Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Achosion I Laweni

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

#5 - Ozone Cafe

Charles Street in Cardiff city centre is pleasant enough for the most part, with the main pedestrianised thoroughfare Queen Street at one end and the below-mentioned JobCentre Plus. Unfortunately the Ozone Cafe is situated towards the top end, facing the large blank wall of Marks & Spencers - but what it lacks in location and view it more than makes up in terms of food and service.

Unlike the misleadingly-named Cafe Soya, by far and away our favourite food establishment in Birmingham, the Ozone Cafe is the real deal - little more than soup, sandwiches, generously filled salad bowls and sweets on the menu as well as a selection of hot and cold drinks. But, as the name might suggest, the proprietors pride themselves on a conscientious attitude towards what they offer - everything bar the bacon is organic, and served up by friendly and welcoming staff who bend over backwards to be accommodating.

Last week's chicken and bacon club sandwich was one of the best I've ever had (not least because all the sandwiches come served in your choice of fresh bread), washed down with an excellent coffee.

As noted on the page from the Guardian's G2 supplement stuck proudly in the window, it's fast food but it's certainly not junk.
Dole scum

Excuse the woe-is-me nature of this post, but there really is something terribly disspiriting about looking for work.

Sending off countless CVs and application forms in the vague hope of receiving just one solitary compliments slip in return; being talked down to and patronised to within an inch of your life in the job centre JobCentre Plus (now I know how it must have felt to be an African nation in the World Cup...); traipsing around temping agencies to hawk your wares, and realising with a wry smile that two of them are situated on Working Street.

Still, I guess I have been able to watch the World Cup almost in its entirety...
Mash it up!

... as The Damned didn't quite sing.

I can't believe I've never done it before, but today I followed the link from Del's blog to find the page where he's collected his assorted mash-ups produced under the name DJ Nite.

The first to really catch my attention was 'Come All Night', which plots The Streets' 'Has It Come To This?' on the graph of Lionel Richie's smoooooth bubble-perm-and-slip-ons classic 'All Night Long'.

More ambitious is the track which blends Franz Ferdinand's stompalong single 'Take Me Out' with Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition', before Nirvana's 'Smell Like Teen Spirit' and even 'Just Be Good To Me' make appearances towards the end.

As with all good mash-ups, it's both the moments of juxtaposition and the surprising moments of complete sync that catch the ear. Great stuff.
Death by chocolate (nearly)

Spotted today on a sandwich board for the South Wales Echo:


Enough to raise a smile as I walked down Queen Street, but not even the best Echo board of the day - that honour goes to...


Let's just stop a moment and analyse that one. What I like is the way the information is so densely packed in. The length of time that the bar was out of date is the key detail, but there's plenty more in there. Note that the victim wasn't a "woman" but a "mum" (ie if consumption of said bar proved fatal, children would have been orphaned), and that it was no ordinary common-or-garden chocolate bar, but very specifically one consisting primarily of nougat. Let that be a warning to you if you're thinking of purchasing a nougat bar - check the best before date on it carefully first.

So, two terrific (if not terrifying) headlines. All I can say is that it must have been a very slow news day.

Just realised I missed 'Saxondale' again...
Feel good hits of the 28th June

1. 'A Truth Quietly Told' - The Black Heart Procession
2. 'Low Happening' - Howling Bells
3. 'Stones' - Sonic Youth
4. 'Is This All That I Came For?' - The Delgados
5. 'This Isn't It' - Giant Drag
6. 'As Long As I Die Before You I'll Survive' - The Voices
7. 'Faded Lines' - Secret Machines
8. 'Heart Of Glass' - Blondie
9. 'The Weekend Without Make-Up' - The Long Blondes
10. 'Monster Hospital' - Metric

Friday, June 23, 2006

When the music's over

"I'll miss 'TOTP' in the same way that I missed the local greengrocer's when it closed. It had been there before I arrived and it's a shame that it's gone, but I haven't used it all that much recently". Thus quoth ByTheSeaShore in his post on the demise of 'Top Of The Pops'. Couldn't have put it better myself.

In truth I can't remember the last time I watched 'Top Of The Pops'. It was certainly before it was symbolically relegated to BBC2, as clear a precursor to its demise as any. The reasons for my not tuning in were manifold, not least the presenters and the increasingly rubbish selection of acts invited to perform (no real reflection of the make-up of the charts).

