Monday, January 31, 2005

Nothing ventured, everything gained


There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but a gratis gig is another matter entirely.

Chester Road are an unapologetically hirsute three piece with an occasionally rousing line in heavy rock. Musically they’re something akin to a beefed-up gym-going Ten-era Pearl Jam, whilst as a spectacle they remind me of fearsomely loud duo Winnebago Deal. It’s only at the end of the set that they really catch everyone’s interest, though, as ‘Disarm’ gives way to an unexpected outburst of tribal drumming involving all three band members.

Needless Alley also prove mildly diverting without necessarily hinting at a brighter future. Impassioned indie rock is their thing, and they have the added bonus of a strong singer with more than a whiff of PJ Harvey about her. It’s a shame, then, that of the five songs they play one is an instrumental, and, though the two tracks which bookend the set display a laudable appreciation of how to build patiently and unravel noisily, the band don’t really do enough to distinguish themselves from the hordes of others doing this sort of thing.

Editors are in another league altogether. They’re in the middle of a UK tour, having released their debut single a few days earlier, and though I subsequently discover they're on a resurrected Geordie label, Kitchenware, and there's a Nottingham connection through guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, they're based in Birmingham so this is something of a homecoming – and it shows.

It’s a combination of jealousy and jingoism that leads us Brits to resent invasion by American bands whilst simultaneously searching frantically for their equivalents this side of the pond, and just as Interpol were first hailed as the American Joy Division, now Editors are inevitably destined to be labelled as the British Interpol.

The main reason for this is that the cap fits rather snugly. They’re more Antics than Turn On The Bright Lights, to be sure, with fast-paced drum-lines, propulsive bass, echoey guitars and bold, booming vocals. The songs are epic, but with an edge which keeps them the right side of pompous.

Acclaimed singles can all too easily become the songs which sets lead inexorably but lazily towards, but ‘Bullets’, Zane Lowe’s Single Of The Week, appears mid-set, vocalist / guitarist Tom Smith apparently rather embarrassed in precipitating mass cheers. It could become an albatross, but the embarrassment seems to come from the knowledge that it’s by no means their best song. (Since you ask, that could well be ‘Brave New World’, which closes the set.)

Overall, then, Editors are little short of a revelation, tight and seemingly primed for success. If nothing else, it'd be great for Kitchenware to get off to a good start. The last time I found myself this impressed by a new band I’d never heard or seen before was at Leeds 2003. The band? Franz Ferdinand. Just look where THEY ended up.

Of course, all this begs the question whether Editors will be able to escape from the shadow of their New York cousins. Only time will tell, but for now they’ll do just fine. You’d be well advised to watch this space...

(Thanks to Kenny and Phill for the tip-off.)
Reasons To Be Cheerful #5

(If you’re wondering what this is all about, click here.)

Clare Short MP

As I’ve said here before, one of the many things I loved about living in Nottingham was knowing that my local MP Alan Simpson was very much one of the good guys – vocal in the House of Commons, prompt and informative in his responses to correspondence and enquiries, a firm believer in the principles of social justice and a keen supporter of unfashionable left-wing causes.

For Alan Simpson in Nottingham, read Clare Short in Birmingham.

The appearance of the Labour MP for Ladywood at Aston University last week encapsulated all that is admirable about her – her visible passion for what she believes in, her opposition to narrow-minded and short-term thinking in politics and perhaps most of all her refreshing honesty. She branded Prime Minister’s Question Time "contemptible" and "a stupid circus", and referred to the invasion of Iraq as a "spectacularly awful" decision.

It’s this obstinate refusal to pussyfoot around and pull punches that endears her to those sick of spin and glib sloganeering. Unlike many of her colleagues in Parliament, she readily accepts that much of the blame for the currently widespread epidemic of public apathy with politics lies squarely at their door.

In the course of Thursday’s talk she discussed her former role as Secretary of State for International Development, the way in which her department was created and then kept in a state of near powerlessness, and the sheer enormity of the challenges that face the world, for which a truly global strategy is needed. Blair’s deception over Iraq, the dangerous unpredictability of the current American administration and the role of the UN were all on her agenda.

Perhaps most compellingly, she took the opportunity of reminding us on Holocaust Memorial Day that genocide has not been consigned to the past; on the contrary, it is very much a spectre that still haunts the present. Even after the horrors of Auschwitz and the other Nazi concentration camps, valuable lessons still remain to be learned.

She may have incurred the wrath of some constituents for the delay in offering her resignation over the Iraq affair, but she openly and vehemently criticises Blair’s leadership and decision-making – she agreed with one questioner that our dear leader and his buddy Bush should be tried for war crimes – and very often refuses to endorse the official party line. Why, she was asked, does she (like Alan Simpson) still remain a member of the New Labour machine? Because, she said, she believes in the history of the party, and hopes that she can be one of those who helps return it to the rightful path from which it has strayed under Blair.

A futile hope? Perhaps. But we desperately need politicians who’ll stand up and speak out in plain terms for what they believe in, and who are prepared to put principles before their own self-serving ends.
(What's so funny 'bout) peace, love and understanding?

Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies's book 'Why Do People Hate America?' takes as its starting point September 11th, proposing that in the wake of the terrorist attacks the question of the title was one with which Americans were obsessed and preoccupied without being able to formulate or comprehend an answer.

The authors then set out to explore some of the reasons why the US incites such fierce opposition and hatred around the globe, touching on a number of important points and supporting their arguments with statistics and evidence at nearly every turn.

They point to, amongst other things: the flagrant disregard America has shown for the UN; the way 'trade liberalisation' is interpreted "to mean one-way, open access for American multinationals and businesses"; the number of international initiatives which the US has refused to sign up to; the way "the American media functions primarily to keep its American audience ignorant of the rest of the world", creating "a closed circle"; the linguistic and cultural imperialism which causes irreparable damage to indigenous peoples; the uncritical and unquestioned employment of certain black-and-white terms and perspectives on the world...

One of the most intriguing chapters is that entitled "The burden of the American hero", in which Sardar and Davies argue that the American world-view is essentially the ideology contained within and endorsed through the traditional Western, where violence is seen as a legitimate way - if not the only way - to bring wrongdoers to justice, right wrongs and make the world a safer and more secure place. "American myths, the ethos of the Western, provide US foreign policy with a broad licence for extraordinary violence". The fundamental problem is that these myths do not necessarily correspond to those of the world as a whole: "It may well be the hardest thing of all for Americans to appreciate how their most triumphalist national myths inspire doubt and fear in people the world over, how their most characteristic tales fuel concern and provide a rationale for why people distrust America". Though this downplays the fact that this distrust is itself often manifested in acts of "extraordinary violence", the overall argument nevertheless seems cogent.

