The one hundred and ninety-first TV show: #297 Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister
Considering the turmoil the UK ws in, Yes Minister also shows how comedy was almost gentler. These days we look at The Thick of It and Veep as a surprisingly accurate look at the political system. Yes Minister did the same - apparently there were comments about how accurate it was, while it pierced the illusion about the control of politicians and the civil service. Minister (later prime minister) Hacker is in charge of the vague Department of Administrative Affairs - covering everything and nothing - and his plans to make an impact are often foiled by permanent secretary (and later cabinet secretary) Humphrey Appleby. A lot of the comedy comes from both of them going after their own goals, often with private secretary Bernard in between. It hits closely these days, with a lot of it feeling familiar in current politics, but once it gets out of the gate it's engaging in seeing where the machnications go and how it all falls out. It's often at the strongest when the main characters end up having to band together against the rest of the system, but the show balances that between the conflict between them quite well. It's been a long wait to watch it, but it's been worth it.
The one hundred and ninetieth TV show: #385 It's Garry Shandling's Show
Garry Shandling's first comedy series is a bizarre beast. It frequently acknowledges being a TV show, the audience gets involved and it all becomes incredibly meta. These days, we've seen several examples of it, but in the 80s it was still fairly unique and it shows. The standard sitcom plots don't work that well, but when it leans into it, the show is pretty fun to watch. It just doesn't have the polish or focus yet that you get in later examples of the genre. It's probably not worth watching for the full run anymore, but there are some highlights that are a lot of fun.
The four hundred and seventy-sixth album: #476 Steve Winwood - Arc of a Diver
From the start, this album felt a bit toothless - innocent soft rock that doesn't have much to elevate it further. It's pleasant to listen to but at no point did I find myself loving anything on the album.
The four hundred and seventy-fifth album: #475 The Specials - More Specials
There are a lot of different things going on in this album, with strong ska tracks alternating with poppy rock tracks and the whole thing becoming a mishmash of directions that reflects the friction in the band. There are a lot of strong, engaging fun tracks to listen to, even as someone who isn't a fan of the ska sound, but it really comes down to the individual tracks - the northern soul tracks like Sock It To 'Em J.B. in particular stand out. It's the second side that starts to peter out, as its focus on easy listening pop tracks leads to a point where there's less value in the songs - it loses its hooks and with that, my interest in them.
The one hundred and seventieth classical recording: #983 Louis Andressen - De Materie
The fact that this is an opera from the 1980s probably indicates we've got a different type of work here. Invoking De Stijl directly proves it. And when the first part has a solo formed of metal boxes being hit, it all comes together around a post modern piece that rarely comes up. The use of Dutch poems and texts, not creating a narrative, combined with some specific staging, adds to the stragenness of the piece. It's all bizarre and disconcerting, without becoming entirely off putting.
The one hundred and fourty-fifth book: #337 The Thin Man - Dashiel Hammett
The Thin Man got to the top of the list in quite a roundabout way. It started with our love of Beyond Belief, one of the segments of the Thrilling Adventure Hour show and podcast, which we sought out after enjoying listening to Paul F. Tompkins on other podcasts. That led to us prioritizing watching the Thin Man movie, which the podcast segment was based on. That hit us in the right place, so I really felt like reading the book as well to really see the origins.
It's the conversations that really stand out reading the book. Dashiel Hammett writes them to flow well, with the character's initial unwillingness standing out in the way they play with each other. It shows the casual love of our main characters, who tease each other but mostly want to hang out and, well, drink a lot - the speakeasy culture is very well alive at this point. The mystery is intriguing enough and builds well - the result felt quite strong even with some of the doubts it left me - but it's how it affects the characters that's the most interesting, and when that drops away at the end a bit to explain things, the book loses it a bit as well. It's a shame this was his last full novel, but I know I've got some earlier strong works of his on the list that I'm looking forward to and some short stories to look for.
The four hundred and seventy-fourth album: #474 The Teardrop Explodes - Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro is a standard rock album from the era - new wave influenced, developing the psychedelic rock sound further into something poppy that is quite appealing and sounds quite inoffensive. It was nice to listen to, but at the same it wasn't a lot more.
The four hundred and seventy-third album: #473 UB40 - Signing Off
The only album by UB40 on the list - remarkable as they're one of the larger, long running reggae groups in the world - is a subdued affair. While following the genre, the music feels more polished and pulled together than other albums we've heard before, while the lyrics are more explicitly politically, clearer than they were before. It get to a point where, 10 tracks into the 13 track album, it loses some of its distinctiveness, but at a normal album length this would have worked well - it just pushed it a little bit too much.
The one hundred and sixty-ninth classical recording: #254 Franz Schubert - Schwanengesang
The title of this collection of poems, 'Swan Song' is appropriate for the sadder tone of the pieces. While not too slow, there's a lamenting tone to a number of them, with the upbeat poems actually feeling out of place in between - not entirely unwelcome, but there's something reassuring about the slow pace, more of a mastery of the sound than the more upbeat sound gives you. The delicate nature of some of the songs stands out, but it works well as a two hundred year old album regardless.
The four hundred and seventy-second album: #472 Tom Waits - Heartattack and Vine
Tom Waits - a gravelly voice singing white guy blues with a rock base. The album is exactly what you'd expect based on that description and it works well at it, with a strength of voice that remains quite convincing.