Friday, January 20, 2017

Please Mr Postman

Once upon a time, before the internet really took off, the main way of keeping informed about the activities of your favourite bands was to send one of the freepost cards included in their releases back to the address they bore: 3 Alveston Place, Leamington Spa. But, asks David Beer, whatever happened to "the mysterious epicentre of the British music scene"?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

"A colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that"

It was Martin Luther King Day on Monday, when the world pays tribute to the iconic civil rights leader. This year, even Donald Trump got in on the act, urging his Twitter followers: "Celebrate Martin Luther King Day and all of the wonderful things he stood for. Honor him for being the great man that he was!" This despite the fact that Trump had just covered himself in glory by attacking another civil rights leader, John Lewis, for having the temerity to question the legitimacy of his election. And that's not to mention the fact that Trump's father stood for the exact opposite: segregation and systemic racism.

King, his courage and his conviction may now be held in almost universally high esteem, but it's worth remembering that this certainly wasn't always the case, to put it mildly. Take, for example, the extraordinary letter sent anonymously to King in November 1964 by the FBI, with the endorsement of President Hoover, which denounced him in the strongest terms, threatened to expose him as a fraud and adulterer and hinted heavily that suicide would be the best course of action.

(Thanks to Simon for the letter link.)

The camera never lies - but the painter might

2017 may be less than three weeks old, but I'd guarantee that this will be one of the oddest stories you'll come across all year: blogger discovers that a photo he took of North Pier in Blackpool in 2009 has been copied (without credit) for a painting by none other than music legend and 2016 Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan, and passed off as a depiction of a pier in Norfolk, Virginia. Here's Diamond Geezer to explain.

(Thanks to Terry for the link.)

Words to live by

Our first DIY job in the new house was, naturally, to get rid of the Snow Patrol lyrics heinously adorning the living room wall (it was close to being a deal-breaker, I'll admit). Now we've just got to decide how to replace the quote. I was thinking maybe something from the pen of Sleaford Mods' Jason Williamson - "I woke up with shit in my sock outside the Polish off-licence" from 'Tied Up In Nottz', perhaps?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Variety Bazaar: the spice of life?

While the name of the new festival from the team behind Glastonbury, Variety Bazaar, has rightly come in for some criticism online, I don't think its existence is necessarily something for Glasto regulars to be worried about - the more festivals along the same lines as Glastonbury the better, as far as I'm concerned.

However, the evident fear is that Variety Bazaar might signal the end of the original bash, replacing rather than complementing it - a fear exacerbated by Michael Eavis' previous comments about searching for a new site in the Midlands. Hopefully, that fear is unfounded - but only time will tell.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Quote of the day

"We were not told Brexit would mean tearing up worker, environmental and consumer protections. On the contrary, the vote was meant to be a chance for the 'left behind' to 'take back control' of their lives. [Philip] Hammond is now saying, or at least threatening, that control will pass to employers who can break free of 'European-style' restrictions on how they treat their workforce and corporations who can break free of safety and environmental standards and see their tax bills slashed. In the name of taking back control, ordinary people will lose what protections they have, and see the corporate tax take for public services fall."

Nick Cohen on the uncomfortable truth about the Leave vote. So much for power to the people, eh? As Cohen points out, this situation is made even more farcical (and dangerous) because those who engineered Brexit have now slunk off back into the shadows, shirking any responsibility or accountability, leaving Hammond and Theresa May - both of whom supported the Remain campaign - to hammer out the details.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Caveat emptor

If Safe As Milk has an ATP-esque line-up, then the same can most certainly be said of Transformer. The one-day festival, due to take place on 28th May, already boasts a strong bill including The Fall, Royal Trux, Swans and This Is Not This Heat, all for the bargain cost of not much more than £20.

However, the fact that the venue is Victoria Warehouse in Manchester might cause wariness among punters. Not only was it the focus of severe criticism in the wake of the John Carpenter show in October, blasted for everything from being too full to the sound quality and the bar arrangements, but it doesn't even have the details of this festival on its own website.

