Top 10 Records of 2010

During the course of 2010 I have often complained that I’ve felt I’m getting bored of new music. So many bands are hyped but, to me, don’t deliver. And yet, as the end of the year approaches I find I’ve bought at least an album a month (discounting re-purchases, newly issued ‘lost treasures’ and, naturally, the never-ending swathes of back catalogue I still find the need to buy.

As many navel-gazing people recognise, the festive season isn’t just about old stories, or presents, or over-indulgence. It’s also about lists. So here’s one: my Top 10 records of the year (new releases, that is). What are yours?

10.
Benoit Pioulard
Album: Lasted

Lots of atmospherics and hissing ambience, plus some cleverly double-tracked fingerpicked guitars and vocals never too much on top of the mix. Benoit Pioulard is a recording name of American singer-songwriter and multi-instramentalist Thomas Meluch. Despite the warm tones, the record remains defiantly lo-fi – Meluch’s work is often developed from found sound, dictaphone recordings and the like. Subtle harmonies and folky jangles are all rather Simon and Garfunkel rendered by way of Arab Strap. It’s not all dark, but it’s pretty dark. Perhaps darkly pretty.

9.
Reading Rainbow
Album: Prism Eyes

Reading Rainbow is not a defunct nightclub in a Berkshire town but a classic kids programme in the US. It gives its name to the dreamy pop band formed by US indie kids Sarah Everton and Rob Garcia who are musical and romantic partners and who proclaim a love of kale as one of their likes. Always a good thing in my book. There’s little new about the sound they make, but it’s a hell of a nice one. A little bit Mamas and the Papas, a little bit Jesus and Mary Chain, and quite a lot Primitives. Frantically simple drumbeats, scuzzy guitars, sweet reverb-drenched West Coast harmonies and a dash of organ make this a big tick for me. The album’s newness means I can’t place it any higher.

8.
Beach Fossils
Album: Beach Fossils

I first heard this thin sounding record while working from a table in Pure Groove records when my home internet was down. What I liked? That very thinness. Also, the spindly riffs and almost flat vocals seemed to pick up on ideas from lots of those down-at-heel ’80s guitar bands that came in the wake of The Smiths and were championed by John Peel but not many many people more. Yep, they sound a lot like bands used to on Sarah Records. Since that first listen I’ve seen them live – where the the weediness is bulked up as guitars are allowed to overdrive. Suddenly, Beach Fossils remind me more of early Ride.

7.
Sun Araw
Album: On Patrol

One review of Sun Araw’s album described their music as sounding like a lava lamp. I tend to agree. It’s full of slow-moving but fascinating changing shapes and shifts of hue. It could go on for hours. In fact some of Sun Araw’s songs seem to – in a good way of course. Oh, and they’re not really songs, they’re sub-deep funk grooves, dub-cut stoner wig-outs. They’re very slow, mostly instrumental and sound like all and none of Keith Hudson, Mad Professor, Parliament, John Lee Hooker and Primal Scream. One song features the rumbling of bubbles being blown. I wonder where from. Not a record to get you up in the morning.

6.
Sleigh Bells
Album: Treats

When I first put this on the stereo at home, I went to make a cup of tea and had to rush back to turn it down. That doesn’t seem to happen much with records these days. The compression in the production fights all the way through this album as bigger drums and guitars crash the party. It’s fun, and the ‘faults’ of the mix are made into part of the charm. The sound? Techno keys riffs, hip hop beats, Ting Tings vocals – apart from when singer Alexis Krauss is screaming, with occasional surges of Pixies/metal guitar. Kind of. Sleigh Bells are a duo from Brooklyn. Brooklyn seems to be bringing me lots of good musical things these days.

5.
Richard James
Album: We Went Riding

I missed this on release. The follow-up to James’ first solo album, ‘Seven Sleepers Den’, is more upbeat and a return to the lilting country that fans will recognise from Gorky’s Zygotic Monkey records of the 1990s – the Welsh psych band in which James played bass and sang alongside Euros Childs. Cate Le Bon (part of James’ band before launching her solo career proper – and guesting on the Neon Neon album) provides Nico-esque backing vocals to the record. She’s a great counterpoint to James and Euros can also be heard singing in the mix too. It’s easy to forget that, besides their quirkiness, Gorky’s were also great songwriters, and there a real John Phillips ‘Wolfking of LA’ quality to some of these tracks. Why do Welsh bands do country so well?

