Sunday, October 23, 2016

Glasgow kiss

When I singled out Arab Strap for particular praise during our discussion of Glasgow's vibrant music scene past and present in Episode 2 of Sounding Bored, I had no idea that a year earlier the band's frontman Aidan Moffat had penned his own ode in honour of the city's plethora of quality venues. I'm imagining that when David Yow and the Jesus Lizard got Moffat and friends drunk in the dressing room at King Tut's to apologise for overrunning and causing them to miss their train, it was a pretty messy evening.

Arab Strap are, of course, back from the dead, and marked their (possibly only temporary) resurrection with a gig at the Cluny in Newcastle last week, and a setlist that careered "between mirth and heartbreak", with lots of swearing. Nothing much has changed, then.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"I'm lost because the guitar at the top of it sounds so shitty. It's like 'Eye Of The Tiger', but not even nearly as good as that. It sounds like Hulk Hogan is playing the fucking guitar."

The Black Keys' Patrick Carney on the guitar on Lady Gaga's single 'Perfect Illusion', unaware (it seems) that it was contributed by Josh Homme. You have to say he's got a point. No idea what Homme was doing dirtying his hands with that crap.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Post-punk for beginners

No time to digest Simon Reynolds' Rip It Up And Start Again? Here's a useful primer on post-punk, written from an American perspective, though acknowledging that the phenomenon was largely British.

As well as the helpful guide itself, I enjoyed the pithy descriptions of some of the period's most essential songs and records. The Cure's Faith and Carnage Visors? "Dave Gilmour overdoses on morphine and gets put on an ice floe, where he takes a very slow trip to a very sad heaven." Gang Of Four's Entertainment? "Your teeth chatter, your limbs flair, you pee on an electric socket and dream of Dr. Feelgood being sodomized by George Clinton."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"It says, 'Don't bother your heads with what's going on now, just wallow in fake nostalgia'. It's bad history, bad drama. It puts your brain to sleep. It's the opposite of what a good broadcaster should do, which is stimulate and invigorate. You might as well take a Mogadon as watch it. TV drama is like the picture on the Quality Street tin, but with less quality and nothing of the street."

Ken Loach savages dramas like Downton Abbey, and the broadcasters who churn them out.

In the same interview with the Radio Times, he also had harsh words for the BBC's news coverage, describing it as "manipulative and deeply political". I guess Auntie can take some comfort in the knowledge that being attacked by someone on the left of the political spectrum as well as those on the right suggests she might actually be getting the balance right.

The Truman show

You know how it is: you're digging through dusty wooden boxes full of negatives taken by your late father and stumble across photos he took of Truman Capote. Here David Attie's son Eli explains how the remarkable discovery came about - one that led to Attie's pictures of Brooklyn being used to illustrate a new edition of Capote's Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir.

(Thanks to Alan for the link.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dying for your art

Coloured vinyl? Download codes? Not for cult experimentalists Negativland. The band have issued a statement detailing what purchasers of new album The Chopping Channel (the ninth in their Over The Edge series) can expect to receive in addition to the record itself: "In keeping with the album's theme, and while supplies last, each mail order copy of this new project comes with two very unique extra items: two grams of the actual cremains, or ashes, of deceased Negativland member Don Joyce, and one of Don's handmade audio tape loop 'carts' used in the creation of Over The Edge and Negativland live performances between 1981 and 2015."

The statement goes on to explain the thinking behind the extraordinary decision: "We've decided to take the Chopping Channel concept to its logical conclusion by 'productizing' an actual band member. It is also a celebration of the degree to which no idea in art was ever off-limits to Don, and offers a literal piece of him, and of his audio art, for the listener to repurpose and reuse. We are pretty sure he would have wanted it this way." In those terms, it seems perfectly rational.

Talk about a dead giveaway. Flaming Lips, the ball is very firmly in your court...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The road less travelled

I first came across Jan Morris when I was volunteering at Seren a decade ago, finding myself involved in the production of a tribute volume edited by Paul Clements on the occasion of her 80th birthday. Ten years on and she's still going strong, celebrating another milestone birthday with an Artsnight interview with a similarly seasoned traveller, Michael Palin, and lauded by her biographer Derek Johns in an article for the Guardian.

The first successful ascent of Everest, the Suez Crisis, Adolf Eichmann's trial: Morris was there, initially finding fame as a journalist, but later even more acclaimed as the author of book-length meditations on places around the globe.

In conversation with Palin, Morris bristles at being branded a "travel writer" on the grounds that she wrote more about destinations than about journeys - but the journey for which she's probably most famous was the subject of a book. Conundrum tells the story of her transformation from James to Jan in the 1970s, for which she suffered incomprehension, prejudice and abuse arising from ignorance.

An intrepid traveller, in more ways than one.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"The first thing you need to know about Bruce's novels is that each balances its bone-warpingly tedious mystery plot on a flimsy scaffold of footballing truisms and trite ruminations on modern life. The star of the series is Steve Barnes, football manager and occasional amateur murder detective.

