Cambridge Days

Shaun of the Dead, Ian Brown Solarized

We just rented ‘Shaun of the Dead’, which proudly bills itself as ‘a romantic comedy, with zombies’. Unlike most movies, it actually delivers on that promise. Az laughed, I found it romantic, and yes, the walking undead get their screen time.

The kid at Blockbuster tried warning us off it, after hearing my American accent. “This is quite good,” he said, then hesitantly added “but very English”. Fair enough. But so then are Wallace and Gromit, Flying Circuses, and The Office – and they export just fine. (In truth, if ‘Warning: Very English!’ labels existed, I’d slap ’em on Walker’s “Roast-Lamb-and-Mint-Jelly flavour” potato chips, first thing. But I digress…)

Actually, there is one joke in ‘Shaun of The Dead’ that hit me as tragically, tearfully hilarious – largely because it is doomed to go unnoticed by most Americans. It happens like this:

Shaun and Ed, urgently needing weapons for zombie-head-removal, stumble across Shaun’s old record collection, at which point they frantically start tossing discs (Frisbee-style) at the neck of a nearby zombie. However, (and here’s the British comedy for ya) they can’t help but bicker and argue over which LP’s are too precious to be thrown at the zombie onslaught.

Ed [holding up a record]: Stone Roses?
Shaun: Noooo!
Ed: But it’s ‘Second Coming’.
Shaun [pauses]: I liked it!

Thing is, the Stone Roses hardly made a dent in American pop culture, and remain relatively unknown in the U.S. despite having been massive chart-toppers in the UK. The band released only two albums in their ten years, the first being hailed as the album of the decade, and the second (coming) widely trashed as… well, I liked it.

Sure, you’ll still find a few hopeless Roses fans (is there any other kind?) Stateside, and I proudly count myself amongst their number.

For Roses fans like me, it’s been a good week, and not just because they’ve written in-jokes for us into ‘Shaun of the Dead’. On September 13th, former Stone Roses lead singer Ian Brown released his fourth solo album, ‘Solarized’. I was personally excited because it was the first time I could buy one of his albums without an ‘Import’ sticker and 30-dollar price tag on the cover.

And how is it? Not half-bad, in fact.

A few tracks shine: the surprisingly sweet ‘Time is My Everything’ stands out as my initial favorite. (Respectably, ‘Time’ achieves the highly-improbable feat of substituting John Squire’s legendary guitar licks with latin horns, of all things.) ‘Longsight M13’ and ‘Keep What Ya Got’ (w/ Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher) also display the craftsmanship you’d expect for radio singles. Whether this ‘approachable’ sound was a production decision, or the result of Ian Brown recording this album sober (so he claims), I can’t say. But it’s better than the last one.

There’s still a fair shake of the less-listenable, self-indulgent stuff. (Not exactly uncommon with lead singers who’ve ‘gone solo’, now is it?) But c’mon – it’s hard not to spot the warning signs for that, right on the cover – the album artwork/branding consists primarily of Ian’s name written in various fonts, and the highlight of the liner notes is a juvenile photo-collage of you-know-who’s simian face, striking various poses. Anybody who buys this album should expect as much.

At the moment, though, it’s the only CD we own. (We hauled our MP3 and AAC collection with us, but left the good speakers behind.) So, for better or worse, Solarized is getting heavy rotation hereabouts.

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