Friday, December 31, 2004

new year new year

Off to Anne-Sophie and Sam's tonight for their New Year party (theme: social workers and teachers; dress as lefty and liberal as you like) and just about to strap on my ceremonial birkenstocks and side part my hair. Well, maybe not the latter - one can never be sure quite how many people will make the effort to dress up. I want to look no more a fool than strictly necessary. Much easier for Sarah, who actually is a teacher, and who need do no more than turn up to have her costume admired. And she's staying in! Ah well. It's nice to have somewhere to go for New Year and know what you're doing, which means I don't have to worry about not having enough booze or the inevitable moment when Jools Holland just proves too irritating and I have to turn off, or the bit where The Wicker Man drags in the middle.

It seems to be the fashion to regard New Year as a social make-or-break but really it's just an excuse to see your friends and get drunk, and that's it really. There are plenty of other opportunities to do nothing on a cold Winter night, so even though it's tempting (it's a lot brighter and warmer inside than it is out), I'm quite excited. Even if I have to wear socks with sandals.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

down with the kids

I said 'Christmas isn't the same without children or grandparents'. I mightn't have said it here (you can check) but I said it to Vic and - I tend to recycle conversations - probably to a few other people too.

Christmas isn't the same without children or grandparents, but toys, actually, go a good way to compensating (even though, unexpectedly, this was a Christmas where children and grandparents did fleetingly feature).

I spent Christmas along with my parents in Marlow, with old family friends. The children of the 3 families involved are too old for toys, but the parents, thankfully, are not, so this year's toy successes were, in reverse order:

5. Hovering remote control flying saucer toy (useless, didn't work)
4. bouncy ball (a classic and ever reliable)
3. tiny rubber chicken gun (enormous fun until we broke it)
2. ...
1. 'Bop It' toy (I am currently suffering painful pangs, withdrawal symptoms, put it that way).

2. Before we went to Marlow, on Xmas Eve, one of my mum and dad's neighbours called by with her seven year old son, who, entrusted to my care for 10 minutes while the 'adults' talked, was agreeably enthused by a Christmas spirit I had pretty much forgotten.

When I was younger, a teenager, I was good with little children. But I was surprised to realise, courtesy of a little jolt of panic, that I can't really remember what to do to keep a kid amused. Toys, I suppose.

My dad has a display case of tin toys but I can barely remember playing with them, although I must have. They are mostly clockwork models of cars, animals or robots, often originating from the Far East, India or Russia. And they are very satisfying to play with; clunky, yet surprisingly graceful - simple and yet mysterious. I know this because over the course of an eventful three quarters of an hour, we played with all of them, and ended with the distinct and fearful impression that we had poisoned our young visitor's mind against any toy which dares to employ batteries, LCD displays or flashing lights in its design. I imagined him the next morning unwrapping his hand-held Sony Nintendo, X Cube Game box and saying "Plastic! I was hoping for tin". We offered him a can of coke to drink and his mother suggested that coke wasn't allowed. My mother struggled not to adopt a wounded look - I was raised on the stuff. I can take my teeth out just like that.


In Marlow, the hit of the holiday was a hand-held toy upon which you had to beat out a rhythm. Five things to press is too many for me so me and Kumi divided up the responsibilities. We scored 26, a high score. And if anyone is reading this blog and has managed better, I salute you. But you must have cheated.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

one more helping

Back in Brighton now and really pleased to be home, even if Vic is occupied with her essay and I'm just sitting at my desk with my computer on trying to remember which websites I normally cycle through when I might as well be doing something else. Not sure if I have the energy to start catching up on the more conscientious bloggers of the festive season, who have doubtless put me to shame.

But Christmas is over and the return of the real world came earlier than usual this year, as it's hard to sit still comfortably growing fat when the fatality numbers keep rocketing in South East Asia; I don't mean this in the sense that I felt too gosh-darn-guilty to enjoy myself, but Christmas seemed to stop being Christmas when we all heard about that. Too uncomfortably real.

Being home, obviously, is reality enough. We've got one more helping of turkey in the fridge, then that's it.

Friday, December 24, 2004

not george w

12 years since the last Kate Bush album and I don't think anyone particuarly imagined a comeback but - just a month or two before the F'heads release their splendid cover of 'Hounds of Love' - she's announced that "The album is nearly finished and will be out next year". Including contributions from the recently deceased composer Michael Kamen, Mick Karn (last seen playing bass with the wonderful Japan), drummer Stuart Elliott and jazz percussionist Peter Erskine. I think all concerned can hope her effort - 25 years after 'Wuthering Heights' - is considerably better than 'The Red Shoes', where her chosen guests were, er... Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.

[postscript. Michael Kamen scored both 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves' and, um, 'Lethal Weapon'. Oh.]

nick nick music

Anyone else a bit obsessive about getting all their songs on iTunes properly ordered by genre?

Oh, just me then. Anyway, I like doing this, and I like sub-dividing my collection down into little genres (inventing new ones if necessary). Catch-all super-genres like 'Alternative' or 'Electronic'? Not me. I've got 'indie pop', 'indie rock', 'punk', 'post-punk', 'punk-funk', 'art-rock', '70s rock', 'krautrock', 'ambient', 'electronica', 'electro', 'house', 'tech-house' etc etc etc. Endless catagorisation-related fun. Still can't figure out where to put Bjork, though. At the moment she's under 'Bjork'.

I've got a new catagory to add courtesy of the Guardian today, mind, and I rather like it. Witness the birth of 'nick-nick music'.

Writing about his understandable enthusiasm for the Futureheads, John Harris notes that

I mentioned all this to the other day to a music journalist friend, who greeted my enthusiasm with a hiss of derision. "Oh, come on," he said. "That's just nick-nick music. It just goes nick-nick-nick." He was right, after a fashion. The Futureheads are emblematic of a strain of British music that dates back to the aftermath of punk rock (XTC, Gang of Four, et al), in which arty-farty intentions meld with the imperative to play loud and fast, modern mores are decried in a hail of staccato chords and weird time signatures, and the resultant noise does indeed go "nick-nick".
God, yeah, it does. Maybe I'll have to add that to my genre listings when i get back to Brighton.

The whole article is here, and it's quite good fun, as the below passage indicates.

"Britpop's fondness for a fun-for- all-the-family sense of inclusive enjoyment - compare Oasis's Digsy's Dinner, Blur's Parklife and Dodgy's Staying Out for the Summer - tended to lead to music that went "rinky dink-dink". The wave of anthemic balladry - Travis, Embrace, Starsailor - that followed in its wake could roughly be translated as "dum-dum-dum".

Thursday, December 23, 2004

london at christmas

Sitting in my parent's house where it is hot in a way which we cannot conceive of back in brighton; expensive warmth, leather sofa warm. I travelled up this morning to Barnet, where I grew up, which is largely unchanged, if still diminishing in size each time I come here, becoming less and less like a world and more like an everyday suburb, the hub of nothing. My parents' house changes slightly - new carpets, curtains, tiles. My father is for decking it out like the inside of a boat-house; so I see white painted boards, model boats. The fridge is - I must say - exceptionally well-stocked.

I'm minded to do something about that.

very true

Damn, just read

I will not emulate my venerable blogging colleagues and compile a list.
Lists are for crossing off.
Lists, although they promote satisfaction,
are incredibly boring.

on Dirk's blog. And it's true.


unnng. Tune in tomorrow for the rest of my records of the year list.

elected, still unelectable

"I could deal with losing to a popular incumbent. But it's tough to deal with the most unpopular incumbent to win re-election."

Which is what George W. Bush is, now, according to Salon Magazine.

Since his 3-percentage-point win over Sen. John Kerry, Bush has experienced a complete lack of bounce in the polls. In fact, in at least one national survey, Fox News' Opinion Dynamics poll, conducted Dec. 14-15, Bush's approval rating has fallen five points in the last month, to 48 percent. In other polls, including Washington Post-ABC, NBC/Wall Street Journal, Pew Research Center, Associated Press-Ipsos, Zogby, and Gallup, Bush's already soft approval numbers have flat-lined since the election. That phenomenon stands in sharp contrast to U.S. history, when presidents voted into office for a second term, even after close elections, routinely have received robust approval ratings.

According to an analysis posted on the Gallup Web site in mid-November, Bush's current 53 percent approval rating "is actually the lowest of any of the last seven presidents who won a second term in the first poll conducted after their re-election." Right after securing their second terms, Bill Clinton received a 58 percent approval rating, Ronald Reagan 61 percent, Richard Nixon 62 percent, Lyndon Johnson 70 percent, Dwight Eisenhower 75 percent, and Harry Truman 69 percent.

The Daily Kos, like a lot of us, still can't quite get over the fact that Kerry failed to win. And the frustration is starting to spill into anger. I'm not altogether surprised.

"But what makes me angry was Kerry and his gang's inability to take advantage of the situation. I may regret saying this later, but fuck it -- they should be lined up and shot. There's no reason they should've lost to this joker. "I voted for the $87 billion, then I voted against it." That wasn't nuance. That was idiocy. And with a primary campaign that consisted entirely of "I'm the most electable", Kerry entered the general without a core philosophy or articulated vision for the job."
The only silver lining is that given how awfully things are continuing to go in Iraq, right now if Kerry had won, we'd all be thinking 'oh shit' anyway, and the Democrats would be taking the blame.

