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Anti Review of the Year? Or Uncle Review of the Year?

 0 Comments- Add comment Written on 04-Jan-2009 by neil_p
In the late 90s, we used to waste a couple of pages every other issue writing snippy capsule reviews of endless books, television programmes and films (the latter were usually endured in the chilly, threadbare environs of el cheapo Prince Charles Cinema – somewhere I haven’t been in years). Back in the days of under-employment, there was ample time to absorb all this stuff, and a certain glamour to filling up Hearsay pages with a more elliptical form of self-advertisement beyond our usual remit of wordy music criticism. Since the explosion of blogging a couple of years later, in which every other blogger seemed to be filling up space by writing strident comments on whichever film they’d just seen, in the misguided belief this was a sure-fire way to being snapped up by the papers as a professional critic, this sort of thing seems more irrelevant than ever. And it’s so hard to keep up! There isn’t time to enjoy the work already done, let alone expend energy on the pursuit of newness. I asked Ewen if he wanted to write a review of the year for this blog and he said, ‘only if it can be an Anti Review of the Year’. This isn’t a review of the year either. It’s an instinctive, un-analysed, non-definitive list of a few illuminated pockets of 2008; some things I found to be elegant punctuation marks, providing respite from the barrage. Each comes with a couple of allocated adjectives to explain their virtues and/or effects, chosen from an imaginary Magnetic Poetry set, a mere ten years after Magnetic Poetry was popular.

Patrick Gale – Notes from an Exhibition [humane, kaleidoscopic]
Don Thompson – The $12-Million Stuffed Shark [indignant, explosive]
Coupland – The Gum Thief [forgiving, incisive]

Mad Men [smoking, novelistic]
Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe [uproarious, eviscerating]
The Peter Serafinowicz Show [deranged, nutty-nut-nuts]

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly [loving, heroic]
The Dark Knight [electrifying, messy]
Juno [thoughtful, ingratiating]

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller (Modern Art Oxford) [arcane, transfixing]
Juan Munoz (Tate Modern) [riveting, uncanny]
Wyndham Lewis: Portraits (National Portrait Gallery) [spiky, unapologetic]

Leonard Cohen, Royal Albert Hall (November) [celebratory, transcendent (and, by way of an aside, incomparably better than the corporate ghastliness of Cohen at the O2)]

Teddy Thompson and Stephanie Dosen,
Wilton’s Music Hall (March) [mischievous, magical]
and the Johnsons with the London Symphony Orchestra, Barbican (October) [shattering, sturdy]

Sun Kil Moon – April [restless, questing]
Goldfrapp – Seventh Tree [sensuous, exploratory]
Sophie Zelmani – The Oceans and Me [restful, resigned]

Cat Power – Metal Heart (from Jukebox) [unsparing, undefeated]
Aimee Mann – It’s Over (from Smilers) [towering, empowered]
Death Cab for Cutie – Grapevine Fires (from Narrow Stairs) [vital, slow-burning]

Adam & Joe (6 music) [charming, cheeky]
Danny Baker (BBC London) [inspired, conspiratorial]
Armando Iannucci’s Charm Offensive (Radio 4) [snippy, sharp]

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