Saturday, August 24, 2019

Femme fatale

As someone familiar with her chiefly through her contributions to the impossibly cool first Velvet Underground LP,  I was amazed to discover that Nico once called the Prestwich area of north Manchester home. Prompted by the existence of The Nico Project, a show starring Maxine Peake staged at last month's Manchester International Festival, Dave Simpson spoke to some of those who were in her orbit at that time, including bandmates, managers and founding Fall members Una Baines and Martin Bramah.

She may not have made much music in the city, but as a "true bohemian" she certainly made a big impression (not least as an unrepentant heroin addict) before leaving for Ibiza. In the words of her former keyboard player James Youngs, she was "wonderful, maddening, beautiful, a monster, incredibly gifted and phenomenally lazy". Little wonder she got on with Mark E Smith, really...

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Error alert

The vast majority of typos are of little or no consequence, seemingly snuck into children's books or restaurant menus just to try the patience of those of us who have made a career out of pedantry. But, as the Guardian's Tom Lamont discovered, occasionally they can have enormous and life-changing impacts - both for better and for worse.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Get Messy

Writing about Hammered Hulls the other day sent me down a YouTube rabbit hole leading - inevitably - to lots of Fugazi content. Anyone still holding out hope for a reunion should give up - the quartet would never consent to anything that might be mistaken for a cynical cash-in. But if you're hankering for that Joe Lally/Brendan Canty rhythm section, you really need to give The Messthetics a try.

The trio - signed to Dischord, of course - are completed by guitar virtuoso Anthony Pirog. His electrifying, freewheeling playing on 'Better Wings', the first taster of new album Anthropocosmic Nest (out on 6th September), is remarkable - it must be, to steal focus and attention away from whatever Lally and Canty are doing.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Stairway Gateway to heaven

Artists can be gateway drugs to other artists in a number of ways: by drawing discernible musical inspiration from them, by taking them on tour, by talking them up in interviews, by choosing to cover their songs. In an article compiled by Patrick Clarke, Quietus writers have reflected on the covers that took them "to a new musical world".

Back in October I too was writing about remarkable covers, prompted by an episode of Sounding Bored, and it was gratifying to find two of them featured in the Quietus' list. The Futureheads' 'Hounds Of Love' was one of Clarke's own choices; personally, it gave me a renewed (rather than new-found) appreciation of Kate Bush's genius, and his assessment is rather sniffy. For what it's worth, I completely disagree that it's cringey or head and shoulders above "the rest of their passable indie pop"; on the contrary, I'd argue that The Futureheads made the song their own to the extent that I actually prefer their version to the original.

My selection of Sonic Youth's 'Superstar' in October proved contentious with the Sounding Bored team, with at least one podcast participant claiming that it was a cheap, smirking potshot at the Carpenters - so it's gratifying to read that Jude Rogers shares my own very different view of the cover as a sincere tribute that leads the listener to appreciate the "depth of feeling" in both the original and the rest of Karen and Richard's back catalogue.

Luke Turner also acknowledges Sonic Youth's ability to open doors and minds, picking out the version of The Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' on Confusion Is Sex. Any excuse to rewatch the footage of them performing the song on TV, together with assorted extras including a crazed flute player, is very welcome indeed.

Meanwhile, my list made mention of Therapy? and the way in which 'Isolation' (on 1994's Troublegum) helped to introduce "a whole load of impressionable grunge-era kids like me to Joy Division" - but I actually chose 'Diane', which has never succeeded in getting me hooked on Husker Du (I still can't get over the production quality - my loss, I know...).

Back to the Quietus' selection, I'm with Brian Coney when he singles out Graham Coxon's The Golden D as the record that first brought Mission To Burma to his attention; Jacques Brel features no fewer than three times courtesy of covers by Scott Walker; and the fact that Jeff Buckley's 'Hallelujah' isn't included is indeed deserving of a "Hallelujah" (Leonard Cohen is represented, however, by Nick Cave's 'I'm Your Man', as is Rufus Wainwright - though not by his own take on 'Hallelujah').

The article may well prove to have been a gateway drug in its own right - certainly, the Loop and Spacemen 3 covers of The Pop Group and 13th Floor Elevators respectively have struck a chord, and I was pleasantly surprised (despite initial misgivings) by both Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'Born To Run' and Pavement's 'The Killing Moon'.

If I had to make my own contribution to the list, it would be hard to look past The Jesus & Mary Chain's 'Surfin USA'. They gave the Beach Boys classic the full trashy Psychocandy make-over, simultaneously establishing themselves as being in the same pop lineage and flagging up the fact that Brian Wilson's crew were worthy of serious investigation.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Birth control

Anti-natalists (as opposed to ante-natalists) might initially come across as crackpots - and in his BBC Trending article Jonathan Griffin does mention that some hold rather extreme and/or distasteful views. However, at a time of environmental crisis there is something to be said for prospective parents carefully considering the impact that having children might have, not only on them personally but also on the planet.

We succumbed to the parental impulse but stopped at one. I won't pretend that the decision was entirely or even largely motivated by environmental concerns, but they were certainly a factor. No matter how you raise your children, they are natural born consumers.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Know Your Enemy

"The desperate lack of social housing and prohibitive prices of homes for private sale and rental have been caused by the sell-off of social housing and the transfer of power to private developers, whose agenda will only ever be profit.

Yet the government seems to be trying to redress this by extending rather than countering that approach - investing in schemes that result in net losses in social housing and subsidise developers building expensive properties.

Trying to solve a problem with the same actions that caused it is either plain stupid, or evidence of a lack of desire to solve it at all."

Academics Mel Nowicki and Ella Harris writing for the Guardian on how claims of a "public housing renaissance in London" are baseless, reliant on stretching terms like "affordable housing" to the point of meaninglessness. As they imply, it's hard not to conclude that (as in other areas) the Tories are selfishly pursuing their own ideological agenda at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

(Thanks to Paul for the link.)

Monday, August 12, 2019

Nailed it

In conversation with Damian Abraham on an episode of his Turned Out A Punk podcast, Mary Timony spoke about growing up in the same Washington DC neighbourhood and moving in the same circles as the MacKaye brothers Ian and Alec. Their music - and that of other DC hardcore-heads - was a critical influence on her own.

