Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Driller killer

A word of warning from the wise: if you've got an appointment booked for a 40 minute long four filling skull-grinding drillfest at the dentist's, don't go along with a raging hangover. If you're already feeling nauseous, it doesn't help matters having a mouth full of tooth chippings and blood.
Know Your Enemy #41

"Lee Hendrie really is a nasty, cowardly, little turd. He initially appears to fit into the vertically challenged but vicious variety but it's worse than that. He's the type that taunts from afar and then pretends to be the injured party. He'd already applauded the dismissal of O'Brien before his confrontation with Speed. Speed should have known better but the poisoned dwarf's attempts to get our man dismissed were appalling. The two squared up and foreheads touched slightly. Cue Hendrie falling to his knees checking his eyebrow for blood. Thankfully, ref Knight was still in his own little world and his linesman wasn't taken in by the antics. Seconds later a nudge from Speed then provoked Hendrie into headbutting Speed's arm before tumbling theatrically to the ground again. Laughable but enough to get Speed a booking while the munchkin-like Villa man escaped."

Niall Mackenzie of the ever-brilliant unofficial Newcastle site NUFC.com has a few well-chosen words for Aston Villa's Lee Hendrie following Sunday's match.
Quote of the day

"On one hand, I think that everyone, deep down, is a good person. But then, at the same time, I think the world is so cruel and horrible and I find it so upsetting. I wouldn't even know how to write soft, sensitive stuff. Or how to make it funny, at least."

Julia Davis talks about 'Nighty Night' and her vile comic creation Jill Tyrell to the Guardian. The premise of the article - that Jill's character means female sitcom characters will never be the same again - is rather thin, but it's worth a read all the same, not least because it also features the thoughts of Reece Shearsmith of 'The League Of Gentlemen' on his own "monstrous" female characters.

Also worth a read from yesterday's Franz Ferdinand edited G2: photographer Wolfgang Tillmans on obscenity. Steer clear of this article about blogging though - the sort of narcissistic wankery we can do without.

(Thanks to Inspector Sands for the links.)
Secrets and lies

John Pilger writes in the New Statesman about the Western reporting on the invasion and occupation of Iraq - essential reading.

(Thanks to BykerSink for the link.)

Monday, April 19, 2004

Fortitude in adversity

At 2pm yesterday afternoon I was in buoyant and confident mood. OK, so Villa had beaten Chelsea in their previous home game and had the chance to leapfrog us in the race for fourth place, but we were going into the game at a place we traditionally do very well at on the back of a tremendous two-legged victory over PSV in the UEFA Cup and with arguably our first choice side on the pitch. Thanks to Liverpool, Charlton and Birmingham all dropping points again on Saturday, we knew a victory would send us clear in fourth.

By 2.10pm, however, things looked rather less rosy. After a worrying sluggish start from the entire team Andy O’Brien was dismissed for pulling down Darius Vassell when clean through on goal, we were facing the prospect of a torrid 80 minutes with ten men and Kieron Dyer, having just returned from injury, found himself playing at right back. And worse was to come. Jenas picked up an injury and was substituted just after the half-hour mark, along with set-piece specialist Robert, to be replaced by Bowyer and Viana, two players not noted for gritty, committed displays in a black and white shirt. And early in the second half Bellamy, streaking past Ronny Johnsen as if he was standing still, suddenly pulled up in agony. Bellamy, like Jenas, may have played his last game of the season, and his replacement Michael Bridges is hardly the sort of player to strike fear into opposition hearts.

And yet, against all the odds, we managed to salvage an unlikely point with a second successive goalless draw (when was the last time you could say THAT about a Newcastle side?).

In the first half we rode our luck. Though Jenas, Robert and Shearer all went close, the sending off meant Bellamy was withdrawn into midfield and we were thus robbed of our only real attacking ploy (the Shearer flick-on for Bellamy to chase). There were gaping holes in our midfield that a better side would have exploited, but although we invited pressure on ourselves and Villa created a few chances of note, Given was hardly tested at all. Had Angel been playing instead of that lanky streak of piss Crouch, we could well have found ourselves behind at the break, but that would have been harsh on Hughes in particular, who had effortlessly reverted to his old position at the heart of the defence.

We closed down the space much more effectively in the second half, largely thanks to a long-overdue display of combative passion and controlled aggression from Bowyer, who was supported by grafting performances from Speed and Viana. And while the defence held firm, Woodgate once again solid as a rock and Dyer having adapted admirably, we created a few chances of our own with the sort of neat and incisive interchanges that have been missing of late. Given the circumstances, a win would have been fantastic and we kept pressing right up until the final whistle, by which time a frustrated Villa had run out of steam.

Plenty of injury worries ahead of Thursday’s meeting with Marseille, then, but if we can reproduce this sort of application and resilience on the night, coupled with a set-piece onslaught and the passion of the home crowd, who knows what might happen?
Less than the sum of its (body) parts

I finally got round to seeing ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ last night, and while I’m glad I did, it nevertheless came as something of a disappointment.

Given the involvement of several of those responsible for C4’s brilliant ‘Spaced’ – Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jessica Stevenson, Peter Serafinowicz, director Edgar Wright and producer Nira Park amongst others – it’s hard not to compare it to the TV series, and the comparison isn’t favourable. Though all the clever and distinctive stylistic tics are there, the dialogue isn’t nearly as sharp or quick-witted and the plot itself is rather lumbering, meaning the pace flags and sags on too many occasions. (All of these impressions, incidentally, confirmed when we came home and immediately slapped on the ‘Robot Wars’ episode.)

As much as I disagreed with much of Cosmo Landesman’s sneering review of the movie in last Sunday’s Times, I have to accept that it’s caught rather uneasily between horror and comedy, neither especially gory and chilling or especially funny, and not a great Frankenstein’s monster of the two genres either. Considering the cream of British comic talent involved – including starring roles for Dylan Moran and Lucy Davis, and entirely gratuitous cameo appearances by Martin Freeman, Julia Deakin, Reece Shearsmith, Tamsin Greig and Matt Lucas – the lack of any real hearty laughs is a mystery.

Still, perhaps I’m being overly critical – it does certainly have its moments, not least the concluding scene and the moment when Dylan Moran’s character David gets ripped apart by flesh-hungry zombies.
Flux = Rad

Over at Fluxblog, Matthew's posted 'Paper Cup Exit', Lee Ranaldo's contribution to the new Sonic Youth LP. Unfortunately I ain't got no means of hearing it, so I guess I'll just have to wait until the album hits the shelves in a month or so's time.
You WHAT?!!

The latest bizarre search engine topics to lead unsuspecting web browsers this way:

creepy freaks curdles
chimp y-fronts pictures
gimp masks from camden
amputee desires
limb biscuit lyrics
geri halliwell dustbins

Friday, April 16, 2004

Glasto: go go go!

Owing to yesterday's release of some extra tickets for public sale and quite outrageous good fortune, I am now in possession of a virtual ticket for this year's Glastonbury. Cinders, you SHALL go to the ball after all!

Of course, the likelihood now is that it'll piss it down all weekend and we'll be back to the Somme-like conditions of '98... Hey ho, no doubt hallucinogenic-strength cider will see us through.
Two old heads are better than one

We're through to the UEFA Cup semi-final, but as per usual the team didn't half make those of us sat in the stands sweat right until the death.

