Monday, December 10, 2018

Spanish revolution?

Next year's Primavera line-up is looking - how to put this? - a bit young-persony for my tastes, even if it's been greeted with considerable excitement in some quarters (for example, by The Quietus). Sure, there are quite a few acts on the bill that I'd love to see (Low, Fucked Up, Julia Holter, Snail Mail, Courtney Barnett, Stephen Malkmus, June Of 44, Shellac) but there are also plenty that I wouldn't. The organisers appear to be pitching more for the pop crowd - which is fine, but enough to make a ATP veteran friend of mine rethink his plan to organise a 40th birthday trip to Barcelona.


Supersonic 2019, meanwhile, has just one confirmed act to date - but given that that act is Neurosis, tickets are likely to fly.

Public loss, private gain


What happens when a government pursues an ideologically motivated programme of austerity measures, cutting funding to a whole range of welfare services? First, the poorest and most vulnerable in society suffer the consequences. And second, the corporate vultures swoop in, attracted by the smell of money-making opportunities. The NHS is the most obvious example, but, as a new book by Ray Jones underscores, the same process of stealth privatisation has been occurring within children's services.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Local heroes

Love it or hate it, it's end-of-year list time again. (I'm on the fence, to be honest - as much as I love reading them, I hate the feeling of having missed out on so much.)

The names of my top five LPs of 2018 have been submitted to Sounding Bored host Rob, with the team's compiled top ten to be revealed in Episode 36. Typically, I'm already doubting my choices...

As usual, I also voted in Nightshift's annual top 25 tracks of the year - despite no longer being resident in Oxford, I've been able to keep in touch with the city's musical output through the magazine, for which I've continued to contribute the odd review.

As editor Ronan noted in his introduction to the rundown, it was a particularly interesting year because "few of the local big guns - Radiohead; Foals; Ride; Glass Animals - released new music". Top spot was taken by 'Get On With It' by scuzz punksters Self Help, who seem to be pretty much universally loved - and not without good reason. (Incidentally, their track 'The Razz', with its reference to the Hi-Lo Jamaican bar on Cowley Road, would have been a good soundtrack to the very drunken weekend I spent back in the city last month. It's like IDLES doing Madness.)

Of the artists I voted for, Ghosts In The Photographs claimed 15th spot with 'Dylexorcist', a beast of a track that suggested they've come of age and promised even more for the future, and Rainbow Reservoir snuck in with 'Podium Girls', a characteristically fuzzy pop-punk gem from album Channel Hanna.

Also featuring in the top 25 were the likes of Lucy Leave, Desert Storm and Death Of The Maiden (the latter a local-scale all-female supergroup that might be of interest to the Guardian's Laura Snapes), but sadly there wasn't space for either of my other two picks: masters of post-rock restraint Year Of The Kite, whose debut album With Sparks Flying really impressed, and Kid Kin, whose 'Jarmo' confirmed his status as a one-man Mogwai venturing a little further into the electronic territory where the Glaswegians still seem to fear to tread.

Finally, a mention for The August List's stunning 'Distorted Mountain', released just too late to be considered for inclusion. Another monumental advance for the duo, it amps up the volume and the darkness, continues their gradual shift away from the backwoods folk of their early days, and very much whets the appetite for (hopefully) a new LP in 2019.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Quote of the day

"Punk is an art of action. It's about deciding to do something and then going out and doing it."

Pete Shelley, in a 2006 interview with the Guardian. The Buzzcocks founder and frontman has died at the age of 63, and the tributes are already flooding in. The band's own tweet that broke the news described him as "one of the UK's most influential and prolific songwriters" - but really it could and should have also hailed him as one of the best.

As the tributes underline, Shelley's lyrics and way with a sharp, snappy, three-minute punk pop song meant a huge amount to numerous teenagers growing up in the late 1970s. Personally speaking, though, I came to Buzzcocks late. I mean, I knew and loved 'Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)', but doesn't everyone? It was a chance early-hours encounter at an ATP in 2009 that really brought home to me how good they are, each song better than the last. Thank you to My Bloody Valentine for helping me to (belatedly) see the light.

Singles Going Steady was swiftly purchased and played to death. Catching Buzzcocks headline the 1-2-3-4 Festival in Shoreditch in 2012 was one of the highlights of a summer that also included a trip to Primavera in Porto and confirmed my feeling that they (and Wire) should be ranked above Sex Pistols and The Clash in the punk pantheon.

With the benefit of hindsight, I feel even more privileged to have seen them for one last time earlier this year. They might not have been quite at their best, and Shelley in particular was showing signs of age, but nothing could detract from the quality of that back catalogue. Allow me the self-indulgence of quoting the last line of that review: "Over the past four decades, countless people have fallen in love with Buzzcocks, but I'd guarantee that not one of them has ever regretted it."

Thursday, December 06, 2018

The King is ain't dead

In Episode 20 of Sounding Bored, dedicated to the life and work of one Elvis Aaron Presley, host Rob and guest David (among other things) lamented the King's waning musical legacy, at least in comparison to the likes of The Beatles, who continue to be cited as an influence on contemporary bands and artists. Nevertheless, as photographer Graeme Oxby's new book The Kings Of England illustrates, Elvis remains a cultural icon, the focal point of a vibrant subculture.

Huawei hoo-ha

Cases of pots calling kettles black surely don't come much more clear-cut than China angrily accusing another country of committing human rights abuses against its citizens. Perhaps they're just aggrieved because that's their job.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Very fine dining

Round these parts we may be trying to eat more vegetarian (and even vegan) meals, but when the opportunity to dine on a whole suckling pig presented itself, I certainly wasn't going to turn it down. Potted Pig's speciality dish was on the menu for my friend Dan's 40th birthday gathering last week - a communal and ceremonial feast that also included a pair of ham hocks, an assortment of tasty accompanying veg and plenty of wine (normal and dessert) to wash it down with.

(An aside: some carnivores would no doubt be uncomfortable or even horrified at the little face staring at them while they tucked into their dinner, not wanting to be reminded where the meat on their plate had come from. But that's part of our problem - chunks of supermarket meat packaged in plastic trays are dissociated from the source, making it easier for consumers to disregard animal welfare and quality and focus only on price. That connection needs to be reestablished.)

