Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Let us not speak of this

Baby Jesus Hitler, Anal Cunt, Cybernetic God Crusher, Deep Fried Abortion, Rhino Clit, Scrotum Staplers, Wall Of Smegma: just a handful of the bands that DJs on Seton Hall University's student radio station are banned from mentioning. I feel like I owe it to Wall Of Smegma to find out more about them, but have decided that googling probably wouldn't be the wisest move.

The waiting game

Ever experienced that interminable wait outside the changing rooms while your other half tries on all the clothes in the shop? Good to know you're not alone.

(Thanks to Neil for the link.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mind the gap

"Stand away from the platform edge - this train is not scheduled to stop at this station". A familiar announcement to many of us - but there are underground stations around the world at which trains are never scheduled to stop.

The reasons for their abandonment vary but include evaporating funding, low levels of usage and incompatibility with redevelopment plans. In the article, Tom Moran (editor of Urban Ghosts), argues: "For me, what makes abandoned subways more compelling than other subterranean infrastructure is the fact that they were built to cater for large crowds of people – unlike sewers and utility tunnels – and thus contain all the necessary features of a public space, from fire escapes to ornate signage and advertising on the walls. It’s that missing human element that makes them more eerie". He's not wrong.

And neither is he wrong when he comments on what makes abandoned subway stations unique compared to other abandoned buildings: "Other than filling them in, you can’t really demolish an underground ghost station. So, while many surface buildings often meet the wrecking ball, ghost stations live on in a sort of weird afterlife, out of sight and out of mind (of most people, at least) but very much in existence".

Will it be a bad thing if they're brought back into the public consciousness in London, by being turned into tourist attractions? Drew Reed's article appears to side with the urban explorers, who favour preservation over renovation. While I can understand the distaste for transforming (and commercialising) the spaces, it does nevertheless seem a bit odd to give such value to the preservation of places that most people can and will never see.

(Thanks to Neil for the link.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Meeting people is easy

In an anecdote worthy of inclusion on Did I Ever Tell You About The Time..., I once saw Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood browsing the yoghurt section in the Abingdon branch of Waitrose. I kept my cool - unlike Nick Cave, when he ran into Greenwood on the street in New York.

Meanwhile, I'm tempted to avoid getting Thom Yorke's new solo album Tomorrow's Modern Boxes on principle, partly out of revenge for foisting King Of Limbs on us and partly because with the unusual format/sales strategy and lack of prior announcements he seems to be morphing into Bono.

The secret of comedy is timing - and location

Generally speaking, stand-up comedy refers to the fact that the performer is stood while the audience is seated, rather than the fact that the performer stands the entire audience up by going to completely the wrong town. I'm not Seann Walsh's biggest fan, but it's nevertheless perhaps a bit cruel to suggest that he has a similarly wayward grasp of geography as Sarah Palin...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

There's only two Neil Baldwins

Marvellous? Absolutely. In fact, that title might have been an understatement.

They say that truth can be stranger than fiction, and the extraordinary life and achievements of Neil Baldwin are certainly testament to that. Peter Bowker's biopic, recently screened on BBC2, told the remarkable tale of how Baldwin blagged his way into positions as kit man for the football club he supports (Stoke City) and as a clown in a travelling circus, into the House of Commons to chew the fat with Tony Benn, into Keele University as an unappointed student support officer, onto the umpires' boat for the annual Oxford v Cambridge boat race, and into unlikely but enduring friendships with a whole host of prominent figures, particularly within the twin spheres of football and the Anglican church. While it may all have seemed somewhat unbelievable, on several occasions Bowker - in a neatly surreal touch - had the real Neil Baldwin appear to confirm the film's accuracy to his fictional representation.

That fictional representation was played by Toby Jones, whose performance was nothing short of phenomenal in terms of mannerisms and verbal and behavioural tics - though he was aided in that task by a superlative script that contained a beautifully bittersweet blend of tragedy and comedy, and some of the finest lines of dialogue I've heard for some time. I'm not ashamed to say that both sides of the film brought a tear to the eye on more than one occasion.