I could say that the decision to axe the show, a national institution, is untimely and appalling - but the sad truth of the matter is that it isn't.

It had clearly been in desperate need of being shot between the eyes for some time. Inspector Sands has laid the blame squarely at Andi Peters's door, and I can't disagree with him. Peters single-handedly destroyed the programme's unique identity. It's a worrying day when I find myself in agreement with Noel Edmonds, but he had a point (of sorts) when he said: "It's a tragedy when a broadcaster doesn't understand such a powerful brand".

The Inspector is absolutely right in saying that despite (or perhaps even because of) the changes in record-buying patterns and means of consumption, and the fracturing of the common ground in musical and TV terms, there was still certainly a place for the sort of show that 'Top Of The Pops' once was. Seeing a favourite band perform on the programme was the always source of much excitement, and as a whole the show played an integral part in my musical education. That's something of which The Kidz are now going to be deprived.

So what's left but to remember some of the moments that made 'Top Of The Pops' such great viewing? Of all the performances noted by Del, Eels' debut remains the most memorable for me - the trio stopped miming along to 'Novocaine For The Soul' towards the end and instead destroyed Butch's miniature child's drumkit as the song continued to play. Also worthy of mention on a personal note was Therapy?'s first appearance when they performed 'Screamager' - I fell in love instantly and bought the Shortsharpshock EP the very next day.


(See, it IS possible to write about 'Top Of The Pops' without making reference to Pan's People. Oh...)
Coogan's latest run

Now HERE's a pointless post - about a programme I haven't even seen yet...

Dammit, why didn't I discover that Steve Coogan's new comedy series 'Saxondale' (Mon, 10pm, BBC2) had started until the next day? And, more to the point, how come I hadn't even heard or read anything about it until belatedly coming across a friend's reminder to tune in?

The Metro's comments weren't entirely fulsome in its praise - but to take much stock of that would be the first sign of madness, and in any case several discerning comedy fans of my acquaintance (Coogan fans to be sure, but not the sort that treat everything he's done - including 'Dr Terrible's House Of Horrible' - as a sacred cow) suggested the first in the series contained several very funny episodes and held considerable promise for future installments.

Hopefully I'll remember to tune in this coming Monday and form my own conclusions - but, in the meantime, what did you make of it? Answers on a postcard.
The finishing line

Well, it's been emotional. After 26 weeks (give or take a few), the A-Z Of Music feature on The Art Of Noise comes to a conclusion with a collection of contributions on the letter Z. Click for two splendidly contrasting pieces on Frank Zappa, plus contributions on zine writing and 'Zorba The Greek' (amongst other things).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Super grass


(Yes, this is long, long overdue...)

I'm not sure whether or not it still exists, but there used to be a club called Pieces in Nottingham. This inevitably led to hilarious exchanges about whether or not you were going to Pieces.

Well, it's along similar lines that I report I have now heard The Voices. That's Cardiff's The Voices, by the way, not this lot, who cite Coldplay and Oasis amongst their influences.

By contrast, Cardiff's The Voices might as well be from another planet as well as another country. Taking their cue from Spacemen 3, My Bloody Valentine and the sort of usual suspects that get me nodding my head, they fashion a dense, effects-laden and virtually vocal-less noise not a million miles from Spotlight Kid.

Comprising two male guitarists (one the spit of Jason Pierce) flanking a female keyboard player, they get through just four songs in the course of a half-hour set. The first, a long droning beast, is effortlessly impressive, as is the last, at the climax of which the keyboardist reverts to electronic drums. Another Cardiff band to write home about, then.

I first saw headliners Dead Meadow two years ago when they supported Mogwai on the second leg of the Happy Music For Happy People tour, and it's clear that a few things have changed for a band beloved of Super Furry Animals and Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre (amongst others).

Firstly, though Cory Shane, the second guitarist whom I suspected then wasn't a full-time member of the band, played on their latest album, he's not here tonight so they're back to being a threesome, at least temporarily.

And secondly, they've evidently started to write some songs. I'm guessing that the shorter, more neatly constructed tracks aired tonight hail from their fourth LP Feathers. They're all fine and well, and certainly still at an interesting remove from their post-hardcore-obsessed Washington DC brethren - but what is actually most enjoyable tonight is the Black-Sabbath-pre-Ozzy's-hair-dye-and-coke-phase-meets-blues-meets-psychedelia of their earlier records.

