Saturday, August 01, 2015

Ones to watch


All you really need to know about Cosmosis is that they appear to have listened to Black Sabbath's entire back catalogue and decided that the one song on which all their own should be modelled is 'Planet Caravan'. Seriously, who does that?! And the less said about their mauling of Iggy Pop's 'The Passenger', the better.

This may be The Beckoning Fair Ones' debut gig, but their members, while nervy, are hardly novices, having assembled from the ashes of local favourites Deer Chicago, Dallas Don't and Big Tropics. Collectively, they sound little like any of their previous outfits, marrying scratchy riffs with almost playful synths in a way that makes them infuriatingly unclassifiable, albeit perhaps distant cousins (twice removed) of The Dismemberment Plan.

Ex-Dallas Don't man Niall seems to be consciously reining in his rage, though the barked declaration "I've got a condition" in the penultimate track indicates a barely suppressed fury still bubbling away under the surface. Just as there can't be many other saxophone-playing drummers in Oxford, there can't be many vocalists who would write a song about meeting former Inverness Caley Thistle striker Billy McKay on a train.

With their spaced-out visuals, sound reminiscent of Explosions In The Sky and guitarist who bears a distinct resemblance to Stuart Braithwaite, Ghosts In The Photographs have clearly missed the Pitchfork memo that said post-rock was once again tragically uncool.

A good thing they did, though, as - despite relying on a few cliches - they nevertheless bring a welcome dash of brawn and brute force to a musical style that can all too often be a sterile and exclusively cerebral affair. Thunder has been rumbling all afternoon, and Ghosts In The Photographs are well suited to soundtracking gathering storms.

Last time I saw Kid Kin, at the White Rabbit as part of last year's Punt, the volume levels were such that they pinned you to the wall like a 600 lb gorilla angrily demanding your dinner money. Tonight, the dials aren't quite set to "Brain-liquidising", which, if initially a disappointment, does allow the dynamic subtleties of the multi-instrumentalist noisenik's music (as well as an affinity with Maiians) to shine through.

Songs are deftly constructed before our very eyes, but, rather like watching a talented chef at work, you don't always want to see how a delicious dish is made. As tasty as the live performances he serves up are, you can't help but wonder whether they wouldn't benefit from the greater visual stimulus that projections would provide.

(This review appears in the August issue of Nightshift.)

Friday, July 31, 2015

The sexy old sea dog and the rudderless ship

Following on from Mark Steel's acidic commentary on the Labour leadership race is this piece by fellow comic Frankie Boyle, which avoids irony in favour of a blunt attack on the party's overall refusal to condemn the Tories' welfare bill. Boyle suggests that they "might as well ... be managed by an out-of-office email" and concludes that if you fail to oppose the sort of draconian measures set to be introduced as part of the bill, then "you have stated that you don’t want to fight injustice but are simply looking for your own role in serving it".

There is some hope, though. Jeremy Corbyn has - rather unexpectedly - now taken a 22-point lead in the leadership race, and appears to have found particular favour among the young. The reaction to these developments has been mixed. Some Tories and Blairites have come out in favour of a Corbyn win in the belief that it would be complete folly and serve to undermine the Left - when in fact it would give visibility and mainstream credence to precisely the sort of principles and values on which Labour were founded and for which they should stand. Meanwhile, others have predictably responded by attempting to belittle or mock Corbyn as a hopeless idealist, or to caricature or demonise him as a Marxist bogeyman - though he's also found the positive press somewhat "embarrassing".

(Thanks to Phil and Peyman for some of the links.)

The unhappy Mondays

Having somehow missed all of This Is England '88 (note to self: buy it on DVD), I'm itching to get reacquainted with Shane Meadows' characters in This Is England '90, due to be shown in September. This short trailer whets the appetite, suggesting that while they may now find themselves in the thick of the post-Madchester rave culture, they're not exactly all loved up.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Know Your Enemy

"It’s extremely disappointing to hear the prime minister using such irresponsible, dehumanising language to describe the desperate men, women and children fleeing for their lives across the Mediterranean Sea. This sort of rhetoric is extremely inflammatory and comes at a time when the government should be focused on working with its European counterparts to respond calmly and compassionately to this dreadful humanitarian crisis."

