Saturday, December 31, 2005

Assistant Blog Singles of the Year 2005

OK: Single Of The Year time:

1. Damian Marley – Welcome To Jamrock
Easily the best single of the year, and a track which seemed to be playing out of every car and every window when I came up to London this summer, although sadly not so much down in Brighton. But no wonder it was so popular: it's a magnificent piece of political reggae from the son of Bob, somehow combining anger, energy and warmth in a way that only reggae can. "Come on let's face it / our ghetto education's basic / and most of the youths them wasted / and when they waste it / that's when them take their guns, replace it / and they don’t stand a chance at all". My pick of the year's crop - stunning.

2. Babyshambles – Fuck Forever
If all the Babyshambles records sounded like this, I think I'd understand what everyone was going on about when they hailed Pete Doherty a genius. This is invigorating and beautifully shambolic, badly recorded and lovely. They tried to improve it for the album version and failed completely, even though this original version stumbles along without any clear momentum at all. It's partly, or wholly, to do with Doherty, who drawls lyrics like "What's the use between death and glory" (or indeed the beautifully spat "New Labour or Tory") and is the closest he's come to describing the thought process which explains the odd, reactionary libertarian position he's somehow manouvered himself into: "They", he declares, "they have a way, they have a way to make you pay. And a way to make you toe the line", something he obviously has no intention of doing. He even goes some way to acknowledging the many complications of his position; "It’s one and the same. One and the same. No, it's not the same, it's not supposed to be the same". A real punk record and a mess of contradictions.

3. DARE by Gorillaz
You get the feeling the perenially competitive Damon Albarn must finally be feeling pretty happy with himself, as the latest stuff by Gorillaz has pretty much put paid to any argument that he's not one of the cleverest and versatile songwriters we have. I don't remember a song that everyone loved quite so unanimously as the hit of the summer, 'DARE', although that probably has more to do with the lovely Shaun Ryder. Either way, it's utterly irrestistable. Even more so when you realise that Shaun was trying to sing "It's there".

4. The Coral - In The Morning
Every now and again a song comes along which is just achingly perfect and poignant. 'In The Morning' appeared in the spring and sounded like the summer. If it had been released at the same time as 'DARE', and capitalised on the summer surge, it could have been twice as successful. As it is, it's short, sweet, romantic and absolutely perfect.

5. The Cribs – You’re Gonna Lose Us
A late contender for single of the year, this offering from the Cribs is a super, raucous Fall-style anthem, all surly northern attitude and zippy guitars. The vocal melodies, if infrequently very melodic, are some of the most memorable of the year. And the vocals are ace: "When I'm drunk I can be an asshole", they howl. Not heard much else by them but if this is indicitive of what they can do they could be a really valuable find.

6. M.I.A - Galang
Again, I could have easily picked 'Bucky Done Gun' instead, which is just as good (that ace horn break!) but Galang just about edges it on account of the fact that it really sounds like a number one single in some other dimension. If only. Everything about M.I.A is just perfect; the crunchy, glitchy beats and sirens, her confident, rough delivery and the insouciance of her lyrics. 'Galang' is the kind of record Missy Elliot used to make a few years ago, but Laandon.

7. Maximo Park – Apply Some Pressure
So good we had this single twice - one of the real pleasures of 2005 has been watching the Park's transformation from obscure arty types into bona-fide popstars. Their appearance, second time around, on Top Of The Pops this autumn was a real treat, and 'Apply Some Pressure' is a great example of what they do; ultra-tuneful guitar pop, clever arrangements, and maximum enthusiasm. And Paul Smith is the new Jarvis – clever, wry and so uncool he's ultra-cool. Watching him twist his body fiercely around the final lines on TOTP was thrilling, "You know that I would love to see you in that dress! I hope that I will live to see you undressed!". Ace.

8. Futureheads – Hounds Of Love
Granted this one came out so long ago that it seems like it should belong to 2004 not 2005, but there's no point underplaying how great this song is. It showcased everything that is unique about the Futureheads, their excellent taste, their playfulness, their arranging skills and their singular way with a melody. It took me a bit longer to learn to love the winter's underplayed 'Area', which suffers by comparison, but is still pretty great.

9. Josh Rouse - Winter in the Hamptons
I know absolutely nothing about this, other than the fact that Vic told me about it ages ago and it's been stuck in my head ever since. The most musically pretty song on the list with a guitar line which recalls Peter Buck, a yearning Smiths style chorus and a divine 'ba ba ba ba ba ba' hook. If someone could tell me more about Josh Rouse without me having to use google I'd be grateful.

10. Spoon – I Turn My Camera On
It took me several years longer than everyone else to get into Spoon, but this year's Gimme Fiction, sometimes reminiscent of Bowie, Steely Dan and Pavement, really grabbed me. But it was the album's stand-out track and single, 'I Turn My Camera On', which I kept coming back to; a gorgeous Beck-like slice of indie-funk, all space and bass and a beautiful vocal to boot. Genius.

11. Young Knives – Junkymusicmakesmefeelbetter EP
Can't remember offhand which track led this E.P, but assuming it was the best of the four: a beautiful looped guitar line riding on a metronomic drumbeat and a crisp bassline, 'Trembling Of Trails' is the best thing from the terrific Young Knives yet. Most impressive is the yearning, youtthful vocal, occasionally tearing into momentary violence. The lovely "got my papers, and my ticket for the train / To anywhere" refrain was stuck in my head all winter. I predict a dazzling debut album from this lot.

12. Mystery Jets – Alas Agnes
I saw the Mystery Jets supporting British Sea Power this year and thought they were either tremendous or terrible and couldn't make my mind up; it seems awfully soon for a progressive rock revival. Nevertheless, their magnificent remix of The Futureheads' 'Hounds Of Love' and this single made my mind up – they're one of the most interesting new bands in Britain. 'Alas Agnes' is a lunatic stomp through about six different genres, finally settling on sounding somewhere between Ian Dury, Cud and Dexy's Midnight Runners. One of the most unaccountably bonkers single of the year, but one of the best too.

13. Good Weekend by Art Brut
I absolutely loved the Art Brut album this year; it's absolutely fantastic, totally focussed and enthusiastic where the likes of Babyshambles are shambolic and nihilistic. 'Good Weekend' is the best by far, a lovestruck descendent of the Buzzcocks, the Television Personalities and The Streets, where Eddie Argos's studied cool falls apart and he exclaims, in a rush of frenzied excitement, "I've seen her naked TWICE! I'VE SEEN HER NAKED TWICE!!!". Pure Joy.

14. Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl
I always felt slightly upset that my inbuilt music snobbery meant that I could never enjoy 'We Will Rock You' by Queen as much as everyone on Gladiators, or wherever it was played. But finally I have a stompy, anthemic song which I can sing along to when people want a bit of pomp and ceremony. And this, crucially, has a refrain which goes "this shit is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S". It's also courageously stripped down; Stefani constructs some lovely synth washes for the chorus but holds off from using them every time; when they do appear it's shiver-down-the-spine stuff. Her best song of the year, mind, was the wonderful Jacques Le Cont remix of 'What You Waiting For', which re-imagined the original track as a nine-minute New Order house homage. But it wasn't a single in its own right, so never mind.

15. Stephen Malkmus – Post Paint Boy
Steve Malkmus seems to be that dreaded thing, an albums artist, these days, but that doesn't mean he hasn't released a couple of really great singles this year – 'Pencil Rot' first, which was a strange delight with a welcome rap middle section, and 'Post Paint Boy', which was a straightforward delight for anyone who has come to admire Malkmus's skewed, languid and melodic songwriting style over the years (and regular readers will note wearily that, erm, I have). The lyrics, as ever, are an utter delight. "Post-paint boy, with your art / you're penny rich and dollar dumb / in a world that has become / so American". I can follow it 'til he starts talking about "seventeen anteaters, sequestered in a room / with the sisters and mothers of famous gluttons I don’t know", at which point I lose track of things. Great song, though, and I dunno whether Steve is being genuinely tender, but the bit where he sings "I'm really really really really proud of what you did" gets me every time.

16. The Wedding Present – I'm From Further North Than You
The return of the Wedding Present, the band that got me into indie music, was always going to be a marvellous nostalgia trip for me. What I didn't expect was that, in late 2004's 'Interstate 5' and 2005's 'I'm From Further North Than You', the reformed WPs would produce two of the finest singles of the last few years. This latter was exceptionally lovely, Gedge at his finest, lovelorn and a little bitter. "Yeah, we're the same, in many ways", he sings, "and I admit we had some memorable days", before the pay off. "...But just not very many".

17. Roll Deep Crew – The Avenue
I was so dissapointed that Wiley's career didn't really took off last year, and it looks like the likes of Kano and Lethal Bizzle are only faring slightly better, so it's little surprise that he returned to the scene with a pop record rather than something inaccessible and strange, and so far the strategy seems to be paying off. In At The Deep End is a peculiar, hodge-podge album, as is the lead-off single, 'The Avenue', which finds the crew trading verses over an old Marionettes record. It's such a lovely, straight-forward concept coming after all of Wiley's astonishingly dense production to date, and it works brilliantly.

18. Love Me Like You by the Magic Numbers
Victims of a lot of criticism this year for being, depending on who you believe, another bunch of post-Pet Sounds california pop soundalikes, or just too fat to be worth bothering with, no-one seemed to notice that the Magic Numbers were as indebted to the lovely, frantic indie of The Wedding Present and their C86 comrades as they were to Brian Wilson. For precisely that reason there's lots to love, and 'Love Me Like You' was a fine and underrated pop single.

