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Top 10 Tracks of 2016

 

In the year of Trump and Brexit, music served as both distraction and defiance. Here are the top tracks of 2016

10. Skrux – Our Fragment

Skrux 1.jpg

In a year defined by trap in both the hip hop and EDM spheres, Skrux had an underground hit with a mix of piano melodies, distorted vocal chops and ticking clock percussion. It was a burst of sunshine in the year’s EDM scene, but also a peak at what the electronic landscape may look like in 2017

9. Cruel Youth – Hatefuck

Teddy Sinclair has always been heavy. Under the name Natalia Kills, she made dark electric guitar pop that caught the ear of will.i.am. Her new project alongside Willy Moon takes that idea to the extreme. Their third single chronicles a dysfunctional relationship through 60s-inspired vocals and trap instrumentation. With its fusion of darkness and pop, hatefuck serves as an expression of just what a melting pot indie music has become in the post-Snapchat era.

8. Chance the Rapper – No Problem

2016 was Chance’s year. From a scene-stealing guest spot on Kanye West’s ‘Ultralight Beam’ to the success of his third mixtape, Coloring Book, Chancellor Bennett might have produced the most fully-realized hip hop of his career. With his first album proper on the horizon, it appears that the Chicago rapper is moving from strength to strength.

7. Flume – Say It ft. Tove Lo

Flume’s album Skin delivered on the promises of his debut, overflowing with oddball takes on genres ranging from hip hop  to psy trance. With his Tove Lo collaboration ‘Say It’, Flume scored over 20 million YouTube views and spawned a thousand remixes. In the process, he made a strong case that few electronic artists walk the line between experimental and populist as deftly as he does.

6. James Blake – Radio Silence

On Radio Silence, Blake imbues his characteristic blend of R&B and bleak electronic soundscapes with a maximalist feel. The end result? A track that is as postmodern as they come without sacrificing a shred of jammability.

5) Frank Ocean – Ivy

Sigh. Frank Ocean only released two albums this year. At least we can take heart in ‘Ivy’ – the quiet masterpiece from his long-awaited LP Blonde (Blond?). The guitar-driven song sums up everything that made Ocean’s 2016 work so potent: where he could have followed Channel Orange with traditional pop fare, he instead opted for vulnerability and experimentation. His peers should take note.

4) Bon Iver – 22(Over Soon)

Justin Vernon recorded his 2008 work For Emma, Forever Ago in his father’s hunting cabin in the woods, according to legend. Its Auto-Tune heavy folk sound represents a very specific kind of Americana: the album deals with issues of break-ups and breakdowns against backdrops of Wisconsin’s bars and woodlands. This mostly continued on Bon Iver’s second album, but with his 2016 release 22, a Million, it seems at first that Vernon has abandoned his sound completely. The album trades guitars and folk arrangements for electronic glitches, distorted vocals and stray bursts of sound. When one looks a little closer at tracks like ‘Over Soon’, however, it becomes clear that Vernon is just as intent on representing America sonically as ever.

3) Beyonce – Formation

No song in recent memory has affected pop culture as much as Beyonce’s political fireball. Mike Will Made It’s synths are simple, ominous – and became instantly iconic. But what really makes the song is Beyonce’s performance, which more than matches the incendiary subject matter. Debuted at the Super Bowl, the track’s reverberations still continue, proving that its message of resilience and defiance isn’t just relevant but essential.

2 . Kanye West – Real Friends

After  the critical acclaim of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus, the stakes were unimaginably high for Kanye West’s seventh solo album. Speculation was rampant over what new sound he would pursue with it. An extension of the maximalist progressive rock of Dark Fantasy?  More of the industrial noise of his 2013 work?  Despite all the guesswork, Kanye’s first lead single single in three years came as a surprise: the song features little more than a drum loop and a synth. In hindsight, however, the track is both the most daring and most logical follow up to West’s previous works. More than that, it functions as bridge between the many iterations of Kanye West: the classic samples of College Dropout Kanye, the lyrical bleakness of 808s and Heartbreak,  and mournful synthesizers reminiscent of Yeezus.

In light of West’s recent hospitalization for mental health concerns, Real Friends – and ‘The Life of Pablo’ as whole – reveals itself as the work of an artist at the height of his powers but far from the end of his struggle.

