Monday, September 22, 2003

Got your number!” FUCK OFF!!!

Hello, OK, Rebekah Wade, Piers Morgan, Mark Frith etc take note. Forget bars or restaurants or clubs or glitzy film premieres in London. If you really wanna catch some slebs red-faced, panting, sweaty and off-guard, the event to be at simply HAS to be the Great North Run, daaaahlings. It was a veritable parade of the great, the good and the BBC Weather team. Look, I’ll do your job for you…

There’s disgraced King of Spin Alistair Campbell flanked by a fluorescent T-shirted bouncer. Shame – him getting torn limb-from-limb in a traditional Labour heartland would have made for a real spectacle … Wooooh, that Matthew Pincent’s a big boy, isn’t he? Fnar fnar … It’s Paula Radcliffe! No, hang on, where’s she gone? Oh, there she is, she’d just turned sideways … Why does lecherous granddad Jimmy Saville wear such perilously tight shorts? Surely there’s a great danger that his gnarled old boys might escape from the barracks and scare thousands of young ladies and small children. Oh yeah, his face does that already … There goes Micky Adams. If sweat alone could keep Leicester in the Premiership, he’d have them safe by Christmas … Is that Emily off ‘Emmerdale’? She’s got the pigtails, but to be absolutely sure I’d need to hear that stupid little voice – confirmation I could well do without …

For the second weekend in a row, I had to put up with all manner of forced “wackiness” and yet more twats in 118 running vests, and onlookers humouring them and finding the whole thing hilarious. Fuck running 13.1 miles –THAT’S what I call endurance and stamina.

Some people have been inclined to look at the positives – a first clean sheet of the season, and our first point gained at home. Bramble had another excellent afternoon and nearly scored, while we created several openings and showed a good deal more endeavour and effort than in other recent matches. But the fact remains, though, that we drew 0-0 at home to Bolton, a side we should be routinely demolishing and a side who had suffered 4-0 defeats on their previous two away trips. This was another hugely disappointing result.

And so it was, smarting with the knowledge of our failings, that I caught the train from Nottingham to Newcastle. Unfortunately the journey necessitated changing at Derby – at which point, clutching my logo-emblazoned bag, I realised that the Rams had that same afternoon been playing host to Sunderland, and that I’d be joined for the three-hour journey north by hordes of drunken Mackem pondscum intent on making me the focus of their anti-Toon jibes and on telling me repeatedly how great goalkeeper Mart Poom’s last-minute headed equaliser had been. Not, it should be said, the most enjoyable train journey I’ve ever had.

I’m actually getting to see us play on Wednesday, at home to Dutch outfit NAC Breda in the UEFA Cup, only two days before we take on Arsenal at Highbury. The timing is unfortunate, and it promises to be a tough match (Breda beat Ajax at the weekend), but hopefully with a bit more luck in front of goal we can get that desperately-needed first win. As things stand, though, my pre-season predictions look more and more foolish and arrogantly complacent with every match.
The crackle of pigskin

I confess it: I’m an addict. Not to hard drugs. Not to alcohol. Not even to The Raveonettes, although my current obsession with them comes close. No, I’m addicted to that Black Country delicacy, pork scratchings. I just can’t get enough of God’s own pub snack of choice (alongside crisps) – all that delicious salty, crunchy goodness. Even the hairy bits taste great. It’s just a shame that I can practically feel the fat lining my arteries every time I eat a packet. They always say that accepting you have a problem is the first and most important step. So, can anyone recommend an appropriate counselling group?
Know Your Enemy #27

The section of his brain that dishes out adverse criticism seems to have shut down. The book is relentlessly eulogistic. Not a single fault is found with anything Dylan says or writes from start to finish … It remains extraordinarily unfunny, and when you try to work out why, you realise that it is because it is saying all the time ‘I am cleverer than you’. Successful humorists are careful to avoid that message. Ricks belts it out fortissimo.

Sunday Times critic John Carey on Christopher Ricks’s new study of Bob Dylan’s lyrics, ‘Dylan’s Visions Of Sin’. Carey’s tone is sniffily snobbish, but, whether right or wrong, his demolition job makes for great reading. Book reviews are often dull, anodyne, backslapping affairs, but every once in a while they can be really barbed, cutting and downright nasty.
Quote of the day

[Photographs] are the proof that something was there and no longer is. Like a stain. And the stillness of them is boggling. You can turn away, but when you come back they’ll still be there looking at you.

Photographer Diane Arbus.

Were the eyes playing tricks or did I really see a bloke reading the Paul Daniels autobiography ‘Under No Illusion’ in public? Has he NO shame?!!
Three Of A Kind #8

Three great alcoholic concoctions:

Turboshandy (Becks / Budweiser / Grolsch / Stella and Smirnoff Ice)
After Eight (Baileys, Tia Maria and Crème de Menthe)
Blackjack (Pernod and cranberry juice)

Another I must try has been suggested to me by a man well versed in the art of drinking - a vodka spritzer, containing Absolut Citron and white wine. Sounds lethal, and even the thought gives me a bit of a headache.
Lyric-that’s-stuck-in-my-head-and-won’t-leave of the day

My girl is a little animal / She always wants to fuck / I can’t find a reason why / I guess it’s just my luck

‘Little Animal’ – The Raveonettes

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Three Of A Kind #7

Three players Newcastle should have at least tried to sign this summer:

Wayne Bridge
Brett Emerton
Harry Kewell
"Without that sense of deeper family loyalty, it just becomes like anything else"

They said it wouldn't last. And it hasn't - Zwan have split after just one album. I marvelled at the fact they'd got together at all. I mean, egomaniac slapheaded former chief Pumpkin Billy Corgan and ex-Slint post-rock guitar god Dave Pajo, with a supporting cast of Matt Sweeney, Jimmy Chamberlain and Paz Lechantin - what were the chances? Really must get hold of their album, though.
It's the end of the world as we know it (and The Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band feel fine)

Stylus head honcho Todd Burns reviews the latest album from the Godspeed-affiliated Canadian collective, "This Is Our Punk Rock", The Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing. With hindsight, it's true - Godspeed's last outing, Yanqui UXO, just isn't as special as their previous offerings, predominantly (as he suggests) because they have begun to sound a touch tired and predictable. If this new LP is anything like as good as the last one (Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards - snappy titles just aren't their thing), then it's an essential purchase.
We wanna be a part of it...

Watching the opening fixtures of this season's Champions' League was, as I'd expected, a painful experience. Why oh why, I found myself muttering last night, could it not be US suffering a chastening three-goal defeat at home to Inter Milan, and not Arsenal? Of course, matters are hardly helped by the fact that Partizan Belgrade, our conquerors from the qualifying round (though, to be honest, we managed to conquer ourselves that night), have got mouthwatering fixtures against Mr Beckham and his Real Madrid side to look forward to. We were given a prestigious ticket to the party, but carelessly tossed it in the bin. Still, there's always next season - though we need to get some points on the board, preferably starting with a victory over Bolton at St James' on Saturday.
Quote of the day

"Billie [Piper] is on the cover of New Woman, under a strapline which reads: 'The Sex? Chris has shown me things I never knew existed.' Yeah, ginger pubes can be a real puzzler the first time, can't they?"

The ever-wonderful No Rock & Roll Fun.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Wacky races

The assortment of pasty, freakily-shaped and spindly oddballs, hardly an advertisement for glowing rude health. The stench of Ralgex and Deep Heat. The wailing of ambulance sirens. The crunching of discarded plastic cups. And, of course, the "wacky" outfits ("Hey, wouldn't it be simply HILARIOUS if I dress up like Elvis / those two blokes from the 118-118 advert?"). Yes, I went along to the Robin Hood Half-Marathon in Nottingham in my capacity as boyfriend of one of the entrants. I decided years ago that running is a torment I could well do without, and yesterday failed to persuade me otherwise.

And am I alone in thinking that naming a chain of sports and fitness clothing stores Sweatshop is in incredibly poor taste?