Drowned In Sound messageboard posters have suggested that Barry Hogan is behind the bash, alleging that he's currently working at the Victoria Warehouse to pay off debts incurred by the collapse of the Drive Like Jehu weekender that dealt the fatal blow to ATP. Idle speculation and tittle-tattle? Perhaps - but caution is probably prudent and the line-up and ticket price do seem a bit too good to be true.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Feel good hits of the 14th January

1. 'Before We Run' - Yo La Tengo
Recently revisiting 2013's Fade, I was a little disappointed to feel that it starts to, well, fade out after the sublime 'Cornelia & Jane'. Nevertheless, the subdued and perhaps sub-par quality of both 'Two Trains' and 'The Point Of It' helps to throw Georgia-led album closer 'Before We Run' into relief: a gorgeous, beautifully woven tapestry of a song that surely ranks among the very best of a sizeable back catalogue.

2. 'Drone Logic' - Daniel Avery
The fact that this intense, sonically sumptuous techno track was thrown up by YouTube following on from some Factory Floor tracks (no doubt because Avery has remixed 'How You Say') suggests that I should maybe place more faith in algorithms - and that, at the age of nearly 40, I might finally be properly getting into dance music.

3. 'Nobody Speak' - DJ Shadow feat. Run The Jewels
This track's cartoonish aggressive rap battle would be enjoyable enough on its own, but Sam Pilling's video turns it into a hip-hop reboot of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'Two Tribes', a critique of playground politics. Run The Jewels' third LP, out yesterday, is definitely on my radar - and, much as I like to think I have wide-ranging tastes, there aren't too many rap albums you can say that about.

4. 'Crystal Gypsy' - Sebadoh
Some time before Christmas, thanks to a great post on Dukla Prague Away Kit, I dug out Bakesale, reacquainting myself with its joys. From there, I moved to its successor Harmacy - and before long was of the opinion that an album I've always liked but never really loved is actually superior. The ragged, raw punk of Jason Loewenstein's 'Crystal Gypsy' certainly helped to tip the balance.

5. 'Breathing' - Kate Bush
Kate Bush has adopted a lot of personas in her time, but probably none quite so striking as the foetus of 'Breathing', temporarily cocooned within the womb but about to be exposed to the horrors of nuclear fallout. It reached #16 in the charts, incredibly. They don't make 'em like that anymore - though they might start to do so again given the new resident of the White House and the increased nuclear threat...

6. 'Babes Never Die' - Honeyblood
Like Savages at the start of 2016, Honeyblood had a rallying cry and this was it. 'Babes Never Die' sets the tone for the album of the same name: punchy, hooky, Best-Coasty, vintage 90s indie rock.

7. 'Sunshine Smile' - Adorable
I've got fellow Sounding Bored founder and shoegaze enthusiast Rob to thank for introducing me to this, which steers the right side of the Britpop divide courtesy of those guitars and the satisfyingly noisy climax.

8. 'Engrams' - Three Trapped Tigers
I may have left Nightshift and Oxford behind, but I can still thank Ronan for first alerting me to the existence of Three Trapped Tigers, who had somehow hitherto completely passed me by. 'Engrams', from last year's Silent Earthling LP, is stunning, exemplifying the sort of frenetic percussive energy and proggy tendencies that position them as a British answer to Battles. Their November gig at the Academy is just one of many that will, hopefully, one day be written up...

9. 'Ignorecam' - Pissed Jeans
Given that ignorance, sex workers and the obsession with being the centre of attention are all hot topics at the moment (*cough* Trump), this song - which imagines if men paid camgirls to ignore them rather than lavish sexual attention on them - could be considered rather timely.

10. 'Creepin' - Moon Duo
I'm reviewing Moon Duo's Occult Architecture Vol I (as the title implies, there'll be a second installment out later this year) as my first assignment for Buzz. To be honest, if you've heard any of their previous records, you'll know what to expect. Not that continuing to plow the propulsive psych-garage furrow is at all a bad thing, mind.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Get real

Taking a three-year-old to the National Museum of Wales to view the exhibited works of the six artists shortlisted for this year's Artes Mundi prize always had the potential for failure (as well as the potential for earning me the label "modern parenting wanker", as I consequently was branded by a friend). Still, Stanley's burgeoning fascination with art, craft and creativity led me to hope that he might actually enjoy it. No such luck. There was a full five minutes of listless wandering around before an extravagant eye-roll and the plea "Can we go and see the real things now?" And thus he cemented his status as the new enfant terrible of the art world.

