Friday, August 26, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"Boardroom kiss arse blue tick wankers"

"A wank mess"

"Catalogue band bollocks"

Just three of the choice labels ascribed to landfill indie act du jour, Blossoms, by Sleaford Mods' Jason Williamson during a Twitter spat in May. It passed me by, but thankfully Alexis Petridis was on hand to alert me to its existence. I'm not sure there's anyone who can touch Williamson for a quality insult these days.

(Thanks to Rob for the link.)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

There's nowt so queer as folk traditions

The photos in Homer Sykes' 1977 book Once A Year may capture the unself-conscious and frequently joyous participation of ordinary British men and women in rituals that seem bizarre and ridiculous to the outsider, but to the modern viewer familiar with the likes of The Wicker Man, Hot Fuzz and the video for Radiohead's 'Burn The Witch' it's hard not to see some of them - such as the those of the Marshfield Mummers Paperboys and the Burry Man - as unsettling and sinister rather than quaint and innocent.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Child's play

It's not like Evanescence ever had much goth cred, but they certainly don't have any now that Amy Lee has released a cheery children's album.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A time and a place

A curious and original graphic novel that developed out of a comic strip created for RAW back in 1989, Richard McGuire's Here tells the history and the future of one specific geographical spot - largely the corner of a room, though not merely that. The timescale stretches back as far as 3,000,500,000 BCE and runs through the era of the dinosaurs, through initial encounters between Dutch settlers and American Indian natives, through the house's construction, occupation and destruction, and on into the near future (2213, when a tour guide explains what a watch, a wallet and a key are to a bunch of bemused visitors) and distant future (22,175, when strange creatures and enormous flowers once again dominate the scene).

A regular contributor to the New Yorker and founder and bassist of no wave band Liquid Liquid, McGuire is clearly interested in the passage of time and its effects - as evidenced by the depiction of the ritual of having annual family photos, and by one panel showing the room being decorated followed by another showing the same wallpaper being stripped off years later. However, the panels generally don't appear in the strict chronological order that would create a linear narrative. On the contrary, McGuire uses juxtaposition and undertakes chronological jumps to tell stories that the reader often needs to piece together.

Neither are the individual panels themselves uniform. McGuire's trick of superimposing framed images from other years onto one larger background picture deliberately shatters the chronological coherence of a single panel, instead drawing parallels and teasing out threads between different years - perhaps the best case in point being the panel that shows the piano being played in 1964 and characters "simultaneously" dancing to its tune in 1932, 1993 and 2014.

As this clumsily expressed review might suggest, Here and its effectiveness are difficult to explain but it certainly rewards investigation and reflection.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Go west

For someone who still harbours hopes of one day returning to Cardiff, the Guardian's recent alternative city guide does a very good job of capturing the vibrancy of the place, namechecking some established favourites (Chapter, Clwb Ifor Bach, Gwdihw and Pipes craft brewery, for instance) and whetting the appetite for what newer delights might lie in store (Depot's Saturday Street Food Social events in particular).

Of course, the fact there is no mention of Spillers is inexcusable...

(Thanks to Lyndsey for the link.)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Punk at the pictures

It's fair to say that when Thurston Moore recommends, I listen - especially after the list of his 38 favourite songs that he put together for The Fly. So when I came across another list, this time of his top ten punk films (as included in the August issue of the BFI's Sight & Sound magazine, a punk special), it was inevitable that my own must-see list would get longer.

The only one of Moore's recommendations that I've already seen is Anton Corbijn's Control (yes, I haven't even watched The Filth And The Fury) but Shellshock Rock (a documentary to accompany Good Vibrations, by the sounds of it), Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer and the Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo (as mentioned in Michael Azerrad's brilliant Our Band Could Be Your Life) in particular sound worthy of investigation. He obviously couldn't resist a shout-out for old Sonic Youth ally Dave Markey - Lovedolls Superstar promises much, according to his precis, but does it really deliver? Guess there's only one way to find out.

One of my own tips would be the Ramones film End Of The Century, though my enjoyment of that documentary was probably coloured favourably by the fact that every time a new song came on in the cinema (the lavish Art Deco palace that is Birmingham's Electric Cinema) the mohicaned punk in the row behind us moshed so hard our seats were shaking.

Of course, it would be remiss not to mention Moore's own star turn in 1991: The Year Punk Broke, which covers Sonic Youth's tour for Goo, features a stellar supporting cast including Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr, and remains one of my most prized viewing pleasures.