19. 22 Grand Job by The Rakes
There were few records as unlikeable as the Rakes' disappointing debut this year - laced with misogyny and fillers - but in 'Strasbourg' and '22 Grand Job' they created two excellent, itchy singles. The latter is a minute and a half of ironic angst and is ludicrously exciting. "22 grand job", they chant, "in the city, that sounds nice, that's alright, that's alright".

20. Movement by LCD Soundsystem
Yeah, I know, they're horribly fashionable and also strangely outdated already, but the LCD Soundsystem record was awesome in places and this strange slab of Fall indebted punk rock was a brilliant, savage, singular tune. Nothing on the album to compare with the first couple of singles though, but maybe that's just the shock of the new

21. The Kaiser Chiefs - I Predict a Riot
Yes, they're kind of rubbish, yes, everything they do seems horribly calculated, but the Kaiser Chiefs have two undeniable qualities; their live show, which is genuinely very good indeed, and the fact that they occasionally get that boundless enthusiasm over into their music with good results. Their debut single, 'I Predict A Riot' is so much better than the rest of their material and a sign that better things may yet be to come. Funny lyrics, odd melodies and this was a great single.

22. Franz Ferdinand – Do You Want To?
The album was a bit dissapointing, and Liam Gallagher might be right to say that Alex Kapranos sounds like Richard Fairbrass, but that doesn't stop the lead-off single, 'Do You Want To' being utterly brilliant and terrifically catchy, riding as it does an addictive rhythm and a vocal harmony that Duran Duran are presumably proud of. Franz Ferdinand have created some decent songs but in 'Take Me Out' and 'Do You Want To' they’ve created two masterful pop singles – no mean feat.

23. British Sea Power – It Happened On An Oily Stage
This year BSP were supposed to break through, and I suppose in retrospect they didn't quite manage it, but they still had a pretty good year, and remain by some distance the most interesting band around right now, even if they only really manage it on a conceptual angle. The first single from their second LP, 'It happened On An Oily Stage' treads a familiar path; Yan's half-whispered vocals, a lead guitar line which echoes the vocal melody and a propulsive bassline which carries the tune. There's still a sense that BSP could be really popular, I think. Whether they want to is another matter. But we need hits with lyrics like "He found god in a parking lot / and you did not".

Honorable mentions:
Rachel Stevens - Negotiate With Love / But Said Never Again (And Here We Are).
Both ace. Rachel Stevens still can't sell any records. Mystifying.
New Order - Krafty
Almost heralded a complete return to form; there's some fab stuff on the album too.
Mylo – In My Arms
Brilliant album and several brilliant singles too.
Le Tigre - After Dark
Wouldn't it be great if Le Tigre made the leap from underground darlings to pop heroes? On the evidence of 'After Dark' that isn't such an unlikely proposition. It'll never happen though. Ah well.
Bloc Party – So Here We Are
A crisp, beautiful single.
The Killers – Mr. Brightside
Or, the theme to Jamie’s School Dinners, as I now think of it. Overplayed, overplayed, overplayed, but it's still very good.
Sugababes - Push The Button
Lots of great pop single this year but this was one of the best – when the Sugababes do a greatest hits record it'll have a surprising number of brilliant tracks.

Some others: I'm convinced I've missed some really great stuff. Comments box please if you spot something I've failed to include, or want to tell me that I'm wrong to deliberately exclude something you rate.

UPDATE: Everyone keeps telling me off for not including the Arcade Fire. Ok, sorry, good point. It'll have to be confined to the honorable mentions though...

Arcade Fire - Neighbourhood no.3 (Power Out)
Splendid and uplifting, yes - but for me it works best live; it wasn't until I saw them live that I really figured out why people love them so much. All the same, this is a lovely, ragged single.

UPDATE 2: Anne-So points out that I didn't include anything by Brakes. Good Point. I think 'Ring A Ding Ding' should have probably been in my top ten, but I, er, forgot it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


God, yeah I know, shit, sorry - no updating for ages; I'm really not a very disciplined writer at the moment; blame nanowrimo, it killed me. On the other hand I have spent the last few days acccumulating some nice digital photos so once I'm back in Brighton (er, tomorrow) and the blog springs miraculously back to life you might even get some nice colour images to look at and stuff.

Spent most of Christmas with family friends in Marlow doing the drinking and eating stuff and having a nice time; now I'm beginning to have dark thoughts about the resumption of work. Sorry to anyone who reads this and is back already - feel free to insult me in the comments box.

more to follow before the end of the world, I promise.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

7 things to do while drunk at 1 in the morning

Excellent, I love getting asked to do memes: here we go:

Seven things to do before I die

1. Have my band release a 7" single
2. Have a novel published, sorry.
3. Stick by my friends.
4. Drink lots of wine
5. Become financially sound.
6. Magically reverse my rubbish health.
7. Make lots of new friends.

Seven things I cannot do:

1. Summon up unalloyed enthusiasm about the future (it scares me).
2. Pretend that I am unduly pessimistic either.
3. Stop looking at girls in the summer.
3. Sit quietly while others talk.
4. Bear silence.
6. Concentrate.
7. Listen to people saying they like Oasis without getting really angry.

Seven things that attract me to my spouse:
1. Sadly,
2. I
3. can't
4. answer
5. this
6. question
7. :-(

Seven things I say most often
1. "Ok, when can you deliver your manuscript then?"
2. "Ah"
3. "A pint of San Miguel please"
4. "Pavement. Pavement Pavement Pavement."
5. "Look at that cat!"
6. "Come and watch my band play next week"
7. I dunno. "Morning"?

Seven books (or series) I love (at this precise moment)
1. Anything by Pamela Hansford Johnson
2. Anything by Tim Parks
3. The Alteration by Kingsley Amis
4. The Underground Man by Mick Jackson
5. Anything by Robert Irwin
6. Anything by PG Wodehouse
7. Anything by Michael Palin

Seven movies I watch over and over again
1. The Missouri Breaks
2. The Big Lebowski
3. Dodgeball
4. Look at Me
5. Rushmore
6. This Is Spinal Tap
7. Manhatten

Seven people I want to join in, too
1. Anyone with a blog who reads this, please.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

mobile phone games

Here's something stupid. I've got one of those silly platform games on my mobile phone ("bounce") which has, for the last six months or so, proved my most vexing intellectual sparring partner. About a month or so ago I finally completed the bloody thing, but the progress of trying and trying and trying to make that little red ball bounce over the pillar but not into the path of the scary spider clearly rendered me an addict, meaning that the last month or so has seen me forlornly breezing through the game repeatedly at bus stops and train platforms, wishing I could re-create the thrill of doing it when I couldn't get anywhere.

Having finally got to the stage where I can now complete the whole thing in a matter of minutes, and suffering withdrawal symptoms, I had the idea of trying to play it with my phone upside down. Okay, I know - it was a long train journey home and I'd finished my book. Anyway, turns out it's not so hard when you get used to it, and I'm once more racing through the levels, albeit with a slightly higher stupid mistake ratio. One thing that really surprised me, though, is that considering every object on screen is spherical, square or expressionless - and thus the game looks broadly the same from whatever angle - I find playing it upside down extremely disorientating, as if it is me that is hanging upside down or walking on the ceiling or something. I can practically feel my ears popping. Strange. Anyone else tried this? Same feeling?

I'm gonna have to buy a new phone or something.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

miriam in america

Does Virginia always look this autumnal? It's as if the entire passage is filmed through a sepia lens, a startling panoply of yellows, where every colour is somehow treading the path from green to yellow to beige.

I am in Sheffield on a work trip, having shirked out of the cold Yorkshire night and a meal out at my employer's expense, and have bought cold food and wine from Marks and Spencer. So I sit in front of my TV in my hotel room, which smells slightly of sour milk, and watch Miriam Margoyles, the host of BBC2s Dickens In America, opening a truck which is loaded with withering tobacco leaves. She wrinkles her nose in moral horror, because she loathes smoking, and then gives in and sinks her face into a bale of leaves and inhales the smell of dry tobacco - her face hints at a state of bliss. Elsewhere she buys a pouch of chewing tobacco named 'Oliver Twist' and expectorates, disgusted, a brown patch of spit onto the beige pavement.

I've never seen Dickens In America before and within five minutes it has leapfrogged Life In The Undergrowth and Question Time and become my favourite programme. Maddeningly, this is the penultimate episode and I have missed the rest. More maddeningly, I only think to post this to my blog a week later, when I realise that I missed the subsequent episode. Miriam is following Charles Dickens' path through America, in case that wasn't clear.

Moving into Maryland, we visit state penitentiaries in Philadelphia; the palatte alters from brown to grey, although the maroon prison uniforms are unpleasantly vivid. Words such as 'therapeutic' and 'rehabilitation' are bandied around, which must be an advance upon Dickens' time, if nothing else. In what genuinely looks like a fairly progressive womens prison, the host is measured for glasses by convicts who, in Miriam's terms, "glowed with humanity". It's intriguing to see this presentation of the American penal system. Dickens was horrified by the state of prisons in his day. Make no mistake, the fashion for ludicrously overpopulating prisons remains appalling, but I expected the host to peddle the same line. To see a prison experience which knew redemption not just revenge was welcome, especially in the week that Schwarzenegger bolstered his fading reputation with the Republican right by choosing not to revoke the death sentence hanging over the reformed Crip Stanley 'Lookie' Williams.

