Monday, November 10, 2003

Speak your brains

Yes! At last! Silent Words Speak Loudest is no longer the equivalent of me standing on a soapbox with a loudspeaker shouting my opinions / thoughts / frustrations / anger at anyone who'll listen. For, thanks to the wonderful London Mark, the site at long last has a comments facility.

Yes, YOU, my lovely reader, have been enfranchised, given a voice. So now it's up to YOU to use that voice and let me know what YOU think.

SWSL is going interactive on yo ass, baby! Enjoy it!
The story of their excess

"Ain't no wrong now, ain't no right / There's only pleasure and pain...". The hedonist's credo, according to Jane's Addiction - a band who know what they're talking about. A band that have fucked anything that moves and snorted or injected anything that doesn't, and lived to tell the tale.

Telling the tale is what they're here in Nottingham to do tonight, 13 years after they did it last.

In the absence of Eric Avery, new bassist Chris Chaney effortlessly eases into the fluid rhythm of 'Up The Beach'. He is joined by a mohicanned Stephen Perkins, visibly beaming behind his massive drumkit, delighted at the rapturous reception his legendary band are receiving. And then there's bona fide rock god Dave Navarro, hairy of face and still evidently afraid that wearing a T-shirt might cause a violent allergic reaction or else somehow impair his ability to play guitar.

As 'Up The Beach' fades out, Navarro strikes into 'Stop!', the first track from their monumental 1990 LP Ritual De Lo Habitual, and suddenly, rushing onto the stage with the cry of "Here we go!!!", is Perry Farrell. The place, and yours truly, goes apeshit.

Perry Farrell is without doubt the queerest straight man in rock. Clad in what can only be described as tight-fitting electrician's overalls, multicoloured striped T-shirt and diamond-effect-studded fingerless gloves, the Crown Prince of Flamboyance prances and preens around the stage with a flower between his teeth lapping up the adoration. Rather like Iggy Pop, despite years of abuse and debauchery he has retained a curiously sinuous physique. Between songs he swigs from a bottle of Jaegermeister and tells us that "insect sex is better than human sex, because there are more than two legs each, and lots of bright colours..." He's not of this earth.

Farrell knows that great rock 'n' roll, like most great art, is about sex and death. And that's why, at the heart of tonight's set, just after the classic shoplifters' anthem 'Been Caught Stealing', we get the epic 'Ted, Just Admit It', a song inspired by serial killer Ted Bundy which features the repeated lines "Sex is violence" and "Nothing's shocking".

As with Jim Morrison, though, Farrell's moments of lyrical genius are interspersed with a good quantity of pseudo-mystical bullshit which remains palatable only because he and his band are such a phenomenal and outlandish proposition musically and visually. In addition to the best of their past, we get the best of their present - the choicest cuts from this year's Strays LP, including 'The Riches', the title track and classic-in-the-making 'The Price I Pay'. Even 'Everybody's Friend', rather wet and crassly hippyish on record, comes over well. In fact, the set's only low point is the mystifying decision to play a feeble acoustic version of their roaring steroid-pumped comeback single 'Just Because' when ripping some heads off necks with the original would have seemed by far the best course of action.

When the steel drums of 'Jane Says' bring the set to an end, the whole band line up at the front of the stage to bow and take the applause together. The theatricality of the whole show is encapsulated right there - we know we've witnessed a PERFORMANCE. If there really is only pleasure and pain, then the world was a much more painful place without them.

(A footnote about support band Stellastarr* - because, inevitably, they are little more than a footnote on the night. Sensibly refusing to take to heart the poor response, attributable to the mismatch between themselves and those in front of whom they find themselves playing, they just get their heads down and beaver away industriously with their Pixies / Raveonettes / Breeders stuff. And it's to their credit - by the time they're finishing up, with recent single 'Jenny', I'm much more inclined to check them out on record than I was at first.)
Blue murder

If a week is a long time in politics, a few days is an aeon in the life of a Newcastle United supporter.

As recently as Thursday night we were celebrating an excellent 3-2 victory against Swiss outfit FC Basel in the first (away) leg of our UEFA Cup tie. Having been 1-0 and then 2-1 down, we showed real guts and determination to claw our way back against a side who, let’s not forget, were (alongside ourselves) the other surprise package of last season’s Champions’ League, progressing unexpectedly to the second group stage with some very impressive performances. Robert scored again, Bramble doubled his tally for the club and Ameobi grabbed the second half winner to swing the tie in our favour in advance of the home leg in three weeks’ time. All very pleasing.

And then in our very next match we turn in the most spiritless, gutless, spineless performance against Chelsea, a side ruthless enough to make us pay for it in spades. The 5-0 scoreline did not flatter our hosts – they were awesome, we were abysmal. Perhaps the writing was on the wall before the game even kicked off. Last season, in the days before Abramovich’s millions improved the side immeasurably, we lost the corresponding fixture 3-0. Chelsea fielded the same side that had so comprehensively destroyed Lazio on their own turf on Tuesday, while our one truly inspirational on-field talisman Shearer was ruled out shortly before kick-off with the flu, and (arguably) our other three best outfield players – Woodgate, Dyer and Bellamy – were all already sidelined with injury. Worse still, Sir Bobby had just been "named" (read "cursed") as Manager of the Month for October...

Once the game was underway, our cause wasn’t exactly helped by the awful decision to dismiss Andy O’Brien and award a penalty when Adrian Mutu waited until he got into the box to take a dive. The penalty tucked away by Lampard, the score was 3-0, we were down to ten men, and we were facing up to the fact that we had more than half the game left.

