The Mo’Wax Urban Architecture exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall wasn’t quite as grand as I expected (newcomers to the label should pick up the book for some background), but the densely packed cabinets should make the visit worthwhile if you’re interested in early 1990s hip-hop and it’s connections to London and Tokyo. While all eyes might be on the canvases, these displays are full of elements omitted from the tie-in publication — James Lavelle’s business card hoarding seems to have paid off. I hadn’t even thought about Yankee Peddler since the mid 1990s, when he had the ads in toy magazines that promised a veritable emporium of action figures and made me wish I owned a fax machine so I could get a catalogue. That Major Force card gives me Patrick Bateman levels of envy too. I’m not sure how many casual browsers passing through the Festival Hall would care about this kind of thing, but I certainly appreciated it. Shit, I’d gladly pay to visit a show that was entirely 1985-1999 hip-hop business cards and if you’re similarly geeky, go check it out before it finishes later next week.
The only marketing I’m interesting in right now is these urgent adverts from 1995 pirate radio stations like Shockin 90.0 and Dream FM 107.6. Defunct Kingston clubs, tape packs, and things that only Brits of a certain generation will be able to comprehend, are just part of the announcements recorded here. This beats your carefully mapped communication strategy.
Port magazine‘s cover story on Ralph Lauren by Donald Morrison makes the most of a rare opportunity and it’s refreshingly free of the sycophancy that I would have brought to it (though the celebrity soundbites are full of superlatives). I was trying to fathom the influence on Mo’Wax the other day, which was influenced by Stüssy and the Beastie Boys, who were presumably influenced by the Clash who may well have taken inspiration from Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s work. It’s tough to pinpoint a solitary influence in things I love, but I know one thing: Lauren’s company is the brand that every streetwear brand wishes it was, even if most of us are chasing the little pony rather than aspiring to ride a horse on a ranch somewhere. Nobody sells a lifestyle like this guy. The world density map of stores is a nice touch (there’s 474,951 square feet of Ralph Lauren stores in the States) too.
I spent most of this weekend watching ‘Apocalypse Now’ on Blu-ray at the expense of a social life. It was worth it. In the UK, we’re frequently denied the good stuff on the Coppola side — what happened to a DVD of ‘The Outsiders’ (my favourite film ever)? In the US they’ve had the original film on a bare-bones DVD for over a decade, and a special edition for five years. We never seemed to get ‘Hearts of Darkness’ on DVD either. Then Optimum films took pity on us and gave us the entire ‘Full Disclosure’ 3-disc edition smartly repackaged, at a cheap RRP and they’re bringing out a Blu-ray of ‘The Outsiders’ on the 12th of September, 2011. I grew up with ‘Apocalypse Now’ but I overindulged.
As a small child I re-read the ‘Mad’ parody at my uncle’s house again and again, and was surprised that it bore little resemblance to the film when I got round to watching it – I was emotionally unequipped to appreciate the down-river journey, and I just liked the explosions and mirror punching. As a jumped-up teenager, I saw the parallels between Conrad’s text and the film.
‘Hearts of Darkness’ hipped me to the mythical plantation scene, just as various ‘The Exorcist’ documentaries told me about the ‘Spiderwalk’. Both excised scenes are effective, but I could live without them, but their eventual inclusion was appreciated. I love the idea that Coppola ditched the plantation because out of a temper tantrum in that relentless humidity above anything else — it obviously incorporated plenty of work but it was written out entirely, and that documentary does a fine job of showing just how much the trade and national press was quietly willing the film to fail, and the ruffled-looking Francis looks downright shell-shocked during the premiere scene at the end.
I loved ‘Apocalypse Now: Redux’ – restorations like the surfboard stealing and eerie Playboy prostitution for fuel makes for a deeper film, but what was startling was how elaborate some of the excised scenes were — they weren’t bland indoor excesses of dialogue, but vast set pieces. Coppola had evidently edited with extreme prejudice in the late 1970s. It wasn’t a Lucas-esque return-to-it-to-ruin-it affair, but something that felt like unfinished business.
As a barely related digression, FHM magazine had a ‘What’s Wrong With FHM?’ section years ago, where you could submit an error you’d spotted and win £20. I once read Phil Oakey in there saying that he had a real obsession with ‘Apocalypse Now’ in 1975, wrote in to point out that Phil was lying and got the money, which paid for a week’s food in those self-inflicted starving writer times. Alongside some kind of Q&A I had with ‘Front’ which I can barely recall, it’s one of two times a friend has seen my name in print and mentioned it to me. As a big Human League fan, I then felt remorse — envisioning someone showing Phil my smug little letter, and Phil calling me a “sad twat” beneath his breath.
