Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The devaluation of the currency of apology

Apologies are not what they used to be.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner recently apologised for doing what he's paid to do, i.e. report the news. This arose in a discussion on Radio 4's Today programme about the impending deportation to the USA of Abu Hamza where Gardner revealed that the Queen had expressed surprise and disappointment that the hook-handed loon could not have been arrested earlier. Anything the royal family have to do with politics should be reported - the forthcoming release of memos from Prince Charles to various government departments is part of this too. Someone whose job is to report the news should not apologise for doing exactly that.

Andrew Mitchell further served to devalue the currency of apologies by saying sorry for losing his rag, but not for calling public servants "fucking plebs" and the general air of entitlement that a lot of the current government give off whenever they're faced by someone without the same privileged upbringing as they enjoyed. Likewise Nick Clegg, whose apology for making a pledge rather than the subsequent breaking of it, was as wide of the mark as it's possible to get. It was one of those very modern apologies which uses words like 'sorry' and 'contrite' but doesn't address the actual thing that's got people's backs up.

The more common one is for apologising if people have taken offence to something rather than for causing the offence in the first place, thereby shifting the blame away from oneself and onto the subjects of your abhorrent comments or actions. In the world of the modern, media-trained career politician, the saying sorry is seen as being a person of the people, but heaven forfend that the apology is actually related to the thing that the clamour for apology is actually about. That would be admitting a wrong, and that would never do.

We're a nation of bad apologisers. Routinely, we apologise when someone else stands on our foot in a crowded bar. But the real tipping point that has irrevocably devalued the currency of the apology came in the world of public transport. There is no apology worth less than a pre-recorded one informing you of the late running of trains. But the worst, the absolute most heinous of all the guilty parties is the otherwise humble bus.

If a bus is not in service, all that needs to be done is display the legend 'not in service'. But no. Instead, the bus companies determined at some point that the bus should also apologise for it's out-of-serviceness by adding 'sorry, I'm' to the front of 'not in service'. In the most egregious of circumstances, this is followed up with a sad face. By adding the 'I'm', they infantilise the whole of society as well as devalue the apology.

The endangered and devalued apology must be saved. So I urge you to stop apologising for things other people have done, don't apologise for the sake of it, ensure you are apologising for the thing you're actually sorry about and if you're not sorry, don't do it.

I'm sorry if this is controversial, but it's just the way I feel.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Dan le Sac - Space Between The Words

Formerly known as the ranty noise-maker behind poet/rapper Scroobius Pip, Dan le Sac's debut album was released last week.

After two albums as a duo – Angles in 2008 and Logic of Chance two years later – both let themselves off the leash with solo projects, Pip with Distraction Pieces last year and now this, Space Between The Words, where le Sac collaborates with a range of artists to produce something unique and stylish.

On Distraction Pieces, Pip takes a turn for the dark side, but his producer proves to be quite the magpie, flitting from style to style, artist to artist with ease and a deftness of touch that certainly wasn't present on Angles. Clearly he wasn't about to start singing, but the range and quality of the artists he's been able to work with on this album speaks volumes for the regard he's held in as a producer. There's a clear trust that he's not about to butcher their babies, their songs.

The two tracks released to the world ahead of the album are the most obvious singles. Play Along, featuring Sarah Williams White, has the air of Lily Allen's evil twin sister about it. Pip collaborator B Dolan voices Caretaker, an intelligent piece lyrically with the chart appeal of something like Gangster's Paradise. Perhaps it needs adding to a film soundtrack to push it over the top – there's certainly plenty on here that would not sounds out of place in a cinematic environment.

Memorial is reminiscent of early Portishead, Emmy the Great's sounding uncannily like Beth Gibbons, while the thumping beat – with vocals to match from Joshua Idehen – of Tuning is a foot-stomping floor-filler.

But the masterpiece is saved to last and it's the album in microcosm. Cherubs begins like a Sigur Ros record, all floaty and ethereal with an idiosyncratic percussion track. Then Pete Hefferan's vocals – he of Pete and the Pirates – kick in with a Robert Smith quality lending a Cure vibe to things, though never enough to overwhelm the unique sound Dan has been able to infuse the whole album with.

Comparisons are inevitable, but putting that to one side, this is a mightily impressive piece of work. So often, producer-led projects can sound cold, clinical, just too damn efficient. Not this; this is varied, warm and engaging. Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music seems a life lesson well lived.