Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Not You, The Other One

May I recommend that you peruse the blog musings of a fellow Morpethian? Thank you. Hello Sarah!
Wizardry

Amazed to discover my review of last week's J Mascis solo gig in Nottingham has made its way to his official site - cheers J!
Devilishly good

I feel compelled to follow in Wan's footsteps and say something about Ken Russell's 'The Devils', screened last night on Channel 4. Not being very well-versed in all things cinematic, I'd not even heard of the film, let alone actually watched it, and I only wish now that I'd seen it in its entirety, and the Mark Kermode documentary that preceded it. Starring Oliver Reed (whose superb performance seemed to involve a lot of sweating) and Vanessa Redgrave, 'The Devils' is a disturbing probe of the dark and twisted underbelly of Catholicism - fairly reminiscent for me, in its emphasis on obsessive and perverted sexuality and the hellish horror and fear of damnation, of some of the novels of Graham Greene and Joyce's 'A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man'. So, then - a combination of theology, obsession, brutality and sex culminating in Reed's character Father Grandier being burnt at the stake for being possessed by the devil. Russell seems to share the same slightly gratuitous fascination with the naked female form as Stanley Kubrick, but as someone who felt 'Eyes Wide Shut' was better than the critics made out, I can see that Russell's depiction of debauchery and orgiastic excess is far superior.
Devilishly good

I feel compelled to follow in Wan's footsteps and say something about Ken Russell's
Maybe now that Alan has found himself unwittingly drawn into the world of "sex people", he might relinquish his nymphomaniac tendencies.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Bobby Robson's words of wisdom

An occasional series...

"Jermaine Jenas is a fit lad. He gets from box to box in all of 90 minutes"
I hate Man Utd

The 'baby-faced assassin'? The baby-faced cunt more like. Oh yes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's disgraceful "challenge" on Aaron Hughes, which left him with a clean run on goal, is STILL rankling with me, two whole days after our miserable defeat in Manchester. Bet the celebrations in Kent went long into the night. Of course, Solskjaer is merely a convenient scapegoat for my vitriol, as it's not often football matches are won by teams who've conceded five goals and whose defences are as solid as a post-Vindaloo stool. We've got to learn that sometimes comebacks just aren't possible - giving those bastards a 5-2 lead before starting to play really was being generous to a fault. Christian Vieri and co must have been pissing themselves with excitement.
The web unravels

Tug at one thread of the web and it all starts to unravel. I've discovered a fellow Nottingham blogfiend, Mike - or, rather, been discovered. Mike has not only stumbled over my sordid little corner of cyberspace but has been kind enough to recommend some of its contents (particularly the horrendously anal gig reviews) on his blog, as well as linking to Olav's outpourings on obsession, anger and quizzes. Cheers! It's both intriguing and comforting to know that there are furtive bloggers out there, moving amongst us unseen, unheard and unknown. Maybe we should form some kind of masonic pact - secret handshakes, head-nods, inconspicuous yet distinguishing items of clothing etc etc. As for all those gigs, Mike, I don't think I'll be there - but then you may never know...
Breaking the Sexxlaws

My Friday night at the Birmingham Academy was made especially memorable by the airing of a fantastic bootleg of Prodigy's 'Smack My Bitch Up' and Beck's 'Sexxlaws' - the third truly great bootleg I've heard, after Sugababes' 'Freak Like Me' (surely the best number one single for ages) and 'A Stroke Of Genius', Soulwax's splicing of 'Genie In A Bottle' by Christina Aguilera with 'Hard To Explain' by The Strokes. Sometimes something that looks so wrong on paper just sounds so good in reality.

