If Everyone Else is Doing One: Brexit

If there’s one positive we can take from Brexit then it’s the sense of sadness, resignation and desolation that everyone who didn’t want this feels. That sadness is the feeling that this was the wrong choice and that somehow it’s our fault. That resignation is what it feels like when you lose, and you know that it’s democratic, and you know that your anger is pointless. That desolation is that feeling of shame, the collective sense of being somehow sullied, and the thought that those too young to vote are the ones who face the true implications of the choices older generations made. The positive is that we can learn from all this.

I think the choice to leave is, above all else, a selfish one. The great charge against the Remain campaign was that they used scare tactics and played on fears to attempt to force people to stay. That’s what Leave did too, it’s just that they were encouraging the fears already present in those who wanted out. They played on fears of loss of national identity, of loss of jobs, of bureaucracy trumping democracy.

Perhaps above all else they spoke to a fear of being told what to do – asking the British public if they were brave enough to take this one chance to stand up and defy the lefties, the tories, the PC, the foreign. It was a chance to make the decision no one thought you could make to prove that you could make whatever decision you want. To prove that independence, that bulldog spirit, that stubborn sort of selfishness that made Britain great was still there.

I think that’s selfish. I think it’s short-sighted, too. Talk abounds that the sharp drop in the financial markets is a short term wobble, one soon to be followed by financial prosperity. Talk also abounds that now we can make our own trade deals with the rest of the world (who are presumably grovelling at the door of the country that just sliced billions from global finances) and that we’ll reap the rewards in the long term. People say that this will spur other member states to stake their claim for independence too. Presumably they’ll have a short term wobble too. A few countries might wobble simultaneously. We might still be wobbling when they start going. With the EU it’s a bit of a conga line, they all sort of wobble together. That’s one of the benefits of being out and not being tied to the Euro (but then that’s a benefit we already had, of course). When the EU wobbles other countries might wobble, and so on and so on. But in the long-term we’ll be fine.

The jobs that foreign migrants are preventing natives from getting haven’t been ‘taken’. They just ‘got’ them. It’s a meritocracy; or exploitation, depending on how low down the ladder the jobs are. At this point it’s worth noting that leaving throws our human rights up in the air somewhat. Again, blaming the ills of the natives on those arriving is a selfish act, a surrender of accountability for the fact that someone who arrived in this country with almost nothing and English as a second, third or fourth language (or not at all) managed to get a job and you didn’t. It’s competitive out here and it always has been – a side-effect of having the fortune to live in an elite nation. Turning your frustrations, failures and fears of inadequacy into an attack on others is selfish.

So too is taking away opportunities. It may not matter to many who voted, but freedom of movement is a useful thing for young people making their way in a world has never been more open, or more globalised and competitive. Erasmus schemes in universities are just one example of a route in life that faces being closed down. These problems of increasing insularity are ones that frankly won’t affect older generations the way they affect the younger, especially those too young to vote and too young perhaps to realise that avenues are closing.

This is a decision that resonates. Its implications affect those who live in its wake in ever widening waves. For many they’re not truly gambling with their own lives, they’ve already got to where they’re going to go and they’re likely going to stay there. It’s those that follow them that are really going to be affected by our island nation asserting its apartness, and I’m not sure how many really realise that.

But it’s a lesson we can learn from. You hope that the shock, sadness and incredulity that has accompanied the vote will imprint on Remain voters, old and young, and leave a brand to remind them to vote for others as much, or more, than themselves. You hope that this helps future generations to recognise the complacency that accompanies a feeling of being right, and the knowledge that that counts for nothing if you don’t work to make sure that rightness is realised. You hope that the bitterness that accompanies a defeat that you can’t challenge empowers people to prevent a repeat, to recognise that democracy only ever gives people what people vote for, and to push them to make sure that democracy isn’t just the right principle, but that it upholds the right principles.

Of course, for the leave side, which technically is a majority of British people with an opinion on the matter, they think they’re right, and that we’re selfish. That we’re too selfish to trade a bit of political incorrectness for national identity, job security and room for everyone. That we’re too selfish and too afraid to give the nation a chance at self-governance rather than straining at the yoke of the EU. I think that puts a lot of faith in our own political system and I think that wilfully ignores how little the UK has tried to be part of the EU’s. For example, we elected Nigel Farage as an MEP. I’ve never felt particularly oppressed by the minutiae that makes up the majority of EU law either, just as I don’t sweat over the stream of laws passed by Parliament that I know nothing about. And if we’re being invaded by migrants then it’s not exactly Genghis Khan stuff, they just live here.

For what it’s worth, I think if this referendum was a best-of-three affair the Leave campaign would suffer for the diminished sense of impulsive, ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ mania that helped drive the decision to leave. If this campaign took place over years rather than months, then I think that the Leave campaign would suffer. If we could go forward six months from now and vote again, then I think that the Leave campaign would suffer.

Another quick thought: if you’re reading this you’re probably my friend. If you’re my friend you’re probably young, you’re probably kind of liberal, and you probably voted remain. Now reflect on the fact that most people you know are probably similar, and that most people you know want to stay. Now think about people you know that are under 18 and what they wanted from this. Now consider that we’re all the ones taking the hit down the line. Now remember that this is a once in a lifetime event. Now note that the only way it isn’t and we get to vote again is if things go so badly we have to make a U-turn. Sorry, this was meant to be kind of hopeful. I guess we’ll just have to make Brexit work then.