Lisa Doyle, head of advocacy at the Refugee Council, on David Cameron's description of Calais migrants as "a swarm of people". Even Andy Burnham was stirred into a strong response, branding the use of the term "disgraceful" and adding that it "confirms there’s no dog-whistle these Bullingdon Boys won’t blow".

Of course, the attitude that underlies this sort of comment should hardly come as much of a surprise, given the way Cameron and his Tory chums have shown they're prepared to treat those who are already citizens of this country.

While politicians are apparently content to depict migrants collectively as a threatening, animalistic rabble, some people - Buzzfeed's Siraj Datoo, for instance - have actually taken the trouble to treat them as individuals and tell their stories.

Do I not "Like" that?

If Facebook ever decide to give users more options than simply "Like", "Share" and "Comment", then they should definitely start with a Schadenfreude button.

(Thanks to Neil for the link.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lauding a lord

While most people have reacted with disgust and anger at Lord Sewel's behaviour and the fact that it has been funded by the taxpayer, that certainly isn't true of everyone. Take the Spectator's Brendan O'Neill, for instance, who has declared that the scandal "makes me feel proud to be British" for the simple reason that it's not the one of the "sad little pseudo-scandals which in recent years have tainted the good name of ignominy" but "a full-on, drugged-up, peer-and-prostitutes scandal, of the kind Britain used to be pretty good at before the square Blairites and cautious Cameroons took over".

Writing in the Independent, meanwhile, Grace Dent has also expressed her admiration for Lord Sewel, on the grounds that his antics show a devil-may-care attitude towards ageing and an apparent determination to grow old disgracefully. She does have a point...

"Insulting to just about everyone on Earth"

When Glamour published an article entitled "13 Little Things That Can Make A Man Fall Hard For You", which depicted men as overgrown infants who need to be pandered to and women as servile and existing solely to please, the knives were immediately out. This response from Vice's Joel Golby is spot on, addressing each ridiculous tip in turn. Seriously, who on earth thinks being handed a cold beer as you step out of the shower would be welcome?

Since the proliferation of take-downs from the likes of Golby, the original article has been quite literally taken down, Glamour offering a lame apology of sorts in its place. All in all, a heartening example of how the internet can be quick to call people out for everyday sexism.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Back from beyond a watery grave

Hurricane Katrina may have wreaked severe damage on New Orleans a decade ago, but the city was already crumbling and cracking and threatening to become another Detroit. As this article makes clear, the rebuilding process has been about much more than simply repairing storm damage - it's also been about the battles over plans of how to remodel the city, as well as a demonstration of communities' resilience and determination to bounce back in the face of both the elements and political inertia.

Mellon collie and the infinite sadness (of riding Disneyland rollercoasters)

Enforced jollity: is there anything worse? Billy Corgan doesn't seem to think so, judging by this picture of him "enjoying" a trip on an amusement park rollercoaster. Perhaps it's touring with very unlikely bedfellow Marilyn Manson that has resulted in his apparent anhedonia?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Quote of the day

"Needless to say, Dirty never took off in that way, and it’s not the coolest Sonic Youth album to like: its relatively big-budget production at the hands of Nevermind‘s Butch Vig and Andy Wallace makes it come off a little clean, despite its name. But if you came of age at that time when punk was breaking, so to speak, and your musical canon expanded based on whatever Kurt Cobain recommended in the pages of Metal Hammer that week, then you’ll remember the exact moment you bought Dirty on cassette, put the ol’ Walkman headphones on, and broke into goosebumps as 'Theresa’s Sound-World' built to a hair-raising squall of sound."

Yep. On holiday in Cornwall in 1993. Absolutely fucking mindblowing. Credit to Daniel Maurer for putting into words exactly how I feel about Dirty, in the intro to a list of 23 facts you may not know about the album - such as that 'Drunken Butterfly' was originally called 'Barracuda' in tribute to Canadian soft metal band Heart, that the aforementioned 'Theresa's Sound-World' was recorded in the dark, and that Ian MacKaye added his contribution to 'Youth Against Fascism' while waiting for his takeaway order to be ready.

(Thanks to Jeff for the link.)

