Monday, May 17, 2004

Be thankful for small mercies

From the SWSL report of Wednesday's match with Southampton: "Two minutes into stoppage time, Robert picked out Ambrose from a corner and the youngster fired in from distance, but an equaliser wasn't what we needed or craved". In the event, that equaliser turned out to be priceless.

Going into the final round of Premiership games this season I didn't hold out much hope of us scraping into the UEFA Cup. We had to do better away to Liverpool than Villa did at home to Man Utd. Our Premiership record at Anfield is appalling, we're still suffering from something of an injury crisis and I was fully expecting Ferguson to rest players ahead of next weekend's FA Cup Final, giving Villa an easier ride.

Consequently we owe Man Utd a grudging thank you (through particularly gritted teeth in my case). Except for Roy Keane they were at full strength and set about a shellshocked Villa with more relish that we could possibly have hoped for, goals from Ronaldo and Ol' Horseface putting them two up inside the first ten minutes. That's how it stayed for the rest of the game - even though referee Rob Styles did his best to coax Villa into life by sending off Darren Fletcher and Ronaldo, the effort they (and the crowd) managed to muster up was pretty laughable given the prize at stake.

Of course, defeat for O'Leary's side would have been irrelevant if we had lost too, but Ameobi latched onto the end of a Bowyer pass to finish calmly and put us 1-0 up over Liverpool at the break. Unfortunately, in the second half Michael Owen failed to break his habit of scoring against us and made the closing stages rather cagey and nervous, but ultimately we held out to secure a draw, and relief was etched on the faces of the two embracing managers at the final whistle. The result put us level with Villa on 56 points, but our far superior goal difference took us above them into fifth. Of course, had Ambrose not snatched us a draw from the game at St Mary's we would have been the disappointed ones.

So, where does this leave us? We secured European football by the skin of our teeth, and given that we've never really hit form as a team and certain players (Jenas, Bowyer, Viana, Dyer...) have been off the pace all season, that the teams above us all have arguably better squads, and that our away record has been appalling, that outcome and the UEFA Cup run have to regarded as positive achievements. But not for long.

We simply cannot expect to finish as high up the league again whilst playing so poorly. After finishing fourth and then third in the previous two seasons, we've taken a step back in more ways than one. There's a sense of simmering unrest at the club, and that needs to be resolved sooner rather than later. As Fat Freddie Shepherd has said, "A fifth place finish is not acceptable for us. Fourth place was the bare minimum. This summer we will have to look at everything from top to bottom." Not only does that mean that the future of several players is uncertain (Griffin, Caldwell and Kerr, plus reserve regulars Zola, Ferrell and Orr have all already been released), but Sir Bobby himself finds himself on shaky ground. Although UEFA Cup qualification at least means there should be some money available and some incentive to help attract the sort of big names who can take the club out of the current stagnation, it's perhaps more important that we fend off the money-laden vultures that are circling around a number of first teamers, Woodgate in particular - now arguably our most important player ahead of Shearer.

Rest assured it's going to be an interesting couple of months, but let's hope that we can learn from this season's disappointments and then come back in August reinvigorated and with renewed hope and belief.

(Read Paul's thoughts on the end-of-season climax and the prospects for this summer here.)
Blogwatch: in brief

Much of interest on the subject of politics: BykerSink of It's Wrong To Wish On Space Hardware has been discussing the relevance of the old labels "left" and "right"; Inspector Sands of Casino Avenue and Paul of 1000 Shades Of Grey offer their thoughts in the wake of Piers Morgan's departure from the Mirror following the publication of the faked Iraq abuse photographs; and Lord Marmite of Amblongus continues to pick his way carefully and critically through the fog of right-wing rhetoric in the build-up to the American presidential elections.

On a completely different note, Troubled Diva is intoxicated with Eurovision, while Matthew of Fluxblog is dedicating this week to posting music tracks by Brighton-based artists - of interest to Jonathan of Assistant, perhaps?
Respect due

Only the most mean-spirited of fans could fail to be impressed by Arsenal remaining unbeaten all season. Along the way they've played some unbelievable football, and in Henry they've had the league's outstanding performer by far. Consequently it's a source of some consoling pride that two of our best performances of the season came against the Gunners - a shut-out at St James's last month and a narrow defeat at Highbury earlier in the season, when three stupid mistakes from Newcastle players proved the difference between the sides. Of course, by that I mean the difference between the sides on the day - over the course of the season the gulf in class has been huge, as our pre-season aspirations of challenging for the title were made to look rather foolish.

Here's Kevin Mitchell of the Observer on Arsenal's triumph:

"When Preston's Invincibles performed their historic feat in 1888-89, a club playing at Plumstead Common in south London by the name of Royal Arsenal were just two and a half years old. At the time, football was played with no nets, no crossbars, no penalties, the goalkeeper was allowed to use his hands anywhere on the pitch and it was not even necessary for players on the same team to wear the same coloured shirts. Preston's run, over 16 games fewer, deserves to be acknowledged, but Arsenal's is an immeasurably greater achievement."

OK, that's enough of the niceties: Ashley Cole is still a cheating git, and keep your filthy hands off Woodgate!
Quote of the day

"Under her real name of Katie Price, [Jordan] has knocked fellow Brighton resident Lynne Truss off the top of the Sunday Times bestseller list. Ironically, the title of Truss's study of the apostrophe and proper punctuation, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, could have been a chapter heading for one of Price's tales of sexual encounters with footballers such as Teddy Sheringham and Dwight Yorke."

Maurice Chittenden writing in the Sunday Times.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Champions' League, we were having a laugh

Southampton 3-3 Newcastle. One for the neutral, as they say. Not one for the Newcastle fan, for whom the result made the extremely slim possibility of Champions' League qualification vanish in a puff of smoke.

In truth, despite the disappointment that greeted the final whistle, this was very far from being a poor performance. Following the disaster against Wolves I was looking for guts and fighting spirit, and that's what we had in spades at St Mary's - but our luck was most definitely out.

