Sunday, January 30, 2005

Book: Hard Times by Charles Dickens

It was good to dip into the master again. Charles Dickens wrote well-constructed stories (if you ignore the occassional howling coincidences, but then these are a bit part of life) using delightfully constructed sentances. The language is very understandable - he is far less likely to over construct than many of his contempories. The characters are great - usually just a dog's hair larger than life, and showing us people really haven't changed all that much in the last 100-odd years. He is also a master of the catchphrase, and often done so subtly you don't realise there is a catchphrase going on. Despite the satire in many of the sections, his books are filled with compassion for us humans stuck in situations we made without even really trying.

Hard Times itself depicts a ficticious northern industrial town, where ordinary inhabitants aren't even considered full people, just 'Hands'. The people who run the behemothic factories that consume them every morning only to spew them back out into the smoggy town are shown to be false, self-deluding men of narrow ideals and no real understanding of anything other than figures. An amusing yet saddening book, funny in a troubling way. It would be nice to smile at this book as a picture of a time that has long since left us. A time where people were just fuel for the factories. But in many places in the world, this is still true. Coketown may not exist any more, but Niketown does.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Band: Rialto

Rialto make pop music. Ordinarily this is all I need to write in order to give a two thumbs down at the very best. But Rialto are going to get 4 well-dressed thumbs up. Why do I like them when they make twee-sounding pop? Well, because whilst the music has an edged, twee-ness to it, the lyrics do not. The lyrics are of relationship paranoia (Monday Morning 5:19), of drug-induced broken dreams (Broken Barbie Doll, Lucky Number), alcohol abuse (Untouchable, Milk of Amnesia), and stalking (When We're Together). It's because of their being dressed up as pop melodies, not despite that they are such good songs. The tunes a renice, but the key minor and feelings induced are a kind of pleasant melancholia tinged with nostalgia.

Rating: 4 well-dressed thumbs up.