4.
Beach House
Album: ‘Teen Dream’

For some reason, my initial thought on this album was that Beach House were a Beach Boys for today’s lovers of dreamy pop. Now I’m not sure. The soaring vocals and syrupy, sometimes sad, melodies do occasionally recall later-period (hmm, ‘Sunflower’?) surf pop, but the album’s a wholly different entity. For a while, if a track from ‘Teen Dream’ ever came up on our iTunes shuffle, I’d have to check to see who it was. Could a band sound like a blissed-out My Bloody Valentine crossed with ‘Tango In the Night’ era Fleetwood Mac? Would that be a good thing or a bad thing? I keep going back to this record to find out. Still can’t describe the record properly.

3.
Sufjan Stevens
Album: The Age of Adz

I know he can sing and arrange and everything, but I’ve always insisted that Sufjan Stevens’ major album success, ‘Illinoise’, was about five tracks too long. To me it got a bit samey. It’s not an accusation I can throw at ‘The Age of Adz’ – which seems already to have become known as the ‘Sufjan Stevens Goes Mad’ album. And yes, it is all over the place. Rhythms and melody are constantly scruffed up, broken, tampered with, mediated. There’s almost too much in there to listen to. Brass and strings? Of course! Lush harmony? Hell yeah! Wonky out of tune keyboards and samples? Er, yep. Penny whistles? Shucks, okay. Stevens capable voice on R&B autotune? I kid you not. An album that will repay countless listens.

2.
Emeralds
Album: Does It Look Like I’m Here?

I’ve always had the suspicion that someone, at some time, might realise that not all of Jean-Michel Jarre’s music was uniformly naff and put together a sound that built on his early work in a new (possibly even exciting) way. I know. I’ll give you a minute to ponder the logic of that notion.

Okay. It’s 2010 and an ambient/drone/electronica album from highly regarded Baltimore art-synth outfit Emeralds is released. The band cite the minimalism of Terry Riley as an influence and have opened shows for Throbbing Gristle. It’s trippy, spacey, and mostly built on the looped arpeggios of icy retro synths. It’s my second favourite album of the year. And it sounds a bit like Jean-Michel Jarre.

1.
Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate
Album: Ali and Toumani

Ali Farka Toure died earlier this year and this was the last thing he did. It was recorded in London over a few days. He was very ill at the time. Really, he and Diabate just jammed. I can’t think of any album I’ve ever heard where I can say that the playing is any better, any freer. Two master musicians and a truly stunning record.

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Robinson in Time: Patrick Keiller preview

It is a Sunday afternoon in mid, almost late, November. Outside our flat the trees have mostly lost their leaves. I can hear children playing in the little park over the road, near the site of the former Fortune Theatre, which dated to when theatres were banned from the City of London as the authorities thought they were dens of iniquity, pits of plague and cauldrons of terrorist plot. Today, everything apart from the children is silent.

In Patrick Keiller’s new film, released last week, Robinson is in ruins. In fact he has disappeared. Paul Scofield know all about him in two previous ‘Robinson’ films, ‘London’ (1994) and Robinson is Space (1997). Scofield was his friend. Perhaps they had been lovers. Where has Robinson gone? Scofield died in 2008. He can’t tell us. What can we learn of Robinson now?

The prospect of seeing Keiller’s new Robinson film is all rather exciting. Indeed I was going to write a review of it but, today, in the stillness and cold of the day, I have instead decided to write a preview:

‘Robinson in Time’

In 1994, during a short stay in Cambridge, I visited the arts cinema and, not knowing what was showing, got a ticket for the only matinee available. It was a few weeks before I was about to recommence an attempt at higher education. I was to study English and European Literature rather than the study of the social and physical urban landscape – a course that I had abandoned a few years earlier.

The film I saw was London, by Patrick Keiller, and it is narrated with a dry, sometimes regretful, sometimes camp, sometimes angry wit by the late Paul Scofield. In the film, no actor is seen on screen. Scofield and his unseen friend/lover Robinson remain unseen. Instead, what the viewer sees is a series of ‘moving postcards’ – a fixed camera shot that focuses alternately on street furniture, road junctions, London’s parks, canals, markets, minicab offices… Filmed during 1992, the premise is a peripatetic journey across the capital; the political backdrop is the run-up to the general election and John Major’s victory for the Tories. Despite its slow, quiet pace, the narrative works stealthily, the images are riveting, compelling, and the film is both playful and deeply humane. Does the film show a city in decay? Yes, say some reviews. Fear of decay, certainly.