Alan's quote of the day

Sonja: "Alan, I love you"
Alan: "Thanks a lot"

Friday, November 22, 2002

Fighting talk

I think my addiction to 'Question Time' is becoming more acute - but then there are worst TV programmes to which I could develop an addiction. 'Hollyoaks', for instance. The formula for 'QT' is brilliantly simple - just assemble a group of five politicians, commentators and media people, while making sure that at least two of them will hate each other's guts. Last night, we had Tony Benn up against that cock from the Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens - pack them together in a powderkeg situation, and KABOOM! It gets ugly, and that's not just Hitchens nailing his colours firmly to the death penalty mast. Sometimes it makes me laugh that the Daily Mail thinks it speaks for the whole nation, and expresses the common-sense views of every "right-thinking individual" - and then at other times it seems that maybe it DOES sum up the majority view. That and its pernicious influence just scare me.
Alan's quote of the day

"'Appen 'e thinks I'm a right indecisive tit!"

Thursday, November 21, 2002

****

For anyone with an interest in the social and cultural power of language, the transience of meaning, and the value of the swear word - a Guardian article on the word 'fuck' by Jonathan Margolis. Not being averse to using such profanity myself, I like to think I'm judicious and thoughtful, not overliberal to the point of diluting its impact. A well-timed or well-placed swear word can still be incredibly potent, regardless of whether the word itself is losing its force. But it is with some sadness that I have to agree that 'fuck' is undergoing the same gradual process of desemantisizing as 'shit' (as in the American "I'll get my shit together"), and like Margolis I can envisage a time when 'fucking' will be a plain old intensifier just like 'very' and 'really'. Still, as he suggests, dedicated swearers shouldn't get despondent about it - new swear words will be created and thrown up to take its place. Hooray!
TV to die for

As is often the way, last night I found myself watching a wonderful programme (on Channel 5, since you ask) entitled 'The World's Nastiest Neighbours'. By "the world", of course, they meant America. Cue inbred farmhands shooting at each other over disputes about driveways and surburbanites twatting each other with shovels in a grass-clipping-related moment of fury. I turned over to Channel 4 only to find I'd been missing the recorded-as-live footage of the autopsy performed by the bloke behind the 'Bodyworlds' exhibition in That London. Not entirely sure where I stand on the whole issue - education, art or self-aggrandising sensationalism? Still, the concept of Krishnan Guru-Murthy sat interviewing professors of ethics and surgeons at their 'ringside seats' struck me as a bit odd - rather like 'The Late Review' transplanted to a WWF wrestling contest. I'm sure there are educative benefits of witnessing an autopsy, but last night seemed a bit much of a self-publicising freak show.
Alan's quote of the day

"Go to London. I guarantee you'll either be mugged or not appreciated"

Incidentally, in a case of art imitating art, I spotted Phil Cornwell (aka Alan's fellow Radio Norwich DJ Dave Clifton) playing a fuck-up implicated in a series of gruesome S&M murders in 'The Bill' last night. Reminded me of Series 1 Episode 3 of 'I'm Alan Partridge' (the one featuring Chris Morris, Simon Pegg, Peter Baynham and the cow on the boat), when Alan's "wife" can't make the second day of filming for the canalboat video as she's landed a part in 'The Bill' playing a shoplifter. "Quite good", sniffs Alan.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Jurassic Park!

Last night really was what gigs are all about - half an hour queueing in the freezing cold to snaffle up one of four remaining tickets for J Mascis's solo show at the Social, and what turned out to be a fucking awesome evening's entertainment.

Supporting was, according to a guy behind me in the queue, "a bloke from some band called Codeine". Yep, Chris Brokaw, another American alt-rock legend and veteran of not one but two criminally underrated bands from 90s underground rock. Drumming for Codeine he had a hand in their Frigid Stars LP, one of the most majestic articulations of misery you're ever likely to hear, and a record which paved the way for the likes of Low and Mogwai. Brokaw spent most of the 90s working with Thalia Zedek in Come, producing a couple of very fine albums along the way (1994's Don't Ask Don't Tell and 1996's Near-Life Experience) and signing the T-shirt that features on the cover of Sonic Youth's Washing Machine album.