King of the (sand)castle

Much of our summer is likely to be spent on beaches, both in Northumberland or Belgium, but I'm doubtful that I'll have sufficient time to hone my sandcastle-building skills to such an extent that I can construct anything to rival these extraordinary modernist creations by Calvin Seibert.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Know Your Enemy

"Luckily, Corbyn’s opponents are making a persuasive case for their own bids. Andy Burnham is especially clear that he’s opposed to the Tories' Welfare Bill, as it will 'hit working families' and 'hit children particularly badly'. Indeed he’s so opposed to it that he was determined not to vote against it. The most effective way to oppose it, he insisted, was to abstain rather than vote against it, because that way he can unite the party against it. It’s so rare that a politician speaks clearly like that, in a language we can all understand. Presumably he’ll be telling all his supporters not to vote for him in the leadership election, but to abstain as that way he can win by even more."

Mark Steel in fine form, on the subject of the Labour leadership contest.

On a related note, much as I respect Jeremy Corbyn for having the guts to stick to his principles and stand as an unashamed left-winger, the Twitter account Corbyn Jokes is pretty amusing...

(Thanks to Stuart for the latter link.)

Doggen's life

While I was aware that guitarist Tony Doggen, now Jason Pierce's right-hand man in Spiritualized, had also had stints with Julian Cope and Six By Seven, I didn't know he was once pally with the members of Guns 'N' Roses, had played on hit records by Girls Aloud, Olive and Samantha Mumba, and was once kidnapped by Cope, with whom he (like most people) had an, er, interesting relationship...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Economy of words

It seems incredible that there could be a language that you can learn in just 30 hours - but then Toki Pona is a decidedly minimalist creation, with a vocabulary of just 123 words. All languages work by means of metaphor, but that process is particularly pronounced in Toki Pona due to the tiny vocabulary, which demands playfulness and creativity from its speakers. It also dispenses with all politeness markers - and yet, as even enthusiastic speakers of the language confess, the lack of these can prove to be the cause of social discomfort. Old habits die hard, it seems.

(Thanks to Simon for the link.)

Quote of the day

"We are calling for this approach out of our deep commitment to ethics and human rights and in the interest of seeing FIFA succeed."

When even Coca-Cola are able to take the moral high ground, you know FIFA have problems.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Giggle guide

Just in case you were stumped as to what to catch at this year's Edinburgh Fringe (and assuming that tickets are still available for them all), Stewart Lee has offered a list of recommendations in his newsletter. His pithy accompanying descriptions are great - Simon Munnery, for instance, is described as "the Simon Munnery of his generation", while he's probably the only person who could get away with describing Bridget Christie as "garlanded feminist harridan"...

One of the things he's most excited about seeing at the Fringe is actually musical rather than comedic. Safe to say that when the bill's announced for the ATP weekend he's curating in April, The Ex stand a very good chance of being on it.

Another year is set to pass without me getting my sorry arse up to the Scottish capital - that has to change. Here's to 2016...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Quote of the day

"There is room for a party of the emotional spasm in British politics but that is a party of protest, not a party of government. Labour is a party of government."

Anne Perkins cautions Labour Party members against electing Jeremy Corbyn as their new leader and in doing so sums up all that is wrong with the moderate Blairite element of the party.

The simple fact is that Labour is not a "party of government" at present - it's a complete shambles. Perkins evidently believes that, in order to seem more electable, Labour shouldn't be seen to disagree (vehemently or otherwise) with the Tories. Not only does this make no sense - why would the electorate choose Labour if there's little to separate them from the Tories? - but it ignores the fact that, for an opposition party to look effective, it should (with reasoned argument and conviction) oppose, or at least offer alternatives to the status quo. That wouldn't exactly be hard in the current climate - and yet Perkins appears to want Labour to meekly toe the line.

And that's not to mention the way that concern for those affected by cuts to welfare and other public provisions - basic humanitarianism - is belittled as merely an "emotional spasm". That's the sort of thing you'd expect the likes of Maggie Thatcher to have spouted.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bad behaviour

So, who exactly are the baddies in the Greek debt crisis?

Slavoj Zizek, writing for the New Statesman, has pointed the finger at the EU for the "brutal extortionist pressure" it's applying to Greece, calling on the country and its governing party Syriza to remain courageous in the face of this pressure and to continue to question and challenge the "capitalist mechanics". As he implicitly acknowledges, though, that call may be in vain. Almost as soon as the Greek people had rejected a bailout deal in a referendum, Syriza agreed one that was arguably even more punitive, so it's questionable whether they really have the stomach for the fight.