Following the 1-1 draw in Eindhoven last week, we had an away goal under our belt and a slender advantage over PSV going into Wednesday night's return leg on Tyneside. The early nerves were soon settled by Shearer, whose ninth minute near-post header from a Robert corner had us all dreaming of further progress in the competition. Though we created the best of the chances throughout the first half, two fell to the wrong people (Hughes and Bramble), while Bellamy hit the side netting and Jenas hit a shot straight at Waterreus. I was rather uneasy at the warmth of the applause which greeted the players as they came off the pitch at the break - despite having had the better of things in attacking areas, our midfield never seemed to have got to grips with theirs.

The opening period of the second half merely confirmed my fears. The Journal, a paper which seems to have the unerring ability to tempt fate and prompt disaster, had that very morning been talking of Bernard ousting Lizerazu from the left-back spot in the French national squad - so it was inevitable that it would be his poor control and ill-judged (though malice-free) tackle that allowed Mateja Kezman to level the tie from the penalty spot. (Kezman received a less than rapturous reception all night, but then I'm sure most of us would love to welcome him back in the summer and see him in a black and white shirt.)

It could have got worse shortly afterwards, had Bramble not been penalised for an even more insane lunge (though it was at least just outside the area), but thankfully the presence of Woodgate once again helped to steady the ship and we were soon back in front, thanks to another header from a corner, this time scored by Gary Speed, right in front of yours truly. The rest of the half was decidedly uncomfortable, as their midfielders, and Mark van Bommel in particular, continued to dominate proceedings. It didn't help, of course, that Robert seemed to think that his two perfectly-flighted corners should suffice as a contribution to the team effort, and consequently continually drifted ineffectually infield and took every opportunity show off that incredible style of movement that's halfway between a jog and a walk. He really should patent it as his own.

For the closing stages I was possibly more nervous than I've ever been - we all knew that if PSV were to grab a second equaliser on the night, there'd be no coming back and we'd be dumped out on our arses on the away goals rule. Somehow, though, we held out and now look forward to a mouthwatering semi-final tie against Marseille, conquerors of Liverpool in an earlier round. It's going to be extremely tough, and we can't keep relying on our new-found prowess from set pieces to get us through, impressive as it is surprising after years of wastefulness. There has to be more guile from our midfield, and a greater variety about our forward play - continually hitting Shearer with long balls to flick on to Bellamy won't fox the best teams, as it didn't PSV.

The match drew a near capacity crowd, and as is not always the case at St James's these days, the atmosphere throughout was fantastic. (Also in attendance was fellow blogger and Toon fan BykerSink - you can read his thoughts by clicking on the link.) Special mention must go to the small (ie 4 or 5 year old) boy sat next to me, who, despite not knowing any of the chants, spent much of the match carefully watching his dad, copying his arm movements and clapping at the same time. Let's just hope he wasn't paying quite so much attention to what was coming out of his dad's mouth, particularly those comments reserved for the referee - if he was, then his vocabulary has probably expanded tenfold...

(Thanks to Martin for alerting me to the following marvellous piece of commentary from ITV2's coverage of the match: "Gary Speed is an exemplary example". He is indeed.)
Unknown pleasures

Incredibly, I came across something of real substance on MTV2 the other night. The programme, buried deep in the early hours of the morning, was called 'This Is Our Music: Chicago'. It featured interviews with the likes of Low, Rope, Sam Prekop of The Sea And Cake / Tortoise, Bettina Richards of Thrill Jockey and the founding fathers of the Kranky label, and music from Low, Rope (VERY out-there stuff indeed), The Sea And Cake, The Lonesome Organist and Bobby Conn.

Two things struck me in particular while watching the programme:

1. Is it not fair to say that Scissor Sisters aren't doing anything that Bobby Conn wasn't doing a few years ago? His latest LP The Homeland is (I gather) surprisingly quite overtly political, so he's managed to stay out of sync with (or ahead of) the zeitgeist - just as he'd want, I imagine. I saw him headline the smallest tent at Leeds two years ago, when, like an underappreciated intruder in the midst of the whole garage rock thing, he confused and delighted a pitifully small crowd with bizarre glam pop songs from his last album The Golden Age. Extra points scored for calling his backing band The Glass Gypsies too.

2. Having never heard The Sea And Cake before, I was mightily impressed with their cover of Bowie's 'Sound + Vision' (see: Feel good hits...). Does anyone know which album / EP does this appear on? And what of theirs should I try to check out first?
Small fry

Best anecdote I've heard in the last couple of days:

While at university an associate of mine - let's call him R - lived with a bunch of others in a flat. They all got on well together, except for one individual who, in the parlance of our times, was a knob. One day came the straw that broke the camel's back and R and his fellow flatmates conspired to wreak their bloody revenge upon The Knob. This they did by killing his goldfish (which, admittedly, was completely innocent of any crime), deep-fat-frying it, dividing it up amongst themselves and serving it up on plates with miniature chips. The Knob walked into the kitchen as the feast was in progress. He moved out the next day.

When it comes down to Most Effective Ways To Kill A Fish, deep-fat-frying has to be right up there. Certainly more effective than the method attempted recently by my brother. His ageing goldfish is having problems staying upright in the water due to difficulties with its swim bladder. Both he and my parents decided the best thing to do was to put it down by turning off the fishtank pump and leaving it overnight - sort of turning off the life support system and committing piscine euthanasia. Unfortunately, what they hadn't taken into account is that, due to the fact that oxygen diffuses in water, fish are able to survive happily in ponds and lakes that don't have pumps. Mr Fish seems to have been granted a stay of execution, for the time being.
Blogwatch: in brief

For the book-loving blogger like myself there's been plenty of interest to get my teeth into lately. At Glamorama there's a feature on the Japanese author Haruki Murakami, complete with a guide to each of the novels to have been translated into English. Murakami's not someone I know anything about, but Mike has done a very good job of selling him to me.

Meanwhile it's great to see that, during his convalesence, Kenny of Parallax View put his time to good use by burying his head in books, and he's subsequently posted a mammoth book review compendium, including thoughts on Zoe Heller's 'Notes On A Scandal', Chuck Palahniuk's first two novels and Jeff Noon's 'Falling Out Of Cars'. Zadie Smith's second novel 'The Autograph Man' comes in for a bit of a pasting, too. I'm assuming this means you made it to the end of Pynchon's 'Mason & Dixon' then, Kenny... (Also well worth a peek: Kenny's review of the recent Yeah Yeah Yeahs / The Locust / Devendra Banhart gig and an interview with Ann Shenton, formerly of Add N To (X) and now going under the moniker of Large Number.)

Robin of Speaking As A Parent has been on sparkling form of late. Though it's difficult to single out just one post to direct you to, I will: the one entitled "The dream shop" in which he writes about a recent dream, no doubt brought on by the consumpton of a hell of a lot of cheese, which concerned his discovery of "London's first proper right-wing retail outlet"...