It's impossible to discuss the South without reference to religion. Religion is sincere but a mass of contradictions; Miriam finds personification of this in Kenneth, a black preacher who teaches not only to love one's brother, but to make sure one is capable of shooting him, also. Miriam picks up a gun with a beguiling combination of reluctance and excitement. She is an excellent shot.

She is horrified by Kenneth's ideas yet attracted by his tenderness; just as in Virginia she gets on like a house on fire with the tobacco farmer, here again she comes face to face with her enemy and discovers to her horror that she likes him.

She moves inland towards Pittsburgh, that ugly confusion of buildings, and beyond. The journey West. Of the heartlands Miriam admits that she knows no more than Dickens. He said that Pitsburgh, drenched in smoke, was like Birmingham. I don’t think he intended it as a compliment. By the time Dickens reached Pittsburgh he and his family were dreadfully homesick. He eased the pain by playing maudlin songs on his accordian.

"Children frighten me", Miriam admits. So she heads, like Dickens before her, to the Pitssburgh free school and decides to take on those kids – they are seated at the back - who declare that Great Expectations is boring. She seeks to alter that perception. "Sometimes if you love someone and they do not love you back it is the worst thing in the world", Miriam tells them. "Do you know what I mean? The rejection?"

She reads from Mrs Haversham:

"I'll tell you," said she, in the same hurried passionate whisper, "what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter–as I did!"

Her passion is remarkable. She inhabits the role. The children look terrified, and they look rapt. Her enthusiasm is utterly infectious. By now she is my favourite person on TV. Miriam looks back on her success with the children. She describes herself as being 'Martian'. That’s good, she reckons. I think so too.

Moving further south along the Ohio river Miriam notices the grisly skeletons of trees on the river bank: their bleached arms. The trees which bend to the water, washing their hair in it. Dickens is an extraordinary writer, so those phrases are his, and not mine. She travels to Cincinnati, where she purs over a first edition of Domby and Son. "Look", she says, "it carries an advertisment for an 'improved elastic chest expander'". She looks down at her chest. "Something for which I have no need".

To right any misinformation, she is a small, eager, slightly batty woman built along the lines of a barrel.

When Dickens read his books, she tells us, he would laugh at the funny scenes and cry at the sad ones. The same sense of untramelled emotion vibrates through her enthusiam.

Dickens loved Cincinnati, although he was shocked by his fellow man's eating habits. It doesn't seem to have rankled quite as much as his habit of spitting tobacco, but he wasn't happy. Miriam couldn’t care less. But she attends an 'etiquette dinner', snorting derisively at the concept of 'rules'. She starts to argue. Go Miriam! The whole pointof meal-times, she states, is to get as much food into the mouth as possible. She is charmed by the notion of these young Americans trying to better themselves, but is severely reprimanded for trying to steal someone else's soup.

To Louisville next, which we're told is the home of baseball, bourbon and the Kentucky derby. No one can agree how to say Louisville. The city is the crossroads linguistically between the north and the south. Fix, for example, is a word Dickens noted. A man fixes himself, and is dressing. If you are ill, you will be fixed. Miriam notes that some Louisville residents are fixing to go shopping. And fixing to go get my hair fixed, in one heaven-sent example.

Dickens was a bit superior about all this stuff, but then he had good reason to be. Miriam inherits his superiority. "I can’t help feeling", she tells one surprised interviewee, "that my language is better than yours". But Louisville can claim its share of linguistic innovation. At one point Dickens is accused of writing a "sockdollinger" of a novel.

Excessive playfulness abounds, I can’t make head nor tail of it. Nor can Miriam. "I don't know what to say about Louisville", Miriam admits. She seems more a fish out of water here than anywhere else. "These people are not my folk", she says, bewildered. I decide to go to Louisville one day.

She climbs aboard The Delta Queen and travels from the Ohio river to the Missisippi, which Dickens described as 'the great father of rivers, who has no children like him'. Words fail me to describe these visions, and they do her too, so the film fixes on the view and resorts to a couple of minutes of stately blues dubbed over the scenery.

Dickens however, had no such descriptive difficulties:

"The decline of day here was very gorgeous; tingeing the firmament deeply with red and gold, up to the very keystone of the arch above us. As the sun went down behind the bank, the slightest blades of grass upon it seemed to become as distinctly visible as the arteries in the skeleton of a leaf; and when, as it slowly sank, the red and golden bars upon the water grew dimmer, and dimmer yet, as if they were sinking too; and all the glowing colours of departing day paled, inch by inch, before the sombre night; the scene became a thousand times more lonesome and more dreary than before, and all its influences darkened with the sky."

The sight of The Delta Queen by night is quite unlike anything else, like a swimming fairground, lit from below with demonic light, its huge paddle wheel churning the river. Miriam regales her fellow passengers with stories, but takes the opportunity to laud not Dickens but his wife. Dickens ultimately left "his darling wife" for a young actress, she gossips, shaking her head and puffing out her cheeks. So she raises a toast to Catherine instead. Marvellous.

The series is not only uttery fascinating, it's beautiful edited too. At the point where Miriam disembarks at Cairo the delta blues ring out, piercingly tragic. This town, Cairo, destroyed Dickens' hopes for America. It was too much to bear. It's Eden in his David Copperfield, a "hideous swamp". Some in Cairo feel that Dickens cursed the town, for his grim vision was prophetic.

Cairo has had very ill luck. A population of 15,000 is down to 3,000 now. To see it, it's a ghost town, utterly derelict. Shops can be rented for a dollar a year. Back then white kids learned to swim in the public baths; the blacks in the Ohio river. The Civil Rights movement missed out on Cairo and didn’t hit 'til 1967. It turns out that Cairo de-segregated in 1976, which is astonishingly recent, only a year before I was born. But the consequence was that the white community just upped and left, leaving the city's economy to rot. Miriam spoke to a resident, Preston, who was utterly dedicated to saving the community. Like Dickens, Miriam can't bear the lack of promise, and is desperate to escape, so like him she hits the “corduroy roads” West.

So next Dickens - and Miriam - pitched up at St.Louis, a port drenched in sun, looking in the ancient pictures which Miriam unearths like a beautiful American Venice. It was here that Dickens, rapidly tiring of the US, encountered Native Americans for the first time. They were being evacuated from their reservations, thrust West so that the European settlers could expand into their land. The experience moved him terribly. He described the chief whom he befriended as "as stately and complete a gentleman of Nature's making, as ever I beheld".

Dickens knew what it was to be an outsider, Miriam reflects, so he understood terribly the horror of what was being done to these people.

Before he left America, Dickens was determined to see the West, so a trip was arranged. For Miriam too. The episode ended with a picnic on the prairie. Dickens was exhausted by that stage, and disappointed with what he saw. Miriam looks as happy as larry. What a genial host she is. She promised Canada for the next week, although I missed that - damn. The best series I’ve seen in bloody ages.

The credits rolled with Miriam considering Canada. What would she find there, she wondered? Trees?

“I know nothing about trees”, she admits, on shaky ground for once. “I mean, I like them, but…”

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Oh great

I just did this 'Bem Sex Role Inventory Test' (via Andrew) and disovered that I am...


I scored 50 for masculinity and 60 for femininity.

Apparently I have a "strong personality exhibiting characteristics of both traditional sex roles".

Great. Take the quiz yourself here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

new brighton blog to look at

My friend Natalia has just started a blog - Oily Marks Appear On Walls - where she blends environmental stuff with interesting looks at stuff she sees and does. Take a look; I like her short post about a car hitting a pile of papers in the road...

new strokes album

5 things i've noticed about the new Strokes album today:
1. It sounds like they're actually trying this time round.
2. Juicebox is shit the first time you hear it.
3. But it's ace after the fifth listen.
4. It sounds like Nirvana.
5. Juicebox, I mean. Not the whole album. The rest sounds like The Strokes, but not a shit version of The Strokes, like Room On Fire. A good Strokes.

john lennon is everywhere, groan

I like the way that on 6music they keep referring to the 25-years-dead John Lennon as 'murdered-music-icon John Lennon'. So as to differentiate him from other John Lennons presumably. Tons of bloody awful music abounds on the radio as a consequence of the anniversary - a good night for going out.

A quick mention for Julie Burchill first, however, for her response to the 'where were you when you learned that Lennon had been shot?' question.

"I don't remember where I was but I was really pleased he was dead, as he was a wife-beater, gay-basher, anti-Semite and all-round bully-boy."

pinter's acceptance speech

The Guardian has rather fawningly reproduced Harold Pinter's ripe, over the top but marvellously entertaining Nobel Prize Acceptance speech from last night, and it's well worth a read. As you might imagine, it's beautifully written, self-contradictory and contains some bloody awful poetry (from Pinter, and some beautiful words from Pablo Naruda). Apparently it was screened on More4 so I'll have to try and track down a copy, I'm sure it'll be doing the rounds on the internet before long.

The real treat, apart from a rare insight into his writing methods, is Pinter on truth, his masterful juxtapositions: "Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period", he says. We may also know about US foreign policy in the Phillipines, Grenada, Nicaragua and Iraq, and yet at the same time, "It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest." Elsewhere, "Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries", and yet he asks, "Did they take place?" On Iraq he emits the same thrusting, unequivocal language as George Galloway, which is rhetorically off-putting and yet unarguably true.

"The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading - as a last resort - all other justifications having failed to justify themselves - as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London."

