Reviews

Jeeves and Wooster

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are a perfect pair as the beloved and hilarious Jeeves & Wooster in this eight disc, complete series set.


Jeeves & Wooster

Distributor: A&E; Home Video
Cast: Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie
Network: ITV
UK release date:
US release date: 2009-05-26
Website
Amazon
Amazon

In the early '90s Stephen Fry (Wilde, Gormanghast, Gosford Park) and Hugh Laurie (House, Blackadder, Flight of the Phoenix) stepped away from their sketch comedy, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, to slip into the beloved comical characters of Jeeves and Wooster from the P.G. Wodehouse books. The show ran on ITV for four series between 1990 and 1993, and is now available as a complete set featuring all 23 original episodes on eight DVDs. The DVDs have only a single "bonus feature", which is an extensive P.G. Wodehouse biography/bibliography/filmography, and the navigational inability to skip the opening credits and go right to the first scene in an episode is initially annoying, but those are the only drawbacks to this set and are soon forgotten once the brilliant comedy begins.

Jeeves & Wooster follows the misadventures of young, aristocratic and idly rich Bertram Wooster and his indispensably brilliant valet, Jeeves. When he's not being forced into awkward, unlikely social situations by his overbearing Aunt Agatha, goaded into insane acts of petty theft in the name of family by his Aunt Dahlia, bachelor Bertie Wooster often finds himself engaged—mostly by default and rarely by design—to any number of his former flames or his friends' fiancés. When not embroiled in engagement, however, he's a happy chap. He always has a friendly "What Ho!" or "Toodle Pip!" for every man, woman and Spode, which, naturally, is how he finds himself so often at the center of other peoples' mayhem. That's where Jeeves comes in.

Actually, Jeeves comes in at many more places than that. As a "gentleman's gentleman", it's his job to make tea, pour drinks, press clothes, and recommend improving books and such. As his gentleman's gentleman, it also falls to Jeeves to obfuscate the truth to the authorities, orchestrate elaborate schemes to accomplish some of Dahlia's demands, tolerate endless indignities with and on behalf of his employer and, generally, to extricate Wooster from the all the sticky situations his pals put him in. Essentially, Jeeves saves Bertie's bacon, time and again, because Bertie Wooster is entirely incapable of saying "No". He can't seem to say it even when he does actually utter the word, which he does, repeatedly, and sometimes vehemently, especially in the later episodes.

His peers from The Drones club in London often give him the most trouble. To a man—and sometimes, woman, his humorously nicknamed chums ("Barmy" Forthingay Phipps, "Tuppy" Glossup, "Stinker" Pinker, "Bingo" Little, Stephanie "Stiffy" Byng, etc.) seem to delight in dragging Wooster into their mad schemes and romantic entanglements. He's all too happy to help most times, that is until he finds himself accidentally affianced to the insufferably daffy Madeleine Basset (played by Diana Blackburn and Elizabeth Morton, respectively) or pinned under the watchful and wrathful eye of furious fascist, Roderick Spode (John Turner).

He's most often reuniting wayward lovers like Tuppy and Bingo with their betrothed, or assisting the newt fancying Gussie Fink-Nottle (Richard Garnett and later, Richard Braine) with his romantic missteps, always of course, endangering himself and his freedom in the process, allowing for Jeeves to concoct ever-more-dazzling escape plans (not that Jeeves always has the answer, a favorite episode where he fails has both men jumping ship in the middle of the Atlantic. The resultant "eight months later" gag is priceless!).

Watching the third and fourth seasons, these situations and set ups begin to repeat quite a lot, but it's owing to the irrepressible geniuses of Fry and Laurie that the settings and plots never get old. No matter the number of times our heroes are ensconced at Sir Watkyn's country place steering afoul of Spode, or in danger of marrying Madeleine, no matter how often uninvited trouble in the form of Tuppy (the wonderful Robert Daws) pops across the pond to accost them in New York City, the verbal patter and expressive interplay between these two keeps things fresh and wickedly funny.

True, much of this dialogue comes straight from P.G. Wodehouse's original stories, but when Fry and Laurie add their considerable comedic talents, the result is a veritable verbal masterpiece. Their combined wit and skill with rapid-fire, but still understated, delivery elevate even the less obvious lines. However it's the more readily apparent humor that most people love about Jeeves & Wooster.

Fry and Laurie excel at that as well. Whether it's Wooster's wide-eyed astonishment at his predicaments or Jeeves' disapproval of his employer's latest hat, these two are masters of the minute intricacies of comedy facial expression. Fry particularly, as Jeeves he conveys more with his brow than most actors can express with their entire bodies! Laurie, for his part, is hilarious with the tongue-twisting witticisms and, as a special treat—though this is not in Wodehouse's original stories—he is often at the piano so Wooster can regale or revile Jeeves with a humorous ditty.

They are a perfect pair, Jeeves & Wooster, Fry and Laurie. Nearly 20 hours of high-brow humor and low-brow pranks, subtle spit takes and silly sight gags combine with fantastic feats of linguistic dexterity to provide endless entertainment. To paraphrase Bertie Wooster, the laughs are, as always, slap on the button and leading by a length in the final furlong, Jeeves.

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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