Football has such an uncanny knack of kneeing you in the bollocks. There we were, 2-1 up at Everton with two minutes to play, having been without our full complement of players since the 40th minute. Shearer had stuck away a couple of penalties, Bramble had performed well and nearly everyone had shown signs of having rediscovered their combative spirit. And then, one slightly dubious penalty awarded against us later, who should step up to deny us our first three point return of the season, but that overpaid and astonishingly injury-prone lunk of an old boy Duncan Ferguson?

Though it couldn't be said that we played positively well, the win would have been at least hard-fought and would have got our season properly underway. As it is, the old failings return to haunt us. Surely we should have been able to close out the game with only eight minutes left on the clock when Shearer tucked away his second spot-kick of the afternoon? Once again Robert seemed to confuse 'showing commitment to the cause' with 'rushing about and diving in recklessly with no thought as to the consequences', once again Bowyer was anonymous, and once again the worryingly shot-shy Bellamy got a booking for opening his troublesome gob.

In the circumstances, a point was a decent outcome - but the players know it should have been three.
Johnny Cash RIP

The Guardian's obituary: "a country musician who was too big for country music".

Nick Cave on the Man In Black (link courtesy of Parallax View): "I lost my innocence with Johnny Cash. I used to watch the 'Johnny Cash Show' on television in Wangaratta when I was about 9 or 10 years old. At that stage I had really no idea about rock'n'roll. I watched him and from that point I saw that music could be an evil thing, a beautiful, evil thing."
That great love sound

My attempt to put into words why I'm blissfully in love with The Raveonettes.

And while you're about it, check out Nick Southall's Top Ten Songs That Remind Me Of Sex. It's reassuring to know that I'm not alone in finding the sweet whale sounds of Sigur Ros, the apocalyptic grandeur of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the electric hypnosis of Six By Seven's debut LP strangely arousing.
Quote of the day

"It is a concept EP, the concept being fuck America basically and fuck weapons of mass destruction. It is like a protest record. It is the kind of record that you would want to put on if you are going to go out on a riot. We do feel quite angry about what has been going on with the war."

Jimmy Cauty (formerly of KLF) on the new EP 'Fuck The Fucking Fuckers' by the collective Blacksmoke, of which he is a member.

(Courtesy of No Rock & Roll Fun)
Text message of the day

Received at midnight on Saturday:

"Drunk as a sjunk."

Says it all, really.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

One year old today... well, in two days time, at least


*clears throat*

Silent Words Speak Loudest celebrates its first birthday on Saturday, and I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank my family and friends, God and Allah - but most of all YOU, my blogbuddies, who have supported me through thick and thin, through rain and shine, by reading the verbal effluent that has appeared on the site and by linking to SWSL, a heartwarming gesture which I can assure you felt like being embraced to your virtual bosoms. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It's been emotional.

*pauses to dab eye*

So, now that I've completed my probationary year and solemnly promise to improve the site over the course of the next twelve months (not least by discovering how to get comments - I want interactivity, dammit, not just me standing on a soapbox sounding off about everything and nothing!), may I humbly enquire as to when I get my Polyphonic Spree style robe to indicate my initiation into the Cult Of The Blog?
Music Sounds Better With You #10

'Last Nite' - The Strokes

There's very little to say about this track that hasn't already been said. So, suffice to say it's one of those rare singles that doesn't seem to diminish in quality with age and that, like only a few other songs I could name ('This Charming Man', 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', 'No-One Knows', 'Devil's Haircut', 'Sabotage', 'One-Armed Scissor', 'Been Caught Stealing'...), is always guaranteed of getting me dancing if I hear it blasting out in a club. There's no way I could ever tire of THAT solo.

That said, the inclusion of 'Last Nite' in the current series was a matter of much internal debate - after all, it's not as if they've actually influenced my record collection DIRECTLY very much. What they have done, though, is reignited interest in rock music, opened the floodgates and brought to my ears loads of other great bands that I wouldn't otherwise have heard (as well as - inevitably - several I could have quite easily done without). I'm not disputing the fact that the 'New Rock Revolution' is a concept conveniently invented by NME to sell more issues of the rag - OF COURSE there are always fantastic rock bands out there making great sounds in the forest, even if NME isn't there to hear them. But the fact remains that without The Strokes, other bands may well have not come to prominence.

(Note to Conor McNicholas: Just because The Strokes turned out a great debut LP, and might well be about to repeat the trick, doesn't mean we all want to find out which hand Julian Casablancas wipes his arse with.)

Opened the floodgates for: The White Stripes, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kills, The Hives, The Bellrays, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Datsuns, The Von Bondies, The Libertines, Ikara Colt, The Black Keys, Soledad Brothers, Burning Brides, The Catheters, The Pattern...

And so this brings us almost right up to date, and wraps up what became a tortuously drawn-out series. Just to recap, here are the ten most influential songs in the development of my musical tastes and record collection:

1. 'Ring Ring' - Abba (c.1983)
2. 'Hey Jude' - The Beatles (c.1987)
3. 'Paradise City' - Guns 'N' Roses (1988)
4. 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' - Nirvana (1991)
5. 'Drunken Butterfly' - Sonic Youth (1992)
6. 'Stupid Girl' - Garbage (1996)
7. 'Angels & Aliens' - Mogwai (1998)
8. 'Cosmonaut' - At The Drive-In (2000)
9. 'It's A Motherfucker' - Eels (2001)
10. 'Last Nite' - The Strokes (2001)
Riddle me this...

So the US, faced with the prospect of a costly (in terms of both lives and money) peace-keeping and redevelopment programme in post-war Iraq, is calling upon the UN to come in and lend a hand with troops and resources. Isn't this the very same country who rode roughshod over the UN when it stood in the way of the invasion of Iraq, dismissing it as no longer being a credible or valuable organisation? It's all rather like a petulant teenager who defiantly and hotheadedly goes against the advice and wishes of his or her parents, and then comes crawling back with tail between the legs when it all goes horribly wrong, expecting mummy and daddy to pick up the pieces and bail them out.

And another thing: why do we refer to the Ministry of Defence and the defence industry, when referring to them as the Ministry of Attack and the attack industry would be far more accurate and appropriate?

Anyone care to enlighten me?
You WHAT?!!

The winding and crooked paths people take to arrive at this site continue to amaze me:

purple panda character at idlewild
teens who can function without daily cannibus abuse
ted hughes poetry baggy t-shirt
jane austen the cunt face
get rid of warts with a bible

I can't get the image out of my head of a troubled teen saying "But I just can't get through the day if I can't shout obscenities at rappers..."
Quote of the day

"We've got great tunes. We're the only rock band in this new rock thing that actually have songs in more than one shade. We've got seven rockers on the album and six ballads. It's going to be massive."

Jet's Chris Sester doing his best to sell us his band's debut album Get Born. Don't know about you, but I'm now suffering in an agony of suspense, so desperate am I to get hold of this work of brilliantly diverse genius. Fucking morons.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Black and whites (and reds and blues) unite

For most of the country, the biggest football match of the day on Saturday was in the Macedonian city of Skopje. But for a few hardy thousand, there was a much more significant match taking place in England, at Meadow Lane in Nottingham. Even then, the game itself, between Notts County and Luton, was overshadowed by what was going on around the pitch and behind the scenes. There was a very real chance that County were playing their last ever match before being kicked out of the league today as a result of their dire financial plight. As the oldest professional football club in the world (County were founded in 1862), this would be tragic.

County undoubtedly benefitted from the reduced number of fixtures taking place on Saturday due to the international programme, drawing wellwishing fans from clubs as diverse as Southampton, West Brom, Derby, Colchester, Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Ipswich, Liverpool, Stoke and Leicester, as well as from city rivals Nottingham Forest. Not only did these supporters swell the attendance to an impressive 7505 and add to the coffers, but they helped make the atmosphere quite unique - the remarkable array of different football shirts made it feel as though we were united there behind a single cause, a love of the game, rather than because of any tribal allegiance. Football needn't be divisive, and it was heartwarming to see the extent of goodwill amongst all those who went along. For a diehard County fan's perspective on the sort of afternoon that could leave grown men in tears, read this.