Then I took it too far – I got my hands on the work print that ran at around five hours. Ponderous, bad quality, occasionally intelligible (Brando’s turn beneath extra fuzz was intolerable), it added layers of flab to the film in the two hours of unnecessary extras over the director’s cut. Out of some curious filmgoer’s duty I spent half the daytime watching it, occasionally drifting into a sleep that would be disturbed by a murky napalm blast. That put me off ‘Apocalype Now’ for a couple of years.
The sole exciting addition beyond ‘Redux’ — other than how much more of a dick Willard is in this version — was the resolution of the mystery of where Dennis Hopper’s Photojournalist went after Kurtz lost it with him and what happened to Scott Glenn’s Lieutenant Colby – a great actor left mute in previous versions – Colby shot the Photojournalist dead during his escape and Colby was killed by Willard’s special forces knife. It’s a sloppy scene in terms of editing and effects in its uncooked state — evoking that point in ‘Hearts of Darkness’ when the director feels he doesn’t know how to end the film once he’s at Kurtz’s compound — but it’s one of the meatiest deleted scenes in a long time. It even puts that excellent uncut Drexl hotel drug deal on the ‘True Romance’ DVD in the shade.
The Collector’s Edition Blu-ray includes that scene (plus the monkeys on a boat, with the tribal Doors cover) on a disc in a complete carry-over of the ‘Full Disclosure’ DVD set, but it’s the quality of the Blu-ray transfer for both official versions of the film that finally put bad memories of that muggy afternoon squinting at that screen away for good. Given the film’s lack of opening or end credits, it’s nice to get a copy of Coppola’s theatre-style programme for the film too — that theatrical idea echoes throughout his later films, whether it’s ‘Rumble Fish’s stagey feel or ‘Tetro’s operatic, overblown finale. And yes, I have to concede it — ‘Hearts of Darkness’ is an even better behind-the-scenes supplement than ‘If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It: The Making of ‘Predator’. I love ‘Apocalypse Now’ all over again.
I also revisited Michael Gross’s ‘Genuine Authentic’ again in light of recent movements with the Ralph Lauren brands. For those who don’t know – the book was meant to be an authorised biography of Lauren, but Gross’s insistence on revealing a mid 1990’s indiscretion put the two at loggerheads, and the outcome certainly feels significantly cattier throughout as a result. But if you can get beyond the notion of Lauren as a narcissist (and I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t), the idea that he’s playing at high society, despite his humble origins, or the cowboy stuff as a grown-up form of playing fancy dress – which was always evident – then the book still aids in appreciation of what Ralph built.
‘Genuine Authentic’ indicates that Polo Sport was the brand’s reaction to Hilfiger and the “urban” dollar it chased (and the use of Tyson Beckford as the brand’s face was a shrewd one), but it’s denim that’s depicted as Ralph’s white whale and the thing he pursues to perfect, but constantly fails with – RRL is periodically lampooned as one of Ralph’s whims. As the book ends, on mentioning the RRL store opening in Soho in late 2000, “Vintage jeans can run into the thousands — and some of the salespeople in the store, who collect rare jeans themselves, will tell you why. They have the time. The store is often empty.”
I wonder if a revision would include the RRL line’s ascent in recent years? Still, like the excellent ‘Swoosh’, despite an agenda (‘Swoosh’ was partly penned by J.B. Strasser, the widow of Rob Strasser who helped Nike conquer with his marketing genius), it’s an absorbing read that’s unsullied by any official company line.
‘PORT’ #2 is pretty good. Even if the promo video talk of a revolution on paper never fully materialised, it reads like a faintly more accessible ‘Monocle’ (it’s all about the briefings these days) and the features on Harry Gasner and David Remnick are excellent. Martin Amis on teen hitmen in Columbia is an alarming read, but the Remnick piece justifiably takes cover space — if you’ve ever had a tight editing deadline on anything and felt that pressure, consider the content that Remnick and the ‘New Yorker’ crew have to put out weekly to the terrifyingly thorough standards that the likes of E.B. White laid down all those years ago. If a great writer like Remnick claims he feels like a “pretender” in his role there, then how fraudulent are the majority elsewhere, pumping out ad-led crap on a bi monthly or quarterly basis?