Ameobi opened the scoring after just seven minutes, making use of his size and strength to hold off Claus Lundekvam and then crash a shot into the bottom left corner. We survived a couple of scares before slack defending allowed Saints to get a shot in which Given could only parry straight into the path of the malingering Beattie three yards out - 1-1. The match ebbed and flowed with chances coming at both ends, Dyer causing problems on his return from injury, and then a few minutes before half-time Ameobi escaped a defender on the left and pulled the ball back for the onrushing Bowyer to fire in a left-footed shot for his second goal in two games. Sadly, once again the celebrations were short-lived, and once again we let ourselves down with some horrible kamikaze defending. A cross came in from the Newcastle left, Caldwell sliced his attempted clearance, Bramble stuck out a knee and the ball flew past Given. The half-time whistle came, leaving me to reflect on the fact that, despite Caldwell and Bramble playing like they'd never set foot on a football pitch before let alone played with each other, we still had a good chance of snatching the vital three points.

The players evidently felt the same, coming out for the second period and battering the Southampton goal with chance after chance. Caldwell hit the crossbar with a header, while Ambrose's brilliant long-range shot also rattled the woodwork. Before the match I'd rubbed my hands optimistically when I found out that Antti Niemi, probably the best keeper in the Premiership this season, was out injured and his replacement Alan Blayney was making his debut - but, of course, sod's law would have it that the rookie had an absolute blinder, denying Ameobi and Bowyer as well as an unbelievable save from a Shearer header. Though there were still occasional flashes of danger at the other end (Given pulled off a fine diving save to deny Fernandes), our defence looked more solid and the momentum was with us.

But time dragged on and, with only a few minutes remaining, as we desperately sought a winner, Saints substitute Leandre Griffit escaped Bernard's attention and slipped the ball through Given's legs into the net. For the most part we've got what we've deserved this season, but not this time - it was a cruel, cruel blow. Two minutes into stoppage time, Robert picked out Ambrose from a corner and the youngster fired in from distance, but an equaliser wasn't what we needed or craved.

To be honest, our chances of grabbing the fourth spot had effectively evaporated before Wednesday night - the appalling Wolves draw, lacklustre defeats to Spurs, Bolton and Man City, and all those points dropped late on at Birmingham, Blackburn and Portsmouth have cost us dear. Over the whole season we simply weren't good enough. Now we have to pick ourselves up, get a result at Liverpool and hope (and pray) that Man Utd do us a favour by beating Villa so we can sneak into the UEFA Cup at the last available moment. European football is imperative if we want to strengthen (or rebuild?) the side with players of the calibre of Smith, Kezman and Beattie, all of whom I'd love to see on Tyneside. If we can't steal fifth place, then it could be a quiet summer as we watch the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool put more distance between themselves and us via their dealings in the transfer market. We don't want to go the way of Leeds, but perhaps it needs another leap of faith on the part of the board - the sort of leap they took in splashing out on Robert and Bellamy three years ago.
"Nolite te bastardes carborundorum"

"Waiting is also a place: it is wherever you wait. For me it's this room. I am a blank, here, between parentheses. Between other people."

I'd forgotten just how good a novel Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' is. If you can set to one side the apparently inconsistent circumstantial details that occasionally render her vision of the future puzzling or even incoherent, it's evocative, poetic, horrifying, acid and beautifully written. And a damn sight better than the Harold Pinter scripted silver screen version, with its clumsy feminism, wooden acting, irredeemably goofy lines and gratuitous plot alterations. However, as this commentary suggests, there is a problem with the novel in the sense that its dystopian world seems to implicitly and contrastively endorse contemporary America as some sort of feminist utopia - and that's questionable, to say the very least.

Links:
An interview with Atwood about her novel.
Further links relating to Atwood and / or 'The Handmaid's Tale'.
Animal magic?

Was anyone else left a little bit underwhelmed by the first episode of 'I Am Not An Animal' on Monday night? On paper, the animated series promises much. Written by Peter Baynham and produced by Steve Coogan and Henry Normal's production company Baby Cow, it features the voices of a stellar cast of comedy talent: Kevin Eldon, Amelia Bulmore, Julia Davis, Simon Pegg, Arthur Mathews and Coogan himself. True, there were moments of brilliance, but overall it felt a bit flat and tame - not much more than 'Creature Comforts' with a slightly darker edge. Still, it probably just needs time to bed in.

Links:
Peter Baynham defends his creation from the charge of getting laughs out of vivisection.
Henry Normal talks to the Times about the series and the current frenzy of activity at Baby Cow.
The Might Boosh, written by and starring surrealist fuck-ups Noel Fielding and Julian Barrett (both of whom contributed to 'Garth Marenghi's Darkplace') - another Baby Cow production which hits BBC3 next week.
Heaven knows I'm miserable now

"Morrissey fans expect to be shocked by what he has to say. He once bravely led the listener to places that pop music never dared venture before: this way, please, for child murder, regicide and the world-view of a racist football thug. Morrissey fans are certainly likely to be shocked by 'America Is Not The World', which takes four minutes to deliver the excoriating announcement that some Americans are overweight and that George Bush's foreign policy may not be entirely motivated by altruism. You can't help feeling deflated. Morrissey broke a seven-year silence in order to state the blindingly obvious? It is the first sign that his comeback may rest on shakier foundations than was first thought."

Alexis Petridis has a few harsh words for Morrissey's new LP You Are The Quarry.
Quote of the day

"The Unconscious will always expose itself. If the British tabloid press shows the nation's unconscious mind at work - a bubbling pit of prurience and anxiety - then the Hollywood block-buster reveals the deepest fantasies and paranoia of the American psyche. Either way, it's probably better to have our monsters oozing towards us across the sitting-room floor than bottled up in the basements of our minds."

Who else but J G Ballard, writing in the Guardian about American disaster movies as 'The Day After Tomorrow' prepares to hit our screens. Which reminds me: having enjoyed 'Super-Cannes', I must get round to reading the other novels in Ballard's trilogy, 'Cocaine Nights' and 'Millenium People'.
A helping hand

Another new kid on the SWSL block: Assistant, a Brighton-based blog written by a chap named Jonathan.

(Thanks to Kenny of Parallax View for the link.)

Monday, May 10, 2004

What's happened?!!