Perhaps most importantly in the context of the recent invasion of Iraq, which took place after the book's publication, is the point that ostensibly the US's numerous interventions into Latin American states "have been in defence of 'democracy', 'human rights' and 'freedom', but somehow they always end up securing markets for America". The Iraq offensive, far from being an unprecedented development, is thus set squarely into context.

Naturally enough, it's Noam Chomsky's favourable comments that occupy prime position on the back cover: "Contains valuable information and insights that we should know, over here, for our own good, and the world's." This essentially echoes the argument of the book that it's in the interest of Americans themselves to accept and understand that the hatred directed towards them is not groundless. The problem, as I see it, is that this book is unlikely to make any converts because, though broadly grounded in detailed political analysis and stuffed with factual information, there are passages in which a more naked polemic can be glimpsed. Rhetoric and invective is easy - that's the hating part - but what is more difficult is to examine things in a cooler and more objective way, something which Sardar and Davies don't always manage. As such, it's likely to be preaching to the converted and infuriating the heathens to the point of them throwing it down in disgust.

The other major difficulty I have with the book is that it is only at the end that the authors genuinely acknowledge that all Americans do not necessarily think alike. Though Sardar and Davies retrospectively point out that many of the extended quotations which have featured in the book have come from American academics and writers, they themselves are guilty, I think, of losing sight of the complexities and treating America as a monolithic entity. It only takes a quick read of a selection of blogs to realise that isn't the case. There IS dissent within America as well as without - after all, there must be to explain Michael Moore's rise to prominence. Sardar and Davies do acknowledge this, but too late.
Up for the Craic

May I introduce you to Craic, a monthly magazine for Birmingham's Irish community which could well be set to feature on TV as 'Have I Got News For You''s guest publication.

Sample headlines:

"Pensioner (74) 'tore skin off' his estranged brother"

"Motorist attacks traffic warden with lump hammer after getting a ticket"

On one page towards the back of the magazine, there's a large story entitled "At 55, gull found in Ireland is oldest wild bird in world". Tucked away in the bottom left hand corner of the page is another headed "Discovery of cow remains sparks fear of ritual killings".

Best of all, though, is the story with the headline "Dancing cleric plans palace vigil over 'unfair treatment'". Here are the opening three paragraphs:

"Neil Horan, the 'dancing priest' who has been 'defrocked' by the Pope, says he intends holding a vigil outside Buckingham Palace to publicise what he describes as the unjust way the Catholic Church has treated him.

Reacting to his dismissal from the priesthood, he said he was surprised he was summarily dismissed and not give a chance to defend himself first in a Church trial.

Mr Horan (57), a native of Kerry who dances to publicise his belief that the end of the world is near, and grabbed headlines last year by disrupting the Olympic marathon in Athens, and the Silverstone car race before that, said yesterday: 'I intend to start a vigil outside Buckingham Palace within the next few weeks. I will appeal to the Queen personally as Defender of the Faith'.

I can only imagine Craic landing on the doormat of Craggy Island Parochial House to be read with interest by Father Ted - "Oh no, Father Horan's up to his old tricks again". Father Dougal, meanwhile, would like all the pictures, some of which are in colour.

I stumbled fortuitously across this fantastic organ of journalism on Saturday in The Anchor in Digbeth, Birmingham's Irish Quarter, whilst on a bit of a pub crawl with friends old (Kenny and Phill) and new (Andy and Donna). You can read about the evening here - though there is no mention of Craic, you can rest assured it craic-ed us up.

Incidentally, The Anchor is set to feature in my Reasons To Be Cheerful series in the not-too-distant future.
Quote of the day

"A silly sausage. In a way I resent him, I resent him for wasting his life like that."

John Lydon, visibly on the verge of tears, talking about Sid Vicious.

Lydon was speaking on a documentary about The Sex Pistols, part of a BBC3 series called ‘Blood On The Turntables’ which has just made the welcome transition to BBC2 and which focuses on bands’ descent into bitterness and acrimony. So, who’s next up? Abba? Fleetwood Mac? The Smiths?

Friday, January 28, 2005


Remember last Friday's meme? Well, the flame's been kept alive on a whole host of blogs: Excuse Me For Laughing, Hobo Tread, 1000 Shades Of Grey, Pent Up Digital Fury, Delrico Bandito and Amblongus.


Inspector Sands finds himself caught up in amongst a clash between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters - "the jeering, the hatred in their eyes, struck a sicker note than usual, after having watched the commemorations at Auschwitz. I swear I could have felt a few million bodies turn in their graves that moment";

Phill reviews the NME Tour, which came to Birmingham earlier this week and featured SWSL favourites The Futureheads alongside The Killers, Bloc Party and The Kaiser Chiefs, and also laments the demise of a music scene that may or may not have existed;

and Mike has some fun with the St Andrews University Face Transformer - "While Elderly Mike terrifies me (the whiskey-soaked bottom-pinching scourge of Harpenden Conservative Club), I think that Caucasian+ Mike (middle manager, keen gardener and church warden) possibly represents a truer articulation of my fears".

Incidentally, Mike's ready to mourn the closure of "the last remaining outpost of true Bohemia in Nottingham". George's closes its doors for the last time on Saturday, and Mike, Mish and others will be there to see the old place off. Expect tales of a descent into "divinely decadent oblivion" on Monday, then...
Quote of the day

"I stopped hating Bush. It's like there's nothing there and you can't hate a void. I mean, look at him, at his awkward smugness, a summation of the angry white backlash made flesh, an action figure put together from all the maddest post-WW2 conspiracy theories to divert the attention, to put a human face on countless monstrosities and machinations. He's just a useful fiction, like those WMD, like the Social Security crisis, a plot device required to explain away otherwise unbelievable developments in the storyline of our times, something that emerged, blinking and smirking, from the troubled sleep of 20th century America with two sitcom daughters, a three word vocabulary ('Freedom', 'Liberty', and 'Huhmericuh') and a glib answer to everything. Without him it all falls apart, he's the pivot that keeps the neo-cons and the born-again Dixiecrats from falling out, the dubious point on the wobbly Venn diagram where psycho-capitalism meets apocalyptic evangelism, yet he's barely there."

