Saturday, October 29, 2005

Sally sallies forth

More sad news from the Low camp - bassist Zak Sally has left the band. The departure seems to have been amicable enough, but Sally's comment that "I can no longer be a member of the band" suggests all is certainly not well.

That said, founding members Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker have already named Sally's replacement as Matt Livingston and announced: "We plan on touring in 2006 and working on writing more music". Reason for some optimism? Perhaps, if Sparhawk can overcome his mental health problems - and I sincerely hope he can and they carry on, as this year's The Great Destroyer LP appeared to herald a whole new direction for the band.

(Thanks to Ian for the link.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


(As officially endorsed by Troubled Diva!)

Belated birthday wishes to Musings From Middle England, now firmly established as one of my daily must-reads. Apparently we had been spared a post about "the day I was in the supermarket at 7.30 am and stumbled on a man and woman engaged in what used to be called 'heavy petting' next to the Dairy Products" - well, no longer.


Vaughan contemplates the ins and outs of taking revenge - "I never used to understand that particular proverb - 'revenge is a dish best served cold' - until I discovered how people plan their revenge meticulously, down to the last detail. Then it began to make sense. Revenge isn't a dish BEST served cold - it just happens to have gone cold because it's been standing around in the kitchen too long being fussed over and having a ridiculous array of garnish added to it".


Mike of Troubled Diva transcribes his mother's account of her childhood, which is full of fascinating detail - "I was born in Harrogate because my mother's parents were living there at the time and the Blitz was causing havoc in London. My father's Chambers were at 5 Crown Office Row, which had probably been damaged when a bomb had fallen on Crown Office Row on 25th September 1940. Another bomb fell on the day of my birth, putting Chambers out of action completely, and his barrister's wig, still in its metal box but squashed flat, was rescued from the ruins: when the box was prised open, the wig sprang back into its original shape".

Alex reviews Instal '05, a festival of experimental music held in Glasgow - "Instal is always a great, horizon expanding experience, which I would recommend so long as you're not of a nervous disposition or think that music has to have a tune or anything. It does leave you craving sunny melodic pop songs for about a week afterwards, though".

Swiss Toni is none too impressed by the Observer Music Monthly's cover story on Pete Doherty - "Doherty seems to have been completely swept up with the glamour and the fame that his notoriety is bringing him (not to mention the supermodel girlfriend). He is no doubt fascinated by the romantic notion of himself as the latest in a long line of doomed artistic geniuses, and is revelling in the attention. For their part, the press (and I include broadsheets like The Observer here) are just waiting for the perfect end to the story: Doherty dying of an overdose. When that happens they can then cover the candlelit vigils that will be held by his devastated young fans. It's like watching a car crash"

Kenny presents us with a bumper Album Review Compendium - Part One (The White Stripes, Idlewild, Saint Etienne, The Magic Numbers, Emiliana Torrini, Engineers, Barbara Morgenstern & Robert Lippok) is here and Part Two (Editors, Clor, Malcolm Middleton, Jill Sobule, The Havenots, The Rakes, Stars) here.

Betty offers us some facts about herself - Part One is here, Part Two here and Part Three here. My favourite? "I was born on July 2nd, the day Marlon Brando died, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones' corpse was found floating in a swimming pool in mysterious circumstances and Ernest Hemingway committed suicide. How many bad omens do you want?".

And finally...

JonnyB chronicles his refreshing break with the LTLP and in so doing pens the finest sentence of the week (and quite possibly any week) - "From some unspecified overseas location, she had the air of one who had been promised an interesting and lucrative job in the sex industry only to find herself being forcibly trafficked into the provincial hotel reception business". THAT's what we miss, and THAT's why he shouldn't leave us on our own again.
Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll

Sunday saw the first installment of a new four part documentary series on BBC2 entitled 'Girls And Boys - Sex And British Pop', and rather good it was too.

Beginning in the 1950s with the advent of British rock 'n' rollers like Billy Fury and moving on to consider The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jimmy Hendrix amongst others, the programme traced the way in which pop impacted upon culture (and particularly gender and sexuality) and vice versa.

There was much to enjoy, not least the odd assortment of talking heads - everyone from Cilla Black to Yoko Ono - and the original footage of gigs like The Stones' triumphant 1969 Hyde Park show, a few weeks before the nightmare of Altamont. It was fascinating to learn that the whole industry in Britain was set in motion by a few ambitious and flamboyant entrepreneurs with an eye for a pretty face (the music business consequently becoming one of the only spheres of life in which attitudes to homosexuality were more liberal), as it was to hear how the carefully construction and manipulation of stars' public images is not at all a new phenomenon.

What emerged was a sense of the profound radicalism of songs overtly about sex and of men having long hair and wearing make-up, a radicalism which has dissipated. By wearing dresses on stage in the early 1990s, Kurt Cobain and Nicky Wire weren't so much being radical as harking back to a time when such gestures were novel and had a much bigger impact.

Certainly the next three episodes promise much.

The broader theme of the series - how music influences society and culture, and vice versa - is one on which I've been focused of late, as I've made my way into 'England's Dreaming', Jon Savage's dense chronicle of The Sex Pistols and the British punk explosion. Malcolm McClaren actually appeared in 'Girls And Boys', and the night of the programme I read a section of the book in which Savage quotes McClaren enthusing about Billy Fury's manager Larry Parnes, in Savage's words "the most outrageous, flamboyant Rock 'n' Roll impresario of them all" and "the creator of what we today understand as the English music industry". Thus far, 'England's Dreaming' has been a gripping if occasionally bewildering read.
Sweet sixteen

Issue #16 of Skif's marvellous Vanity Project fanzine is out now, complete with very minor contributions from him and me. The cover star is cantankerous git Russell Crowe, and the issue packs its usual punch, featuring:

Interviews: Itamar Ziegler

Label profiles: Moshi Moshi

Album reviews: The Fiery Furnaces, Ian Brown, Deerhoof, Scout Niblett, Ween, The Rogers Sisters, The Young Gods, Bardo Pond, Oceansize, Architecture In Helsinki, Bearsuit, Red Letter Day

Single reviews: The White Stripes, The Decemberists, Stereolab, MIA, Cherubs, Aberfeldy, Battle, Helen Love, King Biscuit Time, Film School, This Et Al

Live reviews: Devendra Banhart, Laura Cantrell, Misty's Big Adventure, Luminescent Orchestrii

Head thisaway to read it all online or to find out how to procure yourself a paper copy.