Whereas appearing before Mogwai on Rock City's biggest stage they seemed a little lost and remote, in this intimate room packed full with an enthusiastic Friday night crowd, and on a stage shrouded in green smoke, they are instantly at home.

Jason Simon's lyrics are barely audible given the noise they kick out, but no-one's bothered as the trio kick into another twisting, grooving jam that has my guitar-playing companion drooling into his beer and the rest of us nodding in time like dazed but deliriously happy puppets. Behind the kit Stephen McCarty, who appears to have gone feral, gradually morphs into John Bonham as the set progresses, and bassist Steve Kille hops his strange hop in front of an audience lapping up what his band are feeding us.

A fine way for Kille to celebrate his birthday, and a fine way for us to spend a Friday night.

Now to order a copy of Shivering King And Others, methinks...

Monday, June 19, 2006



Delete Music - the blog to accompany my old mucker LMT's new musical project


Reluctant Nomad discovers the "delights" of Chris Moyles and weighs up whether it's wrong for the BBC to condone his use of the word "gay" to mean "lame" - "While it may be impossible to change the development of meanings in the language, I’d venture that it’s really not a good thing for the BBC to defend the use of the new meaning of ‘gay’ while there isn’t an alternative word that doesn’t have a negative connotation".


ByTheSeaShore reports on his recent foray into amateur dramatics, for which he received a Best Newcomer nomination - "Having seen Emmerdale for the first time in ages, I feel much better about the Northern accent I put on. Thanks again to Jarvis Cocker and the Arctic Monkeys for their assistance".

Pete finds much to enjoy at the Wychwood Festival, most of it with beer in hand - "Dusk was coming down and from nearly every venue there seemed to be emanating something good, something positive. It was a beautiful sunset, the temperature hadn't dropped too drastically yet and everyone, everywhere, was chilled and happy. You could almost slice through the happiness and hand it around. I don't know if you ever find yourself in a countryside or riverside pub, with good ale and good food and everyone just enjoying the moment... it was like that, but magnified a thousand times".

Simon ponders whether Heavenly were "the greatest life achievers in music history?"

Alan revels in being able to call himself a cool dad - "I like the fact that I go to these sorts of things with my kids. It shows that I’ve been at least partly successful in being the cool dad I always wanted to be. I know that I’m not totally cool dad, that I am in fact embarrassing dad at times. But lets face it, we are all destined to be embarrassing dad at times. But I would never have gone to a gig with my dad when I was young. We had the traditional relationship where I listened to music and he shouted at me to turn it down and that it was all just noise anyway".

And finally...

JonnyB is appalled to discover that the LTLP "is the sort of person who posts dog shit through people's letterboxes if she is cross with them... We do not even have a dog. She would have to borrow Short Tony's. That would be going to quite a lot of trouble".
Quote of the day

"From a music point of view, it will never be as popular as the hymns and tunes written by the Wesley brothers and others all those hundreds of years ago. That was when music was written to be listened to and enjoyed rather than deafening everybody. As much as those who bought tickets might not have been unduly worried about God, they were certainly ripped off by the Devil".

Malcolm H Mort writes to the South Wales Echo about 'Jerry Springer: The Opera'. As both the show's co-writer and a DJ and rock critic, I think Stewart Lee might like to come back on that, Mr Mort.

When 'Jerry Springer: The Opera' arrived in Cardiff, it was greeted with protests. Interestingly, the Western Mail's reporter failed to find a single protestor who had seen the show. But they'd all read and heard a lot about it, so that's OK.

Funny how it was in this very city that the '90s Comedian' set was performed for the last time earlier in the year. Lee's moved on, but has anything else?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hoff: an update

Following last Friday's post encouraging people to sign up to a site aiming to send David Hasselhoff to #1, I gather that the site has been featured on the B3TA newsletter.