Meanwhile, the Nation's Robert B. Reich has highlighted the typically unscrupulous role of investment banks, and Goldman Sachs in particular. He claims that these banks knowingly helped to exacerbate the crisis and in doing so have reaped huge profits at the expense of Greece, whose people are now suffering the brunt of the consequences. You could have guessed that they'd be implicated somewhere along the line.

(Thanks to Phil and Adam for the links.)

Remote working

Being in a band is all about the chemistry and comradeship between members, right? As the very modern case of Publicist UK illustrates, that's not necessarily true. Here's David Obuchowski to tell the story of a band whose members first all met together "in a van on the way to our first ever band practice (which also happened to be three days before our first tour, including seven shows at SXSW)", with two albums' worth of material and a record deal already under their belt.

What's interesting is the way that the results of their online collaboration turned out to be very different to the individual members' other bands - and, according to Obuchowski, better than he could have imagined. Sod getting into a room together and working things out that way: "It was the distance and our ability to overcome that distance with standard, workhorse technology like basic computers and free recording software that made us what we are."

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Quote of the day

"She decided to end her life and I want to make it clear my family in no way think charity and cold callers were responsible. ... It's a complicated issue. I'm concerned by damage being done to charities as she was a big charity supporter."

Speaking on This Morning, Jessica Dunne, the granddaughter of Olive Cook, was unequivocal in her comments on what provoked the poppy seller to take her own life. This was then reported by the Daily Mail - with no acknowledgement whatsoever that it was the paper that has been pushing that very angle as part of a sustained vendetta against charities, naturally...

Priced out

Shelter have been looking into the projected impact of the lower benefits caps - and, as you might expect, the news isn't good.

The upshot of the cuts will be that many places, particularly but not only in the south-east, will become off-limits and out of bounds to families affected. Facing the threat of eviction, they may well be forced to uproot and move significant distances, leaving friends and family behind, just to find somewhere affordable to live. A rise in homelessness looks inevitable as a result, while Child Poverty Action Group have underlined that, once again, those who will suffer the most are children.

I hope the Tories are proud of themselves. Compassionate Conservatism is definitely dead.

(Thanks to Simon for the link.)

Money, money, money - must be funny in a rich man's world

I genuinely never thought I'd see the day that shitty character comic Simon Brodkin would actually be capable of prompting me into a smile, let alone a good chuckle. But he's managed it. No doubt the stunt was more about raising his own profile than making a point about the culture of corruption endemic at FIFA, but the image of fake notes floating down around Sepp Blatter, his face a mixture of disgust and discomfort, is beautiful.

I won't be rushing out to buy any Lee Nelson DVDs, mind.

The Waitsing game

Ahead of 2008's Glitter And Doom tour, Tom Waits held a press conference unlike any other. The man's clearly a warped genius.

(Thanks to Martin for the link.)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Return to the forbidden planet

After four years out of the "Proper Festival" game (since Glastonbury 2011), largely due to parenthood, it was good to be back - albeit unexpectedly, at very short notice and (for some of the time) with an impatient, energetic two-year-old in tow.

The line-up at this year's Truck was, it has to be said, decidedly mixed in quality. A few things I witnessed made me query the tastes of the Youth Of Today and even ponder the value of having ears. However, Public Service Broadcasting, Bo Ningen, Pulled Apart By Horses and Rainbow Reservoir all got the thumbs up, with the definite highlight being locals Maiians, whose fusion of Krautrock, electronica and post-rock was perfectly scheduled for Friday evening's after-dark slot.

Stamina-wise, my increasingly creaky frame just about coped with the regulation all-day boozing, though the compact nature of the site, the excellent weather and my unusually short must-see list meant I wasn't faced with the familiar rigours of striding for miles through energy-sapping mud just to clap eyes and ears on a band for the three-song minimum. It was also a pleasure to be able to (at various points) catch up with what seemed like pretty much everyone I've ever known in Oxfordshire and the surrounding counties.

Same time next year? I'd like to think so.

Tragic error of judgement

When the son of a celebrity dies, you might anticipate some unsavoury muckraking from the red tops, but you'd expect careful and sensitive reporting from the supposedly principled broadsheets. And yet an article published by the Times in the wake of the death of Nick Cave's son Arthur last week was despicable tabloid "journalism" of the lowest kind. Those responsible have seen fit to remove the offending article, but no formal apology has yet been issued. The sooner it comes, the better - and then Cave and his family can be left to grieve in private, as they've publicly requested.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Quote of the day

"I do think about why people are all of a sudden looking at my work and it occurs to me that it may have needed a distance in time for people to see what I was actually looking at. People need time. It’s much easier to look at the past than to look at the present."

