Boris Johnson – From A Buffoon To A Blowhard

 

London Mayor Boris Johnson addresses a London business expo, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Go back to any time in the mid-noughties and Boris Johnson’s political clout was about as credible as Russell Crowe’s music career.

He would fluff and puff as he struggled to understand cue cards on Have I Got News For You, seen bike after bike get stolen, and get bitten by various breeds of dog when, ironically, opening a canine shelter in his old constituence. I must say that sometimes, flippantly, I would say “I’d love Bojo to be Prime Minister.” I’m sure I wasn’t the only one – when I was 14 or 15, I didn’t have much of a handle on politics, and although I never meant it, I used to josh that such an endearing, bumbling blonde bombshell would make an excellent leader of our country.

Dear me. In fact, maybe you should blame me. Because what would be uttered as a light-hearted zinger is now in considerable danger of becoming a chilling reality. With David Cameron predictably announcing his resignation, (in the long run) washing his hands of what has been a bloody, wholly disappointing campaign, the notion of Boris Johnson becoming our next Prime Minister looks devastatingly likely. Maybe 30 Odd Foot of Grunts weren’t so bad, after all.

There were signs, of course. There might have been gaffes that made us guffaw (such as when Boris practically bifurcated someone during a celebrity football match, or when he fell in a lake), but there were also numerous amounts of nonsensical jabbering that displayed the kind of jingoism that even Jeremy Clarkson would balk at. The list of countries he has offended in recent years makes Donald Trump look like a UN ambassador – Papua New Guinea, the USA, Palestine and even Liverpool have been condemned by the kind of entitled, eminent piffle that Boris decided to utter from his silver-spooned, malfunctioning mouth. There must have been times when David Cameron, and his predecessors, saw Boris as the troublesome nephew of the Tory family, someone who isn’t allowed to sit too near the backbenches in case he spills his Kia Ora.

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Boris Johnson represented a comedy sideshow. Now, he represents a comedy decision. The EU referendum campaign has been, to put it lightly, tumultous – people have been in a thick-skinned flurry, ripping apart family members for their decisions and lambasting anyone who sang along to that Will Young song (and no, I don’t mean ‘Evergreen’). Not only that, but there were a multitude of people squaking and sprinting like headless chickens, completely fuelled by propaganda, hyperbole and the opinions of anyone from Liz Hurley to Canadian-born rocker Bryan Adams. A lot of people – and I’m sure even they would agree with me on this one – were not aware of the facts, either way. For those that opted to ‘leave’, they seemed to be in possession of only one ‘pearl’ of wisdom – “immigrants.”

Even Peter Mannion MP saw the benefits of immigration. For some people (sorry to keep repeating myself, but woe be tied I connect this decision with every voter), immigration has become the go-to excuse for any of Great Britain’s shortcomings. The lack of jobs is down to immigrants, not because of the fact back as early as the ’50s and ’60s, British people considered themselves far too educated and haughty to do the jobs immigrants instead did. Heck, no doubt half of them blamed Roy Hodgson’s team decisions for England against Slovakia as “probably something to do with immigration”.

The undecided voters were urged to vote ‘remain’, purely for the fact it was, if they later decided they wanted to leave, the safer choice. It was also the saner choice. As a ‘regular’ person, I am unsure of how, in five years’ time, this decision to leave is going to affect me. No one can be sure – we’ve all got some well-thought out opinions, we’ve all suddenly grasped an overnight BA in Politics – and no one will truly know. We’re entering unchartered waters, and to paraphrase Cameron’s resignation speech, we are wholly, and scarily, unsure of who will be manning the wheel.

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Those that have voted leave in their droves are (mostly) those who, by the time this decision truly hits its, well, nadir, will be (at the very least) retired and probably living in the EU, anyway. At worst, they’ll be dead. Old people are stuck in their ways – have you tried to argue with a 65-year-old about something and won? Highly unlikely. But it seems a lot of old people had become ingrained in anti-immigration, anointing Boris’ blond hair and elevating him to a status that someone who can barely understand where Portsmouth is should not reach.

Now we have left, we face the ardous task of being let back in again. We’ve got to allow 27 countries to get us back in. To summarise, essentially we’ve just pissed off and dumped 27 different girls, and before we can date again, we need to get WhatsApp blue ticks from all 27 of them. Not even that oiled guy from Geordie Shore could manage that.

