It's ironic – but what isn't ironic, when it comes to Blur, the most ironic band in pop history – that the single that made Brit-pop a phenomenon had almost nothing to do with what followed, apart from maybe Pulp and the renegade band of freaks that Simon Price labeled as Romos. "Girls & Boys" was retro-new wave disco, a post-modern cross of Duran Duran and Chic.
It's a bad time to be a boy in America. With increased school violence, it seems to some that boys in our society are the problem. However, oft-quoted studies purport to show that in fact it is girls who need extra help in school, and that society favors boys. Analyzing the work of leading academics, Sommers finds that these arguments don't hold up to scrutiny. There is no girl crisis, she says. Girls are outperforming boys academically and their self-esteem is no different from boys'. Boys lag behind girls in reading and writing ability, and are less likely to go to college. Boys do need help and Sommers offers some suggestions. What she does not suggest is that they need to be rescued from masculinity. "THE WAR AGAINST BOYS is sure to set off a fiery controversy, just as Sommers' previous book (WHO STOLE FEMINISM?) did - but it should also find a big audience of readers who become fans.
As compilations go this is up there with the best. 28 tracks of the Beach Boys at the top of their form (or close to the top, anyway). And at the price this is great value. It's easy to forget just how important the Beach Boys were to the progression of popular music in the 1960s. Brian Wilson used to watch what the Beatles were doing and try to match them on the artistic level. The Beach Boys 'Pet Sounds' was born of this rivalry and Paul McCartney regarded it as one of the greatest popular-music albums ever made. It spurred the Beatles to complete 'Revolver' and then make 'Sgt Pepper'. Brian Wilson was the Beach Boys' creative genius and when he broke down they lost their leadership position. However they left a huge repertoire of major hits, many of which are captured on this compilation. Some of the most finely crafted pop-music recordings ever made are here. Pete Doggett has written a paragraph in the accompanying booklet giving a little background to each of the tracks, which makes for interesting reading.