Amblongus on Dubya.
Feel good hits of the 28th January

1. 'The Jean Genie' - David Bowie
2. 'The City Consumes Us' - The Delgados
3. 'Lights Of Town' - Canyon
4. 'Dress' - PJ Harvey
5. 'Mr E's Beautiful Blues' - Eels
6. 'Around The Fur' - Deftones
7. 'Dancing Queen' - Abba
8. 'Video Killed The Radio Star' - The Buggles
9. 'Hanging On The Telephone' - Blondie
10. 'You Are Invited' - The Dismemberment Plan

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The #1 of #1s

The results of Mike's ILM poll to find the Top 100 UK #1s were announced on Sunday afternoon:

100 'Professional Widow' - Tori Amos 18/01/97 185 points, 7 votes
99 'Total Eclipse Of The Heart' - Bonnie Tyler 12/03/83 187 points, 6 votes
98 'Sunday Girl' - Blondie 26/05/79 189 points, 8 votes
97 'Get It On' - T.Rex 24/07/71 191 points, 11 votes
96 'Bad Moon Rising' - Creedence Clearwater Revival 20/09/69 192 points, 9 votes
95 'Cum On Feel The Noize' - Slade 03/03/73 192 points, 7 votes
94 'Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick' - Ian Dury & The Blockheads 27/01/79 196 points, 7 votes
93 'Help!' - The Beatles 05/08/65 197 points, 9 votes
92 'Pure Shores' - All Saints 26/02/00 200 points, 9 votes
91 'Honky Tonk Women' - The Rolling Stones 23/07/69 202 points, 6 votes

90 'Doctorin' The Tardis' - The Timelords 18/06/88 205 points, 7 votes
89 'My Sweet Lord' - George Harrison 30/01/71 205 points, 6 votes
88 'The Sun Always Shines On TV' - A-Ha 25/01/86 206 points, 8 votes
87 'Stand & Deliver' - Adam & The Ants 09/05/81 209 points, 7 votes
86 'Hey Jude' - The Beatles 11/09/68 211 points, 9 votes
85 'The Israelites' - Desmond Dekker & The Aces 16/04/69 214 points, 9 votes
84 'Theme From S'Express' - S'Express 30/04/88 215 points, 10 votes
83 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go' - The Clash 09/03/91 216 points, 8 votes
82 'You Really Got Me' - The Kinks 10/09/64 218 points, 8 votes
81 'Call Me' - Blondie 26/04/80 221 points, 8 votes

80 'Maggie May' - Rod Stewart 09/10/71 223 points, 9 votes
79 'Rock Your Baby' - George McCrae 27/07/74 224 points, 6 votes
78 'Block Rockin' Beats' - The Chemical Brothers 05/04/97 225 points, 8 votes
77 'Day Tripper / We Can Work It Out' - The Beatles 16/12/65 225 points, 8 votes
76 'Stand By Me' - Ben E. King 21/02/87 228 points, 9 votes
75 'Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus' - Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg 11/10/69 232 points, 11 votes
74 'Breathe' - The Prodigy 23/11/96 234 points, 10 votes
73 'Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)' - Spiller 26/08/00 236 points, 11 votes
72 'Without You' - Nilsson 11/03/72 239 points, 7 votes
71 'Vogue' - Madonna 14/04/90 239 points, 6 votes

70 '99 Red Balloons' - Nena 03/03/84 241 points, 11 votes
69 'Paperback Writer' - The Beatles 23/06/66 242 points, 8 votes
68 'Telegram Sam' - T.Rex 05/02/72 242 points, 7 votes
67 'I Feel Fine' - The Beatles 10/12/64 244 points, 8 votes
66 'Waterloo' - Abba 04/05/74 245 points, 8 votes
65 'Sound Of The Underground' - Girls Aloud 28/12/02 247 points, 10 votes
64 'Don't Look Back In Anger' - Oasis 02/03/96 247 points, 7 votes
63 'Brimful Of Asha' - Cornershop 28/02/98 254 points, 14 votes
62 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore' - The Walker Brothers 17/03/66 255 points, 10 votes
61 'A Hard Day's Night' - The Beatles 23/07/64 259 points, 11 votes

60 'A Town Called Malice/Precious' - The Jam 13/02/82 264 points, 9 votes
59 'I'm A Believer' - The Monkees 19/01/67 264 points, 9 votes
58 'She Loves You' - The Beatles 12/09/63 265 points, 7 votes
57 'You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)' - Dead Or Alive 09/03/85 269 points, 11 votes
56 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' - Simon & Garfunkel 28/03/70 276 points, 9 votes
55 'I'm Not In Love' - 10cc 28/06/75 283 points, 9 votes
54 'Telstar' - The Tornados 14/10/62 287 points, 8 votes
53 'Toxic' - Britney Spears 13/03/04 291 points, 15 votes
52 'It's Over' - Roy Orbison 25/06/64 297 points, 12 votes
51 'Voodoo Chile' - Jimi Hendrix Experience 21/11/70 297 points, 9 votes

50 'Like A Prayer' - Madonna 25/03/89 298 points, 14 votes
49 'Tears Of A Clown' - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles 12/09/70 300 points, 11 votes
48 'Ashes To Ashes' - David Bowie 23/08/80 307 points, 11 votes
47 'Firestarter' - The Prodigy 30/03/96 309 points, 10 votes
46 'Ticket To Ride' - The Beatles 22/04/65 314 points, 12 votes
45 'Your Woman' - White Town 25/01/97 316 points, 11 votes
44 'Stan' - Eminem 16/12/00 317 points, 13 votes
43 'Sunny Afternoon' - The Kinks 07/07/66 327 points, 13 votes
42 '3AM Eternal' - The KLF featuring Children of the Revolution 02/02/91 329 points, 14 votes
41 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' - The Rolling Stones 19/06/68 334 points, 14 votes

40 'Come On Eileen' - Dexy's Midnight Runners 07/08/82 341 points, 13 votes
39 'Metal Guru' - T.Rex 20/05/72 343 points, 11 votes
38 'Brass In Pocket' - The Pretenders 19/01/80 350 points, 12 votes
37 'Space Oddity' - David Bowie 08/11/75 352 points, 13 votes
36 'It's A Sin' - The Pet Shop Boys 04/07/87 360 points, 11 votes
35 'The Winner Takes It All' - Abba 09/08/80 362 points, 11 votes
34 'Baby One More Time' - Britney Spears 27/02/99 363 points, 15 votes
33 'Are Friends Electric?' - Tubeway Army 30/06/79 372 points, 12 votes
32 'Under Pressure' - Queen & David Bowie 21/11/81 379 points, 10 votes
31 'Make It Easy On Yourself' - The Walker Brothers 23/09/65 388 points, 15 votes