God, I know it's indecently late, I can't cope with being up this late. But had a really frustrating dream about being unable to find an entrance to Regent's Park, and have been unable to get back to sleep. So am up for a bit trying to get tired.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Records of the Year, part two:

Wiley - Treddin' On Thin Ice
This one was all about the anticipation really. Like most people who are far too un-hip to catch a movement early on, I only got wind of grime, garage's delinquent little brother, in the late stages of 2003, but apart from Dizzee's 'Boy In The Corner', I didn't hear any until I started rooting around on the web and pretending that I knew my stuff. From then on, it was pure anticipation waiting for the Wiley album; I collected up all those Sidewinder CDs, the N.A.S.T.Y mix, the Wiley slews from Limewire and about twenty give takes on his bewildering, mangnificent 'Eskimo'. When the album finally hit the shops it was nothing like I expected; none of the tunes I knew, none of the rude attitude, just a raft of minutely perfect beats and a strangely loveable persona. This was Wiley going for mass appeal. Six months on, he didn't make it and it's all about Dizzee still. But 'Treddin' still documented most of my year, and it's an awesome album.

Dogs Die in Hot Cars - Please Describe Yourself
This one totally missed me by. I listened to half a track on an HMV listening post in the summer and inexplicably thought 'quirky, twee indie' and turned it off. And I didn't get round to listening to it again 'til November, when I downloaded a couple of tracks and began backtracking wildly, and wondering why on earth I didn't notice (as I did immediately the second time, with the same track) that the singer was an Andy Partridge ringer and the rest of the band were in the middle of creating an exotic mid-period XTC stew around him while he yelped endearingly about history, apples and oranges (a real giveaway) and Paul Newman's eyes. At times it seems too devoted to that wilfully varied mid-80s period when XTC and The Talking Heads were ploughing complicated, solitary furrows either side of the atlantic, and I concede that it's sometimes, well, naff... but it's also joyous, funky and irreverent. Now, what I wouldn't give for a real XTC record...

Monday, December 20, 2004

Records of the Year, part one:

Futureheads - Futureheads.
OK. So you know this. So everyone know this now. Nevertheless, it's true. The Futureheads album is a near-perfect blast of knotty, inventive punk-pop; dazzlingly hook-laden, catchy and engaging, it's the album that Franz Ferdinand should have made but didn't. The way that the Futureheads use their three and sometimes four part harmonies made me think anew about ways of writing music, and for a band superficially devoted to XTC and the Gang of Four that's some mean feat. What on first listen sounded a little one-dimensional has proved capable of long-lasting scrutiny - the band's exuberance constantly replacing one riff with another, forever shifting and shaking onto a new part of the dancefloor. 'Meantime', 'Decent Days and Nights', 'The City is Here For You' and 'Carnival Kids' are just so instant, so melodic and so marvellously simple. No guitar solos, no crap, and no nostalgia either. Album of the year.

The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free.
Is it me, or did the shine wear off this one? When it came out it seemed destined to hog everyone's stereos for the rest of the year, but from summer onwards things seemed to change; indie rock rattled up crack alley, grime - insular and brilliant - remained dense and thrilling, a slew (not in the grime sense) of bands - Interpol, The Secret Machines, LCD Soundsystem, Maximo Park - released new stuff and Mike's masterpiece slipped away in the end of year polls. Well, it's still stunning: a whole new kind of rap album and a lovely, if slight, piece of storytelling. Vic reckons it lacks the banging tracks of his debut, but I think it's the superior record - winning, hilarious, articulate and individual. Less self-referential than it's urban peers (this year, Kanye, Diz, Wiley) but just as nice. A unique record.

Electrelane - The Power Out
One of the first records I bought in 2004, and it feels so long ago it that it was another year, but I checked, and it wasn't. I'm not sure I've ever quite persuaded anyone else of this, but I think Electrelane are one of our very best bands. I love this record's subtlety, the beautiful, sparse production and wispy playing, Verity's lovely, wayward singing style, forgetful and washed-along on the music. 'The Valleys' was the best song of the year, a tremendous piece of music which made the rest of the album seem dull in comparison. It's not an immediate record, sure, but it's lights-out stuff, odd and idiosyncratic. I was concerned that they'd cut much of the keyboards from the sound, but it works a treat, creating a loose groove that often puts me in mind of Slint's peerless 'Spiderland'. And that usually does the trick.

Not the records of the year, part one:

Sonic Youth - Sonic Nurse.
Well, hmm, not quite, I mean. Obviously this was better than pretty much every other record this year but following 'Murray Street' was always going to be hard, and 'Sonic Nurse' was only about 50% as good as I wanted it to be. Which is to say that O'Rourke's production and bassline duties continue to inject new vigour in a band who - impossibly - seem to have plenty of youthful vigour already, the guitar on 'Unmade Bed' (and elsewhere) is heartbreakingly lovely, the songs regularly visit and revisit beautiful new avenues, Kim is on better form than we've seen for some time... Well, you get the idea. Nevertheless, it doesn't feel like a leap forward (actually it matches much of their late 80s stuff in mood at times) and, y'know... this is Sonic Youth, so we set our standards high.

Libertines - The Libertines.
Well, hmm, not quite, I mean. Obviously this was better than pretty much every other record this year but... ah, no, only joking. I tried really hard to like this one, and even put together a reasonable defence of it's shoddiness on these pages. But - a few months later - it sounds bloody awful; desperately short on songs. 'Can't Stand Me Now', admittedly, is pretty great, but there's no other reason to listen to this LP, but for morbid fascination in the band's downfall.

The Walkmen - Bows And Arrows
Although I could probably squeeze it into the other catagory - this is a record you need to hear if you can, although perhaps not one to rush straight out for. In part recalling the really under-rated Jonathan Fire*Eater, in whom The Walkmen have their roots, part The Wedding Present (that frenetic guitar sound), they also - like a few of those NYC bands we can't avoid these days - sound a bit like (gulp) early U2. Now, I admit I loved this record unreservedly until I realised that, but it can't help taking the gloss off things... Still, in 'The Rat' The Walkmen gave us maybe the best single of the year, if not the very best album.

Apply Some Pressure

Quite a while 'til the next Maximo Park single comes out (late February), but that doesn't stop you going to the Warp website and listening to a couple of minutes worth ahead of schedule. Me and Vic haven't stopped playing 'The Coast is Always Changing' this month. The new one sounds like it might prove equally enduring. And hey - look - their production is good...

Sunday, December 19, 2004

PJ Harvey in retirement shock...

hmm, hope this is not true. From the NME website:

PJ HARVEY sensationally revealed onstage in PARIS last night(December 17) that she is quitting playing live.

The star was performing in front of 350 competition winners at Studio 287 in northern France when she announced: "This is the last show I will ever play."

The comment came in the wake of the likely last ever live show from The Libertines on the same bill.

The comment also echoes the statement made by David Bowie back in 1973 at London Hammersmith Odeon. It later transpired he was only retiring his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust.

PJ Harvey played a set featuring songs covering her entire 13-year career, including 'Victory', 'Me Jane', 'Shame' and the closing 'Meet Ze Monsta'.

PJ Harvey was the first gig my parents let me go to on my own, just after 'Dry' came out. Me and my friend Dan went, about 14 or so, as innocent as you like, and my abiding memory is that we were almost immediately approached by a pair of strangers who asked us if we would sell them some drugs. Needless to say, we were not able to oblige.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

what do you think?

A comment from somebody who downloaded some Assistant stuff just came through to me, which in quite interesting reading.

I did look at your website and thought it ok. I did download one of your tracks 'Easy To Leave' which reminded me of 1980s Indie as expounded by the great late John Peel and was actually a nice track. I would have downloaded more but my connection speed was very slow and after listening to one track I didn't want to download more. The trouble with this live track is that it sounds like it was recorded on a tape recorder at the back of the room, starts with a jarring click, a burst of noise, is woolly sounding, the vocal is inaudible, can't hear the guitars or keyboards and the drums swamp everything. There is no evidence of mixing or production or any attempt to make this 'nice' to listen to. It's true that people get signed on the strength of some pretty ropey demos but you have to think about why you would want to expend the effort of being in a band and then showcase your sound in such a sloppy careless way. It either implies lack of effort or an assumption that a demo just has to be the roughest most slipshod thing you can turn out for nothing and along will come some record company to pay for a studio and make it sound nice. With the kind of technology available today it's possible to record anything anywhere to a pretty high standard. I like ropey demos my favourite being 'The Ark' which is of Frank Zappa and Co playing in a night club in 1968, recorded on three mikes it lacks a little in technical quality but it sure does rock but then the man was extremely gifted and could get away with releasing what some people would call bootlegs, which happen to be fun to listen to. On the flip-side you get people like Phil Collins or Elton John recorded live in 48 track glory and you are still left thinking what the point was in all that. I'm still trying to work out why such a weak song as 'Invisible Touch' ever got to be a hit. Easy To Leave is just painful to listen to, more effort required. I was going to volunteer some live recording advice/time but you get instantly treated like a hanger-on by bands if you make offers like that completely for free, nothing personal I just seem to have learnt my lesson in that department. I don't think your singer is all that good either but that's a personal preference....

Hmm, what he says makes me rethink my decision to put all our stuff online a little. The basic premise in doing so is that we've recorded a ton of stuff which - for the most part - we find pretty interesting, and I don't much like the idea of a band getting all possessive about their art - after all, if someone can come along and watch us flail through a ropey live set why shouldn't they get the chance to hear it back the next day?

So the commentator above, who is - incidentally - quite nice about the song itself, rightly questions our quality control mechanism. Are we right to allow all sorts of stuff to appear under our name online? At the moment you can download proper Assistant recordings, badly recorded live tracks (done, as Anne-So pointed out in response, via the mic on a video camera), MDed versions of early rehearsals and home demos. If this reflects badly on us I guess we shouldn't.

But... I hate the crap mystical bullshit about music; this 'gang' bollocks, the perfectionism. I'm not happy when I record something and it comes out crap but I haven't the means to do things properly and so I get used to the cracks and flaws. Probably to other people this sounds like shoddiness, like I just don't care. Hmm.