Now Timony - formerly of Autoclave, Helium and Wild Flag and currently fronting bubblegum-punk geniuses Ex Hex - has gone right back to her roots, joining Alec in new post-hardcore outfit Hammered Hulls, whose debut three-song 7" hits hard and true. The quartet genuinely deserve to be branded a supergroup, given that their line-up is completed by guitarist Mark Cisneros (Kid Congo Powers, The Make Up) and drummer Chris Wilson (Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Titus Andronicus).

If you didn't know that the 7" was recorded by Ian and Don Zientara at Inner Ear and then released on Dischord, or that Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty wrote their press bio, then you could certainly have hazarded a guess.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Tied to the past but looking to the future

When I last visited Belfast, in 2003, it seemed at times "an unsettling place". Little wonder, really, given that the ink on the Good Friday Agreement was effectively still drying. Fifteen years later, it and the Causeway Coast topped Lonely Planet's list of places to visit around the world - and not, as we discovered, without good reason.

Back then, I described it as "a city crawling its way slowly and steadily away from the past", though still largely "not scarred or disfigured" by the rash of chain shops that had robbed mainland high streets of any unique character. Today, the "corporate ogres" have definitely conquered the heart of the Northern Irish capital - though the glassy dome of the Victoria Square shopping centre does admittedly allow a welcome panoramic view of the rooftops.

However, away from the principal shopping streets, small independent businesses are also evidently springing up and thriving. As elsewhere in the UK, many such businesses cater to the appetite and the tastebuds, and at times it felt like we were simply stumbling from one eaterie to the next in pursuit of new delights. Sunday at St George's Market in particular is a real foodie treat - I left disappointed at having only been able to squeeze in a superb Chilean beef hot pressed sandwich, a small pot of paella, some Italian orange and lavender cake, and two cups of rocket-fuel filter coffee. A couple of miles out of the centre, the street on our host's doorstep was home to assorted hipster coffee joints, a very reasonably priced gelateria, an artisan bakery specialising in an array of flavoured sourdoughs and a ramen bar voted the Best Cheap Eats in the 2018 OFM Awards and subsequently drooled over by Observer food critic Jay Rayner.

When we weren't eating or drinking, we were pottering about the Botanic Gardens admiring the newly (and expensively) refurbished Tropical Ravine and floating around the smart Ulster Museum (inevitably, I was sucked in by the Art Of Selling Songs exhibition, on tour from the V&A, while Stanley was drawn to the treasure rescued from a Spanish Armada wreck).

We did also venture out of the city - up past the castle and onto Cave Hill for an aerial view, but also significantly further afield: south to Newcastle, where the Mourne Mountains meet the sea (or so we were told - on the day, they were almost permanently shrouded in mist); north to Carrick-a-Rede (where I managed to get across the rope bridge and back), Giant's Causeway (which was just about bearable once I'd realised the potential for taking photos that look like Cold War Steve collages) and the funfair in Portrush, the town winding down after hosting the Open.

Back in Belfast, the visually striking Titanic Museum is a must-visit. The initial section of the exhibition, while rather text-heavy and congested, is nevertheless essential in establishing the historical context for the growth of shipbuilding in the city, and the construction of the Titanic herself, the events of the 14th and 15th April 1912 and the aftermath of the disaster are all powerfully conveyed through a combination of text, artifacts and audiovisuals.

The ship was evidently a great source of local pride, as was the national and international stature of the firm that made her - so when the news broke during our stay that Harland and Wolff had collapsed into administration, it was hard not to feel the general air of despondency. No matter that the company is now foreign-owned, employs only around 120 people and built its last ship in 2003, subsequently moving into oil rig refurbishment and wind turbines - its demise is symbolic, a real blow to the city. Its bright yellow gantry cranes, Samson and Goliath, are the most iconic elements of the skyline, and their future is now in question too.

While it is to be hoped that such industrial heritage will be preserved, the same cannot be said for other visible reminders of the troubled recent past: the armoured police vans, the odd mural of machine-gun-toting men in black balaclavas declaring "Prepared for war", Union Jack flags and bunting flying from every lamp-post in rural towns, the peace wall we came across after taking a wrong turn. The Sunflower might have a vast selection of craft beers and bearded men in Slayer T-shirts whipping up wood-fired pizzas in the courtyard at the back, but it still has a security cage around the front door. As I wrote in 2003, Belfast "is still inextricably bound to what it is trying to leave behind" - something that, I think, is still true today (if perhaps to a lesser extent).

Change is in the air, though. Other pubs and businesses in the Cathedral Quarter and elsewhere were flying rainbow flags to mark Pride. Doing so in England, Scotland and Wales has become so commonplace that it's led to accusations of cynical opportunism and "rainbow capitalism"; in Northern Ireland, however, where same-sex marriage remains illegal, to fly the flag is to make a significant and potentially contentious political statement, to stick two fingers up to the DUP.

Their strenuous efforts to block the legalisation of gay marriage and opposition to abortion were among the factors that contributed to the collapse of the government. It's incredible to think that the country has effectively been rudderless for the last two years. However, if the power-sharing project can't be revived and a new Executive formed by 21st October, both same-sex marriage and abortion will become legal by default. Here's hoping.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Celebrity Juice

If you've been waiting patiently for an album featuring contributions from Shabazz Palaces, Sal Principato of no-wave/dance-punk legends Liquid Liquid and John Anderson of prog overlords Yes, your sanity should probably be questioned - but your wait is now over. Who else but Battles could have assembled that particular cast, and christened the resulting record Juice B Crypts?

Since their last release in 2014, La Di Da Di, bassist (and art designer) Dave Konopka has left, so, having started out as a quartet, they're now down to a core duo of John Stanier and Ian Williams. The first taster of the new LP, 'Titanium 2 Step', feels simultaneously fresh and familiar, a playful percussive romp.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Satire isn't dead?

Am I alone in feeling a little underwhelmed by the trailer for Chris Morris' new film The Day Shall Come? In truth, though, Morris' previous creations have set the bar incredibly (perhaps unfairly) high and everything he does is worthy of investigation. It's also unwise to make judgements based on a compilation of short snippets - albeit one that is presumably representative and very much intended to whet appetites. Those who saw the whole film when it premiered at SXSW in March, such as the Guardian's Benjamin Lee, have generally been very enthusiastic in their response.