So, there I was, exchanging glances with the man himself in a packed-out venue both before and during his acoustic set: I knew who he was, he knew I knew who he was, he knew nearly no-one else knew who he was. Which led to the slightly surreal feeling that he was directing the rendition of 'Recidivist' (from Come's 1998 album Gently Down The Stream) straight at me. Tracks from his recent LP Red Cities got an airing, as did a track he's co-written for Evan Dando's new album, but it was fairly clear the audience had only come to see one man, and it wasn't him. Why does everyone in the Social have to be so damn, well, social? His acoustic was always fighting a losing battle against the chatterers. A shame, and no 'Shoot Me First' either.

So, it was the Lord Of The Drawl everyone was there to see, J Mascis. Dinosaur Jr always were a bunch of misfits and outsiders - even within the hardcore scene from which they emerged, thanks to their apolitical slacker apathy and guitarist who could really fucking play - and J remains one of the most recognisable and idiosyncratic people in rock. He's long been considered a wizard, and now he's starting to look like one, his stoner locks becoming increasingly streaked with grey - kinda like Noodles from The Offspring if he were to be shut up in a cave with The Grateful Dead for a couple of years, with the mannerisms and speech of someone who's just been woken up from a deep sleep only to be injected with morphine. And last night he was rocking the bodywarmer look.

And he played some music too. Not an acoustic set but a solo set (so there was some serious volume), and not a load of songs from the new Fog album Free So Free but a whole slew of classic tunes from his entire career. And it was absolutely magic. We got 'Freakscene' as early as the third song, along with 'Ammaring', 'Same Day' and 'Waistin' from the first Fog album More Light and Dinosaur tracks 'Flying Cloud', 'Grab It' and 'Even You' plus 'What Else Is New?' and a brilliant 'Get Me' from my favourite album Where You Been?. 'Alone', the sprawling centrepiece of 1997's swansong Hand It Over, wrapped up the main set and after a single-song encore of 'The Wagon', the legend was gone.

Cheers to all the guys from Night With No Name and Why Can't We Just All Get Along? for a fantastic night.
Alan's quote of the day

"That's like some sort of voodoo canape"
Cheers!

Thanks to Boony for linking to my blog.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Alan's quote of the day

"Could I have a condensed Pink Floyd concert for £500?"

Monday, November 18, 2002

National treasure

Congratulations and felicitations to all the crew from Impact - Saturday night's star-studded (well, T4's June Sarpong was presenting...) Independent / NUS Student Media Awards at the Globe Theatre in London saw my old pals from Nottingham's finest publication retain the title of Best Student Magazine which we claimed last year amidst riotous scenes at Kings College. Thanks to Sian for giving me a passport to free booze and to editor of the Daily Telegraph's Juiced the Hoggmeister himself for his unrelentingly cynical commentary on proceedings.
Unlikely union Mk III

I don't believe this. Rivers Cuomo of Weezer has sold his soul to the devil (although some would argue he did that long ago when he credited Jimmy Pop of The Bloodhound Gang in the sleevenotes to The Green Album) and formed an unholy alliance with Limp Bizkit for their new album Less Is More. As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to those wankers there's always too much.
Newsfelch!

Calling all Morrisphiles: Chris Morris's debut short film, 'My Wrongs 8245-8249 And 117', the first from Warp Films, gets its first screening at the Auto Festival curated by Steve Mackay and Jarvis Cocker of Pulp and which is being held at the Magna Science Centre in Sheffield on 14th December.