Friday, December 02, 2005

late night licensing in brighton part one

Non-Brighton residents might want to skip this one:

The Albert, 48 Trafalgar Street - 11pm every night
Aquarium, 11 Steine Street - Weekdays 12am, weekends 1am
Barley Mow, 92 St Georges Road - 11pm every night
Basketmakers Arms, 12 Gloucester Road - Sun to Weds 11pm, Thurs to Sat 12am
Bath Arms, 3 Meeting House Lane - Sun to Weds 12am, Thurs to Sat 1am
Battle of Trafalgar, Guildford Road - Sun to Thurs 11pm, Fri and Sat 12am
Bedford Tavern, 30 Western Street - 12am every night
Black Lion, 14 Black Lion Street - Weekdays 2am, weekends 3am
Browns, 3-4 Dukes Street - Thurs to Fri 12pm, Sun to Weds 11pm
Caxton Arms, North Gardens - 11pm every night
Chequers Bar, 45 Preston Street - Sun to Weds 12am, Thurs to Sat 1am
Chimney House, 28 Upper Hamilton Road - Tues to Sat 11pm, Sun 9pm, closed Mon
The Couch, 82 Dyke Road - Sun to Thurs 12am, Fri and Sat 1am
The Crescent, 6 Clifton Hill - Sun to Thurs 11pm, Fri and Sat 12am
Cricketers, 15, Black Lion Street - Sun to Thurs 11pm, Fri and Sat 12am
Doctor Brightons, 16 Kings Road - Sun to Thurs 12am, Fri and Sat 1am
The Dragon, 58 St Georges Road - 11pm every night
The Druid Arms, 79 Ditchling Road - 12am every night
Druid's Head, 9 Brighton Place - Sun to Thurs 1am, Fri and Sat 3am
Duke of Beaufort, 175 Queens Road - 11pm every night
The Eagle, 125 Gloucester Road - Sun to Thurs 12am, Fri and Sat 1am
The Earth & Stars, 46 Windsor Street - Mon to Thurs 12am, Fri and Sat 1am, Sun 11pm
Easy Bar, 10 Cranbourne Street - Weekdays 1am, weekends 2am
The Engineer, 32 Argyle Road - Sun to Thurs 12am, Fri and Sat 1am
Evening Star, 55 Surrey Street - Sun to Thurs 11pm, Fri and Sat 12am
The Fiddlers Elbow, 11 Boyces Street - Weekdays 12am, weekends 2am
The Font, Union Street - Sun 10.30pm, Mon to Weds 11pm, Thurs 12am, Fri and Sat 1am
Fortune of War, 157 Kings Rd Arches - Weekdays 11pm, weekends 2am
The Freebutt, 1 Phoenix Place - Sun to Thurs 11pm, Fri and Sat 1am
The George, 5 Trafalgar Street - Mon to Thurs 11pm, Fri and Sat 12am, Sun 11.30pm
The Golden Cannon, 21 St George's Road - Sun to Thurs 11pm, Fri and Sat 1am
Grand Central, Surrey Street - Weekdays 12am, weekends 1am
The Great Eastern, 103 Trafalgar Street - Sun to Tues 11pm, Weds and Thurs 12am, Fri and Sat 12.30am
Greens, 62 West Street - Sun to Weds 12am, Thurs to Sat 1.30am
The Hanbury, St Georges Road - 11pm everynight (The Venue up to 2am)
The Hobgoblin, 31 York Place - Sun to Thurs 12am, Fri and Sat 2am
Horatio's Bar, Palace Pier - 11pm every night
Lion and Unicorn, Sussex Street - Sun 10.30pm, Mon to Sat 11pm
The Lord Nelson, 36 Trafalgar Street - 11pm
Marine Tavern, 13 Broad Street - 12am every night
Market Inn, 1 Market Street - Fri and Sat 1am
Montepelier Inn, Montepelier Place - Sun to Thurs 12am, Friday and Sat 1am
Pedestrian Arms, 13 Foundry Street - Sun to Thurs 12am, Fri and Sat 12.30am
Polar East, St Georges Road - Weekdays 12am, weekends 1am
Pond, Gloucester Road - Mon to Sat 11pm, Sun 10.30pm
Prodigal, 80 East Street - Mon to Weds 11pm, Thurs 11.30pm, Fri and Sat 12am, Sun 11.30pm
Pull & Pump, 1-2 Clarence Gardens - Sun to Weds 11pm, Thurs 11.30pm, Fri and Sat 12.30am
R Bar, Marine Parade - Mon to Thurs 2am, possibly 24 hours Fri to Mon
Robin Hood, Norfolk Terrace - Sun 11.30pm, Mon to Thurs 12am, Fri and Sat 12.30am
Royal Albion Roof Terrace, Royal Albion Hotel, 35 Old Stein - residents only after 11pm
Royal Sovereign, Preston Street - Sun 11.30pm, Mon to Weds 11pm, Thurs to Sat 12.30am
Setting Sun, Windmill Street - Sun 11.30pm, Mon to Weds 11pm, Thurs to Sat 12am
Volks Tavern, Maderia Drive - Fri and Sat 3am, 24 hr licence for Bank Holidays
Walkabout Inn, 79-81 West Street - 1am every day
Wetherspoons, 20 - 22a West Street - Sun to Thurs 12am, Fri and Sat 2am

Thursday, December 01, 2005

art of noise getting louder

I'm back. Today is a nice day, because it's the first day in a month where I haven't had to write a minimum of 1,700 words. Nanowrimo is finished, thank god, and I can at last do simple things like watch a film, have a pint, listen to records, surf the internet, without feeling profoundly guilty and like I'm letting myself down in some pathetic way. That said, it's a bit early to say whether or not a month of furious scribbling has (a) got me into the habit of writing regularly, or (b) completely burned me out. Hopefully the former, which would indicate that I should be back to blogging a respectable amount again in the run up to Christmas.

In the meantime, some good stuff to keep you going.

The Art of Noise blog is looking better and better, with Jonathan from Crinklybee and Phil from Danger! High Postage! joining myself and Ben in contributing regular music posts. Our A-Z feature has proven even more successful, with a whole bunch of us taking on a different letter of the alphabet each week and offering a variety of music-related contributions. Catch up by following the following links to see what we said:

To start with, A (where I discussed the XTC album Apple Venus Vol. 1 and others dealt with Adam & The Ants, the Alabama 3, amplification, the songwriting partnership that is Anderson/Butler, Asian Dub Foundation, The Auteurs, and Jez's rather open opinion on anyone...)

The Letter B (where I took a sabattical, and others took on Backini, bass guitars, the colour black, the Blackpool Empress Ballroom, the Bluetones, bootleg t-shirts and that perennial of pop, the broken heart).

and finally, C (where I discussed Clap Your Hands Say Yeah alongside posts on Camber Sands, Casablanca Records, the compilation It's a Cool, Cool Christmas, fellow Brighton boys Clearlake, the Radiohead song 'Climbing Up The Walls', the ghastly Coldplay, the Concretes, and crowdsurfing).

D next week, obviously. Ben has put out a fatwa on Dido entries, which is a pity.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

humanist meme

A great quiz via Andrew at Bloggers4Labour; according to the New Humanist magazine's quiz I'm a handholder. Andrew is a hardhat, which sounds much cooler, and has a better image, damn.

You go out of your way to build bridges with people of different views and beliefs and have quite a few religious friends. You believe in the essential goodness of people , which means you’re always looking for common ground even if that entails compromises. You would defend Salman Rushdie’s right to criticise Islam but you’re sorry he attacked it so viciously, just as you feel uncomfortable with some of the more outspoken and unkind views of religion in the pages of this magazine.

You prefer the inclusive approach of writers like Zadie Smith or the radical Christian values of Edward Said. Don’t fall into the same trap as super–naïve Lib Dem MP Jenny Tonge who declared it was okay for clerics like Yusuf al–Qaradawi to justify their monstrous prejudices as a legitimate interpretation of the Koran: a perfect example of how the will to understand can mean the sacrifice of fundamental principles. Sometimes, you just have to hold out for what you know is right even if it hurts someone’s feelings.

What kind of humanist are you? Click here to find out.

Hmm. Not so very far off, I suppose. Depressingly, I'm not sure that I have any religious friends, we're all hard-nosed atheists round our way. I don't believe in an 'essential goodness' in people anymore than an essential badness, but I take the point that I prefer to look at people in a positive rather than negative light, although that doesn't mean I'm not critical. I certainly don't wish that Rushdie had attacked Islam 'less viciously', although I'd very much like to see the passages in The Satanic Verses which are vicious, as Rushdie's attitude towards religion in that novel have been completely misunderstood by most people. I like Zadie Smith and Edward Said, yup. And I don't mind hurting people's feelings every now and again if it's necessary. Oh, OK, I do.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

daft people who are real men

The Polish Prime Minister, the delightful Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz has expressed concern that "unnatural" homosexuals might "infect others" with their deviant behaviour. Enough for yer man Peter Tatchell to organise a protest, and enough for the Guardian to post a short message about it on its Newsblog. It's the response from 'Stan' that is worth reading, however, for a sign that we can't get all high and mighty about the grossly unpleasant homophobia abroad before confronting the idiocy closer to home.