But neither the injury list, nor the strength of the opposition, nor an appalling refereeing decision can excuse the nature of the display. Aside perhaps from Aaron Hughes, no-one in a black and white shirt emerged from the match with a scrap of credit. We were outplayed, outclassed and outfought in every department, all over the pitch – simply not good enough. A match to forget in a hurry. Hopefully it’ll be the last time this season that we play so poorly.

It’ll also be the last time I ever say, with the score at 1-0: “Well, a 1-0 defeat wouldn’t be such a bad result given the circumstances”. With hindsight, it was of course inevitable that both the circumstances and the scoreline were about to take a dramatic turn for the worse…
Cruising for a bruising

Over at Raised By Chaffinches, Birdman has been sharing his experiences of being aboard the Aurora cruiseship. Apparently, the worst part wasn't the sickness-and-diarrhoea virus that struck down over 500 passengers, oh no - that'd be the presence of the "lovely" 'Wife Swap' couple from Bury, Barry and Michelle, both of whom should have been trussed up and chucked overboard with large stones in their pockets.
Feel good hits of the 10th November

1. 'Stop!' - Jane's Addiction
2. 'Chain Gang Of Love' - The Raveonettes
3. 'Do You Realize??' - The Flaming Lips
4. 'Save Us S.O.S.' - Hot Hot Heat
5. 'Take Me Out' - Franz Ferdinand
6. 'Sabotage' - Beastie Boys
7. 'Trouble' - Pink
8. 'Static In The Cities' - Hope Of The States
9. 'Nothing Compares 2 U' - Sinead O'Connor
10. 'Gay Bar' - Electric 6

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Agent provocateur

Expert shitstirrer Jimmy Cauty, formerly of The KLF and now a member of the Blacksmoke collective of artists, has followed up his provocative anti-war EP 'Fuck The Fucking Fuckers' with some controversial images of Big Ben exploding like the World Trade Centre. Take a look and decide for yourself whether it's just cheap sensationalism or whether he's got a point. One thing I will say, though: if "people" (read: Daily Mail readers) are going to get incensed about pieces of art like this, then perhaps they should think more carefully about exactly what it is they went with their kids to fireworks displays to celebrate last night.

(Thanks to Ulterior and Casino Avenue for the link)
Burn, baby, burn

It's Bonfire Night, and the feeling's right...

This is the first time I've been inside Rock City since seeing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs here at the end of February. Far too long. It is, however, the first of three visits in the space of four days. Everything will be righted with the world.

By the time The Fiery Furnaces take to the stage, I'd imagined it'd be gettin' hot in here - but, as yet, the crowd is pretty sparse and, to be honest, Rough Trade's latest hopefuls don't do an awful lot to fan the fans' flames. Cut from a rather different cloth than the two other bands on the bill, The Fiery Furnaces deal in thumping drums, feral blues guitar and Eleanor Friedberger's rambling tales of lost dogs, amongst other things. 'Crystal Clear', the first single to be lifted from new LP Gallowsbird's Bark, is in this vein. They're at their most intriguing, if perhaps their most obtuse, however, when the bizarre whirling and lurching keyboards take over, as they often do. It's music to make you feel seasick, and I'd be prepared to give 'em another listen.

The crowd's response is lukewarm, though, but never fear - Franz Ferdinand are on hand to turn up the heat. A word of fire safety advice: with those extraordinary fringes, boys, you need to be steering well clear of naked flames tonight - so being sandwiched between The Fiery Furnaces and Hot Hot Heat isn't exactly ideal... There's an irrestistable peacock strut about the performance - no de rigeur bluesy swagger a la Jet here, just guitarist Nick McCarthy's eccentric spasms and debonair frontman Alex Kapranos's raised eyebrow. Songs like 'Shopping For Blood', 'Tell Her Tonight' and 'Take Me Out' (the new single, for which they're joined by Hot Hot Heat's Steve Bays) very definitely put the arch into Archduke. By the time 'Darts Of Pleasure' arrives to end the set, I'm musing over the possibility of a Battle of Britain between Franz Ferdinand of Glasgow and Sunderland's The Futureheads to establish the identity of the biggest new homegrown talent of the year. Being Mackems, Barry Hyde and company would probably be quite handy in a fist-fight, but it'd never get that far - FF's Alex wouldn't be prepared to get his shirt ripped and would just set the dogs on them.

Coming from a rather different direction (punk), Hot Hot Heat have arrived at much the same point as Franz Ferdinand - sharp, intelligent, vigorous and idiosyncratic guitar pop, which in HHH's case isn't a million miles away from The Dismemberment Plan. While at the Leeds festival incessant touring in support of their Make Up The Breakdown record appeared to have honed the band into a ferociously close-knit unit capable of delivering quite a punch, tonight their year and a half on the road is apparent in a rather less favourable way - put simply, they're clearly knackered and are counting the days until they can get home. That said, though, Steve Bays is still a whirlwind of hair and Elvis-Costello-style yelping, and it'd be extremely hard to strip songs like 'Get In Or Get Out', 'No, Not Now', 'Oh Godamnit', 'Le Le Low' and 'Naked In The City Again' of their tense energy even if you wanted to. Even after so long on tour, Dante DeCaro evidently still revels in the joy of scrawling guitar lines over the rhythm section like graffiti, while 'Save Us S.O.S', a song they've only just started playing again live, proves to be a real highlight - a supremely danceable At The Drive-In. As expected, a single-song encore of 'Bandages', ahem, wraps things up. The hope might have been that they'd set the place on fire, but overall they still managed to cook on about Gas Mark 5.
Know Your Enemy #32