Thankfully it's been announced today that the city's council has agreed to underwrite a £250,000 loan to ensure the club's immediate survival, in the hope that a rescue package and takeover can be worked out in the very near future. There's a long way to go yet, but at least this is a glimmer of hope for the fans.

From a personal point-of-view, though, Saturday afternoon was a sobering experience of the reality which so many lower league clubs are facing, the sort of reality of which fans of large Premiership teams like myself can all too easily become ignorant.
Fuzzy logic

I'm starting to come around to the realisation that my current exploits and experiments with facial hair (not so much an active choice, as the result of extreme laziness) might be a little misguided. Meeting a friend on Saturday, I was greeted with the comment: "Have you just come off a submarine?"
Feel good hits of the 8th September

1. 'The Love Gang' - The Raveonettes
2. 'Minerva' - Deftones
3. 'House Of Jealous Lovers' - The Rapture
4. 'Up The Bracket' - The Libertines
5. 'Regular John' - Queens Of The Stone Age
6. '09-15-00' - Godspeed You! Black Emperor
7. 'Spanish Main' - The Coral
8. 'A Picture Of Dorian Gray' - The Futureheads
9. 'Good Vibrations' - Beach Boys
10. 'Club Tropicana' - Wham!
Three Of A Kind #6

Three books I wanted to reread as soon as I'd finished them:

'A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man' - James Joyce
'Brighton Rock' - Graham Greene
'The Rainbow' - D H Lawrence
Quote of the day

"I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day."

Frank Sinatra
Know Your Enemy #26

Ulterior on David Blaine:

"The advert says: "Can you watch a man starve?" If it's David Blaine, then the answer is yes. I could quite happily get the araldite out and glue the horrible man in there and watch as he wastes away with nothing to eat but his own soiled nappies. He is quite possible the only living person that can make Paul Daniels look 'nice' and even 'sane'."

Friday, September 05, 2003

For your reading pleasure

Urgent! Read these fine blogs!

We're Freaks
London Mark

Refreshing to discover a fellow blogwriting sufferer in the form of London Mark, who has dreamt of playing "in central defence for Newcastle United, captaining the side and winning the Premiership and Champions' League" - well, it ain't gonna happen this season, but, given the porous state of our back four, perhaps you're the man for the job!
Three Of A Kind #5

Three actors whose films I always look out for:

Steve Buscemi
Jack Nicholson
Adam Sandler
Is it just me or...

... does David Blaine look and sound like he's on opiates?

Hey, this could become a regular feature...

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

The Silent Words Speak Loudest Leeds Festival 2003 Rock ‘N’ Roll Diary

At last - the final installment of what has become a gargantuan chronicle. For alternative perspectives on some of the bands and performances, go visit Olav at It Makes No Difference and Dead Kenny at Parallax View.

Sunday 24th August

12.05, Radio 1 Stage

Wonderfully eccentric and spiky, THE FUTUREHEADS are fast becoming a real favourite with these ears. Their clattering brand of new wave, with its bizarre jerky rhythms and unexpected time changes, quite probably doesn’t agree with the sore heads of all those awake early enough to witness it, but in this and the extraordinary vocal sections of ‘Carnival Kids’ and recent single ‘First Day’ there is a great deal to admire. They’re the early 80s punk Coral, and it’s a measure of their appeal that I can stand of my own volition for a full half hour in a tent full of people who, upon being asked, proudly claim to hail from Sunderland. Set-closing Neil Young cover ‘Piece Of Crap’ is very definitely not self-referential.
12.55, Main Stage

Deep blue almost cloud-free skies and soaring temperatures – hardly ideal atmospheric conditions for Boston’s CAVE IN to make an impact, one would think. But, after ‘Stained Silver’ and ‘Jupiter’ get them off to a solid if unspectacular start, the dense and muscular likes of ‘Joy Opposites’ and especially ‘Youth Overrided’ somehow seem in perfect sync with the prevailing mood. They can’t resist the temptation to introduce some jarring dischord into proceedings, though, bludgeoning their way through two double-bass-pedal-heavy brutes from their screamo metal past – a past so unfamiliar to most that frontman Stephen Brodsky feels the need to tell the crowd that they’re not cover songs. After this self-inflicted sabotage, ‘Anchor’ and ‘Inspire’ then represent some kind of attempt to re-rail the set. They might sound more like a slick focused post-hardcore powerhouse these days, but their potentially perilous ambition and capacity to straddle apparently incompatible genres of rock music remains evident.
13.40, Radio 1 Stage

This year there’s a lot of competition, make no mistake about that, but the Hairiest Band Of The Festival award goes to… MY MORNING JACKET. It’s a wonder that their grizzly bear of a frontman Jim James doesn’t choke on his own flowing mane, given that at practically no point in the entire set does it allow the crowd the opportunity to see his face. As at Glasto, their heavy frazzled Americana – Black Sabbath meets ‘Free Bird’ – hits the spot. Alongside Canyon, Wichita have unearthed another country-rock gem, it seems.
14.15, Carling Stage

Trashy and scuzzy, THE SUN make up for me having missed Young Heart Attack the previous day. As with several bands on this weekend’s bill, though, they’re great fun for the length of time they’re onstage (barely 20 minutes), but I’m left with no overwhelming and all-consuming desire to rush out and buy / steal any of their recorded output. When all’s said and done, all that makes them stand out from hundreds of other bands is a couple of ill-advised moustaches (particularly the one drooped over the portly drummer’s top lip), and a nerdy-looking frontman who’s a bit like Rivers Cuomo. Sorry guys, but lots of energy and loud songs about chicks and drinking ain’t good enough on their own.
14.40, Radio 1 Stage

I want to hate JET, I really do, especially after their recent political and sociocultural outpourings as reported in NME which made them come across as, perhaps above all else, staggeringly stupid. There’s inevitably something equally staggeringly stupid about their good-time rock ‘n’ roll boogie (and new single ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ in particular), but it’s damn hard to dismiss out of hand, or even to dislike. Until you realise that you’d be much better off by not flattering the stupendous egos of these braindead muppets and just listening to the Stones, that is.
15.05, Main Stage

Today THE LIBERTINES have even more car-crash appeal than normal. They were frequently a perversely engaging mess even before Pete fell overboard. Pity poor Mick Jones, whose job it was to try and get their ramshackle tunes down in the studio – that the result, Up The Bracket, is so all over the place only goes to confirm that the task was beyond him. But now that Pete’s sidelined for the foreseeable future with what you might euphemistically refer to as “personal difficulties” (ie drug addiction and a burglary charge), I find myself drawn by the lure of what will surely be the band’s gruesome death throes, and the spectacle of Carl Barat desperately trying to hold it all together on his own. In this respect I’m left disappointed – they’re competent and tidy. But then that’s not what we want from The Libertines – we want scrappiness with the occasional glimmer of genius, and we want the onstage duelling and banter between Barat and Doherty that gives their gigs a frisson of excitement and unpredictability. When Carl sings ‘What A Waster’ (“What a waster, what a fucking waster / You pissed it all up the wall”), I can’t help but feel it’s directed squarely at his errant bandmate.
15.25, Radio 1 Stage

At first THE RAPTURE make very little sense to anyone except the mid-afternoon off-their-trolley pill-poppers, conspicuous by their shirtlessness and a tendency to gyrate in ways that have been hitherto undiscovered. Slowly, though, as the set moves from ‘Olio’ through ‘Sister Savior’ to its inevitable climax, ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’, it all starts to add up – the beats, the snatches of guitar, the saxophone warblings, even Luke Jenner’s crazed wounded-dog yelping. Evidently, though, not everyone is listening closely enough – during ‘I Need Your Love’ (or is it ‘Love Is All’?) a massive brawl breaks out right in front of me, the song’s message sadly trampled in the stampede, along with one unfortunate gentleman’s head.
16.15, Radio 1 Stage