On the subject of reviews, my thoughts on The Graham Parsnip Liquidiser Torture Think-Tank (Project)'s performance at the Flapper & Firkin earlier in the month are now up on the band's site. And that's not all. Following an exchange of emails with guitarist Kirk, I can now bring you an exclusive revelation: "I think Graham Parsnip is our collective drunk mind, although he is becoming more and more elusive and only really hard drinking reveals the blighter nowadays". Remember - you read it here first.
Quote of the day

"What I'd want to know as a Daily Mail reader is how will it affect house prices?"

Will Self on avian flu on Friday's edition of 'Have I Got News For You', which also featured guest presenter Michael Aspel giving a Turner Prize nominee the finger and the revelation that Thomas Hardy's heart was eaten by a cat - posthumously, I might add. Hang on, I thought - that's the sort of thing I watch 'QI' for.
Feel good hits of the 25th October

1. 'Somewhere In Texas' - The Raveonettes
2. 'Vampire / Forest Fire' - The Arcade Fire
3. 'I'm Your Villain' - Franz Ferdinand
4. 'Freakin' Out' - Graham Coxon
5. 'Chinese Rocks' - Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers
6. 'Apply Some Pressure' - Maximo Park
7. 'The Good Ones' - The Kills
8. 'Scrabble' - The Graham Parsnip Liquidiser Torture Think-Tank (Project)
9. 'Race' - Tiger
10. 'Interstate 5' - The Wedding Present

Saturday, October 22, 2005

In her own write

(If you've come here, rejoiced at the appearance of new content but were hoping for reflections on the new Arab Strap album or the last episode in the second series of 'Nighty Night', then please excuse this - an indulgence, but one that might possibly be of some wider interest.)

It must be one of the principal reasons for the difficulties the Post Office has faced in recent years: the decline in letter-writing, in direct proportion to the rise in the popularity of email. Does anyone really write letters anymore? Proper letters, conveying sentiment and emotion, rather than merely formal communiques?

Of course, such missives are still sent, but emails are a transient and ephemeral form that most often bloom for a day and are then erased - another symptom of our throwaway culture.

What's remarkable about reading Virginia Woolf's 'Congenial Spirits: Selected Letters' - an edited and condensed single volume drawn from the multi-volume 'Complete Letters' but with a few new discoveries thrown in as titbits for the completist - is not simply the fact that one person could write so many letters in their lifetime, but that so many survive, saved for posterity by her correspondents and ultimately published for a much wider audience. In one letter she claimed: "I'm writing, though I've nothing to say. How was it that in such circumstances our ancestors at once wrote such letters as could be printed verbatim?". As if to emphasise the irony, this particular letter is reproduced in its entirety.

What's also striking are her frequent references to volumes of letters that she herself devoured and enjoyed. Such volumes were read just as we might breeze through an airport novel. Of course, her being an inveterate reader, the references to works of fiction are even more numerous, as are such eminently quotable and aphoristic pronouncements on the genre itself as "literature is the only spiritual and humane career" and "very few people have the brains to write a really BAD novel; whereas anyone can turn out a respectable but dull one".

In many letters Woolf reflected upon and sought to explain her own fictional practice, often adopting a defensive and apologetic tone which may be disingenuous but which hints at a degree of insecurity. One preoccupation was with the difficulty of finding the right words and articulating herself adequately (a subject which some of you will know is close to my heart...). She told her sometime lover Vita Sackville-West: "I believe that the main thing in beginning a novel is to feel, not that you can write it, but that it exists on the far side of a gulf, which words can't cross: that its to be pulled through only in a breathless anguish. Now when I sit down to an article, I have a net of words which will come down on the idea certainly in an hour or so. But a novel, as I say, to be good should seem, before one writes it, something unwriteable: but only visible". And elsewhere: "one's sentences are only an approximation, a net one flings over some sea pearl which may vanish; and if one brings it up it wont be anything like what it was when I saw it, under the sea".

If her defensiveness about her own writing suggests a lurking insecurity, then so does her frequent belittling of and acerbic commentary upon her contemporaries. "There's not a single living writer (English) I respect", she once declared, and countless writers find themselves in the firing line, including D H Lawrence ("a cheap little bounder ... a genius, but not first rate") and James Joyce.

Turned down by publishers all over Europe, Joyce approached Woolf and her husband Leonard in the hope that their publishing firm, The Hogarth Press, might publish 'Ulysses'. Virginia, however, was decidely unimpressed, and - amusingly - not only artistically: "First there's a dog that p's - then there's a man that forths, and one can be monotonous even on that subject - moreover, I don't believe that his method, which is highly developed, means much more than cutting out the explanations and putting in the thoughts between dashes". Later, when she actually read the work properly (it having eventually found a publisher in Paris, the capital of the "dirty books" trade), she opined: "my impression, after 200 out of 700 pages, is that the poor young man has only got the dregs of a mind compared even with George Meredith. I mean if you could weigh the meaning on Joyces page it would be about 10 times as light as on Henry James'".

Some of the attacks are even more personal, and more entertaining in their spitefulness. Of the poet and novelist Elinor Wylie, she wrote: "I expected a ravishing and diaphanous dragonfly, a woman who had spirited away 4 husbands, and wooed from buggery the most obstinate of his adherents: a siren; a green and sweetvoiced nymph - that was what I expected, and came a tiptoe in to the room to find - a solid hunk: a hatchet minded, cadaverous, acid voiced, bareboned, spavined, patriotic nasal, thick legged American". A marvellously bitchy put-down, if ever I saw one.

To read these letters is to be transported into the heart of early twentieth century literary and artistic culture. Woolf is something of a namedropper, but this isn't simply gratuitous - she really was at the centre of things, perpetually entertaining the great and the good, or being entertained by them. T S Eliot, author of probably the most significant poem of the last century, is laughingly but affectionately referred to as "poor Tom".