Stan comments that "Homosexuality is not a human right. It is a lifestyle choice. Of course, Im sure we'll start hearing about how we need to "educate" the Poles into accepting Homosexuality. Hopefully slavic men, just about the only real men left in Europe, will just laugh at these people". Stan's a real man, too btw. More interesting is the fact that he's not the first to reply with a splurge of drivel - an initial comment mentioned that "most people believe homosexuality is gross. Of course faith groups dont want to engage with you! Youre like someone going to a football game and demanding to watch cricket". This genius of this rather colourful comparison aside, the Guardian chose to delete the comment rather than let it stand. Good old Stan reinstates it. Both utter idiots, obviously, but should the Guardian have deleted the original comment? What do you think?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

rounder records top 40 2005

List season is really gearing up again, it's good to see. Here's the records of the year list by the lovely Rounder Records chaps: Bold and my marks out of five where I've got the record. Italics where I've never heard of it.

1. M.I.A. – Arular *****
2. The Rakes – Capture/Release **
3. The Arcade Fire – Funeral *****
4. Cut Copy – Bright Like Neon Love
5. Soulwax – Nite Versions
6. LCD Soundsystem – s/t ****
7. Vitalic – OK Cowboy
8. Broadcast – Tender Buttons ****
9. Stephen Malkmus – Face The Truth *****
10. Juan Maclean – Less Than Human ***
11. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm ***
12. Sigur Ros – Takk
13. Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock’n’Roll ****
14. Joyzipper – The Heartlight Set
15. And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Worlds Apart
16. Death From Above 1979 – You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine
17. Kanye West – Late Registration **
18. Sons & Daughters – The Repulsion Box
19. Cassetteboy – Dead Horse
20. Supergrass – Road To Rouen
21. Kate Bush – Aerial
22. Annie – Anniemal ***
23. Fischerspooner – Odyssey
24. My Morning Jacket - Z
25. Dangerdoom – The Mouse & The Mask
26. Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom – Days Of Mars
27. Brakes – Give Blood
28. Strapping Young Lad – Alien
29. Pendulum – Hold Your Colour
30. The Engineers – s/t
31. The Fall – Heads Will Roll ***
32. Bright Eyes – Digital Ash In A Digital Urn
33. Who Made Who – s/t
34. Calibre – Second Son
35. The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan
36. Husky Rescue – Country Falls
37. Turbonegro – Party Animals
38. British Sea Power – Open Season ***
39. Mew – And The Glass Handed Kites
40. Gorillaz – Demon Days *****

imperial injustice

Completely unbelievable news from the Imperial College in London, which has just annouced that it is banning all hoodies and headscarves for 'security reasons'!

The college's management board approved the new dress code at the beginning of the month. "Clothing that obscures an individual's face is not allowed on any of the college's campuses," it reads. "Employees and students should refrain from wearing clothing which obscures the face, such as a full or half veil, or hooded tops or scarves worn across the face."

College officials said the move was part of renewed efforts to improve security on campus after the summer bombings in London. It was also an attempt to combat theft and deter animal rights activists on campus. Security staff should be able to match a person's face to their security card, the regulations read.

But students are fighting the new dress code. This week they will debate and vote on a motion that would amend it to allow hoodies and all religious dress. Sarah Khatib, the deputy president of the student union who seconded of the motion, said: "Students should not to have to seek permission to wear any religious item. We all understand that the college wants to identify people, so we're trying to find a middle way.

"People have happily accepted the fact that there is increased security and they have to wear their swipe cards. But they aren't happy about the hoodies. It's a sign of youth, you wear it as a student, but not once you work in the city. People like wearing them and when it's cold the hoods are necessary. They feel it is an infringement on freedom."

Part of my job is going around University campuses (including Imperial) and in the last few years campus security has changed unbelievably; in many cases it's simply impossible to access university departments, libraries or amenities without prior arrangement and/or identification. Imperial is one of the few places where you walk in anytime, get in the lift and go straight to any department unchecked. You would think that fixing this security oversight might be a slightly higher priority than stopping Muslims from wearing headscarves or kids from wearing hoodies to keep out the cold. But no. Ridiculous.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


A quick note on the lack of updates; sorry all, there is a reason: I'm trying to do this nanowrimo novel-in-a-month thing at the moment and the fall-out is that I've not really got time to keep (a) blogging, (b) drinking to excess and (c) writing a novel. One of them had to go. That said, I will try to get a couple of posts up this week: I'm already overdue one for the Art of Noise blog.

In the meantime, writing a novel in 30 days is hard. I've done just over 21,000 words in 22 days, which means I have an almost impossible task ahead of me, but there you go. I need to write 3624 words a day, I think. God. So far I've managed an average of only 955 words a day, which is completely pathetic when you consider that this post already consists, at this point of 150. Ah well. I'm still hopeful!

Friday, November 18, 2005

news quiz highlights

A good observation by the wonderful Jeremy Hardy on the interminable Tory leadership contest:

"Don't you think it's rather funny that people now take longer becoming Tory Leader than they actually do being Tory leader?"

Very good. From tonight's New Quiz on R4.

hush collector

Went to the inaugral gig of Pete's lovely Hush Collector project last night, and really enjoyed it. First gigs are really tricky, especially when your sound is based upon delicacy and balance rather than energy and adrenelin. But the band wisely chose to play in a venue that suited their sound - Hove's dark, warm Sanctuary Cellar, a venue whose low roof and modest size ensured a good, vibey spirit amongst the attendees, amongst whom were myself and the rest of Assistant, Mark, Dan, Michi, Sandra, Chris, Benedict, Keith, and fellow Brighton blogger Abi Rhodes, who beat me to getting a review up.

Having negotiated a support band who sounded like they made incidental music for Richard Curtis films, Hush Collector took to a low stage in the corner of the room and spilled off the edges, giving the pleasant sensation that they were almost stood amongst the crowd at times. Their music is focused and bright, hazy rhythms with warm acoustic guitars and Katie and Poppy's doubled vocals, creating a gentle, country-tinged brand of melancholia. I was expecting them to be ethereal and airy but they weren't at all, the best moments coming when they pushed up the volume and locked into a groove. All the pianos and acoustic guitars might get a bit much for an unreconstructed indie kid like myself but Pete's super guitar playing, which dropped in and out of the mix, was really thrilling at the moments when it would appear unheralded with some new tough, bluesy riff. They were great.

You can visit their deceptively new-agey website here and get a copy of their CD while you're at it!

Momentarily sated with precise musicianship and delicate sophistication, you can see Pete back to form forgetting his guitar parts and hammering out stupid, repetitive indie rock with Assistant at the Cable Club on December 7th, don't forget...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

lost hair

God, I just watched the most boring episode of 'Lost' so far. Actually, it was the most boring hour of TV I've seen in a long time. I do feel sorry, however, for the men, who are forced to grow shaggy sideburns and grey-flecked beards because the women of the island are hogging the razors to keep their underarms and legs hair-free. Surely they could spare the blades for like, an hour? But no. They're in constant usage.

lazy post about music

Tim de Lisle of the Guardian has done of those pointless lists of albums that everyone should own kind of things which we bloggers get very excited about. It's a very bland, predictable list which doesn't contain any jazz or blues, hardly any hip hop and only one reggae record. I won't get into pointing out all the bands that produced awesome records that have been left off the list, just highlight in bold the records I own or, in the case of the iffy suggestion that 'best of' albums are preferable to individual efforts, own enough music by the artists to construct a best-of of my own. And, erm, Crowded House?

Here we go.

Studio albums (42):

Arcade Fire: Funeral/ Beach Boys: Pet Sounds/ The Beatles: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper, Abbey Road/ David Bowie: Hunky Dory, Low/ Johnny Cash: American IV/ The Clash: London Calling/ Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man/ Elvis Costello: Armed Forces/ Bob Dylan: Highway 61, Blonde On Blonde/ Bryan Ferry: These Foolish Things/ Fleetwood Mac: Rumours/ Fugees: The Score/ Marvin Gaye: What's Going On/ Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man: Out of Season/ Gorillaz: Demon Days/ George Harrison: All Things Must Pass/ Carole King: Tapestry/ Annie Lennox: Diva/ Nick Lowe: Jesus Of Cool /The Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs/ Mary Margaret O'Hara: Miss America/ Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon/ Prince: Sign O' the Times/ Radiohead: OK Computer/ Lou Reed: Transformer/ Roxy Music: For Your Pleasure, Avalon/ Scissor Sisters/ Sex Pistols: Never Mind The Bollocks/ Bruce Springsteen: The River, Born in the USA/ Talking Heads: Fear of Music/ U2: The Joshua Tree/ The Velvet Underground & Nico/ Tom Waits: Swordfishtrombones/ White Stripes: Elephant/ Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life.

Individual compilations (41)

Abba/ Blondie/ Blur/ James Brown/ Kate Bush/ Ray Charles/ Patsy Cline/ Sam Cooke/ Crowded House/ The Eagles/ Eminem (out Dec 2)/ Aretha Franklin/ Peter Gabriel/ Al Green/ Emmylou Harris/ Jimi Hendrix/ Michael Jackson/ The Kinks/ Kraftwerk/ Led Zeppelin/ John Lennon/ Kirsty MacColl/ Madonna/ Bob Marley/ George Michael/ Van Morrison/ New Order/ Randy Newman/ Roy Orbison/ Pet Shop Boys/ Elvis Presley/ Otis Redding/ Rolling Stones/ Diana Ross/ Simon & Garfunkel/ Paul Simon solo/ The Smiths/ Dusty Springfield/ T.Rex/ The Who/ Hank Williams.

Mixed compilations (3)

Shake, Rattle & Roll: 50 Classic Rock'n'Roll Hits/ The Songs of Phil Spector and the Brill Building/ Flashback! Classic Disco Hits.