Not everyone has 'a good GCSE in English' like Bruce, so you may not twig that this Barnes fellow is actually an ingeniously devised author surrogate for the man himself. This is just one of many high-concept literary devices used throughout the text, like random commas and names that change spelling from time to time."

Judging by Seamas O'Reilly's splendid dissection of Steve Bruce's novel Sweeper, Aston Villa's gain is very much literature's loss. With its racial stereotyping, sexism, sheer banality and (particularly) obsession with the specifications of Barnes' Jaguar, it might well be mistaken for the work of one Alan Gordon Partridge...

The truth writ large

The camera never lies? I'm not sure I buy that after several weekends of comparing estate agents' photos to reality, to be honest. But every now and again a snap positively screams "TRUTH" - such as this one of Jeremy Hunt, taken at the Tory Party conference earlier this month.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Albums of the month

"Was September 1991 the best month ever for albums?" That was the question posed by Sam Richards in an article for the BBC published last month. "Probably not" is I think the correct answer, but it was nevertheless worth dwelling on the stature and legacy (whether celebrated or dubious) of some of the records released that month: Nirvana's Nevermind, of course, as well as the twin bloated behemoths that are Guns 'N' Roses Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Primal Scream's Screamadelica and Orbital's self-titled LP.

It's a shame I didn't come across the piece until after we'd recorded Episode 9 of Sounding Bored, focusing on Nevermind - it would have been good to have made mention of the clip of Butch Vig talking about how much hearing 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' for the first time blew him away.

I should add that the clip Richards used to accompany the snippet about Screamadelica - Bobby Gillespie talking about the album to Jarvis Cocker on the latter's 6Music radio show - actually made me feel marginally more sympathetic towards the album (or to the concepts and context behind it, at least) than when we committed our thoughts on it to Episode 2 back in March.

(F)old news

Bloody big-name musicians, coming to Oxford, using copies of Nightshift as fodder for origami. At least The Kills' Alison Mosshart read it before committing her act of creative vandalism, I suppose.

According to editor Ronan, it's not the worst use to which copies of the magazine have been put - there was the time he saw it being employed to mop up sick...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Feel good hits of the 15th October

1. 'Distant Sky' - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Skeleton Tree (and indeed Nick Cave himself) may have polarised opinion on the most recent episode of Sounding Bored, but I stand by my assessment, perhaps largely because of its penultimate track, a duet between Cave and Danish vocalist Else Torp, which is utterly spellbinding even without knowledge of the weight behind the words.

2. 'Don't Fall In' - Kate Tempest
These days, it's not often I hear anything on the radio, and when I do, it's even less often that I hear something that completely stops me in my tracks. 'Don't Fall In' - with its apocalyptic visions and admonishments/shaming of the likes of me (middle class, rapidly approaching middle age, myopically and self-interestedly preoccupied with house-hunting and school places) - is pretty extraordinary.

3. 'Silva & Grimes' - Holy Fuck
Having not listened to Latin (or the band, in fact) in a long time, this did indeed provoke the exclamation they've taken for their name. Maximalist krautrock, powered by one of the best drummers around.

4. 'You Are, You Are' - October Drift
In case you're wondering whether they sound so fucking massive at 2pm in a near-empty Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea, the answer is yes, yes they do.

5. 'The Coast' - PUP
Taken from The Dream Is Over (as reviewed in Episode 8 of Sounding Bored), 'The Coast' is one of the songs that suggests there might be rather more to the Torontonians than brainless, aggressive skate-punk/emo.

6. 'Masterclash' - Kid Kin
According to the man himself (in the interests of full disclosure, a friend of SWSL), new single 'Masterclash' took a bloody long time (18 months, to be precise) to put together and finalise. Time extremely well spent, I think you'll agree. All he needs now is to pip Mogwai with a soundtrack pitch...

7. 'Drugs On The Bus' - Crystal Fairy
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez in league with Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover? Why, yes please! Perhaps by weight of numbers, 'Drugs On The Bus' sounds rather less like The Mars Volta and rather more like Melvins. No bad thing, if you're a fan of, y'know, songs. According to one YouTube commenter, the riff has "the viscosity of refrigerated tar".

8. 'Sentient' - Gone Is Gone
Did someone say "Supergroup featuring member of At The Drive In"? Here's another: Gone Is Gone, who see drummer Tony Hajjar joining forces with Mastodon's Troy Sanders and Queens Of The Stone Age's Troy Van Leeuwen. Portentous, super-heavy prog.

9. 'Family Man' - Have You Ever Seen The Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS?
If the end times are coming, then we could all do much worse than locking ourselves in a nuclear bunker and listening to this week's best-named band. The Finnish-based bubblegum garage outfit HYESTJFAV (cheers!) pay a visit to this parish on 25th October.

10. 'Demagogue' - Franz Ferdinand
I lost all interest in Franz Ferdinand some time ago - certainly long before Nick McCarthy left. 'Demagogue' - the band's first release without their founder-member guitarist - isn't earth-shattering, but as an explicit indictment of Donald Trump that's been put out as part of Dave Eggers' 30 Days, 30 Songs project, it's a case of every little helps.

