Movies: Most of the people that The Belated Birthday Girl and I know fall into one of two categories. Category A are the people who go to the cinema no more than a couple of times a year: Category B are the sort who could happily make a couple of visits in a single day. And I'm here to warn the Category B people that the first time you go to the pictures after nineteen weeks of being locked in your house, it will do your bloody head in. I suspect that the actual film you see won't make much difference: when you've spent that length of time thinking you've been watching films on your telly, and then go into a big room and have your attention forcibly grabbed by one, Trolls World Tour could feel like a life-changing experience. As it happens, our first visit to the pictures since The Invisible Man back in March turned out to be Parasite: Black And White Edition, so I honestly can't tell how much of the impact was down to it being an unambiguously great film, and how much was down to having forgotten what the theatrical experience was like. Thanks to Curzon Mayfair for looking after us: their distancing strategies had the twenty or so people in the audience carefully spaced in the 300+ seater room. It should be noted that pretty much everyone took their facemasks off once they were in their seats, which I suspect was fine on this occasion, but won't be for much longer: it was always likely to become more of an issue if/when Tenet started packing in the crowds. (On that topic, here's what I consider to be my most underrated tweet of the month/year.)
Music: It's been five months since I last did one of these, so I guess that the latest Spank's Audio Lair can double as a Lockdown Playlist. It could easily have been double the length, but I decided to stick with the usual arbitrary limit of ten tracks. YouTube links are supplied below for Spotify deniers.
- The Waterboys. Mike Scott seems to be doing a lot of spoken word material in his old age, and I think I like it.
- Daði Freyr (Daði & Gagnamagnið). Ah, Iceland, maybe next year, he said ambiguously.
- John Foxx & The Maths. I love that Foxx is still making records that are perfect examples of eighties electronic pop, something he's somehow been doing consistently since 1977.
- Sparks. The unofficial anthem of the six weeks of furlough I spent writing my next three books. First one on sale next week!
- Sufjan Stevens. Suf's gone back to writing over-complicated epics, though this one probably has one section too many for its own good.
- Black Bra. I came for the keyboard work of podcaster Jesse Case, but I'm staying for the pollyharveyesque stylings of frontwoman Elizabeth Grace Cameron.
- Jarv Is... ...telling more slightly pervy stories about slightly pervy people. Hoorah!
- Fiona Apple. More her thing than mine [points in general direction of The BBG], but I'm liking this a lot.
- Bob Dylan. It feels tasteless to label a veteran artist's new album as A Good One To Go Out On, but...
- Francoise Hardy. Presented as a tribute to the late Ennio Morricone, who wrote this tune and its ridiculous number of key changes.
Telly: I had the perfect crime planned. I'd sign up for Disney+ on their seven day free trial offer. I'd do it just before they released Hamilton on the streaming service. I'd watch that and The Mandalorian in rapid succession, and then cancel my subscription before they made me pay anything. Except, of course, Disney cancelled their free trial offer just a week or two before Hamilton dropped. I suppose I should expect nothing less from a multinational whose corporate logo is literal vermin. Still, I paid out my six quid for one month anyway. I raved about Hamilton here before when I saw it in London two years ago, but was slightly sceptical that the filmed version would be more like a regular live stream of a theatre show, only with a four year time delay (it was filmed during its 2016 Broadway performances). In fact, cunning use of inserts filmed during an audienceless performance mean that we get some useful closeup views that a simple live stream couldn't have offered. The cast are all stellar, with the surprising exception of Lin-Manuel Miranda in the title role: his gulpy I'm-so-sad singing voice is the weakest link in the whole thing. Still, one benefit of a visual record of the show now being available is that Weird Al finally has his video. Meanwhile, The Mandalorian is extraordinarily good fun in a way that some of the more recent Star Wars films have forgotten about: a heady mixture of tones from the darkness of its jailbreak episode to the cutesiness of ***y ***a, and somehow staying coherent throughout. Nice theme tune, too: if ever a piece of music had 'space Western' written all over it, it's this one.
In the meantime, your Simian Substitute Site for August 2020 is Brass Monkey Leith, which is a pub in the north of Edinburgh. Not to be confused with the Brass Monkey on the other side of Edinburgh, or even with the Brass Monkey in Perth No Not That Perth, both of which have been Simian Sites already over the last couple of decades. The Leith one describes itself as a bar 'with Tardis like qualities,' which is probably a good thing in these socially distanced times. Anyway, if you're ever in the vicinity of Leith Walk and fancy a wee swally, it's probably worth a look.
As regulars will probably have realised, in other circumstances we'd be up in Edinburgh this month, racking up yet another Edinburgh Festival. But that's not happening. (Top job making that announcement on April 1st, by the way.) So, does that mean no Edinburgh coverage this year? Well, I'm not sure yet. Some of the festivals have started announcing online events, so you may get a preview of some of those, or a review, or maybe even both. Leave it with me and I'll let you know. What I can promise you is that the previous decade's worth of my Edinburgh reviews will be in that upcoming book I mentioned earlier, so watch out for that (and, y'know, buy it if you can). Plus, there's another festival that's already been and gone, which you should hopefully get a review of eventually, possibly even in a couple of weeks.
So, yes, lots of erms and ums and maybes, apart from something I'm asking you to pay money for. Sorry about that. Feel free to whinge in the comments if you want me to be more decisive, and see how far that gets you. Stay safe, etc.