An awesome display of vitriol from Nick Southall:

"Speaking of assholes there's been a major one on the train for the last three weeks or so. I'd quite like to get a gun and shoot him in the face, an act in which I feel I would be more than justified given his inherrent and abhorrent assholeness. How is he such an asshole? I hear you cry. Because of his fucking phone. Not an incessent text-receiver or over-loud morning-commute gossiper, no no no; this wanker is much more disgustingly, insidiously annoying than that. This wanker has an MP3 player on his phone which he listens to incessantly and he refuses to use headphones. Thus this grimy, slick-haired motherfucker in his awful brown leather jacket and beige jeans (which he wears every day) sits at a table seat each day, clutching his noxious Nokia or sickening Siemens or unsavoury Samsung or whaeverthefuckitis, while it bleeds T'Pau and Bonnie Tyler and other assorted crapulent asshole music. Coldplay's 'Clocks' creeped into his playlist yesterday. The unblanched rudeness, the unfathomable antisocial thoughtlessness gives rise in me to the desire for great violence."

Don't worry, Nick - were you to shoot this twat in the face, I'm sure any sensible judge would accept a plea of reasonable force.
Quote of the day

"Daniel Ryan of The Thrills loves Dexys. Kevin Rowland is 'the nicest person I've ever met'. We presume Daniel must be in some way agoraphobic."

No Rock 'N' Roll Fun - again.
Text message(s) of the day

"Just sitting here watching 'Trisha' and a couple are "making up". As they hugged, the lady uttered that classic romantic sweet nothing: 'I love you, ya knobhead!' Ahhh!"

"On the subject of 'Trisha', do you notice how lie detector tests seem to be the answer to everything these days?"

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Remember, remember, the 5th November...

...for it is Leon's birthday! Oh, and it's Bonfire Night too.

Talking of fireworks, I'm looking forward to the fruits of the Qhixldekx collaboration with Andrew Morrison of Trust No One, the forthcoming 'Twin Moon Conspiracy EP'.

Isn't it a brilliant coincidence that I'm off to see Hot Hot Heat and The Fiery Furnaces in concert tonight?
Quote of the day

(Yeah, so I've done this before, but what the hell - it's actually appropriate today...)

On a T-shirt:

"Guy Fawkes: the only person ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions"
Pierce in pieces

Stylus writer Ian Mathers considers Spiritualized's latest LP Amazing Grace to be "possibly the worst-sequenced album I’ve ever heard". Find out how he'd set about giving the album some much-needed surgery.

Elsewhere, Ian has been effusive in his praise of The Earth Is Not A Dead Cold Place, the new album from topically-named Texan quartet Explosions In The Sky. (And while you're at it, check out Nick Southall's review of their previous LP, the fantastically-titled Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever.)

Monday, November 03, 2003

Repeating the magic

It's Friday night, I've already witnessed the amiable shambling prog-folk of Alfie, I find myself surrounded by hundreds of rabidly excited Flaming Lips fans, and I feel like a grumpy sour-faced old killjoy. Flanked by a dozen fans in animal costumes, Wayne Coyne, Steven Drozd and Michael Ivins have just taken to the stage and, amidst balloons and cascades of glitter, launched into 'Race For The Prize'. It's a spectacular opening, and yet I'm gutted.

You see, I've seen all this before, at Glastonbury. Immediately, I know the setlist will be practically identical - in fact, the only additions are the not-as-great-as-it-might-have-been cover of 'Seven Nation Army', tossed away carelessly early on, and the recent Chemical Brothers collaboration 'The Golden Path', which curiously sounds like The Strokes live. The encore will consist of 'Waiting For A Superman' and the cover of 'Breathe' by Pink Floyd. There's fake blood for 'The Spark That Bled' and the customary rendition of 'Happy Birthday', there's handheld smoke machines, there's the loudspeaker, there's the nun hand-puppet singing the final chorus of 'Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt 1', there are the same projections - even down to the warning "Don't snort your own brain, just enjoy The Flaming Lips". The only real surprise is when the girl onstage in the panda outfit faints due to the heat and strobe lighting, and the show is held up for a few minutes while she's tended to.

I stand there knowing I'm witnessing something brilliant, especially during 'The Gash' and 'Do You Realise??'. And yet all the time it's tinged with disappointment. Despite the glee they very evidently provoke all around me, I can't help reaching the conclusion that the band named as currently the top American act by The Guardian are becoming predictable. For a band like The Lips, who thrive on invention, that's a crying shame.

They've put themselves in a difficult position: how do they move on and better what has gone before? The Glastonbury show felt less like a gig than an Event - momentous, memorable and perhaps even life-changing, as the opening projected images predicted. Quite simply, it felt like a one-off. And to see them do it all again, albeit on a vastly reduced scale, is a hugely disillusioning experience. You find yourself forced to acknowledge that nothing's unique, and that everything can be reproduced. Above all, while all around me might be having their own personal Lips epiphany, I'm left feeling that the one I had in June is being devalued, the moment desecrated.

With hindsight, of course they were going to be amazing again, and of course I was going to feel let down. I shouldn't have gone.
The beginnings of another curse?

First it was Birmingham, then it was West Brom, and on Saturday it was Villa - the third West Midlands side this season to leave St James's Park with a creditable but undeserved result. For the second time in a few days, we completely dominated a match in terms of possession and chances, but, unlike against Portsmouth last week, we were unable to translate our domination into a victory.