... And finally: Troubled Diva is the place to go if you've been hunting around online for "arboreal porn" without success...
Feel good hits of the 16th April

1. 'Matinee' - Franz Ferdinand
2. 'Heroes' - David Bowie
3. 'She Wants To Move' - N*E*R*D
4. 'Plug Me In' - Basement Jaxx
5. 'Sound + Vision' - The Sea And Cake
6. 'Fit But You Know It' - The Streets
7. 'Canada' - Low
8. 'Laura' - Scissor Sisters
9. 'Talkin Gypsy Market Blues' - The Coral
10. 'Crush' - The Dismemberment Plan

(Can anyone tell me why Franz Ferdinand abbreviated the song title for release as a single? Can't quite understand it myself.)
Quote of the day

"Never has it been so difficult to make money by any form of art: never has the artist had such a bad chance: and never has the world been so coldly indifferent, never has it clutched its shillings more tightly ... nobody is going to waste one serious moment on art at all ... there are days coming when art will not save us: neither you nor me nor anybody."

D H Lawrence writing to publisher's assistant Nancy Henry in January 1919.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

This green and pleasant land

When I tell people that I’m from Northumberland, they generally look blankly at me.

You know, it’s north of Newcastle”.

What, you mean Scotland?

Well, no, believe it or not, Northumberland is not some drearily barren hinterland but (at the risk of sounding a bit like a Tourist Information Guide) in fact home to some of the most beautifully wild and unspoilt countryside in Britain. Plus it’s a massive if sparsely populated county - it can take well over two hours to drive from my house to Edinburgh. Perhaps if you actually pulled your head out of your arse and ventured further north than Hertfordshire you might realise that. You prick.

Having spent nearly two weeks now back in the place I still call home, I’ve been reminded about how much I love it. Though I’m not sure I could live here again happily just at this point in my life, there’s something about the wide open spaces, the freshness of the Cheviot air and the keenness of the coastal wind that holds some irresistible appeal for me. Stood up on the moors in the north of the county last weekend, I was struck by the realisation that it remains one of the most uncolonised and uncorporatised places in the country. There simply isn’t the sense that the land has been neatly apportioned and exploited for maximum gain, regardless of the wider social and environmental costs. You can keep your out-of-town retail parks and multiplex cinemas – THIS feels like freedom.

All this is a roundabout way of pleading with fellow Morpethian Sarah of Not You, The Other One to carry on posting pictures from her various Northumbrian treks and adventures. Even though I spend most of my time some distance from Northumberland (either in Nottingham, Birmingham and London), Sarah’s regular “local interest” posts keep me in touch and remind me of what I’m missing – as well as hopefully convincing other readers that it’s well worth a visit. I imagine I’m not alone in saying I’ll miss those particular posts when she heads off to Greece in a couple of months' time.
Robson’s wet dream: a clean sheet against Arsenal

And I SO wanted to be able to title this post “Hey (Sir) Bobby, what’s the French for ‘sick as a parrot’?” Taking recent results into consideration, I really thought we had a good chance of ending Arsenal’s unbeaten run in the Premiership this season, but sadly it wasn’t be. At the final whistle it seemed strange to be celebrating a scoreless draw at home, but that was no mean feat given the calibre of the opposition, by some distance the best side in the league.

Things started very brightly indeed, the most notable incident coming after just six minutes when Bellamy scampered into the box to meet a cross from the suspiciously offside Shearer only for Lehmann to pull off a fantastic low save and turn the ball round the post for a corner. As the half progressed, though, Arsenal began to seize control. While Bellamy’s pace and Shearer’s physical presence continued to trouble Campbell and Toure, Robert just couldn’t get into the game and Jenas was running about in midfield doing his usual headless chicken impression and looking like a boy amongst men. It was his mistake on the stroke of half-time that could have handedthe Gunners the lead, but Homer Simpson lookalike Sylvain Wiltord, who’d just returned from a long spell out through injury, steered his shot wide. Doh!

Thankfully half-time came at just the right moment, when Arsenal were in the ascendancy, and we emerged for the second period refocused and reinvigorated. Not only did Robert start to get more involved, but Jenas also began to get a grip with Vieira and Gilberto, putting in a committed and energetic display which went some way to reminding us all of what he’s really capable of. Undisputed man of the match, though, was Woodgate - absolutely magnificent at the heart of the defence, albeit aided by Henry’s lack of va-va-voom on the day. He might not be likely to start against France in Euro 2004 (after his performance against Turkey, John Terry just about deserves to be ahead of him in the England pecking order), but his place on the plane must have been booked by now. Praise also due to his fellow defenders for a second excellent display in succession – the returning O’Brien showed no rustiness and ably assisted Woodgate in the middle, while both full backs made vital interceptions to deny the Gunners goalscoring opportunities. Chances to register a home goal might have been few and far between, but 0-0 was a thoroughly satisfactory result and a useful point.

As has become habit, a few words about the results of those around us. On the plus side, Liverpool and Birmingham lost both their games over the Easter period; but on the down side, Charlton and Villa both picked up four points and Fulham three. We go to Villa on Sunday following the second leg of the UEFA Cup Quarter Final against PSV – over the last few seasons Villa Park's been a very happy hunting ground for us, but our away form and a certain Mr N Solano may yet conspire to make it an afternoon to forget.

If I were to swallow everything the local “newspaper” The Journal tells me, the race for fourth is between ourselves and Liverpool – apparently no other team exists, and as long as we win our game in hand we’re laughing. Well, allow me to be realistic here, but of our six remaining games four are away, and since we haven’t won on the road in the league since October, this is not good news. Although the home match against Wolves shouldn’t really (in theory at least) pose too much of a problem, Chelsea will be a real test. Meanwhile, the four away trips are to close rivals Villa on Sunday, then Man City (where we lost last season), then Southampton (where we invariably lose), then Liverpool (where we invariably lose, often – to the joy of the Sky cameras – by the odd goal in seven scored in the last minute). Suffice to say I’m not as confident about getting that Champions' League spot as Journalists Simon Rushworth and Paul Gilder seem to be.

(Incidentally, in a feature in today’s edition Rushworth, “profiling” Jenas, suggests that the pinheaded midfielder should be picked by England to nullify the threat of Vieira in England’s opening game of Euro 2004. For fuck’s sake man, one swallow does not a summer make. I thought it was your job to watch Newcastle games? You obviously haven’t been particularly observant this season.)
Quote(s) of the day

"I think if I was shot in the middle of the street tomorrow a lot of people would be quite unhappy. I think I'd be a prime candidate for canonisation."

"I'm not really that hot on the human race to be honest. Very few people have anything to offer."

"I think if you're remotely intelligent you can't help being depressed. It's a positive thing to be. It means that you're not a crashing bore. I mean, you don't get support groups for rugby players, do you?"

All hail Steven Patrick Morrissey – come to spare us all from the plague of say-nothing know-nothing think-nothing twats that pass for pop stars today.