  1. Radiohead – Daydreaming

2016 was kind to Radiohead fans. We finally got to hear official versions of tracks that had been drifting around Reddit, unfinished, for years. We even got to see the band headline major festivals like they did in their heyday. But their greatest gift was A Moon Shaped Pool, a return to form after their disappointing 2011 album  King of Limbs. The LP has no shortage of great additions to the paranoid androids’ canon: the schizophrenic strings of ‘Burn the Witch’, the driving guitars of ‘Identikit’. But the album’s centerpiece has to be ‘Daydreaming’. The track is based around a simple piano melody, but delivers an emotional gut-punch to rival anything Thom Yorke has written in the past. “Dreamers'”the song goes, “They never learn.” In this fractured year, that line reads like both praise and admonition.

The Name of the Wind

I won’t lie. I freaking love this book. I can’t even attempt to be unbiased.

It’s not surprising, really. It’s got all the elements I love in a story. Unique magic systems. A fully-formed world. A magical university (or, as Hank Green called it, ‘Hogwarts with student loans’). There’s even dragons. Kind of.

But most of all The Name of the Wind succeeds because of its characters. They feel real and human. They’re funny and brave and broken and they fuck up. A lot.

Most fantasy, even the more modern stuff, still concerns itself with epic conflicts between mighty forces (Tolkien’s shadow is long after all) but while The Name of the Wind does have conflict and has some pretty darn mighty forces at play (Murderous teleporting wizard-demons? You bet) it’s really a story about one guy. It’s his memoir, essentially.

It’s structure is interesting too. A third-person beginning set in the present, followed by a lengthy first-person retrospective, and then ending off with the third-person present again. This structure allows Rothfuss to play with time and tension by letting Kvothe comment on events as he remembers them. In the case of his shenanigans in the Eolian tavern with his university mates, its hilarious. When he’s talking about his parent’s death, its heartbreaking.

Rothfuss’s evocations of music-playing are also startlingly original. The songs he describes can be more beautiful and moving than any song in the real world, becrause real songs are necessarily imperfect. Well, except for Yellow Submarine.

And while a lot of things happen in the book, the plot doesn’t unfold like most fantasy stories. I mean, if you said The Name of the Wind was about a guy trying to get into a library, you’d be right. But you’d also be very wrong. Because The Name of the Wind isn’t about any one thing really, except maybe about being human. The structure makes clear that even though we’re all characters in a sprawling human story, we also have our own, smaller stories within us, that maybe no one hears but ourselves – that is, when we dare listen to them at all.

“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time,” Bast says. “That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”

Thank Tehlu Rothfuss built this one.

‘Love’: Dismantling the Rom-Com

 

Judd Apatow’s Love delivers a fuller psychological portrait of two of the rom-com’s stock characters – the “nice guy” and the “quirky girl” – and reinvigorates a tired genre in the process.

The Netflix-produced series chronicles the messy relationship between Gus (Paul Rust) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs). The premise is typical rom-com stuff: a nice guy gets his heart broken, then finds adventure with a free-spirited  girl who gives him a chance.

Yuck.

The series acknowledges this worn-out subject matter, and goes at it from a more realistic perspective. On this score, it has more in common with Lena Dunham’s Girls (also produced by Apatow) then it does with, say, 27 Dresses.

Gus (played by co-creator Paul Rust) isn’t the stereotypical “nice guy”. The show delves deeper into his outwardly “nice” behaviour, revealing it for the manipulation it really is. In the first episode, he tells his girlfriend Natalie that he loves her so often and so passive-aggressively that she dumps him, admonishing him with one of 2016’s most brutal TV lines:

“You’re fake nice, which is worse than being an asshole.”

The show’s acerbic humour gets to the heart of the classic “nice guy” trope: Gus’s behaviour stems from a sense of entitlement that nice guys deserve better, but Gus isn’t as nice as he thinks. He helps one of his students cheat to keep his job. He throws a fit when his ideas for a tv series are rejected. He even gets angry when Mickey comes to his work declaring her affection for him, which is something he’s been guilty of many times.