There are two types of chemistry: the sort that involves liquids changing colour, and the sort that involves dropping a fingernail-sized amount of caesium into a large glass tank filled with water and seeing what happens (clue: it explodes). Guess which sort of chemistry THE KILLS have together onstage. PJ Harvey is an obvious influence on VV, who prowls about the stage like a velvet-throated panther, while Hotel does an excellent job of concealing the fact that he was once a member of Placebo-supporting indie never-rans Scarfo. At their stomping red-raw best (‘Black Rooster’, ‘Fried My Little Brains’), they’re like Jack White if he ditched the cloyingly naïve love songs and really got his boots muddy in the dead leaves and dirty ground. Playing ‘Wait’ and lost Velvet Underground track ‘Kissy Kissy’, both longer and more trance-inducing than the rest of their material, back to back in the middle of the set douses the fire they’ve lit somewhat, though.
17.15, Main Stage

Who’d have thought it? DOVES the perfect summer band, I mean. ‘Satellites’ and ‘Caught By The River’ unfurl gracefully in the sunshine, soothing hearts and minds stoked by the weekend’s almost incessant torrent of noisy rock. It’s enough to make you want to close your eyes and drift off for a bit. Just mind out you don’t end up lying down on a dollop of ketchup, or – worse still – a dollop of luminous noodle-‘n’-lager chunder.
17.55, Carling Stage

It’s pretty evident which way THE SIGHTS are looking. Yup, you guessed it, it’s backwards, to the 60s. But at least it involves the liberal use of an organ in place of a second guitar. Theirs is a slightly psychedelic take on that whole Deeeetroit garage blues thang – vaguely reminiscent of The Pattern, not as good as The Bellrays and infinitely more soulful than Jet. Quel surprise.
18.25, Radio 1 Stage

When a band’s arrival is heralded by the music from Kubrick’s classic ‘A Clockwork Orange’ blaring out of the PA, you’re prepared to be brutalised and utterly disorientated, but this is absolute fucking insanity. If The Sights are looking backwards, THE MARS VOLTA are most definitely looking forwards, and creating the sort of music that feels as though it has only ever been imagined in the heads of those onstage. One minute guitars slash, drums pound and shards of chorus stab into your head, and the next it’s back to the free jazz meanderings that twist and turn but never quite peter out. I gulp, feeling as though I need a PhD in chaos theory to understand it all, and find myself wondering how long it’ll be before Cedric Bixler skewers himself with the mic stand and marvelling at the fact that each musician seems to know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. How many songs have they played? I have no idea. By the end of a 45 minute set, all I know for certain is that they didn’t play extraordinarily accessible new single (well, everything’s relative…) ‘Inertiatic ESP’. So, are they actually any good? Well, come back to me with that one in fifty years, by which time I might just about have started to get my head round their LP – but, for the time being, what is frequently breathtaking on record is simply a bit too much live.
19.15, Carling Stage

A word of warning: it’s not a good idea to go and see a band like SOLEDAD BROTHERS when suffering from the medical condition known as a “Mars Volta hangover”. What you really need is a period of rest and recuperation (perhaps a relaxing two-week holiday in Barbados), but what you get is much thrashing and crashing as the blues is put through a blender. Fiery, righteous and scrappy but, despite all the right connections (Jack and Meg White, John Sinclair), just not as darn good as The Black Keys.
19.30, Main Stage

BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB have never quite cut it for me live – the trademark drone-rock has tended to drift into a uniform mid-paced dirge, and the refusal to interact with the audience has seemed less like studied cool and more like ungraciously giving the cold shoulder to their fans. But now, filling in for The White Stripes in a slot they probably only dreamt of occupying, the pressure’s on – and they rise to the challenge. That they mean business is clear from the opening quintet of songs – ‘Red Eyes And Tears’, ‘Spread Your Love’, ‘Six Barrelled Shotgun’, ‘Stop’ and ‘Love Burns’. As soon as I read James Oldham’s characteristically gushing review in NME, I was immediately sceptical about the quality of their new LP Take Them On, On Your Own (how is it so radically “different” from anything else around at the moment, eh? Your own great white hopes The Hiss are seemingly hell-bent on grabbing onto BRMC’s coat-tails, you twat), but the tracks aired today are promising – even the single ‘Stop’, which some days irritates me with its cockily complacent swagger recalling Oasis’s early years. Meanwhile, ‘Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘N’ Roll (Punk Song)’ is splendid and they confound expectations with a fine rendition of ‘The Hardest Button To Button’ dedicated to the absent Jack and Meg. The whole set feels refreshingly purposeful and focused.
20.45, Radio 1 Stage

When HUNDRED REASONS’s ‘EP2’ first landed, I could be heard exclaiming: “Woo-hoo! It’s Surrey’s answer to At The Drive-In!” Two years later, and the EP’s lead track ‘Remmus’ is the stand-out moment in a set of uberslick stadium metal specially crafted for The Kidz, whereas ATD-I’s Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez were creating absurdly complex, unwieldy and ambitious jazz-prog-punk on the very same stage just two hours before, as part of The Mars Volta. Hundred Reasons, it pains me to say, have beaten a hasty retreat from becoming anything genuinely interesting. Since I last saw them, they’ve done away with their ‘Final Countdown’ intro tape, preferring music from ‘Monty Python And The Holy Grail’ instead, but the skeleton of a well-established set remains unchanged (‘I’ll Find You’ to kick things off, lighters-out ballad ‘Falter’ and ‘If I Could’ to bring things to a close) and vocalist Colin Doran is as goofy as ever. In their own limited terms, they rock – but, judging the new material in the same terms, it may well be worrying them that they haven’t managed to hit on anything as anthemic as on debut LP Ideas Above Our Station.
21.40, Main Stage

Blah blah blah BLUR blah blah blah too many spineless tuneless little dwindlers blah blah blah ‘Crazy Beat’ still crap blah blah blah ‘End Of The Century’ still not-quite-so-crap blah blah blah still unable to surmount personal dislike of cretinous self-important flat-cap-wearing frontman blah blah blah where’s Coxon when you need him to stop you from yawning and pull ‘Coffee & TV’ out of the bag, eh?
22.25, Carling Stage

If Damon Albarn seems to pick up political causes as and when it suits him and his profile, then BILLY BRAGG certainly couldn’t be accused of doing likewise. This is a man who has over the years exemplified a passionate belief that music can unite people, it can give hope, it can rouse people into consciousness and action, it can change things. So, striking a defiantly outspoken note at the close of the festival, he declares his intention to play several miners’ benefit gigs next year, the twentieth anniversary of the miners’ strike, before proudly performing ‘There Is Power In A Union’; he talks about the changing face of the Left and his commitment to a ‘Socialism Of The Heart’; and, to widespread cheers, he rails against the machinations of the British and US governments in the invasion of Iraq in ‘The Price Of Oil’. By no means is it all dryly serious political rhetoric, though. Indeed, for much of the time Bragg is more like a stand-up comedian than an impassioned left-winger stood on a soapbox – at one point he tells us: “Even folk festivals are getting hardcore these days – the other day I saw a morris dancer smash a bottle and carve ‘Real Ale’ into his arm…” ‘A New England’ finishes off a superb set. At what is now a heavily corporate festival, Billy Bragg is a genuine and articulate dissenting voice, and the sort of authentic rebel most of the weekend’s lank-haired and tattooed monkeys can only dream of being.

Bands or artists I would have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Beck, The Streets, The Agenda, The Sleepy Jackson, The Buff Medways, 2 Many DJs, Funeral For A Friend, Thrice, Whirlwind Heat, The Bandits, Stellastarr*, The Cooper Temple Clause, Junior Senior, Pennywise, Turbonegro, Boy Sets Fire, Poison The Well, Gold Chains.
A black day for the black and whites

If you consider yourself a football fan, or even if you don't, please spare a thought for Notts County. The oldest football club in the world, and the one whose strip inspired the mighty Juventus's choice of colours, is in very real danger of going out of business in the next five days, after another proposed takeover fell through. The simple fact is that around £3m must be found immediately to stop the club being wound up.

If nothing else, email your messages of support and solidarity to the unofficial fans' website, Notts County Mad, but if you find yourself in Nottingham on Saturday afternoon then join me in going along to Meadow Lane to lend your support in person at what might sadly prove to be the club's last ever match.