On the subject of Pulp, if the festival DOES see them performing their farewell gig, then it'll be a sad day for British music. While I wouldn't count myself as an admirer of their music on the whole, I'm a fan of Jarvis Cocker - he's always got something to say, and for the last ten or so years they've been one of the most intelligent and literate acts around, positioning themselves carefully somewhere between the pop world and the leftfield, slightly out of place in either. They've never followed trends, and equally they've never stood still. Following Different Class with This Is Hardcore was, as Jarvis himself said, "commercial suicide", but it was also evidence they hadn't lost their artistic integrity and were brave enough to make a difficult record, and releasing the title track as a single was as risky as Radiohead's post-The Bends comeback with 'Paranoid Android'. So, respect to perhaps the only Britpop-era band that deserves it (apart from maybe Supergrass).
Alan's quote of the day

"Shoot from your hip. Your new hip"
Stroke 'n' Slash

Hot on the heels of the unlikely union between Billy Corgan and Dave Pajo in Zwan comes the news that Strokes drummer has been jamming on Rolling Stone songs with Slash and other Guns 'N' Roses cast-offs. Whatever next.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Alan's quote of the day

"If you'd taken the trouble to watch 'Boob Olympics', as I have, you'd realise there is a competitive element"
Feel good hits of the 16th November

1. 'Come Into Your Own' - Cave In
2. 'Remmus' - Hundred Reasons
3. 'Assemble The Empire' - Sparta
4. 'Race For The Prize' - Flaming Lips
5. 'Miss Lucifer' - Primal Scream
6. 'Harmonic Generator' - The Datsuns
7. 'First It Giveth' - Queens Of The Stone Age
8. 'Running Up That Hill' - Kate Bush
9. 'Shiny Happy People' - REM
10. 'You Held The World In Your Arms' - Idlewild

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Alan's quote of the day

"Want a Mars Bar? Swivel!"
Hope springs eternal

Magnificent history-making stuff in Holland last night - a brace from Bellamy, brilliant on his return to the side after injury and suspension, Dyer back to some semblance of form, and a backs-to-the-wall rearguard action to repel wave after wave of Feyenoord attacks. As ever with Newcastle, though, it was far from plain sailing. A night of high drama, as we squandered a two goal lead (the equaliser scored by Lurling, a player who could have been booked five or six times and got away with a single card) only to find a winner in the last minute - the second time this Champions' League campaign we've had cause to thank an opposition goalkeeper for applying the finish, after Juve's Buffon slapped Griffin's cross in the net a few weeks ago to get us some points on the board. And it would have all meant nothing if Juve, already safely qualified, hadn't done us a huge favour by beating Kiev in the Ukraine with a vastly depleted side to record their first away win in the competition for four years (19 matches). Cheers lads! Black and whites stick together!

From here on in, we're up against the REAL big boys - it's looking like one of Real Madrid, Barcelona or Valencia, one of Inter or AC Milan, and one of Leverkusen and Dortmund. More massive games to come, then. And a defiant two finger salute to all those (mainly national journalists) who wrote us off after our campaign started with three defeats, labelling us naive, inexperienced, out of our depth and (effectively) just in it "for a laugh". WE were actually WATCHING those matches. What were YOU doing, you sad bunch of tossers?
An unlikely alliance

Is it just me or is the concept of egocentric slaphead and occasional genius Billy Corgan teaming up with post-rock godfather David Pajo to form a band called Zwan exceedingly odd? I look forward to hearing the fruits of their labour.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

One-nil to the Olav

A couple of weeks ago I voiced my disgust at what NME is turning into, but confessed to still feeling utterly compelled to buy it week in week out. It's like since I gave up my teenage Kerrang! crush and fell hopelessly in love with NME, it's changed and a distance has opened up between us. There are times when a simple divorce seems preferable (I'll take the On section and the pitifully short Godspeed! album reviews, you can keep the bloated news section, the lazy journalism and the undignified salivating over The Vines) but then they'll sling in a Cave In article or a Fugazi live review as a reminder of happier times past and a tantalising promise of potentially happier times to come - which in the back of my mind I know will go unfulfilled. Anyway, all this blathering is only to direct you to the more carefully considered and (in the main) spot-on thoughts of the mighty wordsmith Olav Bjortomt. Be warned, though - that boy suffers from some SERIOUS blog diarrhoea.
One-nil to the Olav

A couple of weeks ago I voiced my disgust at what NME is turning into, but confessed to still feeling utterly compelled to buy it week in week out. It's like since I gave up my teenage Kerrang! crush and fell hopelessly in love with NME, it's changed and a distance has opened up between us. There are times when a simple divorce seems preferable (I'll take the On section and the pitifully short Godspeed! album reviews, you can keep the bloated news section, the lazy journalism and the undignified salivating over The Vines) but then they'll sling in a Cave In article or a Fugazi live review as a reminder of happier times past and a tantalising promise of potentially happier times to come - which in the back of my mind I know will go unfulfilled. Anyway, all this blathering is only to direct you to

Tuesday, November 12, 2002



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Back of the net!