30 'Bohemian Rhapsody' - Queen 29/11/75 398 points, 13 votes
29 'Freak Like Me' - Sugababes 04/05/02 400 points, 15 votes
28 'Geno' - Dexy's Midnight Runners 03/05/80 400 points, 11 votes
27 'Relax' - Frankie Goes To Hollywood 28/01/84 405 points, 17 votes
26 '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' - The Rolling Stones 09/09/65 417 points, 14 votes
25 'All The Things She Said' - Tatu 08/02/03 428 points, 15 votes
24 'Paint It, Black' - The Rolling Stones 26/05/66 429 points, 15 votes
23 'Reach Out I'll Be There' - The Four Tops 27/10/66 439 points, 15 votes
22 'Band Of Gold' - Freda Payne 19/09/70 452 points, 14 votes
21 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' - Kylie Minogue 29/09/01 459 points, 17 votes

20 'Crazy In Love' - Beyonce 12/07/03 477 points, 18 votes
19 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' - Marvin Gaye 26/03/69 488 points, 15 votes
18 'Pump Up The Volume' - M/A/R/R/S 03/10/87 493 points, 19 votes
17 'Nothing Compares 2 U' - Sinead O'Connor 03/02/90 507 points, 17 votes
16 'Uptown Top Ranking' - Althea & Donna 04/02/78 510 points, 19 votes
15 'Into The Groove' - Madonna 03/08/85 527 points, 16 votes
14 'Ignition (remix)' - R Kelly 17/05/03 536 points, 14 votes
13 'Atomic' - Blondie 01/03/80 545 points, 22 votes
12 'Don't You Want Me' - The Human League 12/12/81 607 points, 22 votes
11 'Dancing Queen' - Abba 04/09/76 640 points, 19 votes

10 'The Model / Computer Love' - Kraftwerk 06/02/82 657 points, 20 votes
9 'Always On My Mind' - Pet Shop Boys 19/12/87 704 points, 22 votes
8 'West End Girls' - Pet Shop Boys 11/01/86 736 points, 23 votes
7 'Tainted Love' - Soft Cell 05/09/81 749 points, 19 votes
6 'Wuthering Heights' - Kate Bush 11/03/78 776 points, 22 votes
5 'Heart Of Glass' - Blondie 03/02/79 795 points, 28 votes
4 'Billie Jean' - Michael Jackson 05/03/83 824 points, 25 votes
3 'I Feel Love' - Donna Summer 23/07/77 825 points, 23 votes
2 'Ghost Town' - The Specials 11/07/81 876 points, 25 votes
1 'Good Vibrations' - The Beach Boys 17/11/66 1024 points, 29 votes

So, how did my Top 100 compare? 'Good Vibrations', 'Ghost Town' and 'Heart Of Glass' all featured in my Top 10, and my #1 'Dancing Queen' was ranked at #11. My #2 'Bohemian Rhapsody' ranked only #30, and my #3 'Hey Jude' fared even more spectacularly badly, managing an astonishingly lame #86. Venturing beyond my Top 10, 'I Don't Like Mondays' (#13), 'All You Need Is Love' (#17), 'Take A Chance On Me' (#18) and 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' (#19) all failed to scrape into the Top 100.

Of the final Top 10, 'I Feel Love', 'Always On My Mind' and 'The Model' all failed to make my Top 100, and the whole list made me wonder how I could have omitted certain tracks - Marc Bolan has particular cause to feel posthumously aggrieved. Sorry Marc.

Good to see modern pop well represented with Britney (twice), Beyonce, Sugababes, Tatu, Girls Aloud and Kylie all scoring highly.

Final thought: Why the fuck did so many people vote for R Kelly, and with enough weighting to propel 'Ignition (Remix)' to #14?
Know Your Enemy #52

"She really is an absolutely worthless human being."

"Dried-up old trout. There's a song that couldn't be much worse named - 'Widdecombe Fair'."

Stephen Fry gets uncharacteristically savage about Paris Hilton and Ann Widdecombe on BBC1's new Friday night panel show '29 Minutes Of Fame'.

These outbursts aside, it was fairly tame, frothy and insubstantial stuff for the 'Have I Got News For You' slot, presented by a strangely muted Bob Mortimer and rather light on laughs - although one of Sean Lock's comments raised a smile: "You know Paris Hilton is her porn name? Her real name is Reading Travelodge."
Quotes of the day

"Paint your toes to look like talons. That way, when you pick up mice with your feet you can pretend you're an eagle."

Bill Bailey during his live show 'Part Troll', recorded and screened on C4 on Friday night. Chucklesome throughout, and with some fantastical flights of weirdness that made my head spin. Not in an 'Exorcist' way, though.

"Pimping up my ride."

'Celebrity Big Brother' winner Bez tells Davina McCall what he'll be spending his £50,000 prize money on. Congratulations, Monkey Man.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Carrying the baton

Because I'm "a good sport"...

1. What is the total amount of music files on your computer?

Zero. I have nothing, nowt, zilch, nada at all on my computer. Does this make me a Luddite? Well, yes, I guess it does. Thanks, Mike, for outing me as such.

I can try all the excuses I like - I haven't got enough space on my computer, I haven't got decent speakers to make it worthwhile, I haven't got an iPod that I'd need to stock up with songs from a PC - but none of them cut the mustard.

*hangs head in shame*

New Year's Resolution: Get With The Programme.

2. The last CD you bought is:

Universal Audio by The Delgados. Sublime choruses as ever, but they've lost the strings of The Great Eastern and Hate and gained a poppy spring in their step. You get the feeling that there's darkness lurking around every corner, though - when the sun's at its brightest, the shadows are at their longest...

3. What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?

'So Says I' by The Shins. Already cursing myself for not finding a place for this in the SWSL Top 20 Singles Of 2004. Utterly infectious power-pop completely out of step with the season and downbeat January mood. Their first LP Oh Inverted World is high on my shopping list - partly because of the joys of its follow-up, Chutes Too Narrow, of which 'So Says I' is just one, and partly because of exposure through 'Garden State'.

4. Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.

'Teenage Riot' - Sonic Youth. People who don't like Sonic Youth don't deserve to draw breath. It's that simple.

'Never Understand' - The Jesus & Mary Chain. Noise, glorious noise. The Beach Boys caught out in a big fucking blizzard. Good vibrations indeed.

'I Don't Like Mondays' - The Boomtown Rats. Simple and to the point. An opinion with which I can readily agree.

'This Charming Man' - The Smiths. One bar of this and wherever I am, I'm instantly transported to the Nottingham Irish Centre at 1am on a Friday night, dripping with sweat, off my face on cheap booze and waving an imaginary bunch of gladioli aloft (sometimes this involves waving a real empty bottle of lager and getting scowled at by the bouncers).

'It's A Motherfucker' - Eels. If we ever get married (NB those of you who know me: this is NOT a cue to expect wedding invites any time soon, merely a hypothetical statement), this'll be the song for our first dance.