Thanks to Mike for putting the current plight of my own team into proper perspective.
Quote of the day

"Gradually the perception stole into [Ursula]. This was no religious retreat, no seclusion of pure learning. It was a little apprentice-shop where one was further equipped for making money. The college itself was a little, slovenly laboratory for the factory ... All the while, it was a sham store, a sham warehouse, with a single motive of material gain, and no productivity. It pretended to exist by the religious virtue of knowledge. But the religious virtue of knowledge was become a flunkey to the god of material success."

D H Lawrence, 'The Rainbow' (1915).

If only he was alive today to experience how much truer his words are now...

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

The damage is Dunn

Another embarrassing home defeat on Saturday, this time to Birmingham, and afterwards Alan Shearer wasn't pulling any punches: "We're not getting in behind and stretching teams, we're not creating chances, the simple fact is that we aren't playing well. We're not doing an awful lot right as a team. It's been a rotten week, we haven't played well and we have to be man enough to say it."

Despite the fact that Sir Bobby rang the changes since our last Premiership disappointment - Speed dropping back to left back allowing Jenas to play through the middle, Solano and Viana in for Bowyer and Robert on the flanks - our performance was still woefully inadequate. The midfield in particular looks utterly stagnant at the moment, and none of the players who have come in have done anything to suggest they merit an extended run in the side. We can't expect to rely on Shearer when he's given no service whatsoever, and neither can we expect Given to perform miracles week in week out. Birmingham have a few decent players, most notably mulleted matchwinner David Dunn, but they're precisely the sort of opposition we should be sweeping aside at St James'.

The only thing more galling than the result and the predicament in which it leaves us was Steve Bruce's continual attempts to proclaim himself to be a Geordie. What a cock.

Our catastrophic week inevitably makes me wonder about the prudence of not adding to the squad when all those around us were. When a side like Middlesbrough can go out and land players of the calibre of Mendieta, Zenden and Mills (albeit on loan deals), it puzzles me why we haven't pursued potential new faces rather more thoroughly.

When all's said and done, though, you don't become a bad side overnight. Let's just hope that the two week break for the European Championship qualifying matches gives the players a chance to clear their heads, rediscover some form and get back to basics - like stringing passes together, creating chances and scoring goals.
Three Of A Kind #4

Three London pubs / bars I visited this weekend:

Auberge, Waterloo
Footlights, Wimbledon
The Frog And Forget-Me-Not, Clapham

Thursday, August 28, 2003

The Silent Words Speak Loudest Leeds Festival 2003 Rock ‘N’ Roll Diary

Saturday 23rd August

15.00, Carling Stage

Me? Playing guitar in front of a group of excitable young people, some of whom are female? With MY reputation?” OK, so FRANZ FERDINAND’s rakish frontman Alex Kapranos doesn’t actually say this, but he does do a pretty passable if unintentional impersonation of Paul Whitehouse’s charming yet ever-so-slightly lecherous ‘Fast Show’ cad. With their floppy fringes, and wearing the sort of shirts that should surely have seen them skinned alive in their native Glasgow long before now, Franz Ferdinand deal in arch and erudite art-pop, somewhere between Interpol and Pulp. Eccentric but not forcedly so, they end their set with forthcoming single ‘Darts Of Pleasure’, for part of which Alex trades in his gentle Scottish burr for the harsh cadences of German. On first listen, no idea what it’s all about - but it sounds great, as do other songs aired, most notably ‘Shopping For Blood’. Ones to watch, as they say.
15.35, Main Stage

Once again, for the early hours of the afternoon the Main Stage has been awash with the sound of “punk” bollocks courtesy of Bowling For Soup and Less Than Jake. Salvation comes at last in the shape of THE DATSUNS. The New Zealanders are apparently on a mission to break records for tightness of trousers, and Dolf is fiercely defensive of his – having had them ripped off at last year’s festival by a Carling Stage crowd that was rabid for a piece of him. He does, however, allow us to marvel at his red boots. We only get one new song (another, ‘Girl’s Best Friend’, has to be dropped from the set as they’re held up with technical difficulties). It must have been galling for the band this last few months, seeing The Darkness rise rocket-like from relative obscurity to usurp their heavy metal crown, but today we get a timely reminder that they’ve penned some corking singles, at least. ‘Supergyration’ and its thumping great chorus is quickly followed by the thudding repetitive riff of ‘Harmonic Generator’, and later we get ‘Motherfucker From Hell’ and the brilliant ‘In Love’ in close proximity. The question is: can they repeat the trick on the next album?
16.30, Radio 1 Stage

For a band with such an incredibly dull name that seems to promise acoustic fumblings, monotone delivery, knitwear and perhaps a slide show (if we’re lucky), MULL HISTORICAL SOCIETY turn out to be unexpectedly perky, all bright-eyed power-pop and beaming grins from mainman Colin MacIntyre. The likes of ‘I Tried’, ‘Animal Cannibus’, ‘The Supermarket Strikes Back’ and ‘Watching Xanadu’ may be a diversion from the metal might of other bands on today’s bill, but given that Staind are droning away on the Main Stage, that diversion is pleasant enough, and more than welcome.
17.45, Main Stage

As far as entrances go, it’s a classic in its own peculiar way: Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ and ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ by AC/DC over the PA, followed by “Hello, we’re THE DARKNESS from Lowestoft”. They may have blotted their copybook since the triumph that was Glastonbury (a triumph that incredibly helped propel debut LP Permission To Land to second in the UK album charts, second only to Beyoncé) by not only participating in a fashion shoot for the Daily Telegraph but also supporting that cretinous little whingebag Robbie Fucking Williams at Knebworth – for me at least, this is their opportunity to redeem themselves. And they do so with ease, and without the cover of ‘Street Spirit’ or the extravagant jumpsuit changes of Glasto. At the precise moment they play it, ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman Motherfucker’ sounds like the best single ever released, and my enjoyment is only spoilt when, during soon-to-be-huge anthem ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’, I get hit on the shoulder by some smoked cheese. No idea where it came from – perhaps God is passing comment from above? Other bands may be wary of descending to Spinal Tap levels of excess, idiocy and self-parody, but The Darkness seem to regard the film as something of a Rock Code Of Conduct. Who knows? Maybe they genuinely believe it’s an honest fly-on-the-wall documentary. After all, for many years Ozzy Osbourne did. But, then again, I suppose he had been snorting an extraordinary amount of cocaine.
18.45, Radio 1 Stage

From one rock pantomime to another. ELECTRIC SIX draw what is easily the largest second stage crowd of the weekend (it’s at least 20 people deep all the way round the outside of the tent), and EVERYONE’s there for just one song – though ‘Danger! High Voltage’ stokes up some interest. In answer to the between-song chants of the audience, frontman Dick Valentine exclaims in exasperation “Do you REALLY think we’re not going to play it?!” ‘Improper Dancing’ and new single ‘Dance Commander’ drift past, hardly registering with anyone – and then, to an almighty cheer, it’s ‘Gay Bar’. As soon as it’s over, the majority of the crowd disperses. I hang around just long enough to hear Mr Valentine say “Enjoy the rest of the festival, and if the guy from Linkin Park tells you it’s the best night of his life, just remember that he said that last night”, and for the band to break into their cover of Queen’s ‘Radio Ga Ga’. In the battle of showmanship, they’ve had their arses soundly kicked.
19.10, Carling Stage

Pummelling drums and bass, Satan’s burps passed off as vocals, and a evilly grating and harsh guitar sound that could have your face off – no real surprise, then, that Steve Albini is a big enough fan of psychotic Welsh three-piece MCLUSKY to have twiddled the knobs for their second LP Mclusky Do Dallas (though, then again, Albini has also produced Low – hardly ugly noise merchants). The closest touchstones are probably Albini’s own outfit Shellac, and the early tracks on Nirvana’s Albini-produced studio swansong In Utero. Never let it be said that these boys are po-faced, though – their first album was called My Pain And Sadness Is More Sad And Painful Than Yours, and they perform a single from it, ‘Joy’, which, rather than being a radical Polyphonic Spree style departure from the norm, is just over a minute of incredibly abrasive noise which scours the ears to the point of bleeding. One for the grandparents.
19.35, Radio 1 Stage