I don't expect people who read the blog to keep up with the band stuff if they're not interested, so sorry for inflicting this extended monologue on you - but my explanation is this. We like sharing, and we share what we've got. And if you do come and see us live, sorry for the mucked up intros, the bum notes. But I think it's cool how the chances are that stuff will probably be online the next day, ready to be cringed over and - maybe - enjoyed. But let me know if you think that's crap.

Anyway. Here's a relatively crisp take on the same song. Cheers.

Assistant - Easy to Leave (right click to download)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

he loses it again

Lots of stuff in the NME and over on the Libertines forum about how the last couple of Babyshambles gigs have seen Pete Doherty back to his very worst; passing out on stage, climbing the speakers, his bandmates walking offstage mid set. He even had to be - eventually - pulled offstage by a member of the road crew, who put him in a headlock and dragged him away. His lyrics and guitar playing were incomprehensible apparently.

"I saw a girl near me crying tonight"
from a review of the gig the other night on

You wonder just how long his behaviour will continue to be tolerated. It's only 3 weeks since he won the NME Cool List thing, and two weeks ago he was described (rather bizzarely) as a musician proving that drugs needn't screw you up. As Simon over at No Rock and Roll Fun puts it:

And as The Day Today (Comedy DVD, 5) makes a hat of tinsel and prawn sandwiches, you've got Natasha Vromen from Drugscope saying that - hey - calling Pete Doherty the coolest guy of the year isn't a bad thing at all ("he's a successful musician... he disproves the myth that if you start using drugs you will always be taken over by them.") No, Natasha, he proves the truism that if you've got someone to underwrite your habit, clean up and issue apologies after you, you can carry on blundering up your own arse. He's been kicked out of his own band, fucked his relationship with his best mate and got - at best - a shaky reputation. Let's not hold him up as an example of living well on crack.
Well. You wonder how long he can carry on blundering. How long before the rest of Babyshambles get sick of him? How long before the tide of sympathy becomes irritation and the NME turns its back? Or has he just - since leaving his real band - surrounded himself with other crackheads and sycophants who will continue to humour his excesses? But it's (frankly) a disgrace that he was allowed to go on stage in the first place. Don't they have a manager? Wasn't there anyone there who could spot what was happening? Why on earth did they go on to do the second gig with him in that state?

It's like I've slowed down for a car-crash, I know. I think of the guy from The Vines and the fact that the NME printed pictures of him happy and well, playing a low-key gig at the weekend - essentially doing what he wants and getting support - and then this poor kid Doherty, feted as a genius and an icon, and getting ruined in the process. So I try to keep driving and not look back.

night out

Bah, no pub quiz at the Setting Sun last night, cited as being down to 'lack of interest'. And yet we, a group of seven, sat fidgeting and eager, ready to reclaim our quiz crown. Unfortunately we were about the only people there, apart from the dour host who sat, pointlessly-suited, drowning his sorrows at the bar. I felt obscurely sorry for him - he had made the effort. Few else had ventured out.

We had a nice night anyway; pleasant, sober conversation about Vic, Dan and Elisabeth's various MAs; grown-up chatter about the varying levels of our culinary expertise - soon giving way to the usual drunken, excitable nonsense - severe moderation, granted, in comparison with previous efforts, but boozy enough. No hangover today, oddly, but I half-remember a fantastic sequence of alcohol inspired, lurching dreams from the night. Do you ever get that thing when you wake from a satisfyingly odd dream and think 'I should remember that, it would make an excellent novel plot' and then, five minutes later you wake more comprehensively and realise the error of your ways? That what felt moments earlier to be lucid and complex was just the sheer insanity of sleep; consequence-less, unreal and fading fast.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

griffin arrested

Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National party, was today arrested on suspicion of incitement to racial hatred after a television investigation exposed the extent of racism in his organisation.

Quite right too. That makes his arrest the 12th resulting from the excellent BBC film 'The Secret Agent' which screened earlier this year. The 11th to be arrested was John Tyndall, who was arrested on Sunday.

The documentary, screened in July, featured covertly-filmed footage showing BNP activists confessing to race-hate crimes and party leader Griffin condemning Islam as a "vicious, wicked faith".

the balding tree

It doesn't seem quite possible that Xmas is so near; only a little more than a week. I find myself intermittently possessed by a Christmassy feeling, something which comes and goes as I walk from desk to desk at work or shop to shop at lunch. Over and up ahead of me some girls have decorated their workstations with tinsel and baubles; that does nothing for me. On the other hand, I catch occasionally a glimpse of the red and green Christmas lights on someone else's desk somewhere to my left, and feel briefly wistful. Similarly, sometimes when I walk up towards the library or Oxfam I overhear the slightest musical note or conversation and I am a child again, for a moment. Past Times, up near the Cross, is absurdly Christmassy, but then it always is, any time of the year.

We have a pretty decent tree at work, which is more than can be said for the one at Brighton station, which is just miserable; and I'm getting used to seeing it in the half light. The much trumpeted 'biggest timetable restructuring in 40 years' has kicked in this week and - thanks guys - the trains are a mess. I have to leave the house half an hour earlier; and half an hour is enough to shift me back from day to night; the streets are darker and the streets are quieter. School-kids are still squabbling over cereal. Coming into the station the quality of light is just improving, but the tree stands lank and still sleepy, balding. Brighton and Hove council - you can do better than this. It is Christmas - almost - after all.

Monday, December 13, 2004

techy question

Does anyone else use the ukblogs rss feed in Bloglines or another feeder? It's at Well, I generally get a hundred or so uk blogs syndicated through that every day but it's recently dried up to 5-10 a day. Anyone know why? My entries don't seem to be showing up in it anymore, either. Hmm.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

assistant dethroned

Our reign of glory is at an end; alas - we were defeated tonight in Claire Kember's Demo Clash by Billingshurst's 'Civilian', who manifestly marshalled their troops more efficiently than we did (naturally I prefer this explanation to the one which suggests that the general public preffered them to us). So that was a shame. But just as I make a point of always supporting whoever finally knocks England out of the World Cup, I shall be lending them my vote in this week's competition, just to show that I am sportsmanlike and forgiving. In the meantime, I shall be complaining to all and sundry, denouncing their song as crap, and demanding that Claire initiate a recount...

We had a low-key rehearsal this afternoon which was interesting and fun, and - after a cold walk up to Pete's house - fundamentally necessary as it was about the only thing we could do to warm our fingers up. Eschewing rock and roll behaviour for a pre-play rider of tea and coconut creams, we worked on three new songs and some backing vocals for You Should Know and Easy to Leave.

The new stuff then: first up was a newish track of mine called Sixteen Months, which I don't think I've mentioned here - a fairly breezy pop song which kind of recalls the Kinks at times, and Pavement at others (the chorus's 'I've got a secret for you' self-consciously ripping off the latter's 'I've got a sister or two' from Trigger Cut). Pete's contribution lent the affair a slightly Suede-esque swagger, and it sounded pretty good. It won't really take shape 'til we do it in a full rehearsal, but it was a good start.

Anyone reading this who follows events closely will know that we're cursed by problems with keyboards in Assistant. We think we've finally sorted these out with the acquisition of an external soundcard for AS's laptop, so we're once again looking to use Reason's many sounds in a creative way when we write songs. Improvising something new yesterday, we started from a clattering arpeggiated synth riff which at times seemed to imitate the sound of a train, and worked out a long, rolling sequence with a bubbling Krautrock bassline, Pete's guitar and me shamelessly intoning a haphazard Damo Suzuki impersonation over the top. Momentarily deprived of her keyboard by an interfering me, Anne-So did a good drawing of a wolf, too. Probably it was meant to be a dog, and she'll correct me now. All the same, I like the association.

Lastly, I finally got to hear a track of Andy's which I never heard the first time the band played it (in my absence at a rehearsal a few months back). Getting to hear it this time involved a great deal of watching Andy twiddle around with his 303 synth, trying to put the thing back together from it's various parts and get it back in the right key (recording to tape tends to be easier), but once he did it was lovely; another smooth, krautrocky rhythm with Andy's Sonic Youthy guitar over the top. The others gradually picked up the tune and we bandied it about for a while, with just me instrumentless and not needed, watching agog.

Right. So, last week at work before Christmas now. Thank god. I actually managed to do a good deal of my present shopping yesterday, leaving me relatively well placed - I hope - for a quiet week...

Saturday, December 11, 2004

new flaming lips record

I never could really see what everyone was going on about with that last Flaming Lips album, which I thought was pretty middling, and ordinarily I could think of nothing more offputting than the fact that their new record is a set of cover versions; generally the last reserve of the blocked artist or the self-important. That said, they've picked some interesting tracks to record - the following I have to admit sound intriguing:

* Bjork – ‘Unravel’
* Faust – ‘It’s a Bit Of A Pain’
* Aphex Twin – ‘Film’
* Brian Eno – ‘Another Green World’

So I await that one a little intrigued.

*Update: as so often is the case, it turns out that I am wrong. See the comments box below to find out how. Ho hum.

Friday, December 10, 2004

indie revival-a-rama

The first band I ever saw live, The House of Love, have just announced that they are re-forming. Great stuff - looks like we're on for a full scale late eighties indie-pop revival in 2005. Who's next? Cocteau Twins? Jesus and Mary Chain? Sugarcubes?

