Tuesday, May 23, 2006

great escape day two!

Oh, I'm overdue on my Great Escape updates, aren't i? This isn't because I'm destroyed by a weekend of relentless gig-going, it's just that I'm currently in Edinburgh - my second favourite place in the UK - attending a conference, so am a bit behind with my blogging duties. Day two, then.

For which Vic, master-planner extraordinaire, must get all the credit, having decided quite sensibly to take control of the schedule and boss us into being organised. Her plan worked a treat. We started at 6.30 at the Spiegel Tent, where we were promised 'spiky girl/boy rock and roll from Australia' in the shape of The Audreys. Question one, then, posed from on-stage. "Erm, so did anyone come here expecting a spiky rock band?". The Audreys' biography, it turned out, had been written "by someone on drugs", hence the mislabelling.

As it happened, the Audreys were instead a highly accomplished and musicianly acoustic pop band, dabbling in folk, country and other gentle musings of a romantic nature. Consisting of drums, double bass, violin and understated guitar, as well as joyful vocals, they were very skilful and doubtless very good. But y'know, not my kind of thing, if you get my meaning - although I'm still feeling emotional about the death of Grant McLennan so it's probably the right time for a wistful Australian pop group to try me out. And they were incredibly Australian, as both Vic and myself noted; the singer, particularly, with her lilting accent and perma-smile, looked constantly delighted to be performing for us. She doesn't understand that we like our pop stars melancholy over here. Good stuff, generally, though, and a nice, easy introduction to the evening and a convenient way to begin to emerge, blinking, from my hangover. Their myspace page is here.

The next step was to run across town to the Komedia, where we met up with Anne-Sophie and Sam, for Mistys Big Adventure. Now, in order to explain the tremendously restorative nature of seeing this band, I probably need to explain that by the time we had dashed up there, my meagre half-pint of beer sloshing round my stomach and my hangover still pounding at my temples, I had promised Victoria that I would never drink again and expressed sincere doubts about my ability to get through the night. One glass of water later, and two songs by Misty's, I was grinning like an idiot, shuffling my feet merrily and laughing with delight at the band's brilliantly inventive, irreverant shtick. It was Pete Ashton who turned me on to Mistys, but it took me seeing them live - as it did him - for it all to click for me. They're stupendous; Grandmaster Gareth deadpan centre stage, his long hair tufting out from beneath a black hat, scowling and ranting, while all around him merry chaos explodes - a rhythm section so spot-on and tight they might as well be Blockheads, a guitarist playing lovely, odd trebly riffs, two gorgeous girls on saxophone and trumpet respectively, and, well, a character - the Erotic Volvo, no less - dressed in an enormous red suit with about fifty blown-up blue gloves stitched all over it. Dancing. Punching the air. Parading through the audience. It's like seeing Eamon from British Sea Power crossed with Barney the dinosaur. And just as much fun.

But Mistys, despite the air of cartoonish chaos, are no novelty act - like Dury and his Blockheads, who is the most obvious reference point, Gareth is a genuinely intelligent and original songwriter, and his lyrics, indeed his whole act, is genuinely subversive, whether he's embarking on anti-Dubya rants, singing acapella about 'peodophile priests', or in the magnificent set closer, which sees him narrating the story of a pop group. "Hang on a minute guys", he announces, mid song, before telling the rest of his band, "I've got a great idea. I'm going to go down to the record shop and buy a load of post-punk records. And then we can listen to them, and rip them off. And make a ton of money". It's chastening watching someone like Gareth, for whom (I suspect) fashion and money mean nothing in comparison with originality and integrity, because he exposes the dearth of ambition and purpose in so many others. He is relentlessly focused and his satire is razor sharp. His songs, meanwhile, are joyful, beautiful and hugely enjoyable. A massive plus. Myspace here.

Feeling hugely invigorated we dashed out into the rain and over to the Ocean Rooms, where we found, well, a long queue for the Young Knives, meaning that we missed the next band on our list (Ladyfuzz) but did get in in time to see the sophisticated and well-executed indie rock of Battle, who are a young band clearly on the brink of a break-through. Their sensitive, impassioned rock is nothing new - equal parts Cure and New Order with lashings of emo-style indie, but they inspire a mini-bout of hero worship from sections of the crowd. They're at their best by far when they abandon the heavy guitars and play with unusual rhythms and keyboard washes, although the flipside to that is that when they do, their influences are most clearly exposed. But they are powerful, intense and bright, and doubtless some people's idea of a very good thing indeed, although not really mine. Worth keeping an eye on though. Give 'em a try here, via myspace.