(Taken from this article in Friday’s Guardian that every man and his dog has already linked to.)
Napalm death

You would have thought that, by now, I’d have learnt my lesson. Learnt from my mistakes. But no. Regardless of the warnings on the box and the number of times I’ve suffered extreme pain as a result of ignoring them, when drunk I remain completely unable to resist biting into a slice of takeaway pizza as soon as it emerges from the ovens to be delivered into my hands. I swear that freshly baked pizza cheese is just like napalm – it clings to your tongue and the roof of your mouth, burning away the flesh until you can’t taste anything at all. The following morning not only are you considerably lighter in the cash department, but you also feel as though you’ve undergone particularly intensive oral surgery. Ouch.
Monkeying about

So, this is where licence payers’ money goes: BBC journalist writes about acting like a monkey for a day.
Do give a toss

If only all magazines were as full of sick twisted wonderment as Modern Toss, fresh from the makers of *hitflap. Click here to have a peek at some of the cartoons featured in the latest issue - my favourite is probably the one entitled 'Hitler Documentary', although Mr Tourette is quite an entertaining cad.

(Thanks to Zoe and Rich for the tip-off.)
’Milkshake’ cocktail

Best mash-up I’ve heard for quite a while: ‘Dub Be Good To Me’ by Beats International blended with ‘Milkshake’ by Kelis. Great stuff.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Rearguard action

If anyone had told me a few hours ago that, away to a top European side in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup, we’d invite wave upon wave of attack only to stand firm, repel every single one and emerge from the match with a highly creditable draw, I’d have laughed long and loud. But that’s exactly what we did tonight. So, may I introduce you to Messrs Hughes, Woodgate, Bramble and Bernard aka the So Solid Crew?

After a shaky opening 20 minutes for Hughes in particular, during which time the ever-dangerous Mateja Kezman muscled his way in to give PSV Eindhoven the lead, we recovered our composure admirably and had the better of the remainder of the first half, despite the best efforts of the referee to penalise us at every available opportunity (apparently football is no longer a contact sport). Speed, Ambrose and Shearer all had good attempts at goal before Jenas headed in from a Robert free-kick in first half stoppage time – the Frenchman’s delivery from dead-ball situations had been brilliant all half.

The second period was very much backs-to-the-wall stuff – not the most enjoyable experience for those Newcastle fans who, like myself, very often fear for the stability and robustness of our defence. We managed to keep PSV out, though, with a combination of tenacious tackling and luck, central defender Bouma striking the crossbar with a powerful header shortly after the break and others going perilously close. We could even have stolen a first leg lead when, five minutes from time, Bellamy on the break set up Shearer for a swerving piledriver that PSV keeper Waterreus did well to keep out.

The result sets up the second leg very nicely. Having witnessed first-hand the 5-0 demolition of fellow Dutch side NAC Breda in this competition earlier on in the season, I’m really pleased to have got a ticket to see PSV’s return trip to Tyneside. The tie’s still fairly evenly balanced and could go either way, but our home form is such that we have to believe we can progress to the semi-finals.

Quite what tonight’s scoreline says about what might happen in Sunday afternoon’s match is anyone’s guess. The good news is that Henry might be missing with a hamstring injury, and that Robert is in good form going into a fixture he usually enjoys. Given the results of the last fortnight, Arsenal won’t be relishing a visit to St James’s Park, and for the sake of our Champions’ League hopes we have to capitalise on that.
Shameless self-publicising announcement

Those lovely folk at Stylus are currently celebrating the year that was 1991. Click here to read a highly entertaining selection of thoughts, views and rants on such subjects as My Bloody Valentine's Loveless LP, the ‘Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves’ movie and Jerry Springer. Follow the links at the top of the page and you come across some pearls of wisdom and wit about Guns ‘N’ Roses ‘November Rain’ single, Metallica's self-titled LP, Rodney King and Jeffrey Dahmer.
Here we are now / Bleed us dry

Kurt Cobain RIP Week: In Association With NME

Hey kids, death sells.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Glasto: no go

Apologies for the temporary hiatus here at SWSL. It’s the result of a couple of factors: firstly, the fact that I’m currently lacking regular easy access to the internet, and secondly, the fact that I’m only just recovering from suffering the anguish / pain / heartache of missing out on a Glastonbury ticket last week. Having spent hours on the phone without success, I’m now certain I know the meaning of Peter Andre’s “insania”. If I EVER hear the engaged tone again…
Gift aid

How nice to discover an opposition defence even more charitable than our own. Thanks for Saturday’s victory over Everton must go to Messrs Unsworth and Yobo as much to Shearer, Dyer, Bellamy et al – though even then the win was hardly straightforward.

It took just five minutes for Bellamy to unsettle Unsworth into gifting us the lead, but the impressive Gravesen soon pegged us back. Dyer capped an energetic display on his return from injury with a headed goal, his first league strike since 22nd February 2003, but later blotted his copybook by standing motionless on the post and allowing Yobo to steal in and reduce the arrears to 3-1. Shearer yet again proved the matchwinner, seizing on two opportunities either side of Yobo’s header to ensure the points remained on Tyneside. His second came in the final minute, though, and it has to be said that had old boy Steve Watson’s perfectly good header stood rather than being disallowed for offside with the score at 2-1, the afternoon would have been even more uncomfortable.

Of the chasing pack, Charlton didn’t play this weekend and both Villa and Birmingham could only manage draws. Liverpool, however, thrashed a hapless Blackburn side to stay one point ahead of us in fourth, and improve their goal difference. What we need to hope for is that, following tonight’s Champions’ League exit at the hands of Chelsea, Arsenal can take out their frustrations on Liverpool on Friday but then arrive at St James’s Park on Sunday suffering from their recent exertions so we have at least a chance to turn them over. It’s only a hope, mind…

Before that test, though, we have to go to PSV Eindhoven in the UEFA Cup quarter-final, hoping to snatch a result or at least limit the damage inflicted by the likes of Kezman, Robben and Rommedahl. It’s going to be a very tough week.
Quote of the day

The review of a Blazin’ Squad gig, penned by one Lauren Dunne (who I can only assume is an eight-year-old) which appeared in our regional daily paper The Journal, reprinted in its entirety:

Smoke filled the arena and out of the fog emerged all 10 of the Blazin’ Squad ready to rock the house last night. As they paraded round the stage their voices were drowned out by the incessant screaming of teenage girls. After a shaky start with hits off the first album the boys from Walthamstow really got going. A rare moment of awe happened when one of the lads came on wearing a helmet and started break dancing and spinning on his head and the crowd cheered. The band played hits from both their albums and ranged from pop to R&B and hip-hop. All were wearing baggy trousers and vests. Blazin’ Squad now have two albums, Now Or Never and In The Beginning, and have changed their style dramatically.

Well, now I can rest soundly, safe in the knowledge that the paper is delivering to my doorstep the very pinnacle of music journalism. I look forward to experiencing a similarly incredible “moment of awe” at the next concert I attend.
Warren Barton, centre parting!