Soundtracks (2)

The Sound of Music/ Saturday Night Fever.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

no luck for blair

I must say I'd talked myself into thinking that Blair would win today's vote on being able to lock up foreign-looking people forever without trial, but even in my hopeful moments I didn't think he'd lose by 31 votes. Well, he has, which is pretty amazing. I'm not bothered about Blair being given a bloody nose, but this is a rebellion on an unprecedented scale - what happened to Labour MPs being afraid of challenging their leader? That he had to deny that he will quit is pretty momentous stuff. Blimey. Most important is that a crummy bit of legislation failed. Good.

· 291 vote for 90-day amendment; 322 against
· 49 Labour MPs rebel
· Commons backs 28-day detention by 323-290
· PM must 'consider position' - Howard

sue axon and journalistic practices

Oh, blogging has got so hard since bloggers were supposed to start following journalistic principles - Mark has already pulled me up on one point in the comments boxes today where he's probably right but I dunno and I know I should check but I can't be bothered. Which is not good journalistic practice.

Equally I'd dearly like to write a post which proves that Sue Axon, the woman currently fighting a battle through courts because she claims that "parents have a "right to know" about sexual health advice and treatment given to their underage children" and that this is more important than young people's right to confidentiality when they go to a doctor or other health professional, is a stupid bitch. But I can't be bothered. Needless to say it's all about abortion really, and doubtless the fact that she suffers 'guilt and shame' at her own abortion 20 years ago gives her the right to stick her ill-informed head into other people's business.

Like I say, I should back all this up but... it's getting late and I'm tired. Sorry.

assistant mp3s / gig news

OK, apart from you lucky few that got sent a free CD last month, who haven't had to try (and those of you who couldn't care less) I know it's been an absolute bugger downloading Assistant songs for the last couple of months; those of you who haven't heard us yet and would quite like to can now shuffle along to our wizzy new myspace page, where you can hear and download a few songs and say hi. The URL is

Further, fans of what the Cable Club are enthusiastically marketing as a "fantastic night of progressive indie... with a side of melody" will be delighted to hear that in a little less than a month's time Assistant will be supporting the Republic Of Heaven and Boxer at Brighton's Cable Club. We're on first; you can come, watch us, say hello, get drunk, leave early, whatever you like. We're keen.

The Cable Club is at The Pressure Point, 33 Richmond Place, Brighton, BN2 9NA. Entrance is £4/3(conc) and the date (because I almost forgot to put that) is Wednesday 7th December. Our last gig of the year, so we'll bring the Christmas lights and a bunch of CDs. Hope you can make it.

more on paris

A few more links to stuff on the Paris riots, hope this isn't getting boring...

- Police have started, erm, rounding up bloggers who have been encouraging the unrest. I'd better watch my back.
"A 16-year-old French teenager and an 18-year-old of Ghanaian nationality are being questioned by Paris prosecutors, according to reports.

One of the blogs was called "sarkodead", a reference to the interior minister and presidential contender, Nicholas Sarkozy, who referred to the rioters in disparaging terms and has been singled out for criticism by many French bloggers.

The pair have been placed under investigation, which is a step short of formal charges under French law, for "inciting harm to people and property over the internet".
One of the blogs was here, but as you can see, it isn't anymore.

- Elsewhere, John West, a British blogger and journalist living in Paris, makes the following observation:
"Speaking of the rioters here, it is very instructive.The astonishing thing about them is just howpolitical they are. The interviews on the TV show the immigrant youth(whether first, second or third generation) to be eloquent and angry. Theylive in total shitholes. One Morrocan young man held up his French ID cardand said "I've had this three years, three years - but it means nothing.They only see my name and I never get the job." Much of the graffititargets Nicholas Sarkozy specifically, who called trouble makers "rabble"and insisted that the areas had to be industrially cleaned of thesepeople. It is stated fact that he opens his gob and the rioting massivelygets worse. His stoking the fire with hard-line rhetoric will eitherimplode his vile run for the presidency by linking him with division andviolence or will boost his standing with average-Joes who think it's hightime to bring back the guillotine."

- Doug Ireland, meanwhile, draws deserved attention to the disgusting behaviour of Sarkozy in recent days:
"Sarko" made headlines with his declarations that he would "karcherise" the ghettos of "la racaille" - words the U.S. press, with glaring inadequacy, has translated to mean "clean" the ghettos of "scum." But these two words have an infinitely harsher and insulting flavor in French.

"Karcher" is the well-known brand name of a system of cleaning surfaces by super-high-pressure sand-blasting or water-blasting that very violently peels away the outer skin of encrusted dirt - like pigeon-shit - even at the risk of damaging what's underneath.

To apply this term to young human beings and proffer it as a strategy is a verbally fascist insult and, as a policy proposed by an Interior Minister, is about as close as one can get to hollering "ethnic cleansing" without actually saying so.

And "Racaille" is infinitely more pejorative than "scum" to French-speakers - it has the flavor of characterizing an entire group of people as subhuman, inherently evil and criminal, worthless, and is, in other words, one of the most serious insults one could launch at the rebellious ghetto youth."

Back to more conventional media:
- Jonathan Freedland argues that what has happened in France was inevitable:
"The riots themselves are not hard to fathom; several French commentators have said the only mystery is why they didn't break out 15 years earlier. If you corral hundreds of thousands of the poor and disadvantaged into sink estates and suburbs in a misery doughnut around the city, expose them to unemployment rates of up to 40%, and then subject them to daily racial discrimination at the hands of employers and the police, you can hardly expect peace and tranquillity. Cut public spending on social programmes by 20% and you will guarantee an explosion. All you have to do is light the fuse."

- French youths spit invective in Jon Henley's latest round-up from Paris:
"We hate France and France hates us," he spat, refusing to give even his first name. "I don't know what I am. Here's not home; my gran's in Algeria. But in any case France is just fucking with us. We're like mad dogs, you know? We bite everything we see. Go back to Paris, man."
Another states:
"We burn because it's the only way to make ourselves heard, because it's solidarity with the rest of the non-citizens in this country, with this whole underclass. Because it feels good to do something with your rage."

- Agnès Poirier sticks up for the French model, but admits that:
"Some commentators, especially across the Channel or the Atlantic, think the response is self-evident: the Republican model has failed. Intégration à la Française doesn't work. France's grands mots - liberté, égalité, fraternité - are hot air; racial discrimination is the fundamental problem. France must be blind not to see its 6 million Muslims suffer from endemic racism every day.

Those critics are right - but only in part. What do we see when we look at the "burning suburbs"? Dissatisfied youth with little education, hardly any job prospects, from poor and often broken families. Their misery is first of all social and economic. They are white, black, "beurs" (second- and third-generation north African migrants); they are from Muslim, Christian and secular backgrounds. They are the French people who feel they are not represented by any political party, and especially not by the French left. And this is more dangerous than any ethnic minority riot - it constitutes a revolutionary ferment."

quick tony, stop 'em learning

Revealing stuff from yesterday's Guardian which I forgot to post. Cherie Booth has revealed that, as a student from a poor background, she was only able to go to University because of the local authority grant which she received. "The truth is", Booth says, "if I hadn't had the funding from the state to go to university I would have worked in a shop." Obviously given that New Labour abolished free university education in 1998, the temptation is to say, "lucky you!".

Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on education, said:

"I warmly welcome Cherie Blair's recognition that a free university education was vital for her and, by implication, vital for tens of thousands like her.

"It's a terrible tragedy that her husband has decided to pull up the ladder of opportunity behind him".

Granted, it's fairly predictable that everyone jumps on a statement like Booth's as an opportunity to give Blair a kicking, and I'm doing it too, but the facts are irrefutable. The govt. have brought out the usual nonsense about how the new system would still have allowed Booth the same opportunities, but of course that is blatantly untrue, as if she were a current student who received financial help commensurate with her poor background then, she would still amass a prospective debt, taking into account fees and living costs, of £28,540 by the time she qualified. Which would have certainly put me off, and I'm sure it would her too.

The president of the National Union of Students, Kat Fletcher, said: "Like many people of her generation, Cherie Blair had the chance to access education and change her life because of a free and fully-funded education system. Unfortunately her husband's government have decided to take that opportunity away."

Ho hum.

quick tony, privatise it!

It's two years to the day since Britain's sole state owned railway - South Eastern Trains - took over from the much-maligned Connex, so it's a useful time to take a look at it and see how it's doing in comparison to its free market rivals. Of course, the results are no surprise. It turns out that it's outperforming its rivals in terms of both efficiency and cost. As David Henke points out,

"All the more reason for New Labour to rush to privatise it - we can't have state firms proving they can do a better job than privatised companies"

Ho hum.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

the lost doonesburys (reprise)

I hate it when regular bloggers, columnists or cartoonists who I follow are away. Yes, that invariably gives others the opportunity to shine in their absence but i'm far too inflexible to cope with such upheaval, and want my daily fix, goddamnit. Luckily, when Steve Bell or Gary Trudeau are away the Guardian just runs old strips in their abscense, but it's hard not to feel dissapointed. Anyway - the Guardian did a re-run of Zonker getting the sack last week, which was funny the second time and all, but I've just seen the reason why it happened. Mike over at Troubled Diva reveals that there was going to be a week-long Doonesbury look at the controversial US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. However, her resignation made that impossible. Happily, the strips are at the Trudeau website so you can still read 'em and - surprise - they're very funny.