Our gastronomic adventures continued on Saturday evening with a first visit to Heaney's, which, being on the other side of Canton, is even closer to home. My appetite for the taster menu for two had already been whetted by several reviews, including one on local food blog The Octopus Diaries and one written by Noel Gardner for Buzz - and it not only lived up to high expectations but surpassed them.

The fish- and seafood-based dishes (of which there were many) were fresh and flavoursome. I've never enjoyed crab before, was an oyster virgin and regarded raw scollops with a fair degree of suspicion, but was instantly converted to them all. Even better, though, was the oxtail ball and the rare lamb with samphire. I found myself saying "Now THAT was my favourite thing so far" after every course, but, with hindsight, the lamb takes the accolade for the best dish of the night. For my more sweet-toothed dining partner, however, the piece de resistance came last: a malty, salted caramel roll, every mouthful of which brought an "mmm" of deep delight.

Add to that some superb cocktails (lighter, more refreshing blends such as a French 75 worked well with the early courses, while an espresso martini was the perfect accompaniment to the desserts), relaxed but attentive service, a smart but unfussy setting and a bill that, all things considered, was really quite reasonable, and you have the recipe for a restaurant to which we'll most definitely go back. Just got to come up with a suitable excuse now...



Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Rock and rock 'n' roll stars

Few music photographers can claim to have taken as many iconic, instantly recognisable shots as Mick Rock, and so picking up a bargain-priced copy of his book Exposed - as I did at the weekend - was always going to be well worth it.

Inside are his cover images for Lou Reed's Transformer and The Stooges' Raw Power (taken, incredibly, just a day apart); countless great pictures of David Bowie, including the one of him eating a meal and looking lovingly at Mick Ronson while the pair are on the London to Aberdeen train; assorted shots of the permanently photogenic Debbie Harry; and lots, lots more. Essentially, pretty much anyone who's anyone has, at some point in time, been the focus of Rock's lens and attention, and the results are almost invariably great.

And yet I can't help but feel aggrieved at the fact that the one Sonic Youth photo - a portrait of the band's power couple Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, taken in 2005 - has been placed opposite an image of simian cretins Kasabian...

Monday, December 03, 2018

Irresponsible adults

The Home Secretary has claimed that his instinctive reaction to the video of Syrian refugee Jamal suffering an unprovoked attack in Huddersfield was to think: "How can this kind of thing still be going on in our country?" Well, Sajid, perhaps you could start by looking close to home - at the way your party has repeatedly and consistently denigrated refugees, immigrants and those from other countries and cultures, the cumulative effect of which is a toxic environment in which prejudice thrives.

Following on from Dominic Raab's Trussell Trust tweet, this is just another example of the Tories' apparent inability (or unwillingness) to comprehend that they might be culpable for the state of the nation.

Quote of the day

"Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon."

Sir David Attenborough telling it like it is at the COP24 environment conference in Poland. Warnings don't come much more stark than that - but will recalcitrant world leaders (Donald Trump in particular) suddenly start paying attention? Perhaps, with the promise of increased World Bank funding for the drastic but essential measures needed to combat climate change, attitudes might actually begin to shift and progress might be made.

"An early poet of color photography"

Chicago nanny Vivian Maier has achieved posthumous fame on account of her black-and-white street photography - but she also worked in colour, as a new book and exhibition demonstrate. In the selection of shots shown here, her keen eye for odd details is evident - not least in the picture of a woman's legs, one in red heels and the other bandaged in a cast.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Shameless

The Tories' capacity for crass, ignorant behaviour is hardly a well-kept secret, but even by those standards the comments made by Dominic Raab on Friday were particularly appalling.

The former Brexit Secretary tweeted a photo of himself grinning in a supermarket with the caption: "Thank you to Tesco in Molesey and the Trussell Trust for partnering to encourage customers to generously provide food collections for families in our community, who are struggling at this time of year." In so doing, he conveniently ignored the fact that it's the policies of his own party that have created the need for such collections - and for members of the public and the private sector to step in and provide the basic welfare support that should be the responsibility of government.

Perhaps, though, we shouldn't be so surprised. After all, Raab has previously demonstrated that he has no understanding whatsoever as to the reality of the situation, claiming on BBC2 in May last year that "the typical user of a food bank is not someone who's languishing in poverty, it's someone who has a cashflow problem episodically". Those comments - branded "stupid and deeply offensive" by the Lib Dems' Tim Farron - were swiftly rubbished by a representative from the Trussell Trust, who pointed out that delays to benefits (caused by Universal Credit) and low incomes are inextricably linked.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The cost of care

Maternity leave: "a magical, idyllic time to spend with your new baby"? Not for every mother, and indeed not all the time for any mother. The BBC's Emma Barnett is right to argue that "there should be no guilt in saying you find maternity leave hard" and that the full reality - with its lows as well as its undeniable highs - should be more widely and openly discussed. A culture in which those lows go unacknowledged creates a stigma and makes those who are struggling reluctant to seek help - which can have damaging consequences for mental health.

Although men obviously don't have to contend with post-natal hormones and women bear the brunt of the tough early weeks, when it's often all about simply surviving until the end of the day, the same is true to a certain extent of parental leave more generally. Don't get me wrong: having cared for my son from six months of age until he reached primary school, I wouldn't swap my experience for anything. But even though I was well supported and had a good community of fellow parents around me, there were moments when I felt a little isolated, when my self-esteem sank and when - to use Barnett's expression - I found myself mourning for aspects of my old life. How much harder it must be when you don't have any of that scaffolding.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Poor relations

Only yesterday I was writing about the phenomenon that broadcaster and journalist Nicholas Jones has termed "Project Deception", referring to the way in which the right-wing media has colluded with Brexiteers by repeatedly insisting that leaving the EU will bring about economic prosperity while simultaneously dismissing or ignoring any evidence to the contrary. So it should be the source of embarrassment and humiliation for all concerned that a report from the Treasury itself has now confirmed that the country will be worse off out of Europe, whatever shape that exit takes.

What's more, the report indicates that the projected fall in national income will be at least partially attributable to restrictions on freedom of movement and migration from Europe. The relentless front-page attacks on immigrants (as charted in Jones' lecture last night) are thereby exposed for what they are: nasty, xenophobic, ideologically driven nonsense.

It's to be hoped that the news media now do their job properly in publicising the report's findings widely as a corrective to all of the vacuous claims made by Tory ministers and those who've backed Brexit. The BBC have made it their top story, at least.