Woolf's first impressions of 'Ulysses' might suggest a stiff-backboned Victorian attitude towards matters sexual and scatalogical, but the Bloomsbury circle of artists and writers of which she was a part was defined in part by the social unconventionality of its members' private lives. Woolf herself indulged in a lesbian affair with the married Vita Sackville-West, while her sister Vanessa first married one painter, Clive Bell, then had a lengthy affair with another, Roger Fry before spending the rest of her life co-habiting with a third, Duncan Grant, her lover but also "basically homosexual". Even more remarkable was the bizarre love triangle involving Woolf's close friend, the biographer Lytton Strachey. A gay man, he lived with Dora Carrington, a woman who was infatuated with him. Carrington married Ralph Partridge (who worked for Hogarth Press) despite not loving him as he did her, and while the three were living together Strachey developed an unrequited passion for Partridge. If the writing team behind 'EastEnders' want some ideas for how to revive their flagging soap, then they could do worse than read a biography of Bloomsbury.

The Bloomsbury set, and Woolf in particular, have often been accused of being apolitical, but one thing that emerges from these letters is the extent to which Woolf was involved in political matters (even if mainly by virtue of association - Leonard was deeply interested in politics and stood as a Labour candidate). The letters detailing the National Strike suggest a flurry of frenzied activity on behalf of the striking workers, even if the motives weren't entirely altruistic, Woolf expressing a very middle-class annoyance at being inconvenienced. "We're going to have a strike dinner and drink champagne with Clive, the Frys and other spirits", she claimed. The original champagne socialists, it would seem.

On other occasions, however, her snobbery is rather more difficult to stomach. On a visit to the University of Manchester, she sniffily described the professors as "provincial, smug, destitute of any character, hopelessly suburban, yet trying to live up to the metropolitan intellect (me, I mean) which they can't do".

Though Woolf spent much of her time in London, she and Leonard also owned a house in “the provinces” (in Sussex), and they did on occasion visit other parts of the country. One trip to my home county of Northumberland inspired the following comments to her sister: "We have struck about the most beautiful country I've ever seen here. Except that it has no sea, I think it is better than Cornwall - great moors, and flat meadows with very quick rivers. We are in an Inn full of north country people, who are very grim to look at, but so up to date that one blushes with shame. They discuss Thomson's poetry, and post impressionism, and have read everything, and at the same time control all the trade in Hides, and can sing comic songs and do music hall turns - in fact the Bloomsbury group was stunted in the chrysalis compared with them - But why did you never prepare me for the Scotch dialect, and the melodious voice which makes me laugh whenever I hear it?". How times change. Somehow I get the feeling that if you were to walk into a pub in Ashington or Blyth, post-impressionism wouldn’t be the subject of discussion – though those present might well be “very grim to look at”.

Enjoyable though reading the volume is, it can also be an unsettling experience – not least when you stumble across passages which eerily foreshadow what is to come. In 1937 she told a correspondent: "We were on the front at Seaford during the gale ... The waves broke over the car. Vast spouts of white water all along the coast. Why does a smash of water satisfy all one's religious aspirations? And its all I can do not to throw myself in - a queer animal rhapsody, restrained by L[eonard]". Four years later, at the age of 59, she filled her pockets with stones and threw herself into the River Ouse.

There’s also the uneasy sense of eavesdropping on private correspondence, reading something that was meant for one person’s eyes alone – a sense exacerbated by Woolf’s own comments. To Lady Ottoline Morrell she wrote: "Do you think people (I'm thinking of Lytton and Walpole) do write letters to be published? I'm as vain as a cockatoo myself; but I dont think I do that. Because when one is writing a letter, the whole point is to rush ahead; and anything may come out of the spout of the tea pot". Ironically, the metaphor itself betrays the thought and care that has gone into the writing and perhaps suggests a disingenuousness, but elsewhere she reacted with horror to the possibility of her letters being made public: "Talk of my obstinacy and folly in not liking my letters to be quoted! I wrote one, casually, to an unknown but accredited American the other day, hinting at a mild literary scandal. She replies that she gave it to a friend of hers who is publishing it in The Atlantic Monthly! So thats why I write 'Private', or should, in future".

And that’s why the very last line of her suicide note to Leonard reads: "Will you destroy all my papers". Thankfully for many readers, myself included (as well as countless literary critics), he and others chose to disregard her last wish.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Quote of the day

"People who preach to me about the evils of drink tend to drive me to it."

Peter Cook - well said that man. One of these days I'll get round to reading 'Tragically I Was An Only Twin', I promise.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

"Un, deux, trois, it's tractor love!"


So, The Graham Parsnip Liquidiser Torture Think-Tank (Project), a band who have been labelled "the thinking man's Chas and Dave". As you might have surmised, they're not entirely serious - part Cardiacs, part I, Ludicrous and part 'Monty Python'.

'Blackadder'-inspired opener 'The Baby-Eating Bishop Of Bath & Wells' sets the tone for a set heavy on material from their Bordering On Pretentious LP. We're treated to songs about the Rowley Regis earthquake ("3.2 on the Richter scale!"), eating fruit to raise one's sperm count, and "the dark art of Scrabble", the latter culminating in the repetition of the line "Let me put 'quizzical' on a triple word score" to the tune of Olivia Newton John's 'Let's Get Physical'.* The undoubted highlight, though, is 'Tractor Love', a tale of agricultural-based lust which, in its references to erections, suggests that the penile problems alluded to in other songs can be overcome given the right stimulus.

But who exactly IS the mysterious Graham Parsnip? Is it the pony-tailed shirtless drummer? Is it the guitarist who laughs his way through the set? Is it the vocalist, dressed as though fresh from a hard day at the bank and leaping around in the crowd pretending to be a trout? Is it the bassist / keyboardist, clad only in grey socks, Phil Collins T-shirt and enormous green underpants? Or is it none of them? And does it matter?