Sadness and pain are what INTERPOL deal in. As ever, they arrive onstage impeccably dressed, and audience interaction is absolutely non-existent – at least on a verbal level between songs. The guitar line of ‘Untitled’, drenched in reverb, invites us into their world – essentially, chain-smoking outside New York art galleries in the drizzling rain. New material is at a premium, but then this hardly seems to matter when they’ve got a cast-iron classic of a debut LP to fall back on in the shape of Turn On The Bright Lights. ‘PDA’ and ‘Stella…’ are as brilliant as ever, and when ‘Say Hello To The Angels’ kicks in, a thirty-something Interpol virgin in front of me grins at his friends whilst wielding an imaginary bunch of gladioli above his head, a mark of respect to the ghost of The Smiths which the song summons up. Following ‘Hands Away’, I force myself to leave and investigate what’s happening elsewhere, but at the precise moment that I’m walking out of the tent they start up ‘NYC’. If anything, it sounds even more magical than it did at Glastonbury. Without doubt one of the songs of the festival.
20.10, Carling Stage

Hopeful that my decision to leave Interpol early won’t be one that I come to regret, I venture over to watch THE BLACK KEYS. Within a couple of minutes it’s evident I’m not going to be disappointed. To put it simply, there is no better blues-influenced act on the bill than these boys. While other bands might have the blues, they’ve got The Blues. Bearded guitarist Dan Auerbach has a quite astonishing voice for one so young (something approaching Eric Clapton), while drummer Patrick Carney is a blur of flailing and hair, bashing out a series of bone-shakingly primal rhythms. Though they themselves have scoffed at the ridiculous idea that the blues somehow “started” with The White Stripes, even they would have to concede that it’s taken Jack ‘n’ Meg’s phenomenal success to ensure that they’ve come to deserved prominence – and that’s something for which we should all be thankful.
20.45, Radio 1 Stage

Interpol might wish they were from Manchester, whereas the band that follow them onto the Radio 1 Stage ARE from Manchester (well, Bury – near enough). ELBOW stride onstage purposefully and glide into recent single ‘Fallen Angel’. Dark and epic, it sets the tone well. ‘Ribcage’, the opening track on new album Cast Of Thousands, exemplifies their range – long, weighty and yet uplifting, it sees the band augmented with female backing singers (later on, they will also call upon a scaled-down brass section). And yet the whole time I’m distracted by visions of a twelve-year-old Guy Garvey in green khaki shorts, grazes on his knees and a stick in his hands, running around “shooting” other children. Confused? You will be if you haven’t read the post below, about his childhood…
21.15, Carling Stage

I said it of their Glastonbury appearance and I’ll say it again: SPARTA are in desperate need of a break. Although their performance here is at least several notches higher than on the last two occasions I’ve seen them (perhaps the result of knowing that they’ve very nearly reached the end), in between songs Jim Ward sounds tired and emotionally drained. They’re also in desperate need of new material – as good as debut LP Wiretap Scars is, it’s now underpinned a year and half of gigs, including UK tours with Hundred Reasons and Queens Of The Stone Age. The setlist too is terribly jaded – even though ‘Cut Your Ribbon’ and ‘Air’ are played with a controlled and carefully channelled aggression, they can’t really function as the desired end-of-set knockout punch when you already know long beforehand exactly what’s coming.
21.45, Main Stage

LINKIN PARK. Look, right, in my defence: I had time to kill before The Polyphonic Spree came onstage – there was no positive desire to see them involved at any stage. Let us not speak of this, except to say that they were of course mind-numbingly shite and Chester Bennington sounded as though he was reading even his between-song patter from an autocue.
22.10, Radio 1 Stage

THE POLYPHONIC SPREE are late – presumably they couldn’t all fit on the same tourbus, and so have had to come in convoy. When they do arrive, their entrance is as theatrically grand as they come – announced in verse by a town crier complete with red uniform, clanging bell and shouts of “Oh yay, oh yay!” They look and sound like The Flaming Lips would if they dropped the existential reflections for demented cheeriness and went on a recruitment drive in a mental asylum. At the centre of it all stands Tim DeLaughter, conductor of the whole crazed orchestra. For about fifteen minutes, or at least the combined duration of opening salvo ‘Hanging Around’ and ‘It’s The Sun’, I’m swept up in it all, utterly enraptured and quite probably capable of being convinced at the drop of a hat that it’d be a great idea to join them in their heavily-defended walled mountain commune to take part in their flower-worshipping, Prozac orgies and ritual suicide activities. But then gradually their attraction starts to wane, the brainwashing drugs begin to lose effect and as ever I find myself called back over to the dark side…
22.30, Dance Stage

…Otherwise known as DEATH IN VEGAS, busy fucking with minds a short distance away in the Dance Tent. Now, you could call it cheating (Hope Of The States, for one, would probably be jealous), but the fact that the Dance Tent doubles as the Cinema Tent later on means that it has a large screen, and DIV put this to extremely good use with some astonishing visual projections that greatly enhance the experience of seeing them live. Just as quickly as I was caught up in The Polyphonic Spree’s happiness mania, I’m intoxicated by the relentlessly throbbing and pulsing music of Richard Fearless and associates. Given their penchant for guest vocalists, there’s one track that’s absolutely crying out for The Raveonette’s Sune and Sharin. Their set ends with a ten-minute version of ‘Hands Around My Throat’, the collaboration with Adult.’s Nicola Kuperus from the Scorpio Rising album, and it’s the perfect conclusion – nihilistic, sordid, dead-eyed and depraved. The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but I prefer it on this side, where it’s black, thank you very much.

Bands or artists I would have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Young Heart Attack, Saves The Day, The Blueskins, Ladytron, Vue, Evan Dando, Buck 65, My Computer.
The unthinkable becomes reality

I fucking hate football.

Three days ago, on this very blog, I wrote "Failure in the Champions' League qualifier on Wednesday is unthinkable". Well, today thousands of Newcastle fans like myself have woken up to find the unthinkable has become reality. To say I was tempting fate would be a gross understatement. In his post-match interview Sir Bobby, on the verge of tears, didn't think to repeat his famous pronouncement of a few months back, which would have been entirely apt on this occasion: "You shouldn't count your chickens before they hatch because they might not lay eggs."

Let's look at the facts. We returned from Belgrade to Tyneside with a clean sheet, an away goal and a creditable performance in severely testing circumstances - and yet last night we contrived to waste our first leg lead, Partizan scoring an away goal of their own before we suffered our umpteenth failure over the last decade or so in a penalty shoot-out. Of our seven penalty-takers, only three scored - and two of those (Lua Lua and Jenas) had already fluffed penalties in horrendous fashion in the past few weeks.

How to describe the display? Anxious, disspirited, utterly abject. We have at most three first-team players who are in form - Shearer, Woodgate and Given - and both the outfield players in that threesome squandered their penalty-spot opportunity last night. Our midfield, on paper one of the strongest in England, is performing abysmally.

Let's not pull any punches here - this defeat is absolutely disastrous, not only from a financial perspective, but also from the perspective that we want to continue to progress as a club and a squad, and our talented youngsters need to be pitting themselves against the best in Europe on a regular basis if they're to improve. Of course, people will say at least we've got the consolation of the UEFA Cup. But we now find ourselves in exactly the same position as Manchester City, who will qualify for the competition tonight having finished fifth in the Fair Play League and then disposing of a bunch of Welsh part-timers in the qualifying round. All our gut-busting efforts to hold off Chelsea and Liverpool in the latter stages of last season have gone to waste. If Liverpool weren't in an equally bad state, I wouldn't begrudge their fans grumbling about the fact that we seized a golden (literally) opportunity from their grasp, only to squander it as cheaply as if it meant nothing to us.

