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f/e 13 May 2018

No time like the present to get back on track, eh? Here are some things I’ve consumed in the past couple of weeks.

Last weekend we watched the second season of Fortitude, not long after seeing the first. I’m not sure the second was as good, but it wasn’t bad. Second seasons must be hard, especially when the drama’s set in such a special place; you no longer have the novelty of the setting to keep it interesting.

Still, it was a good watch, with Ken Stott, Dennis Quaid, Robert Sheehan and Richard Dormer trying to outdo each other in the “Look at me acting! I’m having SO MUCH FUN!” stakes. All of them very good. I’d also like to see a spin-off series based on Petra (Alexandra Moen) and Ingrid (Mia Jexen), the two policewomen who have little confidence in their abilities but are actually always right.

We occasionally dip into episodes of 1980s Top of the Pops, repeated on BBC FOUR, as good background listening/watching. I’m always surprised how varied the line-ups are. So many different styles and qualities. It’s not like, say, Jools Holland hosting an “eclectic” selection of tasteful modern tunes. These feel entirely random, like music that should never be heard in the same half-hour.

The 1982 episode we saw recently, hosted by John Peel, started with Motörhead performing Iron Fist, in that neon studio full of 1980s pop fans in their best going out gear. Strong. It then veered over to the smooth sounds of Imagination doing Just an Illusion. We had Classix Nouveaux and Is it a Dream, a band and song I had no memory of. Then two squeaky clean, so very 1980s, couples, Dollar and Bardo. (Look at Bardo! Bless!) The, er, timeless Status Quo with Dear John and then… Japan doing Ghosts. Amazing, watch this, and imagine you’re sitting at home with the rest of your family on a Thursday evening, because there’s nothing else to do, and after all that pop this comes on… and goes on and on…

It was another five years or so before I got into David Sylvian, via an enthusiastic friend, and I can’t imagine what I’d have made of seeing that at the age of 11. “Boring,” I’d probably have thought. Idiot. It’s as if I was a child.

None of which is to say, as so many people in their 40s-plus tend to, “The charts were so much better then! Real music, not like today!” I’m only reasonably sure there was more variety, if such a thing can be quantified, and some of that is because there was a lot more terrible novelty tosh. Great fun to watch though. From a safe distance of 30+ years.

Finally, I read Consider Phlebas recently, by Iain M. Banks. Lots of friends have, it seems, read all of Banks’ Culture novels. I think I might have read one in the late 1990s but I can’t even remember which one, and it didn’t grab me enough to try any others. But given that Consider Phlebas is going to be an Amazon TV series I thought I’d give it a go, as my last chance to read it before it became something else, different. I liked it. I tend to prefer my science fiction to be solidly Earth-based, but this was… fine. Not life-changing but fine. The MacGuffin-fuelled plot dragged a bit toward the end, so I’m eyeing some of the thicker Culture novels at the library warily, but I may continue.

That’s all. We’re back on the horse. Have a good week.

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