Aaaarggghhh! Blogger's changed. I fear change. I'm confused. Give me a couple of months and I might have got it figured out.
Reflections

The second week of our season, way back in late August, was an unmitigated disaster. Defeat by Man Utd was followed by the crushing blow of failure in the second leg of our Champions’ League qualifier against Partizan Belgrade, and then by an unforgivably limp display against Birmingham resulting in a third straight loss at St James’s Park.

Now, as the second last week of our season is over, it’s clear that the nightmare has repeated itself. Almost a complete mirror image in terms of woeful inadequacy on the pitch and soul-destroying results for the fans. After the tame 1-0 defeat at Man City came Thursday’s devastating exit from the UEFA Cup, and now the embarrassment of an appalling home draw with Wolves that leaves our already slender Champions’ League hopes hanging by the thinnest of threads.

Sunday’s game was always going to be about how we would react to the pain and anguish of the Marseille result. And the answer seemed to be with casual indifference and indolence. Bowyer, who replaced Viana in the starting line-up after the Portuguese midfielder’s dreadful performance in France, got on the end of an Ameobi cross late in the first half to notch his first goal for the club – indeed, his first for 18 months. Otherwise we huffed and puffed but failed to blow in the defences of one of the weakest teams in the division, whilst at the same time allowing their forwards occasional sights of goal. At the interval, though, we had the lead and the three points were all that mattered.

However, the second half followed a depressingly familiar pattern. Laziness and sloppiness crept in, Robert being the most conspicuous but by no means only culprit, Speed was left to cope with the opposition midfield single-handedly and our defence began to wobble spectacularly. The one-time whipping boys relished the opportunity to get their hands on the whip, and Wolves came closer and closer to scoring until substitute Vio Ganea finally put the ball in the net with 20 minutes to go and with Carl Cort standing in a suspiciously offside position – if he’s distracting Given then surely he’s interfering with play?! Though we were still creating chances too, at that point they looked like the most likely winners, but much-needed help arrived with only seven minutes remaining in the form of a dubious penalty award from referee Matt Messias. On this occasion, though, even Shearer couldn’t save us, his spot-kick repelled by Wolves keeper Paul Jones who was having an inspired second half. In a desperate attempt to make amends, the skipper produced a couple of powerful efforts, but it wasn’t to be and our final home game of the season ended all square amidst a cacophony of boos (indefensible, even for displays this pathetic).

Unlike on Thursday night, this time our current injury list cannot be used as an excuse – quite simply, the players we did have on the pitch were more than capable of getting the win we needed at home to already-relegated opposition, and their failure to do so is not only a damning indictment of their collective desire and drive, but also an incomprehensible disappointment given the spirited win over Chelsea just two weeks ago. It’s time some of them woke up to reality, took a good hard look in the mirror and realised that they’re not the footballing geniuses they believe themselves to be and that they don’t deserve any kind of success by right.

The draw feels even more like a defeat when you take into account the manner of Liverpool’s 3-0 victory over Birmingham, free-flowing and clinical, and Villa’s hardworking determination in gaining a point at Southampton. We were spared the ultimate humiliation of defeat because Wolves didn’t quite follow the script to the letter – the team without an away win in any competition all season didn’t snatch all three points and Cort didn’t grab the winner against the side who paid £7m for him to make 28 appearances in three and a half years – but the point “earned” can only prolong the agony by giving fans hope that we can record back-to-back away victories over Southampton and Liverpool in the next week and pip the Scousers to the Champions’ League post. As a pessimist – or should I say perpetually disappointed and demoralised realist? – I assess the chances of this happening as slim to zero.

Right, you gutless clowns – it’s up to you to prove me wrong.

For Paul's rather more upbeat assessment of the match, click here.

(Alan Hansen on our current plight. Though I was fearing the worst, he's actually quite kind - he obviously hasn't been watching too many of our games this season. You could count the number of top-draw team performances on one hand.)
Thank you for the music

Sean O'Hagan in the Guardian on the fifty most significant moments in pop history. It's a list. You know you love 'em.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

French kiss of death

On Thursday night in the Stade Velodrome the sky really did fall in on our season. Alas, it just wasn’t to be.

Quite simply, we were Drogfucked. Didier Drogba, Marseille’s most impressive performer during the first leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final at St James’s Park, had another outstanding game, scoring once in each half to propel his side into an encounter with Spanish league leaders Valencia in the final and leave us down and out.

Most of the details of the match are hazy, recollected only dimly through the alcoholic fug, but the overriding impression of our first half display was that we simply carried on where we left off against Man City: lethargic, anaemic, spineless – the sort of performance that communicates nothing but white flag waving. I may have feared for our chances going into the game, but the players themselves seemed convinced of their own inferior quality. Given did as much as could be expected of him, Shearer battled manfully up front and Speed did his best to stem the flow of the Marseille midfield – but on a night when we were deprived of key players and so already knew that vital contributions were needed all over the pitch, three displays of modest conviction and effort was never going to be enough. And the less said about Viana and Robert the better. Drogba grabbed the only goal of the half after making a lightning break following a Newcastle free-kick that was knocked clear, beating Hughes with power and skill before slotting past Given.

Thankfully there was a marked improvement in the second half, Ameobi causing a few problems and a few chances going begging. Going into the last ten minutes, the score was still only 1-0, and we knew that an equaliser would probably be the killer blow – but only the most blinkered Newcastle fan could possibly argue that we deserved to get back onto level terms. For the most part Shearer and Ameobi had been well-marshalled by a strong Marseille defence, their midfield had been fluent with the ball and combative without it, and Drogba posed a constant threat up front. Just when the French side were getting jittery about the possibility of a fatal equaliser, O’Brien allowed Drogba to wheel away from him at a free-kick and fire home the decisive second unchallenged. The dream was not so much dead, as lying stretched out in a wooden box six feet under.

Of course there will always be a host of if onlys: if only Ameobi and Speed had taken very presentable chances in the home leg, if only we’d been able to field something approaching our strongest team – Woodgate’s importance to the side is underlined more strongly with every game he misses, Dyer’s energy and attacking intent might have made a crucial difference in midfield, Bellamy’s pace could have unsettled their central defensive pair… But the truth of the matter is that on the night the better team won. That much can’t be denied.