In a garden in the House of Love

Thursday, December 09, 2004

rather mysterious photo from Monday

C:\Documents and Settings\jshipley\My Documents\My Pictures\cableclubsmallphoto
many thanks to Sandra for the photo!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Ten songs for the eighth of december
1. Animal Collective - Leaf House
2. Graham Coxon - Time for Heroes
3. Mylo - In My Arms
4. Kaiser Chiefs - I predict a Riot (live)
5. Maximo Park - The Coast is Always Changing
6. Help She Can't Swim - I Don't Need You
7. Roots Manuva - Collosal Insight
8. Go! Team - Ladyflash (Hot Chip remix)
9. Riko - Chosen One
10. Dave Clarke - What Was Her Name (Product.01 Remix)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

vote assistant (again)

Please vote for Assistant to win the Juice FM Totally Wired Demo Clash competition again this week - we saw off (quite literally, they've since split up) the slightly creepy The Waxworks Waltz last week with a respectable 21 votes separating the two of us, and have now turned our attention to precipitating the decline of Billingshurt's impossibly youthful Civilian (who sounded, to my untrained ear, rather like a metal version of the Bluetones, if such a thing is possible), and who, no doubt more popular and better looking than us, will presumably have an army of their own fans which we need to thwart.


Please email Claire Kember at JUICE FM using the header 'Demo Clash' and declaring you wish to vote for Assistant to win for the second consecutive week. Because, frankly, our burgeoning egos are not satisfied with two weeks of radio glory, and we want more.

PS. The Totally Wired website also implores you, by the way, to

Vote here for the best local band of the year.Vote for your 1st and 2nd choice. All votes will be counted and will lead up to Claire playing the top 10 bands as voted by you, the listeners, on "Totallywired With Claire Kember" on Sunday 2nd January on Juice107.2 (Tuesday 4th January onwards here on

We'd obviously like you to vote for Assistant, but accept that that may be asking a favour too far. So use your judgement wisely, if you vote. I shall be voting, should you care, for 1. the lovely La Momo, and 2. the excellent Threewheeler.

gig last night

Thanks to all who came to see the Assistant gig last night - much appreciated. We had a really good night as usual, and pleased with how the gig went and how many people came along to lend their support. I thought the gig was probably one of our better efforts, although I remember feeling a bit self-conscious and stupid on stage, especially when I tried to talk between songs; of all the stage performance aspects still the one which comes least naturally. And, erm, the bit when the mic stand collapsed and I had trouble putting it back together.

That aside, I think we were on good form; of the new songs 'August Song' was definitely the best, but 'Don't Ask Me' was nice to play, too, not least because I could take off my guitar for a moment and cool down a bit. Actually, I'm not sure that feeling a bit inhibited didn't help me a little, it kind of redoubled my concentration; so only one glaring mistake on my part, which is that I got the start of 'What It Means' wrong, but who cares? Not me.

As usual, 'Engines and Anvils' closed the set, and - as usual - it went down a storm; still seems to be most people's favourite Assistant song.

Cheers then to the usual suspects - Vic, Sam, Dan, Natalia, Carrie, Keith, Poppy, Mark, Andrew, Emma, James, Girlinky Chris and Girlinky Dom, Katie, Gaynor and James, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Tim, Patricia, various chums of Anne-So's and Dan's and the bundle of non-Assistant-afiliated people who stopped us to say hello or just stayed out on a cold winter night to watch the band. Thanks for coming.

Turner Prize - Deller wins

Jeremy Deller likes lists as much as I do, hurray.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

His backwards life

Ah wow, this is really great - David Byrne has started blogging. You can read the tour journal of the former Talking Heads mainman here.


I get to get a hair trim on my way to my office/studio at Freestyle Barber on 7th ave. I've been there before. It's fast, cheap and normal. The staff are all Russians, a couple of men and some blonde women with big hair. I get a man this time, and he asks what I want. "Not much off the top and short back and sides, tapered, no line" I say. He snips away and I wonder if he understood me- he and the others are all jabbering away to each other in Russian and paying no mind to the few of us in the chairs. He's a little rough, Yanking my ears. I'm worried about my ears. Maybe it's a Russian macho thing to treat the customers sort of roughly; pandering to customers is not a habit that was ingrained in the Soviet system. Or maybe it’s meant to be a sign that these barbers are real men, not "hairdressers". I keep watch and he does what seems like a terrific job, exactly what I wanted, except maybe for the blow dry comb job at the end that makes me look like Bill Clinton when I was hoping for Jim Jarmusch or Herbert Von Karajan. I'm optimistic though, one has to be, and hair is, for those of us who have it, such an object of vanity. After a shampoo and loosening it'll be alright.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

karl lagerfeld is an idiot

Interesting to read that Karl Lagerfeld is outraged that H & M are selling his new range of clothes for 'slim and slender people' in sizes 14 and 16! He is furious apparently. I was going to suggest that you boycott Hennes as a consequence, but it seems they're not very happy about his comments either, so I'll just have to suggest you boycott Hennes because all the clothes are nasty, cheap and shiny.

touching the void

Over on his jolly-entertaining-but-I-only-rarely-get-round-to-reading-it blog, Warming Up, Richard Herring details how he has been using the remarkable feats on display in mountaineer climbs down mountain with broken leg film 'Touching The Void' to inspire him onwards in times of trouble. For instance, he buoys himself along while swimming 20 laps in his local swimming pool by telling himself

"No, if old Touching-the-Void can crawl down a mountain with a broken leg, then you can swim five more lengths of a not even full-size swimming pool." And my body said, "But I am too hungry to do it," but I told my body, "Listen old Touching-the-Void-o didn't have any food for about three days and only snow to drink."

Driven by this, Herring is justifiably proud of his achievement.

It was an amazing story of what the human body can achieve under duress and I expect that Channel 4 will make a film about this too. With an actor playing me recreating the swim, whilst I talk about what was going through my head at length 18 and so on. "Yes, by this point I was too tired to do front crawl, so was attempting more a doggy paddle, mixed with a bit of breast stroke. I really thought I would never see my family again, but something pushed me onwards." Maybe they could also have a talking head from the old woman who was walking up and down in the slow lane and what she remembers about the event, "Well, I'm not really sure I recall anything about it. Was it a fat bloke who can't really swim very well?"

Good stuff.

how well do you know jonathan?

Okay - what better opportunity to prove yourself a member of Jonathan's 'inner circle'.

Take the How Well Do You Know Jonathan quiz now!!!

Don't bother putting in your email address and stuff like that, but you need to put in a name. I recommend 'Paul Boeteng'. At the end a couple of windows will jump up (unless you're using Firefox). But you should be quick witted enough to extract your score from the relavent window and match it up to Jonathan's scoring system, displayed below.

1-9 - Pah! Call yourself a friend?! If Jonathan finds out how little you know him he'll excommunicate you. You have no idea that Jonathan prays nightly to an effigy of Damon Albarn.

10-18 - Not too bad. You know, perhaps, that Jonathan is haunted by nightmares consisting of Arsenal doing the double again this year.

20-27 - Ah, that's more like it. You know Jonathan well, and have been told that Jonathan used to own several albums by Iron Maiden. And he's told you the story about the bee.

28-36 - You are Jonathan! You must be. Either that or you are his best friend in the world, and know all about that unfortunate incident with the... er... y'know.

Monday, November 29, 2004

brighton city airport!?

Quoting Tom, over at his Tomment blog

"at some point along the way, Shoreham Airport became semi-renamed ‘Brighton City’, which i like. Euroexec have just announced new flights connecting Brighton City with Jersey, Guernsey and Le Touquet. Their plane (I guess they only have one) has only 9 seats."

Good news for the Jersey contingent of Assistant, that. And for my parents, too, who have a bit of a Le Touquet fetish. Course, they'd have to drive down to Brighton in the first place, obviously.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

make a fellow blogger very happy

Assistant have just competed in the Juice FM Demo Clash! Here's the track that was played (right click and save target as to download). Details on how to vote for us follow...

Well, that's the first time my voice has ever been transmitted on the radio, let alone the first time that the good people of Brighton have had to suffer my one solitary guitar solo which consists of more than three notes. It was a very odd and exciting experience! 'It's Alright' is quite a long song, which dispenses with all lyrics half way through and rattles off on a slightly random bent thereafter. But Claire played almost all of it, and thoroughly enjoyable it was too.

Listening was weird, like I kept forgetting that I wasn't just listening to our CD and then getting a jolt, thinking, agh, this is on the radio. Of course, the experience makes you feel insecure too, thinking 'we didn't do that right' or 'why didn't we record backing vocals' or 'why did she choose this track?". Well, anyway, I thought our song was the better of the two.

That was great. More Assistant on the radio please.

Please vote for us - you need to email Claire Kember with the subject line 'Demo Clash' and of course, tell her that you would like Assistant to win. It would be much appreciated.

assistant are exhausted

Ah, just got back from an exhausting rehearsal. Give or take a bit of buggering about, the setlist next Monday night will be:

1. Theme
2. I'm Shit
3. It's Alright
4. Drinking With You
5. August Song
6. Get Away
7. Don't Ask Me
8. Easy to Leave
9. What It Means
10. You Should Know
11. Engines and Anvils

The rehearsal was good, although we got a bit sidetracked with 'Don't Ask Me', making it all sound a bit complicated by messing around with the synth line rather than just perfecting it as it was. Consequently we considered dropping it from the set but have - unless it goes terribly during the last rehearsal - decided to play it and call it a referendum. Getting that song finished has taken pure bloody-mindedness and a desperation to complete, rather than divine inspiration. So if you do come to the gig, unless the song gets a rapturous response from the punters, it's probably the only chance you'll get to hear it, as we've got better stuff to come next time round.

Old-timers will notice a couple of old songs in the set, too - 'Get Away' and 'It's Alright'. It was always our intention to mix setlists up a bit so we're playing different songs each time, but we haven't played live or rehearsed frequently enough to get this going. As of the New Year Assistant will be playing a lot more, both in private and in public - so this will change.