David Cameron’s resignation throws into sharp focus the fear that lies ahead. He campaigned, like Jeremy Corbyn, for the UK to remain in the EU. He saw the economic benefits, and although some have argued his odious presence actually deterred voters, he genuinely believed the country was better off in than out. Now, humiliated and humbled, he has had no choice but to step down. This now begs the worrying question of who could take over.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - APRIL 16: Britain Stronger In Europe supporters wait for the campaign bus to arrive at Northumbria University's City Campus on April 16, 2016 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. The bus came to Tyneside as part of a tour as the In campaign officially begins ahead of the European referendum on June 23. Britain will vote either to leave or remain in the EU in a referendum on June 23.  (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Nigel Farage, whose resignation and reinstatement as head of UKIP made him the JD of politics (without the warmth), now has bragging rights and insists they have won “without firing a bullet”, seemingly forgetting that an Leave-campaigning Labour MP was numbingly shot dead only two weeks ago.

Some of my friends are under 18 (and please let’s avoid any jokes about me being under Operation Yewtree). I’ve never considered it an issue purely for the fact they have informed decisions; when I was 16 or 17, I had no idea about politics, but today’s society are much more informed. This decision affects them more than it affects an 80-year-old. We respect anyone who voted, for sure, but this fact rankles with anyone of any age.

In recent years, we have seen people of the same sex allowed to marry. We have seen a coalition government. We have seen progress and equality. In 2016, we couldn’t be more far away from progression if we tried. The world is going backwards – the Orlando shootings, the death of Jo Cox and now this decision.

Suddenly, the idea of an eccentric, posh child running the country doesn’t seem as entertaining as it did when it was for half an hour on a comedy panel show.

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Ned and Gone – How ‘Alone Again, Natura-Diddly’ Lacked the Necessary Heart

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In the past, The Simpsons‘ brushes with death, or any kind of significant loss, were emotionally devastating episodes that still kept the laughs high and credible. 

When Grandpa’s love interest Bea passed on in Old Money, the crinkly curmudgeon’s chance of a twilight tryst was cruelly tarnished. Even more prominent was ‘Round Springfield, one of the many episodes that belies the belief that the Lisa-centric episodes are the poorest; losing her idol, ‘Bleeding Gums’ Murphy, was the first human loss the Simpsons sister had encountered, and scene-for-scene we empathise with her growing grief. In Season Eleven’s Alone Again, Natura-Diddly, a tragic loss occurs, but this time, the blend of subtle comedy and bereft emotions doesn’t quite coagulate.

Ned is an incredibly likeable character, but it is easy to see why Homer finds him such an antagonistic enemy. More prominent in the earlier seasons, Ned was presented as the man Homer wanted to be – he had respect from his kids, seemed well-off financially and genuinely had good luck, a contrast to the toil and graft Homer had to endure.

However, while episodes focused on, say, Krusty the Clown and Mr. Burns were intriguing insights into secondary characters, giving them vital layers in the process, the shows that cast their net onto the Flanders flock have been surprisingly damaging. Hurricane Neddy did as much carnage as the gales that destroyed the neighboureeno’s house – instead of Ned’s resistance to rage being part of his good-natured psyche, instead it was because he was a mentally unstable time bomb, his anger suppressed because of a repressed childhood.

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Death was handled with a deft touch in previous Simpsons episodes, but here it is dealt in a clumsy fashion. Perhaps the key reason is while in the past killing characters off would have been a conscious decision, in this episode it was a mere obligation – Maggie Roswell, the voice of the departed Maude, quit over a pay dispute. The writers could have replaced her, seeing as Maude’s role was only tertiary, but instead they saw it as a chance to create a ‘gimmick’ episode. It’s that word that is, sadly, key to what ensues.

Watching the episode now, I am left feeling bereft, and not in the intended way. By this point in the show, scripts were vetoing heart in favour of cheap laughs, and this very episode arrived hot on the heels of the critically-mauled Saddlesore Galactica. But after that slice of sewage, Alone Again… presented a chance to be a jolt of overwhelming despair, as Springfield’s happy-go-lucky resident experiences an irreparable, loss. It was, in short, a chance for written redemption. Regrettably, it doesn’t deliver.

There are so many missed opportunities in the show that you almost feel like pausing and pointing out in wonderment. What could have formed the show’s emotional arc appears far too late, and far too briefly – Ned has a crisis of faith, turning his back on the Almighty and questioning why He took Maude away. Here, you feel was a moment that could have sparked a show filled with emotional investment. Instead, it’s treated as a quick joke to demonstrate Ned’s unflinching worship. However, even his anti-God outburst (a diatribe about the church chocolate) is flimsily handled.

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Then there’s Homer’s role in the show. One of the best scenes in the episode is Homer being awoken by Ned throwing stones at the window, unable to sleep as he cogitates the loss of his wife. It’s a genuine scene that feels real and heartening, but, again, it’s instantly ruined by crass comments about Homer parking in the ambulance bay. Think back to Old Money, when Homer was inadvertently responsible for Abe missing Bea’s final night, and the heavy sense of remorse he felt. On this show, he was both indirectly and directly responsible for Maude’s death, and seems to take perverse glee in announcing it. Quite why Homer is so prominent in the episode is a mystery; although his attempt at making a dating video provokes some chuckles, it steals valuable script time from the story’s main plot.