‘London’ premiered at the 1994 Berlin Film Festival and was a critical success. The sequel, Robinson in Space (1997), broadened Robinson’s worldview only inasmuch as he, Scofield and Keiller’s camera are allowed to travel beyond the M25. Again, the narration covers fields of knowledge such as architecture, literature, fine art, history, sociology and economics. Together the two films form a poetic depiction of the social and physical geography (psycho-socio-geography) of Thatcherite economics.

A third encounter with Keiller was in 2000 at the Curzon cinema in Soho. By this time I had already shown ‘London’ to postgraduate students as part of an MA course I was teaching, ‘Dedefining Britain’. I had taped ‘London’ from the TV – it was shown late at night, once, on Channel 4, and during an ad break a premium rate gay telephone chatline advert aired, which the students seemed to find the most amusing few seconds of the whole screening.

At the Curzon we watched Keiller’s documentary ‘The Dilapidated Dwelling’, narrated by Tilda Swinton. ‘Dwelling’ is more straightforwardly a film about architecture than ‘London’ or ‘Robinson in Space’ and forms a kind of survey of Britain’s dilapidated housing stock. Dilapidated dwelling; dilapidated housing stock; dilapidated country; dilapidated minds. Using Swinton’s narration as well as talking heads, the film asks why millions of people in Britain seem to be happy living in identikit mock-Tudor new-builds. Where and when did the postwar hope for a new social architecture disappear? The film was made for Channel 4, but it was never shown – and in a Q&A session after the Curzon showing, Keiller was rightly, though modestly, indignant about it.

Keiller was born in Blackpool in 1950 and studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. He initially practised as an architect too. In 1979, Keiller joined the Royal College of Art’s Department of Environmental Media as a postgraduate student and started to show slide-tape presentations that combined architectural photography with fictional narratives. His first film proper, ‘Stonebridge Park’ (1981), was a short made up of images from a hand-held camera, accompanied by a voice-over by a petty criminal character. ‘Norwood’ (1983) refined his technique and in 1989 ‘The Clouds’ (still only 20 minutes) saw Keiller’s camera-and-commentary style set to a journey across northern England.

Now, Robinson is in ruins. Disappeared. But his notebooks have been found in a flat in Oxford. He had been in prison, it seems, perhaps for some anarchist-related crime. And in the notebooks lichen is hailed as an example of mutualism. And in the film the site of Dr David Kelly’s death is visited. Vanessa Redgrave narrates. A foxglove quivers. US military bases lie deserted. The Tories are back in power. And I have a film to see.

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Hope and despair in mid-century modern art: a review

Patrick Heron, Azalea Garden

A visit to Tate St Ives’ recent exhibition Object: Gesture: Grid (subtitled ‘St Ives and the International Avant-garde’) has left me pining for an artistic return to the intellectual mores of mid-century modern. Where now the ‘blank’ canvasses, the black squares, the simple and elegant architectural forms, the slashes of visceral colour, the naturalistic pagan shapes, the fragile perfect lines, the balance between the minimalistic absolute and the subliminal terror of free expression?

The Tate exhibition was a lovingly put together disarray of post-Second World War art, either made in St Ives, or influenced by it, or complementary to the work produced there. It highlighted, as the Tate put it, “a shared visual language of artists working in Europe and America from the 1930s to the late 1970s”. Hmm, actually there was art there from the late 1980s too, but let’s not quibble.

The exhibition included work by Constantin Brancusi (his gold flash of a fish), Naum Gabo, Mark Rothko, Carl Andre, Willem de Kooning, Barbara Hepworth, Sol LeWitt, Eva Hesse, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braques, Sandra Blow, Jackson Pollock and Peter Lanyon. The usual suspects, perhaps, but it was, quite simply, the kind of ‘modern’ art I love.

It’s also the kind of modern art that a lot of people really hate. In fact it’s the kind of modern art that makes grumpy broadcaster John Humphrys groan ‘but is it art?’ It’s the kind of modern art that your dad says ‘I could have done that!’ about. It’s the kind of modern art that I’ve even heard people who supposedly like art moan ‘I like art but this kind of stuff just takes the p!ss’. It’s the kind of art that, even though it might have been made well over a century ago, some gallery visitors still recoil in front of – as if it were a shock of the new that was shocking and new.