As a long-standing thorn in our side for both Villa and Coventry, Dion Dublin simply HAD to score and turn in an outstanding performance as a makeshift central defender, while the two former Mackems in the visitors' ranks had contrasting fortunes - Gavin McCann was dismissed for two hot-headed challenges, whereas keeper Thomas Sorensen foiled several goalbound efforts and, ten minutes from time, saved an Alan Shearer penalty. Consistently excellent displays from the skipper have earned him the right to be forgiven for the miss, while Robert continued his impressive goalscoring streak - but others could have performed better. Given Villa's dreadful away record, they were there to be beaten - once again, it's a case of needing to be more clinical and ruthless in front of goal.
Quote of the day

"Christina Aguilera has said she's disappointed not to be named the Worst-Dressed Celebrity. Of course you've not been, Christina; you'd have to have been dressed at some point to qualify."

No Rock 'N' Roll Fun

Friday, October 31, 2003

Hearts of (black) gold

A word of warning: if you ever go to the Birmingham Academy (or, I assume, any other Academy venue) for a gig, be prepared to shell out nearly three quid for a pint of wanky lager.

Another word of warning: judging by the craggy faces of all the leather-jacket-clad forty-something Mary Chain fans assembled in the venue tonight, prolonged exposure to feedback certainly ain’t good for you. In ten years, then, I’ll probably be looking like the fucking Elephant Man.

First up, in the absence of Boxer Rebellion, are M.A.S.S., who somehow manage to make the most sexless rock ‘n’ roll imaginable. They sound like they formed, sat down in some Camden boozer, pored over a few issues of NME and came up with a clutch of songs cynically aimed at hitching a ride on every available bandwagon going. ‘Testify’ is the Von Bondies done spectacularly badly, and ‘Revolution’ is such a pathetically dispassionate din that you’d think it was about the chain of vodka bars and not the form of popular political uprising. Even the lead singer’s attempt at a sneer (in amongst her repertoire of feeble Karen O impressions) is pathetic, suggesting only that she’s swallowed a sachet of vinegar. Perhaps she’s just mirroring my own facial expression. M.A.S.S.: never darken my eardrums again.

By way of contrast, it’s not hard to see why Razorlight have been arousing countless erections amongst record label suits over the past year. I might have been determined not to be swayed by the hype, but the hype becomes irrelevant when Johnny Borrell and his Scandinavian rent boys take to the stage and strike up the first notes of new single ‘Rip It Up’. It’s also not hard to see the Libertines connection – Razorlight might be sharper and more polished than the gloriously shambolic rabble-rousers, but there’s the same Strokes-on-Thames feel, and the same lyrical intelligence and flair on show here. It’s also clear that, in the case of Doherty, Barat and Borrell, two’s perfect company whereas three would understandably have been a crowd.

But Razorlight aren’t what all those craggy-faced leather-jacket-clad forty-something Mary Chain fans are there for. Oh no sirree. That would be The Raveonettes. And fuck me if they aren’t brilliant. And satisfyingly loud.

In terms of sex, the difference between the headliners and M.A.S.S. is enormous – songs like ‘Little Animal’ are positively dripping with pheromones, while Sharin Foo’s eyelinered eyes, sultry smile and cooing vocals become rather, ahem, distracting, amidst even the most piercing of the static storms they conjure up onstage. They play ‘That Great Love Sound’, ‘Noisy Summer’ and ‘The Love Gang’ in succession, impressing on anyone present who’s not already aware of the fact that this year’s Chain Gang Of Love LP is, above everything else, a stunning pop record, as black as night and yet miraculously and heart-warmingly upbeat with it. Eventually, after the queasy and bruised metronome of ‘Love Can Destroy Everything’, dedicated to Johnny Cash, the warped surf guitar genius of ‘Untamed Girls’ and a fabulous mauling of Buddy Holly’s ‘C’mon Everybody’, old favourites ‘Attack Of The Ghost Riders’ and ‘Beat City’ round the evening off in a joyous celebration of pure noise.

The biggest compliment I can pay them is that they make me want to go out, buy some gut-rotting headfuck white cider, drink it in the bushes, enjoy a drunken snog and then go home to spew all over the carpet. As it is, I step back into the rain with ears and head buzzing, glowingly happy.

As PJ Harvey sang, this is love.
A report of two halves

On Wednesday night Newcastle lost 2-1 after extra time at home to First Division side West Brom in the League Cup.

Here's what I wrote before seeing the highlights:

Typical Newcastle. Just as you start getting used to dining on caviar, they serve you up shit on toast. Tonight's result is an embarrassment. A case of arrogance and complacency, no doubt. Understandable, perhaps - West Brom might be a better team now than when they were relegated from the Premiership in June, but this time last week they were losing 1-0 at home to the MK fucking Dons. Take that into account, and defeat is unforgiveable.

And here's what I wrote after seeing the highlights:

In terms of chances in front of goal, a much more one-sided game you couldn't hope to see. We were desperately unlucky, and failed to get our just desserts - although, as managers who've just benefitted from a stroke of luck are wont to say, it evens itself out over the course of the season and this perhaps balances out our fortuitous win against the Smoggies a couple of weeks ago.

However, although displaying no shortage of endeavour, the players who came in just weren't up to the task, it seems. Despite creating all the chances, we were disappointingly toothless up front. Having knocked on Bobby's door incessantly all season, the fringe first teamers should have seized the opportunity when it came their way with both hands. As it is, the likes of Viana and Solano have hardly proved their case for inclusion in the regular first team.