Don't forget to listen to Juice 107.2 FM tonight if you're local (Brighton and Hove). We'll be played sometime between 8 and 10. Apparently you can listen online via this URL, but I couldn't get it to work. If anyone can, let me know.

Friday, November 26, 2004

assistant on the radio

Assistant are featured in the Demo Clash on Claire Kember's excellent Totally Wired radio show this coming Sunday on Juice 107.2 FM. Claire will be playing our recording of 'It's Alright' along with a track by another Brighton band.

Here's the current Demo Clash page on the Totally Wired website. If you can't tune in on Sunday you should be able to hear the songs on the same link from next Monday afternoon, and you will of course be able to vote for us, which is what I really want you to do, naturally.

I'll update again on the other side of the weekend. If we win the votes war we get played again the next week (which is, usefully for us, the day before our next gig). No idea who we're up against yet but... am childishly excited at the idea of Assistant on the radio.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

thoughts on craig nicholls

I've made a few mentions of The Vines on this blog, mostly because I've been interested in the unusual behaviour of their singer, Craig Nicholls, who was recently - as I mentioned the other day - diagnosed with aspergers syndrome; another subject which interests me.

I wasn't one of the people proclaiming the first Vines LP as 'the greatest debut album ever made', although the NME were going all guns blazing on that front at the time of its release. Back then, opinion seemed to be sharply divided. I thought that the first two singles from the album, 'Highly Evolved' and - particularly - 'Get Free' were tremendous, but when I mentioned this I would often be rebuked by friends who thought that The Vines - and Nicholls in particular - were the epitomy of shallow, overproduced indie rock masquarading as 'punk'.

In many senses, they were right - the album itself was thin, trebly and one-dimensional (or rather, two dimensional, as it resorted to, in turn, karaoke grunge and stoned californian balladry). The production was hopeless and the songs generally either too fast, too slow, or too sludgy. Meanwhile, Nicholls was making a fool of himself whenever his band appeared; seeming childish and conceited in interviews and crazed on stage.

I watched one performance of The Vines on Later with Jools Holland and remember it as the most embarrasing TV appearance by a band in living memory - Nicholls trashing the stage, screaming incoherently and wrecking the song with clueless guitar playing. At the time I had started to agree with my friends that The Vines were a contrived mess, and felt that Nicholls was just a joke. He didn't even seem to know what he was angry about.

Fast forward a couple of years - plus a second album which all but sunk without trace - and it's tempting to apply a bit of revisionism to the Vines story. Diagnosed with Aspergers, Nicholls' misunderstandings in interviews, stage behaviour and odd and obsessive behaviour begins to make a little more sense.

Asperger's Syndrome, also known as Asperger's Disorder or Autistic Psychopathy, is a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) characterized by severe and sustained impairment in social interaction, development of restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. These characteristics result in clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Now the Vines's manager, Andy Kelly, has explained that

"it's never going to work in a traditional 'demo, record, release, tour' cycle again. It's going to be much more – probably - relaxed and... unconventional, I suppose."

It's interesting to note that while Craig's bizarre behaviour had driven his own bandmates up the wall, alienated a fair degree of the band's fanbase and probably influenced his own songwriting negatively (because it's worth stating that there's enough on that first record to make a claim that he is a decent - perhaps potentially excellent - songwriter), it takes a medical diagnoses to force the band's label to do the decent thing and excempt them from the schedule, schedule, schedule cycle which bands like The Vines have to endure.

"Obviously the big part of Craig's diagnosis is to just let things happen when they happen. After Friday, when the charges were dismissed [Nicholls had been charged with assaulting a photographer] and now that Craig has been diagnosed with Asperger's, it's a huge relief for the band and a huge relief for him - the first thing that he said when he came out of court was; 'It's so great that now we can just play music again and not worry about other stuff.' And that's sort of the approach that everyone's taking – not to suddenly feel locked in to a schedule where you have to have demos done by this time and an album done by this time and a tour booked by this time... because that's just not how it's ever going to work for The Vines again."

Apart from being pleased for Nicholls that his lifestyle will not again be disturbed in such a calamitous way by touring, one wonders what result this will have on future material by The Vines, assuming that they do stay together and continue releasing records.

Second album syndrome is a common problem in pop music; that a good band fails to follow up on the promise of their debut with their next (and often subsequent) albums. One theory for this is simple - the pressures and demands of success (and striving for success) interfere with the creative process. How many excellent albums have been written on tired, stressy evenings after work while a young band fights for some attention? How many more have been bloated by pressure, coke, the arrogance of success. In Nicholls' case, was the second album poor because his life had become too complicated?

I think there's a decent chance that the next Vines album will be far better than we might have otherwise expected. I hope Craig Nicholls goes home, calms down, and concentrates on what he's good at.

"Craig's just happy writing songs and recording, and that’s pretty much how it’s going to be. Craig has no intention of doing any more interviews or anything like that – and everyone totally accepts it. It’s even… if that’s the case, you have to accept that you’ll probably sell a lot less records, but everyone just wants him to be happy, so that’s kind of what it is. (Dealing with Asperger's) is just about managing your lifestyle and your situation - Craig’s comfortable as much of the time as he can be."


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

another flyer

unfortunately the shape of the attached flyer prohibits my posting it up here, without wrecking my sensitive and sickly template (ie, it would thrust the links pane on the right down to the bottom of the page), but I can post a link regardless, and you can take a look at it for yourselves. I can't do everything for you anyway, someday you'll be out on your own in the big, malevolent world, etc.

Click here to see Anne-Sophie's flyers for the cable club gig...

Monday, November 22, 2004

so tell me...

Have I reached that point in my life when I just don't get the music on the radio? Nah, I don't think so. But I just listened to three live tracks by the White Stipes on the Steve Lamacq show and they were just absolutely dreadful - bordering on unlistenable. Their rendition of a song I've heard of (Button to Button, is that right?) was, on first listen, reminiscent of one of those Spinal Tap comedy songs; all dirty, cliched riffing and absurd falsetto vocals. I just couldn't understand it, couldn't understand why anyone would listen.

So it's come to this.

Hey you! Yeah, I mean you. Turn that fucking music down.

i thought it was only me

Having a couple of websites has turned me into a real sleuth; always trying to spot new links, monitoring google searches, trying to figure out who you anonymous commenters are, god damn you... Five minutes ago I wandered over to the printer at work and noticed that one of my fellow workers has printed out a large chunk of a blog which I visit regularly, and now I'm feeling possessive and curious, and wanna know who it is. So I'm working with my head at a painful crooked angle, watching for the next person to come and pick up stuff from the printer. I look like an angle poise lamp. No takers so far. And you know, I just know that when I do look away, they'll disappear.

road to nowhere

Excellent to see Simon Reynolds reviewing 679's grime compilation ('Run The Road') in the Observer yesterday (thanks to Chantelle's World of Grime blog for drawing it to my attention)

"As a sound, grime is still very much an underdog, and so its fantasies of triumph and living large are much more precarious and affecting. ... You can hear all this in the music, in those pinched, scrawny voices - the sound of energy squeezing itself through the tiniest gap and grabbing for a chance that no doubt will prove to be a mirage."

The first essential release of 2005?

The Observer - Review: Run The Road

And actually, while I'm taking a long overdue look at Simon's blog, I note this article, too, which is great...

House of Zealous Rockers: Simon Reynolds on DFA.

Anyone who's not yet heard LCD Soundsystem's 'Movement' (which doesn't feature on the essential looking DFA Compilation #2 but which is the new single by DFA man James Murphy's band) either BUY IT RIGHT NOW or do the illegal download thing. It's ace.

flyer for gig

C:\Documents and Settings\jshipley\My Documents\My Pictures\cable club flyer

Sunday, November 21, 2004

magical disinhibiting powers

Today the Observer says that Paul Evans, an American 'super-cop' brought in by the Home Office to cut Britain's crime rate warned last night that

"the nation's binge drinking culture was spiralling out of control and fuelling an epidemic of violence outside pubs and clubs that threatened to overwhelm the police."

Ah, well, we've heard that before, even if we know it's probably true. But I read in the Guardian yesterday a more interesting article which went some way to factoring me into the equation, where previously I thought,

"binge drinkers, eh, tut tut".

According to new research, the system by which we measure our alcohol intake is hopelessly outdated - for example, since 1985 the average pub-bought glass of wine is 50ml larger and on average 5% stronger. We're told that a unit represents one glass of wine or half a pint. In fact, a standard glass of wine in a pub is now accurately measured at 2.3 units. A pint of Stella is 3.

And if you - like me - regularly go out and drink three pints of lager then guess what? You're a binge drinker too. And if you do it every night then you are a chronic drinker, you statistic, you.

Best paragraph in the article was, however, less sobering...

The timelessness of our desire to get drunk has led anthropologists such as Kate Fox, director of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, to speculate about the British character. She concluded that we are all suffering from a "congenital sociability disorder", a disease whose symptoms are akin to a kind of autism combined with agoraphobia. In plain talk, the British are uniquely buttoned up and starched stiff. Animal watcher Desmond Morris says that if we were monkeys we would be picking imaginary fleas out of each other's fur, in an act of "social grooming", a pretext for prolonging social encounters. Instead we have for centuries propped up the bar.

A national characteristic has been identified in numerous scientific trials. In one, British volunteers were plied with drinks, all purporting to be alcohol, half of which were placebos. Everyone became equally loud, crude and garrulous, the technically sober behaving identically to the genuinely drunk. Similar tests carried out on volunteers from Mediterranean countries found no such associations. Scientists concluded that British people invested alcohol with "magical disinhibiting powers".