In truth, I didn't get that much from it either. The work of Amy Franceschini/Futurefarmers seemed to me like a classic example of an ostensibly community-oriented project that engages more with conceptual art than people or sociopolitical realities. Meanwhile, Neil Beloufa's piece The first dinosaur, lampshade, fertility and complete denial - essentially (!) a film in which non-actors play world leaders engaged in tense political conflict that is then projected through a fibreglass dinosaur (constructed from memory rather than accurately) that moves by motor back and forth along a little track - was completely baffling.

Nevertheless, we did both respond positively to the bits of Lamia Joreige's film The River - about the river that flows through the centre of her home city Beirut - that we caught both at the museum and at Chapter last week. Best, though, was Bedwyr Williams' evocative computer-generated depiction of a fictional futuristic city set near Dolgellau in among the Snowdonian peaks, which despite initially seeming like a static projection gradually comes alive through both minute aspects of animation and a dryly humorous voiceover courtesy of Williams himself that invests the scene with the humanity it's otherwise missing.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Daylight Robberie

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. That seems to have been the decision taken by ie:music, Robbie Williams' management company, who in November 2015 signed a petition protesting about the actions of unscrupulous ticket touts but who have now been revealed to be touts themselves, flogging tickets directly on resale sites at a grotesquely inflated price. Not that £95, the apparently standard price, isn't an obscene amount to be spending to subject yourself to Robbie Williams, of course...

If this is indeed common practice - as Ticketmaster's statement that the approach has been used "for many years" implies - then the hypocrisy is staggering. When it comes to the music industry, though, what's new?

Know Your Enemy

"If this is Trump's playbook for crisis management, his political opponents should sit back and enjoy the show. Like a dog that returns to his vomit, this president-elect just can't help himself. Let the follies begin."

So ends Richard Wolffe's assessment of Donald Trump's first press conference since being elected president: a farcical "trainwreck".

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A necessary evil

As is demanded by the apparent determination to follow the path marked "Hard Brexit", are all Tory ministers pulling in the same direction and proposing how immigration might be reduced in their spheres of influence? No, frankly - not even those who actually voted for Brexit themselves, such as Andrea Leadsom. On the contrary, they suddenly seem all too aware of how essential foreign workers are in propping up the British economy and enabling society to function. Better late than never, I suppose.

(Thanks to Raoul for the link.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A sick joke

Hear the words "humanitarian crisis" and you're likely to think of Syria or a war-torn African republic - not the UK. But those were the words used by Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, on Friday to describe the current situation within the NHS.

Needless to say, the remarks have provoked a significant response. Inevitably, both Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt have publicly dismissed the description - but the facts, as laid out by the Guardian, bear painful testimony to its truthfulness.

The causes of the crisis are obvious: both the Tories' chronic underfunding of the NHS, calculated to accelerate privatisation, and the savage cuts imposed on social care by the austerity programme. And yet, of course, you just know that in some quarters immigrants will be getting the blame...

Know Your Enemy

"There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks into my heart, not because it was good, it was - there's nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege and power and the capacity to fight back. It, it kind of broke my heart when I saw it and I still can't get it out of my head because it wasn't in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate when it's modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody's life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose."

Meryl Streep attacks president elect Donald Trump in her speech accepting the Cecil B DeMille Award at the Golden Globes.

Unable to maintain a dignified silence on anything, Trump simply had to respond - and he did so in a characteristically childish and petty way, by laughably branding Streep "one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood". It remains hard to believe that this moron is about to become the single most powerful man on the planet.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Out of time

Rage Against The Machine began as provocative left-wing firebrands, only to find their political  message blunted or outright ignored as they were seized upon by white middle-class teenagers (yep, guilty as charged) and even co-opted by right-wing reactionaries like Paul Ryan. As Frank Guan argues, however, they were in many ways ahead of their time - and are as relevant now, as a perfect commentary on the dawning of the Trump era, as ever.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Haircut 100 21

Absurd barnets, ill-advised cross-dressing and unfeasibly tight trousers: the Awkward Family Photos site turns the spotlight on some seriously bizarre band photos.

(Thanks to Owen for the link.)