Some blame must, however, be apportioned to Bobby himself. OK, so he's got the right to expect that the players he brings in should be capable of doing the job. But let's be honest - this is a huge club with no major silverware since 1969, and we've just passed up our best chance of a trophy. We can't afford to pick and choose which competitions we devote our energies to. Surely a full-strength side would have sent the Baggies packing?

One consoling thought: at least by winning in extra time, they spared us the agony of yet another catastrophic penalty shoot-out...

Bump! Grind! Oooh! Aaah! It seems it's Sex Week over at Troubled Diva, and it's proving to be quite an education for a naive straight young man like myself. Thanks to Danny and Martin, I am now no longer under the impression that gay clubs have "darkrooms" so that the more artistic revellers can disappear off to develop their own photographs during the course of the evening.

Casino Avenue has commemorated Iain Duncan-Smith's sacking by reprinting in full his speech outside Tory Central Office. Here's an excerpt: "My sister knows someone who works with disturbed teenagers, and my experience here was, well, probably 20 times worse than that. I have never known such a bunch of ignorant, backstabbing, lying, deceitful little shits in my life. I ask the parliamentary party - look at you. You bunch of little mummy's boys, beholden to an England which is dead, still in love with Margaret Thatcher, the only woman who reminds them of the nannies they all had. " Ah, if only politicians were always that honest, eh?

Meanwhile Vaughan has been getting stuck into another Tory MP, Oliver Letwin, "an objectionable, toadying, upper-class prick" who takes self-satisfied smugness to a whole new level.

More inspired ranting on The Yes / No Interlude, this time directed against American right-wing radio: "Every other word is "elite" -- the liberal elite, media elite, Hollywood elite. If I listen long enough there'll probably turn out to be a lefthanded elite and gardening elite. Fifty (or less) years ago it would have been "Jews" but now it's more convenient to make the scapegoat more amorphous. It's truly shameless, cynical stuff, pandering to the seething, inarticulate resentments of all those who need a big bulling voice to tell them that it's all the fault of someone else, guying up the most primal of gut-level philosophies, the infantile yammer of "me, me, me" wrapped in the flag to become "US, US, US". God is a stern old white guy whose retribution is righteous but is inately on our side, foreigners are only any good if they do exactly what we say, the economic miracles of Bush have saved us from the Clinton/Gore recession, understanding is for saps, anyone still going on about not finding WMD is anti-American, the California fires are all the fault of the environmentalists -- why, they probably started them so that Schwarzenegger would have to raise taxes and look back.... " Great to see that despite time spent living in Austin, Texas Nigel hasn't yet succumbed to the bludgeoning of the right-wing hammer, and continues to fight the good fight.

And finally... On a lighter note, Sarah has developed a fascination with football mascots of all shapes and sizes, and Razorhead expresses surprise that people still seem to think that Slendertone machines might be a good way of managing to eat deep-fried lard and yet avoid having to do anything remotely sweat-inducing to stay fit. A shame: tightly-fought games of 'Countdown' are enough to give me clammy hands and a racing pulse these days.
MBE: Mockney bastard everywhere

What the Queen might have said to Jamie Oliver upon receipt of his MBE:

"One is awarding this to you out of pity for your excessively wide tongue."

"Learn to speak proper, peasant."

"Why are you such a cunt?"

Anyone with a similarly keen hatred of the fish-lipped slobber-tongued Mockney tosspiece as myself might like to check out this site.
Know Your Enemy #31

"Mr Serious who helps the Indians"

Bitter that he's never won a Grammy award, Rod Stewart takes a pot-shot at Sting.

(From an interview in the Radio Times, via No Rock 'N' Roll Fun.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Is it just me...

...or was Frank Skinner's interview with Matthew Kelly on Monday night's show one of the most gripping pieces of TV for ages? For those that didn't see it, Kelly confronted Skinner about telling paedophile jokes about him on the 'Baddiel And Skinner Unplanned' show soon after his arrest. Uncomfortable viewing, to be sure, but there was some pleasure to be gleaned in watching Skinner squirm, and it developed into something of a debate on (and defence of) topical comedies and jokes. Despite protestations to the contrary, Kelly has clearly been hurt by comments made about him in jest, and it was fascinating to watch a man with a persecution complex challenging someone who he perceives to have been a significant persecutor.

Of course, it couldn't last - the next guest was Frank Maloney, and at Skinner's prompting the Cockney rogue spent most of the interview recounting his experience of taking Viagra. Cue exclamations of "The wife'll kill me!" between every sentence...
We're not worthy

Whoever it was who decided it would be a good idea to feature Ronnie Corbett and Alice Cooper together eating gammon steaks in the same advert, they deserve a knighthood, or at least a pint.
Feel good hits of the 29th October

1. 'Hunted By A Freak' - Mogwai
2. 'Mad World' - Gary Jules
3. 'Look To Your Orb For The Warning' - Monster Magnet
4. 'Mountain Song' - Jane's Addiction
5. 'Crazy In Love' - Beyonce feat Jay-Z
6. 'Time Is Running Out' - Muse
7. 'New York Was Great' - The Raveonettes
8. 'She Said' - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
9. 'Dead Valentines' - Qhixldekx
10. 'Secret Kiss' - The Coral
Three Of A Kind #10

The top three Premiership goalscorers of all time (in order):

Alan Shearer
Andrew Cole
Les Ferdinand

And, yes, they've all played for Newcastle.
Quote of the day

"If I'm ever confused about something or am struggling to form an opinion, I just have to check out the [Daily] Mail's stance on the issue. I then know that I should adopt the opposite point of view. Works every time."


