Preachers, the bouncy, populist rock of “(It’s Not War) Just the End of Love”. Soon afterwards we learned that the song’s video was to feature Michael Sheen—he of playing-Tony-Blair fame—and fellow thespian Anna Friel. Now that video has emerged and turns out to be a typically oblique entry to the Manics video canon, the two stars playing a chess pros locked into an intense match—adjudicated by the band members—during which they suddenly become very, very friendly. Unhelpfully the video itself can’t be embedded but it can be found here.
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The Coen brothers’ stable of actors is not to be trifled with. It boasts such enormous matinée idols as George Clooney and Brad Pitt, as well as stunning lights in the cult of the character actor like John Turturro and Steve Buscemi, and certainly not least, Frances McDormand, who, in this writer’s opinion, should be a million times more recognized for her depthless talent than she currently is. What is arguably Nicholas Cage’s finest work is also a Coen brothers film, and though Jeff Bridges had already established a stellar career before being cast in The Big Lebowski, it was that film that embedded him in the ravenous minds of a new generation.
But it is the truth that an actor is only as good as his or her writer. As delightful as any of the “name” actors who appear in Coen brothers films are, one need only watch A Serious Man to see that “faces” in no way restrict the Coen brothers’ ability to plot an intellectually gripping story which is also rife with lip-smacking dialogue. If that were not proof enough, I submit to you this short scene from 1996’s Fargo. The actors in this scene define the term “bit player”—Bain Boehlke, who plays Mr. Mohra, is credited to only one other performance on the IMDB, and it would appear this film is the sole film appearance of Cliff Rakerd (Officer Olsen). Even if Rakerd were to have a hundred more appearances in other films, one would be hard-pressed to recognize him here, as both actors are almost completely obscured by their costumes. This scene is all dialogue: there are no showy camera angles or special effects, and no flashbacks at all, which may have been a more traditional way to convey the plot information in this scene. No, instead the Coens rely solely on dialogue. Fargo is their most dialect-heavy film, but even given the hilarious take on the speech mannerisms of the American Upper Peninsula, this short scene deftly demonstrates that when all the trappings of film are stripped away down to the simple act of writing, it is Ethan and Joel Coen who shine brightest on that silver screen.
When you are 1/4 of the greatest band of all time, not all of your quality tracks earn entry into your group’s repertoire. In early 1969, with the Beatles’ sprawling double LP only months behind, Paul McCartney still had many worthy songs languishing away, including the beautiful tune “Goodbye”. Luckily for the 19-year-old Mary Hopkin, McCartney was in an altruistic mood, lending his songwriting and production skills to the upstart. While Hopkin’s rendition adequately interpreted the song (which reached number 2 in the UK singles chart; the Beatles’ own “Get Back” prevented it from reaching the top spot), it’s still this original McCartney demo that sweetly caresses with its beauty. Imagine how nicely this would fit on the White Album.
Sure it’s gone viral, but not everyone has had the opportunity to hear Cee Lo Green croon his expletive ode to an ex-girlfriend and her current paramour just yet. Not since Eamon’s 2004 single, “Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back)” has the f-bomb been dropped so much in a song. Yet, Cee Lo manages to straddle the line between sincerity and self-aware humor every time he lets one rip throughout the song.
Is Green’s use of the word gratuitous? Not really. It’s pretty heartfelt, actually. Think about it. If you saw your ex-girlfriend sporting around town with a guy with more money and a better car than you and were still reeling from the break-up, what would your reaction be? It’s a safe bet that the words “Oh, fiddlesticks!” wouldn’t drop out of your mouth. The most primal, visceral gut reaction that one can muster in the tersest of terms, summing up all those feelings of anger, regret and hate is a hearty “Fuck you!” hurled in the general direction of the offending parties.
What sets Cee Lo Green’s otherwise base pronouncement above being just another profanity-laced novelty is that he makes his “Fuck You” funky. There’s a supremely catchy, Motown quality to the Gnarls Barkley vocalist’s new solo single. The harmonious “ooh"s and “aah"s comprising the song’s background vocals and the funky (emotional and musical) breakdown before the song’s final chorus make this seem like a lost relic from the ‘60s that even Berry Gordy would have reluctantly passed over due to stringent censorship.
The world contains lots of delightful sounds: bluebirds trilling, children laughing, brooks babbling, etc. But is there any sound more pleasing than the sound of a human voice? And has there ever been any vocalist with a more beautiful tone than Joni Mitchell’s? I think not. Here she is on the Johnny Cash show, playing the lap dulcimer and trilling “California”. Mitchell singing about going home just chills the soul. She nails every note with the proper amounts of joy and heartache. This is the voice that launched a thousand, nay probably a million, singers to find their own expressive natures. Whether anyone has ever measured up to the standard heard here is a decision only you can make….