Ah, it’s festival time here in Edinburgh, Scotland! In theory, this is a wonderful time of different cultures coming together to celebrate the magic of the arts. In practice, it’s a hellish time when braying Londoners come together to celebrate themselves.
If you listen carefully, wherever you are, you can maybe hear some of them murdering songs on their ukuleles, like hideous pastiches of mobile phone adverts?
Young, handsome bastards.
I’m so old.
Still, this baffling article that’s doing the rounds makes me LOVE the festival, and reminds me there is a lot happening here that’s pretty rad (some good right-on graffito-tagging over comedian’s posters, for one).
So, to celebrate, here are some pieces of writing about a thrilling grab-bag of things that have been part of my recent cultural life, some from the Festival, some not.
There will be spoilers for these things:
Dial H# 15
The World’s End
FOH by SUPERCHUNK
I’m listening to more and more straight-up ‘pop’ music these days, but my heart will always belong to 90s-style ‘alternative rock’. The platonic ideal is of course the band Urusei Yatsura, but there’s a whole host of gnarly guitar noise out there that I’ll always love, but never really seek out any work of past the year 2000. Y’know, yer Sonic Youths and Sebadohs and that? Similarly, there are a bunch of bands from that era (broad term, there) that I never really cared about, but am finding appeal more and more with age. Imperial Teen!
I have no idea what this song is about, other than there being enthusiastic singing about ‘the front of the house’ and windows and things. I guess the older you get, the more you appreciate boring things like that? A nicely-constructed chest of drawers, ken? I mean, I assume this song’s about more than that, and there’s metaphor and such but I’m not too bothered as I wholly dig the way this song sounds fun as hell to be involved with, amusingly self-referential lyrics and all. It goes quiet and loud at the right places and it is vaguely propulsive and warm and reassuring. It’s got that good Superchunk guitar squall, as well, that makes me laugh, rather. WITH, NOT AT.
Getting old, it’s not bad sometimes.
Part three of the retroactively-named ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ (fucksake) along with Sean of the Dead and Hott Fuzz, The World’s End concerns, as you probably know, a bunch of chumps recreating a pub crawl they did in their teens.
This leads to some boring nostalgia that is mostly subverted by the fact that it is SUPPOSED to seem kind of sad, and that looking back with rose-tinted specs is not the answer to anything at all. People grow up! That is how life works. I can empathise with those themes, as I am an ageing jerkoff who likes to imagine he was once ‘relevant’ in some way or other, with worries of squandered potential and fear of hair loss and aw that. Maturity and immaturity combined to create MODERN ADULT.
Nostalgia also leads to a reminder that the Eggy Wright/Pegg axis have always had fucking awful taste in music (aside from one excellent use of ‘So Young’ by Suede, which was amusingly juxtaposed with the fact the characters are middle-aged and slightly pathetic).
It’s a genre piece, this film, so part of the way through it turns into one of those Doctor Who episodes where alien thingies are used for clumsy metaphor, with too-long fight scenes that are a little bit embarassing to watch, like in Spaced where they fight the Matrix agents with cringeworthy American accents. This is all okay, and I especially enjoyed how someone else in the cinema went to the toilet right before the sci-fi stuff kicked off, and returned when it was in full flow. Ha!
There’s a lot to like, here! There are a bunch of decent jokes along the way, the casting is pretty faultless and charismatic, and there’s a great Versus/Mad Max sort of bit I wasn’t expecting at all.
Though that bit did also use a bit of an icky racism metaphor that didn’t really work.
Y’know, I’m one of those modern liberal internet people that say things like ‘cisgender’ and ‘rape culture’, so naturally there were dissappointing niggles. Alongside the odd bit of ableist humour and irritating ‘fun’ homophobia (WHICH IS SO CLOSE TO BEING SUBVERTED BUT IS ULTIMATELY SUPPORTED) there’s, y’know, total glaring misogyny.
The female character, she’s not in it much, exists mainly for romance battle between two male leads, and vanishes for a large part of the film. There are a few other females, but they’re not characters so much as ‘eye candy’ who men can’t resist (as men, are like, incapable of coherent thoughts around women, am I right, lads?!?! REMEMBER: MISOGYNY HURTS ALL GENDERS), who get ‘hilariously’ smashed apart.
On another note, I also didn’t like the bit where Primal Scream are invoked in a moment of rather smug anti-triumph. I don’t like Primal Scream unless Kevin Shields is involved, so I couldn’t get behind that in any way, shape or form. That whole scene of Peggsy talking to a Cosmic Being was quite neat in the sense that it was about how gloriously shit humanity is, as opposed to the usual “Oh, humanity is great, they’re all so individual and special!” spiel you get from sci-fi , but then the punchline of the cosmic being acting like a dismissive, stroppy kid was a wee bit ‘cute’ and the humour fell flat.
I did enjoy the fact the film then turns into a post-apocalypse adventure afterwards, though, as I didn’t think it’d get that ‘big’.
I’m such a Negative Nelly (“It’s getting hot in here! It’s awful and I’m going elsewhere!”), me. But I enjoyed the film! It was amiable and did have a good amount of laughs, which only made the flaws stand out all the more.
CINEMA NOTES: it was on a newly-refurbished screen that was small and had aggressively-rounded edges, making it feel like it was being watched on a large tablet of some sort. Also, despite the cinema not having any actual projected film (it’s aw digital noo), we still had to sit through a horrible Werthers-esque advert for it, involving lots of fetishistic shots of film reels being spooled, and so on. And as the film rather amusingly deals with the corporate blanding-out of the world (“Starbucking”), it was a rite laff seeing it in a Picture House cinema, who are now owned by movie behemoths, Cineworld.