Stephen Store, whose photos were critically savaged and derided in the 1970s for everything from their subject matter (contemporary and quotidian) to their use of colour. They do now very much look like the past rather than the present - and America should be grateful to him for having the foresight to preserve that past for posterity.

(Thanks to Neil for the link.)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The grass could be greener

Even to most fans, football is an extravagant, bloated, indulgent symbol of late capitalism, characterised by self-interest rather than principles - certainly at the highest levels. Just look at FIFA. And yet the new chief exec of Friends Of The Earth, Craig Bennett, has argued that his organisation - and others in the green movement - should make more effort to foster relations with football.

In an article for the New Statesman, Pete May explains why this isn't quite as misguided as it might sound, and in the process outs George Monbiot as an avowed hater of football (and other sports). My relationship with Monbiot is already best described as complicated, and this just makes me even more suspicious of him. Best of luck to Bennett, though - he may need it...

(Thanks to Julian for the link.)

Rockin' all over the world

As a reluctant Spotify user, I'm grudgingly coming around to the idea that it can be useful. Credit to their techies for coming up with this musical map, a way of seeing what artists and bands are trending to a distinctive degree in different cities around the globe.

I'd have hoped people in Norwich would have had more sense than to fall for Slaves, while it looks as though Cardiff is still under the sway of the Manics' recent shows marking the twentieth anniversary of the release of The Holy Bible. As for my home town of Newcastle, I guess it was inevitable that Jimmy Nail would feature...

(Thanks to Simon for the link.)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Dark matter

As a north-easterner, you grow up to be acutely aware of the region's coal-mining past, and the way the industry's decline has shaped - or damaged, more accurately - the economic, cultural and social landscape. But there were of course coalfields elsewhere in the UK, other places and people that were equally affected by Thatcher and her determination to close mines. Take the East Midlands, for instance - the subject of David Severn's superb photographs, which, while focused on the present, possess an elegiac quality with respect to a past that has been lost.

(Thanks to Dave for the link.)

Back to Black

No prizes for guessing who has announced that, in the wake of the obscene decision to award MPs a back-dated pay rise of 10 per cent, she will be donating her extra income to community groups and charities working in her constituency. If only more MPs were prepared to commit to a similar stance.

(Thanks to Mhairi - a different one - for the link.)

Familiar faces

Ever wondered why certain directors repeatedly cast the same actors in their films? Here's the New Statesman's Oliver Harry to explain that, essentially, it's the exact opposite of a continuity error.

(Thanks to Jonathan for the link.)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Quote of the day

"Why is it when you leave this country everyone is saying to you, as people who live here but are not from here say, 'You have got something that's really precious, don't wreck it?'"

BBC Director-General Tony Hall was talking about his own organisation, but it could equally have been the NHS, such is the apparent Tory determination to dismantle both national institutions.

While Auntie is facing increased pressure from politicians, a number of stars of television and film have jointly issued an open letter to David Cameron in the corporation's defence, arguing that "a diminished BBC would simply mean a diminished Britain ... Like all organisations, it has its faults but it is overwhelmingly a creative force for good." They're right, of course, but unfortunately it seems unlikely that our beloved leader will come round to that way of thinking.

"A rhetorical racket, lingual feedback"

First, he wrote a splendidly withering attack on Britpop that warmed my cockles, and now the Quietus' Taylor Parkes has produced this superb interview feature with Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods. He's fast becoming my favourite music writer.

While he perhaps veers a little into hyperbole when lauding Williamson's lyrics, Parkes nevertheless gets his friendly if guarded subject to open up - about class (inevitably), his mod past (and the surprising fact that he was peddling folk rock before Sleaford Mods), previous employment, his feelings on how he and Andrew Fearn are perceived and portrayed, what he thought of Glastonbury (you won't be taken aback to learn that he didn't find it an enjoyable experience) and those extraordinary lyrics.

(Thanks to Mike for the link.)