The storyline certainly makes The Day Shall Come sound like a natural follow-up to Four Lions. While the latter focused on the idiocy and chaos behind many terrorist plots,  the new film - once again based on real-life incidents and accounts - looks at the profound ridiculousness and illogicality of law enforcement operations and tactics.

At a time when satire can hardly keep up with reality, releasing such a film is a considerable gamble - but Morris is a master of the art, so I'm remaining hopeful that he's pulled it off.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Storm warnings

Like Richard Herring, John Doran appears to have the happy knack of getting his interviewees to open up. Perhaps it's the hypnotic drone of his voice? Either way, Episode 7 of the Quietus' The Best Of Times podcast featuring Kate Tempest was another fantastic listen.

For polymath Tempest (a rapper, musician, poet, novelist and playwright all rolled into one), the best of times - the period between 2014 and 2017 - were also the worst of times. Just like Doran's first ever guest Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods, she recalls how professional success came at a time that her personal life was falling apart, and is candid about her struggles against poor mental health and addiction.

Over the course of the episode, Tempest also talks about the overarching narrative of new album The Book Of Traps And Lessons, how producer Rick Rubin pushed her hard, the dangers of writing people you know into your stories, and the difficulties of steering clear of sexist tropes and cliches in characterisation and plot.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Losing his edge

Asked to name the first record he ever bought (as part of 6 Music's The First Time programme), you could have guessed that LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy would claim it was something seriously cool like David Bowie's 'Fame'. What you might not have imagined, however, is that he also picked up Gilbert O'Sullivan's 'Alone Again Naturally' at the same time.

Other guests to have tackled the question include Thom Yorke (Queen's greatest hits), Neneh Cherry (Donny Osmond), Graham Coxon (The Police) and Kim Gordon (who remembers the excitement of buying new Beatles singles as they were released).

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Sous les paves, la plage

It's clear having read and heard about the dirty, dangerous yet fertile environment in which New York punk and no wave emerged that Manhattan was a very different place in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But I would never have believed that for a time Battery Park City, in the shadow of the World Trade Center, was a beach - a sandy playground for artists and hipsters. The images accompanying this New York Times article are absolutely fascinating and superbly surreal.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

In the interest of balance

This year's Primavera festival was widely praised for its gender-balanced bill - but are 50/50 quotas really helpful or sufficient in destabilising male dominance of the music industry? Are they genuinely transformative or merely a box-ticking exercise?

In a piece for The Conversation (a site I really should have explored before), Samantha Warren of the University of Portsmouth suggests that the reality is actually quite complicated. While such quotas can increase opportunity and visibility for female musicians, they can also be divisive and ultimately other structural shifts are necessary to ensure the male and female talent pools are more evenly sized.

Friday, August 02, 2019

"They eventually just said I was 'not McDonald's material'"

Like most of us, Mudhoney's Mark Arm has had his fair share of shitty jobs - from working in McDonald's to a stint in a plastic bucket factory. As he recalls in this Gig Economy piece for Talkhouse, though, in other jobs he found himself working alongside some of the people who would also come to popular attention following the grunge explosion: Green River bandmate Bruce Fairweather, Soundgarden's Kim Thayil, Tad Doyle, Sub Pop founders Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman.

These days he can be found managing Sub Pop's warehouse, and therefore in the unusual position of distributing his own band's releases: "a real grounding experience, because I have no delusion of how well our records sell". At least his current employers are more sympathetic that previous ones to his need for extended periods of time off for touring...

Thursday, August 01, 2019

More than a game

"The football is the hook", said Michael Sheen of the Homeless World Cup in an interview with Buzz editor Fedor Tot - though equally enticing for me personally was the post-match music. Work and pre-planned holidays may have prevented me from attending as much of the tournament as I would have liked, but I have caught a few games plus live performances from James Dean Bradfield, Gwenno, Alffa and Rosehip Teahouse, and have reported back on a brilliant event for Buzz. The feel-good factor, the camaraderie and the sheer joy have been great to witness.

Hats off to all of those involved, especially Michael Sheen, who has not only thrown himself wholeheartedly and tirelessly into the role of master of ceremonies but has backed the tournament at considerable personal expense. His energy and enthusiasm have come to epitomise the event as a whole.

You can see that it's living up to its billing as a life-changing experience for those taking part. Here's hoping that it can inspire the collective action necessary to tackle the scourge of homelessness and ensure that the lives of others beyond Bute Park are also transformed.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Angel delight

New Angel Olsen LP imminent! And of course the first taster is sensational. 'All Mirrors', the title track, picks up where My Woman's 'Intern' left off tantalisingly and finds her going full-on Kate Bush synth ice maiden (admittedly the video is a major contributing factor there).

Time will tell whether, like 'Shut Up Kiss Me', it proves to be a bit of a red herring - though her comment that the record is in part "about owning up to your darkest side" suggests not.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

"His premiership will be the Sharknado of British politics"

Perhaps the only consolation of the current state of British politics is that we regularly get to read the likes of Marina Hyde and Stewart Lee writing about it. The latter's latest piece for the Guardian hails our new prime minister Boris Johnson - or, to give him his full title, "Boris Piccaninny Watermelon Letterbox Cake Bumboys Vampires Haircut Inconclusive-Cocaine-Event Wall-Spaffer Spunk-Burster Fuck-Business Fuck-The-Families Get-Off-My-Fucking-Laptop Turds Johnson". Should there be an "Esq" on the end there, Jacob?

Monday, July 29, 2019

Shifting perceptions

Few photos can have made as big an impact as the one taken in March 1990 by Therese Frare of AIDS victim David Kirby lying on his deathbed, surrounded by distraught family members. As Ashley Hanson makes clear in this article for Medium, that's exactly what Kirby - an HIV/AIDS activist - wanted.

(Thanks to Dan for the link.)