Saturday, January 07, 2017

They're justified and they're ancient - and they're back

Is that the tinkling tinny sound of an ice cream van's music I can hear? In the dead of winter? It just might be, given that the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu have announced their return to the pop cultural fray. As Popjustice's Peter Robinson underlines, the previous exploits of founder members and arch agents provocateur Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond, in both this guise and The KLF (and others), suggests that whatever the comeback involves, it will be worth paying attention to.

(Thanks to Del for the link.)

Friday, January 06, 2017

New year, new house, new start

... And we're back. Here, and in Cardiff.

Apologies for the abrupt hiatus - blame it on the house move. The purchase only completed on 22nd December and we managed the bulk of the move on the 28th and 29th, with the considerable assistance of my brother and sister-in-law and fuelled by lots of coffee and Pet Sounds. I'd been dreading it, but it was a remarkably unstressful experience, to be honest, with the sofa and a glass candle-holder the only collateral damage.

We're still surrounded by cardboard and bubble wrap, we're still concerned about falling through the floor every time we step into the living room and we're still using a carrier bag hanging outside the patio doors as a makeshift fridge, but we've got a roaring open fire and now - finally! - the internet, so it's not all bad. The Dark Ages are over.

Aside from scrubbing and unpacking, the last few days have been spent starting to explore our little corner of the city, Canton. I can already feel new posts in the Achosion I Laweni series coming on. The fact that I strolled into Chapter on Tuesday and the first person I saw was local legend Ninjah wearing a massive gold necklace thing in conversation with two middle-aged BBC4 commissioner types in open-necked shirts suggested that some things never change, though...

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Empty promises and empty premises

Regular readers will know of my weakness for so-called ruin porn - but here's something a bit different: not photos of once-grand buildings that have been abandoned and fallen into dramatic disrepair, but photos of buildings that were projected to be grand but that never even reached completion.

Amelie Labourdette's series Empire Of Dust, consisting of pictures of projects in southern Italy, captures the skeletal concrete forms of half-built houses and infrastructure, hubristically imposed upon the natural environment and yet now in the process of being reclaimed by it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Dirty protests

What constitutes obscenity? On what grounds could and should books be banned - or on what grounds could and should purportedly "obscene" books be defended? The New Yorker's Louis Menand has detailed the twentieth-century war against censorship waged by various publishing mavericks in defence of such infamous works as D H Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover and Henry Miller's Tropic Of Cancer. Needless to say, the pioneers who did the dirty work (albeit not necessarily for the most honourable motives) weren't those who ended up profiting from the liberalisation of the regulations surrounding the publishing industry.

(Thanks to Terry for the link.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Taking the Michael

Just when you thought 2016 couldn't possibly claim any more significant victims from the world of music, Rick Parfitt and George Michael die on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day respectively.

While not being a fan of the blue-eyed soul of his later years, I must confess to having owned a copy of Michael's Listen Without Prejudice (albeit prior to the Great Post-Nevermind Record Collection Purge) and also retaining a fondness for Wham! (and particularly 'Club Tropicana') that was born in my formative years.

Simon Hattenstone has written about his personal recollections of Michael, whom he interviewed twice - even though the man acclaimed as "generous, brilliant, honest" in the sub-editor's blurb isn't really allowed the space to come across as such. Meanwhile, also writing for the Guardian, Owen Jones has underlined the importance of Michael's gay identity and political outlook, (rightly) issuing a plea that this should not be airbrushed out of any assessments of his personality, life and work in order to create "a sanitised and false version that is palatable to some".

Monday, December 26, 2016

Milk monitors

What with its line-up (including the likes of Michael Rother, The Residents, This Is Not This Heat and particularly Omar Souleyman) and choice of venue (Pontins Prestatyn), Safe As Milk has a definite whiff of ATP about it. Cautious punters have been understandably suspicious that Barry Hogan and chums might be involved, but this thread on Drowned In Sound seems to set minds at ease.

Here's hoping it's a success - so that one day I might get to relive those halycon days of 2008 to 2012.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

On the ladder - at last

Just in case you're wondering, it turns out that buying a Victorian house situated in a city two hours' drive away and in the space of two months running up to Christmas, when you're up against inflexible deadlines of jobs starting and applications for school places, is just a teensy bit stressful. And that's not to mention paperwork-free knock-throughs, potentially porous roofs and building insurance traumas. As if the festive period wasn't expensive enough as it is...