One person who I'm sure must have signed up by now is Fulham's German right-back Moritz Volz - his website has a special section dedicated to the Hoff:

"Being German, I love David Hasselhoff. It's actually the law back in the Motherland. For me the Hoff is almost like some kind of higher spirit. Hoff-ness is everywhere. The Hoff is a big inspiration - in times of trouble I often ask myself 'how would the Hoff deal with this situation...?' I'm actually thinking of having a mini Baywatch Tower built in my house so I can sit there in my red shorts in true Hoff style. I'm also delighted to see that he's appearing as Captain Hook in a Peter Pan panto at Wimbledon Theatre this Christmas! I'm going to have to work out a way I can meet him!"
Feel good hits of the 16th June

1. 'Kevin Is Gay' - Giant Drag
2. 'Machines' - Spotlight Kid
3. 'Into The Woods' - Howling Bells
4. 'Alone, Jealous And Stoned' - Secret Machines
5. 'By Number' - Anathallo
6. 'Not Even Jail' - Interpol
7. 'Fortune' - Emma Pollock
8. 'Single Again' - The Fiery Furnaces
9. 'Crushed' - The Wedding Present
10. 'These Days' - Death Of Fashion

Thanks to Iain for pointing me in the direction of the Emma Pollock track.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Fifteen minutes of fame

When I lived in Nottingham, it was a bit of a long-standing joke that if the Queens Medical Centre appeared in the news it was either because researchers had made an extraordinary medical discovery or breakthrough, or because a hapless and no doubt hungover junior doctor had accidentally injected a patient with the wrong drug in the wrong quantity.

The infamous exception that proved the rule was when a brain surgeon at the hospital was suspended for allegedly helping himself to an extra bowl of soup (with croutons, I might add) without paying.

Today two of the QMC's specialist consultants are in the news spotlight for a rather different reason, Professors Angus Wallace and Chris Moran having passed a certain Wayne Rooney fit to take part in England's match against Trinidad & Tobago, due to kick off in less than an hour's time.

On their shoulders, it seems, rest the hopes of the country. Let's just hope their diagnosis was right, and that they didn't need to administer young Master Rooney with any injections...
The hard(back) sell

If you thought books are in the bestseller lists and on prominent display in bookshop windows purely on the strength of public interest, then think again: "That W H Smith’s 'book of the week' title, which attracts you as if it had won a prize, has been bought and paid for. The publisher handed over £50,000. Waterstone’s Book of the Week accolade is £10,000, less for ecstatic mini-reviews. Borders charges for 'fiction buyer’s favourite'".

(Thanks to Richard for the link.)
Ys right!

The penultimate installment of the A-Z Of Music on The Art Of Noise sees us musing on the letter Y - which means contributions on Manic Street Preachers, Young Marble Giants, Yellow Magic Orchestra, live bootlegs and bizarre gig venues.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

World looks red

The hottest day of the year so far, the auditorium stiflingly hot (hotter than the gradually cooling evening outside), and the sweat virtually dripping off my nose - I can think of no better circumstances in which to have watched 'The Proposition'.

You see, if it hadn't already have been hot, the film would have made me feel hot. It's a very red film, full of the scorched baked-dry Australian outback, sunrises and sunsets, and the characters are constantly glazed in a slick of sweat.

Another reason why you might say, as Sonic Youth did in an early song, that the world looks red is that there's plenty of blood. Lots of it. Loads. Bucketfuls. There's a gruesome seemingly never-ending flogging scene, and another where a chap gets his head blown off.

'The Proposition' is a violent, primal yet occasionally touching and even comical Australian Western - in other words, just what you'd expect given that the screenplay was written by Nick Cave. He and Warren Ellis of The Bad Seeds and Dirty Three provide an original soundtrack, but it was Cave songs like 'Red Right Hand' and the whole of Murder Ballads that continually played in my mind as I watched the stubbled characters with their yellow-teethed grins stare warily and shoot at each other.

Contrasting with the violence there's a real and quite stunning beauty in the barren, desolate vistas of the outback, for which credit must go to director John Hillcoat and director of cinematography Benoit Delhomme.

And yet part of the film's message is that, despite best intentions, that landscape makes everyone savages in the end. Ray Winston's character the British officer Captain Stanley is adamant he will "civilise" the place, and the viewer might have some sympathy for him by the end, but he is at times just as brutal as those on the "wrong" side of the law. At the end of the film he lies badly (perhaps fatally) wounded, the absurdity of his naive colonialist's faith in civilisation underlined by the smashed white picket fence and trampled roses outside his home.

'The Proposition' is stark, bloody, hopeless and unsettling - and worth seeing.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Achosion I Laweni

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

#4 - Ninjah

For the last installment of the A-Z Of Music feature on The Art Of Noise, Paul wrote about Nottingham legend Frank Robinson. Better known as Xylophone Man, he used to busk with a small toy xylophone in the city centre, his enthusiasm and cheery demeanour more than making up for his lack of musical talent. He was a part of the city, and everyone loved him - as became abundantly clear in the wake of his death in July 2004.