Sunday, July 28, 2019

"Adapt and evolve"

When the Guardian's Laura Snapes went to Portland to interview Sleater-Kinney in the middle of last month, only Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker were available, with Janet Weiss ill. Except, it subsequently transpired, she wasn't - she was in the process of quitting the band.

Touching on the significance and fallout of the drummer's departure, Snapes' excellent article also covers the diversity of "expansive and adventurous" new LP The Center Won't Hold, changing personal priorities and commitments, and Tucker and Brownstein's continued belief in taking risks - even at the cost of alienating long-term fans (and, it seems, Weiss too).

Friday, July 26, 2019

Grammar schooled

When it comes to grammatical pedantry, I'm often guilty as charged (in my defence, that is pretty much my job). But the list of rules that Jacob Rees-Mogg, newly annointed leader of the House of Commons, has sent to his staff is, like his recently published book The Victorians, "staggeringly silly".

Rees-Mogg has hardly come across as a man of the people before, but this just confirms his status as a pompous buffoon of the highest order (as well as being someone who holds genuinely repellent views). He's also wrong - both in spelling "full stop" as a single word and in insisting that there should be double spaces after every one. The latter practice is a hangover from the days of the typewriter and thus maintaining it now, in the digital age, is an archaic affectation. Much like Rees-Mogg himself, to be fair.

Mind you, outlawing commas after "and" is fair enough - what kind of savage does that? Unless, Jacob, you meant to ban the Oxford comma and cocked up the wording of your own rules...

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Football's coming home

The Homeless World Cup kicks off here in Cardiff on Saturday and Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard have recorded the official anthem, 'Daffodil Hill' - a splendidly T-Rex-y track, even by their standards. I spoke to frontman Tom Rees for Buzz about the band's whirlwind few months and how they got involved in the event ("a bit of divine intervention came into play in the form of our Lord and Saviour Michael Sheen").

In addition to supporting a great cause and taking in a huge number of matches, anyone who comes down to Bute Park will also be treated to free performances by some of Wales' biggest names, including James Dean Bradfield, Gwenno, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard (of course) and Charlotte Church's Late Night Pop Dungeon. The latter in particular is not to be missed, I assure you.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Know Your Enemy

"Does he believe any of his own claims, and do his followers in turn believe him? In both cases, the answer is yes, but only in the highly qualified way that an actor inhabits his role and an audience knowingly accepts the pretense. Johnson's appeal lies precisely in the creation of a comic persona that evades the distinction between reality and performance."

A sample quote from Fintan O'Toole's New York Review Of Books article about our new prime minister, which really is as good as everyone's been saying.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Jazz Clwb


When they played a triumphant homecoming show in December, Estrons were riding the crest of a wave. To those of us at the Globe that night it would have seemed inconceivable that they might cease to exist little more than two months later. But cease to exist they did, and now the band's former bassist Steffan Pringle - also a producer, recording engineer and mixer - has re-emerged as the frontman of a new quartet. Sadly, Death Cult Electric (presumably christened by an automated cool band name generator) and their posturing hard rock/pseudo-metal show few obvious signs of early promise, and Pringle is left to pre-empt audience applause that is volunteered only rather grudgingly. Still, at least they've got the song title 'Lucifer In The Sky With Diamonds' going for them, if nothing else.

Straight-up post-rock of the sort proferred by False Hope For The Savage has fallen far out of fashion - but that is to the distinct advantage of a band who might once upon a time have struggled to stand out from the crowd. Their songs are tidy and accomplished pocket epics and the crescendos hit with just enough force to temporarily take your breath away, thanks in no small part to stand-in bassist Rhys, who may have only had two and a half practices to get up to speed but who fulfils a vital role in supplying some beefy low end.

As a trio, The Physics House Band were already an extraordinary ensemble, displaying a cavalier disregard for genre boundaries by skipping, switching and twisting between jazz, metal, prog, funk, electronica and post-punk like Battles gone rogue or The Mars Volta mid-meltdown (bassist Adam Hutchison even has Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's hair). But now, with the addition of Miles Spilsbury and his jazz sax skronk, the jigsaw is complete - or at least all of the pieces are there, just shaken up in the box. Whether you like your brain served scrambled or fried, The Physics House Band are only too happy to oblige. Stewart Lee, who rarely gets excited about anything other than The Fall and obscure Turkish prog these days, is such a fan that he's collaborated with them for a track on new EP Death Sequence.

Perhaps the best way to give a measure of The Physics House Band's brilliance is to record the reactions of those around me. To my left, someone stares open-mouthed at drummer Dave Morgan, whose lightning moves are coordinated telepathically with Hutchison's bass. To my right, another guy mouths "Oh my days!" before masking his grinning, dazed face with a palm. All around, heads shake in disbelief at each new tangent. At one point, guitarist Sam Organ counts out the beats in a particularly fiendish time signature, possibly for the benefit of Spilsbury but possibly just for his own. It doesn't bear thinking about how many hours of practice, both individual and collective, have gone into what we're witnessing.

Whether Death Sequence and its predecessors make much sense in the comfort of your own home is debatable - but live The Physics House Band are stunning. Their delight in defying convention (as well as all known laws of physics) makes them that rarest of things: a band truly alive to the limitless possibilities of music.

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

Monday, July 22, 2019

Showing off

Carmarthen-based Libertino are releasing some of the best Welsh music at the moment - and to prove it, they're putting on a series of showcase gigs at the Moon. Adwaith play there tonight and Silent Forum headline on 29th August, while those of us there last Wednesday were fortunate enough to see both Keys and Los Blancos, with fine support from Sock.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Mothers of invention

If rock history seems suspiciously phallocentric, then that's because it is - and Leah Branstetter has set out to prove it. With her web project Women In Rock And Roll's First Wave, she highlights the numerous women who were at the vanguard of the new movement in the 1950s and 1960s - as key players in the record industry (musicians, writers, label owners, managers), rather than merely as fans, groupies or partners.

The project isn't merely about rediscovering forgotten artists or celebrating individual luminaries; it's more concerned with demonstrating the hugely significant cumulative contribution of women to the nascent art form - a contribution that has been largely airbrushed from history.