Still, job done. Finally, at the age of nearly 40, we are homeowners. Do we qualify as Proper Adults now?

There's no sigh of relief or relaxing just yet, though, what with the horrors of the actual move yet to come...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Code read

The Quietus seem to be getting quite (too?) fond of the clickbait headline, but they continue to reel me in. First it was Angus Batey making the improbable claim that, very much contrary to popular belief, Be Here Now is actually Oasis' finest hour, and now it's JR Moores not only rubbishing the received wisdom that grunge (like Britpop) was dead in the water by 1996 but also going so far as to suggest that Pearl Jam's No Code was the genre's "Kid A moment" rather than Nirvana's In Utero.

First of all, you have to buy the idea that grunge had such a thing as a "Kid A moment", and then you have to agree that No Code was it. I'm not sure whether I can give credence to either position, but it's certainly true that No Code is the product of a band pulling in different directions, is more stylistically interesting than either Ten or Vs and is far superior to its rushed and extremely patchy predecessor Vitalogy - and Moores is at least pretty convincing on those points.

On a related note, 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, which had the fortune or misfortune (depending on how you look at it) to appear two weeks after Nevermind. Noisey's Mischa Pearlman has spoken to guitarist Kim Thayil about the creation of an LP that "both defines and defies the time in which it was made and the zeitgeist both musically and culturally, and which, somewhat rarely, continues to exist within the very same framework in which it was conceived all these years later".

Friday, December 23, 2016

Beat writer

So much for the abundance of gripping themes and subject matter in Chuck Palahniuk debut novel Fight Club - is it actually well written? The answer, ventures Sam Jordison in the Guardian, is a definite yes. It's neither flowery nor rich in terms of its language - but then that wouldn't work in the context. Instead, Palahniuk's writing is pared down and punchy (appropriately enough) - apparently simple but actually carefully considered for maximum impact.

No right to reply

Vice has become the latest website to scrap its comments facility, out of frustration with the time and effort it takes to police below-the-line bigotry and bullshit. A shame, to be sure - the principles of open dialogue and accountability should be valued - but if people can't all play nicely, then it shouldn't come as any surprise when others start taking their balls home.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Support act

While the relationship between musicians and music journalists is often antagonistic, in some instances the genuine fandom and passion of writers does help to win wider approval and larger audiences for bands. Recent proof that some musicians recognise that fact, rather than merely viewing journos with suspicion as frequently self-interested leeches, comes in the form of the JustGiving campaign set up by Orange Goblin frontman Ben Ward in support of the members of staff - more than 70 in total - who instantly lost their jobs without any compensation as a result of Team Rock going into administration on Tuesday.

Team Rock titles included Metal Hammer and Classic Rock, bought from Future Publishing in 2013. If the former goes the way of the dodo, then it'll be another significant nail in the coffin of the old-school music press - no bad thing, you might argue, but it was an occasional read for me back in the day so I'd be sorry to see it go.

Joint administrator Tom MacLennan did his best to sound positive, claiming that the situation "presents an excellent opportunity to acquire high-profile rock music titles, products and brands that have a substantial global following", but I have rather less faith that the titles will survive.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The joy of '16

Somewhat predictably, Episode 12 of Sounding Bored - the final one for 2016 and, sadly, my last one as a regular panellist (sob!) - finds us looking back over the year in music.

Rob, Amy and I talk through our Top Ten Albums of 2016, as compiled from votes cast by everyone who's appeared on the podcast over the last 12 months - a very varied list covering everything from indie and pop to jazz, punk pop, hip hop and R&B, which features a couple of my picks (Angel Olsen's MY WOMAN and Marissa Nadler's Strangers) and which is (*spoiler alert*) topped by Anna Meredith's extraordinary pop debut for Moshi Moshi, Varmints.

There's also mention of the LPs that just missed out (for me, Radiohead, Maiians and Mogwai) and our quick nominations for Best Song of 2016 - my choice, Charles Bradley's astonishing cover of Black Sabbath's 'Changes', bending the rules slightly as it first appeared in 2013, though only this year found its way onto an album of the same name.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"Sheer nastiness"

You have to hand it to Nigel Farage. Every time you think he couldn't possibly get any more odious, he somehow finds a way of doing so. Most recently, he's achieved that increasingly challenging feat by claiming Brendan Cox, widow of murdered MP Jo Cox, is a supporter of extremism, in the wake of the Berlin lorry attack. Quite staggering.

