Tag Archives: torch

London 2012’s Olympic opening ceremony

I feel like I should write SOMETHING about the Olympics, even though I don’t really follow sport at all. All the same I am excited for the Olympics and pleased to see a lot of people getting into the spirit of it. Well, apart from the columns of newspaper coverage about empty seats, which frankly I couldn’t care less about.

So if I’m not writing about sport, I must talk about the opening ceremony. Which is fortunate because it was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The BBC pre-amble buildup was rather awful, and firing dramatic orchestral music at me to get me excited is a bit of a tired old trick now. However all that was forgotten when it got going.

 

A VT introducing London via the rural source of the Thames river was a little trippy but did psych me up for the big show. I was very wary of the fields and general “ye olde” farming activities going on, until the Industrial Revolution segment kicked off. Those rising chimneys looked solid and striking, and the gradual removal of the greenery was very effective.

More effective was the forging of a mysterious ring of molten metal, which rose in the air to link with four others to form a dazzling Olympic logo in a rain of sparks. I think for me that was the enduring image and biggest “WOW” moment of the ceremony (but only just).

Rowan Atkinson’s “Mr Bean”-esque comedy sketch to “Chariots of Fire” was well-timed and steered the tone of the ceremony well. As did the real WTF moment of James Bond meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace and having a rather surreal skit with her, culminating in them both parachuting out of a helicopter over the arena.

Despite this light-hearted moment, The Queen didn’t seem too interested in the ceremony, at one point apparently doing some crochet, like she was sitting in from of Midsomer Murders or something. I must admit my attention drifted in places too, such as the apparently-touching but rather indecipherable dance section to “Abide with me”, the unwelcome performances by an unnecessary Arctic Monkeys and Paul McCartney – seemingly trying to keep up the idea that he is the only surviving Beatle (or perhaps was the only Beatle to have ever existed).

Oddly, the section on British music left me totally cold, basically wallpapering over any pop music we may have created in favour of more ‘real’ stuff with guitars etc. My formative years were mostly in the 90s, and I raised an eyebrow at this decade only being represented by The Prodigy, Blur and Underworld. The very “Q-Magazine” tracklist of the whole evening couldn’t even ironically play a Spice Girls song seemingly! In fact even the “today’s music” section looked more like a “down with the YOOF” rundown of London-born acts like Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah. I didn’t feel very represented in the section I should have related to most of all.

I did enjoy the flag procession, as long as it was, and thought it was handled well (though please tell me the Germany dignitary in the audience didn’t give the Nazi salute that I thought he gave) . The ladies with the country names suspended over their heads were a nice touch, and I loved the intrigue of the copper “petals” that accompanied each delegation one-by-one. The hill seemed like a rather odd thing to have in the stadium, but looked marvellous at the end once all the flags were planted in it. It was these little touches that weren’t shouted about – just left for the audience to appreciate the thoughtfulness of them – that really gave a shine to an already accomplished show.

Those who stayed up until nearly 1am got the payoff though. In a break from tradition, 7 young athletes – chosen by famous British athletes of the past – lit the big flame in the arena with their own torches. The ungainly array of copper petals slowly caught light, and when they were all aflame, they ascended unexpectedly, closing up like a flower until they formed the “cauldron” that held the Olympic flame. I think it was an inspired idea, and that was one of the other incredible moments of the ceremony for me.

I felt quite touched in a strange way by the Olympic flag being carried by people representing various noble facets of the Olympic movement, including the Secretary General of the UN, Ban-ki Moon, and a heartbreakingly bewildered-looking Muhammad Ali.

All in all, I was so proud and pleased at how the ceremony went. Beijing dazzled the world with its astonishing choreography, and London wisely chose not to compete on those terms. The ceremony we got was full of humour, heart and some incredibly striking images and ideas, and while the rest of the world might have found some sections baffling (God knows, I did too), I am overjoyed that many other nations enjoyed it too.

Now… just need to win some gold medals, don’t we?

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Filed under Reviews, Talking rubbish again

Album: Alanis Morissette – “Flavors of entanglement” (2008)

Now it’s time to finally finish off the studio albums with this all-but-forgotten effort. I bought this more as a duty purchase at the time and only gave it a few cursory listens. Now I’ve given it more of a chance, I can’t say it’s going down as one of the classics, but it’s not a total washout. It doesn’t quite have the fire of JLP, complexity of SFIJ, or the instant appeal of URS and SCC, but it is at least a foray into a different sound, courtesy of Guy Sigsworth.

07 Citizen of the planet – Hrmm… while I expect a certain level of hippy Earth-mother guff from Alanis, this lays it on a bit too thick. I just find the verses taking themselves a bit too seriously, but we do get a bit more energy in the chorus. It’s rather rockier than we got for most of SCC but somehow feels a bit lacking. I can’t quite put my finger on where, but I find my attention drifting a bit. I just think back to tracks like “Baba” and just wonder where it went astray.