That had happened as early as the 1970s, when the mere concept of a woman strapping on a guitar seemed radical - as Viv Albertine emphasised in her episode of the Loud And Quiet's Midnight Chats podcast. Despite the efforts of The Slits, Poly Styrene and their contemporaries, however, little really changed with punk either. The title of Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon's memoir, Girl In A Band, underlines the extent to which she felt she stood out as an exception, even in the 1980s and 1990s, and the riot grrrl movement to which she was loosely connected railed against a status quo that remained predominantly and resolutely male.

On the evidence of this review by the Guardian's Fiona Sturges, Vivien Goldman's new book Revenge Of The She-Punks essentially picks up where Branstetter's project leaves off, paying tribute to women like Patti Smith and Kathleen Hanna who have fought the good fight from punk onwards.

Sturges has also reviewed Amy Raphael's A Seat At The Table, a follow-up to her 1995 book Never Mind The Bollocks: Women Rewrite Rock. The latest book - which features interviews with artists including Kate Tempest, Nadine Shah and Tracey Thorn - suggests that the industry has become more receptive and welcoming to women, broadly speaking, in the last two and a half decades, but also that "misogyny and creative marginalisation remain rife".

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Folk hero to folk devil?

Is Meic Stevens - the man regularly referred to as the Welsh Bob Dylan - in danger of becoming the Welsh Morrissey? Observations that the folk singer made about the ethnicity of inhabitants of parts of Cardiff (including my own) while performing in Caernarfon recently have been condemned as racist and resulted in him getting the boot from this year's Green Man bill. Given his stature, it can't have been a decision that the organisers took lightly.

Rather than doing the decent thing and simply apologising, Stevens' response has been childishly petulant: declaring that he doesn't want to play in Caernarfon again and is contemplating giving up singing in Welsh. In light of his grumpy, pessimistic comments about the Welsh-language music scene in Huw Stevens' documentary Anorac, that doesn't come as too much of a surprise.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The language of love The love of language

As expected, Susie Dent's show The Secret Lives Of Words, which called in at the Sherman Theatre on Tuesday evening, proved to be a fascinating celebration of our rich, messy and often bizarrely eccentric language - and a riposte to deluded puritans who believe that English can somehow be divorced from social context and frozen in time as a static, unchanging entity.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Know Your Enemy

"In a million other f***ing parallel universes, Ed Sheeran is annoying his f***ing co-workers braying 'Wonderwall at a f***ing Amazon warehouse. Just our f***ing luck to born into this f***ing one."

Thus ends Mr Agreeable's review of the new Ed Sheeran collaborations album for the Quietus. You know what, maybe it's a grower and he just needs to give it another spin?

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Hard to stomach

Having had (mercifully) brief stints working in the service industry, I can honestly say that the job would be much more pleasant if it wasn't for the customers to whom you have to cater. Dining in restaurants in particular seems to make people feel they have licence to be obnoxious and unreasonably demanding - as is underlined by these tales from an assortment of chefs and restaurateurs, compiled by the Guardian's John Hind.

And when diners aren't being rude or ridiculously fussy (shout-out to the Gauthier customer who insists on eating everything with chopsticks and having his wine poured by the mouthful), they're behaving badly in other ways (shagging in the laundry room) or simply being incredibly eccentric (dining with a mole puppet).

It's not all bad, though, with Shauna Guinn of our very own (well, Barry's very own) Hang Fire recalling the time she instinctively hugged a customer who turned out to be in recovery from an abusive relationship - an experience that was both "sad and uplifting".

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Access denied

One of the benefits of living in a capital city (even a modestly sized one like Cardiff) is the sheer number of events. Over the summer months, in particular, there is always something going on. Several of these events take place in Bute Park: the Royal Horticultural Show in April, for instance, or the Inside Out dance music festival in early June. As I type, preparations for hosting this year's Homeless World Cup are well underway.

What's more, over the past few weeks an area of the park has been regularly used as a storage space by those setting up for events within the walls of the castle: gigs by The Killers, Manic Street Preachers and Chic, plus the Depot In The Castle and Tafwyl festivals. All of which means that parts of the park are regularly out of bounds to the public, with vans and lorries taking over paths and patches of grass left damaged and denuded.

In a recent Guardian article, Dan Hancox explored the "creeping privatisation of London parks in summer", explaining how the "experience economy" is fuelling the growing number of private ticketed events (and demand for them) and how local councils are increasingly using their green spaces to generate income, albeit out of necessity after years of severe funding cuts from central government. The result is that the city's parks are often not open to everyone.

The problem certainly isn't as acute here in Cardiff - after all, Bute Park is huge so events only take up a fraction of the space, and access to the events it plays host to isn't necessarily contingent on buying a ticket (the Homeless World Cup, for instance, is free and in aid of a very worthy cause). But at a time when libraries are under constant threat and increasing numbers of formerly public squares are policed by private security guards, we should be wary of any trend that restricts access to communal parkland.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Quote of the day

"She hadn't arrived at the venue yet, so I snuck into her dressing room and began to extract blood out of my arm. With the syringe, you can aim it and basically paint with it. You can write words, and it was a technique that I had perfected over the years. There was no innuendo or poetry in the message I wrote her. It just read, 'Dear Fiona, I hope you have a great time tonight. Love Dave.' That was it. It wasn't too over the top. In my coke-addled brain, it was a very subtle, kind, romantic gesture. I saw us riding off into the sunset, with this gesture being the basis for our romance. As it turned out, the management and staff at the Universal Amphitheater didn't see it the way I saw it."

Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction on how an attempt to act on his crush on Fiona Apple backfired. Of all the tales included in Drew Fortune's book No Encore!, this must surely be among the craziest.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Know Your Enemy

"If the Tory leadership election unfolds as widely expected, the UK will basically be ruled by a Fathers4Injustice activist. Boris Johnson is the kind of guy who'd don Spider-Man pyjamas and scale a building in order to see less of his kids. Sorry, fewer."

Just when you thought Marina Hyde couldn't get any more brilliant, she goes and opens a Guardian column with a splendid less/fewer joke directed against Boris Johnson.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

In a manner of speaking

By way of a preview for her show The Secret Life Of Words, which calls in at the Sherman Theatre on Tuesday, we at Buzz spoke to Susie Dent about everything from her favourite dialectal terms and the specialised language of modern tribes to emojis, internet language and the absolute necessity of swearing.