Not that that makes the pain of defeat any easier to bear. Heads were in hands once again, a shrug of the shoulders and a sigh not enough. 2004 – another year in the litany of so-near-yet-so-far catastrophes the fans have had to endure since the Fairs Cup glory of 1969, eight years before I was born. 1974 – FA Cup final defeat to Liverpool. 1976 – League Cup final defeat to Man City. 1995-1996 – 1st place in the Premiership conceded to Man Utd after holding a 15 point lead. 1996-1997 – 2nd to Man Utd in the Premiership again. 1998 – FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal. 1999 – FA Cup final defeat to Man Utd. 2000 – FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea. How much longer must we wait for success? How much more ignominy can we take?

(To read Paul's thoughts on the whole sorry charade, click here.)
"Benjamin is nobody's friend. If Benjamin were an ice cream flavour, he'd be pralines, and dick"

The latest installment of Stylus's I Love The 1990s series, with occasional contributions from yours truly. This week, 1992.

Part One: the grunge breakthrough, Disney's 'Aladdin', Kriss Kross, US presidential election race, 'Beverly Hills 90210', 'Melrose Place'
Part Two: Pavement - Slanted And Enchanted, Barney The Dinosaur, 'The Mighty Ducks', 'I Will Always Love You' - Whitney Houston
Part Three: Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, 'Basic Instinct', 'Home Improvement', booty anthems
Part Four: 'Wayne's World', 'I'm Too Sexy' - Right Said Fred, the Goosebumps series, alternative rap
Part Five: Douglas Coupland's 'Generation X', grunge fashion, 'Singles', Michael Crichton, John Grisham, Madonna's 'Sex', 'The Simpsons'

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Bundle of nerves

What does it say about my current mental condition that the one song I can't get out of my head is The Icarus Line's cover of Spacemen 3's 'Losing Touch With My Mind'?

I'm putting it all down to nerves ahead of tonight's make-or-break match against Marseille. Our preparations haven't been helped by the news that, despite our current injury crisis, Lua Lua has turned down the chance to return to the squad for the last few games of the season, preferring to stay at Portsmouth, where he's likely to move permanently in the summer. Sir Bobby doesn't sound too impressed, but to be honest, as disappointing as it is, I don't really blame him for snubbing the plea - he's been treated like shit by the club and so he's quite within his rights to make that decision. All in all, it just goes to show how idiotic our January transfer dealings were - not that we needed any further proof, what with Nobby's Villa standing a good chance of pipping us in the league.

So, tonight's match: fingers, toes, arms and legs crossed...
Waiting for the great leap forwards

Terrible shame I couldn't make it down to the Savoy to join all those obsequious fawning tossers for the special evening do to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Maggie Thatcher's election as Prime Minister. The daft old bitch.

Anyhow, the occasion has inspired this article about protest songs (thanks to Inspector Sands for the link). Some of the post-article comments are awesomely stupid, especially this one, from a Mr Oliver Kamm: "Do you have any idea how silly you look taking seriously the affectations of pop singers to be social critics?" Look, let's get this straight. OF COURSE pop history is littered with examples of musicians leaping aboard political bandwagons in the transparent hope of securing credibility and sales. OF COURSE those who take up a cause out of a genuine concern are not always "well-informed" (whatever that means - and it often means "informed of the right way to think by the Telegraph and Daily Mail"). And OF COURSE some of the songs that arise out of this genuine concern are embarrassingly crude in their rhetoric. But the day that art responds to the demand that it should be divorced from the political and social reality in which it's produced is the day it dies.

Every song is political, Mr Kamm. Every song is a political comment on some aspect of life, whether explicitly or otherwise. Let's stop perpetuating this myth that pop music is trivial, shallow, escapist nonsense with no connection to reality, to be valued only insofar as we find ourselves singing along in the shower or humming the tune on the bus. It matters.

A propos of absolutely nothing in this post, here's a review of a recent Sebadoh 'turboacoustic' show.
New blogs ahoy

Two recent additions to my blogroll:

Lots Of Co
1000 Shades Of Grey

The former comes recommended by Largehearted Boy, while the latter is the so-newborn-it's-still-wet-behind-the-ears-and-smells-of-wee blog of my good friend Paul, who will no doubt use it as the means to spout all kinds of stuff about Newcastle Utd (oh yes, Pete and Inspector - we're taking over!), as well as on such subjects as DIY, mortgages, handkerchiefs and falling asleep after eating, what with being a 45-year-old man in a 25-year-old man's body.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Violent music for violent times

THE ICARUS LINE / MODEY LEMON, 3RD MAY 2004, ROCK CITY

Last time I saw The Icarus Line, at the same venue in September 2002, they were playing as part of a Buddyhead* love-in with The Dillinger Escape Plan. On that occasion the first band on were fellow Buddyhead fuckups Shat, who featured two men in nappies and a vocalist with an array of prosthetic penises all over himself, and who played delightful little ultra-non-PC ditties called things like 'Gonorrhoea Fountain' and 'Nothing Would Be Finer Than To Lick Your Mom's Vagina'. This time it's a bit more sensible and restrained: support act Modey Lemon are introduced by a white guy with a huge beard wearing a turban, aviator shades and a fake gold dollar chain round his neck, who bangs a small gong while proclaiming: "Music is the sound that cleanses your pores".

The band themselves are a noisy threesome from Pittsburgh, but who are seemingly all over the map in musical terms. As soon as I think I've got a handle on what it is they do, something else seems to tumble into the mix - The MC5, Mudhoney, Motorhead... To call it deranged punk blues doesn't do it justice. There's none of the "look how fucking authentic we are!"-ness that sometimes grates with bands like The Black Keys, just stomping songs like 'Tongues (Everyone's Got One)' and another which shamelessly steals the vocal line from Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs'. With two guitars, buzzing keyboards and thumping drums (but no bass), they make an occasionally awesome racket and do enough to convince me that it might be a good idea to invest in Thunder + Lightning, their full-length debut for Mute, which surfaces on 17th May.

The Icarus Line, a dead-eyed Peel-endorsed fivepiece from LA, have just recently inked a major label deal with V2, though just how the label think they're going to reap a significant financial return on their investment is anyone's guess. The Icarus Line are hardly a commercial proposition, and you can be pretty certain they ain't gonna play corporate ball.