It's at times like these that I wish Newcastle meant nothing, or at least very little, to me. I spent part of yesterday evening down the pub watching the Man Utd - Wolves match with a Man Utd fan who confessed to having never been to Old Trafford, who asked me who was playing in goal for them and who their new number seven was, and who hadn't even realised his team were playing until he'd arrived at the pub. Life must be so much easier.

To return to the facts staring in the face of everyone unfortunate enough to be a hardened Newcastle fan, we're barely two weeks into the new season and already we're out of the Champions' League and eight points adrift of Man Utd and Arsenal in the league (albeit with a game in hand). Last night's result will be a turning point in our season - of that there can be no doubt. Whether it's an upturn or a downturn is up (or down) to the players - but in my current mood I won't be rushing out to place a bet on Shearer holding the UEFA Cup aloft come May.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

If you love music, you MUST read this

The Stylus tribute to The Dismemberment Plan.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The Silent Words Speak Loudest Leeds Festival 2003 Rock ‘N’ Roll Diary

In the past, my festival philosophy has traditionally been to watch sets in their entirety and try to cram in as many sets as possible. This time round, though, I decided to try something different – put the emphasis on seeing as many bands as possible, and only watching whole sets when they didn’t clash with anything else of interest. It’s worth bearing in mind when reading what follows, then, that these reviews are likely to be sketchy, impressionistic and personal, given that in many cases I only caught a twenty-minute snippet. In the interest of making an assessment that was at least somewhere close to being fair and representative, I saw at least three songs by every band reviewed, though – for that reason I’ve omitted the likes of The Streets and The Sleepy Jackson.

So, now that that’s clear, off we go…
Friday 22nd August

14.25, Radio 1 Stage

The festival is barely two hours old, and already I’m experiencing my first epiphany. Sometimes I feel capable of coping with mind-bogglingly complex song structures, at which point I’ll pull out Hail To The Thief or The Mars Volta’s debut album (more, much more on them later…). And at other times simplicity is sheer bliss. This is one of those times. A thousand thankyous to Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo for THE RAVEONETTES’ irresistible marriage of The Jesus & Mary Chain and 60s girl groups like The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las. Former singles ‘Attack Of The Ghost Riders’ and the squalling set-closer ‘Beat City’ make an appearance, but the majority of the set is made up of material from new LP Chain Gang Of Love – which, on this evidence, sounds like the determined pursuit of the perfect pop song. Perfect harmonies are garnished with lashings of beautiful noise, perhaps to best effect on the quite brilliant lead single ‘That Great Love Sound’. Glorying in the noble art of feedback, and unrestrainedly celebrating the power of the pure pop song, the whole set is a love letter to music itself. And, what’s more, for those 35 minutes my crippling hangover is completely forgotten.
15.15, Radio 1 Stage

I’m still reeling from my Raveonettes headrush when RADIO 4 take to the stage, so it’s not really their fault that they disappoint. Their funk-tinged punk makes much less impact on me than at Glastonbury, the consequence of still craving a constant stream of three-minute instant fixes, and I wander off before honorary New Yorker Har Mar Superstar joins them to play bongos on ‘Dance To The Underground’.
15.45, Carling Stage

It’s astonishing that a band like WINNEBAGO DEAL can hail from Oxford. They’re a two-man Motorhead playing the complete works of Metallica and Fu Manchu at breakneck speeds, or The Black Keys if only they’d hung out at truck stops and taken heavy metal as a blueprint rather than the good ol’ blues. While other bands take a break between songs to refuel with a can of Stella or bottled water, I suspect that these two very hairy individuals do so literally, swigging petrol neat out of hipflasks. They provoke a spontaneous outbreak of grinning, and even I’m infected, despite their spectacularly loud racket heralding the Second Coming of the monstrous hangover.
16.15, Radio 1 Stage

As with Radio 4, my impressions of THE EIGHTIES MATCHBOX B-LINE DISASTER are inevitably and unfortunately coloured by what has come immediately before. Frontman Guy McKnight still sounds like he’s reciting the Devil’s bedtime stories to the sound of a psychobilly band in the midst of a nervous breakdown (if AFI’s Davey Havoc ever wants to know how to look and sound as if he REALLY does have REAL issues, he could do a lot worse than take a leaf out of McKnight’s book), but somehow it just doesn’t seem as brutal or as obnoxiously and intrusively in-your-face as it perhaps should.
16.45, Main Stage

My first visit to the Main Stage, having carefully avoided the punk-pop shite that’s clogged it up earlier in the day, and PRIMAL SCREAM find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place, or, if I might be allowed to be so graphic, between a steaming turd (Sum 41) and a slightly larger and steamier turd (Good Charlotte). Those in the audience of a baggy-shorted persuasion hold no truck with beat-heavy songs like ‘Pills’, while the perenially snake-hipped Bobby Gillespie provokes further ire by labelling Metallica “American pricks”. But they really don’t do themselves any favours whatsoever by playing a version of ‘Kill All Hippies’, the one track that might have united them with the crowd, that is feeble and lacking all menace, and by slipping ‘Shoot Speed Kill Light’ (great song on record, not so hot live) into the middle of an already-sagging set. Mani looks like a craggy-faced fifty-year-old baboon, and Kevin Shields strums away listlessly as if he’d rather be gazing at his shoes in peace. No punch, no bite, just a bunch of middle-aged men making Exterminator and Evil Heat seem like collections of toothless dirges. It’s a sad sight, and a far cry from their glorious showing three years ago.
17.20, Carling Stage

CALLA tune up nervously in front of what is a pitifully small crowd, perhaps aware that they’re out of sync with the brash rock ‘n’ roll ethos of most of the other bands on the bill. Eschewing the hedonistic party spirit of their New York contemporaries on today’s bill, this four-piece sound like Interpol if once a week they removed The Smiths and Joy Division from the stereo and slipped on a Sonic Youth LP. Arty and dark, they’re not to everyone’s tastes, perhaps guilty of taking themselves too seriously (much like Interpol) - but songs like ‘Strangler’ from their last record Televise possess an icy and aching resonance that I find wholly alluring. On an extended set-closing version of ‘Televised’, frontman and Stuart Braithwaite lookalike Aurelio Valle launches into some angular guitar pyrotechnics which ensures that they burn out rather than fade away. Am I too easily pleased? Well, possibly – but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that Calla are a fine band.
17.55, Radio 1 Stage

In contrast to Calla, HELL IS FOR HEROES have drawn a huge crowd – most of them teens, and most of them bouncing up and down in approval. Me, I’m inclined to be cynical – they really are easily pleased. That’s not to say, though, that HIFH don’t have any redeeming qualities – it’s just that they’re hardly breaking new ground.
18.25, Radio 1 Stage

Radio 4, standing at the side of the stage, must be feeling green with envy. For while they’re adored by the critics, it’s not the critics who pay the bills – it’s the fans who go out and buy the records. And, following the release of one very good single (‘Bandages’) and another that’s something of a grower (‘No, Not Now’), HOT HOT HEAT have fans aplenty. On this showing, it’s not hard to see why. Seemingly endless touring can come to sap a band of all their energy and enthusiasm, and reduce the process of playing live to the status of mindless drudgery - or it can do the opposite, the different elements of the band becoming so tightly-knit that they fuse together, to devastating effect. Thankfully for Hot Hot Heat, it seems to have been the latter. Steve Bays has hip-shimmying moves that even Bobby Gillespie would be jealous of, as well as a peculiarly distinctive vocal style, while they have a well-stocked arsenal of excellent songs from Make Up The Breakdown behind them. Watching with no expectations, I’m thoroughly impressed.
19.25, Main Stage