Another question to ponder: is it foolhardy to take potshots at a band called When Bears Attack, one of whose songs, er, bears the title 'Rock Critic In A Pool Of Blood'? Oh well... They're really not very good. In fact, they're an unmitigated mess, veering wildly from straightforward punk into ska and indie, swerving from the lugubriously personal to Graham Parsnip-esque daftness, without any semblance of individual identity. Redeeming features? Well, there are some neat horn touches, and the bespectacled vocalist gives it absolutely everything, channeling attention away from his mostly static band members and coming across like Nicholas Lyndhurst on PCP. Now there's an image for you.

I've been rueing the fact that (Hooker), Manchester's answer to Sleater-Kinney, had to pull out of their headlining slot, and unfortunately their replacements 51 Breaks offer precious little in the way of consolation. If I had to pinpoint three things that immediately inspire me to take a dislike to them, it would be the bassist's Kasabian T-shirt, the guitarist's John Squireisms and, most significantly, the vocalist / keyboardist's gratingly Americanised James Blunt impersonation. The set is bookended by uptempo Stone Roses style indie, but it's the tracks which occupy the middle portion that suggest they know which way the money lies - ponderous piano-led power ballads that Keane wouldn't kick out of bed. Fair play to them, though - they do it very effectively, and who am I to stick the boot in? I'm not really paying much attention anyway, being mostly preoccupied with thoughts of passionate trysts with farmyard machinery.

* Call me pedantic, but being a bit of a Scrabble buff myself I thought I should point out that the word 'quizzical' contains two 'z's, and therefore cannot be played in a game featuring only one 'z' tile...

Other reviews: Parallax View, Andy Pryke


An Itinerant Scholar In Brighton is the brand spanking new blog of FinDeSiecle. An SWSL associate newly resident in Brighton and studying for a PGCE, he's an inveterate reader, film buff and user of words like "littoral".


Jonathan updates us on The Tale Of The Mysterious Parka - "What I reckon is this; some modern day Mancunian Arthur Daley has found himself lumbered with an Ancoats warehouse full of slightly ragged old Parkas, and hit upon a novel way of getting them shifted - just send them out to random unsuspecting individuals, and, by way of a mysterious note in the ticket pocket, elicit a bit of curiosity".


Kenny salivates eloquently over Ladytron (now there's an image he'd like...) - "For encore, we get 'The Last One Standing', slightly slower of tempo but with an undeniably catchy chorus and plenty of soaring 'aaah-AAAHs' for Helen to tease her tonsils around. This is followed, inevitably, by 'Seventeen', a song of such simple but unutterable genius (and Dead Kenny never uses the word genius lightly) that Lennon and McCartney would have drunk each other's piss to have written it. Helen and Mira join each other at the middle of the stage for some slinky, synchronised moves as they deliver the devastating lines of a tune that acts like a serotonin virus that just keeps on giving".

Pete is equally enthusiastic about alt-country duo Believers - "As is usual, they arrived without fanfare, said their hellos, picked up their guitars and started playing. From the very first note, me and my elderly companions looked at each other in acknowledgement that we were about to witness something special. There is something about seeing two people armed only with acoustic guitars, absolutely hypnotise a room, hold it spellbound. The guy, as mentioned, had cool stamped through him like a stick of rock, but he was cool, not cold and in any case his partners warmth would thaw all but the iciest of rooms".

Simon gets his teeth into the week's Top 40 - "Ricky Martin - 'I Don't Care'. Now there's a hostage to fortune title. The problem with Martin, as evidenced by the type of promo he's been doing, is that he now needs to be aimed at an older audience because he's been so long away kids are going to go 'sorry, Livin' La what?'".

Betty makes a discovery - "Not turning up at events that I've been invited to and therefore annoying people is quite enjoyable".

Alan goes to a Jack The Ripper conference in Brighton and meets Jeremy Beadle - "Very approachable, a great pisstaker (my favourite type of person), and over the course of the weekend obviously a lot of folk staying at the hotel approached him for autographs and photos, he could not have been nicer or done more for any one of them".

Pete reviews Joss Whedon's 'Serenity' - "Compared to the vast majority of movies featuring space ships that get a wide cinematic release it was a fucking masterpiece of modern movie making and that I was expecting more says a lot, not just about the state of films generally but about Joss Whedon's potential".

Alex defends his excitement at the prospect of having beans on toast for tea - "Honestly, I'm not some troglodyte, Loaded-reading, nu-sexist 'lad' who thinks that cooking is woman's work and who never learned to do anything more than work a can opener and a microwave. Seriously. I can cook. I like to cook. I lived alone for the best part of three years and while, yes, I did give custom my local chinese and indian takeaways, they did not provide more than a fraction of my total diet, and nor did the microwave".

The Girl recalls how watching a contortionist in the company of her parents led to acute embarrassment (NSFW).

And finally...

Long Suffering Wife, er, suffers after ingesting copious quantities of Thatchers Cheddar Valley cider in The Anchor on Saturday evening. An evil and corrupting influence? Moi?
Quote of the day

"Religion to me has always been the wound, not the bandage".

Dennis Potter, in a 1994 interview with Melvyn Bragg.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Things I Have Learned From / Noticed In A Three-Week Old Issue Of NME, Having Not Read It For Ages

About time I acquainted myself with what's down with The Kidz, I thought - and so it was to NME that I turned. Never mind that you could have got a better dissection of the issue on No Rock & Roll Fun three weeks ago...

1. A message from editor Conor McNicholas: "WELCOME TO YOUR NEW NME! You'll notice that NME looks different this week. That's because we've been making loads of improvements all the way through the mag". Forgive me for saying this, Conor, but don't you trot out that breathless froth every fucking week? Accompanying the message is a picture of Mr (or should that be Master?) McNicholas, looking as big-conked and gawky as ever.

2. Alex Kapranos has quite incredible teeth.

3. Ian Brown has stepped in to sponsor London non-league side Chiswick Homefields. And I imagine that every single member of the team, from 1 to 11, is a better singer than King Monkey.

4. The Futureheads and Bloc Party bassist Gordon Noakes are among those involved in a John Peel charity single, a cover of The Buzzcocks' 'Ever Fallen In Love'. The single's to be released on 21st November with all proceeds going to Amnesty International. Marvellous.

5. Irish band Red Organ Serpent Sound, now signed to Vertigo, have just released their debut single, the excruciatingly titled 'In Search Of Orgasmuz'. Having seen them play with The Fiery Furnaces and Sons & Daughters last year, I won't be buying it.