The opening of the set is rather low-key, though. They aren't in the familiar Red And Black Attack uniform (black shirts, red ties, red eye make-up) this time, and perhaps this contributes to the impression that the assault isn't as focused as it might be from the start. 'Caviar' grinds the set into gear, but it doesn't quite strike the right note and for the first ten minutes it's a bit ragged, even for a band as notoriously loose as The Icarus Line. But then new(ish) member Don Devore cranks into the fuck-ugly bassline to 'Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers', a recent single and the first track on their V2 debut Penance Soiree (released today), and the neck-snapping begins.

As with Modey Lemon, it's quite hard to say exactly what it is that The Icarus Line do. There's clearly a debt to The Stooges musically, attitudinally and also aesthetically (singer Joe Cardamone rocks the Iggy look hard) , but, rather than approaching Fun House et al with the cocksure swagger of light-fingered distressed-denim-clad fuckwits like Jet, they rip that sound a new arsehole thanks to an acquaintance with The Birthday Party, Black Flag, The Jesus Lizard and the sort of post-hardcore bands that have never made it to pin-up status. As Travis Keller** says in his band biography: "The Icarus Line?s sound isn?t one of a punk band in the classic sense, yet at times it feels like they are the only punk band left. You might say their ethos, sense of integrity, confrontational nature of their performances, and their belief in what they do is very punk rock. They sound like what dangerous rock music should sound like in 2004, and are here to fill the void created by nu-metal, mall-emo, jock-punk, frat guy rock, and teeny-weenie bopper dance music". I'm not quite sure what it is that appeals to me - they're obnoxious, messy, graceless and not particularly talented. It must be something to do with the primal quality of their music, and their antipathy towards, amongst other things, everything that attempts to pass itself off as "punk" - plus, of course, the fact that they rock.

There's little evidence in tonight's set of their seedier and sinister stoner side (stuff like 'You Make Me Nervous' from their last LP, the ferocious Mono), but we do get the brilliant single 'Feed A Cat To Your Cobra' (#7 in SWSL's Singles of 2002, dontcha know) and plenty of highlights from their latest offering: 'Seasick', 'On The Lash' and the single 'Party The Baby Off', during which band nutjob and Buddyhead co-founder Aaron North, sporting black 'Mask Of Zorro' eye make-up, walks along the bar and sprays Coke out of the soft drinks nozzle all over his guitar. All relatively tame behaviour by the high standards of a man who, when the band were playing in a Hard Rock Cafe at Austin's South By South West festival a couple of years ago, used a microphone stand to smash a glass case containing local hero Stevie Ray Vaughn's guitar, tried to plug it in before fleeing the clutches of security and subsequently received a number of death threats from incensed Vaughn fans - kinda like Ozzy pissing on the Alamo, really. That said, tonight North does also swing on the lighting rig, threatening to bring it down, and plays half a song whilst stood on his head against the wall behind one of the amps. It's all quite enough to make their tour manager have kittens - he's easy to spot, an officious-looking bloke in a smart ironed shirt who's obviously come as part of the V2 "package" and who's blatantly shitting himself every time North finds a new source of amusement.

There's no encore - bless 'em, they probably haven't got anything left. Needless to say, Penance Soiree is at the top of my shopping list.

*For the uninitiated, and for those who aren't faint of heart, Buddyhead is a treasure trove for juicy snippets of gossip, satirical made-up interviews with members of The Strokes, venomously foul-mouthed opinion and some of the most cuttingly dismissive and downright nasty reviews you could ever hope to read.

** It was Travis Keller, incidentally, who got The Icarus Line into an unsavoury spat with Fred Durst, after stealing one of The Limp One's red caps and auctioning it for charity without his knowledge or permission.
"One kid has a swastika cut into his hair, and many kids decorate their exercise books with racist graffiti"

An article in the Guardian about the BNP's policy of targeting schools to catch them young - even more troubling than the way that the tabloid media (and that very definitely includes the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, much as they'd like to think of themselves as above the gutter) has effectively legitimised and even endorsed casual racism through biased reporting on asylum issues.

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

"I never quite understood the modern concept of giving all the members one line each. If the song in question was about partying till you dropped then it might work. 'Dance To The Music' by Sly And The Family Stone pioneered this technique and in my opinion still sounds fabulous. But I think the relay approach seriously weakens the focus of the passionate ballads which are so often the staple fare of the genre. So the Olympic Torch song was born. Oh dear."

Robin of Speaking As A Parent on boy bands.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Desperation plus perspiration defeats aspiration

After last weekend's fantastic victory over Chelsea, Saturday's defeat away to Man City was as disappointing as it was predictable. We'd not lost for seven games, they'd not won for seven games and they'd racked up only three Premiership wins from a total of 17 matches at their new home this season - OF COURSE it was going to be 1-0 to them.

Things started brightly enough for us, though, with Robert in particular scaring the life out of City's brittle defence with some wicked crosses and dangerous set-pieces. Several gilt-edged chances came and went and at half time, when we could have been celebrating a decent lead, we were instead left to rue the fact that, for an England U21 striker, Ameobi still needs to acquire a goalscorer's touch. Nevertheless, the game was there to be won.

It was City who came out believing they could grab all three points, though, and when Anelka evaded Bramble to flight in a cross that O'Brien missed, Wanchope slammed his header past Given and the writing was on the wall. For once, it wasn't a Woodgate-less defence that let us down (the goal aside), though admittedly they looked familiarly fragile at times. The defeat was a matter of passion and desire - quite simply, though we both needed it, they wanted it more than us. Everywhere you looked in the second half there were half-arsed lackadaisical performances - Viana, Ambrose, Robert, Ameobi... Even though we'd had the luxury of a week off between games, we looked tired and drained of energy, and in the end City comfortably outmuscled us, creating all the chances and securing the three points which have since assured their safety and which gave great delight to several Manc friends of mine, who relished the opportunity to pass comment.