I say "we" - though I drafted the questions and wrote up the interview, it was actually Molly who did the talking. If it had been me, I would have been tempted to ask what she did to muscle Tania Styles out of the picture. For a while, Susie shared Countdown's Dictionary Corner with Tania, who also happened to be my Old English tutor at the time...

Friday, July 12, 2019

Rush hour

I was really looking forward to the Cloud Nothings show at Clwb on Wednesday night - so it's a bit of a shame to report that the reality didn't really live up to expectations. Perversely, it seems that Last Building Burning sounds better - and less exhausting - on record.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Precious metal

Manchester is fiercely proud of its musical past (perhaps to the detriment of its present, as was suggested in the Sounding Bored episode on the city). Why, I've often wondered, isn't Birmingham? Thankfully, Brum appears to be belatedly embracing its status as the foundry in which metal was forged, if the Home Of Metal project is anything to go by.

The project encompasses a series of events and an exhibition, and is taking place in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands over the summer. Its founder and chief executive Lisa Meyer runs Supersonic, which she accurately describes as "an experimental music festival" that has metal running through its veins. The project doesn't dwell on the margins, though - Black Sabbath are front and centre, as they should be, and metal's mainstream is well represented. The decision to focus on the nature and extent of fandom makes perfect sense, given that it's a genre that has always spawned ardent devotees.

A couple of friends have already visited the exhibition and returned singing its praises, so with any luck I might get up there to take a look before it closes.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Things we lost in the fire

Regular readers will know that I can often be found droning on about the value of physical records and the ephemeral nature of digital music formats. As recently as 8th June, responding to the news that Apple was killing off iTunes, I argued: "At least you know where you stand with an LP or CD on a shelf." Just three days later, however, the New York Times published a remarkable article that revealed just how precarious physical archives can be too.

In the piece, Jody Rosen branded the fire that devastated Building 6197, Universal Music Group's archive at Universal Studios Hollywood, in June 2008 as nothing less than "the biggest disaster in the history of the music business". The sheer scale of the losses supports that claim: the inferno wiped out the master tapes of countless celebrated musicians (and no doubt others ripe for rediscovery) as well as of storied labels like Decca, Chess and Impulse and more recent big-hitters such as Geffen and Interscope.

Rosen made a compelling case for the critical importance of a master, "a one-of-a-kind artefact, the irreplaceable primary source of a piece of recorded music" - one to which, even in an age of streaming and downloading, we continually need to go back to. He also flagged up the curious paradox that major record labels regard masters as significant corporate assets of which they are fiercely protective, and yet they often seem grossly negligent in the way they store such recordings.

What was perhaps most shocking about the whole incident, however, was the manner in which it was reported. Through meticulous research, Rosen was able to expose the spin and PR that UMG deployed to downplay or outright deny the extent of the losses. It was, fundamentally, a corporate cover-up. Even after the article published, UMG continued to dispute the story though - as Pitchfork pointed out - failed to cite any supporting evidence.

While Rosen noted that the blaze was to a degree an "open secret", it was by no means common knowledge. "It is probable", he wrote, "that musicians whose masters were destroyed have no idea that a vault holding UMG masters had burned down." Sure enough, one of the artists listed among the "genre-spanning who's who of 20th- and 21st-century popular music", Sheryl Crow, subsequently revealed that she had only learned of the loss of her tapes following the article's publication. Describing the situation as feeling "a little apocalyptic", she expressed her anger at the cover-up.

Crow hasn't announced legal action against UMG yet - but several others have, including Soundgarden, Hole and the estate of Tupac Shakur. More lawsuits will surely follow - but none of them, sadly, can bring those tapes back into existence.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Rudeness and revelations

According to the Guardian's Edward Tew, Richard Herring is "not-so-quietly becoming the best celebrity interviewer in the land". A bold claim, to be sure, but one that I think holds some truth.

As Tew explains, the combination of puerile questioning and light-hearted disrespect that Herring adopts towards guests on his Leicester Square Theatre Podcast almost invariably succeeds in prompting hilarious anecdotes, fascinating conversations and sometimes even candid confessions. The episodes are often long and freeform, lacking much in the way of even organic structure - but then the duration of the interviews and the absence of talk show convention/niceties are precisely what make them so refreshingly different.

Of course, such an approach means that (in Herring's own words) it's "a very fine balancing act" and there are occasional moments of friction and awkwardness between interviewer and interviewee. In this regard, the episode with Stephen Merchant is unsurprisingly cited by Tew (though Herring has since suggested that the journalist is wide of the mark in his account of the source of Merchant's displeasure).

More often than not, though, the guests quickly acclimatise to the situation and are happy to go with the flow - and the result is superb entertainment. I can't recommend the episodes with Stephen Fry, Stewart Lee, Adam Buxton, Greg Davies and Bob Mortimer highly enough - but, to be honest, they're all worth a watch/listen.

Seaside sounds

How exactly did the fifth edition of Rockaway Beach pass me by?! Headlined by John Cale, The Jesus & Mary Chain and Fontaines DC, the festival - which takes place in January at the Butlins in Bognor Regis - also boasts Hey Colossus, The Wedding Present, Heavy Lungs, SOAK, Adwaith and Black Country, New Road.

I noted that the line-up for the third edition seemed to indicate a disappointing move towards the indie mainstream on the part of the organisers - so it's good to see that this latest bill is more varied, more leftfield and (to be frank) more exciting and enticing. Not that I'll be going back to Bognor, the scene of a couple of my ATPs, though - those days are over, I think.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Silver linings

Another Wednesday evening, another great gig in prospect at Clwb, another preview written for Buzz. Last week it was Algiers (preview here, review here); this week the visitors are Cloud Nothings. Expect some seriously high-octane action.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Glastonbury 2019: an armchair report

It's now eight years since I last went to Glastonbury (or to the festival, at least). After all this time, surely it would be safe to dip into the BBC iPlayer highlights without running the risk of reawakening my insane jealousy at anyone fortunate enough to be there in person? Not so. Barely a minute into my viewing, I was wishing I was back on Worthy Farm.

