My review of Daphne is up here:
Go see or watch on BFI player x x
The BFI kindly schlepped me up to Sheffield to review the Oscar-nominated Mustang. It is excellent. It is better than The Virgin Suicides and The Great Escape, go and see it. Maybe go to Sheffield. I don’t know.
And read this. The review’s hosted on a girl power platform. Yay!
People always tell you not to judge something by its cover; if that’s in regards to a person, then fine, I agree; I don’t want to be judged by my cover at 6am on a Monday morning. But in regards to anything else, I think you should judge things by their covers, and anyone who tells you not to is an idiot and just repeating a saying that went out of date before it was even said. If the cover is to your taste, the likelihood is, so will be its content. That’s my rule of thumb and I’m sticking to it. So when I saw the artwork for Chris Belson’s new E.P. I hoped I was in for a treat (interestingly in regards to this point, Belson had designed the artwork himself).
‘Moon Songs’ might be his first E.P., but Belson has already garnered some notable praise: “An outstanding new talent for today…” Mojo.
Like a consummate professional, I started the record at the beginning, and while swaying to the intro of ‘Children’ I looked at the picture of Belson and thought he reminded me a little of Michael Cera, so I was expecting a similar tone to come from my computer when he sang; but then, there’s that voice. It comes out of nowhere like a long, pulled note on a double bass, that somehow trips into octaves a double bass could only dream about.
While I was listening to the record I was staying with my mum, who I know to be quite a ruthless critic of my, and anyone else’s, work. She walked in to the room and the first thing she greeted me with was “Who’s this? Great voice …” I said who it was and that I was reviewing it. She said “Well, a great voice is one thing, but let’s see if he’s written any good lyrics.”
For the rest of the E.P. mum sat there in complete silence, and when it was over, said “He’s great, play it again.” One can only assume she was satisfied with the lyrics, that range from planetary metaphors such as ‘Planets Align’, which fills you with the hope that you are not alone in being unable to read “what’s written in the stars” (Lord knows I’ve tried) to ‘Without You Again’, which uses nature and landscapes to describe what it’s like not being around the one you love. ‘Dogs Are Howling At The Moon’ contains the imagined meaning behind the howls, and their relatability to lovers, friends and family who are far away; and the transitions of the moon are used to represent the ebb and flow of romantic emotions.
Belson began playing on a broken old Spanish guitar he bought at an auction age 12, which he still has, and the album focuses around the guitar and his accomplishment on it; though hints of piano, horns and an occasional rhythm section throughout the record keep it interesting.
So, let it be known: Chris Belson is the whole package. He’s Leonard Cohen with a good range, he’s a lighter Tom Waits, he’s Johnny Cash without the guns, in ‘Dogs are Howling at the Moon’ I can hear J.J. Cale; he has the hymn-like rhythm of country with the homely melancholy of folk. But then at the same time, he’s none of these. Chris Belson is different. He has a knack of creating melodies where the notes seem to chase themselves and the album creates a sort of melodic circle, much like the face of the moon on its cover. And how nice not to be hounded by bass, how nice not to hear another girl singing folk-y songs like a baby, how nice to hear a man, though having a competent range, not feel the need to drive home the message he can compete with a mezzo-soprano. In sum, Chris Belson is a bloody relief.
‘Moon Songs’ has been released on the record label ‘Laid Bare Records’, which emerged from acoustic nights of the same name: ‘Laid Bare Live’, all founded and operated by Rami Radi, who himself has his roots in acoustic music.
‘Moon Songs’ is out now and you can catch Chris Belson at the launch party upstairs at the Ritzy on Thursday the 14th of January, for free. How bloody nice.
Now ‘editors pick’ …. x
Just off a street full of piñatas in DTLA is Superchief Gallery—the younger (but larger) sister of Superchief New York. I was here to see the Booty Worship exhibition, alone, because I couldn’t persuade any of my friends to come down and see a “butt” show with me. My friends have far more taste than I’d realized.
I was greeted on arrival by pink curtain flaps resembling a lady’s spread legs. I got out of the taxi, and, conscious that the driver was watching me, sauntered through the pink flaps with as much dignity as I could muster.
Curated by Reginald Pean, an illustrator whose works also appear in the show, the exhibition’s premise is: “Everyone has one. The best body specific, booty delicious gallery special feature this side of the Pacific! In the City of Angels, all walks of life will be portrayed in the appreciation of butts! It’s time to show them off and let ‘em shine!”
As a species, we humans are ever more obsessed with different bits of ourselves and currently that bit would appear to be the arse. We have watched as it’s grown, turning into its own independent entity, staring in films, magazines, music videos, butt-pumping parties…hopefully soon to have its own chat show. Because now having a dangerously low center of gravity is something we venerate and even operate on to achieve: we will literally PUT junk in the trunk if we don’t have enough already.
We do find some very amusing uses for science.