God, that's so true.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

songs in order

Agh, anyone else really crap with their iTunes housekeeping? Just been trying to sort stuff out, delete duplicates, get genres and attributions rights, etc - what a monumental chore, but everyone talking about how it's 'so handy' to have all their music in one place always makes me think, god, my copy of iTunes is just stuffed with incorrectly named, archived and ripped files. Ah well. I will sort them out...

Last ten songs played while I ramble through...
1. XTC - Senses Working Overtime
2. Nick Cave - Let the Bells Ring
3. Dave Clarke - What Was Her Name?
4. Mighty Sparrow - Village Ram
5. Bedsit Bomber - 20202
6. Curtis Mayfield - Give It Up
7. Sonic Youth - Slaapkamers Met Slagroom
8. Clylobotnia - Hip Hop Gamelan
9. Maximo Park - Graffiti
10. The Fall - How I wrote Elastic Man

Friday, November 19, 2004

one last time

Cast your votes now for John Peel's final ever Festive Fifty.

And before you do so, you should really listen to the new Wedding Present single. It's a grower, and you can hear it here.

My first choice of three was 'The Valleys' by Electrelane.

Cheers John.

Vines singer has aspergers

This is interesting, from the NME website.

THE VINES’ singer CRAIG NICHOLLS has been diagnosed with ASPERGER SYNDROME.

Nicholls’ condition was revealed during a hearing at Sydney’s Balmain Local Court yesterday (November 19).

The star was facing charges of assault and malicious damage, which were later dismissed. The charges stem from an incident at the Annandale Hotel (May 27) when he allegedly kicked a photographer’s camera during a gig for radio station Triple M.

According to The Herald Sun, following the brief ten-minute hearing Nicholls said: “I’m free.”

Nicholls was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome after one of the band’s crew members alerted management to its existence, despite years of attempts by psychologists and psychiatrists to find the correct diagnosis.

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurobiological disorder which causes the sufferer to exhibit autistic-like behaviour and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills.

People with AS have difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest.

lunch in chichester

Cold and crisp here in Chichester today, and sunny for the first half hour of my lunch. I went for a walk down by the canal and was surprised to find that the grass around it was freshly cut; the smell of cold cut crass is out-of-place in November, and refreshing. And of course when you cut grass wet it turns into a kind of paint, so the path was criss-crossed with mossy green lines.

When I was walking back I glanced down and saw a worm on the pavement in front of me, and had a peculiar moment of disgust, as if it was something horrible. Perhaps because it was still and therefore perhaps dead. But I looked again and it was a snapped grey elastic band, a thick one, and not a worm at all. So, odd that I thought it was, and odd that I was disgusted. I'm not worm mad, but I don't mind the little blighters.

I had a bitty lunch hour. At one point I suddenly remembered a very vivid dream which must be ten years old, where I was forced to drive around North London doing various errands, the novelty being that I can not drive. It wasn't a particularly exceptional dream, but I remember it very vividly indeed, almost as if it was a real memory.

And lastly, and rather less poetically, I note that the road sign just past work, which normally reads 'CANAL PLACE' has been vandalised. Someone has tipp-exed out the first letter. Not much to do in Chichester, but you've got to hand it to the kids; they find ways to amuse themselves.

minister 'arrested' by idiot

According to the BBC,

A Fathers 4 justice campaigner handcuffed himself to children's minister Margaret Hodge at a family law conference in Manchester [today]. Jolly Stanesby, who was handcuffed to the minister for 40 minutes, said he had made "a citizens arrest"

Matt O'Connor, of Fathers 4 justice, said Mrs Hodge had been chosen for the stunt because she was the "bogeywoman of family law, who doesn't even believe in equal parenting"

Meanwhile in the UK a quarter of mothers who apply for maintenance receive none at all, while another 20% get less than they are entitled to.

Rights for fathers? Do me a favour. How about responsibility for fathers first. Then it might be appropriate to talk about rights.

a bit too much drink

Saw Fuji Heavy again last night, and damned if they don't grow on me with each gig - at least two of their songs are veritable hits, and the rest are relentlessly entertaining. Funnily enough, all the guys seemed a little disappointed with how it went afterwards, which just adds to my theory that what a band calls a good gig is often not what the audience does; I like seeing a band a bit frustrated, it gives them a bit of edge. Andy's guitar playing last night was really great, all the more so because he seemed to be trying to throttle the instrument at the same time as play it.

Last time I wrote about Fuji I talked about which other bands they sounded like, because that's often what strikes you about a band you've only seen once or twice. Now I'm getting to know the songs, I've stopped thinking about that. Last night I thought they sounded like, oh, what do you call them? Ah yes. Fuji Heavy.

The other bands were awful - a Snow Patrol-Coldplay lite on after Fuji and then a nasty sub-Aerosmith metal band, complete with a leather-trousered singer intent on asking 'how you all doin'?' to a room rapidly retreating to the bar. 'Aaaoowww', he added, after a moment's thought. Most of the rest of the night was spent drinking, talking rubbish and watching Vic and Andy caterwauling nonsensical lyrics along with the faux-Aeros. Great stuff.

Hungover today, but greatly cheered to see that Andy, clearly feeling a bit better about the Fuji performance, had sent me a nice photo of a tree this morning. Thanks Andy - that'll come in useful.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

more piranha hits here

I probably should write about reality TV more often, seeing as the one post I ever wrote on the subject probably garnered more search engine referrals than anything else I've written. Barring stuff about piranhas.

New bloggers - just got started and keen on finding a subject that'll get you some hits? Piranhas. Never fails.

Well, I won't fall into the trap of reviewing every single reality show I've watched in the last six months, even if it will give me a few more hits, because frankly, reader, I'm bored of them. Granted, I watched 'Wife Swap' last night and spent the first ten minutes complaining that "this is a tired format". (You have to imagine a voice weighted with gravity and wisdom here....

"this is a tired format. Everything about is tired; tired, contrived and generic. Why haven't they axed it yet?")

... and the next fifty minutes rapt, pausing occasionally only to laugh and take cheerful glugs from my glass of wine.

And, erm, yes, I like 'No Going Back'. And anything about teenagers behaving badly or getting pregnant at the age of 12. And that one with Anna Raeburn when they divide up a messy house into a series of small prison cells for the wayward children, or build a shed in the garden where they banish the elderly grandfather (whose previous role was to just sit around shouting 'eh?') And those ones where your mum and dad come and sort out your finances. Or Alvin Hall does. And those kitchen ones with Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey. Or....

Or Faking It. This one seems to be have been around so long it's practically the elder statesman of Reality TV. That and 'Would Like to Meet', which is still the genre's defining programme. I haven't much watched Faking It in recent years, but I did see a really excellent episode a couple of months ago which was - now I finally get to the point - filmed in Brighton. It's repeated tonight, and is essential - and thoroughly entertaining - viewing. C4 at ten.

So a young toff (and really, if you ever wonder if your class prejudices might need revising, you should watch this - firstly to note that there's still nothing worse than a posho, and secondly to see that there's still hope) is sent to Brighton to immerse himself in UK hip-hop culture, and 'fake it' as a graffiti artist. Well, the show is fascinating and utterly winning, not only because the starlet turns out to be a lovely lad (Jonathan doffs cap in the feudal manner) and a good sport, but because his supporting cast are just so.... lovely. Now, I'm not sure if being 'lovely' is desirable in the British rap scene, but if it is, the inhabitants of Brighton's graffiti community should be at the pinnacle of cool.

Seen around town graffing (see how I, unlike our hero, effortlessly pick up the lingo), rapping, breakdancing and poking affectionate fun wherever possible, the kids come across as caring, artistic, hardworking and (broadly) responsible. At the centre of events is Brighton's graffiti hotspot, a converted space in North Street at the centre of the North Laines, where kids line up boards and practice their art. Anyone reading this from Brighton or Hove should go and check the place out on the weekend, where it's invariably a hub of activity. The shop is owned and run by the programme's 'mentor', who I've seen around town a few times now, and always want to go and say hello to, ridiculously.

Anyway - it's well worth watching, if you can tear yourself away from the racist monkey chants over on BBC1.

some graffiti, this morning.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

um, where's my limewire.

I love Music.

"Music hates me".

This is Richard.

"I love music, I buy it by the ton and I watch it performed live as often as I can. My girlfriend is, amongst other things, a musician in a band. She owns an Apple iPod but she is way too busy to load our CD collection onto it. So, during a recent period of unemployment I decided to rip the lot to mp3 format and load it onto the iPod – over 7000 tracks.

I BRIEFLY shared the iTunes folder containing the ripped mp3 files on KaZaA. The damn thing went crazy, and, after a couple of days, I stopped sharing the folder. Unfortunately, during this period, the BPI were listening in."

Shit. Hope things work out OK.

Click on the link up at the top of the post for more...

Aaronovitch on Islamophobia

Nice to see David Aaronovitch talking good sense over at the Guardian today, locking horns with the kind of person who says, of Theo Van Gogh's awful murder in Amsterdam.

"Theo wasn't killed by Dutch society but by a Muslim. But then Muslims rarely do much soul searching."

"See that!", Aaronovitch snaps.

"In a blink of a cursor? See how "a Muslim" so quickly became "Muslims"? There are a billion Muslims with a hundred thousand interpretations of the Koran, but they are all now transformed into the Muslim who killed Van Gogh."

He goes on to say that...

"there is today - even among intelligent and thoughtful people - a story of Muslims as there was, when my father was young, a story of Jews. The story of Jews was about the clannishness and closeness of a self-designated 'chosen people', and how they used their undoubted talents to manipulate the media, the world of finance and (latterly) the US political process. And if one was caught in a fraud, then (as I once overheard a Daily Mail columnist say to Norman Tebbit), wasn't that 'their' way?