Ask me tomorrow, I'll give you a different five. Probably.

5. Who are you going to pass this stick to? (3 persons) and why?

Skif of Hobo Tread, because as a fanzine writer I'm sure he'd love the chance to enthuse about some obscure and overlooked gems.

Phill of Danger! High Postage, because he's a man who knows his musical onions.

He Who Cannot Be Named of Excuse Me For Laughing, because it's about fucking time he wrote something.

Thanks to Mike for passing the baton on to me.

Welcome additions to the SWSL blogroll:
New York London Paris Munich, a very fine collaborative music blog which should really have been staple reading for some time now
Delrico Bandito, whose author is an acquaintance of mine working down in tha meeja in That London

Jonathan charts an eventful year in the life of charming tikka-tanned racist Robert Kilroy-Silk;

Skif ponders whether or not to stage a brave return to the gig-promoting malarkey;

Jonathan weaves an intricate tale out of disparate details - dodgy right ankles, baby sick and the whiff of near-glory on the football pitch - and still manages to give it a happy ending;

Nick introduces us to "The God Man";

Amblongus enjoys the Sings Reign Rebuilder LP by GY!BE offshoot Set Fire To Flames;

Phill comes out in full support of the campaign to have darts officially recognised as a sport;

and Backroads is puzzled by the appearance of a "crap circle" near his house.

PS The deadline for submitting your Top 50 UK #1 singles for Mike's ILM poll has been extended to Sunday lunchtime. The results will then be revealed between 4pm and 7pm, in the usual chart slot.
Operation: free the world?

Words to strike terror into the heart, especially when they come from the lips of that brainless buffoon: "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world".

So, this is the face of caring conservatism, is it? Naked imperialist aggression covered by the merest fig leaf of rhetoric. Whose idea of "freedom" is this, then, Georgie Boy? I think I can hazard a guess.

Blair is a deluded idiot at the best of times, but given the tone of Bush's inauguration speech, his belief that the second term will be more "consensual" and less unilateral than the first suggests he's plumbed new depths.

Guardian report

Steve Bell
Quotes of the day

"I'm dressed up as an egg. And not just any old egg - a fucking big egg."

Kenzie on last night's installment of 'Celebrity Big Brother'. Yes, yes, yes, I know I shouldn't, it's dirty and degrading etc etc. But look, Germaine Greer was on it - albeit for, oooh, about two days - and thus it's acquired a sheen of intellectual respectability which means I can now watch without feeling like a Sun-buying pleb. OK?
Feel good hits of the 21st January

1. 'Inertiatic ESP' - The Mars Volta
2. 'Now And Forever' - The Delgados
3. 'Pounding' - Doves
4. 'Fighting In A Sack' - The Shins
5. 'I Feel Fine' - The Beatles
6. 'Pretend We're Dead' - L7
7. 'It's A Hard Knock Life' - Jay-Z
8. 'Meantime' - The Futureheads
9. 'Birdie Brain' - The Fiery Furnaces
10. 'Galvanise' - Chemical Brothers

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The hit parade

The internet is the sworn enemy of productivity. Exhibit A: Troubled Diva, where Mike has posted a link to a poll he's conducting on the ILM messageboard, in honour of the milestone of 1000 UK #1 hit singles being reached.

The idea is that you peruse the list of 997 singles (three have got to #1 on two separate occasions) and select your Top 50, ranking them in order. Your #1 will be allocated 50 points, and your #50 one point etc. Mike will then add your choices to those of everyone else taking part and hey presto!

If you want to take part - either you've got time on your hands, or you're a master of the art of procrastination - then click on the link above. You've got until Thursday to email Mike your fifty songs, and the results will be announced on Friday.

Anyway, I took the liberty of choosing my Top 100, and here they are (minus blurb - what, do you think I'm insane or something?!)...

100. ‘A Little Time’ – The Beautiful South
99. ‘Apache’ – The Shadows
98. ‘Breathe’ – The Prodigy
97. ‘School’s Out’ – Alice Cooper
96. ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ – Jerry Lee Lewis
95. ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ – Manic Street Preachers
94. ‘Cars’ – Gary Numan
93. ‘Paperback Writer’ – The Beatles
92. ‘Name Of The Game’ – Abba
91. ‘Sunny Afternoon’ – The Kinks

90. ‘Strangers In The Night’ – Frank Sinatra
89. ‘Oh Pretty Woman’ – Roy Orbison
88. ‘Block Rockin Beats’ – The Chemical Brothers
87. ‘Hello, Goodbye’ – The Beatles
86. ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ – Madonna
85. ‘I’m Your Man’ – Wham!
84. ‘Stand And Deliver’ – Adam & The Ants
83. ‘It’s A Sin’ – Pet Shop Boys
82. ‘What A Wonderful World’ / ‘Cabaret’ – Louis Armstrong
81. ‘The Winner Takes It All’ – Abba

80. ‘19’ – Paul Hardcastle
79. ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’ – Elvis Presley
78. ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’ – Manfred Mann
77. ‘I’m Into Something Good’ – Herman’s Hermits
76. ‘Jailhouse Rock’ – Elvis Presley
75. ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ – The Byrds
74. ‘Pump Up The Volume’ – MARRS
73. ‘House Of Fun’ – Madness
72. ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ – Pink Floyd
71. ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ – Simon & Garfunkel

70. ‘Return To Sender’ – Elvis Presley
69. ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother’ – The Hollies
68. ‘Day Tripper’ / ‘We Can Work It Out’ – The Beatles
67. ‘Two Tribes’ – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
66. ‘Toxic’ – Britney Spears
65. ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ – The Buggles
64. ‘I Like It’ – Gerry & The Pacemakers
63. ‘Super Trouper’ – Abba
62. ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ – The Beatles
61. ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’ – Wham!