I had decided to go into this exhibition with a mind as wide open as most of the legs on display and was greeted by Oliver Hibert’s work. Hibert’s now well known for his psychedelic illustrations for bands like The Flaming Lips and My Bloody Valentine. His trippy contribution portrayed the back of a beheaded woman with Shiva arms, rendered in his trademark clean, precise lines, black and white, contrasted by the multicolored rainbows spurting out of the woman’s executed head. And yet there was a grace about her and something slightly humorous.
Situated near Hibert’s work, on the other side of a manga lady with a butt nine times the size of her head, was a pair of illustrations by Matt Layzell. One, featuring robots with gigantic butts trying to fix each other, entitled Fixing, and another of a baseball player with an enormous ass bursting out of his trousers, were brilliant, in that they made me laugh. I didn’t quite get what the “point” of it was, other than to amuse—but that is a fine enough point as far as I’m concerned.
This was the beginning of the realization that, what worked in this exhibition were the pieces that celebrated the juvenility of “booty worshipping.” Examples of this were Rob Corradetti’s fantastically silly illustrations of ET with a giant butt and rainbows shooting round him. Along the same lines were our favorite cartoon characters in butt form by Sam Grinberg, and and one of my personal favourites by Penelope Gazen, another childish illustration, that said “Her butt was so big her butt had butts,” complete with little butt boils all over it. I mean, it’s ridiculous. Of course that’s funny! We’ve all been 12 years old, we’ve all found other uses for our schoolbooks. There’s a nostalgia to it—and that’s what you should embrace coming to this show.
Yet where I found the exhibition stumbled was in trying to elevate its status to something more than “fun” or strange. When the tone attempted to become poignant—sexual or even the dreaded “edgy”—it became either naff, clichéd, or just sexist.
In this category there were plenty of illustrations by men of women tied up in bondage, or aggressive paintings of women receiving oral sex from anyone available, it appeared, and some more “cutesy” bondage illustrations by women.
Also on display were photographic works, some of them looking like they should be on the cover of a Mills and Boon romance novel, others ressembling actual meat, such as the woman tied so tight with pieces of string at first I thought it was a picture of a country ham. (Have I missed something here? Are cured meats erotic?)
Cheryle Georgette Arent
Others, such as many of the occult scenarios depicting naked virgins, just looked like a checklist: goblet, tick, naked virgin, tick, ram skull, tick, candle, tick, lack of atmosphere, tick. Someone even had the inspired idea to make a mural of “belfies”—the butt selfie inspired by all time fave cultural icon, Kim Kardashian. Thank you Kim. Then there was this photo booth:
Malie Huffman, Man Eater
I know, you think it’s funny to be gross. And congratulations, this is gross. Even if I really try and find it amusing in any of the few respects available to me, it is still revolting, and I’m not really sure what the point of it was other than to occupy the 12-year-old boys accompanying their elders to the exhibition.
Suddenly I realized I hadn’t noticed any male butts being worshipped or ridiculed in this exhibition—bar a skeleton policeman, and that was hardly this graphic. It just seems we aren’t as fascinated in men being put into bizarre, contorted, and humiliating positions. So why is no one sexualizing the male butt? Even the female artists in this show were focused on female asses. (The above photobooth was the creation of a woman). I’m not saying we should. I’m just confused as to why there was a lack of mocking of the male butt at this exhibition.
I have nothing against butts. After all, I have one, as the exhibition rightly says, and I don’t want to make an enemy of it. I also believe there is no shame in a bit of juvenile humour, our greatest writers in the English language—Jonathan Swift, Shakespeare, Chaucer—they all loved a little arse joke in between some of the finest social commentary ever created, so it has its place and I am one of its champions. It’s just that these Barbara Cartland bums with roses next to them, or this new “tacky is cool” vibe with marigolds and cigarettes and fishnets—we’ve seen a thousand times before already. And the bondage—oh my god are we not bored of the bondage yet? If you’re trying to be edgy, it’s not edgy anymore, Universal have released a film about it, your mum’s probably read the books, she might have even bought the rope by now. Why not try and be good or amusing or interesting instead? With a subject like butts, the work needs to be original or funny—anything that wasn’t just felt out of place. The exhibition had the potential to be a better one, had it been more committed to the narrative of this theme.
Horse and Unicorn Drawings In My Bedroom
There is a second exhibition coming up in New York, with a different set of “booty worship” works. If you’re in the area buying piñatas I think you should see it. There’ll be works in there to make it worthwhile for anyone who’s willing to go in with an open mind. Or go in with the mind of a 12-year-old boy and you’ll adore the entirety of it.
I think as a woman, if you have any passionate opinions about what women are to our society—you have to accept that you’re going to an exhibition about bums. There is a fine line between amusing and offensive, and that line usually gets blurred when the idea of “poignancy” or “edginess” become the sole task of the artwork. There are many examples of people stumbling way over this line in the exhibition.
I gave the friends who wouldn’t join “Betty Butt” stickers—they actually went down very well.