A warm welcome back to the knitwear-clad king of chat OAP (old Alan Partridge), now 47 and residing in a static caravan with his 33-year-old Ukranian girlfriend Sonja. "She's 14 years younger than me. Cashback!" Thankfully he's got over being discarded by the BBC and his consequent breakdown and fat period, and is bouncing back to old ways and saying things like "I like your hair, Lynn. Has your mother's money come through?" Disturbingly, though, Alan seems to have become a bit of a randy nymphomaniac ("OK Sonja, let's be appalling"), although thankfully he doesn't (or didn't, until yesterday's episode) understand the concept of watersports. I suppose in a later episode we may see him giving it a whirl. What a gruesome thought. Anyway, let's hope there's more comic greatness to come from Steve Coogan, Armando Ianucci et al. They've got a lot to live up to after recent series of 'The Office', 'League Of Gentlemen' and 'Phoenix Nights'. Final thought: who's your favourite lord? It's a vexed question. There isn't really a lord in 'Lord Of The Flies', if I remember correctly, and as for Michael Flatley - a man in a blouse? Nah, it'd have to be Screaming Lord Sutch. And he's dead.
This is the news!

If you, like me, found Chris Morris's 'The Day Today' and 'Brasseye' brilliantly cutting, then you really ought to have perused America's finest source of news, The Onion. You might also like to browse through the English equivalent, the Framley Examiner, which is, shall we say, rather more local, in a 'photos of ugly children and mayors posing with oversized cardboard cheques' sort of way. I was interested to read that paella consumption is on the increase, and found myself oddly tempted by the prospect of an Abba murder mystery weekend, which promises a heady concoction of murder, sleuthery and disco thrills.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Sparta cussed

Showtime again, and back to Rock City to find a far more youthful crowd than attended the Queens Of The Stone Age and even The Vines gigs. So, lots of little brats running around, but at least that means being head-and-shoulders taller than most and getting a perfect view from pretty much anywhere. Result!

Kinesis show the odd flash of the talent that has endeared them to the likes of Steve Lamacq and ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (the latter no doubt attracted to songtitles like 'Kiss Your Blood-Stained Lips' like flies to shit) but they aren't really any great shakes. Sloganeering and self-proclamatory rhetoric is such an easy route to attracting attention, and needs some musical substance to back it up. Surely a set-closer called 'Everything Destroys Itself' should sound like something dragged screaming from a set by Nottingham's very own noisehounds Wolves! (Of Greece) and not like the rather tame reality?

Hands up who thought Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez were the chief talents in At The Drive-In? Well, even if the pair's new outfit The Mars Volta sound like dizzyingly unique genius to your ears (and they do to mine), Sparta might make you re-evaluate the contributions to the ATD-I dynamic made by Jim Ward, Tony Hajjar and Paul Hinojos. For they, along with bassist and old compadre Matt Miller, are Sparta, and in Wiretap Scars they've made a fantastic record. Like so many of the bands I've fallen in love with over the past couple of years - Fugazi, Juno, The Dismemberment Plan, Les Savy Fav, Burning Airlines, At The Drive-In themselves - Sparta have broken free of the restrictive ghetto mindset of much post-hardcore and broadened their horizons to stunning effect, without ever allowing themselves to lose touch with where they've come from. Sparta's particular trick has been to introduce the majesterial epic of albums like Pearl Jam's Ten and Screaming Trees' Dust into the post-hardcore lexicon, without diluting the righteous fury or politicised edge of the original language.