Monday, October 27, 2003

Hitting full stride

At last - a comprehensive league victory, and a supreme performance to match. Portsmouth were the unlucky opposition, packed off on the long journey back to the South Coast with tails between legs after being utterly outclassed in a resounding 3-0 defeat.

Our record at home against Pompey is good, and never looked in danger at any stage on Saturday afternoon. Shearer managed to bag another goal (another penalty, incidentally - his fifth successful spot-kick of the season), while Ameobi continued to deputise admirably for the injured / recovering Bellamy, chipping in with a second-half strike to complete the rout and kill off any lingering hopes of a comeback. We've had the ability, talent and spirit for a while, but this is just the sort of ruthlessness we need to become a real force.
Hands up! Gimme all your pies!

From the front page (unbelievably) of the Birmingham Evening Post, sometime last week:


A man accused of stealing a pork pie from an 89-year-old woman and her 92-year-old husband only wanted a light for his cigarette and the couple completely misunderstood his actions, a jury was told yesterday.
James Whittaker is the Antichrist

If there's one thing more repellent than all the kerfuffle over Paul Burrell's "respectful" memoir of Diana, it's being incessantly subjected to the opinions of self-appointed royal "watchers" or "experts". All these reactionary leeches need their brakes tampering with.
Flash the cash

London just seems to become more London every time I visit. At Euston on Friday evening, barely five minutes after stepping off a train, I found myself in WHSmith behind a man paying for a copy of the Evening Standard with a £50 note.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

The post-rock poster boys are back in town

Is this some kind of unannounced Dinosaur Jr reunion? Stage right, we have the spitting image of Lou Barlow, bespectacled and floppy hair. Stage left, we have a guitarist whose lank locks hide his face for almost the entire set. In the middle, on drums, is someone who could pass for Murph. OK, so only if it was a dark night. And you were blind. No, these five waifs and strays, fronted by an out-of-it Thalia Zedek type, are Bardo Pond, and they come on like Kevin Shields playing Black Sabbath with sweet vocals floating somewhere over the top. They're a stoner band gone feral - a deliciously sludgy soup with some flute and electric violin stirred in for a bit of prog seasoning.

I don't want to sound snobbish here, but thank fuck Mogwai seem to have shaken off some of the dickhead hangers-on they were attracting two years ago. Last time I saw them indoors, they were playing at Leeds Met, much larger than tonight's venue the Birmingham Sanctuary, and the crowd was interspersed with laddish wankers shouting out undeserved abuse at the support act. Tonight a smaller and much quieter audience is served up the fruits of this year's brilliant Happy Music For Happy People LP - namely 'Hunted By A Freak', 'I Know You Are But What Am I?', 'Killing All The Flies', the gorgeous 'Golden Porsche' and a thundering 'Ratts Of The Capital', which wraps up the main set. A couple of the longer tracks from Rock Action get an airing, but the real highlights are reserved for the encore. First of all we get 'Xmas Steps' (though THAT bassline is sadly not loud enough to shake the floor) and then the blinding strobe-augmented genius of 'Mogwai Fear Satan', which, although minus flute and weighing in at just 12 minutes tonight, is quite enough to suggest that the sound of Concorde taking off will not be missed. The volume dial is up to 11 for the second encore, too, comprising of just the classic 'Summer'.

So, still head and shoulders above all the imitators. If there was to be any criticism at all, it would be that, although what they're doing is genuinely amazing and beautiful, they look slightly disinterested, as though they do it every single night - aside from the flicker of a smile that crosses Barry Burns's face every time the noise steps up a notch. Of course, they DO do it every single night - and that's why people want to see them.
Ful fall foul of Al

"When there are people like Shearer in the opposition, you know it is not game over". The words of Fulham boss Chris Coleman, speaking in the aftermath of his side's 3-2 defeat at our hands on Tuesday night. He's right - you simply cannot write the man off. Two vital goals, one from the penalty spot, snatched us a victory from the jaws of defeat, simultaneously propelling him to the top of the Premiership scorers table and into second place, above Len White, on the club's all-time top scorers list. He now has 154 - Jackie Milburn is top with 200, but the way Al's playing at this stage in his career, there's a real chance he could go on to top that figure.

To be fair, though, this was a real team effort, and a reminder of the numerous occasions over the last two seasons that we've scrambled our way to a win having been behind and up against it. The resilence and character is evidently still there, despite the off-pitch antics of some players and the dissatisfied grumblings of others. Robert's third goal in his last three starts suggests a player with a point to prove, while Jenas seems to have rediscovered his form of last January and February. Bowyer is also at last performing at something approaching his best.

Of course, it wouldn't be Newcastle if we hadn't allowed two former players to score against us within the first ten minutes. Both Lee Clark and Louis Saha finished well, Clark's muted celebration a mark of his Geordie sympathies. But once we'd got a foothold through Robert's goal, we managed to seize the initiative - this time with the help of a former player, Alain Goma, who brought Ameobi down for the penalty. Given the way Fulham have started the season, and our previous two away performances against them, this victory - our fourth in a row - is not to be sniffed at.
"Give us your fucking money!"