(Thanks to Tony for the link.)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Lord moves in mysterious amusing ways

"Leader Of Hate Group Who Says Disasters Punish Gays Has House Demolished By Floods". What a way to be outed, eh? You can't hide anything from the Big Fella Upstairs.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The second coming

Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski may have had the most screen time in the film that bears his name, but there was no doubt about who really stole the show: John Turturro's Jesus Quintana. He was too good a character to only appear in one film - so it's great to hear Turturro is set to resurrect him for Going Places, a remake of a French film from the 1970s called Les Valseuses. Hopefully the Coen brothers will give it their seal of approval.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Billy's building bridges

Not so long ago, a reunion of the original classic Smashing Pumpkins line-up would have seemed utterly improbable - not least because of Billy Corgan's ego, unpredictability and irascibility. But first Corgan started working with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and then reconciled with guitarist James Iha - and now it seems he's made peace with D'arcy Wretzky.

The band's original bassist has made only fleeting appearances in the headlines since leaving the outfit, including an arrest for possession of crack in 2000. In a 2009 radio interview, she said she wasn't in sufficiently good health to return to life as a musician - that may have changed, but don't go getting your hopes up of a reunion just yet.

Two's company

Repetitive but not monotonous? Welcome back, Factory Floor. On the evidence of this Quietus review by Mollie Zhang, it sounds as though the band - now a duo comprising just Nik Void and Gabe Gurnsey - play to their strengths on new album 25 25, while also suggesting that it's clubbier and perhaps cheerier than its brutalist predecessor.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

On the Spot(ify)

Two thirtysomethings and a fortysomething discussing the ins and outs of streaming could have been a complete car crash, especially given my technological incompetence/ignorance and luddite tendencies, but I actually think we pulled it off. Listen to Episode 8 of Sounding Bored, recorded on Monday night, and see if you agree.

The discussion ranged over everything from economics and discoverability/accessibility to the blend of curation and algorithms behind Spotify's Discover Weekly. Inevitably, I couldn't let the opportunity pass to mention the Indie Brunch incident...

Also covered (briefly) were the new albums from Wild Beasts, Metronomy and Dinosaur Jr, the inaugural Sea Change Festival in Totnes and the British Library's Punk 1976-78 exhibition, while the featured album was PUP's The Dream Is Over, the Torontonian punks' second.

Thanks to Tom for recommending PUP, to Leon for the line about Tim Lovejoy and especially to Simon for links to a wealth of informative articles on Spotify and streaming without which we'd have been pretty clueless.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The long read watch

Where did the time go, eh? These days, most likely it was invested in watching a box set. Clive James - a man whose illness has meant he's "run so short of time that time no longer matters" - has immersed himself in several and offers his thoughts on them here.

Of those he features, I've only seen Breaking Bad, and even then only the first four seasons of the six. The West Wing and the US adaptation of House Of Cards starring Kevin Spacey are all high on my "must watch" list (if I ever manage to find/make the time), and James does a good job of selling Weeds and the Scandinavian dramas too.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Against type

This completely passed me by at the time (July 2013), but Sufjan Stevens', er, savaging of the typography on the cover of Savages' debut LP has to be one of the most bizarre critiques of one artist's work by another that I've come across.

Signs of the times

According to Pitchfork, the symbol-filled song titles on Bon Iver's forthcoming new album 22, A Million are "unbelievably crazy". Nope, just silly or pretentious, and supernaturally shite. Given that, in all probability, the songs themselves will also have him wailing away through a vocoder/autotune, I'm in no great hurry to buy it.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The industrial revolution

Factories are all too often characterless carbuncles blighting the landscape, devoid of any aesthetic appeal or merit - right? Not in the work of French photographers Jerome Epaillard and Teresa Machado, who in their series Industrial Boundaries artfully render such buildings surprisingly beautiful.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The filth and the fury

It was rather fitting that yesterday's trip to London began with a walk past Buckingham Palace and ended up with a listen to the Sex Pistols' incendiary anti-Jubilee song 'God Save The Queen' at the British Library's Punk 1976-78 exhibition.

The show was brought to my attention by Viv Albertine's defacing of one of the information boards. She did perhaps have a point: there's a section dedicated to women in punk (which includes excerpts from a forthcoming film on the subject, and which features Albertine and her band The Slits), but this could conversely be seen as ghettoising their contribution rather than celebrating its centrality - much of the rest of the exhibition is devoted to the boys.