Why do people get upset by Bob Law’s ‘black’ watercolour without stopping to notice that it’s not black at all, but a beautiful mood piece made of a rainbow of different colours? Why do viewers walk past Robert Ryman’s ‘Ledger’ and assume it’s just a blank? Why not stop to consider the construction, the different materials, the balanced assemblage? Patrick Heron’s ‘Azalea Garden’ – is it really just blobs? Why, then, is it so affecting? Eva Hesse’s intricately drawn grid? Why did she do that? Would it not be good to stop and think? Sandra Blow’s epic ‘Vivace’ with it’s Clifford Still vibrancy and Matisse-like paper cuts – it’s a whole history of 20th-century modern in a huge square frame. But, of course, is it art? Surely I could have done that? Let’s just walk on by, or recoil and shake our heads in dismay.

While in St Ives we got to wondering why this kind of modern art – minimalism, abstract expressionism and beyond – still divides opinion. What made many of these artists paint and draw and sculpt as they did? Well, obviously the violence of the 20th century cannot be avoided. Russian Revolution, two world wars, the Holocaust, the A bomb/H bomb/nuclear bomb and then the ensuing Cold War/Suez/Cuba/Vietnam scenarios. Depressing, isn’t it?

Bob Law, Black Watercolour

So Pollock gets primitive, drinks, listens to jazz and paints accordingly. Rothko flees the crowded subways and reduces the rugged landscape of a whole continent into floating, isolated forms. Picasso and Braques energetically, neurotically, restlessly, reinvent whatever they see in front of them over and over again and sometimes all at once. In Cornwall, St Ives becomes a port in a heavy storm. And, preceding them all (although not in this exhibition), Duchamp blows a raspberry to the horror that will come, leaves a urinal in the white cube – and signs it R Mutt.

I often feel amazed that these kinds of art still have the power to shock and that many people don’t yet understand them. Then I remember that they are about humanity, dread, time, space, the brave new world of mechanical reproduction, the inability to speak (to have poetry after Auschwitz), about looking outwards and turning inwards, about frustration and fear and, most of all, about not having all the answers.

These questions do not fade. The more they are asked the more we face the debris of the past piling up at our feet – the more the future feels impossible to turn towards. And yet… the subtle, warm, composed, sometimes humorous forms of the work also highlights a deep sense of humanity and of hope. If you want art that is simply pleasant and well-crafted, or art that is recognisable, easily definable and doesn’t make you think too much, then mid-century modern is not for you.

P.S. In the previous post Ella and I are at Barbara Hepworth’s studio, St Ives.

Robert Ryman, Ledger

Sandra Blow, Vivace

Eva Hesse, untitled

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Looking in the mirror – or, 10 short notes on creativity

Caught in the mirror

1. A blank piece of paper looks like a cliff. Sometimes you are stood at the bottom; sometimes you are peering over the edge.
2. To claim that art is not political is to place it in the political world.
3. Artists rarely try and discover anything new. It happens anyway.
4. Repetition is never really repetition: it produces a schism and changes the context of the original work and thereby itself.
5. Art seeks art, commerce seeks commerce. Getting the two confused is a frequent cause of disappointment for both.
6. Love, sex and death – and religion – inspire much contemporary cultural production. What of the questions of time and form?
7. The internet opens up new forms of narrative, as did the printing press. No more, no less.
8. Academics seek to enclose a work by framing it, or adding their own full stop to mark the end of a story.
9. The artist always knows more than the critic, even if they pretend they don’t.
10. None of us knows what we are talking about.

(Still unsure of why the picture? My next update will reveal more.)

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A short update on short fiction (or, ‘Am I suffering short-term memory loss?’)

Unlike this unwieldy blog, which is purpose-designed for the occasional offshoots of my professional writing and the vague meanderings of what could be termed ‘research’, my other blog, Possible Fictions, is the epitome of efficient moderation. It gets updated once every week, usually around Tuesday lunchtime and consists of entries of exactly 100 words.

I began the Possible Fictions blog in the spring of 2009. The idea was to create a piece of short fiction, each week, in exactly 100 words, that was inspired by a story that had been in the news during the previous seven days. Readers might be able to guess the root of the story, or it might be too well hidden, but the real-life stuff was the spark.

As I write there are 71 posts on the blog. Each, apart from my initial ‘Hello world’ message, a short story of 100 words. Not 101 or 97: 100. The number is easy to remember. More difficult, however, is remembering the news stories that inspired the fiction.