Well done to Bob Geldof, who in his appearance on Monday night's 'V Graham Norton' defended his penchant for swearing, pointing out that a judiciously-placed swear word can have a wonderful effect, and that swearing is one of the most expressive resources available in the English language. The possibilities for inventing new ways of insulting people, and creatively coining new words and phrases are almost endless. It's thanks to Anna that I heard the term "fuckbunch", and to Alun Woodward of The Delgados that "cockwank" entered my vocabulary as an adjective expressing extreme disgust.

French Connection might have tried to turn the original and best swear word into an "edgy" brand name, but, frankly, fuck 'em.
Blogwatch: in brief

Guest week on Troubled Diva: for the occasion LondonMark has developed a parallel to his own blog's fantastic The Art Of... series, called The Science Of...; meanwhile, Fiona has been pondering at length how our lives might be different if evolution had equipped us with tails.

Dead Kenny has clearly been quite the bookworm of late, judging by his review of recent reading material, including J G Ballard's much-lauded 'Millennium People'. It's on YOUR recommendation that I bought Max Barry's 'Jennifer Government', Kenny, so I'll be holding you personally responsible if it ain't up to scratch!

Invisible Stranger on the delicate and potentially fraught subject of urinal etiquette. It's only a matter of time before a fly-on-the-tiled-toilet-wall docudrama is made following the same blueprint as that C4 programme about dinner parties, with a couple of respected and seasoned toilet observers on hand to see what goes on: "Did you see him taking a little peek there? Let's get that in slo-mo"; "Oooh, look, is that urinal going to overflow before he's quite finished? And... Yes! All over those lovely new shoes!"; "That is DISGUSTING! I'm not sure it's even legal in Amsterdam!"...
Dumbing up

Words to strike fear into the heart: "'Hollyoaks' is now going five nights a week". Presumably that means they'll be needing some more boyband wannabes and brainless talentless blondes for the necessary extra storylines. Still, I'm sure that won't be a problem - they seem to be attracted to the show like flies to shit.
Quote of the day

"A catchy single is to a well-flowing album what a quickie is to real sex."

Alex on Close Your Eyes.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Smiles on Smogside

Not even the most blinkered Geordie could honestly say that Saturday's victory in the Tyne-Tees derby on Smogside wasn't rather fortuitous - but, given the start we've had, we'll take points however we can get them. Despite coming under severe pressure, and Shay Given pulling off several excellent saves, we snatched the win courtesy of Shola Ameobi's first goal of the season. It's about time another striker began to shoulder some of the burden for scoring - for once, Shearer could have a quiet day in front of goal without it costing us dear. That makes it three wins and three clean sheets in a row, and things seem to be improving steadily.

After the international break the games are coming thick and fast, with the trip to Fulham tomorrow night our third away match in less than a week. In contrast to the Riverside, Loftus Road is not a happy hunting ground - we've suffered very disappointing defeats there in the last two seasons. This is the time to put it right.

Incidentally, it's exactly seven years to the day since we thrashed Man Utd 5-0 at St James'. Probably the most enjoyable Newcastle match I've ever had the pleasure to watch. Didn't stop the bastards from winning the league, though.
Free Auntie Cyn!

THE blog to be reading at the moment, as is so often the case, is Troubled Diva, where Mike has thrown his doors open to a whole host of guest bloggers while continuing to post himself now and again. This week sees LondonMark join the party, amongst others.

I was horrified, though, to hear that one of last week's guests, Mike's lovely old Auntie Cyn, has been detained by the authorities with a consignment of suspect jam. Here's hoping she can bribe them with Rich Tea biscuits, but in the meantime I think recording a protest song would be in order. I'm off to get my 'Free Auntie Cyn' T-shirt printed right now. And I'd also like to lend my voice to the campaign to get her her own blog, once she's been released.
Know Your Enemy #30

Vaughan on "civic entertainment":

"Surprisingly, the exotic sound of the steel drum failed to lull me into thinking I was relaxing on a sun-kissed Caribbean beach. No, it was still a cold Saturday in October outside a west London branch of Superdrug. And today, the streets were alive to the sound of born-again Christian rappers. Yes, you heard - Christian rappers. Most of what they were shouting was unintelligible, but at one point I may have heard one of this God-fearing rap crew freestyling: "Yo, Jeee-sussss! He da man! Get down with JC - he da number one dude in da hood, y'all!" Or something. Sadly, these words didn't inspire any sort of spiritual awakening in me, but perhaps that's because it was the road to Hanwell rather than the road to Damascus."

Just the sort of curmudgeonly sentiment that I identify with increasingly these days.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Breda beaten

The second leg of our UEFA Cup tie against NAC Breda was always going to be a formality, and we emerged with a 1-0 victory on the night and an aggregate scoreline of 6-0 over the two legs. To be fair the highlights suggested that Breda gave our backline a testing time, but another clean sheet was very welcome - the third in four games. It was a well-worked and well-taken winning goal from Robert, too, and Lua Lua should have added a second just before the final whistle but somehow contrived to miss an open goal from four yards out. This morning's draw has pitched us against FC Basel of Switzerland in the next round - a tougher prospect, to be sure, given their remarkable escapades in the Champions' League last season.