Hope Not Hate, the organisation that Cox supports and that Farage accused of pursuing "violent and undemocratic means", have responded to say that they're consulting their lawyers. If legal action and/or a public retraction is forthcoming, here's hoping it gets as much attention as the initial claim - and certainly as much as the grovelling public apology from Katie Hopkins and the Daily Mail for falsely accusing a British Muslim family of having extremist links.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"If [these strikes] have anything in common, it is shared contempt for ordinary people trying to go about their daily lives."

From a new Downing Street lobby briefing. Finding the opportunity to call out the Tories for gross hypocrisy really is becoming easier and easier these days, isn't it?

Quote of the day

"If you thought 2016 was bad - I'm releasing an album in 2017."

James Blunt may be many things (including rhyming slang), but he is at least self-aware and self-deprecating, especially when it comes to posting on Twitter.

Repeat offence

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the US "incarceration industry" and how it's likely to profit from Donald Trump's election. Thanks to Amy for letting me know that John Oliver has also tackled the subject in all its appalling ridiculousness in typically informative and entertaining style on his US TV show (which I really must try to see more of).

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A nation in ruins

The humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict in Syria should of course be enough to provoke horror, but these photos illustrating the extent of the damage to the country's cities and historical and cultural landmarks are also profoundly disquieting.

(Thanks to Nannon for the link.)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Johnny's not rotten

Too often John Lydon is portrayed as simply a bitter, angry, cynical caricature of himself, when in truth he can actually come across as warm and even (by his own admission) sentimental. Take this recent Music That Made Him feature for Pitchfork, for instance, in which, rather than talking dismissively about bands and artists he doesn't like (other than Television), he's instead invited to enthuse about those he does.

Lydon duly obliges, and engagingly so, revealing in the process the sort of catholic tastes that would probably cause many an old-school punk to recoil in disgust: Alice Cooper, Nirvana, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, even Dolly Parton and Cliff Richard. Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise, given that he struck up an improbable and sacrilegious (in punk circles) friendship with Keith Emerson of prog behemoths ELP when the pair were neighbours in Santa Monica.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Silence please

Oh dear - poor old Donald Trump. First, musicians took exception to his use of their songs in his presidential campaign. Then others responded to his candidacy by releasing blunt protest songs. And now, after an electoral victory that still seems like a nightmare, he can't seem to find anyone in the world of music to play his inauguration - to the extent that he might end up having to pay someone to show up.

Three suggestions for you, Donald:

1. Vince Neil. The former Motley Crue man had no scruples whatsoever about signing up to appear at the inauguration whoever won, but now seems to have been dumped.

2. Kanye West, who followed up his avowed pre-election support for Trump (though he didn't actually bother, y'know, voting and all that rigmarole) by going to Trump Tower recently for an audience with the president-elect. You'd imagine there'd be some mutual admiration there, given that they're two of the most pompous, delusional, megalomaniacal bullshit-spouters you'll ever come across.

3. Azealia Banks. Possibly too risky a choice, though, given that when she opens her mouth or writes online her pronouncements are frequently even more idiotic than Trump's. That's quite a feat.

Stage fright

And to think I was under the mistaken belief that the opportunity to cross cossack dancing in drag for the entertainment and amusement of 650 children, teachers and parents off my bucket list would never arise. Thanks, Oxford Playhouse's production of Cinderella - thanks a lot. 2016, I salute you - you utterly unfathomable bastard.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Quote of the day

"Now, over half of us live in an urban environment. My home, too, is here - in the city of London. Looking down on this great metropolis, the ingenuity with which we continue to reshape the surface of our planet is very striking. But it's also sobering. It reminds me of just how easy it is for us to lose our connection with the natural world. Yet it's on this connection that the future of both humanity and the natural world will depend. And it is, surely, our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth."

Sir David Attenborough brings down the curtain on Planet Earth II with a pointed message to which Donald Trump and his cronies could do well to listen.