If that aspect of the curation could be criticised, then it was good to see an acknowledgement of the pioneering endeavours of British punk's American forebears: The Ramones, The New York Dolls, The Stooges, The MC5, Patti Smith. Take note, Jon Savage...

As might be expected given its location, the exhibition focuses largely on printed/written materials: amateurish but zealous fanzines, Situationist pamphlets, formal contracts and internal record company memos, posters for gigs with jaw-droppingly good line-ups (the Pistols' Anarchy In The UK tour, Siouxie & The Banshees on the same bill as Wire). There's much for the designer to admire, too, in terms of iconic items of punk apparel and 7" record sleeves.

I wouldn't recommend going to London with the sole purpose of visiting the exhibition, as it's not that large, but we didn't and I don't suppose many people would. Despite it not being particularly extensive, I still didn't get the opportunity to spend as much time as I'd have liked, thanks to the impatience of a wearied three year old - though he did at least break into a broad grin and a bit of a mosh when listening to 'Blitzkrieg Bop' and The Buzzcocks' 'What Do I Get?' on the headphones.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The silent man speaks

J Mascis has always been someone more comfortable communicating via his guitar than through speech, so the interviewer's task of eliciting candid responses - or indeed responses of any kind - from the Dinosaur Jr frontman is usually very much a thankless one. However, Kurt Vile isn't your ordinary interviewer, having idolised and then performed with Mascis before becoming firm friends with him - and so in a chat for Rolling Stone manages to coax him into some interesting insights about touring and working with Kevin Shields (apparently Mascis did the sound for My Bloody Valentine when the Isn't Anything tour stopped at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey) and the perhaps surprising admission that 1997's Hand It Over is his second favourite Dinosaur Jr album after You're Living All Over Me. As good as those are (indeed, as good as they all are), mine would have to be Where You Been.

Incidentally, it should go without saying, but the new album Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not is very good indeed. That opening salvo of 'Goin' Down' and 'Tiny' has me gripped every time, and I'm also loving the meaty riff of 'I Walk For Miles'.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"The mantra of Corbyn's opponents is that the party needs to provide effective opposition to the government, yet here again their incompetence is glaring. The Brexit vote, especially its calamitous economic effect, provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do lasting damage to the Conservative brand, and raise the chances of a future Labour victory under whichever leadership. The immediate crash in the value of the pound and longer-term damage to the British economy is arguably worse than 1992's Black Wednesday, and should have been hung around the necks of the Tories from the moment the markets tumbled after the result came in.

Voters should be reminded constantly that the pound in their pocket is now worth considerably less thanks to ministers who either campaigned for a leave vote, failed to plan for it, or both. Conservative responsibility for every ounce of economic pain to be felt  in the coming years must be seared into the public consciousness. This one-off opportunity has been squandered so far, simply because the geniuses of New Labour didn't have the strategic sense to sequence their moves, and wait for the next opportunity to depose Corbyn."

David Wearing might be stating the obvious, but it needs underlining nevertheless: the most immediate tragedy of Labour's internecine conflict is that it's allowed the Tories to emerge from the wreckage of the post-referendum car crash with barely a scratch.

(Thanks to Lyndsey for the link.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Intelligence test

Staying up too late? Yep. Being messy and having largely indecipherable handwriting? Check. Swearing? Fucking aye. All are proof of high intelligence, apparently. Don't take my word for it, though - it's the conclusion of proper bona fide scientists (or boffins, to use the tabloids' preferred term). Anyway, if the cap fits...

(Thanks to Ben for the link.)

Monday, August 08, 2016

The loneliness of the long-distance runner DJ

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week back in May, Noisey published a series of articles exploring the issue of music and mental health. One subject I don't think they covered was the specific strains experienced by DJs as opposed to bands: early-hours sets that cause sleep deprivation and disrupt or destroy natural circadian rhythms; crazy schedules that mean endless jetting around the world; social disconnectedness, loneliness and isolation from nature. And all of that on top of the usual problems caused by post-performance depression and the cocktail of drink and drugs that so many musicians resort to just to attempt to get by.

Hard as it might be to feel sympathy for wealthy globe-trotters like Moby, there is nevertheless clearly a serious issue here: namely that performance can be hazardous to health, both mental and physical. Little wonder some DJs and artists are deciding to turn their back on live appearances in the interests of their own sanity and wellbeing.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Shining a light on The Shining

It comes as no surprise to learn that Stanley Kubrick was meticulous in his attention to detail when working on The Shining - even if he may have been uncertain about exactly how to translate elements of Stephen King's novel into the medium of film. That much is obvious from the BFI's Stanley Kubrick Archive, held at the University of the Arts London.