A quick note on the pre-match violence: having been to the first game at St James', and seen how well the opposition fans were received (vocal throughout, they got a standing ovation from the rest of the stadium at the end of the match), I was bemused to hear that there had been brawls involving Newcastle fans in the run-up to this game. Though there was talk of Feyenoord and Chelsea fans being there to stir up trouble, and though it looks like all those arrested will be released without charge, it's worrying that a small minority seem intent on worsening the club's current PR headache. We've got quite enough to deal with already, thank you, what with the off-pitch antics of certain players.
Feel good hits of the 17th October

1. 'Eriatarka' - The Mars Volta
2. 'One Hundred Years' - The Cure
3. 'Remember' - The Raveonettes
4. 'Fractions & Feelings' - Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
5. 'Fight Test' - The Flaming Lips
6. 'Confessions Of A DDD' - The Coral
7. 'I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself' - The White Stripes
8. 'No Good Advice' - Girls Aloud
9. 'Lack Of Communication' - The Von Bondies
10. 'Apocalypse Please' - Muse
Quote of the day

"Today, after receiving the nineteenth unreasonably and impossibly deadlined telephone "request" from Someone Upstairs who pays my salary, I penalty-kicked my company phone across the office in a fit of pique, whereupon it shattered into a hundred corporately-beige pieces. God, try it sometimes! You can't believe just how much fun it is!"

Invisible Stranger

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

A farewell to arms

Spending the last few days in and around Belfast has proved to be a real eye-opener.

To my eyes the Northern Irish countryside, though undeniably beautiful, does not resemble the postcard-perfect verdant idyll used to sell thousands of pints of Guinness to dumb Americans who claim to have traced their ancestry back to Irish lords of the Middle Ages - the sort we found cluttering up the shop at Giant's Causeway in search of authentic Irish toffee and ginger-haired dolls. Neither, though, do the cities and towns resemble the grim warzone images to which I was exposed by the mass media throughout childhood.

Belfast is a city crawling its way slowly and steadily away from the past. Though the streets are not scarred and disfigured by ubiquitous McDonalds, Starbucks and branches of Gap (not yet, at least - the land of giants is yet to be conquered by the corporate ogres, it seems), there is a modernity and vitality about the city centre, and the huge number of new homes in the suburbs testifies to the vast sums that have been invested and ploughed into redeveloping and regenerating the city.

And yet it is still inextricably bound to what it is trying to leave behind. The past is there in the almost absurdly fortified police stations. It's there in the incredible gable-end murals, which continue to appear overnight - sentimental depictions of "heroes" and "martyrs" in Republican areas, chilling representations of paramilitary might in Loyalist areas. It's even there in the famous Crown Liquor Saloon, in the sign at the bar prohibiting the wearing of football shirts - here, your allegiance could be a matter of life and death.

The lines are still drawn, the territories marked out with mesh fences and flags and bunting and painted kerbstones: it still matters which side of the lines you're standing on. To the English visitor, used to political stability and a secular society where religion matters very little, Belfast can seem an unsettling place.

But things are changing. We spot a car with Republic plates on the Shankhill Road. "You wouldn't have seen that five years ago", we're told, "they would have had their windows put out." Two days later we go up to Flagstaff Point near Newry to admire the view of the mountains. Unfortunately the mist is so thick we can barely see five metres in any direction, but we later learn that "that was a place best avoided during the Troubles". Just being able to be there was what mattered - the freedom of movement, the freedom from fear.
In loving memory?

In the latest of Stylus's regular Playing God features, Josh Love takes a hatchet to Radiohead's Amnesiac LP. Being cruel to be kind, or just being cruel? You decide. Me? I love it just the way it is.
Scraping through

There was nothing but sheer relief for me when the whistle blew on Saturday night. Despite the fact that England dominated the match and should have been leading by at least a goal, Nihat came nail-bitingly close to winning it for Turkey in the final minute. Amidst all the drama, I couldn't help but be absorbed by Kieron Dyer's contribution as a second half substitute. The last couple of weeks can hardly have been ideal preparation, but all credit to him - he came on and was full of verve and energy, stretching and threatening the Turkish defence at the exact moment when they were desperate to launch some attacks themselves. Credit too must go to Sven, for having the foresight to make the switch. There's never been any doubt over his abilities on the football pitch (apart, perhaps, from his disappointing scoring record), and he can still go on to be a tremendous player for the club - but he has to stop allowing his off-field antics from overshadowing what he can do with a football. Firmly on the back page, with a successful Newcastle side, is where he belongs.

In other Newcastle-related news, it's farewell to forgotten man Clarence Acuna. After three years on Tyneside, the Chilean international has been released from his contract by mutual consent and returned home to care for his sick mother. Aside from being the most spectacularly ugly footballer to play for us since Peter Beardsley hung up his boots, Acuna was someone we could always rely on to do a job - not the most talented midfielder, but one who would pop up with the odd important goal and who never gave anything less than 100% for the cause (and thus 95% more than some of the others at the club when he arrived). It'll be some time before we have another Clarence in our ranks - that is, unless Sir Bobby's planning to relieve AC Milan of Seedorf...
Prune Bush down to size

Public apologies to James of Cha Cha Cha, who (I discovered today) had asked me to promote the Bands Against Bush day of action, which took place last Saturday. Only too glad to link to the organisation's website, though - politics and music should intersect in just this sort of way more often. Did anyone manage to support the cause by going along to one of the numerous events worldwide?

I also owe James a debt of gratitude for introducing me to another couple of very fine weblogs / websites: The Beat Surrender and Glamorama. The editor of the latter, Michael, says that the dual inspirations behind its conception were Radiohead and Bret Easton Ellis - and that really is all you need to know. Get reading.
You WHAT?!!

prince william slash fiction
justin hawkins monkey suit
zimbabwean words of wisdom
robbie williams skinned alive
giant pigeon costume
imaginary diary of jimmy greaves

Not here, my friends, not here.