Friday, October 14, 2016


The Grip Of His Hand is a short film about fathers, sons and football by my friend Paul (a regular contributor to Bleacher Report and one of the Man Utd fans behind United Rant), and it's really rather lovely.

I haven't yet taken Stanley to St James' Park, as his attention span is still somewhat short and his desire to sit in one place for any length of time somewhat non-existent. It'll happen at some point, though, and when it does, I'm sure it'll be emotional. Thus far, we've managed Abingdon Utd a few times, and he's derived more enjoyment from dashing about in the stand and on the touchline and (on one occasion, when he was less than a year and a half old) snacking on some berries from a bush that thankfully didn't cause any ill effects...

Hands-on experience

When undergoing an, erm, gentleman's check-up and the doctor prefaces his duties with the words "May I?", what's the correct response? "Absolutely" might be construed as overenthusiastic. "By all means" doesn't seem quite right, for the same reason. Likewise "Be my guest" and "My pleasure". Perhaps in the circumstances a simple, curt "Yes" while avoiding all eye contact is best. Worth remembering for next time.

"We weren't like the other bands"

Like the rest of the world (it seems), I'm foaming at the mouth with excitement at a movie trailer. Unlike the rest of the world, it isn't the one for the new Star Wars film. No, it's the one for Jim Jarmusch's forthcoming documentary about the Stooges, Gimme Danger. Bring it on...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"The happy ending is that I'm much happier without them twats, to say the least. And I'm sure that them twats are much happier without me."

Peter Hook talking to BBC Arts about his new book Substance: Inside New Order, a follow-up to 2013's Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division.

The book appears to have ruffled a few feathers: "For the most part, as a group, New Order were pretending to be complete and happy, focused. It was a bit of a lie, really, and I don't think anybody likes that lie to be revealed." Not that Hooky cares, of course. He claims to have been steeling himself for the reaction of both his former bandmates (whom he's still in the process of suing) and those close to the late Caroline Aherne, to whom he was briefly married and whom he has accused of being physically abusive. I suspect it's worth reading, though only with an extremely large pile of salt.

The special stuff

Might League Of Gentlemen be poised to make a return to our idiot boxes? Here's hoping. If it does, it's a safe bet that it'll be horrifying and hilarious in equal measure - though probably traumatising than the realisation that it's now 14 years since the series last aired, in 2002...

Ice, ice, baby

Whoever came up with the concept of Vanilla Ice On Ice deserves some kind of medal. I won't be going, though.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Luke who's been writing (a lot of good stuff for the Quietus)

Not that it's anything particularly unusual, but there's been a glut of great content on the Quietus of late. Take Luke Turner's review of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' Skeleton Tree, for instance - a sensitive and thoughtful appreciation of what "in a year of tough and weighty records ... is the heaviest of all", inevitably viewing it as a response to Cave's son's death but also deftly placing the album in the context of their back catalogue ("as sparse and experimental as they've ever been").

Turner has also offered some thoughts on the closure of Fabric and what it might signify: in a nutshell, the blandly stultifying (at best) and subtly repressive (at worst) influence of a "new puritanism". The article may be somewhat overegged, but it's nevertheless a stirring rallying cry to fight back against the forces that are killing club culture (and youth culture more generally).

Elsewhere, Turner has had the pleasure of talking to Mogwai about the recording process behind their soundtrack to Mark Cousins' documentary Atomic: Living In Dread & Promise, with Stuart Braithwaite emphasising the need to create something sensitive and sympathetic: "We were quite conscious not to be too bombastic because the subject matter and the images were genuinely shocking. To be honest, solemn grimness comes to us quite easily, it's our natural sound - the challenge was doing something good enough." And "something good enough" they certainly did - it's easily superior to their last LP proper, Rave Tapes.

And then there's Mogwai's old chums, the recently reformed (for a while, at least) Arab Strap, telling Nicola Meighan about the best songs in their back catalogue. It's nice to see 'Deeper' get a mention, though I'm surprised there's nothing from The Red Thread and there doesn't seem to be much love for 'The First Big Weekend' (even though they've just released a remix): "It's that age-old story of the shite song that was going to get fucked onto a B-side." I've never heard 'Rocket, Take Your Turn' and Monday At The Hug & Pint is another album to add to the must-buy list.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"Whenever an elite is unjust, anywhere in the world, from apartheid South Africa to military Chile or patriarchal Saudi Arabia, it's always been the Conservative Party that has bravely fought them by selling them weapons and inviting their leaders to dinner."

It didn't really need Mark Steel to point out that a Tory prime minister taking aim at "the elite" is just a mite hypocritical - but then he's done so with such deliciously savage sarcasm that we should be applauding.

Meanwhile, Mhairi Black has written a piece for the National condemning the "ugly and downright scary rhetoric" of the Tory Party conference: "The Conservative Party's mask as 'a party of the common people' has slipped to reveal the xenophobic, often racist, nationalist, ugly face beneath". Black's article echoed a joint statement by the leaders of her party, Plaid and the Green Party that lambasted the Tories for "the most toxic rhetoric on immigration we have seen from any government in living memory".

