PM Pick

Lennon's <i>Some Time in New York City</i>

In memorium, my defense of one of Lennon's most reviled solo albums.

It's hard to understand why anyone would believe (as some do) that Lennon was the target of a right-wing conspiracy that culminated in his assassination. That is, until you hear this album, where he and Yoko make their leftist political views the subject matter of some of Lennon's most abrasive, confrontational songwriting (and that includes the wildly overrated Plastic Ono Band). It's almost inconceivable while listening to this record to think that Lennon would subsequently be deified in the commercial pantheon, that his image and his music would be used to shill for Apple Computers and Nike, though it would be wonderful to watch corporate America attempt to appropriate some of these ditties: perhaps the Gap could use "Woman is the Nigger of the World" in one of their choreographed multicultural TV commercial atrocities, letting girls gyrate over Lennon's primal scream of "We make them paint their face and daaance!" The political content on this album is so intense and inflammatory that most critics (who are typically quietists who foist on us a reactionary bourgeois aesthetics of political indifference while performing their roles as boosters for the record industry or apologists for the status quo) don't even bother to condemn it as propaganda, they simply pretend it doesn't exist. Of course it's obviously propaganda, unrepentantly so, and aided by Spector's unrelenting, overwhelming production, it tirelessly agitates for the causes of Irish independence, prison reform, feminism, and the right for Yoko to warble atonally for an eternity and have it be called music. The pleasure of hearing a major star go out on a limb for righteous causes is substantial enough, but the music is compelling, too, particularly Lennon's fiery takes on "Cold Turkey" and "Baby, Please Don't Go". And the 16-minute "Don't Worry Kyoko" is the ultimate room-clearer -- if you ever encounter it on one of those annoying jukeboxes with seventeen zillion songs on it, play it repeatedly.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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