This week I had to buy another grown-up watch, because I’m too old for digital. But no Rolex or Omega can compete with my love for the Three 6 Mafia ALIFE G-Shock that my friend, Mr. BJ Betts got me a few years back. I’m way too old to be wearing this, but it reminds me of a happier time, plus my fondness for the music of Juicy J and Three 6 — who I think get better and better — in the present day. This must be one of the most lazy/restrained collaborations ever – for all the skull tees and lean consumption, they just put ‘666’ on the strap and ‘MAFIA EDITION’ down the sides. I kind of respect that, but I hate the fact I’m ancient and can’t wear this stuff any more. Having said that, age won’t stop me from enjoying that new Gunplay mixtape.
‘Crack & Shine International’ looks very smart in the flesh. Shouts to Topsafe for this one. The silver on black reminds me of the ‘Unexplained’ book of mysteries I grew up with that left me emotionally scarred for life with an array of pictures of spontaneous combustion victims and ghosts in churches. Of course, this is a graffiti book rather than a ghost book, but I hope it affects a generation of potential weirdos in the same way.
On these pages I’ve talked too much about sweatshirts — about Champion, about the Dexys’ “Athletic Monk” phase and about how Einstein wore fleece jersey very well indeed. But I like to exorcise my preoccupations on this blog, so I’m happy to repeat myself. “Exorcise” was the intended spelling, because I’ll be damned if I ever wear cotton fleece to actually exercise. I love grey cotton jersey.
It can be worn with anything as an utterly neutral accompaniment. For me, it’s a wearable comfort blanket — I can remember growing up in bootleg ‘A-Team’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ (complete with a lurid Smarties stain) grey sweats, then becoming obsessed with the same colour in skate wear before getting myself some ludicrously oversized Carhartt hoodies in outmeal and grey that had the perfect imperfections that the marl meeting-of-faintly-differing-yarns guarantees.
Some days the repro slim fit feels right, and other days, I want some cheap boxy excess to my sweats. So I keep a stack at hand. It could be made in Japan, Indonesia, Canada, England or assembled in the Dominican Republic (from American components) — it doesn’t matter. Loopwheeled or straight from a sweatshop? Whatever. Raglan sleeves and side panels make for the very best examples of everyman apparel done to perfection.
Sometimes those excessive stitches externally can make the garment too fussy. Less is more, but I mourn for the mass of zig-zags and ribbed shoulders of my £9.99 Gap 1969 variation – missing in action since 2005 . Just as Gap seem to have missed the khaki boat of recent years, much of the year 2000’s 1969 collection was slept-on before it was reduced to little more than a tenner for each component.
Like my white t-shirt quest, each sweatshirt has a shortcoming somewhere that reveals itself during repeat wears and washes. Thus, I’ll keep adding to the pile until I reach my platonic ideal (though it’s worth noting that Our Legacy make a sweatshirt that veers toward my idea of a perfect fit after 20+ washes).
If finding a solitary sweatshirt that ticks the boxes is tough, finding the whole suit is an even tougher brief. Nothing beats the grown-up romper suit styling of the marl tracksuit (hood and zipper optional) for the last word in anti-formality. It’s you’re engaged in physical activity for a living, it’s the non-work suit . Patta’s underrated outfit with Reigning Champ last year has the best track pants I’ve worn in a long, long time. They’re heavyweight, but they’re not excessively ASBO baggy.
Despite working in an environment devoid of dress code, my plan to visit work in them fizzled out because a. They made me look like a mature sports science student who’s going to get kicked of his course and b. Because I didn’t want to associate loungewear with the workplace — that’s separate worlds colliding.
Still, the full tracksuit shouldn’t be confined to the sofa and the airport. It shouldn’t just be for the wifebeaters, shoplifters and crap degree seminar attendees. Executed correctly, it’s a work of art (Timberlands are optional). Just as the tracksuit deserves an open mind, marl doesn’t need to be grey. Pink and orange marl are strong looks. But the wings + horns Large Loop Terry Sweat Suit (a pretty late arrival, seeing as there’s only a month or two left of probable full sweatsuit weather left) as brought to my attention by Hypebeast, but available from Canada’s Haven are more proof that CYC keeps on running this sweatshirt game. It’s officially the best item of clothing I’ve seen this year.