One thing you won't find in the archive is evidence that Kubrick was involved in faking the moon landings - though there may be fuel for various crackpot theories about the deeper significance of the film.

(Thanks to Jonathan for the link.)

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Quote of the day

"Then I saw this issue of Ghost Rider and I was like, 'There's the name: Satan Suicide.' But Marty was like, 'Let's just take Suicide.' We were talking about society's suicide, especially American society. New York City was collapsing. The Vietnam War was going on. The name Suicide said it all to us."

The late Alan Vega on the origins of his legendary outfit's name.

The quote comes from an interview with Simon Reynolds conducted in 2002, when Reynolds was busy doing the research for Rip It Up And Start Again (which I continue to plod through at an annoyingly slow rate), which was condensed for Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews And Overviews and was recently republished by Pitchfork in tribute to the man himself. In it, Vega paints a vivid picture of 1970s New York - a picture already familiar to me as someone who's read David Browne's Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography Of Sonic Youth. Indeed, the first gig Thurston Moore ever saw in New York, as a callow Connecticut teenager, featured Suicide alongside The Cramps at Max's Kansas City. Needless to say, it proved an eye-opener.

(Thanks to Rob for the link.)

Friday, August 05, 2016

The big picture

The Guardian's Harriet Gibsone is right: if such mini-epics as the one produced by Romain Gavras to accompany Jamie XX's 'Gosh' are indeed becoming increasingly common, then it's a trend that's hard to square with the fact that Spotify and streaming have long replaced the likes of MTV as the primary means by which most music fans make new discoveries. That said, perhaps it's best not to dwell too long on the reasons for the rise of the "video-as-spectacle", and instead just celebrate the return of creativity and vision.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The high (and low) life

The early years of the twentieth century saw an explosion of major construction projects in New York - primarily skyscrapers, but also new subway infrastructure. This photo gallery goes some way to giving an impression of the sheer scope of the work.

I particularly like the rakish chap with the waistcoat, bowler hat and moustache striking a pose to mark the lowering into position of a block of marble for the New York Public Library - he looks like an Edwardian wolf-whistler.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Canvassing opinions

According to Nosheen Iqbal, we're enjoying "a golden age of festivals". Hmm. Someone clearly didn't get the memo posted by Ryan Bassil on Noisey declaring that the "golden age of festivals is over".

Who to believe? Neither, probably. As is so often the way with these things, the truth most likely lies somewhere in between - though personally speaking, given my festival non-attendance this year (until Southsea Fest on 1st October, at least), a large part of me wants Bassil to be right and Iqbal to be wrong, just so I don't feel as though I'm missing out too much...

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

From a different angle

"Pay attention to distractions."

"The most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten."

"Give way to your worst impulse."

Just three suggestions courtesy of cards in the Oblique Strategies deck, the 1970s brainchild of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt designed as an aid to overcoming creative block. While some tactics are naturally specific to the process of musical composition, given Eno's background, most are generally applicable to moments when an impasse is reached and you feel as though you're banging your head against a brick wall - and so probably of use to all of us...

Every cloud...

Just when we were starting to fear that there were no positives to take from the nation voting in favour of Brexit comes the timely news that it looks to have derailed a second Mrs Brown's Boys film. I bet Brendan Carroll isn't laughing now - at least he knows how I feel.

(Thanks to Amy for the link.)

Monday, August 01, 2016

Love actually

Mike Love gets an extremely bad press in Nick Kent's The Dark Stuff as a talentless meathead who saw his cousin Brian Wilson as a meal ticket and who bemoaned the direction Wilson took the Beach Boys in with Pet Sounds (the focal subject on Episode 7 of Sounding Bored, I should add) - so I was interested to see how he might come across in his own words when interviewed by Rolling Stone. The answer? Not particularly well. The man who very improbably retains the right to use the Beach Boys brandname (and is eagerly litigious in his determination to protect that right) seems embittered and passive-aggressive. Cue an old article by the Guardian's Alexis Petridis to remind us of the incidents that have made Love one of the most reviled men in rock.

In the late 1960s, while Love threw himself into meditation after meeting the Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi and Brian Wilson began a downward spiral that ended in the ignominy of being a drug addict barred from his own house and instead living in the swimming pool changing hut, Dennis Wilson made friends with (or was befriended by) Charles Manson - with the Beach Boys even recording a Manson composition, 'Cease To Exist', on the album 20/20. The extraordinary tale of this relationship is told in an episode of the You Must Remember This podcast.