Best SWSL wishes to former Newcastle right back Warren Barton, who announced his retirement last week. For a brief period in the summer of 1995, until Les Ferdinand joined the club, the player nicknamed Brazilian Barton was our record signing, and at a price of £4 million he held the record for the most expensive British defender for some time. Much maligned and mocked by those outside the club, as he was by a minority within, Barton withstood all the criticism and his commitment to the cause was never in doubt. Perhaps his finest performance in a black and white shirt was in a 1999 Boxing Day clash with Liverpool, which I was fortunate enough to witness – he had a blinder and set up Duncan Ferguson with a brilliant curling left-foot cross which the Big Man converted with a diving header. Barton’s a genuinely good-hearted bloke, and it’s great to hear he’s going to stay involved in football.
Feel good hits of the 7th April

1. ‘Ratts Of The Capital’ - Mogwai
2. ‘Walt Disney’ - Qhixldekx
3. ‘Apocalypse Please’ - Muse
4. ‘Nite And Fog’ – Mercury Rev
5. ‘Paradise City’ – Guns ‘N’ Roses
6. ‘Woke From Dreaming’ – The Delgados
7. ‘Milkshake’ - Kelis
8. ‘Toxic’ – Britney Spears
9. ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’ – The Darkness
10. ‘Reptilia’ – The Strokes

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Blogwatch: in brief

A quick round-up of what's caught my eye recently in the World of Blog...

... There's a fantastic post by BykerSink on It's Wrong To Wish On Space Hardware about the delights of Newcastle that's really whetted my appetite for my forthcoming return. He also has a few well-chosen words about the North / South divide: "it needs to be addressed. But, if ironing out the differences means the possibility of changing Newcastle for the worse then we need to be very careful. For the record, opening a Selfridges, Harvey Nicholls or Yo Sushi is not progress". Having witnessed first-hand the transformation of Birmingham city centre with the construction of the new Bullring, I'm equally sceptical about this crassly capitalist philosophy - essentially retail therapy on a grand scale - which suggests that building bigger and better shops is some kind of panacea that will improve the whole quality of life in the city. And don't get me started on all that bullshit about it "increasing the choice available to consumers" - the shops that have moved into the Bullring are shutting their stores elsewhere in the city centre, so the choice remains exactly the same...

... He Who Cannot Be Named can indeed be excused for laughing: he's been to the premiere of 'Shaun Of The Dead' (verdict - "modest in that British way, but a bloody laugh"), and the experience has prompted him into such musings as the following: "Things about world premieres: running the gauntlet (first the outside, then the TV interviewers in is not good for your ego). First, you just know that once you're past the security barrier and getting into the cinema that everyone stuck on the sides is doing a Terminator-style scan on you with the simultaneous thought 'Is that a celebrity? No, IT'S NOBODY!'. Then inside, you see cheese-brained entertainment twats 'Kate over here! Please say something empty and banal we can show on our morning showbiz slot! And no. I don't think twats like me and Ben Shepherd deserve to have our brains sucked out through our nostrils, then served to rabies-stricken dogs. No, we contribute to the great panoply of humanity'"...

... Finding himself on the brink of giving up coffee, Invisible Stranger expresses his fear of becoming boring: "I feel as though I'm unconsciously evolving into some holier-than-thou proselytiser for the Healthy Lifestyle, and it just feels all wrong and unnatural somehow. A man needs at least one vice of which he knows his mother would disapprove, and a queen preferably ten, or else where's the fun to be had in life? As for me, well, I don't even pick my nose anymore".

... Mike of Glamorama is talking up The Boxer Rebellion - "If Interpol pulled in Richard Ashcroft to sing vocals on Turn On The Bright Lights, the end result would be something like The Boxer Rebellion"...

... And finally: happy birthday to Casino Avenue, one year old today.
When I am king, you will be first against the wall

#4: Tim Henman

Why?: For being a charmless, snooty, offensively dull mummy's boy and thus a pin-up for Daily Mail readers and symbol of all that is Bad about England.

Imagined famous last words to firing squad: "I've wet myself..." BANG!

(This particular victim was suggested to me by Linda Smith when she appeared on 'Room 101' on Monday night. She described Henman as "the human equivalent of beige". I also wholeheartedly agreed with two of her other choices, brightly-coloured and patterned bow ties (and their wearers) and adults who read the 'Harry Potter' books. Tossers, the lot of 'em.)
Know Your Enemy #40

"Eavis is a cock. We don't deal with fucking arseholes. We were speaking to all the big events before Christmas and Glastonbury was on the list. But Eavis said he thought we wouldn’t be around for the festival in June. It’s his loss. Our decision not to play Glastonbury is nothing to do with cash. Of course we asked for a lot — we’re the best band around. Michael Eavis is just annoyed that he missed the boat. He came back to us after he realised his mistake. But it was too late. We’d already agreed to do the Carling Festival for a lot less money. So he’s lost out. Glastonbury is all about sitting in a field and buying funny hats. When I go to a festival it’s because I want to see bands and like the line-up. I never went to Glastonbury until we played there. Don’t bother with Glastonbury unless you want to stand in a field and be healed."

Oh dear. The Darkness's Justin Hawkins would appear to be full of shit.

(Thanks to BykerSink for the link.)
Quote of the day

"You have got to keep his toad away from your hole."

Jill in Monday night's 'Nighty Night'.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Anger is an energy

Time for this week’s shameful SWSL confession: until I read ‘Love All The People: Letters, Lyrics, Routines’ I knew precious little about Bill Hicks apart from the fact that He Who Cannot Be Named swears by him - and, indeed, like him. As an introduction to the man and his perspective on life, the book is very readable. Comprised (as the title might suggest) of transcripts of live stand-up shows, brief sketches and rants, TV ideas, letters and interviews, it gives you the sense of a comic whose star was at long last deservedly in the ascendancy at the time of his death from cancer in February 1994.

An informative framing foreword is supplied by John Lahr, recipient of by far the longest letter reproduced in the book, which details Hicks’s version of events when his performance was cut from ‘The Late Show With David Letterman’ in October 1993. The impassioned critique of television and censorship which follows makes the letter arguably the most important document in the whole book, Hicks hammering home point after point, every one of which is even more relevant now than it was then: “The elite ruling class wants us asleep so we’ll remain a docile, apathetic herd of passive consumers, and non-participants in the true agendas of our governments, which is to keep us separate and present an image of a world filled with unresolvable problems that they, and only they might one day, somewhere in the never-arriving future, may be able to solve” As regards the book’s contents, my only hope would have been for more interviews or press features, perhaps in place of a couple of the live transcripts which often overlap in terms of material.

Aside, of course, from the fact that he’s damn funny, what I admire about Hicks (at least, about the Hicks that emerges from these pages) is that he is unafraid of challenging his audience and taking them on. During some of the live shows, when his act is being received with something less than enthusiasm, his dogged and undaunted persistence seems to approach masochism. I also like the way he has evidently thought carefully about what it means to be a comic and, even more fundamentally, about what comedy is. Far from being the sort of careerist stand-up looking for a way into the more glamorous world of television who deals in cheap and mindless comedy that allows the audience to switch off while being passively entertained, Hicks engages with people, often in an amusingly aggressive fashion, and refuses to allow them to relax. As he writes in a letter responding to criticism from a priest about his C4 programme ‘Revelations’, “Good comedy helps people know they’re not alone. Great comedy provides an answer.” In other words, comedy should not be just about providing sheer escapist pleasure. More than most stand-up comedians he actually has something to say, and is perfectly prepared to use the stage as a platform from which to say it. In his act the pill of political polemic may be sugared with a sprinkling of dick jokes, but it’s always there. For Hicks it’s not enough to point out the follies of human existence and contemporary society to an audience just so they can laugh and then happily go back to their old ways of thinking and behaving; behind it all stands the message that these absurdities are contingent, that we don’t have to accept things the way they are, and that change can happen. This might not in itself be particularly earth-shattering, but it’s the forcefulness and conviction with which Hicks expresses his arguments that resonates longest in the memory.

