Art: If you're like me, and someone told you that there was a Noel Coward exhibition in town, you'd probably assume that it would just be a series of rooms full of fancy dressing gowns. And I suspect the curators of Noel Coward: Art And Style are trolling us a little bit by making sure that the first thing you see when you walk into the gallery is an actual dressing gown. Thankfully, there's a lot more to the exhibition than that. Coward had a huge collection of collaborators to ensure that his productions had a visual wit that matched his verbal and musical one, and we get to see plenty of examples of their work, from Cecil Beaton and Norman Hartwell to a woman who insisted on only being addressed as Gluck. (I'd never appreciated before today that every photo you see of a 1920s theatre production is in black and white, which makes the colour design sketches on display rather special.) The exhibition covers the whole of his life, from his suburban upbringing to his years of tax exile in Jamaica (which may have done us out of some revenue, but at least inspired some rather charming paintings). It's a delightful way to spend an afternoon - you can catch it at the Guildhall Art Gallery in London until Christmas.
Books: After giving Once Upon A Time In Hollywood much more attention than it deserved - and to be fair, Quentin Tarantino deserves some sort of credit for his decision to novelise a movie by removing the plot from it - we're having a much nicer time in the company of Bob Mortimer, in the second audiobook of his we've listened to this year. And Away... is his autobiography, although he admits up front that at least part of it is lies (to satisfy the people who've enjoyed his tall stories on Would I Lie To You?). It's nice to hear Bob reading his own words, although he's been miked up in some peculiar way that seems to emphasise his breathing when you least expect it. As we've listened to a few autobiographical audiobooks this year, maybe I'm more sensitive to the cliches than usual, but it seems to me that Bob's story has been crudely beaten into shape by an editor who's decided that as his triple bypass operation is the key moment of his life, the early part of the book should be largely taken up with that, intercut with the flashbacks to his early life that we're really here for. But the stories, when they come, are as hilarious and surreal as you'd hope, with little bursts of Mortimerian verbal genius every minute or two.
Music: it's about time for another one of these, I reckon (with the usual YouTube links for the Spotify haters).
- Everyone keeps talking about the film Annette as being the Sparks musical: to be honest, it's more of a Sparks opera, given how much of the music is repetitive recitative, and how little of it is properly structured songs. With the notable exception of this opener, of course. (To be honest, the biggest problem with Annette is that it's directed by Leos Carax, meaning it's a collection of interesting images that fail to gel into a coherent whole.)
- Not sure what we're to make of the video for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's latest single. Is the giant bow she's trying to outrun symbolic of her kawaii past, and suggesting that after a decade of making cutesy pop she's keen to move into something more grown-up? There's a new album coming in October, so I guess we'll find out then.
- When the film Jazz On A Summer's Day - it's lovely, check it out on Curzon Home Cinema - got its one-day theatrical release over the August Bank Holiday, it was accompanied by a short film featuring present-day British jazzers looking back at their 1958 American counterparts. Emma-Jean Thackray was one of them, and this ultimately led me to her rather fine album, along with this particular blend of tricksy time signature and goofy backing vocals.
- Presenting the most Jim Bob-esque title for a Jim Bob song released this century: Song For The Unsung (You're So Modest You'll Never Think This Song Is About You).
- Somehow, it's been 25 years since JJ Jeczalik left Art Of Noise for his own cheekily-named project Art Of Silence, and their only album has just been re-released off the back of that anniversary (along with a second collection of sweepings off the studio floor). Anyone familiar with the division of labour in AoN won't be surprised to hear that this record's light on tunes and heavy on grooves, but this particular groove kicks off like a bastard halfway through.
- Hip-hop with overly bombastic orchestral accompaniment? Yes please, Little Simz.
- I'm always up for a bit of Max Richter: on his latest album, he's collaborating with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, conducted by Kristjan Järvi. Which presumably explains a Spotify recommendation I had hurled at me a couple of months after Richter's album was released (see 10 below).
- I mentioned last time that bands seem to be doing a lot of cover versions at the moment, and bang on cue The Specials have released a covers album of their own, the Ronseally titled Protest Songs 1924-2012. I like how for this song, a simple lyric change ('give or take a night or two') takes one of Laughing Len's dodgier insults and makes it more gender-inclusive in its offensiveness.
- I guess tribute albums count as cover versions too, and The Wanderer: A Tribute To Jackie Leven has a fine all-star cast. Nevertheless, the main thing it did for me was send me back to the originals: in particular, a 2004 live set (released posthumously in 2013) which confirms that nobody could sing these songs the way that Leven did.
- It's the Baltic Sea Philharmonic again, this time playing one of conductor Kristjan Järvi's own compositions (with the assistance of Mari Meentalo on Estonian bagpipes, which are genuinely a thing). This feels like it should be the soundtrack to something enormous, and probably at some point in the future it will be.
In the meantime, your Simian Substitute Site for October 2021 is Hit-Monkey - or as a battery of IP lawyers will no doubt insist we have to call it, Marvel's Hit-Monkey. It's the latest TV show in their ongoing campaign for global media domination. All I can do is quote from Marvel's own press release - "the show follows a Japanese snow monkey, aided by the ghost of an American assassin, who goes on a revenge quest and becomes the famous 'killer of killers'" - and suggest you watch the trailer video in case you think you hallucinated that last sentence. It's going to be showing in the US on Hulu from November 17th, which usually means that in the UK Disney+ should get it around the same time. (Actually, it's more likely to be showing on Star on the Disney+ platform, what with all the face-eating and everything.)
Good job they're not launching Hit-Monkey in October, because our diaries are already full, and regular readers will know why. For the 33rd consecutive year, I'm off to the London Film Festival, so you should be getting daily coverage of all the fun from there. That should be enough to keep you occupied this month. If you don't agree, let me know in the comments below, but bear in mind I'll be too busy watching films to care.