What could have been an episode that delivered loss and transience in a comedic manner instead became a blurred tonal clash of meta commentary (Maude’s funeral), lowbrow commercialism (the “Let ‘Er R.I.P.” t-shirts) and, worse, hardcore nudity (Ned’s pixellated, and ample, genitals).

The only part of the show I truly liked was the end, when Ned, reluctantly hopeful, says “my name’s Ned Flanders, and I’m here every week, rain or shine.” It garners sentiment, but then you stop and realise within the half an hour, there really wasn’t any. In an episode that was meant to be sad and funny, that’s perhaps the most devastating thing.

 

 

 

 

Fresher 15 – The Songs That Shaped May

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1). Beck – Wow

After the sun-drenched rocker ‘Dreams’ last year, Beck returns with a song that mixes his eclectic approach with a more modern twist. His trademark drawling howl doesn’t rear its head until right at the end; before then we have Spaghetti western whistling, Rivers Cuomo-esque rapping and an enviable amount of samples. “Giddy up,” he shouts. Ok.

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2). Radiohead – Burn the Witch

Taut, scary violins and an immersive percussion all introduce Radiohead’s comeback single, a snippet of their critically acclaimed A Moon Shaped Pool. Driven by Thom Yorke’s typically empowering vocal work, ‘Burn the Witch’ continues to build into a thrilling crescendo.

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3). The Gotobeds – Bodies

Sub Pop’s latest signing play to the label’s strengths – rollicking out of the traps like Yick at their most ferocious, ‘Bodies’ is a rip-roaring slice of grunge/pop that explodes into a Cribs-style chorus.

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4). Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dark Necessities

Swapping long-term knob twiddler Rick Rubin for Danger Mouse was a masterstroke for RHCP; on ‘Dark Necessities’, the sound recharged and refocused, as the five-minute opus contains a thrilling guitar riff, a haunting piano motif and, of course, Flea’s warbling bass.

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5). The Strokes – Oblivius

While it might not have been the album many Strokes fans had been hoping for, their new EP Future Present Past has shown the band still have a handy way with lo-fi, strutting anthems. ‘Oblivius’ sounds like a mature take on Is This It‘s twitchy riffs, before giving way to a glorious chorus.

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6). Dinosaur Jr. – Goin Down

Another band on the comeback trail, of sorts, is Amherst’s finest Dinosaur Jr. While ‘Tiny’ is the official lead single, the trio aired ‘Goin Down’ – the opener to new record Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not – on Later…, and its yearning chorus, chunky riffs and typically squalling solo suggest we’re deep in ‘The Wagon’ country.

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7). The Orielles – Jobin 

Halifax’s finest are well and truly back with their Jobin EP, three strong collections of harmony-addled, reverb-drenched rock. The title track is a bittersweet piece of mid-paced majesty, taking Teenage Fanclub’s knack for melody and twisting into a chorus-dabbed yearn.

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8). BRONCHO – Fantasy Boys

Sounding like a more expressive Christopher Owens, BRONCHO’s ‘Fantasy Boys’ also shares Owens’ knack for layered melodies and gorgeous harmonies. Building from a riff steeped in echo, the drums continue to uplift it into a genuine anthem.

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9). Yung – Commercial

Like with Sub Pop, when a band signs to Fat Possum, you half know what to expect. Denmark’s Yung have certainly done their homework – sounding like early Posies and a deeper Bully, ‘Commerical’ is roared along by a propulsive bass line and wonderfully scuzzy guitar work.

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10). Catfish and the Bottlemen – Anything

The Llandudno rockers are now firmly in the arena-rock pantheon, but they still have a handy way with a tune. The Ride might not be big on originality, but it’s big on tunes, and ‘Anything’ is one of the best. “I don’t wanna picture our firstborn, if you’ve stopped discussing names with me,” Van McCann shouts.

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11). Let’s Eat Grandma – Deep Six Textbook

Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton are both childhood friends, but there’s nothing innocent about Let’s Eat Grandma. Sinister, eerie vocals bathe ‘Deep Six Textbook’, along with an ambient beat straight out of Beach House’s textbook.

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12). sir Was – Falcon

“This loneliness is not for you and me,” sir Was instructs on this dark, brooding slice of trip hop. Joel Wastberg, aka sir Was, has won plaudits for his minimal approach, and ‘Falcon’ is a good example of the Gothenberg muse’s knack for dark samples and Miike Snow-esque vocals.