Quote of the day

"I am one of the last few remaining voices left from a generation of men and women who built a better society for our children and grandchildren out of the horrors of the Second World War, as well as the hunger of the Great Depression. Sadly, that world my generation helped build on a foundation of decency and fair play is being swept away by neoliberalism and the greed of the 1%, which has brought discord around the globe. Today, the Western world stands at its most dangerous juncture since the 1930s."

RIP Harry Leslie Smith.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

It's the Sun (and the Mail and the Telegraph) wot won it

As our glorious nation lurches daily from one political crisis to the next in the build-up to Brexit, it's sometimes hard to believe or understand how on earth we've got to the state we're currently in. Nicholas Jones has a fair idea, though, and this evening at Cardiff University's School of Journalism, Media and Culture, the journalist and author gave a public lecture setting out his view that Brexit has been sold to the British public by our news media.

Jones' observations, I'd argue, were not in themselves particularly revelatory: that irresponsible press reporting about immigration fuelled xenophobic and anti-EU sentiment; that paper owners and editors cynically fed public fears because of commercial self-interest and personal political agendas; that Nigel Farage and UKIP were given undue coverage; that in the post-referendum period those same right-wing papers have repeatedly sought to create the impression that Britain is booming, burying or simply ignoring any bad news and pointing the finger of blame at Brussels bullies whenever it looks as though there may be complications or things aren't quite as rosy as has been claimed. However, what was illuminating was the way that he demonstrated all this, through a procession of front pages and opinion pieces stretching back to 2010, showing the cumulative effect and the apparently gradual but inexorable movement towards our current predicament.

Jones was clearly aggrieved by it all, but did grudgingly admit the brilliance of the Brexiteers in managing to commandeer and control the agenda for so long. The flip side of that, though, was his sense that they've been allowed to do so. In his view, the Remain campaign, Labour and left-of-centre papers like the Guardian have all been culpable in putting up inadequate and feeble opposition. The BBC, he suggested, should shoulder much of the responsibility on the grounds that it has been negligent in checking facts and offering genuine, serious analysis of the issues. Instead, it has too often allowed the right-wing media to set the agenda and appears to have mistaken balance with pitting political rivals against each other for a verbal punch-up - which, while occasionally entertaining, is neither edifying nor informative for the electorate. Had the quantity and quality of information to which people had access been much better in the run-up to the referendum, we probably wouldn't be in this situation.

Unsurprisingly, given the identity of some of the attendees and the venue's proximity to Media Wales' headquarters, the issue of local news media came up in the post-lecture question-and-answer session. Jones ventured that local papers and regional news programmes have a vital role to play in showing the impacts of Brexit at close quarters, but lamented the severe cutbacks that have left teams overworked and under-resourced to the extent that they simply can't provide the kind of service that one might expect or hope for. More troubling, however, was the observation of one member of the audience that worthy stories on significant issues are often demoted or even dropped because they're not thought sexy enough to attract the online views and hits that increasingly determine media revenues.

With the crucial Commons vote just a fortnight away, Jones noted the very recent shift in attitude of most right-wing papers (with the exception of the Sun) in offering backing to the embattled Prime Minister on the grounds that Brexit (in their view) must be delivered in some form. Fascinatingly, with the mooted leadership challenge crumbling, it's now hardline Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg who find themselves castigated (without a shred of irony) as saboteurs and enemies of the people. It all goes to show how quickly things can change - and for that reason Jones was understandably reluctant to speculate what might happen next. Either way, though, the extraordinary power of the British press to shape public opinion and policy is likely to endure.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The art of (background) noise

Background music - in the form of muzak - used to be merely a trivial irritant. But now it's rather more than that: carefully and deliberately curated playlists in order to set moods, build brands, bolster "experiences" and ultimately subtly influence and manipulate behaviour (especially that of consumers). I probably can't speak for all music fans, but personally Jake Hulyer's Guardian article on a growing industry makes for illuminating and alarming reading.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Eyewitness account

If anything was going to induce me to check out Damian Abraham's podcast Turned Out A Punk (as previously recommended by Niall and Rob, fellow members of the Sounding Bored crew), then it was an episode with Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. The Fucked Up frontman, excitable at the best of times, can hardly conceal his delight at the opportunity to chat to Moore, whom he credits as the person chiefly responsible for him getting into punk - and, as promised, the ensuing conversation is a hugely enjoyable nerdfest.

Moore begins by talking about his formative influences - including 'Louie Louie' (an "ur-text" for punk) - and early love for weird, outsider music (Bowie, Beefheart, the Stooges, Can - usually plucked from the 49-cent discount bin). Despite his best efforts to get into Yes triple albums and the fact that his first gig was a Rick Wakeman show, prog never spoke to him in the same way that punk did.

The fact that he was an eyewitness to the first explosion of US punk makes his perspective particularly fascinating. His first gig in New York was Suicide at Max's Kansas City; he bumped into Joey Ramone while driving down the street; on his first visit to CBGBs (which was like "going into a witch's house") Richard Hell tried to get him in for free by transferring his hand stamp. Hilly Kristal's legendary venue comes across as a bizarre melting pot frequented not just by punks but also by leftfield writers like Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Gregory Corso, all of whom were connected to the scene through Patti Smith.

Most of the bands Moore mentions are household names - or at least they are in this house. But I'd never heard of The Mumps, Milk 'N' Cookies or The Steel Tips. Judging by the YouTube footage I've subsequently found of the latter, they really were as striking and odd a prospect as Moore suggests - twin vocalists, firecracker shirts et al.

Almost concurrently New York was home to the artier, weirder no wave scene, comprising DNA, Mars, Contortions, Teenage Jesus & The Jerks and more. Moore's portrait of those bands and of the city at that time (as a place that was scuzzy and dangerous but also extremely fertile in terms of music, art and culture) very much chimes with Simon Reynolds' in Rip It Up And Start Again, but he admits that while he dabbled in the no wavers' world, as a relatively conservative kid he found it intimidating and as a result cautiously kept a bit of distance.

Kim Gordon came to New York from LA as an artist and so had closer affinities with the people in the no wave scene, and Moore met Lee Ranaldo around the time they were both playing as members of the guitar army assembled by avant-garde composer Glenn Branca. The fact that Moore was the only true punk enthusiast of the three most integral members of Sonic Youth perhaps unsurprisingly meant that the band could never be regarded as punk in any conventional sense.

