Saturday, February 21, 2009

Back to nature - again

[Edit: just noticed that Shoegazer had already used the title 'Back to nature' for his excellent playlist (see below) so, hoping that this doesn't confuse the great god of 'Spill - or worse than that, upset Mr Speng himself, I've changed the title (a bit).]

I suspect that there are very few people who have ever got quite as close to nature as Charles Darwin did. And having just celebrated the 200th anniversary of the great man's birth, I thought it would be appropriate to use a picture of the place where Darwin did most of his great thinking about nature - namely, his 'Sandwalk' at Down House in Kent. If you ever get the chance to have a look around Down House (and I strongly recommend that you should make every effort to do so) don't forget to pop out to the impressive gardens and take a stroll along the Sandwalk. It's a fantastic place to contemplate the glorious world of nature and ask yourself how anyone could ever believe that there was some sort of creator behind all this - it evolved, OK? Oh, and can we please stop talking about the theory of evolution - it isn't a theory, it's a fact.

Right. Down off the soapbox and on with the music. I'm not sure that this playlist will do quite as much for science and nature as Mr Darwin did but I'm going to do my best.

We start with the stunningly beautiful At The River by Groove Armada which I gather is based on a song called Old Cape Cod by Patti Page (thanks fuel, I did not know that). It's not exactly what I'd call my type of music but it certainly ticks all the right boxes.

Next up we have Badly Drawn Boy with River, Sea, Ocean from the soundtrack to About A Boy - which I just happen to believe is a damn fine film, based on a damn fine book by Nick Hornby, featuring a damn fine performance by Hugh Grant.

The third track is from one of my favourite albums of the past few years: it's The Ocean from Richard Hawley's Coles Corner and it's one of the standout tracks.

Since I have no reputation to damage, I can include the following track in the playlist with impunity - also webcore donded it so it must be OK! Yes, it's Portugal's finest Nelly Furtado and, err, She's Like A Bird, pop-pickers! Not 'arf...

Returning to Cool's Corner, track 5 is XTC's The Wave. Taken from one of their later albums, Nonsuch, which is probably my favourite of theirs. The early ones might have all the astoundingly brilliant singles on them but I think that as a whole album, this takes the biscuit.

Finally we have McCarthy with a different view on nature in the shape of Antinature. I found the following quote on a McCarthy lyrics site and rather than try to summarise it, I thought it might be better to let singer and guitarist Malcolm Eden explain the thinking behind the song:

I think Antinature came out of an idea that was quite prevalent at the time and which has become even more widespread since, that anything natural is somehow positive and anything human or man-made is negative. It's an idea I fundamentally disagree with. Previous ages had a far more rational view of nature as something largely destructive and inimical to human beings. Only now that we've begun to master certain aspects of nature can people afford the luxury of idealizing it.

I suppose the song is sung 'from the future' because I imagined a time when people had reduced the effects of such natural phenomena as earthquakes, malaria and acne. I mention the 'id', a Freudian term, because it's something like the unconscious, natural instinct, as opposed to thought and reason.

The last bit, Nuclear Power? Yes, please! sounds as if it's ironic but isn't in fact. There was a Greenpeace slogan, Nuclear Power? No thanks! But I think people have a tendency to mix up nuclear weapons and nuclear power in their minds. The first brings us nothing whatsoever, but the second is probably the best form of energy available to us at the moment.

I'm not sure that I entirely agree with all that but it's an interesting viewpoint nonetheless. I'd be interested in what others have to say. I do find the whole humanity v. nature thing a bit difficult. When does human activity become different to what animals do (like beavers building dams and changing the courses of rivers, and termites building their vast mounds)?

So to get you all talking, here's a closing argument: Humankind is a part of nature, therefore everything that humankind does is, by definition, 'natural'. Discuss.


magicman said...

toffebean - I haven't listened to McCarthy yet but I completely agree with their position on nature and humankind. The sloppy and loose thinking that characterises the green debate (I am in the party) is typified by Nuclear Power- no thanks ! as a slogan, whereas I prefer Bob Marley's 'have no fear for atomic energy". We are animals.

nilpferd said...

I'm not at all in favour of nuclear power, there are many better alternatives in my opinion. But I mainly wanted to put my first thoughts on a Grant Mclennan tribute up, so here are ten I'd say ought to be considered:
Quiet heart
Streets of your town
Bye Bye Pride
Cattle and Cane
Batchelor Kisses
Surround me
The dark side of town
Easy come, easy go
Haven't I been a fool
last one- something from the Jack Frost compilation with Steve Kilby of the Church, but I don't have those albums so will need to do a bit of web searching to find what I remember as a brilliant track..

ToffeeBoy said...

@ nilpferd - re: nuclear power - nor am I, but it's an interesting point that magicman made about the knee-jerk reaction in certain corners of the green movement.

I like the look of the rudimentary Grant McLennan Memorial Spill List. A few that I would definitely include from the second coming are Crooked Lines and, for its poignantly prescient qualities, Unfinished Business - both from Bright Yellow Bright Orange and The Statue from Oceans Apart.

I don't have the Jack Frost stuff - I'll see if I can track it down.

nilpferd said...

This would be my suggestion for Jack Frost-
Things are a bit different here with nuclear power, we were committed to abandoning it here in Germany under the SPD/Green govt, now the CDU/SPD coalition is buckling somewhat under intense lobby pressure. There were very sound scientific and economic arguments for the SPD/Green position at the time, sufficient for it to be made law.

Frogprincess said...

Will enjoy listening to this tomorrow. Donds for Hugh Grant in about a boy. Great performance. Great film.

treefrogdemon said...

erm...could that be 'humankind' in the last bit there, TB?

ToffeeBoy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ToffeeBoy said...

@ tfd - mea culpa, mea maxima culpa...