As a committed reader of TBM (and yes, we do have them) rightly noticed we have been doing a little programming recently! I realise that sounds rather technical and all, so I must admit it was nothing special; more a cut and paste job of some existing code, but it looks nice nonetheless. Anyways if you glance across to your right you'll see some rather cryptic links to sites that I personally find interesting and I hope you will too, Dear Readers. Right, on with discussion of the titular themes of this post...
Now, I'm fully aware that naming a record as 'beautiful' may well come across as slightly absurd, since it's not usually a word us humans attatch to inanimate objects. However, in this instance I'm going to keep the word as I think it describes perfectly a favourite record of mine that I've recently rediscovered: Crowded House's Together Alone. From the combination of pedal steel and acoustic guitars that begin album opener 'Kare Kare' (written about the beach that recording sessions for the album backed on to), through to the engaging, personal nature of closing track 'Together Alone' - complete with Aboriginal chant and tribal drums - its the kind of album that really draws you in and positions you as though your sat there with Neil and the guys as they take you on this wonderous journey of perfectly-written and pitched MOR rock. However, the associations of 'MOR' seemingly degrade this record, since Matchbox 20 this isn't. For starters, it's dark in places: 'Private Universe' and 'Walking on the Spot' dealing with the need to be alone and the break-up of a relationship respectively. And whilst 'Black and White Boy' allows the band to show off their rock credentials, 'Distant Sun' remains, in my opinion at least, one of the greatest songs written (NB: There's a funny story involving this song and myself from my Uni days. If anyone wants to know more then drop me an email).
Whilst the brilliance I mention above could be applied to the aforementioned record, it is instead reserved for discussion of Mark Gatiss' excellent contribution to Who on Saturday, The Idiot's Lantern. I've stuck my neck out a few times since its transmission and labelled it the best episode since they brought the whole programme back, and the reasons for this shall be explained momentarily. It was, however, without doubt the best episode since The Parting of the Ways. So what made it so good? Firstly, the story was expertly pitched, plotted and written. It felt as though it had crammed a lot, but not too much, in to its forty-five minutes. The main thread involving 'The Wire' (Maureen Lipman providing one of those pitch-perfect guest roles where they don't overplay it (a la Mr Lumic) and treat it seriously), an adversary perfectly suited to both the historical setting and the medium of television itself, was excellent since it not only involved both The Doctor and Rose, but allowed both of the characters to do what they do best, and allowed Tennant to do something more than act a bit smug for the whole episode. This was supported by the thread involving the break-up of a family home, exposing the darker side that runs beneath that idealised, nostalgic view of the 1950s remembered by films like Grease and such programmes as Coronation Street. Moreover, this thread allowed for a nice character moment from Rose at the end, telling the lad to go after his father. Additionally, Euros Lyn's direction was superb, accentuating the oppresive feel of the 'family' home. Oh, and nice links to The Ring and King Kong in solving the problems.
Finally, and I do realise this post has gone a bit, the bitterness I mention is in relation to Keane's rather fab new single, Is It Any Wonder? In short, I didn't realise they had it in them! On the evidence of their debut album, Hopes and Fears, and the appearance of the guys in interviews, they come across as the kind of band who are great at writing reflective ballads that ascend above the usual crop of their peers (Embrace, and The (dreadful) Feeling, for instance), but this newie shows us there's another dimension to them. Bit like when you listen to The Bends and realise Radiohead can one minute offer something as wondeful as 'Fake Plastic Trees', and then in the next breath snarl at you with the power of 'Just'. All in all an intriguing, and impressive, return.