OK, not such a surprise then. Here they are.

love on the web

I do like monitoring the google searches by which people get to this blog - most popular by far at the moment is people looking for a certain female micro-celebrity (and host of Top Of The Pops) without any clothes on. I'm not sure why my blog features highly in this respect, as - sadly - I have no knowledge of the existence of any such photographs. Ah well - it could be worse: Tim's just disovered that he's google's no. 1 hit for 'nobly porno'. Blimey.

Anyway, one google search catches my attention this morning as being rather sweet. I particularly like it when people type questions into google, as if it is not so much a search engine as a genial expert - rather like Stephen Fry - who might be able to help. Today's go was 'Does Alex from Arctic Monkeys have a girlfriend?'. On behalf of the young person who penned that query, I can't offer an answer, but I hope that he doesn't, and that you have a chance.

Monday, November 07, 2005

rrright now i'm...

currently listening to:

1. The Young Knives - Trembling Of Trails (and anything else by the-new-official-best-band-of-2005)
2. Hockey Night - Get Real (Vic pointed me this way - really really impressed; the new Pavement, sorta)
3. Pavement - Harness Your Hopes (well, duh)
4. Faust - The Sad Skinhead (because it has a tune; amazing live last week)
5. Damian Marley - Welcome to Jamrock (farewell Summer!)
6. Modern Lovers - Modern Lovers LP (it was cool to be tone deaf in the 70s, too)
7. My Life Story - Angel (britpop nostalgia, oh no)
8. Gorillaz - Demon Days LP (just gets better with every listen)

rare football post

#Excuse me for crowing, but the new England squad has been announced and there are five Tottenham players in the squad (Robinson, King, Jenas, Carrick, Defoe) and four who plied their trade at the club previously (Campbell, Konchesky, Young and Crouch). Add that to the fact that if there was any justice Dawson and Lennon would be in there too, and surely will be before long, and... blimey.

#It takes a hell of a lot for me to spare Arsene Wenger an admiring word, but I've always been reluctantly impressed by his stylish and cutting response to Alex Ferguson's claim, a season or two back, that Manchester United were the more stylish footballing team. "Everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home", Wenger replied. Ferguson, whose loathing of Wenger is undoubtedly fuelled by his rival's more urbane and aloof persona, took this as a personal insult to his wife, when that was clearly not the barb intended.

Which makes it all the more surprising that Wenger, whose wit only partially redeems him against all the other things I hate him for (he's Arsenal, basically), has taken grave offence at Jose Mourino's similarly cutting remark that Wenger, who is always very happy to offer an opinion on Chelsea, is a "voyeur" - in other words, someone who is always looking at other teams rather than his own. Indeed, for a manager who perpetually "didn't see the incident", he is indeed always very happy to slate other teams.

Yet he genuinely does seem to think that by calling him a "voyeur" Mourinho is making a personal insult. Granted it's a petty trading of insults from men who should know better, but there's something very sad indeed about news that Wenger is thinking of suing the Chelsea manager over the comment. Daft.

#We turn again to Tottenham, then, for closing comments. The Spurs manager, the lovely Martin Jol, had a similar set-to with Iain Dowie last year. Unlike Wenger, Jol and Dowie never went to court. They just got it over with.

Jol said Dowie wasn't "fit to mend my shoelaces". Dowie told Jol to "show some balls". And then they made friends. Jol says:

"He's a nice fellow, and I would drink a lager with him".

Quite proper.

last call...

I think today is the last day for voting at the Brighton and Hove Web Awards. If you're minded to lend me your vote, please click on the icon below and vote for Assistant Blog. Thanks!

burning cars and dodging cops

Interesting that the papers have finally pushed the French riots onto the front pages today; The Independent leads with an aticle entitled 'Libertie? Egalite? Fraternite?'. As a question it barely needs answering but the Indy provides answers anyway:

"LIBERTÉ? French Muslims banned from wearing headscarves in school.
ÉGALITÉ? France's non-whites twice as likely to be unemployed.
FRATERNITÉ? French government admits integration policies have failed.
RÉALITÉ: Riots erupt for eleventh night."

The Guardian travels the half mile from the Cite des 3000 to central Paris, where, in Aulney-sous-Bois, Jon Henley encounters little sympathy for the rioters: "how dare they mock the police?" asks one man. "They should send in the fucking army", says another – conveniently missing the point that the reason all this is still going eleven days on is because of the absurd and provactive reaction of Sarkozy (not the one where he called the inhabitants of the suburbs 'vermin', but the one where he sent in what Naima Bouteldja calls 'a massively disproportionate police presence in the first few days of the riots'). That, after four days – when the riots were calming down – the French authorities took the opportunity to tear-gas a mosque is another indication that sending in the army is, um, unlikely to make the situation any better. In an environment where police brutality is an everyday experience, they mightn't even notice the difference.

Amnesty International reported as recently as April of the "generalised impunity" with which 'the French police operated when it came to violent treatment of young men from African backgrounds during identity checks'. The report states that:

"The French government ministers, judges and senior police officers are allowing members of the police force to use excessive and sometimes lethal force against suspects of Arab and African origin without fear of serious repercussions".

It's naturally very important - and not just because it's tragic watching people tear up their own community - that the French government find a way of stopping these riots as soon as possible. As Hugues Lagrange points out,

"If such attacks are not brought under control, the population of these poor neighbourhoods, initially supportive of the 'kids' in their confrontation with the police, will turn against all rioters. That would again give the upper hand to heavy-handed repression"

John Snow, over on Snowmail, raises some interesting questions. I'm not sure whether they're supposed to be rhetorical or not:

"Watching the ongoing riots in France raises three questions for me: Are the French where Britain was in 1985, when policing and a central government, blind to social reality, lay at the heart of race riots here? And if, as some say post July 7, multi-culturalism in Britain has been deemed a failure, what about French "integration"? Remember it's only a year or so since France pushed through the hijab ban in schools to reinforce the secular foundation of the Republic and the primacy of citizenship over religion. And where are the young women in all of this?"

Melanie Phillips, of course, has something to say on the matter too, although it shouldn't come as any surprise that she's talking absolute shit.

"In line with routine contemporary moral inversion, in which the perpetrators of violence are excused and their victims blamed instead by an alliance of Muslims and western decadents (Britain was blamed for the July bombings of its citizens because of Iraq) the French authorities are being blamed for fanning the flames of discontent by discriminating against the country's Muslims… Is every country to be held responsible for the jihad being waged against it - despite the fact that in every case the alleged provocation is different — rather then responsibility being properly assigned to those who have declared war upon the free world?"

So she gets bonus points for the first ludicrous mention of the word 'jihad' in connection with this protest. Mad woman. To clarify, the Union of Islamic Organisations in France has indicated in the strongest terms that "It is strictly forbidden for any Muslim... to take part in any action that strikes blindly at private or public property or that could threaten the lives of others".

In the meantime, an Interior Ministry statement states that 839 more vehicles were torched overnight. Thirty-four police were injured in clashes and 186 rioters detained. Rioters are now shooting at the police. Chirac, who clearly has no ideas whatsoever when it comes to resolving the situation, is – remarkably - standing by Sarkozy. Christ.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Watching with mounting horror all the stuff that's going on in France - what's most worrying about it is that it's hard to see an end in sight; the event which precipitated it can have no conclusion, and only in any case proved a touch paper for other, far less easily solved problems. Meanwhile French authorities label the rioters 'thugs' and 'scum' and tear-gas mosques. How long will it go on and how far will it spread? You get the feeling the French authorities will have to scalp Sarkozy if they really want to end the conflict.

In the meantime, we have a government which has decided that the French model of forced integration is the answer to the threat of terrorism. Hopefully they'll take a look at what is happening in Paris, Rouen, Dijon, Strasbourg and Marseille and think again.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

lost the plot

You don't half get some stupid adverts. There was one on just now for the DVD set of the first 12 episodes of Lost. The voiceover, in gruff, hollywood style?

"You haven't seen LOST until you've seen it on DVD. Out now".

In what sense haven't I seen it, since I saw it on the telly, eh?
Good advert.

the faust tapes

Wow, saw the incredible Faust at the Old Market in Hove last night and was massively impressed; I woke feeling fragile this morning and wondering how I was going to convey either the music they created or their unique stage presence, so am relieved to note that the also-in-attendence Andrew has done a proper job on it over at B4L, describing how he wasn't quite prepared to see:

"a 50-something French hippy (Jean Hervé Peron) ironing an audience member's jacket on stage, as a burly German drummer (Zappi Diermaier) beats the steel pipes he is holding aloft with a hammer before carving them up on stage with an axle-grinder, sparks flying across the stage. A flautist attempts to play a real clarinet and a child's plastic one simultaneously. A screaming-chorus of local popstrels accompanies one song, a marching band of local trumpeters and saxophonists another."

Musically, they sounded impossibly fresh given their age, veering from bursts of extreme avant-noise to shards of melody. My only regret is that I didn't catch as much of it as a sober version of me would - I kept veering into the bar, although happily, as Andrew noted, "it's liberating to be able to hit the bar during a performance, drift back, and find the band still in full flow."

At one point about two hours into their set, the marching band who had been accompanying them left the stage. With Peron thanking the audience for their support (support which, incidentally, was in places delirious; we stood next to a portly elderly hippy with his shirt open who was clearly transported back to '68) the venue clearly mistook the mood for a finale and raised the house lights. They stayed on for a minute, all of us blinking, (note to Faust, you guys look better with the lights down), during which I was compelled to shout 'turn the lights back off'. I'm not sure if Peron heard me or not, but he seemed to look over in our direction when he reassured us 'Don't worry, we're not even half done yet'.