6. Kasabian's Serge Pizzorno on the band's hopes for their second LP: "We're just going to try and make that Stones / Floyd record that you can't deny is a great album, whether you like us or not". Well, by the sounds of it I'm likely to be able to deny it, Serge.

7. Rick Parfitt of Status Quo talks to Peter Robinson about the band's past: "It was all projectors in those days, and we'd project pornos onto the side of a white building. And we'd just lie there on the bed, collectively wanking. It didn't help when you were in your vinegar strokes if someone told you a joke. But that's all part of being mates in a rock band". I remember seeing Parfitt on BBC1's 'East Midlands Today' a couple of years back - he was being treated for Repetitive Strain Injury by Leicester City FC's physio. He claimed it was because of playing the same chords over and over again, but now I'm not so sure...

8. A guide to the free CD (the real reason I crossed the newsagent's palm with silver). The theme? "The soundtrack of your summer". The reason? "According to the results of our readers poll, 2005 really WAS the greatest summer ever for live music". Nice to see the magazine's continuing to encourage a startling lack of perspective. How many summers of live music have the majority of NME readers witnessed? Not many is my guess.

9. A band called The Arctic Monkeys seem to be the current can-do-no-wrong Next Big Thing. "There haven't been so many people trying to stuff into a tent at Reading since Foo Fighters in '95". I've never heard of 'em. Their contribution to the CD is 'Fake Tales Of San Francisco'. The merest whiff of Franz Ferdinand, but the almighty stink of The Kaiser Fucking Chiefs and their odious Britpop revivalism, plus a singer who sounds EXACTLY like Tony Wright of Terrorvision. It is rubbish. Rubbish name, too.

10. Ronnie Vanucci, drummer with "cover stars" The Killers, IS Johnny Knoxville.

11. The Killers' Brandon Flowers: "There are so many bands who write bullshit, and I don't know how they can play it every night without being embarrassed". Exhibit A, m'lud: 'Indie Rock 'N' Roll'.

12. Sweet relief - a pleasantly combative "interview" with Noodle of Gorillaz, whose cage is rattled entertainingly by Rob Fitzpatrick. At one stage she is goaded into declaring: "Gorillaz have never released anything musically, visually or in any other medium that has been anything less than superlative". I'd like to think there's an element of sarcasm in there...

13. A full page feature on Kanye West's declaration during the Hurricane Katrina telethon that "George Bush doesn't care about black people". No new quotes. Why not make it the main news item, rather than tucking it away deep in the magazine? Might it not be more worthy of inclusion there than, say, the massive picture of West with Franz Ferdinand behind the scenes on 'Friday Night With Jonathon Ross'?

14. Yet more slavvering over The Stone Roses and Spike Island. Yawn.

15. The new 'Help' album, 'Help: A Day In The Life', features new tracks by Radiohead, Maximo Park, Bloc Party, The Coral, The Magic Numbers and The Go! Team. Unfortunately, it also features Belle & Sebastian, Coldplay, Razorlight, Keane and The Kaiser Chiefs, the latter performing a cover of 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine'. For every swing a roundabout, eh? But then it's all for charidee - surely that can be the only reason for rating it a 10?

16. The new Ladytron LP Witching Hour makes Pete Cashmore want to have sex. A sweaty red-faced NME hack - what an unpleasant image.

17. "Tracks"? Of course, no "Singles" anymore. The Go! Team are acclaimed as "the most unabashedly fun band in Britain" - true enough. 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' by The Arctic Monkeys - them again - pips 'Bottle Rocket' for the accolade of Track Of The Week. If it's anything like as bad as 'Fake Tales Of San Francisco' then that's a travesty. And they're signed to Domino?! What are they doing dirtying their hands with this sort of dross?

18. A new (to me) NME Classic Single Of The Week feature - 'The Weeping Song' by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, released in September 1990. "an, uh, audacious choice of 45 ... this is really an expensive folly considering the kind of people who will decide the fate of it on-air". 45s? The possibility of serious airplay for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds? Very puzzling for the majority of readers, I imagine.

19. The Duke Spirit are the stars of another new feature, Pub NME, in which a band plays a couple of low-key pub gigs. They already had Club NME, you see, so this is really clever (even though it makes for a pretty damn dull feature). A biscuit to Mr McNicholas or whoever came up with it.

20. ... and we're into the live adverts. Oh look, Kim Gordon was obviously left feeling so dirty by Sonic Youth's appearance at the V Festival that she was intent on making amends by collaborating with Tony Oursler and Phil Morrison on a film called 'Perfect Partner' at the Barbican, live soundtrack supplied by her, bandmates Jim O'Rourke and Thurston Moore and others. Normal service is resumed, then.

21. The Recommender - another new feature, and one we like. This week, it's Paul Smith of Maximo Park telling us he's been listening to everything from Joanna Newsom to Broadcast via The Blue Nile, Scott Walker and John Cage. His main tip are Field Music, who have Futureheads / Maximo Park connections: "They've recently made a gorgeous debut album which is sort of like chamber pop with strings". Sounds very pleasant indeed. And he also 'fesses up to a love of Prefab Sprout's Swoon. Oh dear, it was all going so well.

Postscript: a Guardian interview with The Arctic Monkeys that Jonathan's already commented on. It seems the name was used by one of their dad's bands in the 1970s - that doesn't make it any better, though. Their Sheffield origins would explain the Terrorvision thing. Frontman Alex Turner on 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor': "It's a bit shit. The words are rubbish. I scraped the bottom of the barrel. It could be a big song, like. But I'd hate to be just known for that song because it's a bit ... crap". Well, why release it then?! Try harder not to be crap! And if we are going to suffer the misfortune of you sticking around for the foreseeable future, please try harder not to be this fucking dull and say-nothing in interviews.
The Art Of Noise

The Art Of Noise is a new (of sorts) collaborative music-oriented blog set up by myself and Jonathan of Assistant. The original idea was to create a site where we could pool posts about music that appear on our personal blogs, though there's the potential for bigger things to sprout from this acorn - more contributors and exclusive content perhaps.

