Reviews

Keeping Up Appearances: The Full Bouquet

Routledge is outstanding as an abrasive British housewife who considers it her solemn duty to associate with the "right sort of people", keep the house spotlessly tidy, and her family in order.


Keeping Up Appearances: The Full Bouquet

Distributor: Warner
Cast: Patricia Routledge, Clive Swift, Geoffrey Hughes, Judy Cornwall
Length: 1340
MPAA rating: N/A
Network: BBC
First date: 1990-10-29
UK Release Date: Available as import
US Release Date: 2008-09-09
Amazon
Amazon

From shrill harping to incessant "candlelight supper" invitations, Hyacinth Bucket (that's pronounced "bouquet" – for additional social circle street cred) forces her vision of class and good breeding on her universally unwilling and generally captive audience: her neighbors, family, vicar, and ever-suffering husband, Richard (Clive Swift).

Patricia Routledge is outstanding as an abrasive British housewife who considers it her solemn duty to associate with the "right sort of people", to maintain her spotlessly tidy house, and to keep the rest of her family in order. Routledge, in her 60s during the series, displays a finesse for physical comedy that balances the obnoxiousness of her character by making a bit of a fool of Hyacinth even as she strives for perfection.

Keeping Up Appearances consumes Hyacinth's every waking moment, as she chastises her husband for chatting in the driveway – frightfully common, you know – and worries about her lower-class sisters from a nearby housing estate showing up and giving the wrong impression to the neighbors. Any tiny tidbit of gossip that she can use to her advantage is not wasted – and in her haste to one-up her neighbors and family she makes assumptions that prove comically false. Her senile father's escape from home and adventures in the nude are always explained away by Hyacinth's circular logic – "poor daddy" must have been saving someone from drowning!

Nothing clears a room like the promise of Hyacinth showing up to volunteer at a church fundraiser or local charity shop; even the vicar runs when he sees her approach. Passers-by the Bucket home actually hide behind shrubbery or duck below the low wall at the edge of the property to attempt to escape her notice. The milkman or any salesperson unfortunate enough to find Hyacinth at home is soon quite sorry; the postman attempts to put the mail through the front door's slot without making any noise but he always gets caught on the doorstep.

Hyacinth is often to be found making bizarre phone calls – in season two she phones the local water supply station and wants to make sure that the water in her taps is her water, because it's looking a bit less sparkly today – or receiving calls from her beloved university student son (who we never meet) on whom she dotes, though he always wants money. Hyacinth also manages to ignore every hint that Sheridan drops about his alternative lifestyle – she takes comfort in his disinterest in girls and thinks it's marvelous that he has taken up needlepoint.

Sporadic calls to order Chinese takeout also filter in, as one of the ongoing jokes in the series – a mix up in the phone book for which Hyacinth at one point forces Richard to ring the Chinese Ambassador, as though it should be his problem. Hyacinth never fails to ring out: "Bucket residence, lady of the house speaking!" as she picks up her white Slimline telephone, and Routledge is superb at keeping up the one-sided phone conversations.

The Bucket's cheerful neighbor, Elizabeth (Josephine Tewson), is generally unable to escape Hyacinth's hospitality. British to a fault, Elizabeth considers it better to go along with Hyacinth's frequent coffee break invites and homemaking quirks than to rock the boat. This is generally Richard's philosophy as well, and he and Elizabeth share many knowing glances, as though sharing their lot makes it easier to bear. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, Hyacinth's sense of timing and unfortunate choice of fancy china teacups make for an extra-jittery cup of coffee, and Elizabeth often manages to drop whatever she picks up.

Elizabeth's recently divorced brother Emmet (David Griffin) is a great addition to the neighborhood in season two; once he has met Hyacinth he becomes even more high-strung when threatened with her presence than Elizabeth does. As director of a local operatic society, Emmet is dismayed when every time Hyacinth glimpses him she bursts into song in a bid to secure a part.

The only person who finds Hyacinth's manner charming is the Major, played by Peter Cellier. Married though he may be, he chases Hyacinth around whatever social situation they happen to find themselves in, calling her a "minx" and ignoring the presence of Richard or the protestations of Hyacinth herself. This may be the only interaction that finds her giggling like a confused schoolgirl even as she fends off the Major's advances. Accustomed to being in control of most situations, Hyacinth's discomfort with extramarital flirtation often finds her scrambling to retrieve her dignity, as her clothes or hair get wildly disarrayed.

As for the more frequent additional characters in the series, Hyacinth's sister Rose (Shirley Stelfox in season one, Mary Millar from season two on) lives with their other sister Daisy (Judy Cornwell) and her husband Onslow (Geoffrey Hughes). Rose is a bit of a tart whose time has passed, and she is always dramatically running about praising one "gentleman friend" or waiting for another to call so she can verbally abuse him and assure all and sundry that she never wishes to see him again. Her theatrics go largely ignored by Daisy, who generally has her nose stuck in a trashy romance novel, and Onslow, whose focus is mainly bad TV, cheap beer, and remaining in his undershirt as much as possible.

Tidily packaged, just as Hyacinth would have appreciated, the special edition's nine discs cover the entire series' cohort of episodes, originally aired between 1990 and 1995. Disc four is entirely devoted to holiday episodes, which is a novel way to organize the series content, and highly enjoyable when in season. Special features abound, so true fans of the series will have lots of extra material to enjoy. Disc three boasts an extended look at Patricia Routledge's acting career and singing ability, which she employs in Keeping Up Appearances to great effect. The final disc is entitled, "Life Lessons with Onslow", with Hughes providing philosophical commentary as his character and looking back over many of the highlights of the series; the montage is inspired.

Each disc features outtakes from the episodes on the same disc, which is much better than sticking them all together on a final disc that the viewer is unlikely to ever take a look at. With the episodes viewed fresh in one's mind, seeing the bloopers straightaway makes lots of sense. Overall this is a well-packaged, comprehensive set of the series that provided such a comical look at class, expectations and etiquette in British society. Bravo to the Buckets.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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