Monday, December 24, 2007

The Stone Roses

Ah, memories! Those bittersweet remnants of a time that has been. The reminiscence of the good old days that we may never re-live, but will always cherish.

Some people remember faces. Some others recollect places. Me, I tend to associate my memories with music. Some of my fondest memories are associated with the album I was listening to at the time. Not all albums persist in memory, mind you. Only the really special ones. The ones that are as cherished as the memories themselves.

I will always associate, for instance, my first job with Judas Priest's Painkiller. The senior year in college with Animals. My trip to Chennai with Somewhere in Time. And the last couple of months of grad school - the most traumatic, soul-wrenching couple of months that anyone can experience - when I was trying to 'write-up' my dissertation shall always, in my mind, be associated with The Stone Roses.

Now there are those of you who at this point would say , "The Stone Roses! But isn't that 80s pop". To you I shall respond, "Yes, it is 80s pop. But it is bloody good 80s pop".

To be honest, categorizing an album like The Stone Roses as 80s pop would be most unfair. Sure it is Brit pop. And sure it was released in the 80s. But it is unlike anything that was released in the 80s, or any other decade for that matter. When every other record was sticking to formulaic bubblegum pop, here was an album that not only shunned the contemporary, but quite simply invented a whole new genre.

The album, the band's self-titled debut, was released in 1989 and almost immediately had cult status conferred upon it by fans and critics alike. Cleverly blending music from the London underground with 60s rock, it introduced a completely novel sound to Brit pop (the band was among the first to incorporate wah wah guitars in a mainstream album, for instance). With its haunting guitar riffs and distinctive underground feel, the album provided a template for new age groups like Oasis and Blur, and in 2006 was ranked by NME as the number 1 album in its "100 Greatest British Albums Ever" list.

Although the album is remarkably consistent, for me the standout songs would have to be Don't Stop and I am the Resurrection. That's not to say that I don't like the other songs. It's just that these two (both songs are about perseverance and overcoming adversity) seemed to appeal especially to me at the time, given the predicament I faced.

If you haven't yet heard the album, and this apology of a review doesn't convince you of its greatness, go buy the album and listen to it for yourself. If you still remain unconvinced however, then I scoff at you. Scoff, I say. At you, no less.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bear Escapades

By now you've surely heard of Gillian Gibbons and her teddy bear misadventure. It all started when Ms. Gibbons, a British teacher in Sudan, allowed one of her pupils to name his teddy bear Muhammad. Little did she realize that in a country ravaged by years of civil war; a country in the throes of severe drought and famine; a country where free speech and basic civil rights have become a luxury, people would get offended by an innocuous teddy bear.

But offended they were. To the extent that thousands took to the streets to protest against this ghastly deed. Off with her head, and all that. It got to the point where Gibbons was sentenced to 15 days in prison to pacify the crowds, before being whisked away to the UK to avoid further damage.

All's well that ends well, you say. Sure, it does. If you're Gillian Gibbons. But what about Muhammad, the teddy bear? Spare a thought for poor little Muhammad. Ever since this whole controversy erupted, he's had all sorts of clerics and imams baying for his blood (er, stuffing?). At the last count, he had at least 5 fatwas issued against him. As a result of all this, Muhammad has had to flee his home in Khartoum and has gone into hiding to protect his fur.

With his own countrymen up in arms against him, and even the National Teddy Bear Association disowning him for 'bringing the society into disrepute', Muhammad can't help feel isolated. But there are still those who defend him. After all, they argue, Muhammad didn't choose his name himself. It was given to him by those pesky schoolchildren. If anyone is to be persecuted for this blasphemy, it must be those kids, who have very deftly washed their hands off the entire issue.

The only saving grace for Muhammad in all of this is that despite all the baying and the fatwas, no one has been able to trace him thus far. This is probably because of the fact that no one really knows what he looks like. It is, after all, prohibited in Islam to publish a picture of Muhammad.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Each One is Different

For more than a mile it fell, meandering its way through clouds and fog, finally coming to rest on the windshield of my car. The first snowflake of the season. The harbinger of Yule and good tidings. Of a weather whose only colour is fair. Of snowstorms and icy rain. And the bitter frost that bites through the flesh.

The snowflake lay on my windshield for the briefest of moments. Then it melted away into nothingness.

But its life was not spent in vain. Like a scouting driver ant, it had left a toxic trail along its path. Soon the others will be here. Thousands at first, then in their billions. Relentless, they'll march on, till the earth is covered with the white plague. A super-organism of immense proportions that'll lay claim to everything in its path. None shall escape the vice like grip of its icy talons. Helpless, we must lie and wait till the great yellow face arrives in all its fury and burns away the hordes. But for now, the yellow face is far away. And the hordes draw near.

Sitting in my car, I shiver just a little.