08 Underneath – Lead single now, and I suppose that explains a little why this project didn’t quite get off the ground, or at least followed the trajectory of her successive sales performances. It’s quite nice really, without wanting to damn it with faint praise too much. It’s not really a smash radio single at all (though in a ridiculous twist, at least according to Wiki, it went DIAMOND in Brazil). The chorus is pleasant but I can’t say I quite follow it, it’s just a nice noise. Ugh why am I finding it so hard finding something nice to say?

09 Straitjacket – Now THIS is more like it, a pulsing beat from the outside and a bit of OOMPH (and a swearword, OMG), maybe this is the root of the problem, maybe this song is about me. I feel like happy Alanis doesn’t quite hit the spot with me, and I won’t be happy until she is in a straitjacket. The production is exciting as an Alanis fan, and she is pissed off which always leads to more engaging material (in general). A highlight for me.

08 Versions of Violence – More interesting production to make me go “Oh, maybe this isn’t going to be a borefest album”. Plenty of drama here, verging on melodrama of Evanescence proportions but thankfully with a less earsplitting voice. The production does swamp her a little bit, I’m having trouble making out what she’s singing but the chorus is rather wonderful, a big (hot) mess of dirty basslines and strings. I do still have a chance to love her tone of voice in the middle 8.

08 Not as we – Another confusing choice of a single, though as a ballad it is rather lovely, and a return to the rather damaged and emotional ballads of Alanis past. I see it was on some TV soundtracks, does sound like that sort of thing that goes down well in the current climate of usage of ballads at emotional points of Greys Anatomy or whatever. I like listening to it, but again I’m not really engaging with it, it’s just a nice simple track. It just might as well be in a different language.

06 In praise of the vulnerable man – A rather UGH title for a song, and doesn’t disappoint in being a rather lifeless mid-tempo “Happy Alanis” snoozer. Who was in charge of this project? Apparently this was the second single in Europe, madness! I am just left totally apathetic after this. Yes I’m happy that she’s happy, but if this is the result musically, then NO THANKS.

09 Moratorium – Back in spooky soundscape land now, thank goodness. These moments really trigger my interest so much more than her slow decline into mid-tempo balladry that will surely end in a Country/New Age album. This time we swap the Evanescence dramatics to something a bit more subtle, and oddly I feel like this could easily be a Linkin Park song, am I crazy? Seems like Happy Alanis hasn’t quite worked through all her issues, and quite selfishly I approve. She gets to use her thesaurus again, hence another VERBOSE onslaught producing another album title. It’s a bit of an odd one, but all the better for it. She should have declared a moratorium years ago given the woes it seems to cause her.

05 Torch – Back to the blah, I feel like I’m being generous with the marks for this album, given that this isn’t really doing much for me apart from providing backing music. From an artist that produced Jagged Little Pill, being reduced to ambient accompaniment to my spreadsheet dayjob is a massive comedown. My general feeling was that this album wasn’t that bad, but I don’t think I had to sit here and really concentrate on songs like Torch, which I think is where the wheels are falling off. YAWN.

08 Giggling again for no reason – Horrible title but I always find this a rather lovely surprise. A shimmery intro into a wonderfully uptempo section (not sure if this is the chorus or what). This is what the album needed more of, BEATS. The best tracks have them, and it’s only when the album slows down that it really becomes a chore. Not my favourite Alanis song vocally, the melody is all over the place, but I like the sentiment. I like to think of it as a follow-on from So-Called Chaos (the song), like she’s finally run away from it, and is dancing naked or whatever she likes doing. Maybe that’s just me though, it’s a sweet song.

07 Tapes – More angsty now, maybe this is more of an example of what I want the downtempo tracks to be. Unlike Torch this has a bit more emotion to it, though I feel it’s a bit of a watered down version of Excuses from SCC. Despite this, there’s enough substance to make it memorable, and I can at least understand what she’s going about. Does make me sad to think she feels like this, but then again I don’t want to hear Happy Alanis so much. I think a few more albums of therapy, then a happy retirement will suit both parties.

06 Incomplete – Well at least it isn’t Utopia, no campfire chanting here, but still rather saccharine. I like the verses, they are cute and hopeful, but the chorus they lead into is a bit flat. The pieces are there but it doesn’t quite work for me. Still, it’s not the worst song here, and I’m happy to go out on an upbeat track at least, there’s enough doom and gloom on here for me to allow her this at least.

So that’s that. I can’t say I’m brimming with hope about what the next studio album is going to be like. I don’t think I can take a fully chilled out Alanis, for me she is and always will/should be a banshee. She doesn’t have the same sort of mental unhingedness that Kate and Tori had at their cores, so who knows. Let’s just remember the good times. A reinvention as a dancier artist would be very welcome, considering she seemed to be leaning a little that way with this album. Fingers crossed…

Keepers for the iPod: Underneath, Straitjacket, Moratorium, Giggling again for no reason.

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Filed under Albums, Music, Reviews