The recent ones I find fairly easy. A couple are world-cup football based. I know that, though they don’t mention football, as they’re fresh in my mind. One is, kind of, about John Terry. Another, kind of, about the goalkeeper Robert Green’s fumbled attempt at a save.

Elsewhere, sometimes a story’s roots are writ large. If I’ve named someone Tony, it’s probably Tony Blair. The story that ends with a ‘sting’, is, literally, about bees. I had read about the bees in a newspaper. As bees have become fewer, bees have become big in the media. I remember who ‘He’s Dead’ is about because of the magnitude of the person who died.

But other stories I really have no clue about any more. I never noted down what they were about because I thought it was so obvious. Now, when I read ‘What People Want’, I can’t really remember if it was something particular or an abstracted thought only initially based on a real-life scenario. With ‘The Sky at Night’, my tags give something away – but not enough to make me certain.

What is happening is that, over time, the original spark for the stories is fading. The stories are becoming proper fictions, not ‘possibly fictions but maybe fact’. Even I can only read them as fiction. I’m not sure this was my intention at all, but it’s a very satisfying thing indeed. Stories: outliving the initial impetus that brought them into the world. Who’d have thought it?!

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Hip Hipstamatics and murky mix tapes

From green-tinged ‘Hipstamatic Print’ photos taken with iPhones to small record labels issuing vogueish new releases as cassettes, there is a current trend for making artistic statements with a lo-fi or retro sheen.

Holga/Lomography cameras have reminded people of the pleasures of film, while the notion of the mix-tape currently has more appeal than mp3s, CDs and even vinyl. Digital photography? Ugh, so clean and soulless. Songs on a USB stick? So very Noughties.

Holga photo by MW Bewick

Personally I like the woozy colours that Lomo-type cameras and their imitators produce. That lack of sharpness, the unnatural colour balance, the light leakage and the vignetting combine to do more than reproduce a real-life image – they transform it. What you get is more like a memory – it becomes unstable, kaleidoscopic, nostalgic. With music, some people are now talking up the merits of cassettes like others did vinyl a decade ago. FFW and tape tangle is the new scratch and warm crackle.

But is lo-fi retro really more rewarding than the slick polish of digitalism? Evidence suggests people actually like a bit of both:

Earlier this week I got involved in a conversation about the way I was recording some new music. My last EP, though recorded digitally, was all about acoustic instruments. Essentially a folk record (you can look up MW Bewick on iTunes/MySpace) the instruments were mainly acoustic guitar and voice, recorded through a half decent microphone. There weren’t many overdubs or synths, or much programming, and it was mainly performed in live takes. So it was put together in quite an old-fashioned way even though it sounds quite clean and modern. A mix of the old and the new.

The new record is going to involve much more programing and synths, less acoustic guitar. The computer software will play a much greater role. This might suggest that it will sound more modern and slicker. However, that’s not necessarily the case and, like with the Hipstamatic App on your iPhone, the job will be to create some kind of a wonky production effect – messing with the sound to make it more interesting and less straightforward. At least, that’s the plan. Why would I want to do this? Why would I want to create a sound less sharp and precise than possible? Hmmm, because I don’t want my record to sound like Phil Collins or The Saturdays or George Michael, perhaps?

But, again, is a lo-fi effect not really just an excuse for bad production? Does retro crackle really add kudos and soul and integrity? Actually, even George Michael thought so: at the peak of his CD-shifting powers he added a synthetic crackle to his ‘Listen Without Prejudice’ album with the intent of making it sound more like an old vinyl soul LP. It was a move that had confused fans taking their ‘faulty’ CDs back to the shops.

One of my favourite records, the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat, has such murky production that, if lo-fi does add cool, it should be one of the coolest ever records. (In my opinion) It is. However, the Velvets were never actually happy with the recording and the murky production that I find appealing is apparently the result of not having good enough equipment to cope with the sounds they were creating. They actually wanted it cleaner and slicker.

These days, making things clean and click is easy. Well-produced records can be made on a laptop; camera phones take sharp pictures. So we have entered an age where much effort and technology goes into ‘making it worse’. We use old gear – microphones from the Sixties, Holga camera technology – or use software that distresses clean digital files and makes them appear worn and frayed.

I’m not really sure what we’re aiming at. Are we just nostalgic for past times? Or is there something in the ‘noise’ of un-sharp photos and murky mixes that our brains process as being interesting or comforting? Most likely we’re all being conned by a trendy sales pitch and it’s just a phase – a fashion. If it continues, will the old clean soon become the new retro?

