Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Whitest Band In The World

A few years ago Christian Lander, the creator of the blog 'Stuff White People Like', when asked who was the whitest band, replied 'Vampire Weekend... they're pushing it to levels unseen'. As it turned out that assessment may have been a bit premature, as several other contenders have emerged in the meantime. Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver made city-dwelling white people all over fantasise about leaving their problems behind and going to sing and play guitar in a cabin in a mountain forest. The Arcade Fire continue to reach new levels of whiteness, releasing an album that is an extensive love/hate tribute to growing up in the suburbs. And Yeasayer, from Brooklyn via Baltimore, with their world music-influenced pop, and band members named Anand Wilder and Ira Wolf Tuton are perhaps even stronger contenders for the title than Ezra Koenig's crew.

Image: Stereogum

But none of them can compare to the xx. Name a prerequisite for whiteness and this band can tick it off. First, they are all as pale as the moon. The guy singer (Oliver Sim) has the smooth, deep, understated voice to make all white girls swoon and want to buy him a Shiraz Cabernet. The girl singer (Romy Madley Croft) is not overly physically attractive, so white girls don't feel threatened by her and white guys can like her and make believe they are sensitive. They hail from South London, placing them closer to the Tate Modern than Old Trafford. Their name centers around the white person's favourite letter (despite 'The X-Factor', the word 'ex' retains a special place in white people's vocabularies), and their album cover was a masterstroke of white person design - all black, with a white 'x' in the middle of it. Their music is dark, brooding, and romantic; a more mature version of teenager outsider poetry, with lines about bridges being on fire, and becoming crystallised, and watching things on VCRs. The xx are the ubiquitous white person group - they could fit into any white person club in any white person city and be wholeheartedly embraced. Because secretly every white person wants to form a band that is just like them.

P.S. I quite like the xx.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

How To Choose A Beer

People who know me would know that I like variety in my beer choices - someone once remarked that they had never seen me drink the same beer twice. Hence, I was excited when a store opened up near my place (Purvis Cellars) which had over 700 different types of beer - enough for me to try a new beer a day for almost two years. So far I have tried about a dozen new beers from there (note the introduction of the 'What I've Been Drinking' box on this blog), and have found that, really, beers are not all that different. The Whistler Lager from British Columbia I had today was fairly similar to the dozens of Crown Lagers I have had, and even the more exotic Rogue XS and Boont Amber Ale were not that different to other red and amber ales I have had.

And yet I'm still excited by going back to try more beers! Why? (OK, maybe being an alcoholic is part of it.) There are many wines I haven't tried, and yet I'm not as excited in seeking them out. A big part of it I think is the distinctive packaging and naming of beers. Have a new wine and you're likely to forget what it was in five minutes, whereas if you have a new beer, particularly a bottled beer, you're much more likely to remember it and can converse about it at a later date. This applies between beers as well; so far I've been more interested in trying the US and Canadian beers with cool names like Dead Guy Ale rather than the blandly packaged German beers whose names I have little chance of remembering. Frankly, if more wines had names like Dead Guy Merlot I would be more excited about tracking them down as well.

Well, that and beers taste better...

Cheers! - The Man With the Wooden Finger

Monday, October 4, 2010

Reflections on the AFL Grand Final Replay

Each year the AFL Premiership is surrounded by its own mythology about why the premier won and why in some sense it was inevitable. You would think that this year's replay would dispel some of those notions, given how different it was from the first match. But no, stories abound how Collingwood had the class to win a premiership and St. Kilda didn't - never mind that, if Lenny Hayes' kick had bounced the right way into Stephen Milne's hands, St. Kilda would most likely have won the premiership last week.

This is not to deny that Collingwood was generally the best performed team this year - its winning percentage this year indicates that it was - but to dispute how much weight is given to one match. Teams can play seven-game final series and still the better team can lose (even in this case, I thought Collingwood were the better team), so one should be cautious about passing judgment on a player or team based on the events of last Saturday. Collingwood played well enough over the season that they gave themselves a chance to play off for the premiership, but so did Geelong and so did St. Kilda, and we shouldn't overstate the gap between those sides. Last week there was nothing separating the Magpies and the Saints, and if the Saints had scored one more point, some of those 'expert judges' who are singing the Magpies' virtues would be calling them supreme choke artists. And that would be the wrong conclusion to draw as well.