The damage having already been done, though, I ploughed on, sampling a few different sets...

The Cure (Pyramid Stage): Ah, so THAT's why I should own Disintegration...

Cat Power (The Park): Unbelievably (to me, at least), there was nothing at all from The Greatest in her set - and yet the performance was still spellbinding. It sent me straight back to Wanderer, and in particular the absolutely gorgeous 'Horizon'.

Stormzy (Pyramid Stage): Say what you like, but there's no doubting he owned that stage. Chris Martin, though - WTF?!

Interpol (John Peel Stage): A real dud. Paul Banks' lyrics have always been duff, but the strength of his voice has made up for it - but not on this occasion.

Chemical Brothers (Other Stage): I'd rashly said there was nothing on the Pyramid or Other Stages that would have drawn me in - but that was completely forgetting how good Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons usually are in this context.

Jon Hopkins (West Holts Stage): I guess you really had to be there - but I'm also sure that if you were, it was great.

Fontaines DC (John Peel Stage): I'm increasingly feeling as though Fontaines DC and I got off on the wrong foot. The last-minute stand-ins for Sam Fender were on top form for their first set of the weekend. Apparently their last - in the Rabbit Hole at 3am on the Monday morning - was quite something.

slowthai (West Holts Stage): Given the heat and the energy levels generated, he can just about be forgiven for parading about in his pants. Amazing to think he performed in the Moon recently, and for just 99p a ticket.

Low (John Peel Stage): Shame about the modest crowd - this was magical stuff. Half of the set was drawn from latest LP Double Negative, which I haven't yet really got into - 'Dancing And Blood' alone was a ringing endorsement. The doomy guitar on 'No Comprende' was awesome too, but the highlights were a magnificent rendition of 'Do You Know How To Waltz?' from The Curtain Hits The Cast, dedicated to Peel, and Secret Name gem 'Will The Night', dedicated to a couple who had it at their wedding. Low, it's been far too long since we last met.

IDLES (The Park): Wow. Just wow. I was a bit lukewarm about them at first, but Joy As An Act Of Resistance significantly raised the bar and I can't wait for their Far Out Stage headline slot at Green Man.

Finally, hats off to Elvana, who not only played three sets over the course of the festival (including a midnight slot on the Truth Stage on the last night) but also dashed over to Brighton for another gig on the Friday night. This year's hardest-working band? Quite possibly.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Riot act


Outside it might be a baking hot summer's evening, but downstairs in Clwb there's a distinct chill in the air the moment Bristol-based darkwave artist Alice Sheridan fires up her synth and strikes the first thunderclap beat on her electronic drum pad. Much of New Haunts' set conveys the feeling of finding you're lost in a forest at night: disorientated, unable to see the wood for the trees and gradually overcome with a creeping sense of dread.

But then comes the sublime 'Hymns', from last year's Worlds Left Behind LP, and you're suddenly in a clearing, bathed in moonlight, able to catch your breath and get your bearings. Better still is 'Thrill', a certifiable Nine-Inch-Nails-goes-pop banger, which promises much for the new album due to drop later in the year.

Also building towards an autumn LP release are Silent Forum, who are almost unrecognisable from the band I first saw in this very room two years ago. It's not just the new uniform of loud shirts, plain trousers and brown brogues, either, or the custom-made backdrop (why have a boring banner or cliched projections when you could have a flower-festooned trellis?). It's more the focus, the sharpness and above all the songs: the swift left hook/right hook combination of 'Robot' and 'Everything Solved At Once' that floors us from the start; the subtle, nuanced Smiths-esque jangle of latest single 'Safety In Numbers'; the bold manifesto/declaration of independence that is 'How I Faked The Moon Landing'.

It's a measure of just how far they've come that 'Who's Going To Side With Me?' and 'Limbo', their strongest songs not that long ago, have been binned, relegated to the cassettes available at the merch desk. "Songs we don't play anymore on a format that no one can play", laughs Richard Wiggins, before trying to flog a yodelling tape given to him by the band's producer Charlie Francis for £50. No one's buying - but that debut album, when it finally arrives, is surely destined to shift some units.

Algiers are a unique, fearless, high-wire act, a band that revel in realising the apparently unrealisable. One song finds sharp-suited frontman Franklin James Fisher tickling the keys soulfully, Matt Tong thrashing away at his kit, Ryan Mahan contributing funk bass and Lee Tesche playing guitar with a violin bow - and yet somehow it all not only coalesces but does so to awesome effect. When 'Cry Of The Martyrs' suddenly breaks into a punk sprint, Fisher continues to sing gospel blues over the top, yet the result is far from a forced marriage. 'The Underside Of Power', a Molotov cocktail lobbed from a Motown recording studio, sees hardcore enthusiasts Mahan and Tesche pulling on their metaphorical elbow-length gloves to deliver Supremes-style backing vocals - as does techno-industrial spiritual 'Cleveland', a powerful critique of police brutality that does justice to Fisher's claim that it was intended to "sound like the Final Judgement in the Bible, wherein the wicked are judged and condemned by the righteous".

However, perhaps the most enthusiastic reception is reserved for a new song for which Fisher enlists our help, his monitor having given up the ghost. As it unfolds, shifting through the gears to an exhilarating climax, our smiles break into broad grins and their forthcoming third album becomes an even more salivatory prospect. Tong's decision to leave Bloc Party to be part of this looks significantly less questionable than his decision to sport a string vest.

"Apocalyptic" and "dystopian" are two terms regularly bandied about in connection with Algiers - but their preoccupation is not with some alternative, abstract vision of the world but with the here and now. They're the band that these troubled times demand.

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

Friday, July 05, 2019

Oral examination

The Flaming Lips' output over the last decade has been prodigious and extremely eccentric, including collaborations with everyone from Lightning Bolt to Miley Cyrus, a song uploaded to YouTube in 12 parts that are designed to be played simultaneously ('Two Blobs Fucking'), and several recordings released on flashdrives encased within gummy or real skulls. By comparison, their latest album King's Mouth - which I've just reviewed for Buzz - is actually quite sober, and all the more refreshing for it.