Uplifting without being mawkishly sentimental, Marvellous was the story of an irrepressible character (in the fullest sense of the term) who has refused to be defined by limitations placed on him by others (Baldwin was classified as having learning difficulties), who has repeatedly vaulted over or simply skirted around barriers placed in his path, and whose irrepressible and eternally optimistic nature should be a lesson to us all.

Newmark by name, no mark by nature

A not-so-fond farewell to Brooks Newmark, the Tory Minister for Civil Society, after finding himself embroiled in a sex scandal. Suggestion to David Cameron: perhaps this time you might choose to pick someone who actually understands and appreciates the charity sector.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The long goodbye

On Saturday, I posted about the eloquent reactions of Charlotte Kitley and Clive James to impending death. In a piece for the Guardian, celebrated editor Diana Athill has also written beautifully about facing up to the inevitability of her own demise. Now 96 and living in a retirement home, she points out that a fear of death is essentially irrational - even if a fear of the process of dying isn't.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Psyched to the max

Not content with previewing this weekend's Psych Fest in Liverpool with a rundown of their twelve must-see acts, Drowned In Sound have also enlisted former Fields man Jamie Putnam to assemble a playlist to take you on a psych journey through the ages, taking in everything from Sonic Youth and (predictably) Spacement 3 to "epic, brain-mashing Scandinavian drone-out from the late 60s - like Coltrane playing over a Velvet Underground loop. Forever"...

Meanwhile, hot on the heels of John Doran's attempts to pin down what "psych" might mean (in short: it's not a genre label), Quietus staff and writers have been put to work recommending the very best purveyors of "modern European psychedelia". Lots of interesting-sounding tips for investigation - not least the marvellously named Sex Swing, featuring members of Part Chimp - plus a thumbs-up for my mate Matt's terrifying duo Necro Deathmort.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Quote of the day

"Good taste is for people who write about fish forks and napkin rings – it is not the purview of novelists. We want, and need our fiction, to shock us out of the everyday. Stories that stem from reality, a glimpse of a woman from a window, are the most unsettling of all. The crime is that Lord Bell, and the great enraged, don’t get that. Thought is not, as yet, a crime."

Damian Barr on the ridiculous furore over the publication of Hilary Mantel's short story 'The Assassination Of Margaret Thatcher - August 6th 1983', which prompted Lord Bell to demand a police investigation and Stephen Glover to start foaming at the mouth in a manner befitting a Daily Heil columnist.

Exchange facing extinction

It's such a shame to see Cardiff's iconic Coal Exchange building going to rack and ruin - which is why I'm backing the campaign to save it. It's been boarded up for more than a year now, and has been declared structurally unsound and in need of serious maintenance by conservation experts. I don't suppose the fact that it hosted a memorably loud Mogwai gig back in 2006 will have helped on that particular front...

"Allotments isn't a competitive activity"

A dislike of reality shows but a fondness for Stewart Lee, Family Guy and Midsomer Murders? Alan Bennett, I salute your impeccable taste in TV (while chastising myself for having still not read your Untold Stories).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Stage presence

I guess it's a sign of age and fatherhood, but Saturday's Southsea Fest was my first and only proper festival of the year. A shame for many reasons - not least because the line-up for this weekend's second annual Psych Fest in Liverpool (featuring the quite wonderful Besnard Lakes, among others) is positively mouthwatering. Hopefully it'll happen again next year and I can contrive to be there.

Meanwhile, nearer at hand is the newly announced Drill Festival in Brighton, set to star Wire, Swans, Savages, Mono, Grumbling Fur and Damo Suzuki. Due to take place in early December, it seems as though it's deliberately scheduled to attract the would-be ATP crowd. Needless to say, I'd like to be there.

As I would at one of the Manics' Roundhouse shows at which they'll be playing The Holy Bible in its entirety. I may have lost touch with them over recent years, but that album remains one of the most affecting and powerful in my collection.

Och aye? No

I'm hardly Andy Murray's biggest fan, but he shouldn't have to feel the need to apologise for (finally) expressing an opinion in public. He's Scottish, so why shouldn't he share his view on Scottish independence, stating his support for the "Yes" campaign? As for the likelihood of his mum losing public support on Strictly Come Dancing as a result...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Quote of the day

"In 1997, Hilary Clinton made a famous speech in Beijing about women's rights. Sadly many of the things she wanted to change are still a reality today. But what stood out for me the most was that only 30 per cent of her audience were male. How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation? Men - I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too."