Assorted Albums//Random Things

An assortment of reviews I did for other things over the past couple months, now all converted to my beloved letter grading system. Where once there was a 4, a 3, and a 3.5 there are now unquantifiable letters whose relative merit is vague and changeable. Just the way all attempts at objectivity should be.

Also, justice for The Lego Movie!! Vive le lego etc.

Panda Bear//Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

Part of what makes Animal Collective the most fantastically diverse act in music is how every member brings something different to the table: Avey Tare brings crunch and rawness, Geologist brings a love of odd textures, Deakin brings… erm… I’m not sure – maybe a bit of madness. He was absent for Merriweather Post Pavilion and it was simultaneously their most controlled and their most fantastic release yet. Panda Bear brings a love of harmonics that led super-critic, Robert Christgau, to dismiss Merriweather simply by quoting Beach Boys. That tendency to turn 21st Century Beach Boys infects all the band’s albums, serving as a messy, mad, and sometimes wonderful way of covering up vocal deficiencies.

On Panda Bear’s solo work it comes out even stronger. Person Pitch was a mad, weird set of extended suites of pure harmonics – sometimes pushing over a dozen minutes – the highlights of which are some of the most fascinating, mesmerising music you’ll hear this century. Follow up, Tomboy, was more tame, and suffered for it.

New release, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, is somewhere in between the two. It doesn’t push to the extremes of Person Pitch, but doesn’t drift off into the sonic somnambulism of its lesser cuts. It has more character and verve than Tomboy, but retains the measured consistency that was also that album’s undoing in a way.

What we get instead is an album that has Panda Bear’s trademark vocal texturing, allied to a bounce and energy reminiscent of Centipede Hz’s finest hours. With songs like standout, Mr. Noah, we get a weird, trippy, dub-drenched piece of p-arty pop. That it’s able to balance the fun with the frantic inventiveness is down to the same joyous blend of wide-eyed, child-like wonder, and fully grown up emotiveness – that classically Brian Wilson effect of latent anxiety making the fun that much more invigorating and sincere – that has defined Animal Collective’s finest hours.

That melancholy that quietly underlies so much of Panda Bear’s work comes to the fore most clearly on album centrepiece, Tropic Of Cancer. With Animal Collective’s reputation as a fun, weird band in mind, the title, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, would seem to promise an oddly macabre adventure, with hijinks aplenty and typically infectious energy. Over the six minutes of this mournful, harp-led dirge, the album unfurls itself for the pensive piece that it really is. Through Animal Collective, Panda Bear has touched on his father’s death from cancer, but here there’s no escaping its shadow, rendered almost into a lullaby in a refrain that sighs:

And you can’t come back,
You won’t come back,
You can’t come back to it.

The tropical locale of the song title and the lightly Hawaiian lilt, speak of the same covering up that he laments throughout the song. It’s a moment of rare clarity and quiet in the midst of the swirl, casting the album in a new light – one that pierces through the layers of joyous whirling to a centre that is tinged with a sadness and emotional weight that speaks more powerfully than any of the abstractions of his other work ever could.
The swirling soundscapes that bury these more mournful moments are almost intimidatingly dense, but perhaps not quite as immersive as they could be. At times, they lapse into a meditative lull that harks back to Bros. – Person Pitch’s defining statement – and at those moments, as on Boys Latin, the album becomes something to really sink into.

The tendency to regularly stretch these soothing sojourns past the five minute mark does mean the album overstays its welcome, however. At the mid-point, we see the sludge-y bog of Come To Your Senses (over seven minutes long) stretch itself much too thin for what is already one of the least musically engaging tracks on the album. At other points, such as Butcher Baker Candles, it perhaps bounces without the flex in between. It’s oddly rigid, as much of the album is, in truth, suspended on beats that are thick and pushed way up front.

But Panda Bear’s vocal magic can usually carry the day, and often intertwines in bizarrely hypnotic fashion with the pounding sounds around him. All the same, as a whole, at 51 minutes long it lacks the proper variety to sustain itself, and album closer, Acid Wash, is a bum note to end a largely impressive album on.

Where last year’s Slasher Flicks by Avey Tare was a release that stood on its own (and not with much distinction), Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper is an album that any fan of latter day Animal Collective will appreciate. His brand is perhaps the most distinctive, and, probably, the most crucial to the collective. It lacks the dynamism and wonderful contrasts that make their work so strikingly compelling, but the result is a more inoffensive, meditative, and ultimately accessible work.

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Albums Of This Year

This has been a weird year for music. Save the really sad War on Drugs/Sun Kil Moon fight, it feels as if not much has really happened. U2 and Coldplay both released albums, but they were sort of under the radar and highly average. They weren’t bad – they had their moments – but they weren’t particularly memorable either. It kind of sums up most of the music this year. Lots of great songs, not many great albums. Continue reading


The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies//Review

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?”

And so we come to the end at last, having been goaded into handing over silly money once again by Richard Armitage pleading “One last time!!” with sad, hopeless eyes. Where to start with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies? Rather than Peter Jackson saying farewell to Middle Earth (for now) with a triumphant celebration of all things Tolkien, we’ve been left with the most feeble of whimpers. Worse than whimpering, mockery. The Battle of The Five Armies is so bad it’s almost a parody of action films, filled with hilariously implausible stunts, jaw-droppingly clunky dialogue, and so many ‘GOTCHA!’ moments that you have wonder whether it was intentional. Alongside this you can throw in utterly pointless sub-plots, murky, sweat-drenched visuals, a travesty of CGI and some extremely confused editing. I could rant for days about all the ways this most recent Hobbit experience trips over itself; and I will. Continue reading