Know Your Enemy

"I am sorry, I will not sit here and pollute my venue with bullshit, and I can only apologise for you who were getting some of it because there is some magic there. All I can say is this is my house and I have acted how I feel is appropriate."

Promoter Matt Roberts, talking to the disgruntled audience after he had booted one-time Brit Award winner Finlay Quaye off the stage at a club in Gloucestershire. Quaye turned up an hour late, with a backing band he'd never played with before, and then proceeded to play the same riff for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Gag reflex

We may currently have a government intent on at best abandoning and at worst victimising the poorest members of society - but at least we've got the freedom to criticise those in positions of power. It's worth reflecting on the fact that that's not the case everywhere in the world. Take China, for instance, where influential bloggers formerly critical of the government have been falling mysteriously silent on political matters. The concept of a "re-education camp" is something straight out of the pages of 1984 - but, terrifyingly, fact rather than fiction.

Narrow focus

Artists can be obsessive people - none more so, perhaps, than Masahisa Fukase, who photographed no one and nothing but his wife for 13 years and then, when she left him, switched his attention to ravens for a further six years.

(Thanks to Guilliana for the link.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Intra-party divisions, inter-party consensus

Two months on from the election, and Labour remain in complete disarray - a fact most recently and clearly underlined by the disagreements over welfare policy. No sooner had acting leader Harriet Harman made a declaration that the party wouldn't dispute some of the Tories' proposed changes (including reducing the benefit cap and placing restrictions on child tax credits) than it was savaged by some of those hoping to secure the role on a permanent basis, including Andy Burnham, Jeremy Corbyn and Yvette Cooper.

Harman's rationale is that the election results showed the nation has lurched to the right, politically speaking. In order to win back the balance of power, the argument goes, Labour have little option but to bite the bullet and actively seek to appeal to those who voted Tory (and UKIP) in May.

And yet, in effectively endorsing these latest cuts rather than challenging them, Labour are dooming themselves to repeat the mistakes of the very recent past - namely, giving a pathetic impression of an opposition party. It's appalling that Labour can continue to tacitly endorse the austerity measures, rather than robustly criticising them in the spirit of their long and distinguished history. Until they can prove they're capable of offering a credible alternative to the Tories (and are not divided by internal squabbling), they'll remain on the political sidelines.

Of course, the whole situation also serves to underline the fact that if it's genuine opposition that you want, then you need to look to the Greens...


Here's Mhairi Black making much the same point rather better and more forcefully than me, in her maiden speech to parliament. If she wasn't my favourite MP before, she definitely is now.

Secrets and lies

It's understandably hard work - particularly in view of The Runaways' trademark bubblegum pop-rock - but this article, in which bassist Jackie Fuchs reveals she was raped as a 16-year-old by their manager Kim Fowley, is essential reading, both as a tale of personal anguish and as a portrait of the rampant sexism, misogyny and violence of the 1970s music scene. Those who witnessed the incident - including Joan Jett - have got some explaining to do.

(Thanks to Jenny for the link.)

Know Your Enemy

"Your greed and dishonesty were matched only by your hypocrisy, because while this was going on you carried out a high-profile campaign condemning corruption and the improper use of public money in the very institution from which you were leeching it."

Justice Stuart-Smith on Ashley Mote, the former MEP starting a five-year prison sentence for defrauding the EU of nearly £500,000.

Though Mote was elected on a UKIP list, he sat as an independent. Unsurprisingly, Nigel Farage has been quick to point out this technicality, and seems relieved that this is one bullet, at least, that his beleaguered party appears to have dodged.

Professional couple only

Fancy renting the flat from Spaced? It's all yours for £1,993 per month. I suppose that if that seems a bit steep, you could just do a Brian and come to some kind of "deal" with Marsha.

(Thanks to Chris for the link.)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sound advice

As if my reading list wasn't long enough already, it's now significantly longer thanks to this Guardian article, for which they asked an assortment of musicians and writers to recommend their favourite books on music. Among those offering their opinions are Beck, Amit Chaudhuri, Jonathan Coe, Brian Eno, Kim Gordon and Viv Albertine - the latter pair the authors of two of the most celebrated music memoirs of the last couple of years.

Some choices aren't hugely surprising - Nicky Wire picking Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces - whereas others raise an eyebrow. Who knew The Charlatans' Tim Burgess would enthuse about a book tracing the history of COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle, or that former Sleeper vocalist turned novelist Louise Wener would have sufficient taste and good sense to recommend Mark E Everitt's brilliant memoir Things The Grandchildren Should Know?