Not only is feminism not a dirty word for UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, it's one that men shouldn't shy away from either. Her case for the need for men to be involved in the fight for gender equality is compelling.

Inevitably, the Daily Heil chose to focus on her appearance rather than anything she said during her address to the UN - thus helpfully proving much of her point.

Sign up to support the UN's He For She campaign here.

Urban legends

It's a collaboration so bizarre that not even the Flaming Lips could come up with it: Tinchy Stryder and the Chuckle Brothers. Next week: Wiley hooks up with Wee Jimmy Krankie.

(Thanks to Tom for the link.)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"We’re the pierced and tattooed, shorts-wearing, skunk-smoking, OxyContin-popping, neurotic dickheads who’ve presided over the commoditisation of the counterculture; we’re the ones who took the avant-garde and turned it into a successful rearguard action by the flying columns of capitalism’s blitzkrieg; we’re the twats who sat there saying that there was no distinction between high and popular culture, and that adverts should be considered as an art form; we’re the idiots who scrumped the golden apples from the Tree of Jobs until our bellies swelled and we jetted slurry from our dickhead arseholes – slurry we claimed was 'cultural criticism'."

Will Self may be railing against the ubiquity of hipster culture (as well as the internet, for being a democratic platform that permits anyone to think they're an "artist"), but much of his ire is reserved for his own generation for allowing it to happen. While I can take his general point, I'm less enamoured by the sneering at "frothy-coffee joints and vinyl record shops" and the sweeping dismissal of Clifton in Bristol and the Northern Quarter in Manchester as nothing but horrible hipster hangouts.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

Quote of the day

"It’s such a horrible idea to try teaching Moby-Dick or Dubliners to high school juniors. Even the bright ones lose heart. But it’s good to make them reach a little. They’ve got to see there are brighter literary worlds than Twilight. Reading good fiction is like making the jump from masturbation to sex."

Stephen King, talking to Jessica Lahey of The Atlantic about teaching literacy. King's literary instruction manual On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft sounds well worth a read.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Punk's puddings

From drummer in seminal hardcore bands to acclaimed pastry chef at one of the swankiest restaurants in New York: it's an improbable journey, but one that Brooks Headley has managed to make. It's not even as though he's actually left his punk past behind, either - he's in a supergroup (of sorts) with Dean Spunt of No Age, and has got Steve Albini to write the foreword for his new cookbook (of sorts) Fancy Desserts. I'll admit I'd not heard of him before, but how can you fail to love a chef whose ethical food-buying policy is shaped by listening to Fugazi and who's made use of the cover of Melvins' Bullhead in his book?

As for Albini, it's no secret that he loves food too - and Stereogum's Greg Bouchard has reported on recently having the privilege of witnessing him at work in the kitchen and sampling one of his meals. Playing and recording music, poker, cooking: is there anything of value that the man isn't good at?

Quote of the day

"I've got the best record collection that I know."

The boast that Cerys Matthews claims scored her a slot on 6 Music. While I don't doubt the claim, I do doubt the truth of the statement, frankly - after all, if it really was that good a record collection, how on earth could she have contrived to come up with Catatonia and their post-Britpop slurry?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pro Contra Bono

Of all the responses to U2 and Apple stealth-bombing people with the former's Songs Of Innocence, I think Washington Post critic Chris Richards' pithy effort might be my favourite: "On Tuesday afternoon, U2’s new album was just there, waiting for you. Like an Ikea catalogue. Or a jury summons. Or streptococcus."

Richards was certainly not alone in being irritated by the stunt, to the extent that Apple have bowed to pressure and made it easier to purge your iTunes library of the offending album.

Not that the ongoing collaboration between the band and the firm is showing any signs of coming to an end, mind - on the contrary, they're apparently working on a new digital music format that "will prove so irresistibly exciting to music fans that it will tempt them again into buying music - whole albums as well as individual tracks". I've got news for you, Bono and Cook: some of us never stopped.

(Thanks to Neil for the first link.)