The story of Muslims is of a backward, super-sensitive religion which mistreats women and suppresses dissent. It is as true and as useful as the story of Jews, and, if we keep on telling it, leads to a similar place."

Full article here: David Aaronovitch: All Muslims are not the same.

Monday, November 15, 2004

oh for god's sake

this is getting ridiculous - listen up, musicians.... we need you. Stop dying, please. First ODB over the weekend (appalling news, I couldn't believe it) and now John Balance of Coil has succumbed to this disturbing new fashion. Apparently he fell from a 15ft first floor landing and died shortly afterwards. Awful. And I found out today that someone I have recently started working with, a young, fiercely inventive academic (and musician) has died too. The weather has only just changed and already this feels like a particularly bleak, chilling winter.

joe strummer john peel john balance ol' dirty bastard johnny ramone arthur kane rick james

I did just read that the Gang of Four have reformed, which is interesting. I still need to get hold of that last Wire album, which sounds pretty good.

assistant assistant

Ah, the first proper Assistant rehearsal in ages yesterday, and it was really good. Doing mini-plays round at someone's house is a satisfying way of working on new material, but nothing beats a proper band rehearsal, and it's been so long that Pete was complaining about the noise. Andy and Ali, who have been rehearsing through the Assistant hiatus with Fuji Heavy and Diomedes, thought we were quieter than usual - so me and Pete, more used to calm these days, were just needing to adjust.

To begin with we ran through the last set we played and - actually - I was really surprised how well we all remembered the songs. In addition, when you rehearse and gig regularly you get tired of songs, or songs become so polished that they lose their edge. After a break they gain a bit of punchiness; I'm Shit, Drinking With You and What It Means were rawer than I remember, and better for it. You Should Know, which I'd gone off a bit, was chaotic because of some truly wayward and forgetful guitar playing by me, and v. enjoyable. Actually, by saying 'wayward' and 'chaotic' I imply some skein of Malkmusian genius on my part - what I mean is that I forgot the chords and played the solo really badly.

We also gave an airing to Get Away, one of our earliest songs, and I was surprised to note that it sounded pretty good, so, resuscitated, we'll play it at the gig. Elsewhere, we brushed up Easy to Leave by chopping out a verse and chorus, making it a bit sharper in the process. So setlist so far will definitely include Theme, I'm Shit, Drinking With You, You Should Know, Get Away, What It Means and Easy to Leave - with a strong possibility that we'll play It's Alright and Engines and Anvils too.

Added to this, our promise of new songs....

There should be two to look forward to, with the thinnest possibility of a third. The first new one we worked on yesterday, August Song, started out as a slightly dreary guitar track which I created on my computer a couple of months or so ago, a simple, slightly melancholy idea about meeting up with an old flame and observing that "the year has been faster than I knew, and suddenly I find that I've exaggerated you". On the original demo the saving grace is a fast, dubby bassline which holds most of the song's promise.

Doing it with the band, we cut the song right back to that part and Ali's tight, rolling drums. The chorus is just a vocal and a synth. So it's a quiet and oddly restrained song, with little elliptical guitar runs like something off 'Think Tank', and sudden, piercing breaks of noise which were maybe a little Mercury Rev-ish. It sounded ace - and while not quite note-perfect, I think we'll have it ready for the Pressure Point gig.

The other track will be familiar to long-term readers of the blog (if there are any). I've been writing about us trying to get Don't Ask Me finished since the summer of 2003. This time we've pretty much cracked it - stripping the song down to a nice and simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus-chorus structure and dispensing with our disco section (tellingly added in the midst of summertime Franz-fever). It's still a good song, but I'll surely jinx it if I go into any more detail. We'll play it in December, I (half) promise.

There's an outside chance that we might get time to work on a new version of one of Pete's instrumentals, too, but time restraints will probably mean that'll have to wait 'til the New Year for an airing.

Really pleased with August Song, though - you'll like that one.

C:\Documents and Settings\jshipley\My Documents\My Pictures\trolley1
the groop, once more. in a trolley. they wouldn't let me out, afterwards.


C:\Documents and Settings\jshipley\My Documents\My Pictures\boats1
the pop groop, yesterday (l-r, pete, anne-so, jonathan, ali, andy)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

He did this test so you don't have to

Ah, that's more like it - a wonderful post from Quin, who is exploring how many o's one can type in to the word 'google' before you, er, go mad.

"20 Os : Yay! A copy of Google in Japanese, but with 20 Os instead of 2."

The big Google O test

office ambience / maximo park

Over at The Wire website, they've started streaming their 'Office Ambience' chart from the magazine - which I always read faintly depressed, thinking 'haven't heard that, haven't heard that, where am I going to hear that?'. Well, now there's an MP3 stream and it's full to the brim of good stuff, namely...

For starters; some clunky, clicky house with a hint of junior boys and some delicate guitars from the awfully named Githead, Harry Partch's sublime 'Cloud Chamber Music', which everyone should hear, and some of what I can only describe as African acid-rock, by Mingiedi's Konono no. 1 project, which sounds marvellous on a first listen. More needed.

Strønen/Storløkken play glitchy, percussion led modern jazz, LCD Soundsytem do their usual punky dancy thing with the Crass mix of their 'Yeah', and Greg Davis presents some bewitching drone music which makes me feel lopsided. More on him here. Elsewhere, Lydia Lunch does her NY cool thing but I'm a bit tired of Lydia Lunch after all this time. There's more obscure stuff from Dean Roberts, whose restrained and sparse guitar atmospherics bear repeated listening, as do the menacing bass and vocals from Alexei Borisov & Anton Nikkilä, whose very plain, typewriter style website had me briefly inspired to delete all the boxes on mine, a minute ago.

Inching back towards a tune, Soft Pink Truth's tech-house take on Crass's 'Do They Owe Us a Living', treads a fine line between sound art and kitsch. It's the first thing I've heard from their much talked about 'Do You Want New Wave or DoYou Want the Soft Pink Truth?' LP on Tigerbeat. I kind of like it.

I hope The Wire keeps this up - it's a great feature. The link is up at the top, where it says 'The Wire'.

Meanwhile, can I just put a marker down. You like the Futureheads? Mark my words. Maximo Park. Next. Big. Thing. Awesome.


the sound of one man clapping

Looks like the Democrats and Hove CLP are not the only people who need to find someone to lead them into their next (respective) elections. Tommy Sheridan has resigned his leadership of the Scottish Socialist Party with immediate effect.

More information here.

A statement released by the SSP says,

"Whether it was on striking workers' picket lines or his championing of the abolition of the council tax, Tommy Sheridan brought to Scottish politics a unique voice that spoke up for those who had no voice in the elitist world of establishment politics"

backscratching and hove

Some interesting information in amongst yesterday's oh-so-predictable report that - guess what - a major donation of £50,000 was made to the Labour party earlier this year by Peter Coates, a major player (geddit) in the gaming industry and someone who is - presumably - not too disappointed with recent Labour party policy on the gambling industry, although I shall, for the sake of fairness, allow the other side of the story to be heard.

"A Labour spokesman said: "Peter Coates is a regular donor to the Labour party so there is nothing out of the ordinary about this donation, which is clearly made because Mr Coates is a supporter of the Labour party and for no other reason. Mr Coates has never sought to influence policy as a result of any donation nor, as far as we are aware, has he met any minister or political adviser in connection with the gambling bill, and nor is there any suggestion that.." oh fuck it, you get the picture. Whatever you say.

Anyway, what I meant to talk about was the following paragraph in the Guardian story.

"The list of donors also suggests a reason why Ivor Caplin, the junior defence minister, has decided not to fight his marginal seat of Hove. The former Tory MP for Hove and ex-minister Sir Tim Sainsbury has given the local Tories £15,000 to campaign against him."

So have Labour got any hope at all in Hove?

Monday, November 08, 2004

two more books to look out for...

courtesy of the Bookseller.

Ian McEwan
Jonathan Cape, 3rd February 2005, h/b
Sure to be huge, naturally. The novel is set within a single day in February 2003, as war in Iraq looms. A successful neurosurgeon unwittingly offends a small-time thug in the course of the day; that evening, the thug appears at his luxury home, bent on revenge.

John Updike
Hamish Hamilton, 3rd February 2005, h/b
A massive literary star, though without the same sales profile as McEwan; the American master returns; telling the life story of Owen Mackenzie, which takes place in villages in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, and involves many romantic and other relationships wit the female inhabitants of those villages.

The former looks good. The latter - well, we all know Updike is good. But anyone else look at that synopsis and think, oh right. female inhabitants. surprise surprise.

more wedding present news

Hurray, thanks to Paul for letting me know about this, I like this bit of information. Not only, as we know, are the Wedding Present fully reformed and about to release a new single, but the lovely David Gedge is now living in - of all places - nearby Newhaven. Hmm. I've not been to Newhaven but I've, um, heard about it.

Newhaven, Dave: why???

caplin stands down

Interesting news from Hove, home of Labour MP Ivor Caplin. Always a target for the Tories at the next election, Hove must have just jumped up in their reckoning at the news that Ivor will not be standing at the next election - this looks a sure thing for the conservatives now, no? On the other hand, Caplin is so universally disliked in Hove that this might prove the filip needed to retain the Labour vote.


How Caplin voted.

(PS - yes, I have noticed that the Evening Argus displayed above is no longer the one with the nice big 'MP In Quit Shock' headline. It's changing daily. Thing is, I rather like that. So bookmark this post and come here daily to see what's on the cover of the er, Evening Argus).