Nothing's decided yet, but, when you take into account yesterday's comfortable wins for Liverpool and Villa, I can't help feeling that the sky is starting to fall in on our season. The paper-thinness of our squad is being exposed at the most critical period of the season - Dyer, Bellamy, Jenas, Bowyer, Griffin and arguably our best player Woodgate are all out for the foreseeable future, while against City Robert picked up a knock which threatens his chances of appearing against Marseille and Ameobi has blistered feet and will be rested. We finished Saturday's game with youngster Martin Brittain on the right, making his Premiership debut, and out-of-sorts striker Michael Chopra on the left wing. To say the situation is not ideal going into Thursday's second leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final would be a major understatement. My fingers are still crossed, but it could be an unpleasant spectacle.

But, to return to the race for fourth, it seems ridiculous that, up until this weekend, teams like Fulham and Charlton (no offence, Inspector Sands!) could still harbour Champions' League aspirations despite having lost the same number of games that they've won. But then, as a Newcastle fan, I can scoff all I like about the travesty of having such a poor team as Villa ahead of us - the simple truth is that we've won only two games away from home all season, and have failed to score in any of our last four (not incredibly tough games, either - Spurs, Bolton, Villa and now Man City). That is fucking pathetic, and if we miss out on fourth spot then it'll be blindingly obvious where we've gone wrong.
A quick fix

Living in a student area as I do, takeaway flyers and menus are continually being pushed through the door. Generally they get binned immediately, but on Saturday I noticed a particularly strange one for a Chinese takeaway called Chasing Dragon. Really, that's the sort of name that might have crawled straight out of Chris Morris's head. I wonder if they do pot noodles to lure you in and then get you hooked on the harder stuff? I don't imagine I'll be giving them a call any time soon, and if I do it certainly won't be to order anything with mushrooms in...

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

"People don't know what they want until you give it to them"

Coming fairly hot on the heels of Amis's 'Money', Frederic Beigbeder's '£9.99' was probably always going to be a disappointment. The novel's central character is a repulsive John Self type figure called Octave who's an ad executive:

"I pollute the universe. I'm the guy who sells you shit. Who makes you dream of things you'll never have. The sky's always blue, the girls are never ugly, perfect happiness touched up on Photoshop. Immaculate images, in-yer-face music. When, after painstaking saving, you manage to buy the car of your dreams (the one I shot in my last campaign), I will already have made it look out of date. I'm three trends ahead, and I make sure you're always frustrated. Glamour is a country that no one ever gets to. I intoxicate you with new things, and the advantage with the new is that it never stays new for long. There are always new new things to make the last lot look old. I want to make you drool - that's my vocation. No one in my profession actually wants you to be happy, because happy people don't spend."

The book reminded me of Rushdie's 'Fury' that I read earlier in the year, in the way that its characters and plot are incidental - indeed, even more so here. It just doesn't work as a novel, I don't think, and that's what I was expecting to read, so in that sense it was a major let-down.

It's much more like a seethingly caustic critique of advertising by someone who himself used to be a part of the industry, a critique which is only impeded by the vague and unsuccessful concessions to characterisation and narrative. If read this way, as a kind of essay (and there are numerous quotes dotted around which seem to be there to lend the "argument" credence), then it's full of savage and pithy observations:

"We used to put up gigantic photographs of products on walls, bus stops, houses, the ground, taxis, lorries, the scaffolding on buildings that were being restored, furniture, lifts, ticket machines, in every street and even in the country. Every aspect of life was invaded by bras, frozen foods, anti-dandruff shampoo and razors with three blades. The human eye had never been so solicited. It was estimated that in their first eighteen years, every person would be exposed to an average of 350,00 advertisements. Even on the edge of forests, in the middle of tiny villages, in the depths of isolated valleys and on top of the snow-capped mountains, on the cable cars themselves, you would have to confront logos from Marlboro, Microsoft, Badedas and Pretty Polly. Not a moment's rest for the retina of Homo consumiens."

"Do you know the difference between the rich and the poor? The poor sell drugs so that they can buy Nikes whereas the rich sell Nikes so that they can buy drugs."

Of course, by dressing it up (however loosely) as a work of fiction - which includes putting the words "a novel" conspicuously on the front cover - Beigbeder was no doubt able to get away with more than he would have done were he to present the book's contents as fact and authorial opinion. Even so, the thinness of the disguise (using Damione instead of Danone, for example) must have given Picador's lawyers some sleepless nights...

Following glowing recommendations from both Mike and Pete, I'm planning on checking out some Haruki Marakami stuff in the near future, but in the meantime it's a nice second-hand volume of selected Lawrence essays.
Blogwatch

I thought I should preface this week's installment with an apology. I realise that there's been an awful lot of football stuff posted on SWSL over the last few weeks, and that I may be getting a bit carried away with the match reports. Though all this is of interest to some, I appreciate it forces most to skip over or simply turns them off visiting altogether. While I have toyed with the idea of keeping all the football-related posts separate by setting up a new blog (in the same way that Inspector Sands has done successfully with Casino Avenue offshoot All Quiet In The East Stand), there's not much of the season left and so things should return to a semblance of normality come mid May. Until then, though, I hope the non-football-followers amongst you don't mind.

Not only has there been a lot of lengthy football posts lately, I realise there's been fewer posts on other subjects. Part of the reason for this is that I know there are always other blogs that will do whatever I might want to do better. I shouldn't use that as an excuse, but it has been a tremendous few days for entertaining posts on some of my regular favourite reads...

On Speaking As A Parent Robin set the cat amongst the pigeons with a provocative post questioning the value and legacy of punk which refreshingly steers clear of the usual music journalist wankspeak. (You'll have to scroll down to the post entitled 'Great Moments In Culture #01' - the debate continues in the comments box. For what it's worth (having only been born in 1977), I'd throw my weight behind Mike of Troubled Diva's case for the defence.)

Brilliant posts on I Don't Believe It on everything from the proposed voting reforms, to cleaning barbeques (or not, as the case may be...), to the agony induced by playing cricket for the first time in a while - "I’m now loping around the house like an extra in a Hammer film. My neck doesn’t seem to be working properly, and one side of me seems to be longer than the other."

Meanwhile, on a more serious tip BykerSink of It's Wrong To Wish On Space Hardware has tackled the thorny issue of female sexism, and (back in the mists of time if you scroll down or maybe check the archives) raised the subject of brand and product boycotts.

