tue 16/07/2019

theASHtray: Stanley Donwood, Mark Ronson, and Round Ireland with a flop | reviews, news & interviews

theASHtray: Stanley Donwood, Mark Ronson, and Round Ireland with a flop

theASHtray: Stanley Donwood, Mark Ronson, and Round Ireland with a flop

Yeah butt, no butt: our columnist sifts through the fag-ends of the cultural week

Detail from Stanley Donwood's 'Fleet Street Apocalypse'

A couple of nights ago I went to a book launch at Waterstone’s, Notting Hill, for a collection of un-illustrated short stories (Household Worms) by a visual artist (Stanley Donwood) perhaps best known for his work in the music industry (producing iconic record covers for Radiohead).

This invitation-only party was a circus of extroverted introverts: women in bow ties, men sporting double-breasted Van Gogh jackets, and almost everyone with “interesting” hair. Think the geekier end of the Radiohead fanbase crossed with, well, the west-London literary scene. Eyes closed, though, it was pretty good fun. Plenty of wine, a DJ set from The Wind-Up Merchant (on a pair of gleaming gramophones), and – in place of the calculatedly shy artist-author himself – tremendously enthusiastic readings from Ric Jerrom.

Alongside Donwood’s earlier Slowly Downward and other items, Household Worms itself was for sale both in regular format (£10 cash) and, as befits this artist’s slightly alternative way of doing business, one page at a time, blown up and signed for the princely sum of £3. Oscar Wilde, when told an incriminating letter of his might fetch a fiver in certain circles, rejoined that that seemed like a very good rate indeed; but I’m sure there are other ways of ascribing value. For myself, I chose the page nearest the top, with the most swear words on. Page 77 it was, I think.

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They’ve been showing Round Ireland with a Fridge again on the telly. This is a shame, because it is very bad – the worst part about it, by a Kilkenny country mile, being Tony Hawks’s decision to cast himself as… himself.

For a film with a lot of comedians in it, nobody is funny. I swear even the Irish actors are putting on Oirish accents. And Hawks – playing the amiable dunce who’s forced to make good on a drunken bet – sounds like he’s reading lines written for him by someone else. This, again, is a pity, because his original book was very funny (if you’re into the sort of travel humour where the hero finds himself in a place called Muff and ponders the setting up of a diving school).

For a long while Fridge d’Or films (chuckle) were literally giving this away, online, “for a PayPal donation”. But now they’re asking £4 per view, or £11 and you're stuck with a copy for life! Still – ahem – don’t let me put you off. Have a wee watch of the trailer, and see how you feel.

[NB I am moved to such uncharacteristic fits of pique because, ah, I was actually in Round Ireland with a Fridge. I even made it into the trailer. You’re looking for a man in a pub, holding a Guinness (obv), and methoding the part of one who is not broadly speaking amused at having volunteered to be an extra in a movie that’s turned out to be pants.]

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On the other hand, and in the teeth of an obvious no-no regarding those who’d cheekily advertise their wares in theartsdesk’s comments boxes, I have to say that I quite enjoyed watching Antarctic explorer Felicity Aston’s five-minute documentary on the other South Pole, the pub that Tom Crean set up when he returned from his third expedition to Antarctica. Having gone south with Scott twice, and then joined the Shackleton expedition, this otherwise thoroughly regular bloke, now “so far up there above us normal mortals” (in the words of his grandson), decided that what he really needed to do was settle down, start a family, and go about his business. There’s an appreciable modesty about Crean (and his neighbours) – in marked contrast, it must be said, to the bank-rollers of the film. Even allowing for Land Rover’s overt sponsorship of the mini-doc, there’s an unconscionable amount of driving around in a four-by-four, and I’m still not sure I believe that Tom Crean’s grandson just happens to live in a house called Discovery!

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Record producer Mark Ronson found himself in similar territory the other evening, on Newsnight. The sine qua non of modern Brit-pop has been tasked with creating the new Coke-sponsored Olympic anthem for London 2012, Anywhere in the World, and was of course being hauled in to justify the purity of his craft (from about 40mins) in the context of the mega-bucks sponsorship arrangement.

All things considered, I thought he handled it pretty well. Ronson’s not one for eye-contact, clearly, but he didn’t let himself be bullied by Mishal Husain (out to make her interrogative mark, it seems), and he managed, without faux-casual reference to the Medicis or Michelangelo, to make a straightforward and unapologetic case for art made with corporate funds, as well as making it perfectly clear that he, personally, would have no truck with producing shit for gold. (Easy to say, perhaps, when you’re already a superstar producer, but still…)

The snippets of him sampling sporting sound effects were predictable, and the lyrics of the resulting "song" are basically rubbish; but the advert itself reflects a bit of fun, musically and technically – and highlights the reality of the DJ as master of his own, contemporary orchestra.

Comments

Extremely damn nice writing, Mr ASH. Line of the year: I swear even the Irish actors are putting on Oirish accents. Just make an iota more stretch towards us Out people who dunno who the hell is who in In world. Iota, smidgen, liddlebit, not big freaken surgery. Nice.

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