Other good things spotted today:
The UK’s Beat Butcha producing Havoc’s pre-Prodigy release banger ‘Bang On My Bullshit’ (when P gets on Twitter, the current Sheen-mania will subside in favour of Albert’s trouble-making) is worth repeat listens. I don’t fuck with too much UK hip-hop, solely because our scene is corny as fuck, but Beat Butcha’s got beats for days and he’s had Sean Price and Tony Yayo (over the Hav beat) blessing his productions. UK stand up.
‘PORT’ finally hit shelves. Of course, it couldn’t live up to those breathless pre-release Vimeo testimonies, but it’s very good. It’s content-heavy without being oppressively dense with text, beautifully designed and well written. It still doesn’t feel fully formed — as is the case with any launch issue (and I always feel like an idiot buying anything billed as “Intelligent”), but the Commentary section is better than anything I’ve read in any other magazine lately. There’s a decent article on Nike’s Sports Research Laboratory and Innovation Kitchen, plus Margaret Howell extols the virtues to the duffle coat in here too. I hope it proves successful. There’s a decent Creative Review interview with guys behind the magazine here.
What’s the point of getting up in the morning? You could get thrown over the dashboard of a speeding car on the way to grab provisions, go into a coma for the rest of the year and not miss a damned thing. That’s pretty frightening. It’s also a grand overstatement —there’s lots to look forward over the next year. Put down those pills and close that tab that’s open on alt.sucide.methods. Get involved with these things…
MIKE TYSON & THE ANIMALS
Iron Mike’s autobiography might be MIA at the moment, but Tyson’s sounding mighty healthy on both Twitter and in the real world. He’s looking a little leaner and he’s got an Animal Planet show; ‘Taking On Tyson’ which seems to be a pigeon racing reality show, with Tyson traveling the world (including Scotland) to discuss his feathered friends. If that doesn’t appeal to you, we’re not on the same wavelength. Kudos to whoever pitched it in to the network too…it probably wasn’t an easy sell. This show debuts on TV Stateside in March.
BIG BROTHER’S BACK
While the Dave Carney ‘Boob’ book is still inexplicably hard-to-obtain, there’s a whole documentary on Big Brother magazine in the making. ‘The Big Brother Memoir: A Stupid Skateboard Magazine’ may well be an extension of the footage posted on the Jackass site a few years back and it’ll probably disappear into the 24 month limbo that skate-related documentaries have a habit of slipping into but it’ll be worth the wait. There’s a lot of magazines dropping these days, but which ones have any personality? Big Brother in its heyday was absolutely untouchable and an arguable influence on the next wave of pretty much everything for those who experienced it. You already knew about these PDFs, didn’t you?
THE SOUND OF araabMUZIK
The current wave of rap-related viral videos seems to be built on addressing rumours and interview arguments. Boring. araabMUZIK videos are hypnotic. The MVP of the MPC is the most interesting to watch at work, and while he isn’t the first to make similar sounds (he sounds like the hyperactive child of Mannie, Justin and prime Heatmakerz), Lex Luger seemed to be…ummm…”inspired” by his work when he gave Jay and ‘Ye a track over which they inexplicably opted to rap like they’d had a Lemsip overdose instead of the requisite H.A.M. levels (at least it caused Busta to drop his annoying date rape flow for 2-minutes). araabMUZIK’s thrash metal team up was the least excruciating hip-hop and metal union since Faith No More & Boo-Yaa back in 1993, another recent video sees him tearing through live beat making with a nifty black-on-black Dipset piece around his neck—at 08:37 he unleashes the kind of drama music that’ll make you want to strike a stranger. What exactly is in that cup?
ANOTHER DEF JAM BOOK
Stacy Gueraseva’s book on Def Jam five years ago was a must-buy, and on a glossier and officially licensed level, the Rizzoli ’25 Years of Def Jam’ effort should be great too. Reuniting Dan Charnas (writer of the essential ‘The Big Payback’ ) with old mentor Bill Adler, there’s no cover or in-depth information as of yet regarding cover art or content other than its hardback status and September release date. Will it have a whole chapter on Jayo Felony? Highly doubtful.
LARRY CLARK IN LONDON AGAIN
Larry Clark’s ‘What do you do for fun?’ exhibition opens at the Simon Lee Gallery on February 10th. It should make up for missing the ‘Kiss the Past Hello’ show in Paris last year, and from a preview on the Simon Lee site, it’s significantly more wide-ranging than the ‘Los Angeles 2003-2006’ offerings at the same space in early 2008. It’s unknown as to whether the newly unearthed silent ‘Tulsa’ 16mm film will accompany it (supposedly, the movie was recently limited to a run of 5 DVD copies).