On a more personal note ‘Love All The People’ has had quite a significant impact on me, particularly in coincidental conjunction with my ongoing reading of Mark Kinkead-Weekes’s biography of D H Lawrence. As regular SWSL readers are probably aware, I’ve grown rather fond of venting my spleen in numerous different directions, and lately I’ve been feeling that my irritability at and intolerance of people is getting out of control. Both Hicks and Lawrence are renowned for the potential savagery of their remarks about others, but both endorse the view that such vitriol, when piercingly acute and directed at well-chosen targets, can ultimately be constructive and creative rather than simply destructive and divisive. Though both can be mercilessly and dismissively scathing about large groups of people, they nevertheless at root maintain an undimmed sense of humanity’s worth. Reading Hicks’s thoughts on the subject – “I am a misanthropic humanist. It’s a weird conflict when you are your own bete noire. ‘Do you like people?’ ‘They’re great in theory’” – reassured me, as he claims the best comedy should, that I’m not alone in feeling torn between hate and love. Feelings of scepticism, cynicism and contempt can only arise from the belief that there exists the possibility of something better.

An edited version of John Lahr’s foreword from The Guardian.

A more critical perspective on the book.
Pathetic and pointless

On Friday, following the win over Real Mallorca, I wrote: “it would be typical of us, having won comfortably a game we didn't need to win, to then slip up away at Bolton on Sunday. With any luck, though, the result will instill some more confidence and belief into the side”. Of course, with hindsight, I should have known better than to tempt fate on this blog once again – after all, it’s not as if fate needs much tempting in the case of Newcastle Utd.

Having fallen behind to a freak fourth-minute goal from Henrik Pedersen (who should have been penalised for a push on debutant Steven Taylor), we then proceeded to carve out a series of good chances. Bellamy in particular was scaring Bolton’s defenders witless with his pace and movement, but failed to convert the one clear-cut opportunity that presented itself, a one-on-one which he steered wide. Shearer, Woodgate and Bramble could also all have hit the back of the net, and the 1-0 half-time deficit wasn’t too disheartening given the openings we were creating.

Unfortunately the second half was a very different story. Bolton neutralised the threat from Bellamy, gained control of midfield through Okocha, Nolan and Stelios and had much the better of the match, running out deserved winners. Aside from forcing a couple of half-chances we were embarrassingly poor – the same old tale of misplaced passes, half-hearted tackling and a guileless midfield in which Jenas and Bowyer were abysmal. Their replacements Viana and Ambrose did nothing to advance their cause for a starting berth either. The fact that our performance was so lifeless whereas Bolton, with very little to play for (they should finish comfortably above the relegation zone), were full of desire and vigour is very worrying indeed. The only bright spots on another depressing away day were Woodgate’s continued fitness and good form, Given’s tremendous second-half saves and the increasingly assured and committed display of Taylor at right back. It might not be long before Woodgate and Taylor form our first choice central defensive partnership.

Thankfully other results have yet again kept us in a deceptively healthy looking fifth place. Aside from Birmingham’s win over Leeds, we were cheered by Liverpool’s inability to beat Leicester and Charlton slipping up again at home to Villa (though that result puts Villa right in the frame too). I think it’s fair to say that none of the leading candidates for the Champions’ League spot are playing well enough to really deserve it.
"Thatcherism = Fuck Thy Neighbour"

Website of the day: Maggie Thatcher Is Dead!. For obvious reasons.

(Thanks to Casino Avenue for the link.)
Know Your Enemy #39

"I hope he’s comforted by the money it [‘The Passion Of The Christ’] makes, and I’m sorry there’s no hell for him to go to."

Christopher Hitchens on Mel Gibson, from last night’s Channel 4 programme ‘Mel Gibson: God’s Lethal Weapon’.
It’s not every day…

… that you get a text message that reads: "I’ve just got Peter Stringfellow’s autograph!"

Friday, March 26, 2004

No pain in Spain

Last night's 3-0 victory over Real Mallorca at the San Moix Stadium saw Newcastle cruise through to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup with an aggregate scoreline of 7-1. Though we rode our luck for the opening hour of the first leg, Mallorca captain Samuel Eto'o going close on several occasions, over both legs the result was convincing and well-deserved. It was also hugely impressive given the stature of the opposition - in their last home game Mallorca had beaten Deportivo with ease.

The chances they created at St James's must have given them some cause for optimism and we survived a few scares in the first half, but Shearer pounced on a goalkeeping error just after half-time to put the tie firmly beyond their reach. Craig Bellamy put yet another episode in his chequered career at the club behind him (this time the "push-and-shove" incident with first team coach John Carver at Newcastle airport) by coming off the bench to score the second and the skipper wrapped it up with a third a minute from time. Not only were we refreshingly ruthless in front of goal, but our brittle and much-embattled defence managed to keep a clean sheet away from home. All in all, a very good night's work.

However, as ever with this team, it's worth sounding a couple of notes of caution. Firstly, it would be typical of us, having won comfortably a game we didn't need to win, to then slip up away at Bolton on Sunday. With any luck, though, the result will instill some more confidence and belief into the side. Secondly, while our form this season suggests any hopes of lifting the UEFA Cup might be rather optimistic, we are still in the competition, and the danger is that we might allow ourselves to get carried away with the European adventure and in the process take our eyes off the race for fourth place in the league. That we remain focused and concentrated on both competitions is imperative, especially now that Liverpool's exit from the UEFA Cup means that they - like Charlton, Birmingham and Villa - have nothing else to play for and will be hell-bent on getting that Champions League spot.
Quote of the day

"Who could ever see too much of Mom's pussy? It's like a trip down memory lane."

The ever-quotable Brenda in last night's episode of 'Six Feet Under', without doubt by far the best thing on TV in every respect, from script to acting to direction.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Rock action


Peel-endorsed five piece Wolves! (Of Greece) are a very odd bunch. Before they actually start, the singer looks like he might give Graham Coxon a run for his money in the agoraphobic stakes and, as my fellow gig attendee says, "You'd quite happily go up to any of them believing they'd know the way to the bus station". Last time I saw them, supporting Fugazi in October 2002, I described them as "a sheer spastic noise attack with a schizophrenic Roddy Woomble-alike on vocals and a fundamental and alarming disregard for any conventional notions of structure or rhythm that makes Shellac and Les Savy Fav's The Cat And The Cobra sound like easy listening". Well, little's changed.

Needless to say, they don't play any ballads, and what they do play are less like songs and more like pieces of shrapnel that are flung out from the stage and stick in your head. Just when you think that each band member is playing something completely independent of the others, they all stop in unison at precisely the same moment, before setting off once again on their own seemingly random trajectories. I'd love to know who they listen to to sound like this. They've got a new 10" EP / mini album out on Nottingham's Gringo Records - whether they make any more sense on vinyl than they do live is anyone's guess. Perhaps, though, there isn't supposed to be any method to their madness - senseless music for a senseless world. However, the question of whether they're actually any good is one which, three sightings later, I'm still not really any nearer to answering.

