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Andrew and Hans, you speak words of wisdom...

September 2 2002 at 8:18 AM
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Response to No Ruth Chris in London for now

Hans, I hope you'll soon regale us with your gastronomic adventures with Lord Arran....

My city, too, could use a Denny's or an IHOP, and perhaps a Dunkin Donuts. Not that I really want to see these frankly mediocre American chains expanding into European towns and further clogging my arteries - it's bad enough that we've already got two Star*ucks outlets in the Newcastle city centre. (Why can't I get a decent California-esque salad with maybe some grilled chicken on it at lunchtime? In England, it seems I'm stuck between soggy mayonnaise-laden sandwiches and heavy deep-fried pub lunches, with virtually nothing in between the two.) As it is, British retail varies very little from city to city. No, what I'd rather see is a real 50s-style American diner, all chrome and Naugahyde, waitresses who chew gum and mother their customers, locally-owned by an immigrant Greek family, and - most important - open all night long, 7 days a week, serving everything from pancakes to steaks, including the all-important 'comfort food'. When I was a university student in the States, we would often end up at a diner at 3 or 4 in the morning on a weekend night out. You'd get hip Asian students fresh from a nightclub sitting cheek-by-jowl with Polish construction workers who were just next to tables of rich black Southern Baptists, resplendent in their Sunday finest, taking their pastor out for a late bite - and we'd all talk to each other, and smile and laugh and joke together, forgetting for a little while all the differences and ills which plague the 'real world' we inhabit when the sun's up.

Andrew, you're quite right - many people do indeed like what I'm calling the 'new' R&B. I don't mind it either, and often when I go to a nightclub I end up somewhere that plays modern commercial R&B and hip-hop. Dr. Dre and his contemporaries are excellent producers, and the beats these folks come up with are excellent. I'd like to see more harmonic and melodic development, though - most of the tracks are composed of a four-bar riff or hook which is repeated throughout the track. It gets very boring, very quickly. Even my clubbing-addicted friends confess that they're getting a little sick of it! Of course the Gap and the like play this music for a reason; I just feel that, given what I thought of the store and the product being sold, perhaps I'd be less struck by the incongruity if they played Mantovani. Or perhaps the Muzak versions of the R&B tunes.

But I've gotten wayyyy off-topic, as usual. I'm sure you're right, Andrew, when you say that many are more comfortable when the music's loud enough that they don't have to indulge in conversation (and I hope that we here don't count ourselves among that group). And you're also right when you say that many newer restaurants are very aware of the music they play: A friend of mine owns a modern pan-Asian restaurant, where the (very tasteful) music is played off from a hard-drive, updated remotely once a month by a company that specializes in restaurant mixes. The music builds up in tempo and volume over a period of two or three hours to a plateau, then comes back down over the same period - very slick indeed. Now, if only more restaurants would invest in systems that gradually dim the lights over a period of time, instead of turning them down all at once at 9 o'clock....

cheers

eli

 
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