Trying to pay adequate tribute to Edwin Morgan, who died of pneumonia yesterday aged 90, is a daunting prospect, because Morgan would inevitably have done it better. He would find a way to make the words more eloquent, more precise, more compassionate, more heartfelt, more universal, more human, more humane. He leaves behind a body of work that speaks to his genius more than a thousand eulogies ever could.
It’s been a full year now since the release of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, his sixth (seventh if you count Kill Bill as two separate entities) and most recent full-length feature. Upon its release, Basterds was largely hailed as a kind of comeback. The director’s pals at Empire declared it 'an often dazzling movie that sees QT back on exhilarating form', and - Peter Bradshaw’s infamous pan in The Guardian aside - many of the reviews took a similar tack. My question, though, is this: from what kind of form is Tarantino supposed to have come back?
I currently hold a morbid fascination with this combination of song and video from 3OH!3, which is apparently a pop group made up of the new Captain Kirk and your metalhead brother who shouldn’t wear so many vests, both of whom have more chest hair than you may either expect or care for:
Let me make clear right from the get-go: I know nothing else of the work of 3OH!3 (except that they brought out a song with that fake lesbian that’s shagging Russell Brand, and achieved some popular success collaborating with something called Ke$ha, which my fourteen year-old cousin somewhat suspiciously assures me I’d like). I’m fairly sure this is, objectively, a terrible, terrible song, whilst the video barely even warrants that description, unless that description is followed by the words ‘will give viewers epilepsy’.
And yet, I can’t stop myself from watching this clip. As I type, I’m on three times in a row. There’s some kind of blunt power in a line as wilfully stupid as ‘gonna have a house party in my house’, the kind you find in hardcore punk or outsider art. What are they gonna do at this house party in their house? ‘Gonna pour booze down my mouth’, naturally. So, not only do we have an idiot-proof guide to the consumption of intoxicating spirits and the best location in which to throw a house party, we also have an attempt to convince listeners that 'house' rhymes with 'mouth'. It's a song that looks you straight in the eye with an unearned air of confidence - much as the members of 3OH!3 do in the video - declares its stupidity out loud, and then dares you, it double dares you motherfucker, to say as much back to it.
On the available evidence, this macho posturing is unearned. All things considered, this sounds like a fairly, almost charmingly, tame party. Like the threat that they 'might stay up until the A.M.' You hear that, mum? They might stay up past midnight! Yeah! Also, they can have a biscuit any time they like now that they're big boys! Alcohol and biscuits also seem to be the only things driving them to stay awake until such an outrageous hour - this is one house party that is conspicuously free of any other kind of drug, even so much as a joint. Their boasts about how their attitude is now 'fuck the clubs, [because] I'll be gettin' love in my house', meanwhile, might sound like 'bitches, hence!' by any other name, but in this context, it sounds more like they're being given kudos for throwing a mad bitchin' party than engaging in the sexing. I mean, if 'love' in this context meant sex, they presumably wouldn’t be getting it in the clubs anyway, but in either their own or someone else’s house after having left the clubs. Right? The emphasis in their delivery isn’t on 'my', but on 'house'. Like, ‘I’m attaining levels of respect equivalent to those of major clubs without having to cross my front door’. At this point I realise that I may be over-thinking this.
But still, semantics aside, let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the throwdown of a party of this magnitude ups their collective desirability level from 'I'm throwing up just looking at you' to 'I'll totally throw up on you if that gets you off'. Herein lies the paradox: 3OH!3 do not look like the kind of guys to whose parties the kind of skanks who would dispense such love would flock. They look like high school virgins who spend their days debating the semantic distinction between bitches and hos, kids who decide to throw a party to move them up the social ladder then panic when all their big talk leads to shit getting rapidly out of hand: Michael Cera and Jonah Hill in Superbad. Now that they’ve become famous, it is presumably much easier for them to get love in their houses. And yet, said fame also makes it more difficult for them to throw parties at their houses, because of the potential for gatecrashers and paparazzi and so on and so forth. So the odds of them actually getting love at a house party in their house are as slim as ever - they’re stuck in the perpetual no-love-getting-at-house-parties zone.
I would be exceptionally keen to hear people much cooler than me scramble over themselves to tell me how most of the largely disappointing new M.I.A. album differs musically from what’s on show here. The thing is, M.I.A. is deliberately being obnoxious on Maya, the half-hearted pop-noise assault linked to her overarching thesis about the effects of the omnipresence and sensory overload of internet media. I’d imagine even 3OH!3 would agree it would be giving them too much credit to assume they’re going for something similar here. As far as I can tell, they just want to make a racket for no reason other than they think it’s cool. Which is kind of admirable in its single-mindedness. Of course, it would be preferable if all this was in service of some grander message than the frat-boy platitudes at which they land. Then again, maybe that’d defeat the point. Overall though, this isn’t the kind of thing frat-boys would be expected to like. It’s noisy. It’s ugly. It isn’t melodic. It has an easy shout-along chorus, but the aggression is matched with electronics, not the generally preferred guitars. Give those frat-boys the same musical backing with M.I.A. ranting over the top and they’d likely run a mile. I’m not sure how much of 3OH!3’s output sounds like this, but, going by comments below the video on YouTube like ‘I Love 3OH3! But This Song Is SHIT!!!’, I’m guessing it’s an anomaly.,/p>
All of which cognitive dissonance only serves to make it all the more fascinating and, ultimately, frustrating in its nigh-on-Lynchian indecipherability: the robotic ‘crashing on my couch’ for no apparent reason. The few seconds of what might be the world’s shortest guitar solo. It goes so far beyond regular stupidity as to be almost avant-garde. Depending on how charitable you're feeling, it's either musical anti-comedy - Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! in a song - or Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right” delivered without the knowing, self-aware smirk. I can’t even tell if they’re kidding or not - there are a couple of moments in the video that suggest some kind of awareness of how ridiculous this whole thing is, but if this is all a joke, then it’s still total frat-boy humour, which pushes it over the line from fascinatingly obnoxious to gratingly obnoxious. The look of sheer intensity on their faces however - particularly Vesty McMetalhead - suggests that no, they are in fact playing it straight, so if it is a joke it’s played with a deadpan worthy of Flight Of The Conchords. And until I can unravel this conundrum, I'm doomed to forever return to "House Party", like some sort of YouTube-surfing Flying Dutchman. One who's only ever greeted with questions about cafés and the red light district because those are the only things these similarly doomed revellers know about the Dutch.
Page 1 of 23