60. ‘A Town Called Malice’ / ‘Precious’ – The Jam
59. ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’ – Nancy Sinatra
58. ‘Like A Prayer’ – Madonna
57. ‘Baby Love’ – The Supremes
56. ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ – The Rolling Stones
55. ‘She Loves You’ – The Beatles
54. ‘Je T’Aime … Moi Non Plus’ – Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg
53. ‘It’s Now Or Never’ – Elvis Presley
52. ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ – Procul Harum
51. ‘Something Stupid’ – Frank & Nancy Sinatra

50. ‘I Feel Fine’ – The Beatles
49. ‘Ashes To Ashes’ – David Bowie
48. ‘Into The Groove’ – Madonna
47. ‘Imagine’ – John Lennon
46. ‘Unchained Melody’ – The Righteous Brothers
45. ‘Come On Eileen’ – Dexys Midnight Runners
44. ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ – The Righteous Brothers
43. ‘Wuthering Heights’ – Kate Bush
42. ‘Stand By Me’ – Ben E King
41. ‘Atomic’ – Blondie

40. ‘Freak Like Me’ – Sugababes
39. ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ – Joe Cocker
38. ‘Mamma Mia’ – Abba
37. ‘Mad World’ – Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules
36. ‘Crazy In Love’ – Beyonce
35. ‘Runaway’ – Del Shannon
34. ‘Help!’ – The Beatles
33. ‘Going Underground’ / ‘Dreams Of Children’ – The Jam
32. ‘Firestarter’ – The Prodigy
31. ‘Paint It Black’ – The Rolling Stones

30. ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ – The Beatles
29. ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ – The Animals
28. ‘Billie Jean’ – Michael Jackson
27. ‘All Shook Up’ – Elvis Presley
26. ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ – The Rolling Stones
25. ‘I’m A Believer’ – The Monkees
24. ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ – The Beatles
23. ‘Ticket To Ride’ – The Beatles
22. ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’ – Abba
21. ‘Don’t You Want Me’ – The Human League

20. ‘Tainted Love’ – Soft Cell
19. ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ – Marvin Gaye
18. ‘Take A Chance On Me’ – Abba
17. ‘All You Need Is Love’ – The Beatles
16. ‘You Really Got Me’ – The Kinks
15. ‘West End Girls’ – Pet Shop Boys
14. ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’ – The Clash
13. ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ – The Boomtown Rats
12. ‘Waterloo’ – Abba
11. ‘Voodoo Chile’ – Jimi Hendrix Experience

10. ‘Geno’ – Dexys Midnight Runners
9. ‘Ghost Town’ – The Specials
8. ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ – Sinead O’Connor
7. ‘Relax’ – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
6. ‘Heart Of Glass’ – Blondie
5. ‘Space Oddity’ – David Bowie
4. ‘Good Vibrations’ – The Beach Boys
3. ‘Hey Jude’ – The Beatles
2. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – Queen
1. ‘Dancing Queen’ – Abba

Suffice to say there have been some GREAT chart-topping singles down the years.


Hobo Tread: Top 50

Guardian quiz: Do you know your #1s?

Guardian feature about the songs that never quite made it all the way to #1

Splits left, right and centre!

Not only have Busted parted company - the massively-eyebrowed Aereogramme-loving one to pursue a career in Fightstar - but Mclusky - responsible for some of the noisiest stuff around, as well as some inspired album titles - have voluntarily gone the way of the dodo. The world will be a quieter place without them.

Meanwhile, and much to Phill's chagrin, after five years together art-punk demons Ikara Colt have also decided to knock it on the head. In the words of vocalist Paul Resende: "Better to go out this way than to turn into some old, tired and jaded outfit. As we always said this was never a career choice or a lifestyle option and sadly most bands I see seemed to be for those reasons.".

Elsewhere, Sean O'Hagan has interviewed Mark E Smith for the Observer, in advance of Friday's screening of the BBC4 film 'The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith'. "I love going out and doing it more than ever", he confesses.

(Thanks to Phill and Pete for the links.)
The truth is stranger than fiction

Ever wondered how to get over the pain and anguish of a broken heart? Well, here's one possible course of action: construct a "total body sculpture" (preferably robotic) of your ex.

Are indie darlings The Shins party to top-secret US intelligence information? "The US military investigated building a 'gay bomb', which would make enemy soldiers 'sexually irresistible' to each other, government papers say". Surely that can be the only explanation why there's a track called 'Pink Bullets' on Chutes Too Narrow.

Fancy going out for a quick bite in Birmingham? Well, someone certainly does, if the stories are to be believed. Don't know about you, but I'm off to buy some garlic, taking care to wear a scarf - a pain in the neck, but better than a pain in the neck, as it were.

(Thanks to Charlie, the folks at New Links and Bushra for the links.)
A force for change

A coalition of charities, including Oxfam, has seized upon the extraordinary public response to the Asian tsunami as an indicator that we in the Western world do care about poverty and suffering in developing countries.

"The generosity shown to the victims of the Tsunami should be the beginning of a real determination to end the avoidable suffering which natural disasters, conflicts and poverty inflict on so many people in all poor countries. Every day, 30,000 children die from poverty related causes. World leaders should seize the opportunity in 2005 to Make Poverty History by taking action on aid, cancelling debt relief and delivering trade justice."

Please help to keep this spirit of concern and generosity alive by clicking here.

It would be fantastic if some good arose from the tragedy, and it marked a real shift in attitudes towards those less fortunate. As a cynic, I'd be delighted to be proved wrong about people.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Quote of the day

"What I find really offensive in life is people who find trivial, petty things offensive, when there is so much in the world to genuinely get angry at. Needless suffering and death the world over; war, famine, homelessness, poverty, cruelty to animals, paedophilia, child prostitution, the list is bloody endless. But these people are more concerned with how many times someone says 'fuck' on BBC2 at 10pm. It's a word. Who cares?"

Vik on the furore surrounding the BBC's screening of Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee's 'Jerry Springer - The Opera' last Saturday evening.

There was a bucketload of profanity, to be sure - but, hey, FUCK MEDIAWATCH AND THE DAILY MAIL.

Though it wasn't as outrageous or as hilarious as I'd hoped, as a stimulating satire and near-perfect collision of "highbrow" and "lowbrow culture" it did raise many a laugh.

What's more, I'm sure there were plenty of others like myself, put off by the snobbishness and expense of traditional opera, for whom this was a refreshingly different two hours of entertainment. If an art form severs its connections with people and becomes ascetically sealed in its own little bubble, then it'll stagnate and atrophy. As I think Michael Billington claimed in the programme prior to the opera's screening, what Thomas and Lee have done, whether deliberately or not, is brought opera back to the people.

So, good work Mr Thompson.


'Jerry Springer - The Opera' draws 1.7million viewers.

The BBC's Director of Television Jana Bennett defends the decision to screen the show.
Jail: the final frontier

You've got to love local news.

Well, when I say "love", I mean "feel either mildly irritated, incandescent with anger or completely and utter bewildered about".

In the round-up yesterday evening - can't remember if this was BBC or ITV - the second item was about a couple suspected, and since convicted, of killing the three-year-old child they were planning to adopt.

The first item concerned the fact that a "Dr Spock lookalike" had appeared in court charged with harrassing his neighbours.

To illustrate their point, they showed him talking on his mobile, and then a still of Leonard Nimoy - and, yes, the resemblance was uncanny.