The latter is one of the few books mentioned that I've actually read. Another is Jon Savage's seminal book on punk, England's Dreaming, as selected by Johnny Marr. I had a few quibbles, but they didn't detract from the fact that it was a thoroughly fascinating and provocative read. Savage (like author Geoff Dyer) has the distinction of both having a book recommended and being asked to give a recommendation, choosing a book about The Beatles. John Harris, author of superb rise-and-fall-of-Britpop book The Last Party, also plumps for tomes about the Fab Four.

The only featured book that was already in my sights was Bob Stanley's Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story Of Modern Pop, Alexis Petridis doing a good job of convincing me it's a must: "a personal, idiosyncratic route ... through the past". I'm currently stalled part of the way through Simon Reynolds' survey of post-punk Rip It Up And Start Again (through no fault of the book, I hasten to add) - it's a bit surprising that neither that nor Motley Crue's infamous The Dirt merit a mention.

If I was to be asked for my own endorsements, I'd have to refer to Harris' The Last Party and Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life, a series of portraits of the most significant US underground rock bands of the 1980s.

Right, best get reading, then...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Know Your Enemy

"A bunch of lying bastards."

Queen guitarist Brian May sticks it to the Countryside Alliance over their contention that fox-hunting is all about pest control. He was absolutely right to argue that the Tories' latest proposed manoeuvres on the issue are tantamout to "repeal under another name". Just another reason to despair at the election result.

(Thanks to Lyndsey for the link.)

Goodbye to the high life

You probably wouldn't expect to find a punk aficionado waxing lyrical about The Grateful Dead, but Lee Ranaldo's review of the band's farewell shows in Chicago is (among other things) evidence of Sonic Youth's catholic tastes.

Out of this world

I've heard of barn finds - treasure troves of classic cars discovered rusting in barns and warehouses - but this is something else: two Russian space shuttles, relics of the space race between the USSR and the USA, languishing in an enormous hangar in Kazakhstan.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Drowning, not waving

Apparently comedian Richard Ayoade's Submarine is stuffed full with the sort of subtle references and nods to other films and directors that nerdy cinephiles love. I gather it reveals him to be a particularly keen student of French New Wave cinema. I wouldn't know myself, but ignorance of cinematic history was no impediment to enjoying what is an extremely accomplished directorial debut.

Submarine is a deadpan, offbeat coming-of-age comedy with a dark heart, shot through with depression and hopelessness. The metaphor of being underwater that gives it its title is pervasive, though its negative connotations are transformed in a wonderful final sequence.

It's not hard to see why Ayoade might have identified with Oliver, the central protagonist of the Joe Dunthorne novel from which the film is adapted. A gawky and mildly autistic teenager with duffel coat and briefcase, he's an outsider looking at life from a distance, able to communicate best in writing and possessed of a vivid imagination.

One of the film's best moments is the superbly awkward seduction scene, which sees Oliver wearing a jacket and tie, decorating the dinner table with balloons and flowers, and laying on boxed wine and prawn cocktails in an attempt to impress. Not that he's alone in suffering relationship woes - his parents, despite the benefit of age, actually seem even more immature when it comes to matters of the heart.

Returning to Ayoade's cinematic touchstones, the works of Wes Anderson are clearly an influence, and Submarine boasts the sort of quirky characters for whom Anderson is renowned. Paddy Considine is particularly good, playing a suave guru with mullet and leather trousers - a role not dissimilar to Patrick Swayze's in Donnie Darko. Considine's presence in a cast is usually a guarantee of quality, and it certainly is in this case.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Know Your Enemy

"No man in publishing is ever described as 'juggling' anything. His work is art. Women's work is a hobby."

Chocolat author Joanna Harris on her experiences of sexism within the publishing industry.

(Thanks to Louise for the link.)

The Big Apple from above

New York must be one of the most photographed cities in the world - and yet Jeffrey Milstein has managed to find a way of looking at it from a fresh perspective, with a little help from a high-res camera and a helicopter.

(Thanks to Mel for the link.)

