Twelve Months of Music: April

April is a clear, bright, tender green, of young love, blustered plum blossom, hedge-dew, fissure creek and nosegay, scrambled egg and asparagus, hippy-dippy, jingle-jangle twaddly gear mixed with epic springtime YAWP. Here’s the poppy twelve:

  1. I Shall Sing Judy Mowatt
  2. Kansas City Stomps Jelly Roll Morton and His Red Hot Peppers
  3. Mr. Blue Sky ELO
  4. Hold On I’m Coming Sapodilla Punch
  5. Yamasuki Yamasuki
  6. Le Chanson de Jacky Jacques Brel
  7. Il Est Cinq Heures, Paris s’Eveille Jacques Dutronc
  8. Fill Your Heart Biff Rose
  9. Valleri The Monkees
  10. Ride A White Swan T.Rex
  11. Sidan Di Enw
  12. Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream) The Crew Cuts

I’m trying to lean towards songs that you might not have heard (or heard for a while), but it’s really hard for April because, like June, it’s rather a poppy month, no? So if The Monkees aren’t quite your thing, keep your head down till July and beyond. The music slowly gets grittier as the year rolls on.

Talking of The Monkees though, a good story don’t you think? An artificially assembled group (the first ever ‘manufactured boy band’ I think) who got heartsick with being plastic pop spods, rebelled against the studio, took LSD, set fire to the post office, sacked their managers, locked themselves away to write some good songs, succeeded, had some hits, built a huge unicorn out of scrap metal and then vanished in Borneo never to be seen again. The stuff of legend.


All new stuff this month…


The film starts with a woman (Isabelle Huppert) being raped. We learn that she is hated by her family, all of her colleagues and the whole of her country. This reasonably powerful set up is then chipped away by one inexplicable or pointless event after another. Plot strands fizzle out, layers fall away, the ‘post-feminist’ heroine turns out to be thick-witted, petty and, apparently, pretty chill with being brutally violated and then, oh, okay, everything is fine now is it? As I say, I normally stop watching naff films after ten minutes, but sometimes a shit story fools you into thinking it’s going to be good. By the time you’ve found out, it’s too late; you’ve watched the whole bloody thing.


Another one that fooled me into watching it all. I must be getting old. There is one decent scene in this, in which a guy desperately describes his meaningless life as like a ‘ball of shoelaces’, and Rebecca Hall is kind of mesmerising as an uptight neurotic paranoid teevee woman. But so what? So what?

Fifty Shades Darker

Just kidding. I did enjoy the first one — unintentionally hilarious (and it’s always interesting to see popular dreams, even ludicrous ones), but after the brilliant opening scene of ‘Darker’ (in which Christian has a dream about his father beating him, and is rolling from side to side in his bed moaning ‘no! no!’) it gets, as you would expect, instantly, nightmarishly, unwatchable.

The Handmaiden

I have to say I didn’t find it exactly difficult to watch a high-production revenge movie starring two beautiful young Asian women sticking boiled eggs into each other’s fannies — but it’s a bit like a Jackie Chan beat-em-up; most of the pleasure of the action is relief from the agonising story. Actually though, the sex is as preposterous (not to mention unerotic) as the premise, the characters, the dialogue and the denouement; although the Big Twist is clever enough. It’s curiously similar to ‘Fifty Shades’ too. Better costumes, better lighting, but essentially whooping pneumatic barbies throwing themselves around a bed. Widely adored, this preposterous porn, I notice — probably by Haneke fans — perhaps you enjoyed it too? But don’t let it come between us though, eh?

Anyway, after Elle, Christine and The Handmaiden I’ve revised my idea that there is some analogous similarity between watching a film you don’t like all the way through and a living a life you don’t like all the way through. Now I realise that you can be tricked into enduring such hateful experiences from start to end. If it’s not miraculous technology, it’s flesh, or it’s lighting, or it’s nostalgia, or it’s a Big Promise.

I did see a couple of good modern films recently though…

Toni Erdmann

German comedy about an uptight woman whose prankster dad comes to stay. The first really excellent film I’ve ever seen from a woman director. I know, I know — but that’s the fact. First of all it takes responsibility for the world as it is; the world of the wealthy isn’t just a ‘contemporary background’ to the story, but anti-humanity incarnate. Secondly it is archetypically satisfying — the old ‘uptight fool pushed to breaking point’ (it reminded me a bit of one of my favourite short stories, the outstanding Traffic in Horses). Thirdly, as with many great stories, we are tricked into judging characters for their choices (their poor taste, their strange behaviour) and then into loving them for their choicelessness (for the fate, pain or love which led them there), and it feels good to get from a to b.

The Wailing

Masterful Korean suspense horror. Very bizarre, but not in your face with it. Powerful, as ever, because character driven — all the mania revolves around the psychological reality of a real, recognisable human in this reality (unlike the symbols in The Handmaiden) who we like and recognise. This brings us much closer to the confusion and alienating otherness. Slightly forced Big Decision at the end, but still a very satisfying one.


Do you like Dhal? Kindly do the needful, follow my good cousin’s excellent advice, and make this. It is, if I may say so; a top-rank, fine and dandy, absolutely authentic veg experience, and no bamboozlement.

Personally though, I think the onions are a weak point here. Better to fry until deep brown I find. The Dhal Tadka in the peerless Prashad Cookbook is superior on this score.