(Thanks to Rob and Amy for the links.)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The ego has landed


Ondi Timoner's fantastic 2004 film Dig! charts the contrasting fortunes of two American bands united by friendship and divided by rivalry: The Dandy Warhols, who over the eight years the movie was filmed rise to modest mainstream success, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, who seem perpetually on the brink of similar success only to somehow contrive to screw everything up spectacularly, whether by getting busted for drugs or by self-imploding in a mass onstage brawl during an industry showcase at LA's Viper Rooms. The latter's figurehead, Anton Newcombe, is the film's undoubted star - an irascible egomaniac/megalomaniac even by rock 'n' roll's notoriously high standards.

Twelve years on, has he mellowed? Has he fuck. The show is barely ten minutes old and he's already threatening to throw down the stairs an audience member who had the temerity to shout out a request. Also on his ever-lengthy shitlist tonight are baby boomers, the imminent EU referendum, Taylor Swift, Spotify, the stage lighting and his own guitarist and keyboard player (whom he verbally scolds like a demon headmaster admonishing an errant and cowed pupil). When he does switch to enthusiastic eulogy, it's for the face-slashing scene in The Harder They Come and mandolin-playing roadie Christophe, about whom he's planning to make a Dogme-style film.

With his white shirt, beads and enormous tufty, greying sideburns, Newcombe now resembles John McCririck if he'd amassed a stockpile of horse tranquillisers and subsequently developed a Christ complex while on a gap year in India. Many of those present tonight are evidently of the belief that he's the messiah rather than just a very naughty boy. Nightshift is somewhat less certain.

If Newcombe is indeed a genius, then that genius lies either in the ability to hoodwink people into thinking he's a genius or (more charitably) in the ability to effortlessly pastiche and condense fifty years of music history into a two-and-a-half-hour set. That The Velvet Underground are a cornerstone is signalled visually from the outset through the use of Rickenbackers and Gibson 335s and the studious wearing of sunglasses indoors, but there are also variously shades of The Rolling Stones (particularly on 'Who?'), The Charlatans, The Kinks, The Doors, the thuggish stomp of Oasis circa Definitely Maybe, Spiritualized (hardly surprising for a band whose second album was called Methadrone) and The Stone Roses (the accurately titled 'Pish', taken from 2015's Mini Album Thingy Wingy, a release apparently named by Russell Brand).

The Brian Jonestown Massacre - or "The Brain Jonestown Massacre", as the Academy's official poster bills them - even have their very own Bez, Joel Gion, who is dressed like a hipster docker and introduced by Newcombe as "the man" but who fulfils his percussionist duties with yawning indifference rather than goggle-eyed relish. Newcombe doesn't even try to hide the fact that he's built a career on cribbing answers from other people's exam papers at the School of Rock; one of his compositions boasts the brazen moniker 'Here Comes The Waiting For The Sun'.

And yet ultimately you can't dispute either the improbable longevity of that career (26 years and counting, with albums number 15 and 16 on their way) or the band's popularity, reflected in the fact that tonight's show is sold out. Dig! may have implied that The Brian Jonestown Massacre lost the battle, but subsequent history suggests they've won the war. Indeed, this is perhaps even something to be celebrated: in an era of carefully stage-managed plasticky automatons delivering precision-guided product and platitudinous soundbites to a target demographic, Newcombe is arguably just the sort of entertainingly cantankerous, hubristic, uninhibited, unpredictable rock star we need.

(An edited version of this review first appeared in the August issue of Nightshift.)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Wish you were here?

Let's move to Abingdon? Oh yes, let's - all you need is £300,000 for a poky two-bedroom house with zero character. (That's the sum our neighbours have just sold their place for, barely a year and a half after buying it for £250,000...)

You'll have to excuse the bitterness - in fairness, it's only natural from someone who, at the age of nearly 40, still hasn't got a foot on the property ladder, has no realistic chance of doing so in Abingdon (let alone near Albert Park or on Norman Avenue) and has instead spent the last seven years paying off a huge chunk of someone else's mortgage.

In truth, Abingdon is an attractive place to live, especially with kids - as we've found, there's loads going on - and I can't argue with the recommendations for the Nag's Head or Patisserie Pascal. That said, the town council are currently doing their darndest to ensure it doesn't seem as welcoming as it might to a sizeable segment of the population...

(Thanks to Siobhan and Matt for the links.)