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Why I’m not reviewing SATC2

I’m not going to review the new ‘Sex and the City’ movie as I’m really not qualified. However, I find the ‘it’s not as good as the TV series’ comments in the media interesting as I’m not sure what critics expected, or were hoping for.

Okay, first I should state my ignorance of all things SATC: I have only ever knowingly watched about two minutes of a single episode of the TV series. In it, as far as I remember, the Sarah Jessica Parker character was walking along what looked like a downtown New York back street. The street looked grey, grubby, industrial but also kind of cool. It could have been the backdrop for a Strokes video. SJP was struggling to make her way down the uneven sidewalk in her high heels and an amazing, colourful, whimsical dress. Maybe it was raining too. She looked like a princess from a fairy tale, at odd with her surroundings, lost in a dark place. It looked like a fantasy.

So why are people disappointed with the films? An article in today’s ‘Guardian’ newspaper quotes ‘New Yorker’ film critic Anthony Lane, who has said of watching the SATC2, “I walked into the theatre hoping for a nice evening and came out as a hardline Marxist.” Lane obviously felt that becoming a Marxist was a terrible thing; that the grotesque consumerism on show had infected him in a way he didn’t like. He was disappointed and angry. How could these cherished visions of high-fashion frippery have engendered in him thoughts of such a nasty political persuasion? What had the producers done to him? Something had obviously gone awfully, awfully wrong.

Really? Was there ever anything else other than grotesque consumerism in the show? Ah, but I haven’t seen it (the chorus of disapproval cries) and most of those who have say that there was so much more to the show: the four central characters were strong women facing modern-world difficulties with wit and panache. In the ‘Guardian’ article, some of these difficulties are recounted to mount a case for the defence. I scanned the feature again, looking for words that had been used to describe famous situations and dilemmas covered by the TV series. At a glance I got:

Jilted; Altar; Clothes; Sex; Married; Shopping; Baby; Abortion; Breast cancer; Youth; Looks; Wedding; Child; Rejected; Marry; Marriage; Jobs; Boyfriend; Job; Marries; Boyfriends; Work; Fashion; Designer clothes; fashion; Get together; Men; Marry; Women.

Hmm, well, maybe other subjects that the TV series covered off just didn’t get a mention in the newspaper article. Y’know, the ones in the episodes when storylines about relationships and marriage and babies took a back seat and the characters went off and did something, anything, else… As I say, I don’t know. But if they did exist, it doesn’t seem that anyone’s that interested in them. Was there one about disabled kids or charity work in Rwanda or even a lengthy debate about music or philosophy, or Iraq, Mexican drugs cartels?

But okay, maybe those storylines didn’t need to be there and, maybe, that’s one of the show’s strengths. Maybe the show deals in a more localised realism – maybe its storylines really are the big issues that face NYC women today. Maybe the show simply whacks up the glamour quotient. And why not? Would anyone want SATC to suddenly go all Eastenders?

But if the rubbish boyfriends and the work/life balance and Mr Big and hopes for marriage etc are indeed the essence of SATC – all dressed up in Halston of course – then why the long faces from the critics? In the ‘Guardian’, the writer even says that, after the disappointment of the first movie, she can’t even properly enjoy the TV series any more.

Maybe this isn’t about SATC per se. I have often noticed how so many ‘groundbreaking’ imported US dramas that inspire reams of media attention when they’re shiny and new, end up in graveyard slots on Freeview channels, or repeated in the cheap mid-afternoon hours when no one’s watching. Remember how ‘Friends’ was once unmissable? Now it might raise a fond smile but it just looks all a bit 1990s. Was it really so influential and cool? ‘ER’? Ditto. We once watched ‘Northern Exposure’ too.

Perhaps the reason that people fall out of love with shows like these is that, beyond the hype, the styling and the contemporary nods and winks, there just isn’t that much to them. The gloss wears off. The fashions and decor – however attentive or incredulous – date. The wisecracks that had viewers swooning soon become the oft-repeated anecdotes of a lovable but faintly embarrassing dad. Few programmes really stand the test of time – they’re just not made with that in mind.

And so no, I’m not reviewing SATC2. Enjoy it if you like. Remember though, it surely wasn’t ever intended as a piece of gritty realism: it’s a fairy tale. Fairy tales don’t always have happy endings, but fairy tales they remain. Enjoy the enchantment of the fantasy by all means, but remember that people grow wise to fantasies.

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