A novel idea

If you haven't yet finished your Christmas shopping and are still searching for the perfect gift for someone you hate: Billy Corgan's eight-hour-long adaptation of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha is now available as a box set. That said, the price is $375, so buying it would suggest a degree of self-loathing too.

(Thanks to Patrick for the link.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Talking shit

Wow. Just wow. The headline "Pope Francis: Fake news is like getting sexually aroused by faeces" might read like a prime slice of fake news itself - and yet it appears to be genuine. Apparently, he regards the media's dissemination of disinformation and falsehood (whether unthinkingly or quite deliberately) as damaging and dangerous.

All well and good and on-message in the wake of Donald Trump's election, but of course it's all too easy to respond by crying hypocrisy and pointing to the damaging and dangerous "truths" disseminated over the centuries by the church of which he is now the head - about AIDS and contraception, for a start.

(Thanks to Graham for the link.)

Monday, December 12, 2016

The late show

Episode 11 of Sounding Bored - which out of modesty I certainly hesitate to call "long-awaited", though its recording was postponed from mid-November - is finally up online.

Together with our guest Brian, Rob and I tackle the subject of live music, covering everything from what makes a good venue to the economics of gigs from the perspective of both punters and bands. Inevitably, I get misty-eyed about the fate suffered by the Point in Cardiff, while Brian recalls a particularly uncomfortable Don Cabellero gig we both went to back in 2008.

Our featured album is Honeyblood's Babes Never Die, which, while adding little new to the existing canon of punchy, female-fronted alt-rock, does have the hooks to reel you in.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Know Your Enemy

"It's hard to find words to capture the fact that humans are facing the most important question in their history - whether organised human life will survive in anything like the form we know - and are answering it by accelerating the race to disaster."

Noam Chomsky reacts with disbelief at the prevailing American attitude towards climate change, as epitomised by Donald Trump putting Myron Ebell, "a notorious (and proud) climate change denier", in charge of his transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency back in September.

Chomsky will no doubt have been delighted to learn the identity of the man Trump has now selected to lead the EPA itself: Scott Pruitt, another climate change denier, who actually wanted to scrap the very organisation of which he is now the head...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Quote of the day

"I can tell you from experience that it's lovely to get the old royalty cheque around September every year, but on its own, the Christmas song money isn't quite enough to buy my own island in the Caribbean."

The late Greg Lake's response to a reader's 2005 letter to the Guardian asking whether it's possible for a musician to live a workfree life of luxury off the back of a single successful Christmas song.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Resurrection men

"Portrait of a family / Force fed through tunnel straws / Singing cannibal hymns of the bourgeoisie"? Ah, At The Drive-In, how splendid to have you back.

It's been 16 long years since 2000's stunning Relationship Of Command, the album that broke them in more ways than one, but the first new song from their forthcoming album, 'Governed By Contagions', doesn't disappoint in either its ferocity or Cedric Bixler-Zavala's pretentiously cryptic and verbose and yet oddly enthralling lyrics. To be honest, it's a relief just to discover that they can still knock out a punch-packed sub-four-minute vaguely linear rock song, after Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez's prog odyssey with The Mars Volta.

Meanwhile, one of Rodriguez's other projects - Crystal Fairy, the supergroup he's formed with Dale Crover and Buzz Osborne of Melvins plus Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes - have released 'Chiseler', another riff-heavy beast that picks up where first single 'Drugs On The Bus' left off.

At The Drive-In weren't the only ones who chose yesterday to properly launch their much anticipated return to action. The brothers Reid were at it too, with 'Amputation' getting its first airing on Steve Lamacq's 6Music show ahead of the release of the new Jesus & Mary Chain album Damage And Joy next year, proving they're still in love with fuzzy logic. Rather like new material from Dinosaur Jr, it sounds instantly, wonderfully familiar - no bad thing at all.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

"Slaughter them all"

This New York Times article by photojournalist Daniel Berehulak is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but serves as a stark expose of the brutal anti-drug war being waged in the Phillipines at the instigation of President Rodrigo Duterte. Drug users and dealers (and even those simply suspected of such activities) are falling victim to extrajudicial murders committed by both the police and vigilantes. What's perhaps most horrifying is that Duterte has claimed Donald Trump has personally endorsed the campaign of terror.