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Feel good hits of the 9th July

1. 'Moya' - Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Star of the show at last week's Mogwai/ATP-curated Roundhouse gig. Time may have moved on, and they may seem a little quaint these days, but there's no denying their power when at full throttle. The Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada EP remains the most succinct encapsulation of what they're all about.

2. 'High Town Crow' - The August List
The highlight of another stunning gig, this time from Oxfordshire-via-Dorset-via-Great-Smoky-Mountains duo The August List at Abingdon's Unicorn Theatre. The crow in question is no feathered friend - more an avian CCTV camera, an ominous potential blackmailer who knows all your deepest, darkest secrets.

3. 'Shine A Light' - Spiritualized
Mission: Avoid Everything To Do With Glastonbury For Fear Of Being Consumed With Jealousy was going so well until I had the misfortune to catch Spiritualized playing this song on Radio 6. Gets me every time.

4. 'My Father, My King' - Mogwai
On the subject of Glastonbury, it's insane to think that Mogwai once played the Pyramid Stage in a mid-afternoon set - and, what's more, they ended their set with an extended version of this cover of a traditional Jewish hymn. The finest hour of a career that now spans two decades?

5. 'All The Surveyors' - Shellac
It's the source of immense pride to me that my son's painting style is directly inspired by watching YouTube footage of Shellac drummer Todd Trainer in action.

6. 'Peaking Duck' - Carlton Melton
I've not featured a Piccadilly Records recommendation for a while - and this lot are quite like a previous one, White Manna: maximalist stoner psych with controls set for the heart of the sun, and with Phil Manley of Trans Am on synths and recording duties, just for good measure.

7. 'Fireball' - Life Coach
Did someone say Phil Manley? Here he is again, with his (dare I say it?) more conventionally "rock" Life Coach project, that also features Jon Theodore of The Mars Volta on drums. That boy sure can play.

8. 'Skip Tracer' - Sonic Youth
"HELLO 2015!" Oh, hi there, Lee!

9. 'Zambezi' - The Piranhas
A song I haven't heard or even thought about in years, but that takes me straight back to childhood. It might even be my very first musical love. I wonder what happened to the 7".

10. 'Trying' - Bully
I've listened to this and other Bully songs a few times and am still not sure whether I like them or not. It's a bit sub-Breeders, isn't it? And The Breeders were never really all that anyway.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Time to raise the bar

When even David Cameron's own former chief strategist recognises the plight of the working poor and publicly calls for the introduction of a living wage, then you know the direction in which the Tories are currently headed is very wrong indeed.

Steve Hilton is absolutely right to be disgusted at the way that businesses are able to shift the burden of responsibility onto the government, paying their employees peanuts and expecting the government to step in and add what is effectively a subsidy in the form of benefits like tax credits.

But then it's in the government's power to put an end to this situation, by replacing the minimum wage with a more realistic living wage. Hilton claims there's significant cross-party support for the move, and surely it makes even more sense in light of the proposed cuts to tax credits, if poverty and inequality are to be kept at least partly in check and the Tories' rhetoric about supporting "hard-working families" isn't to prove to be mere hot air (not that they really care on either point).

George Osborne has already shown he's more than happy to pass the financial buck when it comes to the BBC - but then they're very definitely perceived as the enemy, and sadly it's doubtful he'd risk upsetting his allies in the business community by forcing them to cough up to cover the cost of a living wage.

(Thanks to Guilliana for the link.)


Would you believe it? No sooner had this post gone up than Osborne made the surprise announcement that he really would be introducing a living wage. However, if you look a little closer, all is not quite what it seems.

What Osborne calls a living wage (£7.20 an hour from next April) is not what the Living Wage Foundation calls a living wage (£7.85 an hour right now) - so it's really just an increase to the minimum wage, and applies only to those over the age of 25 (rather than 21, for the minimum wage). The living wage will rise to £9 an hour by 2020 - but it should already be £9.15 an hour in London, according to the Living Wage Foundation. Labour had pledged to introduce a living wage of £8 an hour, which puts the Tories' move into perspective - it's a sly way of (marginally) softening the blow of benefits and tax credits cuts.

Quote of the day

"If you're able to cut a man's head off, you're sick. But right, music evokes emotion. So if they're listening to Shaggy music or reggae music, they're not going to want to cut somebody's head off."

Absolutely right, Shaggy - if ISIS members are exposed to your music, they're going to be far too busy trying to cut their own head off to worry about decapitating anyone else.