Friday, November 05, 2004

clearing out my bookmarks

I love following the trail of blogs, it's what the internet does best. I started with my own, noting I'd been quoted on Bush on Silent Words Speak Loudest (thanks Ben), along with, amongst others, Bob Mould, whose blog I haven't read in a while. He writes,

"One day passes, and not much changes. I suspect it will be that way for a while. Once the slide begins, though, it will be noticeable, and hard (but not impossible) to reverse. Our leader has been handed the receipt. He sees it as a mandate. I am fearful for the young men of this country."

Bob leads me away in another direction; to a New York Times article about 'Rockism' - the system of denegrating pop by its perceived shallowness. The author, like me, doesn't seem to hold much truck with it (take your Wellers and your well-meaning, furrow browed men - it's always men - away).

"could it really be a coincidence that rockist complaints often pit straight white men against the rest of the world?"

On the other side, we hear, are the "The pop star, the disco diva, the lip-syncher, the "awesomely bad" hit maker", and I read that and I think, these are my people...

Here's a test. Think 'Great rock music', then 'great pop music' - and tell me which thought is stolid, sweat-drenched and reductive.


Elsewhere (let's clear out my pile of links), Philip Pullman doesn't interest me that much, although I had a stab at - and admired aspects of - his His Dark Materials trilogy. Nevertheless, it's interesting to hear that he's writing a fourth (oh, that kind of trilogy), and enjoyable to see that he thinks Bush would make an ideal villain. Story here, and extract below...

"Bush has this baying certainty and has imposed this fervent zealotry," said Pullman, whose books have been condemned by church groups for attacking organised religion and decrying autocracies that brook no argument.

"The Christian right in America is the mirror image of the Islamic fundamentalist," he said

Something tells me that last quote will go down a storm, stateside.

Staying with (or returning too, given the tone of Assistant blog recently) fundamentalism, I feel duty bound to pass on this link, which contains, I'm told, Bit Torrents of the recent BBC series 'The Power of Nightmares' - useful stuff for people like me who missed the first one, videoed the second, and then - before I had the chance to watch it - videoed over the second with the third. Incidentally, Homer Simpson and family are back on tonight (or else, Doh). All we need now is someone to tell me what the hell Bit Torrent is. I read that you can now download Football Manager 2005 on Bit Torrent too. Now, call me sharp, but I think we're talking something a teensy bit illegal here, no?


"We surely risk being washed away by a sea of bile"

Not my words, reader, but the words of blogger Stephen Newton. He's not talking about the Daily Mail's 'The Moral Majority are on the March' headline, but about the fact that blogging is 'a fad that's peaked'. It's an interesting post. I reckon he's wrong.


If you go here, and have realplayer (which I don't), you can listen to a whole bunch of Julian Cope compiled mixtapes. The Krautrockshow one looks pretty reliable, and you'd have to be mad not to feel excited at the prospect of an hour long mix of 'lost music from Denmark'.

Talking of music from the peripheries, we go back to John Peel. I spotted an MP3 over at Submit Response the other day and bookmarked it - I'm so glad I did. It's a compilation of wonderful Peel moments which remarkably, all originate from the same, somewhat slapdash programme. As Jack says, only Peelie could get away with making such a hash of it.

Here's the MP3.

Strangely, considering the subject matter, I just made a Peel-esque mistake while piecing together that link. In other words, I accidentally clicked on it by mistake while pasting it in, before getting up to grab a book from a shelf. When I returned, I found the voice of Peel echoing quietly, gravely from my computer. Several people nearby had pricked up their ears. It was an odd, sombre, funny moment. I clicked the volume off and no-one said anything.


I'm doing Nanowrimo this year - though I won't get much done if I keep staying at work late to write my blog. Tying the two together, the following article might be of interest:

Don't worry. I won't inflict that one on you.

Time to go and catch my train.

no more show tunes

Mike Moore has posted "17 Reasons Not to Slit Your Wrists". I feel a bit better.

Here's number 17.

"17. Finally and most importantly, over 55 million Americans voted for the candidate dubbed "The #1 Liberal in the Senate." That's more than the total number of voters who voted for either Reagan, Bush I, Clinton or Gore. Again, more people voted for Kerry than Reagan. If the media are looking for a trend it should be this -- that so many Americans were, for the first time since Kennedy, willing to vote for an out-and-out liberal. The country has always been filled with evangelicals -- that is not news. What IS news is that so many people have shifted toward a Massachusetts liberal."

Here's number 6.

"6. Michigan voted for Kerry! So did the entire Northeast, the birthplace of our democracy. So did 6 of the 8 Great Lakes States. And the whole West Coast! Plus Hawaii. Ok, that's a start. We've got most of the fresh water, all of Broadway, and Mt. St. Helens. We can dehydrate them or bury them in lava. And no more show tunes!"

And number 9.

"9. Gays, thanks to the ballot measures passed on Tuesday, cannot get married in 11 new states. Thank God. Just think of all those wedding gifts we won't have to buy now."

Thursday, November 04, 2004

more election waffle

I've been spending most of the past couple of days talking about the election, and - particularly - reading about it, and I have to say that there is an absolutely tremendous amount to say on this, and I feel slightly disappointed that I won't get the chance to compile all the links I'd like to, write all the comments I'd like to, and engage with as many people as I'd like to. I should point out, for any new readers, that this blog ostensibly exists as a slick marketing tool to promote my band, but things don't seem to work out so easily. Anyone who is here to read about Assistant, I'll get back on message soon, I promise. But it's at times like this when you think about the nature of blogging, and to what extent it is just me satisfying my ego, talking to thin air, or just working through thoughts which would otherwise just rattle around my head.

But if the election has made me suddenly introspective and mindful of my limitations, elsewhere there is some stunning writing about how things panned out in the US. Most of what I have said, or will say, has been influenced by the extraordinary variety of emotion and tone which can be found on the web right now. I think I should perhaps put together a list of the sites which have helped me understand things the best, but I've not time right now, so I'll just plough on with a few more thoughts about the election, with a general credit issued to all my fellow bloggers, who have been a revelation the last few days.

As I've said, I don't like the tendency to scapegoat 'the American', as if he is a homogenous artifact, a symbol of stupidity. Yesterday I wrote that we should not call Americans stupid as a kneejerk reaction, and I stand by that, but I read some stuff by Timothy Garton Ash in the paper today which made me want to qualify what I said. I think I tried to explain away much of America standing by their war president on the grounds that he made them fearful, that they felt threatened and voted with him on that basis. To some extent I think that's right, but the phrase I used was 'In any country the majority of people vote in order to protect their best interests' - and that they felt Bush was best placed to protect those interests. Well. I have also tried, where possible, not to turn this into a 'Christian thing'. I'm trying to be fair, here.

But Garton Ash writes,

"The gut reaction of so many American voters, like Ida Blair, [is] to put moral, cultural and lifestyle choices before anything else, including their own economic self-interest. Family values. No gay marriage or abortion. Gun ownership. God, motherhood and apple pie. I just heard on the television that married women voted overwhelmingly for Bush, single women for Kerry."

He's right. When I talked about best interests I guess I was talking about the (perceived) threat of terrorism, but it's undeniably true that in many other respects people did indeed make moral choices, not political ones. In that sense, it is to some extent a Christian thing, like it or not. And it confirms the grizzly suggestion that, with the voting so closely mirroring what went on in 2000, America has divided it's moral choices into party colours. This, obviously, makes the prospect of a Democratic revival (all the way ahead in 2008) even harder to achieve.

Garton Ash goes on to articulate the line which I've been pushing ever since I first saw the election maps yesterday morning.

"In fact, this election has shown that America is more divided than ever over essentials of politics and faith. It's one country, but two nations".

Well, he's right to an extent. The left and the right have never been so far apart in terms of the moral instincts at the heart of their allegiences. But he undermines his point (as I have) by defining the difference in geographical terms. While it's certainly true to say that the map of the voting patterns makes its own point (solidly democratic at the edges and in the North Midwest, and republican elsewhere, swelling the map with a great, red belly of conservatism - middle America and the South. I saw one map jokingly divide them into the 'United States of Canada' and 'Jesusland'), it remains misleading to set up this as the contrast at the heart of the country. The liberals by the sea and the rednecks in the heartlands.

I didn't get this until I saw the map below on the wonderful Boing Boing blog.


As David Brake, on his site (which drew my attention to the map) writes,

"There are still plenty of Democrats in most of the “red” states - just not enough to swing the election this time around."

There's no reason why the Democrats should give up on the red states. One wonders if it isn't true, though, that as history proved with Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, that they need a smooth talkin' Southerner to do it. Whence Michael Dukakis? Whence John Kerry...

That said, some of the allegiances just look so hard to reverse. Here's how society voted by church attendence, from the Guardian.

More than Weekly
63% Bush
36% Kerry

58% Bush
41% Kerry

50% Bush
50% Kerry

Few times a year
44% Bush
55% Kerry

34% Bush
64% Kerry

See how the numbers reverse themselves the less people pray. It's so clear cut it's almost a beautiful pattern, almost organic, almost natural. And what can we do about that? Well, we have to fight to reverse it, I guess. I still don't think we should call our American cousins idiots, but the fact remains that half the country is making choices of a kind which are, to anyone not cowed in deference to the US church or the neo-cons, profoundly disturbing.

*apologies to anyone who dislikes my use of the phrase 'we', there. Sorry, it sounds crap and naff, and self-aggrandising - especially from an Englishman who isn't in any way involved with politics. I am not trying to flex my blogging muscles, I just can't stop talking.

Incidentally: one interesting point from the always interesting Harry's Place.

"The much-vaunted "youth vote" went for Kerry, but it wasn't much of a vote. Despite "Rock the Vote," "Vote or Die," etc., only about one in ten of 18-to-24-year-olds went to the polls."

UPDATE: The above factlet is - in fact - false; see here for further details. Thanks to Tim, Andrew and David for putting me straight.