Ill behaviour

It wouldn't have taken a genius to surmise that the fad for continuing to wear festival wristbands long after the event (a fad that I admittedly succumbed to, albeit briefly, way back in the day) might not be the most hygienic - but it's now been scientifically proven. So I'd suggest cutting them off - not least because if I were you and I'd paid good money to go to V Festival, I'd want to keep it very, very quiet about it.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"I hate EDM. I want to vomit it out of my nostrils. I can't stand what it did to what I love, which is house music, which was meditative, psychedelic - it took you on a journey. ... I sometimes cringe at my own festival."

Poor Perry Farrell. When you found a festival (Lollapalooza) and subsequently get a stage named after you (Perry's), then you'd at least hope that the general genre of music that dominates that particular stage would be something that didn't make your stomach turn.

The man whose head expanded

As I was reliably informed by a friend who made the mistake of biting off significantly more than he could chew, the secret of choosing a good specialist subject for Mastermind is to ensure it's not too broad (though broad enough to satisfy the producers). On those grounds, it's a fairly brave man who decides to go with "The Life And Works Of Mark E Smith And The Fall"...

By coincidence, we're off to Prestwich this weekend - wonder if we'll catch sight of the area's most famous resident? Probably not, as we're not planning on going on a pub crawl or spending time hanging around in cheap bakeries.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Watch and learn

What is it with HIT Entertainment? If their kids' programmes aren't conditioning our youth to the importance of an unquestioning and hard-working existence within a totalitarian society, it seems as though they're subtly encouraging them to adopt Islamophobic attitudes.

Lest expectant and new parents fear the worst about kids' TV, though, it is possible to point to at least a few (CBeebies) programmes that have considerable merit: Octonauts (which is likely to be responsible for a surge in the number of marine biologists in years to come), Go-Jetters (who better to give geography lessons than a disco-loving unicorn?), My First, I Can Cook and Andy's Wild/Dinosaur/Prehistoric Adventure. A new one to me was Melody, which introduces children to the work of classical composers, including (in a recent episode) Erik Satie. You won't find Thomas the Tank Engine whistling Satie tunes any time soon...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sounds of the spheres

It was a long time in coming (nearly as long as the Avalanches' second album), but Episode 7 of Sounding Bored is here. For this installment the absent Niall is replaced by special guest Amy as we celebrate the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and its legacy as it reaches a milestone 50th birthday, before using it as a springboard for a wider discussion of production and producers that is conducted in layman's terms rather than a welter of obtuse technical detail. We then wrap up by considering the merits (and disappointments) of Bat For Lashes' fourth LP The Bride.

I feel compelled to point out that (a) the Angel Olsen song I enthuse about is called 'Shut Up Kiss Me' (note to self: it's not a very effective plug if you don't actually mention the song title...) and (b) I don't actually think that the production quality ruins Daydream Nation - more that I love that album in spite of the production.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Newcombe and newcomers

The August issue of Nightshift is up online now, and I still can't decide whether I've been too charitable or perhaps not charitable enough to The Brian Jonestown Massacre, who came to Oxford last month. No apologies for gushing over Maiians' debut (and quite possibly only) album - it's ruddy marvellous.

It's also nice to see Cassels getting the front cover and main interview treatment - they deserve it. Suffice to say they might be from Chipping Norton but they're most definitely not part of the Set...

Monday, July 25, 2016

Feel good hits of the 25th July

1. 'Honeymooning Alone' - Bat For Lashes
Taken from her typically spellbinding fourth LP The Bride, a concept album that's set to be one of the subjects for discussion when we record Episode 7 of Sounding Bored this evening. The record has a whole narrative arc, but it's no surprise to me that one of its bleakest moments is my current stand-out.

2. 'Elevator Operator' - Courtney Barnett
Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit might be old news to most people, but I'm still playing it to death. The album opener has recently been released as a single, and the accompanying video features a feast of cameo appearances from the likes of Sleater-Kinney, Jeff Tweedy and The Drones (the latter dressed with delicious incongruity as businessmen, sharply suited and glued to their phones).

3. 'Parasaur' - Maiians
Local groovemeisters with the most Holy Fuckesque song on their debut, which I've just reviewed for Nightshift. As for the video - well, any excuse for a food fight.

4. 'Bovina' - Turing Machine
The drop on 5:06 is one of the best things you'll ever hear, I promise.

5. 'Punks In A Disco Bar' - Beach Slang
Missing Japandroids (or The Replacements, for that matter)? Don't fear, Beach Slang are here with tracks like this, taken from a forthcoming second album that's not only called A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings but that also features the tracks 'Wasted Daze Of Youth' and 'Young Hearts' back to back.