The fading of the light

How would I respond in the face of impending death? I'm not sure, though it certainly wouldn't be as eloquently as either Charlotte Kitley, a mother of two who this week wrote a powerful final blog for the Huffington Post on the importance of enjoying life before succumbing to bowel cancer, or veteran broadcaster Clive James, whose poignant poem 'Japanese Maple' about his own slow "fading out" has recently been published by the New Yorker.

Quote of the day

"I like manatees. They seem pretty mellow."

If you didn't know this was J Mascis responding to the question "Which animal would you want to be?", you could have guessed. It's not a very Pitchfork question to be asking of musicians, but there you go...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland the not-so-brave

Scotland: the cool, rebellious teenager with exceptional music taste who is always shouting "I HATE YOU" at their Daily Mail-reading parents but who can't quite bring themselves to fly the nest and cut themselves off from the Bank of Mum and Dad.

Not that I would have blamed the Scots for wanting independence - who could, given that they voted in one Tory out of 50+ MPs at the last election and still ended up with a Tory(ish) government? And not that I can't understand their reasons for voting "No" - the "Yes" campaign were unable to provide convincing answers to a lot of questions and there was just too much uncertainty and risk involved.

Of course, the danger now is that the "No" vote is taken as an unequivocally positive preference for staying in the union rather than an expression of mistrust in the "Yes" campaign's sketchy vision of an independent Scotland by many who favour independence in principle, and that as a result David Cameron's rhetoric about further devolution is just that - rhetoric. Given that the result wasn't as close as predicted, I wouldn't be surprised if Cameron is already privately regretting his pre-referendum promises and looking at ways to backtrack. I can only hope Andrew Marr's right: "What the Scottish shock has done is produce a constitutional revolution on a very, very tight timetable. Possibly the most exciting political story in my lifetime."

To end on a cynical note, the 84% overall turnout is certainly impressive in the context of other elections. However, when you consider that 25% of people in Glasgow couldn't be bothered to queue to directly decide their long-term future while others will queue overnight to get their hands on a new fucking mobile telephone, it puts things into a different perspective...

The late review

"Self-admiring, manipulative and psychopathic": all admirable qualities, yes? Just seeking some reassurance - as someone who very definitely habitually stays up late, I'm supposedly statistically more likely to be all three. Though I'm also neither phenomenally successful and rich nor in jail. Just a matter of time, perhaps.

(Thanks to Siobhan for the link.)

Keep quiet

I see The Script's new album is called No Sound Without Silence. In their case, there's no sound that's preferable to silence.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

mclusky do Dallas South Wales

An obsession with tomato pesto, near-death experiences with chicken, the expression "wank-priests", describing his current band as like "Mo Farah with a can of Heineken", disappointment that they can't be Mission Of Burma, a footnote that reads "I would never dream of calling a woman a cunt unless that was her given name, and then with some reservations": why, yes, of course, that would be Andy "Falco" Falkous explaining the decision to reform mclusky (sort of) for a couple of November gigs in aid of two of the venues that helped put the band on the map, Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff and Le Pub in Newport.

The latter's need is greatest, given that it's under threat of closure if £10,000 can't be found to cover the cost of soundproofing - another case in which the adoption and implementation of the Agent of Change principle proposed by the Music Venue Trust would have helped. As Falco himself says ("with all due respect"), "Newport does not need to be losing places of cultural import right now".

Jones keeping up with the Guttenbergs

First it was Steve Guttenberg attempting to launch a new career as a kids' author; now it's Michael Winslow aka Jones putting in an appearance on a track on the new album from Killer Mike and El-P aka Run The Jewels. He contributes "guest robot voice", naturally. So who's next to surface? Tackleberry? Hooks?

Monkey business

So now we know that murder "comes naturally" to chimpanzees - it's not the result of years of being forced to dress up and be filmed drinking shit tea.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hunger games

A reminder that, no matter how dire things seem in the UK, they're usually worse across the pond. Here, we've witnessed prominent politicians, national newspapers and vacuous publicity-seeking imbeciles attacking food banks and those who use them - but in the US, an increasing number of cities are introducing outright bans on charitable organisations donating food to the homeless. Following the old adage that you are what you eat, this basically means they're nothing. How very humane.

(Thanks to Ian for the link.)