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.