Also featuring among this month's reviews are write-ups of new LPs by Trash Kit, Khruangbin and DMA's - the latter entitled MTV Unplugged Live. Nirvana's legacy lives on, it seems, if only to be horribly tarnished.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Know Your Enemy

"An appalling human being, and a stupid one - a living, squawking, histrionic representation, in a single spatio-temporal blot of inanity, of all that is worst in the Brexit psyche."

Philosopher and author A C Grayling on Ann Widdecombe, in the wake of a maiden speech in the EU parliament in which she claimed Brexit was like "slaves against the owners".

Fuelling the crisis

It's now blindingly obvious that we all need to make significant and urgent changes to our behaviour if the looming environmental apocalypse is to be averted. But, of course, governments still have a pivotal role to play in finding ways to catalyse those changes.

The Tories' decision to scrap grants for hybrid cars was a moronic move on the part of a party that, despite outward proclamations, seems intent on actually impeding the necessary shifts in behaviour - something born out by the fact that sales of alternatively fuelled cars have dropped for the first time in two years.

If they really are serious about the commitment to slashing carbon emissions to almost zero by 2050, then they need to pursue policies that help, rather than hinder, our chances of meeting that target.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Speaking ill of the dead

As Marilyn Johnson makes clear in her book The Dead Beat, obituaries are carefully worded constructions that generally dwell on their subject's positive attributes and achievements and couch any criticism in coded, euphemistic terms. So when an openly savage send-off is published, it inevitably causes quite a stir.

Such has been the case with Richard J Evans' Guardian obituary of fellow historian Norman Stone, whom he characterises as a boorish provocateur and obnoxious drunk who squandered his talent for writing and never checked his facts. It's evident that Evans relished the opportunity to settle some scores publicly, taking advantage of the fact that he was guaranteed to have the last word. His approach and tone have been criticised in some quarters - it's not a particularly good look for an Oxford don to be dancing on someone's grave - but on the other hand Stone has received the sort of treatment that he apparently spent his life dishing out to others.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Quote of the day

"It can be as important to know when not to fill a void, something it took us a long time to realise."

Haiku Salut's Sophie Barkerwood writing on their blog about new single 'Traction', the fourth to be taken from their soundtrack to the 1926 Buster Keaton film The General.

The less-is-more philosophy also shines through in her comments about the value of self-imposed constraints with respect to creativity: "Sometimes it can be overwhelming to have everything at your disposal. You can become paralysed by endless possibilities. Having boundaries and working within their limitations pushed us to create in different ways and make points by different means."

They were a revelation at Cardiff Psych & Noise Fest last month, personally speaking, and sentiments like these only endear them to me more, given my love for the likes of Low and Codeine and the title of this 'ere site.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Leave you behind

Janet Weiss is one of my absolute favourite drummers, so it feels rather uncomfortable to question her normally impeccable timing.

To be clear, I can understand the rationale behind her decision to leave Sleater-Kinney, albeit "after intense deliberation and with heavy sadness", following 23 years on the drum stool. 'Hurry On Home', the first taster of forthcoming album The Center Won't Hold, is a solid song but undeniably wears St Vincent's involvement prominently on its sleeve and as such lends considerable credence to Weiss' comment that "the band is heading in a new direction". A classic case of musical differences, it seems. That change might prove to be no bad thing - but Weiss is of course perfectly entitled to feel "it is time for me to move on".

And yet the precise timing of the announcement seems strange. 'Hurry On Home' has already been unveiled, The Center Won't Hold is due to follow shortly, Weiss has featured in the publicity shots and a tour has been booked. In the circumstances, her statement implicitly casts doubt on the direction in which Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker want to take (and indeed have taken) the band. In their response, the pair say that they're "saddened" by Weiss's departure, but also sound somewhat defensive in stressing that they're "so excited for everyone to hear the record".

If the break had to happen, then it's a real shame it didn't happen earlier, when it would have been cleaner and less awkward for all concerned. And while I'm not about to join the chorus of morons angrily blaming St Vincent, it's hard not to feel that Sleater-Kinney without Weiss are a diminished force.

Know Your Enemy

"I encourage people to lead their own healthy lives and find ways to engage in things that inspire one another rather than bring them down. If you love music and the arts, I think your organisations should start to do the same thing, or at least pretend you love music rather than looking to please your advertisers with clicks."

Jack White slams "Pitchfork, Stereogum, Noisey and the rest of the trash 'music' cough 'journalism' sites" for publishing clickbait stories, after a jokey interview comment about heroin addiction was taken out of context. All a bit unfair, really - the three named sites are by and large great places to go if you're looking for fresh tips and new sounds. If White loves "music and the arts" so much and wants people to be talking about his songs, perhaps he should stop trading on former glories and actually make another decent album...

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The right to be far right

As part of his recent In Conversations tour, Nick Cave has been tackling questions from his audience on everything from the art of songwriting and the nature of grief to the DVLA and where the stopcock is in his old Hove flat. Tickets were prohibitively expensive for many (myself included), but the good news is that you can still ask him a question via his website The Red Hand Files.

One recent enquiry concerned Cave's thoughts on Morrissey - both the musician and the man. The response was a classic statement of the view that artist can and indeed should be separated from art. Cave was unequivocal in his assessment of Moz's contribution to music, referring to his creation of "original and distinctive works of unparalleled beauty", though was also clear that the former Smiths frontman has now fallen "prey to regressive and dangerous belief systems".

More controversially, though, Cave also defended Morrissey's right to freedom of expression, arguing that "conflating the concept of free speech with bigotry" is "very dangerous territory indeed". Yes - but perhaps less dangerous than allowing him and unapologetic proponents of far-right views to continue to spew their bile?

Cave's position is at least consistent with his stance on Israel and Palestine, whereby he has repeatedly insisted that artists should have the freedom to perform where they like (and for their own reasons) and not be pressured into boycotts by others on political grounds.

Incidentally, Cave took time out from answering questions today to duet with Kylie Minogue on 'Where The Wild Roses Grow' in front of an enormous Glastonbury audience. Also putting in a guest appearance on the Pyramid Stage over the weekend was Johnny Marr, who pitched up to run through 'This Charming Man' with yesterday's headliners The Killers. Strangely, I'm starting to warm to Morrissey again...