Little wonder, then, that Scarfolk Council have issued a cease and desist letter to the government accusing them of stealing their policies. Not that May, Amber Rudd and company are likely to be concerned - on the contrary, they're likely to take further "inspiration" from the council's proposed foreigner identification badges.


Whatever Robert De Niro can do, Brian Blessed can do better. De Niro may have hit the headlines for branding Donald Trump a "dog", a "pig", a "bullshit artist" and a "bozo" and declaring he'd like to punch him in the face, but Blessed - one of the few actors in the world who could justifiably claim to have a better shout than the American - went even better, labelling Trump "a total, complete, utter moron" before giving him the blunt message: "GET A HAIRCUT - AND SCRAM!" Now THAT's a slogan I want to see appearing on banners at Trump's public appearances from now on.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Quote of the day

"Theresa May bragged about Britain being world's 5th-largest economy. After her speech, it dropped to 6th."

The Washington Post's headline for its report on May's announcement that Brexit would begin in earnest no later than March 2017. How nice it must be for her to know her words can have such a significant and immediate international effect.

(Thanks to Marc for the link.)

Beat connection

I could pore over this map of the history of alternative music - produced by James Quail of design studio Dorothy and inspired by the circuit board from a transistor radio - for hours. One for the new living room wall, perhaps?

(Thanks to Alan for the link.)

Saturday, October 08, 2016

The meth in the madness

In his book Blitzed, German author Norman Ohler doesn't argue that drugs were primarily responsible for the decision to invade France in 1940 - but he does argue that they gave the Nazis the belief that such an invasion could work and that they did indeed prove critical to the campaign's success.

Judging by this piece by the Guardian's Rachel Cooke, Blitzed would be a fascinating read, underlining the hypocrisy that saw the Nazis persecute drug abusers while at the same time developing forms of amphetamine and other stimulants to aid their soldiers in battle. Hitler himself emerges from Ohler's pages a complete junkie whose ill health towards the end of the war should probably be attributed to the effects of withdrawal.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

Friday, October 07, 2016

The agony of choice

Sally Phillips may be best known as a comic actor and screenwriter, but it was as the face of a BBC documentary, A World Without Down's Syndrome?, tackling issues that are very far from being a laughing matter, that she most recently appeared on our screens.

Phillips' bias and emotional proximity to the subject was never concealed. In fact, quite the contrary - the fact that she herself is the mother of a child with Down's syndrome is precisely what inspired her to make the programme in the first place, along with the successful development of a new non-invasive and virtually infallible form of screening for the condition.

Not surprisingly, the documentary made for difficult viewing at times, with Phillips understandably finding it extremely hard to listen to and converse with interviewees who saw a diagnosis of Down's as an acceptable reason for terminating a pregnancy. Phillips' fear, which is borne out by some stats (including those from Iceland, where the screening method has already been introduced), is that Down's will end up being screened out, effectively denying the validity of the existence of people like her son.

The general thrust of the argument was that it's not really the scientific advances that's the problem but the misinformation and societal attitudes surrounding Down's. Phillips made a passionate case that those with Down's should be treated with dignity and respect, that having a child with Down's can be a blessing rather than a curse and that a Down's diagnosis shouldn't therefore be delivered (or received) as though it's necessarily a terrible tragedy.

However, the Guardian's Hadley Freeman does make a valid point in noting that even having access to all of the relevant information (the positive testimonies of parents like Phillips as well as the gloomier views of the medical profession) does not necessarily mean that every pregnant woman receiving the diagnosis would then make the same choice as the documentary maker did - and neither should she be expected to. Ultimately, it's not so much about the unborn child as it is about the mother's personal circumstances - armed with the salient facts and evidence, such a woman would be within her rights to weigh up her situation and still opt for a termination. Confronted with a woman who did just that, Phillips seemed unable to comprehend or accept her decision - which, as Freeman points out, just served to subvert the argument, or perhaps even revealed a hidden pro-life subtext.

When Jen was pregnant with Stanley, we refused the screening, partly on the grounds that the currently prevalent method is invasive and carries a risk of miscarriage, but partly because a Down's diagnosis wouldn't have swayed us from going through with the pregnancy. That was us, though, and our relatively comfortable circumstances. Other people need to make their own decisions based on their own situations - and as long as those decisions are informed by positive celebrations of those living and achieving with the condition (as Phillips' documentary undoubtedly was) as well as an awareness of the considerable challenges it poses, then it's up to them what to do.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"The underlying message of Amber Rudd's 'controlling migration fund' is that migrants are to blame for the problems our country faces. This falsehood must be challenged head on. The truth is that the 'pressures' she spoke of are not caused by migration, but by the Government's cuts and failure to invest in vital public services such as the NHS."

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, making the exact point that Labour should be making, if only they could stop sniping at each other for a minute.