Dead Meadow also look a bit odd. Two nervy-looking black-haired post-hardcore types, a second guitarist (not a full-time member of the band?) who looks like a cross between a chimp and Andy Macdonald of 'Coronation Street' and a drummer with the sort of 'tache that wouldn't be out of place on a Midwest ranch-hand or in the original 'Starsky & Hutch' series. Their music might have come as a bit of a surprise, had I not heard about them beforehand - it's a somnambulant take on Black Sabbath, conjuring up psychedelic images amidst a fug of smoke. Mogwai's crowd might be a lot more forgiving than most, but even they are starting to grow restless towards the end of an opening song which lasts more than ten minutes and shifts through various subtle shades without ever igniting. There's only time for another three after that, for which the riffs seem progressively less doped up and more potent and Iommi-esque. Another intriguing Mogwai support act, then, to add to the names of Ligament, Sophia and Bardo Pond on the growing list of bands I've been tempted into checking out at least partially as a result of their patronage.

The fact that Stuart Braithwaite has a glass of red wine in his hand when his band take to the stage is not a good sign. I feel like shouting "WINE?!! In a GLASS?!! What happened to drinking straight out of the bottle?!! You'll be sitting on stools and playing concert halls next!", but mercifully I restrain myself and any fears that the Glaswegian geniuses are growing old far too gracefully are duly dispelled over the course of the next hour and a half. 'Superheroes Of BMX' opens the set, an unexpected but very welcome surprise, followed by 'Hunted By A Freak' - perhaps as near as Mogwai have ever come to a conventional verse-chorus-verse structure but it's so fucking beautiful that you'd feel dirty to berate them for it. (And, anyway, they seem to have acknowledged with Happy Songs... that the real challenge is to do their "thang" within the stricter confines of a broadly traditional song structure without compromise - something that, like Sonic Youth and ... Trail Of Dead on their last albums, they manage with glorious results.)

They move through the set effortlessly - 'You Don't Know Jesus', 'Xmas Steps', , 'Killing All The Flies', 'Summer', 'I Know You Are But What Am I?' - and the crowd sway their heads like a field of corn in the wind, lapping it all up. 'Cody' is a real treat (why, on this evidence, is Stuart at all embarrassed about his vocals?!), and the only irritation isn't attributable to the band - yes, it's that familiar problem of those gig-going socialites stood at the back whose inane chatter and guffaws creep up through the cracks of silence in the songs to bug the shit out of me and all those around me.

The main set comes to an end with the keyboard scree of '2 Rights Make One Wrong', but they're not offstage for long, just long enough for Stuart to top up his wine glass. 'Sine Wave' gets the encore off to an inauspicious start, Martin losing track of his drum line amidst the industrial crunch, but the rising guitar riff and gently skipping drums of 'Mogwai Fear Satan' are on hand to make immediate amends. As ever it packs a mighty wallop, but the surprise is that, as in Birmingham last October, it doesn't close the show. That honour falls to 'Ratts Of The Capital', on this occasion a sinuous, shrieking beast that is so stunningly heavy it threatens to burst your eyeballs. For a moment, after about five minutes of powerchord barrage, I'm tempted to put my hands to my ears, but then just in time I stop myself - that would be to concede defeat to the sinister forces of old age and reason...

So, no 'Take Me Somewhere Nice', no 'Like Herod', no 'My Father My King' - but then to complain about the omissions would be ungrateful and detract from what we did get. What Mogwai have gained in grace and songwriting skill over the years, they patently haven't sacrificed in power or extremity. I may be edging towards my late 20s, but there's still something special in feeling physically brutalised by music.
Blogwatch: in brief

Here at SWSL Towers I'm always hungry for fresh meat, and so may I present to you three blogs most recently selected from the cyber smorgasbord:

Neil Grayson - As it says on the tin, this is the lair of one Mr Neil Grayson. An acquaintance of mine and He Who Cannot Be Named from our time at university together, and former head of the student radio station URN, Neil now resides in London. When he's not indulging in various meeja-style activities, he writes about things like spotting, in Camden (where else?), "a young woman ... wearing a dress made entirely from pages ripped out of the Bible". (Thanks to Inspector Sands for the link.)

I Don't Believe It - At last! Jonny puts rural Norfolk firmly on the blogging map. A welcome change from the whinings of uptight city-dwelling bloggers like myself - an excellent case in point being his latest post, which concerns the closure of the local fish shop: "I should write to John Prescott. It's all very well making a song and dance about rural post offices, but where the hell am I going to get hold of a sea bass now? I now wish I'd gone in there more often. But it does confirm the old commercial maxim that a business isn't viable unless its trade has been the basis of at least one successful situation comedy."

Danger! High Postage - And lastly but not leastly we have another blogger with damn fine taste in music and a blog tagline that reads "Thoughts, ramblings, Bergerac, angular guitars and custard". This we like.

Elsewhere: Thought-provoking stuff over at It's Wrong To Wish On Space Hardware, as BykerSink defends his decision to work in PR and in the process discusses the concept of political spin; on Parallax View, Dead Kenny gets his teeth stuck into a whole cavalcade of new albums from the likes of Electrelane, The Stills, The Constantines, The Duke Spirit, The Workhouse and The Stands - my favourite comment has to be his initial reaction to the latest release from Stereolab: "after the first few plays you find yourself thinking 'Margarine Eclipse? I Can't Believe It's Not Better!'"; and LondonMark explains how he was made late for work by the unsettling presence of a baby elephant in his flat.
Lee here now (well, in a few months' time)

News that gladdens my heart: Stewart Lee, probably the cleverest and driest stand-up comic I've ever seen live, has been confirmed as playing an Edinburgh Festival preview show at Nottingham's Cabaret club on the 11th July. Full marks once again to Darryl of Just The Tonic for securing the services of another big name for what is an intimate venue - not that I have much experience of comedy clubs elsewhere in the country, but I find it hard to believe there's another venue of this size that routinely attracts such fantastic performers.

The announcement of Lee's appearance brilliantly coincides with my discovery (with a little help from my friends...) of 'Lionel Nimrod's Inexplicable World', an early 90s Radio 4 series written by Lee and Richard Herring which also featured Armando Ianucci ('The Day Today', 'Knowing Me Knowing You', 'Brasseye' etc), Rebecca Front (most recently appearing in 'Nighty Night') and the voice of Tom Baker (might I suggest that Matt Lucas and David Walliams stole that particular idea for 'Little Britain'?). (For transcripts of some first series material, click here.)

Successful writer, broadcaster, broadsheet music journalist, comic - what a git.
It's not every day...

... that you get an email which reads as follows:

"Front page of my local weekly paper this week


I shit you not.

Thanks to Jon for "brightening" my day.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

"You've got quite a big head, Cath. Is that part of the illness?"