Mickey herself – the rule-breaking girl Gus meets after being dumped – is also more complex than most rom-com heroines. She’s quirky, sure, and wild, the epitome of someone out of Gus’s ‘league’. But the show also presents her as more layered than a genre trope – she’s an addict who uses people, someone unable to be alone for even a moment, as unstable as she is vibrant.

This is testament to the quality of the show’s writing, but it would fall flat without the stellar performance from Gillian Jacobs. She brings with her the comedic chops she’s delivered time and again on Community, but adds some sadness to the character, too.

The series plays out like a serialized version of an Apatow film like This is 40 or Knocked Up. It charts Gus and Mickey’s respective arcs as they battle their own unique screwed-upness. In doing so, it offers a view of dating that’s a little wiser and a little gloomier, but no less heartfelt than the rom-coms it takes shots at.

Maybe one line uttered in anger by Gus sums this up best: “Nobody just pulls you aside and tells you relationships are fucking bullshit.”

Love is Judd Apatow’s way of doing just that.

 

Hearts of Daarkness

 

Of all modern fantasy artists, none captures grittiness and gloom more deftly than Mike Lim. You might know him by his nom de plume, Daarken.

Daarken’s been creating art for some of the biggest names in the business, mainly Wizards of the Coast and Blizzard Entertainment.

His portfolio is filled with  death, blasted landscapes and things that go bump in the night. His palette is equally dark: black is clearly Daarken’s favourite colour.

But Daarken is skilled at finding subtlety within that darkness. He plays with light and shadow to suggest feelings of fear or awe or foreboding.

 

What could be cliched or simply gorey, Daarken instead imbues with intricacy. His creations might be frightening, but they are also complex. Even his most fantastic briefs have a sense of realism.

At its best, Daarken’s work reminds us that good and evil are not so neatly separated. In the midst of darkness we can find  – if not light – at least tones and nuance. In other words, Daarken shows us fantasy tropes through a 21st century lens. His work may be dark but it is not cynical. Even his grimmest works suggest that although the monsters are real, they can be beaten.

 

 

The Beatles – The White Album

 

 

After the success of Sergeant Pepper, the Beatles traveled to Rishikesh, India to stay with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The trip was meant to provide an escape from their daily lives in the form of meditation.

There they began to write The Beatles or – as its popularly known because of its pure white cover – The White Album.

The writing sessions for The White Album took place amidst the of calm of the band’s mediation practices, but the recording sessions at Abbey Road studios could not have been less peaceful. There were major creative differences between the band. This, along with John Lennon’s increasing heroin addiction,  resulted in regular arguments, refusal by the band members to work with each other and even Ringo Starr briefly quitting altogether. (He was eventually convinced to return by George Harrison.)

Because of these differences, the album features less co-operation between the band members than any other Beatles release. In the past, they had worked on songs as a unit, but now songs tended to be written by one band member on their own, who then enlisted the other Beatles to perform instrumental tracks for it.

It’s not surprising, then, that The White Album pulls in so many directions. The only Western instrument available to the band at Rishikesh was the acoustic guitar, so most of the songs are acoustic-based. But the album also features ska music, music hall parody, character sketches, political critiques and pastiches. It’s more diverse than any other Beatles album. Not every song is brilliant, though. ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ feels hollow, ‘Birthday’ and ‘Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey’ are less like compositions and more like novelties.

However, The White Album has a lot of gems hiding between the filler. ‘Back in the USSR’ is a stomper that got banned by both the USA and the Soviet Union. ‘Helter Skelter’ is basically proto-metal. ‘Revolution 9’ is the most experimental piece ever heard on a pop album. ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is a veritable rock masterpiece.

All this makes the album feel fragmented, as if by attempting to explore so many sonic ideas its tearing itself apart. It’s almost become a cliche to say that, in this way, The White Album is the sound of the Beatles breaking apart. The band would split a year later, after all.

Despite all this – maybe because of it – The White Album is a rock monolith, a key part of the Beatles’ story. While Sergeant Pepper was an exercise in perfectionism, The White Album is a testament to the power of runaway creativity.

 

The Tales of Dunk and Egg

 

 

George R.R. Martin is most well-known for his Song of Ice and Fire series, currently being adapted into probably the biggest show on tv. It’s staggering just how big the book series is, too: the books total 1.7 million words in the first five novels alone, with two still waiting to be published. That’s almost four times as long as The Lord of the Rings.