Comparisons with the Nazis are usually invoked too hastily and too tenuously (as acknowledged by the existence of Godwin's Law), but in the case of Rudd's proposals to force businesses to declare how many of their employees were not born in the UK, the comparison is entirely apt - as LBC Radio host James O'Brien forcefully pointed out by noting the similarities between the thrust of Rudd's speech implying that foreigners are selfish leeches on our economy and the argument contained within the second chapter of Mein Kampf.

Distraction technique

The Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg has been busted playing Pokemon Go during a parliamentary debate. It's the sort of behaviour that trivialises the role and politics more generally, and sticks two fingers up to the electorate (especially given that she seems unrepentant and has merely laughed it off) - but let's face it, it's nowhere near as offensive as some of the things our own elected officials have been doing (and saying) recently. Someone please introduce Theresa May and chums to the addictive joys of mobile gaming before it's too late...

(Thanks to Greg for the link.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Quote of the day

"We are going to confound our critics, we are going to outwit our opponents, we are going to build on our election success that we have achieved to date and do more."

Recently elected UKIP leader Diane James won't be able to deliver on those pledges - because she's already stepped down. That said, I suppose that a reign of just 18 days may have confounded her critics. If she is indeed "going to outwit our opponents", then she's going an interesting way about it.

Doctor who?

Apparently, Jeremy Hunt thinks he can bring an end to the NHS' reliance on overseas doctors simply by announcing that medical schools will be able to offer more places. However, it's one thing to create new places, and quite another to actually fill them. If he does want to hold out any hope of doing so, it might be wise to stop bullying and berating medics and actually listen to what they have to say. At present, signing up for a career in medicine is akin to volunteering to become Hunt's personal punchbag.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The damage is done

Proof was hardly needed that the 61 per cent of Mackems who voted Leave were turkeys voting for Christmas, but it's duly arrived with the news that Nissan, whose factory is a cornerstone of the local economy, have announced a freeze on investment amid fears that tariffs on exports to Europe will increase significantly in the wake of Brexit. One suspects (or hopes) that some people will be waking up to the cold, hard reality of the events they've brought about - but, with Theresa May announcing that the process of triggering Article 50 will begin by March at the latest, there doesn't seem to be any going back now.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Use your illusion

So, in an interview with Vogue Warpaint have claimed of their new album Heads Up that they "wanted to make something a little more upbeat and a little more dance-y, and [something that] had clarity and felt propellant and optimistic, maybe". Pitchfork reviewer Saby Reyes-Kulkarni, however, argues that such talk - and the accompanying namedrops of pop and hip-hop luminaries - is actually just a smokescreen, and that the record is merely business as usual for the LA quartet.

Who to believe? Much as I'd like the band's own assessment to be right - having found their last LP soporific rather than stimulating, with only 'Disco//Very' raising the tempo and heartbeat - I suspect that Reyes-Kulkarni is more accurate. And if so, I can't say I'll be enamoured with the album.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Back to the future


Westward ho! After much agonising and deliberation, we've decided to go west and head back to Cardiff. Our sole motivation for leaving Oxfordshire is so that, at the age of nearly 40, we might actually be able to afford to buy a house. Given that we loved the Welsh capital when we lived there prior to the move to Abingdon, have been regular visitors over the last few years and have numerous friends there of a similar age and stage of life, the choice of destination seemed like a bit of a no-brainer.

The move won't be happening until December, so we've still got a little while to get used to the idea of leaving a place we've grown increasingly fond of (despite initial resistance) - and to the prospect of a new future out west. As stressful as the next few months are likely to be, the thought of being able to frequent the likes of Chapter and Spillers again will no doubt keep me going...

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Nevermind: the bollocks - here's the King


Right, let's get one thing straight immediately. Any po-faced pissant carping about the concept behind Elvana - the self-proclaimed (though probably truthfully described) finest Elvis-fronted Nirvana tribute act in the world - is conveniently forgetting that Nirvana themselves have essentially endorsed it. Kurt Cobain having proven in 1994 that he did indeed have a gun after all, the remaining members chose to play Celebrity Karaoke twenty years later, inviting a quartet of singers to take his place for the live performance that marked the band's induction into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame. If Kim Gordon, St Vincent, Joan Jett and Lorde could all have a crack at the standards, then why can't the King?

Emerging stage right with hamburger in hand as his preppily dressed band kick into 'Aneurysm', this Elvis is not the clean-cut sex symbol of the 1950s and 1960s, but the bejewelled behemoth of the 1970s, dragged straight from the Vegas strip. He's suffering for his art, clad in a snugly-fitting jumpsuit that results in a sweaty groin and sporting a tan that makes him look like the varnished offspring of David Dickinson and Claudia Winkelman.

Disrespectful to both artists? Not a bit of it. A grunged-up cover of 'All Shook Up' ("We like to call it 'All Fucked Up'") provokes an animated response, while potent renditions of 'Lithium', 'Heart-Shaped Box', 'You Know You're Right' and especially 'All Apologies' are a timely and surprisingly poignant reminder of Nirvana's power and Cobain's considerable songwriting chops in the month that Nevermind turns 25.

