Jan ’18 – UndergRound Up Of The Year

Posted: January 6th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: A Proper Blog | Tags: | No Comments »

“Farewell and adieu, to you two thousand and seventeen, farewell and adieu, you seventeen and two thousand. For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Glasgog, and so never more shall we see you again”  (thank goodness….)

In the absence of a proposed series of December ‘UndergRound Ups of 2017’ – instead Agent Rob spent the Christmas holidays this year flat on his back negotiating ‘The Land Of The Lurgy’ – this behind the curve (lack of) effort’ll have to do, a half-arsed cobbling together of images assembled prior, together with hastily written text. Why, in a way it’s Braw Books very own Shada. And, being honest, there’s precious little “underground” actually on show here, it’s mostly just canny swimming in the mainstream, so please adjust your expectations accordingly….

If 2017 was to prove anything it was the certainty that Agent Rob is indeed a replicant as he failed to give anywhere near the correct emotional responses to the year’s celebrated blockblusters, remaining pretty much unmoved (for 2 hours plus!) by the likes of Blade Runner 2049Thor: Ragnarock and Star Wars: The Last Jedi whilst relishing the opportunity to catch erstwhile cult cinema classics Crime WaveYojimbo and Sanjuro on the big screen. Proof indeed that for all the amazing technology and megabudgets at the Hollywood machine’s disposal it don’t always add up to much (except in terms of bloated running time). Maybe they should check out Andrei Tarkoysky‘s Solaris or Stalker to see how it’s done….

The small screen fared a little better, with The Prisoner‘s first timer retro thrills, the irresistible Stranger Things and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency‘s “what’s actually going on here?” mindbends pushing all the panic buttons that (the wildly imaginative but curiously flat) Rick And Morty could not. I tried, y’know. I gave it a season and a half but simply no joy (aside from the standout Meeseeks And Destroy episode). Elsewhere Elizabeth Moss acted out of her skin – and often, let’s be honest, her clothes – in the relentless adult downer dramas of the year, (Over The) Top Of The Lake and The Handmaid’s Tale. And if anything was required viewing as an antidote to the political shitstorming of 2017 then the BBC’s The Vietnam War documentary proved it sure weren’t no different back then, no sir. It was also great to revisit the Manga phase of my youth, the fact that I watched the bulk of them on crappy res. Youtube videos only adding to the nostalgic 90’s VHS vibe. Similarly, The Horror Channel‘s uncanny ability to source grainy prints only helped further my appreciation of the Hammer and Amicus horror productions….

Of course, lying and sweating under the covers for a fortnight allows you to rest up and listen to the plethora of records you’ve amassed over the course of the year. Everyone who was anyone back in the heyday was back at it in 2017, with RIDE‘s Weather Diaries being a particular highlight amongst long awaited return fare from Slowdive, (Mansun’s) Paul DraperMichael Head & The Red Elastic Band and Thousand Yard Stare, as well as almost-as-long-awaited and still exceptional reissues/compilations from Lift To ExperienceBark Psychosis and Acetone. There was plenty of fresher fare to be found too, with Tonstartssbandht‘s Sorcerer heading up the top of that pile, likely sitting on top of new releases by MogwaiThe Horrors and The Charlatans….

Last year it was old school ambient archiving and this year it was old skool and underground hip hop records,  lps that were “slept on” if I’ve got my parlance – as cribbed from countless Youtube comments – correct, from the likes of MF DOOMEdanMasters Of Illusion and cLOUDDEAD. (Plus there was the sneaky bonus find of NAS‘s classic  Illmatic for 33p in a Partick charity shop!). Typing of clouds, there was plenty of aural bounty to be found on (Bandcamp via) Soundcloud, with the likes of (Scotland’s very own) Boobs of Doom and Fordell Research Unit as well as The Pink ElephantsVintage CucumberNatural Magic and Ma Holo providing somewhat more eclectic musical forays. Check ’em out….

Nice to see Love‘s Forever Changes and John Martyn‘s London Conversation clock up their respective half centuries while The Orb‘s majestic Blue RoomUFOrb and Assassin releases hit twenty five years young (and still, to this day, sound like the future we were promised but that was never realised). Hopefully this year we’ll get to blogging about the sheer majesty of The Orb, something I didn’t quite promise but equally never actually realised in 2017. Then again, maybe it was the sheer heartbreak of seeing them taking a straw to clumsily bludgeon Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld and Chill Out at their 25th anniversary show in 2016 that finally broke this loyal camel’s back….

The world of books belonged to Philip K. Dick, or course, with Galactic Pot Healer and Dr. Bloodmoney really hitting the spot (in several realities, I’m sure) this year. Though it was a shame that Channel 4’s much touted Electric Dreams fell way short of the mark. Not only did Black Mirror trounce it on all fronts, but seeing PKD‘s work stuck in sub-Blade Runner visuals and acted out in part with British accents – from his books the characters scream America, the settings all Californian sunshine and shabby denim – just felt completely off. Add to that the simple fact that his work just doesn’t really translate to film or television. Like J.G. Ballard – whose High-Rise was given a sort of “Carry On Up The Elevator Shaft!” adaptation in 2015 – it’s all about the canny exploration of the “inner space”. Still, bonus points for casting Steve Buscemi, probably the most PKD actor of all time, in one episode. But for sheer quality of writing it was hard to see past Something Wicked This Way Comes and Ray Bradbury‘s tight, highly evocative prose – if you’re lucky enough to read a modern edition there is an excellent afterword that is by turns inspiring, illuminating, electrifying and chilling….

The world of comics (as ever) belonged to Frank Quitely, but especially in 2017 what with his epic, career-spanning and jaw-dropping exhibition at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery. The opening night was a joy, comic creators from right across the spectrum turning out to see ‘the local boy done good’. Perfect timing too, considering Agent Rob was beginning to regard his singular, immense talent akin to wallpaper, having stared at page after page of Jupiter’s Legacy for hour after hour – finally here was chance to look at the work afresh (and be knocked out by his craft all over again)! At least it made this List, ahem….

Coming a very close second to King Quitely is Goran “Grand Master” Parlov, who returned on art duties with Punisher: The Platoon. His simple, Euro-stylings combined with a mastery of composition and ink tones makes it all look oh so easy. This guy could draw Punisher: The Phonebook and I’d still be queuing round the block for a copy! I haven’t been this tempted to pick up a pen and draw a comic since John Romita Jr‘s work on the original Kick-Ass….

Of course, by far the greatest thing we saw and heard and witnessed all year was when Mark Szaszy decided to share the video for Pusherman‘s 1996 single Chase It. There’s only a select few who gave these excellent 90’s heavy rockers a chance – think catchy Oasis-esque songs with Northern Soul-era Verve sonics, but harder and heavier than that pair combined – but they are far and away the great lost band of their day. This footage is absolute gold! These lads meant it, mannnn….

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