Live, these songs should be FUCKING HUGE. But tonight they suffer the indignity of a truly appalling sound set-up, the subtleties of nearly every song lost. Tracks like 'Mye' and the expansive slowburners 'Glasshouse Tarot' and 'Collapse' fight valiantly against the circumstances, but predictably it's powerful album opener 'Cut Your Ribbon' that goes down best with the Hundred Reasons fans, and even though with set closer 'Air' they strive to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, it's clear they're fighting a losing battle. It's a terrible shame - in this company, they really are men amongst the boys.

Predictably, when Hundred Reasons take to the stage, the sound is perfect. Even though the evening has been rather soured for me by the sabotage of Sparta's performance, I can appreciate there is a lot to recommend Hundred Reasons. Refreshingly ego-free, defiantly populist and armed with massive songs like 'I'll Find You' and encore-closer 'If I Could' and a killer anthem in 'Falter', they're easily the best-equipped British band to take on the metal might of the Americans. Having already seen the same set three times at various festivals this year, I was hoping for a bit of variety, though, and they just about deliver - alongside the familiar ('Silver' mid-set, nestling near fine album tracks 'What Thought Did' and 'Dissolve') they debut a couple of new songs, 'Lullaby For The Gullible' and 'No Sympathy' that, while hardly heralding any new direction, are a welcome addition to their repertoire. They're also probably the goofiest band around - sample onstage banter: "So this is why they call it Rock City", "This song is dedicated to Andy's mum, it's her birthday", "You guys rule". There's no doubting that, live, Hundred Reasons are a very enjoyable and well-oiled rock machine - but I still leave with the nagging feeling that they could have been something truly special had they not side-stepped in from the left-field after 'Remmus'.
Where's the justice?

Disappointing news from last night's Guardian Student Media Awards, where my old mates at Impact couldn't repeat last year's triumph despite a clutch of nominations. A bit of a surprise, I must confess, given the consistently excellent standards they upheld, and a real shame the editorial team's not inconsiderable efforts have gone unrewarded on this occasion. So, congratulations to Amy Franks for her Runner-Up award in the Columnist category, and commiserations to those who worked their arses off to produce a high-quality magazine, and who at least have the consolation that the Independent / NUS Student Media Awards are less than two weeks away. Best of luck, guys.
Paying the penalty

Two games in three days is a bit much, but Newcastle still sent out a strong side to face Everton last night, and could have expected to win - especially having led twice. All rather farcical, what with our old boys Watson and Pistone both scoring (one at each end) and the inevitable failure in the shoot-out. Hope Chopra's penalty miss on his debut doesn't weigh too heavily on him - we've got high hopes for the lad. So, we crash out of a competition we could easily have gone on to win, but I suppose at least we're in good company - Arsenal, Spurs, Leeds etc. Good to see Viana getting a game and Dyer back to something like his old sharpness.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Thought for the day

(Well, yesterday really) As seen on a T-shirt at Glastonbury: "Guy Fawkes - the only person ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions".

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Feel good hits of the 5th November

1. 'A Song For The Dead' - Queens Of The Stone Age
2. 'Smallpox Champion' - Fugazi
3. 'Top 10 Lists Are Ruining Our Hindsight' - qhixldekx
4. 'I Get Along' - The Libertines
5. 'Grown Men Don't Fall In The River, Just Like That' - Liars
6. 'Pounding' - Doves
7. 'Romans' - Reinhardt
8. 'Good Fortune' - PJ Harvey
9. 'Shovelling Sons' - Radar Brothers
10. 'The Lady Is A Tramp' - Frank Sinatra
Closing time at 'The Office'