Similarly, it was only Moore who developed a love of hardcore (both from New York and from Washington DC) and LA punk bands like The Germs. The others merely tolerated his obsessions, and the influence of those genres on the band's music is never overt, though obliquely perceptible at times (Abraham notes, for instance, that hardcore can be heard in the harsh sound of Confusion Is Sex).

There is actually precious little in the podcast about Sonic Youth, Moore instead revelling in the opportunity to enthuse about other bands, fanzines and books in the company of a fellow fanatic. However, the podcast ends with Moore accepting Abraham's invitation to record a follow-up, so I'd imagine the conversation of that episode may well focus more closely on Moore's own music and career trajectory. I for one can't wait.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Down on the upside

It's with depressing frequency that I find myself reflecting on the challenges (both specific and general) facing live music venues the length and breadth of the country. So to be able to report a very positive development is a rare pleasure.

Yesterday, Oxford institution the Cellar reached its crowdfunding target of £80,000 with days to spare. Substantial building work is required to create a new exit that meets fire regulations and allows the venue to operate at full capacity, and without the cash it would have had to close its doors. There are precious few live music spaces in the centre of the city as it is, so it was heartening to see the concerted fundraising campaign pay off.

Supporters included Radiohead's Phil Selway, who auctioned off one of his drums, and local ticket agency WeGotTickets, who pledged a whopping £5,000, as well as Steve Lamacq, Jarvis Cocker, Judge Jules, the Music Venue Trust and countless artists local, national and international who have fond memories of performing there. Thanks to their generosity, future generations of Oxford musicians will reap the benefits.

Hopefully, the success of the campaign will serve to inspire those fighting to protect other venues and, as Cellar manager Tim Hopkins said, communicate "to people out there just how crucial small venues are to our music and arts community".

In fact, for the Cellar, some of those venues are very close to home. The Wheatsheaf, a short walk away down Cornmarket and equally integral to the Oxford music scene, has had to stop live music in its downstairs bar and brought its upstairs curfew forwards due to a noise complaint from a single local resident who moved in while the venue was being refurbished in the summer. There's no imminent threat of closure, but it just goes to show the injustices and difficulties that such establishments have to endure - and how important and urgent it is that the the agent of change principle, still yet to be green-lighted by parliament, is adopted.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Billy Whizz

Not content with performing production duties on what has stealthily become one of my favourite albums of the year (Our Girl's Stranger Today), Bill Ryder-Jones has just released a fine LP of his own. As the title suggests, the songs on Yawn stretch themselves out gradually and sleepily, like a fluffy cat basking in a pool of winter sunshine.

The record is certainly far, far superior to the one offered up by his former bandmates in The Coral earlier in the year, and to Art Brut's comeback LP Wham! Bang! Pow! Let's Rock Out!, which I also reviewed for Buzz this month.

Meanwhile, Red Telephone are the latest Libertino band to catch my ear. 'Victoria Park' is perhaps a bit too in hock to 60s flower-power psych, but it's undoubtedly proficient and promises better things to come.

Behind the curtain

"An unequivocal joy, born out of friendship": that's how Jeremy Dyson describes the League Of Gentlemen and their recent live tour, which was captured on camera by photographer Sarah Lee. The resulting photo essay has been published by the Guardian, featuring captions supplied by Dyson and his colleagues.

Those captions reveal some of the thought processes and motivations behind the various characters and storylines - my favourite being Mark Gatiss' comment on Les McQueen: "I'm so very fond of Les McQueen. He is based on someone real but he's also very representative of a lot of people's thwarted ambitions. He was nearly there. Eurovision (heats). He's a total chump but his unflagging optimism keeps him going and going and going." Surrounded by grotesque and monstrous (though hilarious) caricatures, Les is a tragicomic figure to whom people can actually relate. Gatiss struck a similar note for the wistful bingo caller who stole the show in the Christmas comeback episodes.

While I've come to feel that Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton's Inside No. 9 is even better, the essay still has me kicking myself for not going when the tour called in in Cardiff.

Access all areas?

Typical. No sooner do I leave Oxford than the Bodleian Libraries put on an exhibition of all their muckiest books, to which access was until fairly recently still restricted.

D H Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover features, of course, and the form of a signed first edition, while the prospect of The Pop-Up Karma Sutra is an intriguing one. Possibly not a book you want to be caught perusing in public, mind.

In all seriousness, though, the exhibition of works once deemed obscene is - as a spokeswoman has commented - a "valuable sociological snapshot, charting how perceptions of sexuality and appropriateness have changed over time". However, it does rather beg the question of whether there are some publications in their collections that are still considered unsuitable for public exposure.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Left in peace

As tragic as it is that someone has lost their life, the story of John Allen Chau just goes to show that even in 2018 religious and cultural colonialism remain alive and well. The US missionary was killed trying to "declare Jesus" to the people of the Sentinelese tribe, who live on the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Indian Ocean.

Like many such tribes, the Sentinelese are keen to preserve their independence and isolation, being deeply suspicious of outsiders who might be trying to steal their land or might bring with them unfamiliar and fatal diseases. Chau must surely have acknowledged that his attempts to make contact were unwelcome - how else could he have understood their antagonism towards him? And yet he persisted, driven on by religious zeal and the arrogant, patronising Western conviction that they were "in need" of something other than simply being left alone.

In a statement, Stephen Corry, the director of Survival International, responded to say that "their wishes should be respected", though also pointed an accusatory finger at the Indian authorities for failing to protect the tribe from outside interference. Hopefully, the incident will serve as a cautionary tale.

Challenging childhoods

Whichever way you look at it, the fact that one in four women aged between 17 and 19 in England suffer from some form of mental illness is staggering. Clearly, there is much work to be done in terms of both better understanding the contributory factors and improving treatment for those afflicted.

Neither prevention nor cure come cheaply, though. While there have been signs in the last few years that mental health is finally being taken more seriously, the vast majority of funding currently goes towards providing services for adults. This disproportionate spending needs to be addressed - and by investing more in children's services rather than simply diverting funds away from adults' services' pot.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Boys' Girls' club

Matador's release of the debut EP from Boygenius - aka Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers - has prompted the Guardian's Laura Snapes into reflecting on the relative rarity of all-women supergroups. She suggests a few possible explanations: there are simply fewer prominent female musicians, jam bands are a more naturally male phenomenon, women only tend to "join forces ... in solidarity rather than a show of strength".