Other than the obvious, two things concern me.

Firstly, when they called him a "Dr Spock lookalike", were they referring to his profession, or just making a judgement on his appearance?

And secondly, IT'S MR SPOCK NOT DR SPOCK!!! Surely after the pub quiz episode of 'The Office' everyone knows that!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

Perhaps it was just the consequence of seeing it so soon after 'Garden State', but in places 'Napoleon Dynamite' felt as though it was trying too hard to be quirky and goofy.

Narratively challenged it certainly was, but that I could handle. I was expecting something more laugh-out-loud funny, though. The humour's there, certainly - just more low-key and deadpan and less slapstick than I'd anticipated. Expectations - ruiner of many a decent film.

All the same, 'Napoleon Dynamite' was very watchable as the work of a 24-year-old director, Jared Hess, and a cast of relative unknowns. The Tupperware-testing scenes were brilliant, and the dancing sequence at the end was almost enough to persuade me to spare Jamiroquai from the death sentence. Almost.

And the film also features not one, not two, but three - THREE! - fantastic moustaches. A tragically underrated facial adornment, methinks. The moustache revival starts here.
Quote of the day

"Yes, ladies and gentlemen, festering away beneath all the heartfelt concern that these one hundred and eighty seconds could instead be spent continuing the undoubtedly vital process of sending aid to the scene of the disaster, it's the all too familiar anti-Europe posturing of the worst sort of right-wing Tory: 'We don't want Brussels telling us when to have our silence! Hands off our three minutes, Johnny Foreigner! We'll damn well decide for ourselves when it's appropriate to observe a few moments of quiet contemplation for the victims of the tsunami!'"

Vaughan on Tory Party Vice-Chairman Roger Gale MP condemning the three-minute silence for victims of the Asian tsunami on the grounds of it being a "European directive".

I'm not alone in having questioned the value of a silence (see Assistant and Auspicious Fish, as well as the comments box for Vaughan's post), but this is a different matter entirely.

(Vik was also appalled by Mr Gale's comments, but less for the political point-scoring and more on the grounds of insensitivity.)
"The quite frankly laughable notion that Rivers Cuomo is capable of orgasm"

Lots of goodness over at Stylus of late, including a couple of fine lists...

Dom Passantino compiles his Top Ten Most Disturbing Band Fan Fiction Stories. Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, Bryan Adams and Linkin Park all feature. You have been warned.

Bjorn Randolph presents his Top Ten Inevitable Reunions In 2005. The Stone Roses, Smashing Pumpkins, Guns 'N' Roses but no Libertines? Eh?

Ian Mathers writes about 'Fairytale Of New York' by The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl as part of the Perfect Moments In Pop series.

Friday, January 07, 2005


No competition for the most affecting blog post to have caught my eye this week: Sarsparilla writes about her nervous breakdown whilst immersing herself in the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album - "If I'd had the nerve to be open, to tell the truth about everything that was happening to me back then, I might have gotten a little more support than my so-called friends were able to give me. And, you never know, when I beat the fucking thing, and came out of the drugged up zombie zone that my fuckwit doctor's pills put me in, and damn well cured myself in five months flat, someone, somewhere, might have said well done."

Mopping up the last remaining end-of-year lists...
Deviated Septum: Rod's Albums And Songs Of The Year, Kevin's 2004 Cuts Sampler and Marnie's Albums and Songs Of The Year
Somedisco: Some Of My '04 Faves


Kenny reviews a selection of books, including ex Sleeper vocalist Louise Wener's latest novel, and enthusiastically recommends the Dylan autobiography I got for Christmas - must press ahead with it soon;

Inspector Sands monitors the gathering storm over the BBC2 screening of 'Jerry Springer: The Opera' tomorrow night - I didn't even know it was on, but will most definitely be tuning in and no doubt laughing my fucking head off;

Backroads is astounded by the mutation of his local garden centre into a "lifestyle emporium" with nary a plant in sight;

Sarah divulges her New Year's Resolutions - "8. Lick someone's trousers while humming the A-Team theme";

and Jonny B finds himself uncomfortably backed into a corner at a New Year's Eve party - "There's a critical point - let's call it 'Blunkett's Cascade' - in any situation. That's the mortifying moment of realisation when you find that a situation which you were previously totally, utterly, one-hundred-percent in charge of has suddenly gripped you by the scruff of the neck and is pulling you screaming towards the chaotic abyss of horror. Blunkett's Cascade occurred as I was backed towards the cooker.".

PS If you've been enjoying Mike's annotated countdown of his favourite singles of last year, then get over to Troubled Diva and encourage him to keep going regardless of the mutterings of disgruntled non-music-loving readers...
Spreading the word

Congratulations to SWSL associate Skif, whose music fanzine Vanity Project has been bigged up in the pages of NME. The latest issue, #12, is available now for free online and, if you prefer, in paper form - details on the website - and includes, amongst other things:

Interviews: Jeffrey Lewis, Misty's Big Adventure, Chloe Poems

Features: John Peel obituary

Album reviews: The 5, 6, 7, 8s, Ballboy, The Fall, The Knife, Misty's Big Adventure, Patrick Wolf, The Rocks, Twinkie, The Would-Be-Goods

Single reviews: Babyshambles, Elliott Smith, Help She Can't Swim, The Knife, Tokyo Dragons, X Is Loaded

Gig reviews: The Cardiacs, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, Winnebago Deal, Polysics, Sujfan Stevens, The Finn Brothers

Incidentally, Skif now has his own blog too. Hobo Tread can be found in the sidebar, and can be expected to cover such subjects as music, fanzine writing and travel, often in pursuit of lower league football - despite being marooned in Liverpool, he's a keen follower of Havant & Waterlooville FC.
Helping ourselves?: Update

First of all, thanks to all of you who have read and commented - either here or elsewhere - on the post below.

Special thanks to Vanessa for pointing me in the direction of this Rod Liddle article in The Times which examines the reasons behind the extraordinary generosity of the British public on this occasion and, effectively, says it all much more eloquently than I could - "I wonder how many people rang the credit card hotline and, deliberating how much to give, suddenly recalled that they’d recently spent £29 in Debenhams on a presentation box of lavender soaps for their ghastly mother-in-law? Shame was already poking its nose over the parapet, even before the tsunami struck. It was the time of year when the British people were at their most morally vulnerable ... We were not harangued or bullied into giving money by mouthy, overpaid, has-been pop stars or self-righteous and unfunny comedians wearing red plastic noses. There was almost no haranguing of any kind. Just a regular reminder of where you could give money, if you wanted to. The public was left to its own devices and to make its own judgment. If we felt guilty about our own wellbeing or affluence, it was a natural and genuine response to tragedy, rather than something we were told to feel.".

