2008 : FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE
Happy new year - though not, one suspects, for the majority of the world.
If the world's balance sheet for 2007 showed a vast credit to the few and an even heftier debit to the majority, the balance sheet for 2008 shows that the majority of people remain terribly poor, but that this time a few at the top have had to sell a yacht or two. This may be wealth redistribution of sorts, but despite claims to the contrary, it sure ain't socialism.
Besides, the obituaries to neoliberalism are premature. The free market has been found wanting, but in the UK the Work and Pensions Secretary still merrily hounds the most vulnerable people into jobs that don’t exist, while his (unelected) colleague Lord Mandelson prepares 50,000 P45s via the part-privatisation of Royal Mail.
And for all the (deserved) euphoria of his victory, Barack Obama shows no signs of challenging the disastrous system that he will inherit; he has watched the annihilation of the Palestinian people without muttering a word in anger, and he has been bullish about further troop deployment in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So, while we may cheer the fates that have befallen our most contemptible brethren (including this man, who has lost his party the election, lost $35,000 by neglecting his own website, and sustained minor bumps and bruises from a flying Baghdadi shoe), I think a straw poll of the world’s population would show that life hasn’t got much better for most people. Whether we opt for socialism, nationalism or something more barbaric next year remains to be seen.
But let’s not be too downbeat – 2008 has borne witness to the odd moments of joy as well. This lady has provided most of them for me – I haven’t been in too many relationships before, but my word, I’ve developed a taste for this one. Without wishing to sound smug, I am the luckiest Peruvian bear that has ever got waylaid in a West London train station, and I can't wait to spend another year (and another, and another) as her partner in crime.
Best album of the year? I’m tempted to reprise last year’s winner – even a Mercury nomination couldn’t stop Untrue sounding even better than it did in 2007. In fact, people have decried dubstep this year for becoming too generic, but Appleblim’s Dubstep Allstars Volume 6 mix was almost as good as anything I heard this year. Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III was the only record that topped it – a lush, poppy, deeply unpleasant album by a man whose musical fertility seemed almost inexhaustible in 2008. Ploughing a deeper furrow, Giggs’s Walk in da Park is essential – everything else sounds trivial in comparison. Kanye West’s 808 and Heartbreaks sounds almost perfunctory at first - it is undignified, but it's also an awkwardly terrific bit of misery pop. Third was a grower, while Knowle West Boy didn’t quite last the course; the bits I have heard of the Flying Lotus album are headily confusing, and their Radio 1 mix was delicious.
Single of the year? Tough call, but sometimes you’ve got to trust your instincts - “Put a donk on it” and “The message is love” by Jammer and Badness win hands-down. “Message” is a bipolar, soca-soaked headfuck, all bassline-bass, panpipes, demented scramping (mixture of screaming and rapping – copyright me), vibrato Hammond organs and lover’s rock crooning (“Hey girrrrrrrl ... hey girrrrrrl, the message is love ... come over here girl, I want to show you a real ... man ... makes ... love ... to a woman...) . “Donk” conjures up bassline, electro and techno in its chorus, and then has a dippy Peter Kayish middle eight played on acoustic guitar. “Disturbia”, “Wow” and Yo! Majesty make up the rest of the top five (whisper it, but I was also rather partial to “Love is noise” by the Verve too – though of course I shall fully respect you if you never visit this blog again).
Best gig? DV and I went to a bunch this year, some of them great (kode9 & Spaceape and Philip Jeck at the Museum of Garden History, Gang of Four at the Barbican), some of them not so great (DJ Shadow and TV on the Radio were both disappointing; Nick Harper at Komedia in Brighton was abysmal). But when Public Enemy played Nation of Millions at Brixton Academy in May, my resentment at not being 15 in 1988 receded immediately – the performance was incendiary, and reintroduced the bass and hard beats that get lost on the CD version.
Best film? The Baader Meinhof Complex, a subtle but unrestrained film that just about transcends the horrible credits sequence.
Best books? Neither from 2008, but New Grub Street and Planet of Slums are both heartbreaking tales of proletarianisation (Zola’s Germinal, which I am reading now, joins this genre as well, as does this "gothic novel," which returned to the best-sellers list in 2008).
Resolution for 2009? I MUST SPEND MORE TIME ON MY BLOG I MUST SPEND MORE TIME ON MY BLOG I MUST SPEND MORE TIME ON MY BLOG. Expect a couple of posts on Thorpeness and Sizewell soon, inspired by a very cold and not-very-festive Christmas walk - and, of course, the usual new year fishy facts (inspired by my recent receipt of Prue Leith's Fish Bible).