A fond farewell from these parts to the wonderful series 'The Office' for which Ricky Gervais thoroughly deserves a knighthood. Sharp, incisive, witheringly insightful, excruciating and yet compelling viewing. As a dissection of how we live and work today, it's near faultless. And, with impeccable timing, it is replaced next week by the return of Steve Coogan as Norwich's most famous son and my personal hero, Alan Partridge - further compensation for the slight anti-climax that was the third series of 'League Of Gentlemen'. Could I wish for more? Well, yes - how's about a new series of Vic and Bob, and the reappearance of "the most hated man on television" (copyright The Daily Mail) Chris Morris? I know that's just being greedy, but we can always hope.
Sir Bobby and the Smogmonster

Once upon a time there was an evil many-headed creature called the Smogmonster which lived on the river Tees. One November night it came marauding north across the land with the wicked intent of pillaging and ransacking Fortress St James near the river Tyne. But when the Smogmonster reached the fortress, it found brave Sir Bobby lying in wait, determined to defend the fortress at all costs. A fierce battle raged for two-and-ninety minutes between the Smogmonster and Sir Bobby's forces, a tenacious and valiant group of young charges led by his warhorse Shearer. Eventually, with the help of a wooden frame and a bumbling simpleton in black, the Smogmonster was defeated, the fatal blow being struck by a young defender by the name of Stephen of Caldwell. Sir Bobby declared himself "tickled pink", and the Smogmonster, licking its putrid wounds, slithered back to its chemically-enriched cesspool, and everyone lived happily ever after.

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Thursday, October 31, 2002

Eastenders 1 Home & Away 0

Another day, another Sound City gig.

Judging by last night's Rock City display, openers Hoggboy are four scruffy oiks from Sheffield who seem to have a grossly misplaced sense of belief in their own talents. They hint at The Strokes without ever coming within range, and only the mildly likeable 'Don't Get Lost' emerges from their trashy set unscathed.

Whereas... The Libertines are four scruffy oiks from London Town and, for the first few songs at least, it seems it's the press hype machine which has the grossly misplaced sense of belief in their talents. Musically they ARE The Jam on bad speed (sometimes a bad thing, sometimes good - most notably with the final two songs 'Boys In The Band' and 'I Get Along'), and in Pete Doherty and Carl Barat they have two very watchable frontmen who create a very real frisson of unpredictability and unprofessionalism on stage.

Then, The Vines. I'd seen them at Glastonbury in the summer, where I'd concluded they're good but inevitably fall well short of the hype. And this time? What to say about a band about whom everything has been said? Hmm. Well, Craig Nicholls has a good voice. Hamish Rosser has his cymbals set abnormally high. 'Get Free' is a great single. Ho hum. Oh, and last night they were REALLY FUCKING BORING. The set went Vaguely Punky Song For The Kids followed by Meandering Beatlesy Stoned Pop Song For The Oldies followed by Vaguely Punky Song For The Kids followed by... well, you get the picture. Was I the only person who dreaded the reappearance of Ryan Griffith and his electric acoustic guitar? Apart from 'Get Free', the only songs worthy of passing interest were 'Sun Child', the cover of 'Miss Jackson' and encore-closer '1969'. Craig Nicholls was, for the most part, an unengaging bawling hairball and any onstage antics seemed like going through the motions. And to think I spotted Hamish Rosser picking up tips on how to do the whole rock thing at the Queens Of The Stone Age gig the previous night. You boys are just lucky Josh Homme, Nick Oliveri, Mark Lanegan et al weren't still around, or they'd have kicked your sorry asses right back over to Kangaroo Country.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

School of hard rocks

Rock City and those who worship at the altar of Rock were shaken to the bottom of the soul by last night's Sound City triple bill, and what a bill it was.

First to test out everyone's eardrums were Vendetta Red - little-known over here, but destined to make big waves I think. Caught them at the Leeds festival when they played to a nearly empty tent, but they impressed. Well, on this second showing, they're pretty good but not exactly life-changing. A few good songs ('Por Vida' for a start), but the nagging feeling persists that they're a major label A&R man's idea of At The Drive-In carefully grown in a petri dish in some laboratory ie they've got the ferocity, afros and microphone-chucking antics, but not the on-edge angular brilliance of El Paso's finest.