Every city has its characters, and Cardiff is no exception. Mention must be made of Toy Mic Trev, an oldish busker who earnestly and passionately belts out renditions of crooner classics with one of those toy microphones that distorts your voice, but it's another fixture of Queens Street (as well as Chapter) who is most widely known.

Walking through the city centre on the first day of the Six Nations tournament, it was a riot of red-shirted rugby fans - noisy and boisterous but good-spirited. I walked past a very tall dreadlocked chap who was drumming away with sticks on a bin. Naturally I assumed this was in aid of the rugby, but I was wrong - Ninjah's out doing that most days, or otherwise loudly proclaiming his philosphies on life, how great he is as a rapper and how to find his MySpace site (as he was the other day).

You see, this guy really does fancy himself as a demon MC, a street poet, an artist with knowledge to impart. And, as deluded as he obviously is about his own talent, you've got to love him for the colour he brings to the city - not least when you know that he "is often seen wandering around in a Pharaoh's headdress, with tights upon his head or wearing cricket whites for no apparent reason" and when you read the testimonies of others (via his BBC Wales biography and Knowhere):

"He never forgets a face (I have even had to introduce him to my mum and yes, he was wearing Speedos at the time). A word of warning: do not ask him about how he had to bury his mother - it involves nailpolish, a turban, ballet slippers and some wardrobe doors. Just don't!"

"I astounded him with an amazing fact one night that cats have 37 muscles per ear. Ever since then, whenever I bump into him, he runs up to me and shouts 'Cats have 37 muscles per ear' then roars like a tiger and paws the air with his hand. A legend".

"Ninjah once told me how he used to live naked in Sofia Gardens, we had an indepth conversation on what's best to wipe with when caught short there (grass and leaves came out on top)".

"I once dislocated my knee playing football in Bute Park and he freestyled for me until the ambulance came."

"Favourite Ninjah line - 'Peter Andre got a 6 pack, Ninjah got an 8 pack'".

Monday, June 12, 2006

In the Spotlight

Calling fans of Spiritualized, My Bloody Valentine, M83 and shoegazery stuff in general! While Chris Olley busies himself with his electronic "side" projects Twelve and Fuck Me USA, and with working with James Flower towards a new Six. By Seven album, the Nottingham band's now-departed drummer Chris Davis has branched out on his own.

Together with a host of collaborators including Bent's Katty Heath, he's making music under the name Spotlight Kid - and rather marvellous stuff it is too. Dare I say it, but 'Machines' and 'Never's Too Soon' (both up on his MySpace site) put Six. By Seven's last recordings in the shade somewhat.

Drummers emerging from the shadows behind the kit to make a name for themselves? Dave Grohl'll be doing it next...

On a music-related tangent, my latest reviews - of You & The Atom Bomb's Shake Shake Hello?! and Lovemat's The Fearless Hair Days Of Youth - are now up on the Vanity Project site. Have a read, and if you like the sound of them, give them a listen here and here.
"You'll never guess who I had in the back of here last week..."

You've got to love Will Self. For many reasons, one of which is the fact that his novels and short stories are always so brilliant conceptually that you feel compelled to read. Here's the synopsis of his forthcoming novel from his site:

"'The Book Of Dave' is based around the rants of Dave Roth, a disgruntled East End taxi driver, who writes his woes down and buries them only to have them discovered 500 years later and used as the sacred text for a religion that has taken hold in the flooded remnants of London. Will Self’s big bold book dares to take on the grand themes in the grand manner. It is at once a profound meditation upon the nature of received religion; a love story; a caustic satire of contemporary urban life and a historical detective story set in the far future".

I've been meaning to get round to reading 'Dorian' for ages, but it's probably best avoided for a while given the proximity of its subject matter (at least) to that of the novel in which my nose is currently buried, 'The Line Of Beauty'.

Friday, June 09, 2006

It’s the way she tells ‘em

What exactly IS a short story?

In the introduction to her ‘Selected Stories’, Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer offers a compelling definition: “whether or not it has a narrative in the external or internal sense, whether it sprawls or neatly bites its own tail, a short story is a concept that the writer can ‘hold’, fully realised, in his imagination, at one time. A novel is, by comparison, staked out, and must be taken possession of stage by stage; it is impossible to contain, all at once, the proliferation of concepts it ultimately may use”.

