I’m just back from the premiere of Brit kids’ 1927 Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea at the Malthouse and I raaaather liked it. 1920s-style mayhem celebrating silent cinema on the cusp of sound, but not quite there – the road not taken. An art form that could have gone another way – if the Big Five production companies hadn’t ganged up to force the talkies on us unsuspecting folk.
1927’s shtick is charming nostalgia for a time we postmoderns never experienced but know too well. It’s a mostly B&W combination of live action and silent film – often cunningly blurred – telling post-Victorian tales of animated mayhem and cautionary tale nastiness. The cast is three-girled, finger-curled and eye-kohlled, their victims gingerbreaded and innocently pantalooned. Coles’ Funny Picture Book tales with unexpected shadows. It’s lovely, fun, terrible strangeness. Sit in the fourth row and be transported to another realm. I dare ya.
Silent cinema has been on my mind of late. I’ve been listening to the Norwegian band Je Suis Animal.
Je Suis Animal’s sound is a reminder of the stuff I listened to 15 years ago – the Brit shoegazer stuff experiencing a revival in mainland Europe right about now.
Je Suis Animal most remind me of Stereolab’s early years.
Stereolab was one of my favourite bands when I was a teen and after making it to England at 19 I hunted the bastards down and scummed an interview. I was there in Tim and Laeticia’s kitchen being served red cordial and asking questions they couldn’t answer about songs they couldn’t remember. They were hardly older than I was, but I was their biggest fan, so I blagged the story – well, my sociable buddy Mr Monk did – after we ran into Stereolab’s backing singer Mary at another band’s gig. Mary was from Queensland, and the national connection was enough to score us an afternoon with the band I’d been idolising for years. We drank the cordial and talked the music. That was a good day.
Mary was cycling through London a few years later and was killed by a car.
Je Suis Animal also remind me of Lush, another shoegazer band I was once familiar with.
Monk and I spent a few nights with the Lush kids. We went on a pub crawl with singers Miki and Emma, and in the wee hours Miki walked us through her family photo album. We slept on her couch and gawked at the guitar pedal setup as we snuck past the band-room in the morning. We felt part of the band now, and a few nights later went drinking with drummer Chris – he's the guy at the start of the clip above. Soon after, Chris hung himself. He was a fan of Red Stripe Beer. That’s about all I remember.