Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Lukewarm Whine

This has been an extraordinarily atrocious year for music. Somehow the majestically mediocre munchkins the Kaiser Chiefs and the Arctic Monkeys have received widespread critical acclaim despite having composed the sum total of two laughably poor band names and one song between them, which they generously share with one another. Unfathomably, no-one has noticed that this single shared song is repeated fourteen times on both their respective albums and sounds like a rejected Chesney Hawkes filler track from his oft-forgotten second album, Chesney Hawkes Sings The Rejected B-Sides Of Chris De Burgh.

However, it is not the aforementioned leaches on the musical fabric of this nation but the Black Eyed Peas, who share the distinction of a catastrophically useless name, who are the subject of my ire today. After the release of 'Where Is The Love?', a malignant verruca of a song which practically begs the listener to begin a homicidal rampage against all associators with cynically corporate, formulaic, tepid, lukewarm whines sung with all the passion of a Justin Trousersnake guest chorus (i.e. (a) anyone who has composed, purchased, voluntarily listened to, (b) threatened to compose, purchase or voluntarily listen to (c) shown any sign of developing a future desire to compose, purchase or voluntarily listen to or (d) knows but does not vehemently abuse people who compose, purchase or voluntarily listen to R'N'B), most observers assumed that, until the apocalypse occurs and Keanu Reeves' vanity project Dogstar rise again, that no musical low could ever hope to match this one. Listening to Dogstar is, of course, akin to a surgeon forgetting to provide you with anaesthetic and then performing a vasectomy on you with a chainsaw.

With the release of the near-impossibly terrible 'My Humps', however, the Black Eyed Peas have bettered even their enviably and consistently high standard of musical ineptness. Spectacularly, this song manages to make the most desirable anatomical features of the female body sound like horrible mutations:

My hump
My hump
My lovely lady lumps

I'm sure even those of you fortunate enough to have avoided this ubiquitous monstrosity thus far will realise that 'hump' refers to the female backside and 'lumps' to the mammaries. Features which, I know you will agree, are virtually impossible to render unattractive if possessed by someone as physically advantaged as the lead female singer. However, whenever I accidentally listen to this particular section of the song I hear only this:

My spinal bifida
My spinal bifida
My lovely malignant tumours

Not pleasant.

Ed's Mood: Disgusted

Ed's Incessant Auto-Repeat Musical Tip: Stone Roses - She Bangs The Drums

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Humourless Rant

There are no jokes below. I am hacked off.

I may be writing from an inherently blinkered Western secular perspective inescapably touched by my upbringing, comfortable atheist beliefs and cultural norms, but the astonishing and ridiculous overreaction by the fundamentalist elements of the Islamic world to the Danish newspaper cartoons has utterly bamboozled me. How, precisely, is torching the Danish embassy proportional retaliation for a couple of stupid and offensive but, in global terms, pitifully inconsequential and eminently forgettable pictures??? This kind of preposterously exaggerated reaction has no place in a world where Neo-Nazi groups propagate filth on the Internet, dangerous white supremacist groups commit violent acts coloured by bigoted racial and religious hatred and suicide bombers routinely murder innocent people who have absolutely nothing to do with the policies of their government and bare less than no responsibility for them, thereby destroying support for their movements and committing acts as vile as anything performed against them. These are of no importance by comparison - they are cartoons, the insensate and supremely irrelevant scribblings of two or three fools endorsed by a single newspaper and absolutely no-one else. In a sane world the artist(s) would have been quietly condemned, a profuse apology issued to Muslims among the readership offended by the pictures and no-one would have batted an eyelid. Why the hell should the Danish prime minister have to publicly apologise for the actions of people who have nothing whatsoever to do with the thoughts, actions and policies of him or his administration??

I also believe that the pictures satirise the view of Islam perpetuated by crazed fanatics by portraying Mohammed in the light fundamentalists portray him in, and do not satirise Mohammed himself or Islam itself. The fact that Mohammed is portrayed at all is to make a far more profound and considered point - namely that Mohammed is, of course, not a suicide bomber but is regarded by fanatics as someone who advocates and encourages suicide bombing. The cartoon which portrays Mohammed as a suicide bomber is making precisely this point - it satirises the ridiculous view of Islam held by radical morons, not Islam itself. The cartoon of paradise accompanied with the slogan 'Stop - we've run out of virgins!' is, again, a satire of the ridiculous beliefs held by the fanatics and the fanatics alone - namely that paradise is some kind of everlasting misogynistic brothel for murderers. It is decidedly not a satire of Islam or Islamic beliefs, but simply a satire of those views held by a minority of fundamentalist adherents who are condemned as much by Muslims as by anyone else. This distinction may appear irrelevant as Mohammed should not appear as a graven image regardless of the nuances of the satire, but it does at least partially excuse the artist. It is one thing to find the cartoons offensive - if I was religious, I would certainly feel uneasy about someone depicting God as, for example, a murderer of homosexuals and heathens even if the cartoon was aimed to satirise the views of crazed Christian fundamentalists (of which there are plenty) as opposed to demonstrating any anti-Christian beliefs of the author. It is another to deliberately misinterpret them, ascribe a meaning to them that they do not have and idiotically blame the poorly judged mistake of a handful of people on a continent of millions.

What really infuriates me is that certain Arabic newspapers have 'retaliated' by posting cartoons satirising the Holocaust, ingenuously protesting an equivalent 'freedom of expression' that seems frustratingly alien to them. How can this possibly be regarded as in any way 'equivalent'?? Since when did the cartoons endorse a brutal gas chamber assisted mass genocide of Muslims?? A fair, equitable and justifiable response would actually have been to publish cartoons satirising Christian fundamentalist perspectives of God (something which, incidentally, occurs on a regular basis in the media in this country and which does not remotely bother anyone apart from strange radicals) or, more suitably, satirising us godless, secular, extremely bewildered people.

Finally, it has to be said that the medieval rhetoric which has accompanied this whole affair is laughable. I saw a placard carrying the idiotic slogan 'Death to freedom of expression' as if Stalinist oppression and being spoon-fed ludicrous fundamentalist dogma is somehow preferable to the occasional abuse of this right. Crazed sweeping generalisations are all-pervasive:

'Oh look, a Danish newspaper published offensive cartoons. As I can't be bothered to make the subtle distinction, let's blame the entire Danish population of millions for the actions of about five people who have absolutely nothing to do with them. French and Polish newspapers reproduced them? Let's blame the whole of Europe, most of the population of which is watching on in utter, baffled, uncomprehending bemusement'

This is a sad, sad indictment of the world.

Ed's Mood: Disillusioned and baffled

Ed's Incessant Auto-Repeat Musical Tip: U2 - New Year's Day