Just to clarify, then, this doesn't mean that Silent Words Speak Loudest will become a music-free zone. What it does mean, though, is that if you only come around these parts in search of music posts, then you'd be better off going there instead - not only will the wheat be automatically sorted from the chaff for you, but you'll get to enjoy Jonathan's thoughts too.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The dark is rising

My SWSL review of last month's A Different Kettle Of Fish gig at the Flapper & Firkin has appeared (alongside that of Kenny of Parallax View) on opening act Sinistra's site. Cheers guys.

This month's ADKOF night takes place this Tuesday (11th) at the same venue. Unfortunately Hooker have had to pull out, but 51 Breaks have stepped in as last-minute replacements, and top a bill that also features When Bears Attack and The Graham Parsnip Liquidiser Torture Think-Tank (Project). £3 in, cheap booze - what's not to like?

Friday, October 07, 2005



Exultations & Difficulties - Martin (a contributor to February's Right To Reply feature on poetry) has gone to take up a teaching position at a university in Zhuhai, China. Best (belated) wishes Martin.


He Who Cannot Be Named dredges up as many memories as he can of August's Bencassim Festival - "You have to keep on moving; many of the old warhorse bands (for this is no place to make your iconic breakthrough) were nothing better than dead sharks. Yet lest we despair, here comes Nick Cave and his gospel-rock juggernaut. The superlatives laid upon the high-kicking Hove resident since he unleashed Abbatoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus have been too rich and frequent to make you believe he would fail to deliver. He overwhelmed us with ease. It's what he does so well now; the backing singers, thrashing percussion, sheer incandescent devilry and unity of sound may have reached their optimum peak (how can he keep this up in years to come, you ask). The hand clapping for 'Supernatural' was not demanded but given so easily by a bewitched crowd, it charmed this cynical fucker's heart. And, of course, 'The Mercy Seat' was a haunting but blistering rollercoaster. Fighting imaginary demons can be so exhilarating fun to watch".


Willie analyses the Tory Party Conference speeches with far more wit and insight than any pundit you'll read in the papers - "It's always been said that a successful Tory conference speech has to tickle the erogenous zone of the party faithful in the hall ... Admittedly, when you survey the rows of elderly buffers and bufferines from the Shires who make up the Tory conference audience, 'erogenous zone' are not the two words that would immediately come into your mind. Nor theirs, for that matter. 'I'm sure I've got one somewhere but I can't remember where I put it. And I've got the wrong glasses on. Put the big light on, would you dear, so I can find my readers. Then we can look for....what was it again? orange comb?'"

Jane dissects 'X Factor' - "Kate Thornton looked really tired on Saturday night's show. Eyes like hard boiled eggs with tiny holes poked in them".

Vicky directs her readers to a fascinating (if unpleasant on the eye) site called Abandoned Places (right up the Inspector's street, I'd imagine, if he doesn't already know of it).

Robin chronicles his struggles to uproot a couple of unwanted bushes - "A short break followed, for breath and high level planning, but soon I was back to the first stump wielding axe, fork and spade. I tried a variety of siege strategies, having rather lost the element of surprise by then, while it gradually became apparent that Stump One had put the respite since July to good use and had managed to connect itself to the centre of the earth". Note to JonnyB: you're not the only one who can wring comic genius out of the mundane...

And finally...

Phill reflects upon his girlfriend's dream that Jesus is alive and playing in midfield for Bolton Wanderers.
Quotes of the day

Two quotes that encapsulate much of what is rotten in the state of America...

"President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq...' And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And by God I'm gonna do it'".

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, speaking in a forthcoming BBC series called 'Elusive Peace: Israel And The Arabs'. Everybody get scared - Georgie Boy's hearing voices... Of course it's hateful and maniacal when a Muslim claims to have acted on God's command, whereas when George does so it's just, righteous and not at all irrational.

"Here we are trying to free another country, and I have to get off a plane - over a T-shirt. That's not freedom".

US citizen Lorrie Heasley, who was ordered off a Southwest Airlines plane in Portland, Oregon for wearing an "offensive" T-shirt. The T-shirt bore pictures of George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice with the legend "Meet The Fuckers" underneath. Freedom of speech, eh? Well, I guess everything has its limits...
The carrot-munching bastards that cannot be named

No doubting the weirdest story in the news today: "Posters for the new Wallace and Gromit film on a south coast island will not feature the word 'rabbit' because of a local superstition". Naturally I was surprised to discover it was Portland in Dorset rather than somewhere just off the coast of Norfolk - after all, East Anglia's an extremely superstitious place, and regular visitors to JonnyB's Private Secret Diary are only too well aware of his ongoing battles with pesky rabbits...
Shameless self-publicising

My review of Beats Capri's 'Me Your Girl' / 'Venus Across Town' sampler is now up on the Vanity Project website.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Telling untold stories

Plenty of interesting-sounding new book releases to get my teeth into. Louis Theroux's 'The Call Of The Weird: Travels In American Subcultures' sounds like the sort of non-fiction book I'd enjoy, and what I've read about Brett Easton Ellis's long-awaited semi-autobiographical novel 'Lunar Park' has made it seem an intriguing prospect - come on now He Who Cannot Be Named, I'm expecting a review...

But what brought the biggest smile to my face when I was browsing the shelves of Borders was the sight of Alan Bennett's new collection 'Untold Stories'. I hadn't even been aware that it was in the pipeline (note to self: read the TLS more often). It collects pretty much every short piece of writing Bennett's produced since 1994, when 'Writing Home' was published - and given my love for that, 'Untold Stories' is very definitely high on the wishlist.

Nicholas Wroe has interviewed Bennett on the eve of the new volume's publication. Wroe stays firmly in the background, his narrative simply filling in the gaps between Bennett's own words. The playwright / writer talks about his reading habits, confesses to an appreciation of comedy series such as 'The League Of Gentlemen' and 'Little Britain', and offers a number of observations about what he does: "Writing is an unseemly profession because you seize on things and almost your first reaction is, 'is that something I can write about?'". A sentiment most bloggers can easily understand...