Quite rightly, Sleater-Kinney are held up as notable exceptions to the general rule, as are Wild Flag and Ex Hex in the same breath. But there's no mention of Free Kitten, the joint venture of Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and Julie Cafritz of Pussy Galore, or of more recent collaborations between Cat Power and Lana Del Rey and Marissa Nadler and Angel Olsen - though admittedly describing two musicians teaming up for a song or two as a supergroup is perhaps stretching the definition of the term too far.

Snapes concludes by alluding to the as-yet unreleased fruits of Carrie Brownstein's team-up with St Vincent. I knew the former had scripted the latter's "interview kit" for MASSEDUCTION, but I didn't realise they'd written some songs together too. A seriously mouthwatering prospect.

Quote of the day

"I must say I was disappointed to say the least by the extraordinary political nature of his language."

Amber Rudd, talking in the House of Commons about Philip Alston's UN report into poverty. Perhaps if she and her Tory colleagues, rather than trivialising or dismissing concerns, actually got out and saw what is happening around the country - as Alston did, and as the contributors to the Invisible Britain book have done - they might understand why his tone was so severe and his criticisms so unequivocal. The people directly and indirectly impacted by the government's austerity measures and particularly the flawed Universal Credit scheme are a lot more than merely disappointed - and their anger is entirely justified.

Alston has since responded, remaining unapologetic and suggesting that the feeling of disappointment is distinctly mutual: "I think that dismissing a report that is full of statistics and first-hand testimony on the grounds that the minister didn't appreciate the tone of the report rather misses the point. I remain hopeful that Amber Rudd might actually take some of the steps needed to address the worst aspects of the existing approach."

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Time bomb

Slaves' recent forthright tweet about publicising set times - or, rather, not - has sparked quite a debate. I'm no fan of the band, but appreciate the sentiment behind the statement: basically, support live music in all its forms by getting to the venue early rather than only turning up late, just in time to see the headliners whose music you already know.

However, as has since been pointed out to them, it's not quite as simple as that. Knowing the set times can, for instance, be enormously helpful for anyone who has to factor in transport arrangements. I count myself very fortunate these days, living within easy walking distance of all of my most frequented gig venues, but that's not always been the case.

Set times are particularly useful in my capacity as a reviewer. Asking for them on social media always feels a little embarrassing, as no doubt some people suspect that you only want to know so you can time your arrival to coincide with the headliners appearing on stage. But I like to have advance warning so I can do everything possible to be there for the opening act. The biggest barriers to achieving that, personally speaking, are work and particularly childcare responsibilities. If I was at liberty to get to every gig from the very start, then I generally would - but sadly life simply doesn't allow me that luxury.

I say "generally" for a reason. While my natural inclination is to arrive early and to help support venues by spending money at their bars, I don't feel the same way about every establishment. Buying locally brewed pints in Clwb Ifor Bach is one thing; voluntarily subjecting myself to the awful beer and criminal prices at the Motorpoint Arena and Academy venues long before I actually have to is quite another.

Pulp(ed non-)fiction

As endorsements go, "never fails to disappoint" isn't the best. But that's what appeared on the back of a new book after being missed by six different pairs of eyes at publisher Allen & Unwin. The mere thought of it is enough to bring us proofreaders out in a cold sweat.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Tribute act

Attempting a stage adaptation of one of our finest ever sitcom series - Blackadder Goes Forth - by way of marking the centenary of the Armistice was always going to be a significant challenge and a gamble, so credit to Everyman for managing to pull it off.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Abuse of Power

If, as Chan Marshall aka Cat Power has claimed, Matador played her an Adele album "to demonstrate what hits sounded like", then it was an extraordinary show of disrespect towards a critically acclaimed talent. Either way, the incident helped to precipitate the break-up of her long-term relationship with the label, with her tenth LP Wanderer recently released by rivals Domino. She'll be having the last laugh, too, given that 'Woman', her duet with Lana Del Rey, has brought her to a whole new audience.

Kitty Empire's Guardian review rightly suggests that the album finds Marshall revisiting a past that, with Sun, she looked to have left behind. In giving my own positive verdict for Buzz last month, I couldn't help but draw comparisons with 2006's The Greatest - it's not quite in that league, but it's certainly not too far away.

As part of the promotional merry-go-round, Marshall has been interviewed for Pitchfork's 5-10-15-20 series, her selection including music by Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Miles Davis and the Rolling Stones. The introduction to the article mentions that before Johnny Cash died, there were plans for the pair to record together - now THAT would have been quite something.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Do it yourself?

In Episode 35 of Sounding Bored, Rob and guest Amy take the return of Robyn as the springboard for a discussion of the auteur in pop music. Their conversation ranges over rockist notions of authenticity, the collaborative nature of pop, the myth and reality of creative control or direction, and the institutionalised sexism that often means female stars are denied the credit they deserve as artists with their own agency.

Robyn herself is hailed as an inspirational figure who has refused to compromise or pander to others or to play by the pop rulebook but has nevertheless managed to retain mainstream appeal, credibility and relevance. The songs on the Swede's comeback LP Honey are identified as marking a significant departure from her signature "sad bangers" - their introspective, organic qualities winning over self-confessed "hardened indie kid" Rob to such an extent that he ends by exhorting fellow guitar aficionados to give it a try. I just might.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Speechless

Yesterday's political events - resignations galore, gleeful backstabbing, Theresa May thinking that comparing herself to Geoffrey Boycott was a good idea - inevitably provoked an enormous number of eminently quoteable reactions in the media and on social media. But I'd guarantee that no one expressed the car-crash clusterfuck reality better than someone who did so without words: the BBC's sign language interpreter.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

"People are just being ground down"

Despite Theresa May's ludicrous pronouncement to the contrary, austerity is not over - far from it. As the recent publication Invisible Britain underlines, the impact of cuts continues to be felt around the country by the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

Visiting my home town Newcastle in 2014, John Harris painted a bleak portrait of a city effectively under siege by central government. Four years down the line, the situation is even worse, as Philip Alston discovered last week when he met local residents at a food bank, who reported that they cannot afford to feed or wash themselves or keep themselves warm. Time and again, the universal credit scheme - first introduced in Newcastle, supposedly as a pilot - is cited as the cause of the misery.