The encore ends with 'The Man Who Sold The World', and a Geordie pretending to be Elvis pretending to be Kurt Cobain pretending to be David Bowie. A complete headfuck, in other words - but one they manage to pull off.

Elvana may have started out as a joke, but it's a joke that certainly hasn't gone too far yet.

(This review originally appeared in the October issue of Nightshift.)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Easel listening

It's my annual jaunt down to the south coast for Southsea Fest this weekend - amazing how quickly it comes around. After a year off last year (when the gap was plugged by the slightly smaller-scale Dials), it's back and boasts a large and varied line-up headed by British Sea Power across a range of stages and venues, all for the bargain price of £20.

One of my highlights two years ago were Ultimate Painting, who at the time had only recently released their self-titled debut LP. Two years on, and Jack Cooper and James Hoare are already onto their third, with Dusk - the follow-up to last year's Green Lanes - hitting shops today. According to the duo, interviewed by Noisey, it's a step away from its predecessors, with a more stripped-back sound. It also sounds as though both of their original bands, Mazes and Veronica Falls respectively, are no more, so they can dedicate all of their energies to this project.

Clearly I've got some catching up to do...

A shore thing

The ATP weekenders may be no more, but there are clearly some people who still (rightly) believe in the concept. Somehow the existence of Rockaway Beach, taking place at Butlins in Bognor Regis next weekend, had completely bypassed me but - aside from one or two to-be-avoided acts (Suede and St Etienne) - the line-up is pretty decent, featuring Killing Joke, Wire, The Wedding Present, Cats Eyes, Clinic, Yuck, Blanck Mass, Black Honey, Membranes, FEWS and Jane Weaver.

This is actually the second event, following up a successful debut last year. On the strength of the idea and the bill, here's hoping that it becomes a fixture and that one day I might be able to afford to go to a proper festival again...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The ugly side of the beautiful game

Thanks very much to the Telegraph's investigative team for making it an extremely, er, interesting time to be editing a book on football management that features managers, players and agents musing anonymously on the murkier side of the industry...

High points in history

Both "representative of spatial economy and a symbol of power", skyscrapers have dominated skylines around the world for more than a century. ArchDaily has picked 17 of the most significant and influential and told their stories.

As a building typology initiated and popular in US cities, it's perhaps unsurprising that most of those selected are American - but it might have been nice to have had more examples from Latin America and the Middle and Far East.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Here we are now - entertain you?

Everyone else may have been marking the 25th anniversary of the release of Nevermind, but the Sounding Bored crew simply didn't feel we could let it pass by without following suit. That LP - the very definition of seminal - is the focus of discussion for Episode 9, recorded on Monday night and now up online.

While we explore the places (literal and metaphorical) that Nevermind sprang from, look at the album itself and consider its cultural resonance and legacy (one that continues to this day), we also take a personal perspective - for both myself and guest David, the record's release was a complete year zero, a seismic event that was quite literally life-changing.

While we may have broadly agreed on Nirvana, the three of us had divergent views on Angel Olsen's new LP My Woman and most definitely on Nick Cave's latest, Skeleton Tree...

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Quote of the day

"'Just play one note', Sonic had advised us as we travelled down the M1. 'Keep it simple. One note. No fancy stuff.' By 'fancy stuff' he meant two notes. Anything beyond that was pointless."

Spacemen 3 bassist Will Carruthers recalls a memorable set in the foyer of an arts centre in Brentford, in an excerpt from his memoir Playing The Bass With Three Left Hands published by the Guardian.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"There was the potential of a better, more thoughtful book here, one that delved into the complexities of creating art with someone of great troubles and transcendence. If only Love had taken some time in his 75 years to consider writing it. But, ladies and gentlemen of the court, Mike Love's surname is the kindest thing about him. His memoir leaves him neither vindicated nor convincingly tolerable as a human being."

Thus concludes Stacey Anderson's hugely entertaining dissection of Mike Love's new book Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy on Pitchfork.

Love was the subject of some discussion in Episode 7 of Sounding Bored, when we celebrated Pet Sounds' 50th birthday. This review merely further corroborates the existing evidence that Love is a bitter, egotistical, money-grabber.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Long live the King

Nightshift doesn't usually cover tribute bands, so I'm pleased to have been able to break with tradition and squeeze a review of Elvana's recent show at the Academy into the October issue. The mash-up of Elvis and Nirvana is evidence of their good taste, even if dropping 'Love Me Tender' into the middle of 'Rape Me' perhaps isn't...

Meanwhile, the cover star is Ally Craig of Bug Prentice, whose new EP (simply titled EP) is released next month. Elsewhere, both of my fellow Sounding Bored panellists Rob and Niall are represented - Niall's band The Beckoning Fair Ones get a glowing live review from Matthew Chapman Jones, while Rob has reviewed the Besnard Lakes' August show, which sadly proved somewhat underwhelming. Among the listings are previews of gigs by FEWS and Amber Arcades, both of which I'll be at with my reviewer's hat on.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Blood on the tracks

Given that Ayrton Senna died in 1994, it's amazing that it took until 2010 for his story to be made into a film - though not quite as amazing as the film in question, Asif Kapadia's Senna.