6. 'The Kiss' - Judee Sill
I've been meaning to listen to some Judee Sill for a while, but it was this Toppermost article that finally pushed me into doing so - and I'm pleased to report that 'The Kiss', a track covered by Bonnie "Prince" Billy back in 2004, is pretty special. She's somewhere between Natasha Khan and Karen Carpenter, and her fondness for religious imagery, background in church music and bookish appearance are deceptive - as this Observer piece reveals, her life was plagued by tragedy and drug addiction, her talent sadly squandered or at least frustrated.

7. 'Ice Cream And Sunscreen' - Martha
As has been pointed out elsewhere, given that Martha hail from the County Durham village of Pity Me, surely they should be an emo band rather than politically engaged pop-punkers? The quartet, about whom I was tipped off by fellow Sounding Bored podcaster Niall, are playing an Oxford show next month - if I'm lucky, I might just get along.

8. 'Monoliths' - Maserati
Very definitely in the same ballpark as Turing Machine, with whom they shared a drummer (the late Jerry Fuchs, also occasionally of LCD Soundsystem, The Juan MacLean and !!!), and US labelmates of Mono and Explosions In The Sky (among others) on Temporary Residence. An album purchase is required, methinks.

9. 'War Pigs' - Black Sabbath
It doesn't matter how many times I listen to this song - I just can't get over how monumentally shit that ending is.

10. 'I Was A Teenage Werewolf' - The Cramps
The Cramps are such an oft-quoted reference point that I thought it was high time I went back to the source. In the main: frantic, scratchy, messy, primal renditions of 'Johnny B Goode' (though 'I Was A Teenage Werewolf' is a little different - slower, for a start). It's not hard to see why the likes of The Birthday Party, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and The Jesus & Mary Chain were so fond of them.

And here's the Spotify playlist (minus Maiians, and with Turing Machine's 'Bovina' conjoined to the previous track on the album).

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The long read

The Chilcot report isn't exactly a laugh a minute - but that hasn't stopped a whole host of comedians from signing up to read it out loud in its 6,000-page entirety as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. The show is the brainchild of Bob Slayer, and Stewart Lee, Simon Munnery and Reginald D Hunter are among those who'll be taking a turn. The report isn't going to be mocked or trivialised, though - the idea being to raise both awareness of its content and money for a refugee charity.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"I was still disgusted but more comfortable with the racism of the 70s and 80s that was overt and thuggish, than this new form of respectable xenophobia where it is done in political circles, journalism and academia."

Tory peer and former party co-chair Lady Warsi on the post-referendum climate of intolerance. If that's how she feels, you have to wonder quite why she remains a member of a party whose former leader was particularly culpable, by referring to refugees as "a swarm"...

Joan of artwork

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Joan Cornella - whose disconcerting and twistedly comic cartoons I only recently came across - was commissioned to produce some album artwork, and it's Wilco who have got in there first.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Quote of the day

"Through witty vignettes, heavy essays and nod-inducing pieces of wisdom, I shine a light on the nooks of the nation and the crannies of myself. It's a piece of work of which I'm immensely proud and if I had to sum it up in one word it would be: hope."

Back of the net! If Alan Partridge's forthcoming book Nomad, written as a companion-piece to his recent TV show Scissored Isle, is even half as good as its predecessor, his 2011 autobiography I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan, then there's absolutely no chance of copies ending up pulped as word porridge.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

You don't fool me

Another day, another bunch of musicians railing against Donald Trump. Queen may not have written a protest song about the Republican presidential candidate, but they have been unequivocal in their disgruntlement at Trump playing 'We Are The Champions' at a campaign rally - unlike Neil Young, who's been somewhat inconsistent on the issue.

It's been suggested that Trump's use of a song by a band famous for featuring an African-born bisexual immigrant of Iranian and Indian descent runs counter to pretty much everything he stands for. As for the band, the official statement and comments from Brian May indicate that actually their problem isn't so much with Trump's politics as with their music being commandeered for political purposes in general. Not quite so principled after all - but then probably only to be expected from a band who failed to see the problem with playing a series of gigs in apartheid South Africa...

