South Park S20 still relevant.

South Park Season 20.

South Park Season 20.

The Simpsons are in their 28th season, and the last time they were even remotely funny was around season 13 or 14. So for the last ten years they’ve been painting by numbers, and a once cutting edge show has rendered itself completely irrelevant. And Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, have clearly been thinking about this very carefully.

At the moment we’re up to episode 5 of the current season (20) on Comedy Central and it’s clear that it’s become a noticeably different beast to the South Park of five or six years ago. The main difference being, that instead of having neat, individual episodes that exist in their own bubble, independently of any episodes that come before or after, there are now three main story arcs that link each of the episodes across the whole season.

The yawn Simpsons.

The yawn Simpsons.

Inevitably, the main story arc gives us their take on the seemingly unsatirizable election, with the girls and the boys at the school divided into two factions hell bent on mutual destruction. Then there’s the internet troll story, which gets increasingly interesting the more it unfolds. And finally, there’s the Member Berries dig at J.J. Abrams and co and the never-ending stream of nostalgia-fuelled tedium we’re being subjected to because of their reliance on pre-existing franchises instead of ever coming up with anything actually original.

Much more riskily, as ever, they are reacting in real time to the events of the week which then get incorporated into that week’s episode. So last week they had Mr. Garrison – as the Trump stand-in – spewing forth a torrent of anti-female bile at his crowd of supporters. But when then a number of women get up to leave in protest, he quite reasonably asks them, so that’s where you draw the line? It’s fine for me to say all that stuff about all Mexicans being rapists and all Muslims being terrorists, but as soon as I start insulting women, well that’s when I’ve crossed the line?

That was the week that was.

That was the week that was.

They are down to ten episodes a season now, so inevitably you’re occasionally going to get the sense that they are just trying to jam too much into each episode. But taken as a whole, this is easily the funniest and the most relevant commentary on what’s going on at the moment in the US anywhere on television. You can follow it on Friday nights at 10pm on Comedy Central. But if you can, you should really try and see it from the beginning of the season. In the meantime, here’s a taster of what the debate looked like.

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New Sigur Rós Album “Valtari” Goes Back To Basics

Valtari, the new album from Sigur Rós is something of a back to basics affair. Their last two, Takk in 2005 and With A Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly in 2008 were clearly an attempt by them to move in a slightly more conventional direction by producing collections of what were more recognizably songs.

Valtari, their sixth in the studio, sees them return to the territory mapped out by 2002’s ‘( )’ and the work they’d been producing beforehand.

For some, this has proved to be something of an ever so gentle let down. The boys from Pravda at Pitchfork gave it a sulky 6.1 here, bemoaning what some see as a regression.

But Sigur Rós were never about songs. Like Brian and Roger Eno or The Penguin Café Orchestra before them, their focus has always been on conjuring up atmospheres and evoking landscapes through the tactile texturing of sounds.

Hence Jonsi’s use of Hopelandic, the hotchpotch of vowels he uses to lace so many of their “songs” with. The meaning isn’t to be found in any combination of words or thoughts, but in the feelings aroused as the sounds of the “words” combine with the layers laid down in the music.

And neither is it really fair to accuse them of failing to evolve. Yes a lot of the ambient sounds produced here are reminiscent of those earlier albums. But there’s much more of a post-punk feel to a lot of what’s gong on in the background now.

The melodies, though as ethereal as ever when they do rise, are more likely now to be offset by waves of dissonance, albethey of the gentle variety.

They’ve made a number of videos to accompany the album. This one, for track 3 “Varuo” here is a little bit underwhelming video wise. But curiously it somehow grows on you. And it’s the nearest thing on the album to the sort of conventional song from their more recent period.

The other for Fjogur Piano here, the 8th and final track is much more representative of the album musically speaking, even if video wise, it’s just a little bit busy. There’s so much going on, that nothing much happens. But you do get to see Shia Lebeouf’s impressive torso.

Though not personally responsible, he was part of the gang indicted for so brutally raping poor old Indie in the lamentable fourth outing of Indiana Jones. You can catch a glimpse of the culprits caught here on camera by the good people from South Park. And if you haven’t seen the full episode 8 from series 12, do so now. It’ll bring tears to your eyes.

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