In such exuberant company Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were always going to seem slightly out of place. For me, the album has some great songs around which the other fair-to-middling tracks are arranged, and that's what their live set is like. Only during 'Whatever Happened To My Rock 'N' Roll?' and the new track which closed the set did they REALLY get pulses racing. Glowering, posturing, mushroom haircuts and black clothing are a good start but can only get them so far (ie as far as lacing up The Jesus And Mary Chain's boots), especially when they avoid playing the album's masterpiece 'Awake'.

It was left to Queens Of The Stone Age to rock us to within an inch of our lives. It's a sound all of their own - heavy hard rock and punk stretched out into trancy hypnotic grooves with the downright weird ('Monsters In The Parasol', 'Leg Of Lamb') and odd near-pop song (witness the chorus of 'Gonna Leave You') thrown into the mixer every now and again. 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer', 'The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret' and 'No-One Knows' are without a doubt three of the best singles of the millenium, and when they can blow minds and THEN wheel out the dark enigma that is ex Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan for tracks like 'Hangin' Tree' and the simply amazing 'A Song For The Dead', you know they're quite an incredible proposition. What they don't do for me on record (am I the only person who thinks Rated R doesn't do them any justice?), they certainly make up for in the flesh.

A love / hate relationship

It's sad that it's come to this, but buying NME has become an embarrassment, something to be ashamed of, swiftly placed in a carrier bag and whisked away from prying eyes. This week is perhaps the final straw - the 'cool' list, an exercise in self-abasement which sees supposedly the best mainstream music publication descending even further towards the depths plumbed by Melody Maker shortly before its messy demise. It's becoming one big fucking corporate comic. And yet, with all this fantastic music currently appearing on the horizon every single week, I JUST CAN'T STOP BUYING IT. It makes me feel very dirty though. Far less wholesome than Everett True's Careless Talk Costs Lives.
Kiev roasted

Another excellent Newcastle performance of resolve and determination in the Champions' League last night, resulting in a fine win over Kiev - and all after losing both central defenders to injury and going a goal down. Special mentions for Shearer for leading from the front, and for Jenas for looking increasingly assured in a key role. Apart from the odd aberration (see Blackburn away, Chelsea away), this team packed with young talent really is giving us some cause for pride. Long may it continue, and hopefully on into the second phase of the competition.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Skif serves up something special in Southsea

It was an absolute pleasure to attend the Vanity Project's second oDD/eVEN night upstairs at the Horseshoe in Southsea on Saturday night.

qhixldekx kicked things off, proving to be the missing link between ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Joy Division, Squarepusher, Nine Inch Nails and synth pop. Anyone who hadn't realised such a link had even been missing received a valuable education from the likes of 'Everytime I Brush My Teeth The Gums Bleed Profusely', 'Top 10 Lists Are Ruining Our Hindsight' and the particularly unhinged 'Burn, Witch, Burn!'

In these terms, the appearance of Reinhardt represented a return to some kind of sanity. Great tracks like 'Romans' and 'Background Noise', both of which appear on an EP I picked up after the show, showcase Dave Jones's wonderful vocals and a real songwriting talent far too assured for the loveably grotty confines of the venue. There's something of the Super Furry Animals about them, if you ask me.

Veteran rabble-rousers Red Letter Day brought things to a close with their scabby punk, and, judging by the crowd response to songs like 'Rain', the recent loss of guitarist and bassist has done little to dampen local enthusiasm and support. Indeed, the new material, written with two members of Thirst onboard, has seen them resigned to Zip Records. Ade and his motley crew don't exactly light my fire, I admit, but it was good to see the godfathers of the local scene still going strong, given their unstinting support for new talent and the respect they accordingly command.

So, "Nice one"'s going out to Leon, Skif, Dave Jones and all those who made the night one to remember. Details of future oDD/eVEN ventures here.