Both types of short story are represented in ‘Selected Stories’. Gordimer shows herself to be a master of the quick self-contained sketch, the vividly depicted moment, particularly in her earlier work. ‘The Soft Voice Of The Serpent’ is a case in point. It concerns a one-legged man confined to wheelchair identifying with a locust which has also lost a leg, and ends neatly with the man’s painful realisation that locusts can fly.

Of the sprawling variety are many of the later stories. These include ‘Friday’s Footprint’, in which woman widowed following a boat accident marries her husband’s step-brother, and belatedly and shamefully realises with horror her mistake: “it was as if something had burst inside her and was seeping up in a stain through all the layers of muscle and flesh and skin”. ‘Livingstone’s Companions’, too, unfolds gradually with a sense of narrative development, as a journalist retracing Livingstone’s last journey finds himself at a hotel he can’t leave, obsessed with the nearby lake and inexorably ending up in bed with the hotel owner Mrs Palmer.

A white South African writing during the time of Apartheid, Gordimer is inevitably particularly sensitive to issues of race, and most of the stories centre upon and explore attitudes and suspicions, depicting encounters between people of different race and status. Her skill is to dramatise social scenarios haunted by awkwardness, discomfort and misunderstanding, and as such she is perhaps even more interested in those whites opposed to Apartheid than she is in those who are openly racist.

In this respect, ‘Which New Era Would That Be?’ is exemplary, recounting the visit of a white woman, Jennifer Tetzel, to a black man’s house. Though sympathetic and benign in her intentions, she nevertheless succeeds in further stoking the resentment of those whose rights she champions: “these women felt as YOU did. They were sure of it. They thought they understood the humiliation of the black man walking the streets only by permission of a pass written out by a white person, and the guilt and swagger of the coloured man light-faced enough to slink, fugitive from his own skin, in the preserves – the cinemas, bars, libraries – marked ‘EUROPEANS ONLY’. Yes, breathless with stout sensitivity, they insisted on walking the whole teeter-totter of the colour line. There was no escaping their understanding. They even insisted on feeling the resentment YOU must feel at identifying themselves with your feelings…”.

Similarly, in ‘Abroad’ Manie Swemmer, a South African who returns to Northern Rhodesia after a long absence to discover it’s changed almost beyond recognition, professes to be open-minded and modern in his attitudes towards black Africans, but, despite being broadly well-meaning, cannot help but give occasional voice to deeply ingrained prejudices.

The advice often given to aspiring writers is: “Write about what you know”. Gordimer certainly couldn’t be accused of not doing so, but her reflections on the theme of race never become repetitious – not least because, as she reflects in the introduction, the chronological arrangement of the stories allows the reader to trace the development of her own attitudes. If, as she claims, what makes a writer is “the tension between standing apart and being fully involved”, then ‘Selected Stories’ is the work of a consummate professional.

‘The Gentle Art’ narrates a different type of encounter to ‘Which New Era Would That Be?’. A couple of holidaymakers are taken crocodile-hunting at night, and capture a baby: “she touched the creature’s cool, hard back, a horny hide of leather medallions, fresh, strange, alive; from a life unknown to the touch of humans, beneath the dark river”. Later, a larger crocodile is shot, Gordimer emphasising the uncomprehending barbarism of the act in graphic terms: “Then the pale gaze coming from the dark forehead exploded; it blew up as if from within, and where the gaze had been there was a soft pink mess of brain with the scarlet wetness of blood and the mother-of-pearl sheen of muscle”.

That the story is Gordimer’s take on the central imagery and ideas of ‘Heart Of Darkness’ becomes clear towards the story’s conclusion as the hunting party returns to camp: “The night river closed away behind them. It went back where it came from; from the world of sleep, of eternity and darkness, the place before birth, after death – all those ideas with which the flowing continuity of dark water is bound up. And the boat came back; brought them within sight of the light of the camp itself, existence itself, a fire, the reed house, the smell of food and a human figure”. This sense of a return to civilisation, a retreat from the African unknown, is itself an oblique reflection upon the issue of race.