Best gig I've seen all year, and I missed half of it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

the blogs of brighton

A slightly depressing evaluation of the Brighton blogging scene comes via Mock Duck, who found trawling through the Brighton and Hove Web Awards longlist "as soul-destroying as when I was following links from CVs of hopefuls applying for jobs". Elsewhere, she suggests that "I mean, a blog is pretty much a blog, isn't it, unless it's really remarkable, single-issue or has an unusual purpose" - but I don't think that's true.

There are, on the face of it, comparitively few blogs produced in Brighton which tally with my interests or approach a subject from a particularly groundbreaking subject. But blogging isn't, and needn't be, consistent. To get the best out of blogs you need to read several and find what interests you amongst all the detail. Perhaps some of the Brighton blogs are not immediately diverting, but there's plenty there if you look.

And there are actually quite a few Brighton blogs which contain very high quality content - largely the product of able and articulate writers or talented artists. Of course there are tons of blogs which focus on what might be loosely termed by some as 'boring subjects' or have approaches which might be considered amateurish, but there are blogs out there - I'm thinking of Zender Bender, Naked Translations, The World Is Full of Pisswits, Chicken Yoghurt, Free Speed Nation or Emilie - all of which have exceptionally written content which I'd kill to be able to reproduce here. Sometimes excellent blogs have little more going for them than the commitment of the writer or the faith of the reader. But I was surprised to see the scene dismissed so quickly - there's more to local blogging than you might think.

On a similar subject, I note that I'm briefly mentioned in a nice article on blogging in Brighton from this month's Insight, although annoyingly my life's dream of being interviewed and being dazzlingly brilliant in a newspaper will have to wait a bit, as they asked pretty much everyone for a quote but me!!! And I have friends on that paper!! Bah. It's a great article, however, and I am vain enough to want to tell everyone about it and shout "Look! There!!! That's my name! See!!!".

So you can read it here, if you like. Thanks to Anne So and Jane for drawing that to my attention...

Monday, October 31, 2005

80s popstar in savage attack

OK, I know I'm really immature, but just as a month or so ago I derived great pleasure from the following headline on yahoo, "Heidi Klum and Seal have baby boy", I've just spent the last five minutes chortling and snorting beer out of my nose at the following yahoo headline, which gives the flip side of the coin.

Seal bites off women's nose.


record round-up

A quick round up of records which I haven't got round to talking about:

Field Music – Field Music
I've been really obsessing over the details in this lovely record since I bought it a month or so ago; it's perfectly executed, a gentle, pristine pop record with strong echoes of Steely Dan and XTC. Every song is a complicated gem, bursting with interesting melodies, impossibly sweet chord changes and the same geordie lilt that makes The Futureheads and Maximo Park so enticing. It's the kind of record which is so subtle and lovely you start to really worry for their future – Field Music are the kind of band who could slip under while less deserving band claim attention. This record proves they don't deserve to.

The Fall - Fall Heads Roll
Which is certainly the best Fall record in many years, possibly since the early 90s. For the first time in an age, Mark E. Smith's boys really sound like a band, and Smith's willingness to let some of his younger colleagues contribute songs which fearlessly deviate from the Fall sound (some are improbably melodic, although Smith's vocals are not) sounds positively revolutionary given that progression is not quite what one associates with Peel's fave band – Mark E. Smith did after all proclaim that the ethos of his band was the three 'R's – repetition, repetition and repetition. Here The Fall sound energetic, youthful even. 'Blindness', with it's savage churning bassline, really is up with the group's very best songs. 'What About Us', meanwhile, finds Smith aggrieved that, er, Harold Shipman wasn't a bit more generous when he was handing around the morphine – the chorus is a wondeful chant of "What about us, Shipman?". Only MES.

Rakes – Capture/Release
A surprising record this, because on first lesson it sounds kind of impressive, until you dig a little deeper and find there's nothing there. I picked this up the same day I got Art Brut's magnificent debut album, and it speaks volumes that I took this long to mention it. In fact, it's a record which, a couple of admittedly great songs aside, I've really come to dislike. It's odd, because 'Strasbourg', with it's bleak soundscape and (for once) interesting lyrics ("I'll meet you in West Germany / October 1983") and the super-immediate '22 Grand Job' are super. But the problem is, in affecting a comparable tone to that employed by Art Brut's Eddie Argos, (ie – snotty indie brats writing about their lives) Rakes completely fail where Art Brut suceed; they don't manage to be likeable. The lyrics are fatuous, unimaginative and absurdly sexist - what a bunch of dickheads. That, coupled with the suspicion that, having written a couple of great singles they didn't bother much with the rest, makes for a distinctly underwhelming debut. A shame.

fun with george

Victoria just sent me on this link: definitely the best thing I've seen this week. Granted it's only Monday, but I'm curious to see what could top this for a moment's diversion:

Excellent stuff, but you don't really feel the benefit 'til you try dragging and dropping.

oh for more time

Am weighing up the pros and cons of attempting Nanowrimo again - it's due to begin tomorrow. Um. Nanowrimo, in case you've not heard of it, stands for National Novel Writing Month, the principle being that we all know that we'll never get round to writing a novel, but we all want to do it, just the same. Nanowrimo requires you to give up 30 days of your life and force yourself to write a 50,000 word novel in that time.

Which means knuckling down and forcing yourself to write - being short on time makes you short of inhibitions, short of the normal impulse to go back and chop and change and frustrate yourself with the intricacies of plot. This way the only way to write it is to write it, as fast as you can and as free as you can. You mightn't end up with something worthy of the Whitbread Prize, but face it, you'll never write a novel any other way.

All this and more I told myself this time last year (in fact, I even told you, too), but... well, it's no surprise that Nanowrimo didn't work out for me last November. I wrote about 11,000 words, I think, in the end - which is pretty credible but not good enough when you need to be writing around 1,700 words a day.

So I'm tempted to try again as of tomorrow. I have a laptop now, so it should be easier to do. On the other hand, if I say I'm going to do it, I surely won't. So I might.

Apologies in advance if I post a 50,000 word novel to the blog in a month's time :-)

brighton web awards

The shortlists are up for the Brighton and Hove Web Awards, and the people doing the nominations have rather peculiarly excluded the best blog on the longlist from the 'Personal Sites and Blogs category' - not sure I understand that. Ah well.

All the same, there are still some really good sites to choose between. It'd be much appreciated if you vote for me, obviously! Otherwise, I really like the depth and breadth of content over at Olivia's Blog, Yummy Wakame, so that's a good bet.

The runners:
Sketchy Animation
Yummy Wakame
Assistant Blog
Zender Bender

You can vote for Assistant Blog here. Please do!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

shut up, i'm trying to watch the band

Brakes, the band who bring together members of Brighton's Tenderfoot, Electric Soft Parade and British Sea Power, played one of the best live sets I've seen all year at the Concorde 2 earlier this week.

They were preceded by the odd and interesting Chris TT, who we unfortunately only caught a song and a half of, and only the half close enough to the stage to hear his witty, satirical lyrics breaking through a pleasent if not groundbreaking Badly Drawn Boy / Elvis Costello-esque stew. The most memorable lyric being "No-one's got any goood red songs anymore / and Billy Bragg has gone fishing in his 4x4". You suspect that Chris TT occasionally ends up rubbing people up the wrong way with his sarcasm, but on the evidence of a song and a half he might be worth looking into a little further.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Brakes; I'd heard roughly half their debut album and was impressed by bits and unsure about others. At times they seemed to veer slightly too far to the 'in-joke' category of indie rock. And yet they were really fine live, much better than I anticipated.

Like !!!, who played a riotous set at the Concorde a few months ago, or Maximo Park, who played a stunning, rousing version of 'Apply Some Pressure' on TOTP last week, Brakes are overflowing with enjoyment with their lot. Clearly pleased to be back in Brighton, they seemed instantly relaxed, inviting friends out on stage, tearing through the shorter numbers a couple of times, throwing in a couple of great cover versions, mucking about between songs and playing half a dozen numbers which clocked in at under two minutes. Several were under a minute.

One, the delightful 'Cheney' was under 8 seconds long. Lyrics in full: "Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, Cheney. Don't be such a dick!".

There aren't all that many bands who can get away with playing a Jesus and Mary Chain song (albeit a lesser JAMC song - in this instance the still pretty lovely 'Sometimes Always') and trump it with several brighter, better songs. Brakes managed by balancing the short, punky tracks with surprising gorgeous, graceful - if no less enthusiastic - numbers, brimming with memorable, chugging guitar lines, exciting breaks and even melancholy country rock melodies. I was briefly transported to a pre-britpop time where British bands as often as not took their lead from American indie rock rather than home-grown heroes. There comes a time when even I tire of hearing another guitar record with a New Order bassline.

That said, when they played 'All Night Disco Party', which I hadn't heard before, me and Vic swiftly concluded it was another cover. "That's why it's so much better than the rest of the set". But it turns out we were wrong and it's their own song. It is indeed one of their best, recalling the early 80s punk-funk sound recently recycled by the likes of Radio 4, or late Graham Coxon era Blur when Graham would wilfully destroy live renditions of 'Girls and Boys' with blasts of feedback.

When they played their new single, Pixies/Roxy Music hybrid 'Ring a Ding Ding', Vic turned round and said 'this is such a joyful song'.

Go and see Brakes if you can; they're excellent - spirited, imaginitive and joyful.