Alston's visit was hugely significant. In his capacity as the UN's special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, he is more accustomed to travelling to places like Ghana and China - but a trip to the US resulted in a damning indictment of Donald Trump's approach to welfare and he's likely to reach similar conclusions from his fact-finding mission to the UK. While his ability to effect change is limited, it's to be hoped that the Tories will be shamed into action. I wouldn't hold your breath, though.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The diva of discordant disco

Heard the one about the New York no wave band fronted by an 11-year-old girl? Chandra Oppenheim wasn't exactly your typical pre-teen, though, as the daughter of conceptual artist Dennis who grew up immersed in avant-garde culture.

Interest in the band has been revived by virtue of one song, 'Kate', featuring on the soundtrack of a 2013 documentary and another, 'Subways', being sampled by The Avalanches on Wildflower, and now EP Transportation is about to be reissued. Chandra were completely unknown to me, but 'Kate' is particularly good.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The pretenders

By now, you're probably familiar with the story of Threatin. If not, in a nutshell: musician pays for fake likes on social media and views on YouTube to inflate status, books a UK tour and fabricates ticket sales. For duping everyone, NME's Tom Connick ventured that "maybe they should be applauded". A staggeringly stupid suggestion, though he did at least go on to acknowledge the harmful impact of such fraudsters on live music venues, which are already facing an array of significant challenges. Fakers like Threatin might be delighted at massaging their egos, pulling off a prank and scoring themselves an international tour, but it's left the Bristol Exchange, the Camden Underworld and others counting the cost.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Flasher fall flat

FLASHER / PRIVATE WORLD / ZAC WHITE, 6TH NOVEMBER 2018, CARDIFF CLWB IFOR BACH

An absolute dead ringer for Buzz's esteemed editor Fedor, Zac White is a busy man - as are his three accomplices. Collectively, they're making a name for themselves as Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, and they played this very room only a fortnight ago as tour support to Our Girl. This evening, however, it's White rather than fellow guitarist Tom Rees who is centre stage; musically there's a difference too, with White's solo material tending towards mellow, messy-haired slacker garage, albeit punctuated by moments of power pop. If Ty Segall ever took a breather between recordings and came to Cardiff on holiday, you could be fairly sure he'd be an instant fan.

While White and company can't stick around (he explains that they've been offered guestlist places at another venue), Private World look as though they too would rather be somewhere else. The quartet - half of whom are dressed like solemn Joy Division acolytes and half of whom appear to have just stepped off the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour bus - don't seem to have much genuine belief in what they're doing. Which is a shame, because what they're doing - a kind of subtly entrancing post-punk - has both novelty and potential. Just as your eyes gradually acclimatise to the dark, so too do your ears gradually make sense of their coolly detached songs.

Flasher's take on post-punk is markedly different: sparky, sloganeering, hook-heavy. The Washington DC trio, featuring former Priests bassist Taylor Mulitz on guitar, might be signed to Domino but their affinity with hometown label Dischord is clear. Debut LP Constant Image sounds as though they've osmotically absorbed Fugazi's influence by virtue of renting out the studio space used by Brendan Canty - evident most notably in the personal-is-political lyrics taking aim at late-stage capitalism, and especially bassist Daniel Saperstein's Guy Picciotto yelp.

Tonight, though, they fall some way short of impressing. True, Saperstein and drummer Emma Baker form a tight rhythm section, and the former - hunched, twitchy, frequently stood on one leg like a stork - is a far more visually arresting bassist than most. True, 'Erase Myself' hits an unlikely sweet spot somewhere between Wire and shoegaze.

But best track 'Skim Milk' is tossed away carelessly first and too often the songs' intricacies and those all-important lyrics are obliterated in the mix. The video for 'Material' is a clever commentary on the YouTube/Spotify generation's short attention span and desire for instant gratification, so it's a sad irony that I find my mind wandering to thoughts of Damo Suzuki's gig across the street.

Constant Image appears to be that rarest of things: a punk album best appreciated at home rather than in a club.

(An edited version of this review appeared on the Buzz website.)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

"I just shot what I saw"

David Bailey is most closely associated with fashion photography and the Swinging Sixties - so it came as something of a surprise to me to discover that he not only tried his hand as a documentary photographer but did so here in Wales. He was the highest-profile contributor to the Valleys Project, which was established by Ffotogallery and ran from 1985 to 1990 - a crucial period for the area, in light of the post-Miners' Strike pit closures and associated deindustrialisation.

David Owens spoke to Bailey recently about his involvement in the project for an article for Wales Online. In truth, though, his aren't the best images included in Owens' selection, which cumulatively suggest that the contributors succeeded in capturing the distinctive, complex reality of working-class life in the Valleys in much the same way that the Amber Collective did in the north east.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Morbid curiosity

Jim Crace's Being Dead begins by presenting the reader with the bodies of its two central protagonists, Joseph and Celice, lying prostrate in the dunes, but this is no run-of-the-mill thriller whose plot subsequently follows the hunt for the murderer. On the contrary, the crime itself is almost incidental and the perpetrator is merely an opportunist thief who hardly figures in the story at all.

What interests Crace much more is the mere fact of his characters' deaths, and how this somehow reframes their lives. Essentially, he has the couple killed so he can bring them back to life again. An early chapter talks of "quiverings" - noisy expressions of grief and commemorations of the dead that in previous centuries used to begin the mourning process - before going on to imply that the novel will be just that for Joseph and Celice.

Of the four separate but intertwined narrative threads, one recounts the circumstances in which the couple first met nearly thirty years earlier; one relates the events of their last day alive; one charts what happens to their corpses as the hours and days pass; and one follows their daughter Syl as she tries to track them down. Essentially, Crace's theme is the passage of time: how it changes individuals, how it affects relationships, what it does to the body (both alive and dead). We see Joseph and Celice in the full flush of youthful lust; in their later years, by which point that passion has all but dissipated, replaced by a familiarity that can be both irritating and consoling; and finally united in death.

Crace's perspective on death is robustly unsentimental. His descriptions of the process of corporeal decomposition, of the busy action of the attracted wildlife upon the now inert, insentient matter, are extraordinarily vivid and rich. The couple's "final legacy" is far from grand: "A rectangle of faded grass and, where the bodies had decayed for their six days of grace, a crushed and formless smudge of almost white where time and night had robbed the lissom of its green". And even that legacy proves to be only temporary: "the wounded lissom grass perked up. Hope springs eternal in the natural world. ... By final light on the ninth day since the murder all traces of any life and love that had been spilt had disappeared."