Thanks also to Jonathan for alerting me to a similarly excellent Guardian article by Blake Morrison debating the value of silences - "To the sceptical, today's three-minute silence can't help but seem a shallow and belated gesture of sympathy. But to refuse to observe it just because Blair, Bush and various tainted western agencies approve of it would be perverse. Public silence in medias res - abandoning normal routines to remember the dead - has been a powerful tradition since the Armistice. And if the greatest natural disaster in our life time isn't worth commemorating, then what is?".

Jonathan's response to Morrison's article, and to posts by myself and Nick, can be found here.

Finally, a BBC story about how texting and blogging has helped the rescue and relief operation.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Helping ourselves?

I should preface what follows by stating that it’s certainly not my intention to offend anyone. If you have been personally affected by the Asian tsunami and earthquake, you naturally have my deepest sympathy. I appreciate that I’d be unlikely to say the things I’m about to if I myself was caught up in the disaster, or even knew someone who had been.

Even in the face of a tragedy of this magnitude, I find myself struggling not to be cynical. To be cynical is not necessarily to lack faith in the relief effort in general. It’s perfectly possible to support the global response in general and the work of aid agencies, and yet still be appalled by articles which reveal what the Government’s pledges of financial aid really equate to and what corporate generosity actually amounts to.

And the less said about the news that self-serving rock stars are intent upon seizing upon the situation to relaunch their careers with a “charity single”, the better. Charity begins at home, eh?

More complex are my feelings about the public reaction, which has manifested itself in an unprecedented generosity. That there has been such an overwhelming response is of course positive in many ways – far better that the nation should come together in the wake of a genuine tragedy rather than in the media-driven mourning of Princess Diana.

At a time when international relations often appear stretched and strained, it’s encouraging that people all around the globe can be united, even if only in grief, and their political representatives can forget their differences and stand side by side in solidarity when it matters most. This was a global tragedy in a far truer sense than 9/11.

And yet despite what others less cynical than myself argue, I can’t help but feel that altruism in its purest form is in short supply. We still seem to need a reason to care for what happens on the other side of the planet, and that reason is the disaster’s direct impact on British nationals.

Sarah has suggested that the Western response cannot simply be explained by the fact that the area is a popular holiday destination, but I just can’t agree. At first, the cameras focused on British tourists sporting a few scratches, complaining about lost luggage and the fact that their ideal holiday had been ruined. Nothing that being featured on ‘Holidays From Hell’ can’t fix, eh? As the full scale of the tragedy has gradually emerged, such crass self-interest has disappeared from view.

But even as the overall death toll rises, the continued media focus on British victims and on the British missing is sickening, frankly. I’m sure it’s the same with French victims in France, American victims in the US and wherever else, and it’s an inevitability given the fact that proximity (of effect rather than distance) is one of the key factors in an item’s newsworthiness – it gives the story an “angle”. But ultimately a life is a life, no matter what nationality that individual happens to be. As obvious as that might be, it’s far too often overlooked.

On Sunday afternoon I found myself in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery in the midst of an exhibition about the Rwandan genocide. Nearly one million people were slaughtered in the space of less than a year, and the lives of so many more were irreversibly changed. Yet the international response was practically non-existent. Why? Did those million lives not matter as much? And was that because Rwanda is a small country in central Africa and not an idyllic playground for Westerners? That has to be a factor.

There is also perhaps something to be said about the way the TV pictures of destruction seem to have caught the imagination of a public accustomed to the “shock and awe” images of disaster movies. The same thing happened with the Boscastle flood last summer. The sheer scale of the devastation as it has been revealed visually in our living rooms has no doubt prompted much of the public reaction.

By contrast, the less spectacular but certainly no less horrific images of the Rwandan genocide only emerged after the event. Whereas a natural disaster, terrible though it might be, is ultimately unpreventable and beyond human control, we’re perhaps less prepared to acknowledge and face up to the horrors that man can inflict upon man.

Just to reiterate, then: Despite all this, I nevertheless stand behind the relief effort, and would urge you to give what you can to help. I hope not to have caused any offence, but felt compelled to commit these thoughts to the blog. Please feel free to agree or disagree.


Disasters Emergency Committee Tsunami Earthquake Appeal

The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog

Mike writes about his own feelings as a very recent visitor to Phuket.

Robyn has the story of a friend caught up in the disaster.

Phill has collected together some links to other first-hand accounts.

Sharply differing perspectives on the three minutes’ silence from Jonathan and Nick.

(Thanks to Phill and Jonathan for some of the links in this post.)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Happy New Year to you and yours! May 2005 bear you bounteous fruit!

Proper content along in a bit, I promise...

At Troubled Diva, Mike's in the process of running through his Top 90 Singles Of 2004, complete with extensive commentary - at the time of posting, he's got as far as #56 in the countdown. Click on the link to dip in.


Pitchfork: Top 50 Singles
Stylus: William B Swygart's Top 75 UK Singles
Parallax View: Who To Listen Out For In 2005 and Top 12 Books
Danger! High Postage: Top 10 Singles And Much More Besides (scroll down for the full Top 40 Singles)
Amblongus: 20 Singles That Stuck In My Head
The Whole Wide World Of Fat Buddha!: Favourite Albums, Books, DVDs And TV
Casino Avenue: Top 3 Albums
The Highrise: Top Tracks (scroll down)
Secret Knowledge Of Backroads: Records Of The Year
Diamond Geezer: Top 3 Albums

(Thanks to Mike and Inspector Sands for some of these links.)
Quote of the day

Dudley Moore: "Are you allergic to compassion?"
Peter Cook: "Only in suppository form."

Just one of the countless quick-fire exchanges from 'Not Only But Always', one of the very few crackers amongst the turkeys that made up the Christmas TV schedules. The two hour programme purported to tell the story of Cook and Moore's volatile friendship, but focused primarily on Cook's caustic satirical wit, failed relationships and decent into alcoholism.

If you didn't see it, but had the misfortune to catch some of 'The Vicar Of Dibley' or 'Star Spell', I pity you, I really do.
Feel good hits of the 4th January

1. 'So Says I' - The Shins
2. 'There She Goes, My Beautiful World' - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
3. 'Take Me Out' - Franz Ferdinand
4. 'Everybody Come Down' - The Delgados
5. 'Pattern Recognition' - Sonic Youth
6. 'No Good Advice' - Girls Aloud
7. 'Black Math' - The White Stripes
8. 'Evil' - Interpol
9. 'Come As You Are' - Nirvana
10. 'Purple Haze' - Jimi Hendrix