After all, the three-times Formula 1 World Champion's life had all of the elements of a classic Hollywood narrative: a fascinating character single-minded in the pursuit of success, engaged in intense and bitter struggle with a friend turned foe (Alain Prost), battling valiantly to overcome gross injustice (as a victim of both Prost's cynicism and the petty and partisan judgements of Prost's fellow Frenchman, FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre) and ultimately succumbing to a tragically premature death in front of thousands of spectators and a TV audience of millions.

In view of the subject matter, you might argue that it would be hard for Kapadia to have done a bad job - and he certainly didn't, exhibiting a masterful use of archive footage, interview segments, voiceover and music in illuminating the key moments in Senna's professional life.

Senna was - appropriately enough, given his chosen occupation - a very driven person, dissatisfied with the prospect of resting on his laurels and absolutely compelled to keep going, as though racing was vital to his sense of self-esteem and self-identity. Unlike many Brazilian footballers, he wasn't from an impoverished background (far from it) but was profoundly patriotic at a time when most of his countrymen felt ashamed rather than proud of their nationality, and helped to bring much-needed joy to the people and raise the profile of the country internationally. After his death, his sister Vivianne set up the Ayrton Senna Foundation, a charity that supports the education of poor Brazilian children - a tribute that Senna (unusually humble for a Formula 1 driver) would have appreciated.

Prost, meanwhile, was cast as the pantomime villain, a 1980s-permed gnome, a Machiavellian Leo Sayer who knew very well how to play the political game. When Senna first joined Prost's McLaren team, the pair enjoyed a healthy rivalry but, with Prost growing irritated by the Brazilian trespassing on his turf, the relationship descended into outright warfare. In many ways Prost was the victor, dragging Senna down to his level and the art of the tactical collision.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Prost objected to his depiction in the film, expressing particular irritation that the reconciliation between the pair that took place prior to Senna's death wasn't explicitly flagged up. However, scriptwriter Manish Pandey defended the film from that particular charge, pointing to numerous implicit indications that the pair's enmity was over by the time Senna suffered his fatal crash - not least Prost's presence at the funeral. In any case, anyone who regularly bad-mouthed the eponymous hero of a film is never likely to come out of it smelling of roses.

Despite the fact that Senna's ultimate fate is well known and casts a shadow over the whole film, imbuing everything with added resonance and poignancy, the inevitable conclusion nevertheless packs a powerful emotional punch. The strategy of flitting between footage of family and friends with Senna and shots of them in mourning at his funeral is simple but devastatingly effective.

I'm certainly no Formula 1 fan, and have been known to mock a former colleague who has an oil painting of Senna hanging over her mantelpiece - but when Kapadia's film finished I found myself suddenly inclined to get an easel, a canvas, a set of brushes and some paint and start creating my own tribute.

As for Kapadia, he went on to do Amy, which told the story of the troubled singer Amy Winehouse, another iconic figure who died prematurely. Supersonic, his new film about Oasis' rise to superstardom in the mid-1990s released next month, will buck the trend - unless you consider the death of Britpop tragic. Which I don't. Still probably worth a watch, though.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"What does the left have apart from Corbyn at the minute?"

Of all the victims of Labour's recent purge ahead of the leadership election, Sleaford Mods' Jason Williamson was probably the least likely to take it sitting down - and, sure enough, this article for the New Statesman underlines his anger and frustration at being disqualified.

Like many people, Williamson signed up despite being neither "a huge fan of Labour" or "an ardent socialist", but simply as someone who feels Jeremy Corbyn "speaks a lot of sense" and deserves the opportunity to lead the opposition without backbiting and sabotage from within his own party. Williamson is absolutely right to be indignant that he's paid his money and yet is now being barred from voting in the election on spurious grounds - and that it's people like Owen Smith and Hilary Benn who are destroying the party, not Corbyn.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Standard practice

Ever wondered where building standards came from? It's a mystery even to many architects. As Daniel Richards explains, though, they were essentially invented by a pioneering Bauhaus architect called Ernst Neufert, who was fascinated by mass production and inspired by the standardisation of paper sizes and the myriad ramifications this had.

Unfortunately, the visionary result, Neufert's Octametric system, was initially put to work in service of the Nazis - but the Allies found it too useful to resist adopting themselves in the course of rebuilding Germany after the war.

(Thanks to Alan for the link.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What makes her a woman

Not yet acquainted with Angel Olsen? Here's a great introduction, courtesy of Pitchfork's Jillian Mapes, to the one-time Bonnie "Prince" Billy collaborator whose last two LPs have been so spectacularly good as to completely transcend that past. The most recent, MY WOMAN, a stylistically varied exploration of womanhood and identity, will be the featured album on Episode 9 of Sounding Bored, due to be recorded next Monday.