So it’s refreshing to have something a little lighter from Martin. The Tales of Dunk and Egg are three novellas set in the world of Game of Thrones, about a hundred years before the events of A Game of Thrones.

They’re about a hedge knight from Flea Bottom called Dunk, and his young squire, Egg. Egg isn’t just any squire though: he’s Aegon V Targaryen, and future king of Westeros. You may have heard him mentioned in the series as Maester Aemon’s brother.

Let’s get one thing straight though: The Tales of Dunk and Egg are not A Song of Ice and Fire. There are no epic quests or magic or white walker armies. What they are is a collection of stories about a hedge knight on an adventure, and as that it’s quite a page-turner.

But The Tales of Dunk and Egg also offers an interesting perspective into another period in the history of Westeros. We see the aftermath of a civil war between the Targaryens. We see the political situation that precipitated some of the uneasy alliances that appear in Game of Thrones. We also see a character or two that goes on to be very important to A Song of Ice and Fire: Lord Bloodraven, for example, the Hand of the King in The Tales of Dunk and Egg. In A Song of Ice and Fire we know him as the three-eyed raven.

As an adventure story and as an a history of Westeros, The Tales of Dunk and Egg is great. Martin proves yet again that whether it comes to writing 1.7 million word epics or breezy short stories, he’s pretty hard to beat.

Red Seas Under Red Skies

 

Scott Lynch is – along with the likes of Patrick Rothfuss and George RR Martin – at the forefront of contemporary fantasy. His stories intertwine elements of both fantasy and realism. Together, they produce a gripping alchemy.

Red Seas Under Red Skies is the second in his Gentleman Bastard series. The books are set in a fantasy world much like renaissance Italy, except they occasionally include murderous wizards and monsters that might have crawled out of a Dungeons & Dragons manual. The books follow the lives of con men Locke and Jean, who make a living by tricking nobles while simultaneously trying to avoid the vengeance of the Bondsmagi of Karthain, a feared guild of wizards.

The story’s full of wit and originality. Like a lot of modern fantasy, it is as much a response to the genre as a product of it. Gone are the two-dimensional characters and good/bad dichotomies. Lynch instead deals in grey characters and moral ambiguity. There’s character development.There’s double-crossing, and there’s reversal of fortune.  Heroes are as capable of horrific acts as villains, and villains are just as likely to kill the heroes as the other way round.

Like George RR Martin, Lynch shows us the real implications of a fantasy world on the human psyche. Killing enemies is traumatic business. The lead character, for example, finds himself gripped by grief and guilt after he attempts to save his friends (through violence) and only succeeds in saving a few of them. He hides in his room for days, bottles of liquor his only company. The fantasy setting makes these depictions of depression and alcoholism that much more pressing. Imagine Frodo gripped by PTSD, unable to climb Mount Doom.

This is just one example of Lynch looking at the genre with fresh eyes. He also – thankfully – subverts many of fantasy’s common stumbling blocks like its problematic depiction of gender roles and lack of diversity. All of his characters are well-rounded and possess agency. The women are not damsels in distress or scantily-clad Xenas. They’re  soldiers  and thieves, bodyguards and pirate captains, surgeons and leaders.

Red Seas Under Red Skies is part of a new wave of fantasy that takes cues from both inside and outside the genre in order to, ultimately, transcend it. This is not just a fantasy story: its a hustle story, a pirate story, a romance, a political thriller. It’s  influenced far more by the broader ideas of contemporary fiction than just elves and goblins and magic rings.

For that, we should be grateful.

Game of Thrones: The Power of Symbols

 

(Warning: Contains spoilers.)

Game of Thrones is back on our screens, and YouTube and Reddit and a billion other social media platforms are buzzing with rumours and predictions. Only Harry Potter and Star Wars rival the show in the way that fans have taken up the task of attempting to tease out the endings to its numerous story-lines.

Some of these theories are pretty bizarre (one names Mance Rayder as secretly being Rhaegar Targaryen) but others have a lot of evidence behind them. Most of this evidence takes the form of symbols and motifs Martin has placed throughout the series.