Best of all, however, is a story in which race does not figure at all. In ‘A Company Of Laughing Faces’ a 17-year-old girl is taken to a South African seaside resort for the Christmas holidays by her mother with the hope that she might meet and have fun with other young people. Struggling to fit in, Kathy falls into companionship with a boy, and the story appears to be panning out as a beautifully written but familiar narrative of lost innocence and emergent sexuality: “She had never been caressed before, but she was not alarmed because it seemed to her such a simple gesture, like stroking a cat or dog. She and her mother were great readers of novels and she knew, of course, that there were a large number of caresses – hair, and eyes and arms and even breasts – and an immense variety of feelings that would be attached to them”.

But Kathy’s fictionally derived notions of romance and sexuality are shattered when the boy attempts to rape her. She escapes, but Gordimer’s point is made evident by the conclusion, in which, on a trip, she discovers in the water the body of a younger boy whom she has befriended. The sight is “the one real happening of the holiday, the one truth and the one beauty”; her childhood is as dead as his.

Often beautiful yet ominous, the stories collected here are descriptively rich and packed with observational insight, and encourage me to not only read more Gordimer but more short fiction in general.

(An aside: Is this sort of review pointless? On the one hand I write them partly in the hope that they might inspire someone to hunt out and read a copy of the book, but on the other they’re unlikely to do so if the review’s packed with spoilers. I’d be interested to know. It’s just difficult to review fiction without spoiling things… That’s the beauty of music criticism – you can say what you want, because no words can quite ever convey what a song or album sounds like.)

This burst of postage aside, it's been rather quiet here of late - and it's not all been down to the pressures of work or the recent crapness of Blogger. No, it's partly because I've been writing away elsewhere.

Unless you've not a head, you'll be aware that there's some kind of football shindig about to kick off over in Germany. Well, I'm one of several bloggers contributing to a collaborative blog Finals Fantasy. We'll be covering every game, as well as wading through / dissecting / lampooning all the extraneous bullshit that goes with it. Come and pay us a visit.

I've also contributed a feature on 'The Big Lebowski' for the Films I Love series on The Bargain Basement. Thanks to Lord Bargain for inviting me to contribute.
Miss Moustache

It's always great to get Good Post amongst all the bills and fast food flyers, isn't it? Which is why it was cheering to receive the latest copy of Drawing Moustaches In Magazines earlier in the week.

A free fanzine-type publication that's lovingly hand-crafted and photocopied, DMIM is the brainchild of Stewart Lee approved comedian Josie Long and an assortment of friends.

Contained within the pages of this issue (the third) you'll find a guest introduction from TV's Mike Reid, a cartoon strip about a chap whose brain has been infested with puffins, a feature called 'The Bits That Philosophers Forgot', instructions for a knitted iPod cover and a free mini-booklet called The Shane Richie Insect Book (it's self-explanatory).

Leave Josie a message on her blog if you fancy a copy.
Hoff: #1 (hopefully)

"Think what he's given to the world. 'Knight Rider'. 'Baywatch'. The reunification of East and West Germany. Untold laughter from forwarded e-mails of him in hotpants.

He's given a lot. It's time we gave something back.

The Hoff's having a hard time. He's split from his wife. He needs a lift.

Let's help him out with something that would mean the world to him. Something that would repay all the goodness he's given us over the years. A glittering prize that thus far eludes him.

A top spot in the UK music charts

You know it makes sense. As much sense as using Barry Manilow records to drive away troublesome youths.

(Thanks to Gordon and J for the links.)
Aye aye Captain

Remember Captain Lazonby-Threpwell? The hub-cap-collecting Army veteran and resident of Kingswinford who wrote the rather excellent liner notes to Black Country punk situationists The Pubic Fringe's demo The Misanthropic Sounds Of The Pubic Fringe?

Well, he's got his very own Corner. Turns out that while, as their director of communications, he's enthusiastic about the band now known as Das Fringe, he was not a big fan of Jif changing its name to Cif...

(Thanks to Tom, who stumbled across my blog while searching for stuff on the good Captain.)
The X factor

Up now on The Art Of Noise - the pre-penultimate installment of the A-Z Of Music feature. This week X, and incredibly only one contributor cheated (I'm looking at you, drmigs...) There are pieces on Blondie's 'X Offender', Xfm and Nottingham legend the late Xylophone Man, while I've taken the opportunity to develop my recent post here about The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt and hip-hop into something a bit more substantial.