Vaughan of Wherever You Are may just have prematurely scooped the SWSL Ironist Of The Year award by writing an engaging (Semi-)Profound Blogging Article about how boring Profound Blogging Articles are. He's also sick of drunk blokes shouting "Dave!" outside his window in the early hours of the morning - you have been warned.

... And finally, do you consider animals to be lazy layabouts scrounging off our hard-earned wages all the time? Well, LondonMark has the solution: the Bark To Work programme...
Know Your Enemy #42

"[His] column (that filthy fucking headcunt) contained enough racism, homophobia and utter indecency to make me wish a witch cursed him and made his guts fly out of his orifices at Mach 5. He must die. He is as about as funny as a cloud."

He Who Cannot Be Named, as vitriolic as ever, on The Sun's Dominic Mohan. Disappointment will ensue around these parts if The Nameless One's new blog does indeed go the way of the old.
I'll get me coat (shorn off at last)

Sick of shaggy dog stories? Well, here's a shaggy sheep story. Apparently the poor bastard could have died from being crushed by the weight of his own fleece.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Stunning

Newcastle's 2-1 win over Chelsea on Sunday afternoon may have effectively won the title for Arsenal, but amidst all the hyperbole and praise lavished on the Gunners two things were overlooked: firstly, we didn't win for their sake, but for our own, and secondly, it was arguably our best team performance of the season.

Quite how Chelsea would respond after the Monaco debacle was anybody's guess, but just five minutes in, the signs looked ominous. Joe Cole waltzed untracked into our penalty area, narrowly evading Woodgate's last-ditch tackle and slipped the ball under Given. With Makelele was patrolling midfield with apparent ease, and Cole looking dangerous every time he drifted in from the left, we could have been forgiven for fearing another 5-0 humiliation, this time on our own patch.

Thankfully, though, our supposedly understrength side refused to be intimidated by the stature of the opposition players and, as we gradually began to impose ourselves on the game, the chances started to flow. Though Cole missed another very presentable opportunity at the other end, we wrested the attacking impetus from Chelsea and when Ambrose hit a screaming 30 yard drive it looked for a moment as though we'd have a sensational equaliser to celebrate, until his near-namesake Ambrosio in the Chelsea goal brilliantly tipped over. When the equaliser did come a minute before half time, though, it was hardly a scrappy effort. Ameobi, on the edge of the area with his back to goal, controlled Viana's long pass, then swivelled and fired a firm shot into the bottom left corner of the net. It was no more than we deserved - and things were to get even better after the break.

Four second half minutes had passed when Marcel Desailly, outwitted by Ameobi for the first goal, allowed Shearer to turn inside. The skipper never needs an invitation to shoot, but when presented with one on a plate he was only too happy to accept, smashing a 25 yard swerving thunderbolt beyond a shellshocked Ambrosio. A wonderful goal from a wonderful player - at the age of 33, it speaks volumes about Shearer that only Thierry Henry has scored more goals this season.

From that point onwards it was hard to believe quite what we were witnessing. Given brilliantly clawed away a header from Eidur Gudjohnsen, but otherwise the Icelandic international and his much-vaunted strike partner Hernan Crespo were subdued by towering performances from Woodgate and O'Brien at the heart of the defence. By contrast, Desailly and John Terry looked were ragged, rattled by the physical presence and effort of Shearer and Ameobi. Meanwhile Ambrose, enjoying his best outing in a Newcastle shirt, was terrorising the normally composed Wayne Bridge at every opportunity down the right, and Viana, always at the centre of things, outshone Frank Lampard. We continued to carve out chance upon chance with the sort of incisive and inventive attacking play that's been missing for some time, and though we deserved another goal, our failure to score a decisive third nearly proved costly in the closing stages, as a desperate Chelsea went close on a couple of occasions before Terry struck the post with a close-range shot three minutes into stoppage time. An equaliser for Ranieri's side would have been unbearably harsh, though - aside from the first ten or fifteen minutes, they were outfought, outthought and outplayed all over the park.

There was, however, one major fly in the ointment. Woodgate limped off late on, and it looks as though he may be out for the rest of the season. Not only is this very bad news given his outstanding form recently and his steadying influence on his fellow defenders, but it also comes on top of the loss of O'Brien through suspension for the games against Wolves and Southampton. Sir Bobby's unlikely to recall Steve Caldwell from Leeds, which means we're going to be stretched, and after only one senior start away to Bolton Steven Taylor could find himself playing in the club's most vital games of the season.

The result keeps us level with Liverpool, with the same goal difference and a game in hand. We could have hoped, though, that Man Utd might have denied them the three points at Old Trafford. Similarly, ten man Villa's flukey last minute win away to Middlesbrough on Saturday did us no favours whatsoever. It's beginning to look like a three horse race, with Charlton and Birmingham slowly slipping out of the reckoning for fourth place - but we?ve all been so inconsistent that nothing is certain. At least this result and performance should give us the confidence to believe that, despite all the dropped points away from home, we're still good enough to steal it.

Much as I dislike Chelsea, it will be a shame if this result contributes to Ranieri's dismissal - for my money he's done a tremendous job under extreme and unfair pressure. He made some tactical errors in the Monaco game, but otherwise I think he's proved himself to be very astute. If he does go in the summer, as now seems certain, I only hope that his replacement fails to deliver the goods so that Abramovich can be made to realise that success just doesn't come that quickly.

A final word about Arsenal: worthy champions not least because, for the neutral, they're so exciting to watch. Now that we've played them twice, I can say I'd like to see them go the whole season unbeaten - they deserve something more than just the title.

Monday, April 26, 2004

GLC = TLC

On Saturday I came across the most effective hangover cure ever. Not a pint of ice-cold Coke. Or a greasy spoon fry-up. Or some Alka Seltzer. Or hair of the dog. All tried and tested in the past, but with varying degrees of success, and believe me I'm a bit of an authority on hangovers, given that I'm labouring under one probably every other day.

No, the most effective hangover cure ever is a half-hour long exposure to the brilliance that is Goldie Lookin Chain.

Quite simply, when they started their set at Rock City on Saturday night I still felt like shit, and when they finished I didn't. And my face was sore from grinning too much.