Martin has repeatedly cited Shakespeare as an influence on the series. With its noble characters, frequent plot twists and many, many deaths, A Song of Ice and Fire would probably have the Bard waiting impatiently for each new episode. But it also prominently features another staple of Shakespeare’s work: his love for symbols.

Martin has said that he’s known the broad outline of the series’s ending for quite some time, and has planted a number of clues throughout the books and episodes to hint at this. From the sigils of the noble houses to prophetic visions and mysterious lines: all of these symbols are heavy with meaning. For example, in the first episode (or chapter, if you’re going by the books) the Starks encounter a dead direwolf, slain by a stag. The direwolf is the sigil of House Stark, and the stag of House Baratheon. A few episodes later, Ned Stark is be beheaded by a Baratheon.

Even seemingly insignificant lines of dialogue often foreshadow major events. For example, in Season 4, when Tyrion tells Bronn about how cruelly his father Twyin Lannister treated him after he married a peasant girl, Bronn replies, “I’d kill the man that did that to me.” Which is, as we see in the final episode of Season 4, exactly what happens.

A symbol causing a lot of speculation is the song of ice and fire itself, the prophecy from which the series gets its name. The prophecy is at least 1000 years old, and perhaps even as ancient as 5000 years. It forms the centre of a religion, the Red Priestesses (of which Melisandre is a member). The prophecy speaks about a Christ-like saviour figure called ‘the prince that was promised’. Basically, the prophecy says that the only person who will be able to save the world from the Others (read white-walkers) is this prince, and “if he fails, the world fails with him.”

Readers and viewers alike have not yet encountered the prophecy in its entirety, only fragments and half-remembered accounts of it. But we do know that the prophecy points out a number of signals that will herald the coming of the prince. One of these is the line the prince will be “born in salt and smoke.” Another line makes reference to a “bleeding star” marking his arrival.

The first part, about the prince being born in fire, is an interesting one. It calls to mind one example: Prince Rhaegar Targaryen’s birth. Rhaegar was the son of the Mad King Aerys, and heir to the Iron Throne (at least until Robert Baratheon’s revolt). On the day of Rhaegar’s birth, the Summerhall tragedy took place. Summerhall was the Targaryen’s pleasure palace, and when Rhaegar was born a great fire broke out there. It killed many members of the royal family and razed the palace to the ground. This suggests that Rhaegar may be the prince that was promised, the prince “born in salt and smoke”.

Rhaegar survived the blaze and grew to be a “bookish” boy, but one day – seemingly without warning – he approached the master-at-arms and asked to be trained as a knight. “It seems I am to be a warrior,” he is remembered as saying. The fact that Rhaegar spent so much time reading old texts – which would certainly have contained some mention of the prophecy – coupled with his sudden interest in learning to fight suggests that Rhaegar believed himself to be the promised prince.

It seems he was wrong though. Robert smashed in his chest with a warhammer, after all. So maybe someone else fits the description. Valyrian (the language the prophecy was originally written in) is gender-neutral, so a lot of people suggest Danaerys could be the prince. She’s a Targaryen, after all. She emerged from the salt and smoke of Drogo’s pyre unscathed, there was a comet – a bleeding star – overhead during much of her struggles during Season 2, and she certainly has the dragons for the job.

But it could also be true that the prince is more than one person. The dragon has three heads, as Rhaegar mentions in one Danaerys’s visions.

Its one of many visions Danaerys sees  in the House of the Undying. Another of them is of a blue rose growing out of a wall of ice. It’s been mentioned a few times that Lyanna Stark was fond of blue winter roses. Most notably, at the tourney at Harrenhal Rhaegar Targaryen was victorious. By tradition, the tourney victor gets to crown the next ‘queen of beauty’. On that day, Rhaegar was given a wreath of blue roses to crown his lady with. He caused gossip, and even some outrage, when he rode past his wife, Elia Martell of Dorne, and placed the blue roses in Lyanna Stark’s lap. He would go on to kidnap her (or so we’re told), and they would both die soon after.

The image of the blue rose (associated with Lyanna) and the wall of ice (probably the actual Wall, which is associated with Jon) suggests a link between them. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is yet another hint at the R+L=J theory.

Danaerys’s seeing this is important. Maybe there’s some connection between her and Jon and the prophecy. Maybe they’re both the promised princes, and need to find their third counterpart. In that case, they’d each have a dragon to ride. They’d be something like Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters.