For such a slight novel (albeit one that is tightly and carefully conceived, with no fat or bagginess whatsoever), Being Dead carries a weighty message. For the individual, death is not the "fine translation to a better place" promised by religion but a definite ending, albeit one that gives meaning, impetus and urgency to the life that has gone before it. In the grand scheme of things, though, an individual's death is insignificant; the world is insensitive, life goes on.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Bonfire Night bangers

CAR SEAT HEADREST / NAKED GIANTS, 5TH NOVEMBER 2018, CARDIFF TRAMSHED

When Naked Giants guitarist/vocalist Grant Mullen described his band's debut album SLUFF in an interview as "a smorgasbord of shit", he was using "shit" in the US sense of "stuff" rather than passing comment on its quality. The truthfulness of his statement is borne out tonight, with the goofy punks - completed by bassist/vocalist Gianni Aiello and drummer Henry LaVallee - sonically referencing everyone from the Pixies and Weezer to the White Stripes and Thee Oh Sees. 'Slow Dance II' is especially effective, temporarily calming everything down to a bluesy crawl only to detonate noisily.

As touring members of Car Seat Headrest, the Seattle trio have to be on best behaviour - but for now they're hyperactive kids having a ball while the teacher is out of the classroom, stars of the show living out all their fantasies. Mullen towels LaVallee's sweaty head like he's polishing a bowling ball before the drummer returns to attacking his skins and cymbals (the latter looking like someone's taken a bite out of them). They thank us for coming rather than choosing to see Slayer's swansong across town at the Arena, but they needn't have bothered - we already know we've made the right decision.

That much is confirmed - and indeed confirmed many times over - once the headliners take to the stage. Originally the solo project of the prodigious and precocious Will Toledo, Car Seat Headrest now feel much more like a genuine band - in the live environment, at least. The presence of Mullen and Aiello as well as permanent guitarist Ethan Ives has liberated Toledo from the burden of having to play guitar himself, freeing him to deliver his pithy lyrics as a proper frontman.

Not that he's someone who appears to crave the limelight, though. After a slew of self-releases, the combination of Teens Of Denial's ambition and brilliance and Matador's nous and reach brought Toledo to much wider attention and resulted in a deluge of critical acclaim. His response - revisiting and completely re-recording an old album, 2011's Twin Fantasy - might have been perceived in some quarters as perversely beating a hasty retreat, but it was clearly unfinished business, an itch he had to scratch.

The set consists almost entirely of songs culled from those two LPs and, with the exception of 'Beach Life-In-Death', it's the material from breakthrough Teens Of Denial that truly dazzles. The conclusion of Pavementy ramble '(Joe Gets Kicked Out Of School For Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn't A Problem)' inspires a mass singalong - all together now: "Drugs are better / Drugs are better with / Friends are better / Friends are better with / Drugs ..." A dancefloor sinkhole opens up in anticipation for the climax of 'Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales'. 'Destroyed By Hippie Powers' is an absolute blast from start to finish, LaVallee prompted to abandon his percussionist's post, leap off stage and charge into the thick of the moshpit, cowbell held aloft.

Some would have you believe that all-male indie rock bands are a complete irrelevance in 2018, but Car Seat Headrest have clearly made a real connection. These are bona fide anthems - just not the sort that are either plumped up with the backing of a string section or ripe for conversion into boorish football terrace chants. And at the centre of it all, reluctantly, is Toledo, whose words - downbeat, self-deprecating, wearied, witty and wise - resonate with disaffected, idly intelligent kindred spirits everywhere.

(An edited version of this review appeared on the Buzz website.)

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Raising the steaks

Despite being a carnivore myself, I have to support the idea of a meat tax proposed by researchers at the University of Oxford. What's more, the disproportionately heavy rate suggested for processed meat (79 per cent, as opposed to 14 per cent for red meat) seems sensible, if the objective is to encourage people to eat healthier as well as better.

The argument for the introduction of the tax appears to be framed primarily in terms of improving public health. Personally speaking, I don't have any great ethical issue with eating meat, but the health impacts constitute a more compelling reason to cut down on consumption. More significant still, however, is the health of the planet and the long-term survival of the human race, with the terrifying recent IPCC report making clear that our lust for meat is having a profoundly damaging effect on our environment.

Inevitably, conservatives and libertarians would moan about the interference of the nanny state in individuals' private lives, and others would criticise it as a stealth tax on the poor. But to me it seems both inevitable and necessary. Significant modifications of behaviour, habits and attitudes do take place over time, but very often need to be catalysed by political and legal means - and in this instance things need to change fast.

Making the unseen and unheard seen and heard

As previewed a couple of weeks back, the nationwide tour to mark the publication of Invisible Britain, a book of portraits contributed by an assortment of photographers and edited by Paul Sng, arrived at Chapter on Saturday. Here's my Buzz report on an evening that involved a screening of Sng's documentary Sleaford Mods: Invisible Britain, which inspired the book, and a Q&A session with the filmmaker/editor and three of the Wales-based contributing photographers.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Safety first

Depressing, disgusting, enraging: this BBC article on the tower block blazes that preceded the Grenfell tragedy is all of those things. Fatal fire, inquest, recommendations, inaction - again and again and again. Surely it must be acknowledged now that the cycle needs to be broken? No more decisions taken purely on aesthetic or cost-saving grounds. The safety of those who live in these blocks is paramount.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Right turn

With the US currently at the polls for the mid-term elections, here's hoping that the nation's voters come to their senses and deliver a bloody nose (or worse) to Donald Trump and his Republican cronies. It should be acknowledged, though, that prominent demagogues like Trump aren't the sole cause of the alarming rise of the (far) right around the world in recent years.

As this piece by Carnegie Europe's Richard Youngs makes clear, from Brazil to Poland to Thailand, it's a process taking place from the bottom up as well as the top down, fuelled by grassroots, community and single-issue movements. What's more, many of these movements appeal to and are even driven by the young - it's not just older generations who seek to push a conservative agenda. A sobering and troubling state of affairs, to be sure.

