Strange Arrangements: Pick Of The Year 1982
MOSTLY FILM: The Guldbagge Variations

Simian Substitute Site For March 2013: The Monkey March


Internet: Back in November, I mentioned that I'd signed up with Netflix for a one-month free trial, specifically to watch the fifth season of Breaking Bad. I could have ditched them at the end of that month, but they kept me hooked with the prospect of a future attraction: a US remake of House Of Cards, with Kevin Spacey and director David Fincher as the key personnel involved. Was it worth the extra six quid a month? On the evidence of the first two episodes, I'd say yes. Netflix have produced the series themselves, taking the British original (also available for side-by-side comparison), transplanting it to Washington, and ramping up the sex, violence and drugs to the level of your average US cable drama. Showrunner Beau Willimon is best known for writing the play that became the film The Ides Of March, and there are a lot of similarities in its approach to depicting the death of idealism in politics. Spacey is having just the right amount of fun in the lead role - his experience playing Richard III a couple of years ago has seriously paid off - but Robin Wright Penn is almost as wicked, and she doesn't even get to justify her monstrosity directly to camera. You can even watch the first episode without signing up to Netflix, if you're now curious about it. 

Music: If it was possible to play YouTube videos without displaying their titles, this is what I'd do. I'd show you this video, and you'd say "oh, that's nice, good to hear Dido back on form again," and I'd say "no, it's not Dido, it's Petula Clark," and you'd say "that's a weird idea, naming a dance act after that woman who sang Downtown," and I'd say "no, it actually is that woman who sang Downtown," and you'd say "how old is she now," and I'd say "she was eighty last November," and then we'd both watch the video again with our jaws slightly dropping. But you can't do that with YouTube videos, so that's not going to happen. It has to be admitted that Clark's new album Lost In You, currently streaming on the Guardian website, peaks with that opening track: but there's an enjoyable mix of new songs and unexpected covers to be found if you stick with it.

Theatre: If you're reading this on the day it's published, then you have just two opportunities left to see Playing Cards 1: Spades, the new play by Robert Lepage at the Roundhouse in London (it closes on March 2nd). The last appearance of Lepage on this site was when I reviewed his nine-hour epic Lipsynch four years ago, and Playing Cards is shaping up to be a similarly gargantuan undertaking: a cycle of four plays, each one using a suit from a deck of cards as its main motif, all exploiting the dramatic possibilities of performing in the round. The technique is as dazzling as ever, and the cast multitask to an almost diabolical degree: I defy you to watch this and guess exactly how many performers are involved before the final curtain call. But although the multiple narrative threads - centred around a Las Vegas hotel in 2003 around the start of the Gulf War - are all entertaining enough as you watch them, they never really come together into anything meaningful by the end. It's telling that the climax is an astonishingly beautiful visual image generated by shedloads of stage machinery, rather than something more recognisably human. Then again, it may all work better in the context of the other three plays, which Lepage hopes to complete some time this decade...

In the meantime, your Simian Substitute Site for March 2013 is The Monkey March, a music video made by Gasmac Gilmore in 2012. I won't insult your intelligence by explaining the process I went through to choose this. Gasmac Gilmore are an Austrian band who describe themselves on their website as "Gogol Bordello meets Kaizers Orchestra meets System Of A Down", which seems to cover pretty much everything. Back home, apparently, they're most famous for a guerilla gig they played on the U4 subway in Vienna back in 2006. They make a decent noise, anyway, and I'm in a hurry to get something up, so there they are.

Finally, in case anyone was wondering, you may remember that a month or two ago there was a competition accompanying the piece I Am My Own Demographic, in which the person who came closest to guessing the number of 'fucks' uttered on my 2012 compilation CD could win their own copy. The answer you were looking for was ten: they all occur in the same song, We Love This Country Like Banana, which helpfully has them most of them displayed on screen as they're sung in the video. Congratulations to Dave from Hove Actually, once again.

Anyway. Comments?


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