Reviews

New Order + Super Furry Animals + Air

Matt Pomroy
New Order + Super Furry Animals + Air

New Order + Super Furry Animals + Air

City: London
Venue: Finsbury Park
Date: 2002-06-09

New Order's Bernard Sumner
New Order's Peter Hook
S E T    L I S T
Crystal
Transmission
Regret
Ceremony
60 Miles an Hour
Atmosphere
Brutal
Close Range
She's Lost Control
Bizarre Love Triangle
True Faith
Temptation
Love Will Tear Us Apart Encore
Digital
Blue Monday
World in Motion
Your Silent Face
There are two seasons in England -- August and Winter. New Order's day in the park was in danger of being washed out with the kind of rain that only the Mancunians who came down with the band can shrug off as just "bloody weather". In support of Sumner & Co were Echo and the Bunnymen, whose 1980s gutter pop was well suited to the weather and the pathetic fallacy of their music perfectly soundtracked the transformation of wet grass into mud. The special guest of Coldplay's Chris Martin on the "Nothing Lasts Forever" single did more for Martin than for McCulloch. The brilliance of openers Super Furry Animals was tempered only by the omission of many of their best songs, but "Rings Around the World", "Juxtapose with You" and "Presidential Suite" glowed, while "The Man Don't Give a Fuck" was as scorching hot as the weather wasn't. If you don't already own this single then buy it now, and if you don't love it then write to me and I'll send you the money with a free list of reasons why you're just plain wrong. French electro combo Air were teeth -- clenchingly dull, but had it been a hot and sunny day, their minimal warbling might have been the perfect background noise to watch the sun go down to. Mid-set there was a downpour of Biblical proportions and the queues for the beer tent shifted to the tea van, but as their set (eventually) ended, so the rain and the clouds parted, letting the first rays of sunshine of the day in. It was the biggest cheer so far. The thing is, despite weather that would stop you going to the corner shop, let alone standing in a park for six hours, everyone stayed. Everyone was to be rewarded. Sumner apologised for the weather several times as they came on stage but it wasn't really necessary, as his band were about to tear through a set of blistering perfection. Two songs in and they played "Transmission". Yes, the Joy Division song "Transmission", and throughout the set they also went on to play "Atmosphere", "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and for only the second time in 24 years, "She's Lost Control". Far from sounding dated and maudlin, these songs were as uplifting and rousing as anything in their set post-Joy Division, and they made these songs sound as vital as they were when they were first played. For the fifth Joy Division song, "Digital", Sumner was joined on vocals by actor John Simm who played him in the Factory Records biopic 24-Hour Party People. Art imitates art imitates life. However, the New Order songs were never put in the shade by the late Ian Curtis tracks. "Bizarre Love Triangle", "True Faith" and "Temptation" showed just why during the 1980s they left the likes of Kraftwerk and (God help us) The Pet Shop Boys trailing in their wake like seagulls behind a trawler. For a band tinged with tragedy and bad luck, this was a performance that saw them further oppose the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and confirm themselves as bona fide giants. Thanks to the cost of the packaging, "Blue Monday" lost the band four pence for every single that was sold. It became the biggest selling 12" of all time, but still they played the song that became their financial noose with the kind of passion you would have forgiven them for having lost long ago. Peter Hook was still pulling his rock poses with his bass slung as low as always, and calling the crowd "cockney wankers" like the pantomime genius he wants to be. All the while, an up-beat Sumner was hopping about during the instrumental parts with some primal war dance and happily letting the crowd vote by a show of hands what they want next -- "Right, hands up if you want 'Rock Shack'? Ok, hands up if you want 'World In Motion'." "World in Motion", the only football anthem ever that isn't woeful, got a rare and unrehearsed outing with its chant along chorus -- the World Cup is on, after all - so never let it be said that they take themselves too seriously. The fact that a song they only co-wrote was their only number-one single is a moot point, as is the fairly poor sales of their latest album Get Ready. Tonight they were glorious in every way, and if they are Factory Records only -- still touring -- legacy then maybe Factory wasn't the failure that some paint it as. Manchester, so much to be grateful for -- as Morrisey once never said.

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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Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

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9

If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star Salim Shaheen, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people.

"Now I am just more tired and poor. So no, I haven't changed. I'm just older and more tired," says French radio journalist and documentarian Sonia Kronlund, as she looks back on the experience of making The Prince of Nothingwood (2017).

Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

In October of this year at the UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Kronlund spoke with PopMatters about being driven by questions rather than inspiration. She also reflected on the subjective nature of documentary filmmaking, the necessary artistic compromises of filming in Afghanistan, and feeling a satisfaction with imperfections.

Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

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