The great divide

What exactly is "Northernness"? Where does "the North" start? ("North of the Tyne" is my usual answer.) As David Barnett suggests in this Independent piece on Oli Bentley's book project These Northern Types, there is no real consensus other than that the concepts exist, however nebulous and hard to define - and what's more, that they continue to hold meaning for people, whether positive or negative, whichever side of the great divide they're on (and wherever that dividing line might be).

(Thanks to Ben for the link.)

Monday, November 05, 2018

Paying tribute to the past, looking forward to the future

RIP Josh Fauver, formerly of Deerhunter, who has died at the age of just 39. I'll remain eternally grateful to him for 'Nothing Ever Happened', the track from Microcastle that propelled the band to wider attention and that ten years on remains one of my absolute favourite songs. The focus usually falls on Bradford Cox and Lockett Pundt, but not only did Fauver co-write the song, but it's his bassline that provides the propulsive force that makes it so special.

On a brighter note, the band recently announced that a new album, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?, will be released in January. The first taster from the album (their eighth),  'Death In Midsummer', is very promising indeed. 2015's Fading Frontier flattered to deceive slightly, in that the first half was far stronger than the second. Here's hoping that the forthcoming LP is more consistently high quality.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

The return of a boundary-pushing comedy pioneer

Damn the BBC for turning their back on Julia Davis. That she's subsequently forged a strong partnership with Sky Atlantic means that I've not seen any of her sitcoms since Nighty Night. Judging by what I can gather from the reaction on Twitter and Deborah Orr's interview with her in the Independent, latest creation Sally4Ever is very much in the same twisted ballpark, and finds her pushing harder at the boundaries of acceptability than ever (albeit as someone with little awareness of the existence of boundaries in the first place).

Rightly hailing Davis as having paved the way for one of the best sitcoms in years, Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag, Orr declares: "No one in Britain today is working more boldly and productively in comedy drama." It's a grand claim, but one that I suspect has some merit. If only the evidence was being beamed out by the Beeb, though, eh?

Renaissance man

Last weekend, I found myself strolling around Manchester's Northern Quarter for the first time in a while, marvelling at how much it had changed and developed even since my last visit. The existence of the area as it is now owes an enormous debt to Jan Oldenburg, the man who established the Night & Day on Oldham Street in 1991 and thereby kickstarted the process that has transformed a run-down inner-city industrial zone into a hub for the cool and the cutting edge. The Dutch-born visionary died in October - and here, thanks to a tip-off from the fabulous Piccadilly Records, is an obituary that gives an insight into the man behind a local institution.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

(Fire) escape to victory

Back in July, the news broke that the Cellar had had its capacity slashed following a health and safety inspection. Now, Tim Hopkins, manager of the beleaguered venue, has decided that the only way for it to survive is via a crowdfunding appeal to raise the £80,000 needed for the construction of a new fire escape that will comply with fire regulations.

As someone who not only appreciates the inestimable value of grassroots venues in general and of the Cellar to the Oxford scene in particular, but who has also personally enjoyed many an amazing evening there, I had no hesitation whatsoever in backing the campaign and in urging others to follow suit. The deadline is 27th November, so get pledging.

Art attack

Banksy's recent exploits might have dominated the headlines and preoccupied columnists, but in truth - as this article by Darran Anderson for Frieze underscores - the concept of auto-destructive art is nothing new. Indeed, Anderson points out that Banksy's prank could be considered a failure, in that it has merely confirmed the cult of the celebrity artist and created an artwork that symbolises rather than satirises the commercialism of the modern art world.

Friday, November 02, 2018

To the extreme

ROLO TOMASSI / BLOOD COMMAND / CASSUS, 1ST NOVEMBER 2018, CLWB IFOR BACH

Norwich might be something of a geographical outpost but the first band on tonight's bill demonstrate that the city isn't a cultural isolation chamber soundproofed from the outside world. In truth, you could hear Deafheave in space let alone East Anglia, so it shouldn't come as so much of a surprise to recognise the American titans' influence in Cassus' blistering assault, which is frequently awe-inspiring in its complexity and precision.

Unfortunately, while possessed of a paint-stripping scream, vocalist Natty Peterkin cannot carry off the singing occasionally required of him, the quiet coda to set-closer 'Reduced Possibility: Engendered Determinism' leaving him painfully naked and exposed without the fig leaf of noise to hide behind.

Faced with the prospect of a Norwegian band named Blood Command, especially in the present company, you might likely anticipate an ashen-faced, fastidiously serious black metal outfit. You probably wouldn't anticipate a shaven-headed, moustachioed, high-kicking guitarist wearing sportswear and a sweatband; or stadium rock hand-clapping; or the chorus of Bryan Adams' 'Heaven' casually dropped into the middle of a song.

Darting bewilderingly between punk, metal, emo and pop rock, Blood Command are a postmodernist's idea of fun, if not mine. As they depart the stage to Belinda Carlisle's 'Heaven Is A Place On Earth', I'm left wondering on what level and in which dimension it might all possibly make some semblance of sense.

If anyone knows about throwing curveballs, though, it's Rolo Tomassi. The headliners have been bending heavy music into odd, intricate shapes for more than a decade, toying with time signatures and keeping headbangers on their toes. Very few metal bands have the ability to create a surging moshpit in an instant and then confuse its participants into motionlessness the next, as they do on more than one occasion tonight (the strobe lighting only adding to the disorientation). Fewer still think so far outside the box as to work with dance/pop/hip-hop superproducer Diplo, as they did on second LP Cosmology.

Hell, Rolo Tomassi don't even look like a metal band. Nothing quite prepares you for witnessing them live - not even previous sightings. You can't help but marvel at the ferocity and dynamism of their music, and at the fact that such unholy noises can possibly emanate from vocalist Eva Spence, jack-knifing about on stage as though she's being electrocuted.

The set draws deeply on latest album Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It, with 'Rituals' kicking us off and 'Balancing The Dark' stirring the slamdancers into action. Meanwhile, 'Contretemps' and 'Aftermath' (together with 'Opalescent') prove that they can do epic as well as manic, achieving a kind of heavy serenity reminiscent of Deftones. The sequencing results in a gradual loss of momentum, though, and it's left to 'Estranged' to restore (dis)order and to 'A Flood Of Light' to illustrate that they're capable of reconciling their bipolar impulses within a single song.

(An edited version of this review appeared on the Buzz website.)