Straight outta South Wales, GLC are a Super Furry Animals endorsed fuckbunch of white twentysomething blokes clad in brightly-coloured leisurewear, caps and cheap gold chains bouncing up and down and rapping about everything from smoking blow to wanting to be a robot to being "money-grabbing bastards from Newport". One song finds them dissing American music - "P Diddy means shit to me / FUCK YOU ALICIA KEYS!"; another is a perfect pisstake of So Solid Crew - "We've got 21 ounces to blow!"; and their final song has the winning chorus "Your mum's got a penis!".

GLC are to gangsta rap what The Streets are to garage, but even more so. US hip-hop is so serious, pompous and full of machismo and its own importance that it's been crying out to have its balloon pricked like this for a long time. Of course they'll get flak for being irony-loving middle-class media types, but, to use their own terms, they're safe as fuck. You knows it, clart.

And, having recently signed to Must Destroy, there's talk of a collaboration with new labelmates The Darkness on a cover of Aerosmith and Run DMC's 'Walk This Way'. You could be hearing an awful lot more of them.
Feel good hits of the 26th April

1. 'Today Is The Day' - Yo La Tengo
2. 'Karen Revisited' - Sonic Youth
3. 'Memorial' - Explosions In The Sky
4. 'Half Man, Half Machine' - Goldie Lookin Chain
5. 'Party Hard' - Andrew WK
6. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' - Queen
7. 'Cheapo Destruction At The Hands Of A Ragtime Sales Instructor' - Qhixldekx
8. 'No One Knows' - Queens Of The Stone Age
9. 'Sleepwalker' - Canyon
10. 'Fit But You Know It' - The Streets

Friday, April 23, 2004

All tight on the night

Incredibly, ANOTHER 0-0 draw. Marseille became the first team this season to deny us a victory in the home leg of a UEFA Cup match, but there were still reasons to be cheerful.

The losses of Bellamy, Dyer, Jenas and Bowyer after Sunday's game with Villa left our bench looking less than formidable last night, and the enforced changes could have hit us hard. Thankfully Ambrose returned from injury and gave it his all on the right side of midfield, while Viana was handed a rare start in his favoured position in the centre, and though he still wasn't at his best, he produced a few neat passes and got stuck in more than of late. It was always going to be a tight and close-fought match, and in the absence of Dyer and Bellamy we were looking to Robert to unlock the Marseille defence, but our mercurial winger had a stinker. Not only was his set-piece delivery patchy, but his attacking contribution was minimal and it was his sloppiness in the second half that presented the ball to an opponent who crossed in towards Didier Drogba - mercifully his volley struck the post and span behind for a goal kick. Though we kept a clean sheet, Woodgate again immaculate, lone striker Drogba was a real powerhouse and caused us problems all night, leading to some desperate defending.

At the other end we probably carved out the better chances. Ameobi should have done better in the first half with a header from a Robert free kick, and then shot straight at Barthez from point blank range. In the second half Barthez couldn't hold Shearer's stinging free kick but Speed somehow put the rebound wide when it looked easier to score, and late on substitute Bridges, on for Ameobi, scampered onto a sliced clearance but under pressure from a defender put his shot wide. In truth, though we edged it and put in a lot of effort, I don't think we did quite enough to merit a win.

The result's a tough one to assess. On the one hand, we denied Marseille an all-important away goal, and so we know that if we can ourselves score in France life will be very difficult for them. Other than a win, 0-0 is the next best thing. On the other hand, though, I still feel our best chance of winning games is at home, and I'm not as confident as some that we can get the result we need away from St James's Park - in their last home match in the UEFA Cup, Marseille beat Inter Milan 1-0, and it could have been four or five. It's safe to say that things are very much in the balance.

The games continue to come thick and fast - we play host to Chelsea on Sunday in our sixth televised match in a row. Let's just hope they're still in disarray and that our lads' memory of November's 5-0 thrashing at Stamford Bridge has been erased...
Vanity Project #9

With the appearance of the ninth issue of his Vanity Project fanzine, SWSL associate Skif (with a little help from his friends) continues to fight the good fight. Featured in this edition (amongst numerous other titbits):

Interviews:
Deerpark - Dirty Three loving tykes from Leeds
Bonemachine - Industrial / dance from Portsmouth

Label profiles:
Kabukicore
Free Dimension Records

Album reviews:
Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
Seachange - Lay Of The Land
Oneida - Secret Wars
Carla Bozulich - I'm Gonna Stop Killing
Oceansize - Catalyst

Live reviews:
Belle And Sebastian
Deerhoof
Scout Niblett
Party Of One
Death Cab For Cutie
The Darkness
NME Awards Tour
Whirlwind Heat
Turbonegro

If you want to be intoxicated with the boundless enthusiasm for music of all kinds that radiates from the pages of VP, then just send a 2nd class A5 self-addressed envelope to: Skif, Vanity Project, 43 Hartley Crescent, Woodhouse, Leeds, LS6 2LL. Alternatively, if you have an irrational fear of paper you can click on the Vanity Project site and read it all there.
The darkness

Peter Baynham writing in the Guardian in defence of black comedy.

Incidentally, the article winds up by driving a wedge between the comedy and the person or persons behind it: "Sorry to destroy the fantasies of a certain kind of troubled man out there drawn to her disgusting alter ego Jill, but Julia Davis is a lovely, sweet, slightly unworldly person much more likely to plunge into a pond than whatever wheezing old hack wrote 'Mad About Alice'. I'll probably die for saying this, but Chris Morris, the twisted sicko behind 'Brass Eye', is equally delightful". This reminded me of Will Self's profile of Bret Easton Ellis (included in the collection 'Junk Mail'). Recounting his meeting with the American author, he explains that Ellis had found someone's wallet on the way to the interview, and, far from intending to use it for nefarious purposes as might be expected from the author of 'American Psycho', he was going to hand it in. As Self says: (something along the lines of) "The sick, twisted fuck".

It's that distance which is crucial, and which marks the difference between someone like Chris Morris or Stewart Lee and someone like Bernard Manning or Jim Davidson - contrary to the opinion expressed in this pretentious piece of guff about Baynham's article.

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