Vasque never really went anywhere, but for the fans, there’s two versions of this boot—the current old man hikers and weird trainer hybrids and the ones you used to eye up in the Source. The preoccupation with hiking gear is unlikely to go anytime soon so we might as well have the best and I suspect my homie Mr. Ronnie Fieg—a Vasque boot superfan and the David Z frontman for special projects—will do something with the Sundowner or Super Hiker, even if they’re not Italian made any more like they were in the early ’90s. The brand’s attempt to break the UK market a few years back via some brash lad-mag ads remains an odd move.
PORT LOOKS INTERESTING
Big name magazine launches can be sheer wankery, but ‘PORT’ looks promising. Editor Dan Crowe’s Zembla literary magazine was a superb effort, and while Port’s emphasis seems to be style, there’s plenty of substance promised for its March launch. My days of reading magazines cover-to-cover seem to be numbered, but hopefully this one might restore my papery OCD. I just want to pick up something authoritative. It has a poetry editor and Daniel Day-Lewis writing an essay on Gaza. That’s enough to confer investigation, and it launches at a point when iPad compatibility is more than a rushed afterthought too.
This picture from the new Palace line is straight swaggerjacked from the Hideout’s site. I remember happy days of local skate shops stocking a rail bought seemingly at random from New Deal or Shiner, and simply buying the most eyecatching tee, complete with a barely concealed Hanes (or far, far worse in the thickness stakes). This New York Giants style effort is some no-nonsense branding that harks back to happy days of Holmes and many that went before.
Yes, that really was the name of the chimp taught a form of sign language decades ago, who apparently unleashed the 16-word sentence through these gestures, “Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you.” Mired in debate, it served to reinforce our relationship with our simian neighbours. ‘Project Nim,’ directed by James Marsh (the man behind ‘Man on Wire’ —a documentary that left me cold), tells the story of the monkey raised as a human, and the byproduct of the experiment. As a chimp superfan, I can’t wait to see it. After showing at Sundance days ago, HBO swiftly picked it up.
TAKAHIRO MIYASHITA CAN’T LOSE
Just when outdoorsy screwfaces prove they’re here to stay temporarily, former Number (N)ine kingpin Takahiro Miyashita’s The Soloist project keeps on innovating in a weird way and the S/S 2011 collection is somewhere between woodland hipster buffoon, Victorian tinker, Hoth reconnaissance, the twins from ‘Rad’ and something far more innovative. Accompanying gear with New Balances, teaming with Oliver Peoples and using some very luxurious fabrics is a winner—as is Takahiro’s leisurely pace. While everyone else has let the cat out the bag for the whole year. Who knows what he’s got planned for the colder months?
SLEEPLESS NIGHTS STORIES
Avant-garde film director, writer, musician and artist Jonas Mekas is 87 years old and he’s still got more ideas and vanguard spirit than you. Don’t feel bad. He’s a genius. ‘Walden’ is a sprawling, brilliant headache of a film and he’s back after six years with an 8MM film experiment and ‘Sleepless Nights Stories’ which seems to have Björk and Harmony Korine involved too. That’s as much as we know.
Adam Kimmel’s been peddling terrifyingly expensive workwear that’s actually very wearable, plus something significantly sharper for a while now, so his alliance with Carhartt sounded pretty natural. A.P.C. and SOPHNET have done big things with the brand (though in the case of the latest SOPH, I’m not looking to dress like a train driver from the 1920s), but from shots on the Hideout’s blog, it looks significantly more cohesive and wearable as a total look. There’s pocket tees, three cashmere versions of the watch cap, but the jacket in the picture here is the one for me. It’ll terrorise your credit card when it drops, but if you slept on the Junya jacket early last year this might cheer you up. Initial reports indicate that the line is non-smedium.
MORE BOILER ROOM
Boiler Room is awesome on a number of levels. As I drop out the loop, FACT magazine and Boiler Room’s transmissions are something of a lifeline. USTREAM is often misused. For every transmitted sexual act, live suicide or other watchably grand gesture, there’s a drivel tsunami on the broadcast front. Team Boiler Room keep the strong lineups coming every Tuesday at 8…you too can experience Dalston as you imagine it to be, without having to deal with the everyday reality and twattery of the area. The SWAMP 81 label gets a showcase on Tuesday and I’ve been told there’s some serious guests booked for the rest of the year too.