The voice of Experience

England vs the US, our post-truthist times, violence, Christopher Hitchens, language, poetry, literary fiction, reading, writing: just some of the topics covered in Tishani Doshi's interview with "bad boy of British letters" Martin Amis.

Of the three "definitive" Amis books she picks, she recommends starting with Experience - I've already read (and enjoyed) Money, but Experience has been sitting unread on the bookshelves for too long.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Groove is in the heart

Not so very long ago it would have seemed utterly improbable and preposterous - no, not Brexit or a Trump presidency, but vinyl sales outstripping those of digital formats. And yet that's what was reported yesterday, with last week's figures at £2.4 million and £2.1 million respectively.

The causes of this remarkable boom in a format that at one time came desperately close to dying out are multiple (including their physicality and collectibility), and what is abundantly clear - as the Guardian's Hannah Ellis-Petersen notes - is that the phenomenon is far too significant to be attributed merely to "audiophile dads and nostalgic hipsters". On the contrary, the appeal of vinyl appears to have been recognised by younger music fans.

While vinyl can now be purchased in a wide variety of places, including supermarkets, its revival gives encouragement to those of us who believe there still is (and indeed should be) a place for specialist record shops.

Understandably, Ellis-Petersen's article considers the resurgent popularity of vinyl to be the headline news - but it's worth considering the flip side, which is an apparent collapse in sales of digital formats. It would be interesting to know if there's further evidence of this - and, if so, what factors might be behind the apparently dramatic seachange.

Quote of the day

"I'm interested in all these terms that have been identified - hard Brexit, soft Brexit, black Brexit, white Brexit, grey Brexit - and actually what we should be looking for is a red, white and blue Brexit."

Our esteemed PM - apparently straight-faced - delivers a line straight out of The Thick Of It. She's been roundly mocked for uttering the slogan (which Lib Dem leader Tim Farron rightly branded "jingoistic claptrap") and it's just further evidence of the semantic bankruptcy of contemporary political rhetoric.

Meanwhile, Downing Street has implied that anyone who refuses to give enthusiastic backing to May's Brexit plan is a traitor to the UK. Yes, I know - I had no idea there was a plan either.

(Thanks to Chris for the first link.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Get-out-of-jail-free card

The election of Donald Trump means many things - just one of which is a significant morale (and profit) boost for the private prison sector, which was looking under increasing threat during Obama's presidency.

James Surowiecki's piece for the New Yorker demonstrates the jaw-dropping scale and influence of the "incarceration industry" in the US, which lobbies (successfully) for changes to law enforcement policy that are in its own interests. The article also underlines the problems that inevitably arise when the pursuit of profit is prioritised over anything else (including inmate welfare). Most obviously, rehabilitation and the prevention of repeat offending - the primary purpose of imprisonment, surely - is completely at odds with a business model in which larger numbers confined in cells translates to larger numbers on spreadsheets.

As Surowiecki explains, there did seem to be evidence during Obama's administration that the tide was turning against the industry, but the fact that the president elect is a fierce champion of privatisation and unfettered capitalism as well as a tough talker on immigration certainly suggests that for private prisons, business could soon be booming like never before.

To most of us on this side of the Atlantic, the sorry state of affairs in the US resembles something out of a dystopian Orwellian fantasy - and yet we shouldn't feel so comfortable and complacent that it couldn't happen here. With the Tories intent on continuing to place the provision of public services in the hands of private businesses, we could yet face a similarly nightmarish future.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

Monday, December 05, 2016

Heavy metal parking lot

Think of New York, and you're probably imagining noise, bustle and congestion (of people and traffic). Which is precisely what makes Langdon Clay's photos of deserted city streets and particularly the cars temporarily or permanently abandoned on them so arresting.

The pictures also help to convey the grime and grubbiness of 1970s New York - the one that spawned the legendary punk scene that the Talking Heads' Chris Frantz recently spoke to the New York Post about.

(Thanks to Jonathan for the link.)

Spinning in your grave on someone else's turntable

Giving away little bags of a late band member's ashes with every purchase of a new album is one thing, but it's not exactly practical or useful. Far better, perhaps, to engage the professional services of Vinyly and get your remains pressed into vinyl, onto which can be put a recording of your choice - a song, maybe, or just your voice, to haunt and upset people from beyond the grave.

(Thanks to Jamie for the link.)