The odd couple

Of all the people to feature on the cover of an album by hard rock/heavy metal dinosaurs UFO, Genesis P-Orridge and girlfriend Cosey Fanni Tutti of violent performance art troupe COUM Transmissions and later industrial noise terrorists Throbbing Gristle are two of the least likely.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Rewriting Correcting history

Once a punk, always a punk - as Viv Albertine recently proved. Invited to appear in conversation with Jon Savage at the British Library to mark its Punk 1976-78 exhibition, the former Slits guitarist took exception to the way that the display text had airbrushed out the contributions of women like herself and decided to set the record straight. You'd hope that the exhibition's curators feel suitably chastened.

Rewritten history aside, Punk 1976-78 nevertheless sounds like it would be worth a visit.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The frying photographer

The portrait pictures that fish-and-chip shop proprietor Kazem Hakimi has taken of his regular customers suggest they're anything but regular. It comes as little surprise to learn that the Oxford establishment he's run for more than 25 years is located on Iffley Road - along with neighbouring Cowley Road, arguably the only area of the city that can claim to be home to such diversity.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The waiting game

Wondered what the hell the Avalanches were up to in the 16 years it took to produce the follow-up to Since I Left You? Well, here's the answer, courtesy of Robbie Chater: "financial meltdown, serious illness, experimentation with powerful hallucinogenic drugs, the departure of band members, the collapse of their record label and Chater's insistence on using the same equipment that they'd made Since I Left You with, on which he'd stored umpteen musical ideas". In those terms, it seems remarkable that Wildflower exists at all.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The white death

When any building is abandoned, it's left exposed to the elements - but nowhere is that more dramatic than in the snowy wastelands of Eurasia. The ruins featured in photographer Danila Tkachenko's Restricted Areas series are set against the bleakest of white backdrops - perhaps a poignant comment on the folly of the human conviction that anywhere can be made hospitable.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"Forgive my harshness when I state categorically: the so-called 'truth' these malicious cranks persist in forwarding - that my father conspired with the US government to 'fake the moon landings' - is manifestly A GROTESQUE LIE."

Stanley Kubrick's daughter Vivian responds to one of the most notorious conspiracy theories in circulation.

Scotland I love you but you're bringing me down

I couldn't bring myself to watch much more than five minutes of LCD Soundsystem's Other Stage-headlining set at Glastonbury for fear of exploding with envy, but I'm reliably informed it was pretty spectacular. So it's painful to see quite how poor the turnout was when they played at T In The Park. In what (parallel) universe are Red Hot Chili Peppers a better option, or mud an impediment, to seeing James Murphy's crew in prime form?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Kill your idols

Much of what has happened amid the post-referendum circus has been horrifying or ridiculous (and often both at the same time), but one thing has been infuriating and even tragic: the failure of Labour to capitalise on the situation. Rather than forming the credible opposition the country needs and making hay while the Tories imploded through treachery, chicanery and egotism, Labour have instead sought to emulate them, far too preoccupied with bitter internecine squabbling over Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and the direction the party should take.

Gary Younge's recent article for the Guardian sums up the frustration extremely well. Why are members of the Parliamentary Labour Party unable to accept that Corbyn is the leader preferred by the majority of ordinary party members and adamant that he should be undermined and ousted? It's farcical that the current incumbent was almost excluded from the ballot sheet and therefore barred from even attempting to retain a position he gained through a democratic process. As many people have pointed out, it's almost as if his critics are determined to prove he's unelectable.

It's not as if there's any substance to the challenge, either: "The Parliamentary Labour Party has obsessed about nothing else for the best part of a year. In all that time it has not produced a plausible strategy, programme or policy designed to win back those who voted for Corbyn." The best it can offer is Angela Eagle, whose voting record (on Iraq, on Syria, on tuition fees, on the welfare bill) is largely indistinguishable from that of a Tory and thus completely out of step with the views of party members.

In keeping with the general ridiculousness of politics at present, Eagle's leadership bid has already been upstaged twice, both times by the Tories (inadvertently). First, at the launch of her campaign (with graphics that many have noted looked very like those Alan Partridge has for his event at Linton Travel Tavern) she tried to address the assembled political journalists directly, only to discover that they'd all snuck out to cover Andrea Leadsom's withdrawal from the Tory leadership contest. Then, she was in the midst of mocking Boris Johnson when someone in the audience told her he'd just been named Foreign Secretary, which left her completely dumbfounded (as it did most of the nation, to be fair).

Hopefully she'll throw in the towel, PLP members will grudgingly accept the will of the wider Labour membership and Corbyn can get on with leading the party - but unfortunately it looks far more likely that the anti-Corbyn plotters will refuse to concede defeat and this civil war will rumble on and on, to the detriment of the party and the nation as a whole.

(Thanks to Tim for the Gary Younge link.)