Sunday, June 04, 2006



Fictions - interweb home of Brum resident and graphic comic fan Richard

Greavsie - the rather amusing site of one of JonnyB's most loyal commenters

Never Trust A Hippy - sound advice indeed from Forest fan Paulie


Pete dissects "the MySpace phenomenon" - "The end result is an ecosystem which, while it may not replace the major labels, provides a viable alternative".


Kenny indulges in a gig-going frenzy, taking in Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Dinosaur Jr, Metric and Tilly And The Wall.

Back from fulfilling his journalistic duties at Eurovision, Mike also witnesses a live act to enthuse about, Mexican duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela - "high-octane flamenco-esque covers of thrash metal tunes being just what the doctor ordered".

Also in Nottingham, Phill reports on the Bank Holiday weekend Dot-To-Dot Festival - "Headliners Bromhead's Jacket are the southern equivalent of the Arctic Monkeys, with their tales of small town life, Samsungs and girls. Brilliant lyrics, great tunes and an engaging frontman mean that this band are one breakthrough song away from moving into the mainstream".

Robin ruminates on the foolishness of his light-fingered neighbours - "Oh, they said, they had found this umbrella on their lawn on Thursday, just lying there. They seemed to assume very readily at this point that it was ours. Must have blown over the fence, they suggested. Yes, I agreed, inwardly figuring that it probably hopped over in that enormous, short lived northerly hurricane we unexpectedly experienced in Peckham on Wednesday night"

And finally...

Betty is bemused by the antics of a couple of local goths - "They had decided to have a picnic, at twilight, intermittent showers and low temperatures notwithstanding, in a parking bay on a Wimpey estate".
Daydream unbeliever

With Sonic Youth's new album Rather Ripped due to be released next week, it was timely that, in a recent On Second Thought piece on Stylus, Ian Mathers should give his personal take on the band's 1988 classic Daydream Nation.

As someone who thinks it's their masterpiece (though Dirty runs it very close - perhaps partly on account of it being the first Sonic Youth record I heard), I can't agree with Ian's assessment - but the vitriol and abuse he's received as a result (see the comments box) is incredible and utterly unjustified. Of course music critics should be able to take shots at sacred cows - I may not like what Ian has to say, but I'll defend his right to say it. The whole idea of the feature is for someone to give a personal take on an album - it's always going to be more personal than the regular album reviews - so why then complain about it?

I can well understand that annoyance at feeling you "should" like a certain band simply because it's what's expected - after all, I've never really "got" The Pixies (amongst others) and am constantly faced with disbelieving faces when I confess it. I'm not sure whether that wouldn't change if I was exposed to more of their stuff, but, as Ian says, there does come a point when you realise that no matter how often you listen to something, or how often people tell you how amazing it is, you just don't like it.
Quote of the day

"The question of late is often asked, what is Cardiff coming to? The principal streets are almost impassable for the respectable portion of the community, especially in the main street, owing to girls as imprudent as they can be, and using profane language, quite unfit for respectable and decent people to hear.

St Mary Street, once one of the most quiet and orderly in town, is getting really bad, if not quite as bad as Bute Street.

Girls by the dozen, stand in groups all through the evening and all week long, and if perchance you get twirled off the pavement and remonstrate, you may reckon upon such a torrent of abuse and filthy language, as will make you shudder.

Why should this state of things be tolerated? If the Mayor and Watch Committee do their duty, the police would not wink at this kind of thing until it is unbearable - but would soon rid the streets of these pests of society

So quoth a local rag, back in 1888. How times have changed. I wonder if these imprudent and foul-mouthed young ladies often wore bunny outfits and congregated in Walkabout?

The funniest thing I've seen for quite some time: a mohicaned punk hopping from one foot to the other while screeching in a high-pitched effeminate voice "You're dumped!" to his burly butch ex-girlfriend, who was hoofing him in the shins.

It was run close by the two deranged cyclists we saw on Splott Road the other day, though - one had no tyre on his back wheel, and the other was carrying an enormous bit of carpet...
Feel good hits of the 4th June

1. 'Velvet Girl' - Howling Bells
2. 'I Can't Look At Your Skin' - Graham Coxon
3. 'Sweet Leaf' - Mogwai
4. 'Canada' - Low
5. 'This Scene Is Dead' - We Are Scientists
6. 'Hoodwink' - Anathallo
7. 'Casimir Pulaski Day' - Sufjan Stevens
8. 'Cheated Hearts' - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
9. 'Lightning Blue Eyes' - Secret Machines
10. 'Bewitched' - The Wedding Present