April 9th, 2009

breaking bad

Albums of the decade

My son and I were discussing what would be the 'albums of the decade' when we look back at the past ten years. I personally find it difficult to identify recent albums with the stature and staying power of albums of previous decades - such as Blue Train by John Coltrane, Revolver by the Beatles, Hunky Dory, Tupelo Honey, Hejira, Never Mind the Bollocks, The Queen is Dead, OK Computer and so on.

This may just be because I am out of touch with modern music - you may find when you are my age you feel the same, and you'll be surprised how fine you feel about it.

Or it may be that the 'album' paradigm is dead, and that music is more diverse and fragmented than that now. Perhaps the 'big album' survived from 'Songs for Swinging Lovers' to 'OK Computer' and is gone now.

Or perhaps it is that the noughties, like the eighties, just aren't that good for music. I mean, I was in my twenties in the eighties, I went out every night and had a great time. Live comedy was fantastic in those days, but music was pretty moribund. Perhaps we are in a slow patch just now.

But even given those possibilities, what might be the albums we will look back on from the future, as great and memorable albums of this decade? I am thinking 'The Marshall Mathers LP' by eminem, 'Back to Black' by Amy Winehouse, something by Kanye West? 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not'? Something by Queens of the Stone Age or the White Stripes? One of my favourite albums of the last ten years has been the first Franz Ferdinand LP.

These are just off the top of my head - what do you think?
breaking bad

May there be no moaning of the bar

I was waiting patiently at the bar at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford recently when a very uptight upper middle class woman tapped me on the shoulder. Her voice was so tense that it sounded as if it would snap, and she was obviously very, very angry but spoke quietly. All she said was 'I'm in front of you'. I didn't really know what to say, as I hadn't pushed past her or anything. I replied 'I'm just standing here waiting to be served' and turned away, because I didn't want any trouble.

On reflection I think she had thought that one queues at a bar, and I wonder if she had been standing for some time behind a group of people at some distance from the bar, thinking she was at the back of a very slow queue. Seeing me walk up to the empty bar (ETA - I mean here 'the empty part of the bar') and wait to be noticed by the bar staff, made her think that I was pushing in. So, in other words, she was in an environment where she didn't understand the norms of 'how to behave at a bar'. That's not her fault, though I do think it is a particularly upper-crust British attitude to go into an environment that you aren't familiar with and get angry with people for not being like you (the British have certainly been criticised for doing that to 'foreigners' even in their own countries).

Anyway, this memory was stimulated by this BBC report about how to get served at bars.
Britain may be a nation of queuers, but the thought of lining up in an orderly fashion at a bar is enough to turn many a drinker's beer flat. But that's what patrons of busy town centre pubs in Oldham may find themselves doing if plans for post office-style queues go ahead to deter trouble.

Hmm. I do think British pubs are understaffed compared to American and European bars. In Europe (this is how it seems to me) there's less of a tendency to pare overheads to the bone, so there are plenty of staff, and in the US wait staff are badly underpaid but at least get decent tips so there tend to be as many as the custom will stand (this is just what I've been told by various people).