The main topic of conversation for that podcast, incidentally, will be Nirvana's Nevermind, its forebears and its legacy. No doubt our conversation will be coloured by the revelation that Kurt Cobain, previously presumed dead, is actually alive and well, and still performing.

(Thanks to David for the second link.)

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Every day feels like a gamble"

The next time you think you've got a tough job, spare a thought for the life of a community mental health nurse. It's a wonder anyone has the fortitude and resilience to do the job in any circumstances, let alone at a time when the government are not only failing to offer support but actively decimating such services.

(Thanks to Lyndsey for the link.)

The white death

There aren't many signposts marking the way on Mount Everest, and those that are there are rather macabre. Still, I suppose that if you did die in the pursuit of the glory of completing an ascent and descent of the summit, then you might be glad to know your death would serve to help climbers to avoid a similar fate themselves.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Feel good hits of the 18th September

1. 'All Apologies' - Nirvana
It really shouldn't have taken the world's finest Elvis-fronted Nirvana tribute band to remind me how powerful Nirvana were and how brilliant this song is, but it did. Two weekends in a row.

2. 'Sister' - Angel Olsen
I was doubtful that MY WOMAN could possibly match up to Burn Your Fire For No Witness - but you know what? I think it does. 'Sister', the LP's third single, features the sort of climax that is all the more richly satisfying for stealing up stealthily without detection.

3. 'I Walk For Miles' - Dinosaur Jr
32 years old and counting, but Dinosaur Jr are still coming out with riffs for which the adjectives "gnarly" and "killer" were invented. Hands up those who remain delighted that J Mascis and Lou Barlow managed to patch things up.

4. 'Ladyfuzz' - Kamikaze Girls
Taken from debut EP Sad, 'Ladyfuzz' was inspired by singer Lucinda Livingston's recent mental health problems. Anything that brings such problems out into the open is to be applauded - especially when it sounds this damn good. Cheers to Dave of Big Scary Monsters for the tip.

5. 'Familiar Patterns' - PUP
More punk, but this time of a less thought-provoking nature. One for fans of Japandroids and Beach Slang, though those vocals might be offputting, beamed in from a West Coast pop-punk band (even though they're actually from Toronto). Maybe it's just because I've been listening to Pinkerton a lot recently, but this track seems to be in a similar ballpark. (I'm duty-bound to point out that PUP's The Dream Is Over was our featured album on Episode 8 of Sounding Bored.)

6. 'Burn The Witch' - Radiohead
If there's a better song/video combination this year, then I promise I'll start telling everyone that King Of Limbs is a good album.

7. 'Ran Ran Run' - Pavo Pavo
Missing Grizzly Bear? Here's something to keep you happy, courtesy of Simon of Sweeping The Nation. Dreamy loosely psychedelic indie rock that shifts gear disarmingly though not unsuccessfully. It's not new, mind, the Brooklyners having released it as a single in May last year.

8. 'Deep Six Textbook' - Let's Eat Grandma
They'll suck you in with the name, and then keep you transfixed with the song. 'Deep Six Textbook' is pretty remarkable stuff for a pair of 17-year-olds from Norwich - weirdo post-XX gloom-pop.

9. 'Darkside Stare' - Basic Vanilla
Dark, twisted techno: the first fruits of the new side project of Matthew Rozeik, one half of Necro Deathmort (and an acquaintance of mine). This reached my ears at the right time - when, thanks largely to Factory Floor, I seem to be having a midlife crisis and discovering techno exactly when I should be going the other way and becoming an Americana bore.

10. 'And Why Not?' - Higher Authorities
Thanks to Ian for tipping me off about Higher Authorities, who include members of cult Domino band Clinic in their ranks. 'And Why Not?' certainly isn't bad, but it just leaves me wanting to stick a Clinic record on.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Roald: gold

To mark Roald Dahl Day (his 100th birthday), which fell on Wednesday, Michael Rosen wrote for The Big Issue about the peculiar thrill and excitement that inevitably followed the revelation that there was a new Dahl book on the way.

On the surface, his books seemed to break all the supposed rules for children's fiction. As Rosen notes, they were "outrageous", studded with grotesque and scheming characters, and incidents that "were so extraordinary or odd that we would perhaps wonder how he had got away with putting it in a book for children". Moreover, while there was undoubtedly a moral element to some or even most of the stories (the good ending happily and the bad unhappily, essentially), there was apparently little room for reform and redemption.

And yet despite these elements - or, more likely, because of them - his books were phenomenally popular with kids. It must have been enough to give many a conservative educator a headache.

(Thanks to Lucy for the link.)

Quote of the day

"If you look at our 2015 manifesto, Theresa May has announced it all in the first months of being prime minister - grammar schools, fracking, Brexit means Brexit, controlling immigration. The things that made me resolutely Ukip are the things that Theresa May is doing now."

Alexandra Phillips, who ran UKIP's media operations for three years in support of Nigel Farage, explains why she's defected to the Tories - and in doing so delivers an inadvertently damning verdict on the direction the Tories are taking under May.