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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