Sick, wrong, and superbly and unremittingly offensive - that's the only way to describe the second episode of 'Nighty Night', screened on BBC2 last night. Better than the first week, and with the prospect of much more to come. The "highlight" of last night's episode was probably the scene in the sex shop between Jill (Julia Davis) and the Scottish bloke played by Mark Gattiss - in a nutshell, she talks about the size of her *ahem* ("Mine's tiny, it's like a cat's anus"), he asks whether she's using patches to try and overcome her lesbian tendencies, and then she sneaks out when he's not looking, leaving him to try on gimp masks. Lovely stuff. I wasn't surprised to note the involvement of Steve Coogan and Henry Normal, but it's a good deal darker than their usual fare. (Davis talks about working with the likes of Coogan, Rob Brydon and Chris Morris here.)

While on a comedy tip, I'm reliably informed that the forthcoming film 'Shaun Of The Dead' looks fantastic. Written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, the cast includes Pegg alongside other 'Spaced' regulars Nick Frost, Jessica Stevenson and Peter Serafinowicz, while Dylan Moran of 'Black Books' and Lucy Davis of 'The Office' also make an appearance. All in all, it promises to be a far more entertaining prospect than the film from which it's derived its bastardised name.

Update: A Concerned Reader has "gently" brought it to my attention that the above concluding comment may have been rather ill-advised and careless. I should have made it clear I was referring to the forthcoming remake rather than the George Romero original - but apologies / eternal grovelling and snivelling in the mud all the same.
The sound of silence

All Quiet In The East Stand is the new Charlton-Athletic-centric blog offshoot of Casino Avenue. Inspector Sands has kicked things off with a slagging of our very own "mercurial" Laurent Robert following his sack of potatoes impression in Saturday's match, but don't hold that against him.
Know Your Enemy #38

"Accomplished and full of bluster but ontologically completely hollow; this is The Vines. Craig is great at throwing postures but rubbish at filling them with meaning; he hints at a hint of mystery, but because the allure is second hand it doesn’t work, he knows the signifiers but not the signified, and thus his poses are all wrong. There is, of course, the possibility that he actually is a fucked up crazy sun child rock star, but I doubt it. No one really crazy would make music this nice and clean and safe and full of blankness."

Nick Southall reviews the new Vines LP Winning Days. "Ontologically completely hollow" - couldn't have put it better myself.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Carpe diem

Both ourselves and Charlton went into yesterday evening’s match knowing that four of our closest rivals had lost – Birmingham, Villa, Fulham and Spurs – while Liverpool had only scraped a home win over Wolves with an injury time goal. Sir Bobby had described the clash as our biggest game of the season so far, and whoever could win it would steal a march on the rest of the chasing pack.

In the first half we bulldozed a strangely out-of-sorts Charlton, going in 2-0 up at the break thanks to goals from the half’s two star performers, Shearer and Jenas. The skipper, buffeted throughout by some “robust” Charlton defending, settled the nerves with a header after just two minutes, and Jenas was rewarded for his persistence by deflecting Luke Young's attempted clearance into the Addicks’ net. The Newcastle players seemed determined and resolute, focused on the task in hand and applying themselves to good effect.

If the feeling at half time was of it having been all too easy, and disconcertingly so, things were rather different after the break. In contrast to Charlton’s swift and accurate passing, our game was aggressive, physical and not particularly pretty to watch. Claus Jensen stole in to pull a crucial goal back, and the previously solid defence reverted to its customary shakiness (the introduction of Bramble at half time probably didn’t help either). Carlton Cole was looking dangerous, and as Jenas faded, Matt Holland and Jensen were allowed to marshall midfield.

Chris Perry came perilously close to equalising, denied by a brilliant Given save, but then conceded a penalty at the other end. My initial reaction to the incident was that Robert had played for it by leaving his leg trailing, but that Perry had taken the bait and so the decision was valid. It didn’t take many replays to show me otherwise, though – there wasn’t any contact whatsoever. Even then the goal which resulted was hardly straightforward – Kiely brilliantly tipped Shearer’s spot kick onto the post, only to find that his static defence had allowed the striker to run in and score from close range to make immediate amends for the penalty miss.

In the event, that third goal (dubious to say the very least) wasn’t crucial – though it certainly could have been, had substitute Jonatan Johansson’s shot crept in rather than striking the upright. Overall it was a result we probably deserved based on the first half showing, Charlton paying for their initial sluggishness and defensive disorganisation, but, after the nervy second period, 3-1 was a little flattering. After the dropped points of recent matches, though, the result was all that mattered.

(There are, of course, two sides to every story – read Inspector Sands’s thoughts on the match here…)
Blogwatch: in brief

Well, there’s gratitude for you. No sooner do I welcome the return of He Who Cannot Be Named to the blogging fraternity, than he reminds me of what made his last blog so great and arouses my jealousy in the process. Not only has he trumped my prĂ©cis and appreciation of BBC3’s ‘Nighty Night’ with his own, but his new venture Excuse Me For Laughing is packed full of fantastically splenetic stuff like this, on the Pink song 'My Vietnam':

"Comparing your childhood to a conflict which cost millions of peoples' lives is akin to wiping a shit-smeared stick over a war memorial then crying like a baby because you've got a splinter. It is contemptible beyond words. Why didn't someone just club poor Alicia to death? It would have put her, and us, out of her obscenely prolonged misery."

Meanwhile, you’ll find no speculation or tittle-tattle here about the identity of a certain award-winning blogger – basically because I really can’t be arsed. If, however, you want a handy (and tongue-in-cheek) guide to the potential suspects, Wherever You Are is the place to go.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere: Jaymaster points up the discriminatory regulations which bar sexually active gay men from donating blood; Mike strikes back with the return of his ace Which Decade Is Top For Pops? feature; and LondonMark reviews the Pet Shop Boys best of PopArt.

And finally… Alex and R have at last got themselves set up in their new place after weeks of trials and tribulations – congratulations!
Don’t believe the hype

The response to this American invasion will be interesting, not least because Britain is finally producing a crop of bands with real potential. Already in January there have been hits for Franz Ferdinand and Snow Patrol. But there are scores more to come. This year promises to boast as many homegrown new acts as the giddy days of Britpop.

So quoth Steve Lamacq in this article in the Guardian’s Friday Review.

As if it wasn’t bad enough writing a piece about the threat that the influx of American bands poses to indigenous British talent which seems to play carelessly with the xenophobic rhetoric of the right wing.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that, by allowing smug record company wankers to share their corporate philosophies, he implicitly endorses the idea of music as nothing more than a product calculatedly targeted at a certain demographic in order to reap the maximum profits.

No, he just has to perpetuate that pathetic myth that Britpop was some kind of idyllic golden age for British music. Look, let’s get this straight: it wasn’t. It was a nadir rather than a zenith. The rabid and shallow jingoism of it all was disgusting. Probe beyond that surface and there was precious little of any substance. How could anyone feel “giddy” about the likes of Cast, Echobelly, Shed Seven, Menswear and Sleeper? Unless, that is, “giddy” is taken to mean “unbearably nauseous” rather than “incredibly excited”. Thank fuck Radiohead killed it off.
When I am king, you will be first against the wall

#3: Daniel Bedingfield

Why?: For thinking in all seriousness that what the world really needs is a white Craig David - the world doesn’t need a BLACK Craig David, for fuck’s sake. Oh, and for not having the good grace to die in that car crash.

Imagined famous last words to firing squad: “I gotta get thru this…” BANG!