Incidentally, my own reading has picked up after a period of stagnation. Not far to go of the volume of Woolf's selected letters, and also meeting the fairly formidable challenge posed by Pynchon's 'Mason & Dixon' head on. I've been catching up with purchases for quite a while now and hadn't bought anything new until the last fortnight, when I've picked up Martin Amis's 'Experience: A Memoir', Alan Hollinghurst's 'The Line Of Beauty' (remembering that good things were said about it on Troubled Diva last year) and Andrew Motion's 'Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life' (acquired on the strength of Bennett's excellent long review of it in 'Writing Home').

Incidentally - again - while I'm rambling about matters literary, there's also an interview with Forward prize-winning poet and Jerry Springer lookalike David Harsent on the Guardian site, in which he (amongst other things) reflects upon the value of poetry in a way that recalls February's Right To Reply feature on the form: "Poetry is important for the same reason that the arts in general are important. They tell us how we live".
This week on Stylus

Loads of great stuff this week...

Cameron Macdonald writes brilliantly on Rage Against The Machine, politics and "selling out". There's no doubt in my mind that Cameron's argument is valid - though their alliance with Sony might have been viewed by many as at least suspect if not downright hypocritical, RATM spread the word far further and louder than they ever could have done had they not been raging from within the machine itself.

Cameron has also taken a look back on Thurston Moore's 1995 solo LP Psychic Hearts. It's an album I've owned for a while but to which I haven't given much time - that may well change now...

Nick Southall explains why he doesn't like going to gigs.

In the weekly UK Singles Jukebox feature, it's a big thumbs up for Rachel Stevens and Bloc Party, and bottles of warm piss for James Blunt and Starsailor.

Josh Love expresses his disappointment at Franz Ferdinand's You Could Have It So Much Better... and in the process kicks up a comments-box debate about the place of "fun" in music.

Other album reviews worth a look: Justin Cober-Lake on Calla's Collisions and Derek Miller on Broken Social Scene's self-titled second LP.
Platitudinously speaking

Trawling through the hundreds of jobs advertised on the Guardian Jobs page isn't a particularly enjoyable experience, not least because of the vacancies advertised by this media recruitment agency.

The fact that they claim Yin-Yang is their "philosophy" is bad enough, but worse is the way that, underneath the job title, location and salary, they insist upon putting just the sort of cod-mystic platitudes and aphorisms that Francis Wheen so sharply lampoons in the early part of 'How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World instead of any additional useful information.

A couple of excruciatingly awful examples:

"In the depth of winter I learned that within me there lay an invincible summer".

"And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb".

'Nuff said.
Quote of the day

"[She] got all the madwomen down from the attic and into the charts".

A Kate Bush fan on the extent of her influence.

The quote comes from this article by Barbara Ellen on Bush's return to the limelight (metaphorically speaking, at least) with her first LP for twelve years, Aerial. Ellen might not be a music critic, but it's a decent piece. Incidentally, I've not heard the single 'King Of The Mountain' yet, but I certainly want to.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Lost in translation

Adam Jacot de Boinod's book 'The Meaning Of Tingo' sounds fascinating - a survey of foreign words which have no exact equivalent in English.

For someone who thoroughly enjoyed Melvin Bragg's 'The Adventure Of English', and in particular the etymological titbits and anecdotes, it could well be right up my street. Albanians have 27 words for "moustache"! The Japanese have a word for "a girl who appears pretty from behind but not from the front"! German has a word for "the excess weight gained from emotion-related overeating"!

My favourite words:

Plimpplampplettere (Dutch) - skimming stones (onomatopoeic genius!)

Backpfeifengesicht (German) - "a face that cries out for a fist in it" (I can think of many, many Backpfeifengesichte...)

Koshatnik (Russian) - "a dealer of stolen cats"

(Thanks to J for the link.)
"A keen eye for detail"

While I'm on the subject of language, forgive me a grumpy Lynne Truss esque moment of pedantry. Trawling the job agencies on New Street yesterday, I came across an advert for a job requiring someone who is "literate" and has "a keen eye for detail". Judging by the appearance of words like "acheived" and "vacancie's" in the same notice, I can only assume it wasn't for a position at that particular agency. Or that whoever wrote it has a well-developed sense of irony.
Feel good hits of the 4th October

1. 'Headlights Look Like Diamonds' - The Arcade Fire
2. 'Do You Want To' - Franz Ferdinand
3. 'Baby C'mon' - Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
4. 'Bottle Rocket' - The Go! Team
5. 'Sleepwalk Capsules' - At The Drive-In
6. 'Forever Lost' - The Magic Numbers
7. 'Tribulations' - LCD Soundsystem
8. 'Quay Cur' - The Fiery Furnaces
9. 'What A Lovely Dance' - Hal
10. 'You've Come A Long Way' - Bobby Conn
Know Your Enemy #62

"A huge cuckoo sitting in the middle of our nest"

Ken Clarke talking at the Conservative Party Conference about Tony Blair and his appropriation of Tory policies and ideology. I'm with you on that one, Ken.
Every picture tells a story

Look At Me is an online collection of photos found in a variety of circumstances. The names of the people featured in them have been lost to history. A simple idea that makes for a really fascinating site.

(Thanks to London Calling for the link.)

Monday, October 03, 2005



Conditional Reality, a fantastic blog by a poet called Mario who tries to write posts of exactly 100 words every day. Sample: "The speech balloons began to appear above our heads whenever we said anything. They fell out of the air when we stopped talking. Piles of them started collecting everywhere. At first we gathered them up and tossed them out, but that got to be so time consuming that soon we all just ignored them, letting them pile up everywhere. We consulted cartoonists about storage. They were no help. All over the world people talked much less, just so they wouldn’t have to deal with the speech balloons. Deception became a much rarer event. A lot of us enjoyed the quiet".

(Thanks to Pete for the link.)


Jonathan receives a mysterious gift in the post, a Parka coat, containing an even more mysterious anonymous note - "Like my name and address on the package it was hand-written. Neat, young person's handwriting, in pencil. Nothing threatening about it - but still I was quivering a bit as I read: 'Jonathan- welcome to the club!'. And underneath, an email address - 'Parka-club at something-or-other dot com'". Don't know about you, but I'm desperate to hear whether Jonathan can get to the bottom of it all.