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13). Seratones – Choking On Your Spit 

A fast-sliced, Kings of Leon-style slice of rock, ‘Choking On Your Spit’ has grit and sawdust running through its two-minute run. Alongside this southern-fried riff though is singer A.J. Haynes, who blows away any remaining cobwebs with the kind of warble that can stop traffic.

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14). Savoy Motel – Souvenir Shop Rock

A jam band by nature, ‘Souvenir Shop Rock’ is the perfect introduction to Savoy Motel’s restless funk rock. With wah-wah guitar solos and strident trumpets, escape to the ’70s with this irresistible banger.

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15). Band Of Skulls – So Good

The leather-clad trio are back with new album By Default, which branches out their brand of bruising rock with more funk and feel. ‘So Good’ was the first cut from the record, which had a danceability that Alex Kapranos would doff his fringe to.

 

 

Car Crash Television – How Top Gear Became Even More Tired

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When David Moyes stepped into Sir Alex Ferguson’s shoes, there was a mix of anticipation and disappointment. When Poochie came on the Itchy & Scratchy Show, there was bloated hyperbole and excessively viral marketing campaigns. When Guns & Roses released Chinese Democracy, there was a grim inevitability that it would be half-baked and overblown. All of these reactions can be applied to the ‘revamped’ Top Gear, which went straight through the windshield on Sunday night.

The reason the word ‘revamped’ is in apostrophes is because, bar new presenters, the new show was essentially the same format that was instilled during the previous reign, which itself had begun to grow stale around 2012. Of course, it was always going to be hard to gain universal acclaim – change the show too much and the 350,000,000 viewers would balk at such betrayal; keep the show the same, and you run the risk of people getting misty-eyed over May. They elected to go for the latter, with disastrous results. The show was a wave of tedium; the banter was forced and unfunny, the challenge trivial and trite. The only thing more careful than Jesse Eisenberg’s lap was the way LeBlanc and Evans skated around their heavily-scripted badinage.

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Let’s start with the show’s co-anchor, Matt LeBlanc, the lesser of two evils. While his grizzled, morose presence permeated grim indifference, it was his aloof shtick that gave the show a few plus points. However, it was clear he was on the kind of acting autopilot last seen during Season Two of Joey. They also relied far too heavily on the fact he was the show’s first non-UK host. “We went to somewhere called…Blackpool,” LeBlanc frowned. “Another English tradition I’m not familiar with is…” he drawled at another point. Yes, we get it, you’re American – you half expected LeBlanc to pronounce it “Bry Tain” and to chuckle at someone’s dodgy gnashers.

The first challenge was also incredibly disappointing. Taking to the road in Reliant Robins, instead of the natural one-liners that would be spouted from the show’s previous hosts – Clarkson, May and Hammond – it felt stilted and awkward, not least when Evans moronically urged LeBlanc over the finish line and engaged in mawkish high-fives, as if to hammer home the fact they got on; he might as well have gurned to the screen and said “look, chemistry!” This came after the fact LeBlanc had spent most of the journey on the back of an AA truck. And yet, they kept it in. Think back to all those engaging Top Gear challenges – the kit cars, for example – and not once was a presenter championed for sitting back in his malfunctioned seat while another car did the work.

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To summarise the substitution of Clarkson with Evans, let’s use Liverpool FC as a pertinent example. When they ditched Luis Suarez, they instead bought in Mario Balotelli, and many joked that then-manager Brendan Rodgers had ditched football’s most difficult player, only to bring in the player at number two. This is similar to Top Gear – while he has yet to punch someone, Evans is hardly a universally-adored figure. His laddish, loudmouth style may work on TFI Friday, but within the realm of Top Gear, he was like a child on too much Dib Dab, urging the crowd to cheer at puddles and Indian restaurant workers (all for a stifled joke about “catering”). He became a tiresome Clarkson tribute act – all that was missing was the graying curls and love of Genesis. Jokes about G-strings, blood types and Braveheart slipped awkwardly out of Evans’ mouth like a dying trout, all delivered in a quasi-Clarkson brogue which lacked none of his predecessor’s humour.

The show presented a chance for a reboot to a tired franchise, but instead took this dying formula and diluted it. Even female presenter Sabine Schmitz was called “Top Gear‘s top girl,” belying the fact the show was now sexism-free. Clarkson may have his knockers, but at his peak he was dangerously funny; he didn’t give two solids when it came to saying what was on his mind, and his buffoonery could occasionally be endearing. Furthermore, his friendship with May and Hammond felt totally believable; it’s hard to imagine LeBlanc and Evans chumming up at the pub afterwards.

Maybe it’ll get better, but right now Clarkson must be spinning in his grave; or rather, his Amazon chair.