Is this the last issue of Dial H? I am not sure. It SEEMS to be, but then the comic tells me:
REACH FOR JUSTICE LEAGUE: DIAL E #23.3
FOR BEFORE THE RINGING IN YOUR EARS STOPS!”
So I don’t know. That’s some clumsy text, eh? I’ve heard the Justice League Special V.1 #13.91-X:MAXTACULAR TURBOGRAM is going to be lots of one-page villain pin-ups by a variety of artists, so I’m assuming it’ll add very little to this, and fall into the trap of being an entirely reductive take on this comic, and where this issue itself falls a bit flat: a series of “LOLZ RANDOM” super-chumps and Big Ideas, without the character interaction to lend it any weight.
Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the ‘new ludicrous characters every month!’ aspect of Dial H, but there’s more to it than just that, or I wouldn’t have bought every issue (I fucking hate buying monthly comics). I’m a big fan of the central relationship between Roxie and Nelson, and that’s what’s grounded the comic when it’s went zooming off in various directions. China Miéville’s a great ideas person, but he’s also a great writer of people, and his work often contains the sort of flawed, interesting characters where I feel like absolute dogshit when anything bad happens to them.
I know it’s no doubt due to the constraints of cancellation, but these last couple of issues haven’t focussed so much on character as just ‘rushing to the end’, and that’s fine as far as it goes, as it means the action’s fast-moving, and pleasantly confusing. I’m not sure if this confusion is intentional or just a slightly ‘off’ combination of the writing and art, but I liked the cumulative effect. A lot of the time I wasn’t entirely sure who was transforming into what and who was where, but the Action Beats all worked for me.
I was left feeling disoriented and slightly bemused (in a good way?) by the “AAACTIIIION, THEN STOP” nature of the issue. Open-Window Man looks like he feels the same (Open-Window Man is great).
I’ve grown pretty fond of Ponticelli’s art. He’s good at ‘the weird shit’, he’s good at facial expressions, and he’s got a malleable, loose style, that has an almost consistent inconsistency, where the characters take on a variety of shapes but never seem off-model? His storytelling might be a bit muddled, but this could be down to the writing, and y’know, it WORKS in the context of this comic, and is gloriously tonally appropriate, so I might just be griping over nothing.
Dial H‘s got a fairly open-ended climax, and I like that okay, but this final storyline didn’t feel it really added much to the Roxie/Nelson relationship, being little more than some (admittedly fun) inconsequential action that left the story feeling like it hadn’t reeeally progressed in the last couple of issues, not where it mattered. Sure, the characters have some more skills now, Dialing +3 with a Heroic Modifier etc, but that’s not enough for me!
I suppose I’ve been trained by 90s Lobdellia to want soap, but that’s not always a bad thing, is it?
On a more irrational note: “This is a mash-up!”. Ewwww. I hate that term.
The narwhal scene above, it’s either a fun nod to the conventions of comics, or a bizarre bit of patronisation, but I like it!
I’ll miss this comic, but the reread beckons, and I suppose it at least got to tell a more-or-less complete story, and that’s something to be chuffed aboot.
TWONKEY’S BLUE CADABRA at Espionage, Edinburgh
I’ve been following Mr. Twonkey (AKA Paul Vickers of various neato bands) for a few Edinburgh Festivals now, and he’s never less than interesting. Stories and songs and props combine to create an itchy cabaret atmosphere of unsettling rural creepiness, and I know that all sounds a bit fucking ‘zany’, but Vickers offers genuine eccentricity and laugh-out-loud absurdist humour, delivered with a charismatic storytelling cadence.
This year’s show features new material as well as the recontextualisation of some stuff from previous years, and as such, it’s maybe not as narratively sound as previous years’ shows, but that’s no real big deal, what with the ongoing saga of Twonkey mainly being just a vague framework to fit vignettes around.
I was pleased to see the return of the song about a ‘goat girl in trouble’ (“You’ve taken the microdots! You’ve got your own point of view!”) on the ski slopes, and also the brittle, sad Cutler-esque section, ‘Mousk’.
A particular highlight features a terrifying puppet made out of a broken umbrella, who soars above the audience. He’s representing what would have happened had he soared instead of died as he jumped from a precipice, and it’s sweet, melancholic and chillingly hilarious.
Paul Vickers isn’t to everyone’s taste, however – quite a few audience members tend to leave partway through, often as a reaction to his ‘unique’ singing voice. This doesn’t feel TOO awkward, however, as there’s a nice atmosphere of them actively missing out for not ‘getting it’, and Vickers seems to take this sort of thing in his stride.There’s also an ill-advised section with a ship’s wheel that magically divines the nature of people’s first sexual experiences, which seems a tipping point for some audience members. Personally, I could do without the sex wheel (though it is jovial and almost twee while still being incredibly rude), but I do love his voice, and his songs have an earnestness that helps them transcend any dangerous ‘wacky singing!’ criticisms.
Here’s to more years of Vickers at the Fringe! It’s a braw night out and I laughed like one of those braying Londoner pricks throughout.
Twonkey’s Blue Cadabra is on at labyrinthian Edinburgh hellhole ‘Espionage’ until the 25th august, 7.30PM, and it’s free!