By The Sea Shore plays New York I Spy - "Inadvertently picking up American phrases ('I guess', 'Can I get the check please?', 'I did not have sex with that woman'.): 5 points".

Kenny reviews David Cronenberg's new film 'A History Of Violence'.

Willie enjoys Martin Scorsese's two part film about Bob Dylan (which I'm gutted I missed) - "At one concert Pete Seeger had to be restrained from taking an axe to one of Dylan's electric cables. Somewhere I have an old Pete Seeger 'EP' that I bought in 1965. If I ever find it, I shall stamp on it".

Swiss Toni opts to give the Dylan film a miss and plumps for a trip to see Editors instead - "Much the same as the album really: they have one or two really cracking songs ('Blood', 'Munich') and a few other decent ones, but they just seem to be missing a little something. Originality certainly".

And finally...

Phill presents for the benefit of Brum-based readers used to encountering Polish bus drivers the "Danger! High Postage Guide To Conversational Polish To Use On The Bus" - "Were you upset when Joy Division changed their name from Warsaw? Byly wy przewracaliscie kiedy Rozdzielanie Radosci zmienial ich imie from Warszawy?".
The name game

As of about a week ago, J and I are proud pet-owners. Nothing exotic, and not even a dog or a cat - no, just a couple of fish that we've inherited from a friend who's moved out.

The greatest pleasure to be derived from acquiring a pet - as I think Paul and his Long Suffering Wife discovered when they got their cat Cleo - is in the naming. Our fish did already have names, but - well, we weren't going to let a piddly thing like that stand in our way. We'll even go so far as to change them by deed poll if necessary.

I think it's very cruel and irresponsible of parents like Bob Geldof and Paula Yates, Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow, and Mr and Mrs Rooney to saddle their children with bizarre and unfortunate names - just think of the psychological damage it could do to them.

The thing is, though, that our fish won't have to make it in the wider world - they can just swim around in their tank, their own little kingdom, without having to come into contact with any other fish who might find their names preposterous and mock them mercilessly. It is for this reason that we've decided to christen them after our two current favourite words.

So may I introduce you to Hoopla (a proper bright orange, a fine figure of a fish) and Falafel (something of a runt - short and fat, greedy, a golden yellow colouring, occasionally suffers from a swim bladder problem meaning that he continually floats to the surface).

Long may they gawp, nibble at vegetation and swim around aimlessly.
Season of mist and yellow youthfulness

It's that time of year again. The time you suddenly realise that the summer has in fact been blissful and idyllic and not at all stressful. Oh yes - the students are back.

Well, some of them are back. Of course, some have moved on, while many of those who pitched up last weekend are just starting out, and it shows - in the disorientated looks and constant glancing at photocopied maps, in the strange eagerness to lavish fortunes on textbooks that may be on the required reading lists but won't actually be touched.

There seems to be two types of male student (the girls are less easy to classify): the nervy gawky type who look as though they're constantly cowering in fear of being shouted at by someone or of being made to look stupid or ridiculous and having their fragile self-confidence shattered; and the chirpy brash type who bray so loudly and repeatedly about their A level results and drinking prowess that one wants to welcome them to the next three or so years of their life by sending them on a night out in A&E.

But I guess nothing's changed - that's what I was like too. Well, the first type, not the second.
This week on Stylus

Jeff Siegel writes about Broadcast's new LP Tender Buttons in a way that makes me keen to hear it - "On its surface, it seems like such a simple little curlicue, all Mother Goose coos, descending-scale melodies, and no-wave screech over dinky drum-machine patters. That's really it; no mucking around in different time signatures, no showy genre fusions, just a single idea, explored at every conceivable angle over the span of a full-length. It reads like a dearth of ideas, but sounds like the product of single-minded, laser-sighted focus. Most acts would falter here, but Broadcast pull it off with an easy grace and breezy elegance that belies its surface tension of noise vs. melody, and a lot of that has to do with the combination of its essentially aleatoric nature and its hypnotic sense of developed repetition".

I know of at least one other person who's got Tender Buttons and likes it (looking forward to reading a gig review, Mike - nudge nudge...)

Nick Southall gets to grips with albums from rising Brit jazz outfits Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear - "both fantastic records, easily two of the most enjoyable I’ve heard all year".

Acoustic Ladyland are playing the Bar Academy on 15th November - having seen them on 'Later With Jools Holland', I'm very tempted to go along.

And now for some acerbic single reviews...

Dom Passantino on The Go! Team's 'Bottle Rocket': "Because, you know, restraint sucks doesn't it? Can you imagine anyone in 2005 actually turning around and saying 'You know what? Considering how well the recording history of The Avalanches has held up, wouldn't it just be the 'bomb diggity' if there was an indie band version of them?'. Like one of those pizzas at the bottom of the takeaway leaflet that just appear to be the chef clearing out his cupboards of all his unwanted ingredients".

Alex Macpherson on Andy Bell's 'Crazy': "Distasteful and slightly unclean in exactly the same way as feeling someone's hand on your arse in a gay club and turning round to find not a buff young 19-year-old but a sweaty, balding fortysomething man with eyes crazed by desperation and a lifetime of too many poppers".

Of course, Dom's dead wrong about The Go! Team, but his review's so sharp it deserved to be reproduced...
True lies

Congratulations to Jon and the folks behind independent quarterly film magazine Little White Lies on recently featuring in the Media Guardian (registration required). The third issue is out now, and centres on George Romero's 'The Land Of The Dead'.

Incidentally, Jon has pointed me in the direction of Pixelsurgeon, a site which covers all the creative arts. The main page currently includes links to an interview with Imogen Heap and pieces on Guy Ritchie's 'Revolver', Roman Polanski's 'Oliver Twist' and indie hopefuls We Are Scientists.

And while I'm on a film tip: Sean O'Hagan talks to Jim Jarmusch in the Observer - "I am interested in the non-dramatic moments in life. I'm not at all attracted to making films that are about drama".
Culture club

A useful resource, if I ever stumbled across one: the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. Not enormously comprehensive, but worth a look all the same.

No smirking at the expression "literate American" at the back - it's not an oxymoron...