Art: We all know the thinking behind the Pop Art movement, and the big names behind it. Or at least, we think we do - most of what's endured from that explosion in the sixties is the work of a small number of American and British artists, while the impact it had on the rest of the world has generally been overlooked. The current exhibition at Tate Modern, The World Goes Pop (running to January 24th), attempts to redress the balance. Over ten rooms of thematically linked work, we get to see that artists from many countries were playing with the same ideas of appropriation of pop culture that Warhol and Lichtenstein were. If anything, they took it one stage further, treating American Pop as another source of images to pilfer - Warhol's soup cans are ironically referenced in a couple of the pictures shown here. There's plenty of pure eye candy on display (which presumably explains this promotional video), but there's also a sweet playfulness in a lot of the work selected - from the collective optimism of Nicola L's Red Coat, to the Situationist prankery of Öyvind Fahlström's Mao-Hope March. If nothing else, this show brings home just how many women were working in Pop Art, a fact which tends to get overlooked in the art history books.
Music: The Spank's Audio Lair playlists seem to be settling down into a bi-monthly pattern, and you can find the latest one below. (Tracks 6 and 10 may require a little explanation, but apart from that you should be fine.) But I'd like to focus here on another band I encountered for the first time this month, supporting The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing at their terrific Camden Underworld gig. Conceptually, The Blood Tub Orchestra make for a rather neat match: The Men perform new rock songs about Victorian England, while The Orchestra revive little-known old music hall ditties in a modern style. So far they've only released one EP, We've Glad You've Got A Gun, which is okay but only scratches the surface of what they can do in a full live set (which is why I haven't included a track from it below). One of the songs they did on the night, Ain't It Grand To Be Bloomin' Well Dead, is such a delightfully dark piece of work that I was convinced they'd written it themselves: but no, a quick bit of research confirms that it dates back to 1932. The approach appears to be to keep the lyrics as faithful as possible, but commit as much violence as they can to the musical arrangements, using a fluid lineup including guitars, keyboards and two separate drummers. According to their Facebook page, The Orchestra are currently in the process of recording a few more of their songs, and I for one can't wait to hear them.
Telly: Well, sort of telly, anyway. Do I need a new category for streamed shows, now that the likes of Netflix are responsible for more and more original programming? They've just made available W/ Bob & David, a sequel of sorts to Mr Show, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross' late nineties sketch show. I only really know Mr Show by reputation, and from a couple of sketches I've caught in the past on YouTube, which seem to suggest that Odenkirk and Cross like a) stretching gags way past the point where they stop being funny till they start being funny again, and b) constructing sketches so complex you need to draw a diagram to completely understand them. The new show carries over some of those experiments in form - notably the Pythonesque links from sketch to sketch in a single episode - but seems less intent on breaking new ground: it's just some old mates getting together after fifteen years to try some stuff out and see if people laugh. There are some dull spots, as is usually the case with sketch shows, but there are some extraordinary highs that come when you least expect them. For those of you without Netflix, you'll be pleased to hear that a couple of sketches from the new show have made it online, so I'm going to link to this one, which isn't one of their best but has the benefit of potentially not being as offensive to Americans as this one. (Or as potentially offensive as another one which I've decided not to link to, but if you check the 'related videos' column over to the right of those YouTube pages you should be able to spot it.)