SYSTEM OF A DOWN have come on early, but I arrive to find there’s been a temporary hold-up after one of the barriers shifts forward. It later transpires that a few fans have been injured, but the band helped to ensure that tragedy on the scale of Limp Bizkit’s Big Day Out appearance doesn’t occur. Once they get underway again, I’m reminded why I find their appeal to the punk-‘n’-nu-metal-loving hordes so strange: they simply don’t play by the rules, even if they’ve allowed themselves to become tarred with the same brush. Not only are they outspoken and overtly political (words that Chester Bennington and Fred Durst would have difficulty in spelling), but they also have the capacity to change gear almost at the flick of a switch, from crushing frantic thrash metal to bouncy childish rhythms to the sort of bizarre Armenian folk music by which they’ve been influenced. There are more ideas in a song like ‘Chop Suey’ than there are in Korn’s whole oeuvre. Sure, it feels at times like your ears are having some kind of seizure, but then that’s infinitely preferable to listening to Staind and Puddle Of Mudd – though, to be fair, not much isn’t. One point of interest: with his long hair and full beard, guitarist Daron seems to be morphing into Bill Bailey.
20.10, Carling Stage

A bunch of young men dressed in military jackets – no, not The Libertines but HOPE OF THE STATES, straight outta Chichester. The scope of their ambitions could quite easily result in them falling flat on their faces in spectacular fashion - if it wasn’t for the fact that they’ve got the substance to back them up (though frontman Sam Herlihy’s vocals could perhaps be better). Imagine Godspeed! trying on Spiritualized’s clothes for size. Now that Mogwai have discovered the (occasional) joys of brevity, I find myself pondering whether we really need a band like HOTS – why listen to the slaves when you can listen to the masters? But, hey, you can never have too much of a good thing, and this bunch are just that. They’re also remarkably resourceful – unable to screen anything to accompany the performance, the band’s two projectionists instead sit on the front of the stage drawing pictures and handing them out to the audience during the set.
20.45, Radio 1 Stage

Party time! YEAH YEAH YEAHS get off to a slow start with two new tracks before roaring into action with ‘Rich’. From then on, it doesn’t let up – we get all the viciously-barbed singles (‘Bang’, ‘Date With The Night’ and ‘Pin’) as well as some choice album cuts (‘Y Control’, ‘Black Tongue’ and the brilliant ie not drearily sappy love song ‘Maps’). Karen O is roaringly drunk and gushingly happy, and (unwittingly?) satisfies the voyeuristic pleasure of those in the front few rows by repeatedly standing with a foot on the monitor in what is a staggeringly short skirt. It’s clear this band is the object of unqualified adoration, not only for their music but also for Ms O’s dress sense. Indeed, if you take a look in womens’ high-street clothing shops you’re bound to appreciate that she’s had a bigger influence on the world of fashion than on the world of music. But then that shouldn’t detract from how good their debut LP is. It’s quite telling that there’s no place in the set tonight for ‘Our Time’ – the track from last year’s ‘Master’ EP that features the repeated line “It’s our time to be hated”. Absolutely bang on the money, and the best band of the day.
21.45, Main Stage

Grizzled veterans METALLICA are pummelling out the classics of a twenty-year career to the delight of thousands of rabid fans, but, although I can appreciate that the likes of ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’, ‘Seek And Destroy’ and ‘Sad But True’ are taken from albums which defined and shaped the course of metal, to these ears and in comparison with System Of A Down they just sound rather stodgy and workmanlike. What is particularly revealing is that only two songs in the entire set are taken from new LP St Anger (‘St Anger’ and ‘Frantic’), and that these are safely inserted somewhere in the middle – that doesn’t exactly suggest a wealth of confidence, faith and belief in the new material, now, does it?
22.20, Carling Stage

It is to my great surprise that, right at the death, System Of A Down have their accolade as Fruitcakes Of The Day snatched back from them. The culprits? Cumbrian weirdos BRITISH SEA POWER. The stage is decked out with model owls and leafy branches, which band members stuff down their T-shirts; blocks of specially labelled Kendal Mint Cake are handed out to promote the band’s single ‘Remember Me’; and a gentleman wearing a Boer War-era army helmet appears onstage and then in the crowd with a drum which the guitarist, having descended from the top of one of the tent poles, proceeds to smash over his own head to end the set. All the madness (or gimmickry, if you want to look at it that way) goes some way to disguising the fact that their brand of gawky early 80s indie rock isn’t particularly memorable. An enjoyable experience live (and better than when I saw them in April 2002 supporting Six By Seven), but I won’t be rushing out to buy their album.

Bands or artists I would have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Grandaddy, Cardia, Squarepusher, The Stills, White Light Motorcade, Har Mar Superstar, Manitoba.
Quote of the day

"They shoot horses, don't they? I think a lot of players would prefer to have been shot once their career was over."

Jimmy Greaves in yesterday's G2.

Monday, August 25, 2003

I believe in a thing called Rock

I return from Leeds warmed by the sun, uninjured by the exploding gas canisters and aerosols, fatigued by the frantic walking between stages, overcharged and under/malnourished by the shitehawks who run the food stalls, bemused by the sight of The Sleepy Jackson's Luke Steele pretending to eat his guitar strings with a knife and fork - but, most of all, refreshed in the knowledge that over the course of three days I witnessed some tremendous rock action.

And over the next few days I'm going to review it.

I could tell you about the joys of alfresco urination; I could tell you about the over-amorous couple last night, rolling around on the empty cardboard pintpots and greasy polystyrene noodle dishes and giving each other "relief" whilst those in the vicinity tried their hardest to avert their eyes and block the whole horrific spectacle out; I could tell you about one of my co-attendee's inadvertent invention of "fucked chic" - simply take a turquoise and navy 1980s tracksuit top, a white Kiss T-shirt, some brown suit trousers with a studded metal belt and a pair of off-white trainers that are falling apart, and wear all at once, until you realise at some point in the late afternoon that you're "dressed like a tit".

But no.

What you REALLY want (well, maybe not, but what you're going to get...) is the Silent Words Speak Loudest guide to the bands that made it such a special weekend - for I feasted at the table of Rock, and I feasted well. Indeed, at times I feasted too well, and was in danger of becoming vomitous. It is now my duty to regurgitate what I have digested for your reading pleasure - a duty I will be performing to the best of my abilities over the next few days. Even if it involves sticking my fingers down my throat to force myself to write about Linkin Park.
Text message of the weekend

From Olav:

"Left Reading after Primal Scream. Littlehampton people do my head in. The golden shower was too much."

As yet, I am not in possession of the full facts - but rest assured that I intend to be enlightened...
Three Of A Kind #3

Three signs / T-shirt slogans spotted at the festival:

"Rehab is for quitters"
"I fucked the girl out of Hanson"
"I survived Barrymore's pool"

At the festival:

"I burnt my pubes in science class."
Shearer 1 Man Utd 2

"We weren't playing Noboby United, we were playing Manchester United", opined Sir Bobby, in an unsettlingly upbeat post-match interview on Saturday. Well, it might be another one for the ever-growing list of Bobbyisms, but it's no consolation for the fact that, for the second time in less than six months, we've been outclassed at home by those Red Fuckers. We just HAVE to get over this ridiculous inferiority complex when it comes to playing Man Utd and Arsenal - if WE don't believe we can beat them and challenge for the league title, then who the hell else is?

Most worrying, though, was the utter lack of spirit in our performance. Spirit is something we've had in spades over the past couple of seasons, and it's served us in good stead, getting us out of situations where our prospects had looked bleak. But on Saturday it seems even that deserted us - at home to the champions, 2-1 down with 30 minutes to play, all we could muster was a single shot. More crippling defensive errors proved our undoing - that, and the fact that our bunch of talented midfielders are all struggling for form. Shearer must be despairing at having to play teams almost on his own.

We need a good performance, and fast. Failure in the Champions' League qualifier on Wednesday is unthinkable.
Quote of the day

"I'll admit that I'm a contributor to TV's decline in standards."

Noel Edmonds FINALLY acknowledges his culpability. But, hey, if you thought pleading guilty could get you a lenient sentence, Noel, then think again - I hereby sentence you to four weeks watching nothing but repeats of 'The Chris Moyles Show' and 'I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here'. Followed by hanging by the neck until dead.

BTW did anyone else find the evil little prank-pixie more disturbing when he shaved off his beard? I certainly did - his clean-shaven jowls gave him the ability to wander unnoticed and unharmed amongst the general populace, like some clever disguise.