At this point, this is all speculation. We’ll just have to watch and find out.Maybe Game of Thrones will shatter our expectations and upturn all our guesswork. It wouldn’t be the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

The Magician’s Land

 

 

Imagine Narnia, but written by George R.R. Martin. Then imagine Hogwarts, but with sex, drugs and even more dangerous magic.

These are the two settings for Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy. The books (starting with 2009’s The Magicians) follow the lives of a group of twenty-somethings studying at a magical university in New York. It’s no Hogwarts, where phoenix tears are always there to save you. People lose life and limb in the pursuit of magic. The magicians have mood disorders and drug addictions, and while they might be able to summon fireballs at will, they are far from well-adjusted.

It’s a fresh take on a pretty tired genre. More than that, the Magicians series works both as a fantasy story and as a comment on fantasy stories.

If you’ve ever wanted to go to Hogwarts but can’t stand their no-alcohol policy, check out The Magicians. 

 

The Beatles – Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

 

 

After recording Revolver, each of the Beatles headed off on their own for a few months. A break from their lives as working musicians was necessary: the Beatles’ infamous ‘more popular than Jesus comment’ had caused a major public backlash in the states. This  – along with the pressures of their personal lives – had left the band exasperated.

Lennon spent his time off acting in a film. George Harrison went to India with Ravi Shankar to learn the sitar and explore Hindu teachings. Paul McCartney traveled the world and worked on a film score. Ringo spent the time with his wife and baby son, Zac.

This was 1967, and the Beatles were tired of being the Beatles. “We really hated that fucking four little  mop-top approach,” McCartney  said of that time. “We were not boys, we were men … and thought of ourselves as artists rather than just performers.”

Fitting, then, that their new album was born out of McCartney’s idea for the band to pretend to be someone else. They would create an album as a fictional band, and be freed from the expectations that came with being the Beatles. And so, they got to work on Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Cub Band.

Sergeant Pepper is an extension of the psychedelic rock hinted at on Revolver, but takes it to the extreme. If Revolver was influenced by LSD, Sergeant Pepper takes that influence to its logical conclusion: the record overflows with densely-layered production, colourful orchestral arrangements and trippy sound effects. The most famous is probably John Lennon’s warped voice on ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’. These songs are more like sound collages, formed by dubbing multiple recordings over each other.

Sergeant Pepper shows the Beatles venturing far into the avant-garde. But it also shows that no one was better than the Beatles at being simultaneously experimental and populist – the album stayed at Number One on the UK charts for 22 weeks, after all.

In the decades since, Sergeant Pepper has been hailed as a milestone – perhaps the milestone – in the evolution of pop music. Rolling Stone went so far as to call it the Greatest Album of All Time.

This may or may not be the case. Either way, when the Beatles made the album, they probably had  no idea it would achieve such fame and success. At the time, they were just striving to create some good new songs. And what a collection they are.

‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ is the greatest Beatles song about drugs that the Beatles claim isn’t about drugs. ‘A Day in the Life’ is an apocalyptic song about a man who “blew his mind out in a car”. ‘Within You Without You’ is Harrison’s take on Hinduism and his attempt at mastering the sitar, all in one. ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ is one of pop’s greatest odes to friendship – which becomes all the more heartbreaking when considering how the relationships between the Beatles would fragment the following year.

Whether or not you think Sergeant Pepper is the best album ever, it did mark a shift in the perception of rock. What had once been considered a fad was now seen as art. Fans scoured the album’s lyrics for meaning (sometimes finding it where none existed) and the album became a kind of flower power anthem, the soundtrack to the Summer of Love. With the album, the Beatles had cemented their place as cultural icons whose music had real power, both artistic and political.

Even the cover serves as a mirror for its time. The faces represents major figures in Sixties pop culture. The inclusion of the four waxwork Beatles (in their famous mop-tops and suits) beside the real band in Sergeant Pepper costume is particularly interesting.

It places the Beatles – the real Beatles – not within the cultural pantheon, but apart from it. It seems the Beatles were aware of their place within pop culture, and were determined to be liberated from it.

Sergeant Pepper is the sound of that liberation, without losing any of the Beatles’ rock ‘n roll roar.