Which brings us to the night's headline band and - frankly - the reason I snatched up tickets for the Great Escape the second the line-up was announced. The Young Knives have been my favourite new band for ages but I've never managed to see them live before, although I know most of their set-list off by heart - this despite the fact that they've only managed a couple of singles with decent distribution, and somehow (so far) failed to capitalise on the popularity of bands like the Futureheads. The reasons for this, it is soon apparent, are both complex and easy to understand.

Firstly, the energy thing. When you see the Futureheads, or Maximo Park, for that matter, both get their kick from the enormous amount of energy they put into their show. That energy has done much to invigorate indie rock in the last year or two (and has done a lot to inspire, I suspect, the likes of the previously-flat-live Franz Ferdinand to raise their game in recent months). And their skill is channeling that energy so skilfully, using it to add texture to their songs without losing control of them. Yet with the 'Knives, the energy is the song, and losing control is part of the attraction, allowing that demented energy of theirs to run free. Considering the complicated, varied nature of the Futureheads' material, it's remarkable that their songs are so beautifully rendered in a live setting. Conversely, it's amazing that the Young Knives manage to make studio records as energetic as they do, because it's in the savage energy of their live set that the songs clearly belong. They are an absolute riot in the flesh, in other words.

And they're extremely loveable, too. Although you could probably excuse the Young Knives of having listened to a post-punk record or two, Grandmaster Gareth, you'd be mad not to appreciate that they are ploughing their own furrow. It's obvious from the moment they walk on stage, looking less like pop stars and more like middle-managers in a county town bank. The singer is wearing braces, for christ's sake. And while the songs obviously owe a lot to Adam Ant and XTC, amongst other influences, they are so peculiarly singular and brilliantly inventive. And it's frightening how many songs sound like hits, from the show-stopping 'Decision' through 'Coastguard' and 'Weekdays and Bleakdays', with it's marvellously delirious 'hot summer, hot hot summer' refrain, round to the awesome take on 'Rumour Mill' which closes the set. New single, 'She's Attracted To', features Henry boastinghng, adding ferocity each time he repeats it, that while 'you were screaming at your mother, I was punching your dad'. The song eventually erupts in a rare flash of guitar pyrotechnics from Henry. "Oh, I could do that all day", he said afterwards, before jerking his thumb at the House of Lords (his brother and the Knives' bassist). "He doesn't like it". The House wrinkled his nose up and shook his head, distastefully. "It's a bit show-offy", he agreed.

The interplay between the two is one of the best things about the Knives live, actually, whether it's Henry calling House "fatty" after the second song, or the delightful moment when he introduced a song as 'this is another one for the House to sing'. The crowd cheered wildly, bringing an immediate response of "Fuck off!" from the singer, outraged that we'd rather hear his brother sing than him (nonsense, of course). "Is anyone sticking around afterwards?", Henry asked, after one song. "Cos I am. And I'm gonna drink you fuckers under the table".

But the best thing about the Knives is the songs, the songs. I've not seen a set from a new band so full of killer melodies, humour, eccentric imagination or downright punk rock energy in, oh, ages. They've already made the best two singles of the last year, and are presumably fashioning the best album of 2006 as we speak. Who would bet against their being the best live act of the year, too? Not me, mate. Their myspace page is here.

Postscript: the photos. I've decided I'd like to learn how to take good gig photos, as literally all the ones I've taken with my new camera are in some way out of focus. I'd given up by the times the YKs came on. But since Friday, where I finally proved myself incapable of taking decent shots, I've finally read the manual and worked out, I think, where I'm going wrong. All in setting the camera up the right way, I hope. So I'm posting this as a reference point so that I can look back in a month or two and see how far I've come. Go and follow the link to Pete Ashton's blog above, if you wanna see how it should be done!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Young Knives

Ladies and gentlemen....
The best band in the UK right now. Wow. Just got home from seeing them. Woooooooooow.

Friday, May 19, 2006

day one of the great escape

Okay, day one of the Great Escape, Brighton's newest and coolest music festival is now behind me, although it took retreating to bed mid-afternoon to get me in a state lively enough to consider writing up yesterday's excitement and consider the options for the night ahead.

Quick summaries, then - first band up last night were a band I've been looking forward to seeing, and, happily, they were also the best band I saw yesterday, so I can feel smug. Prinzhorn Dance School, then - who have, unbelievably, not got a myspace page; imagine! - were, ooh, thrilling, seriously good. Although that's not surprising when you consider that they've caused a bit of a buzz in an alarmingly short time. The sound is simple; a sturdy, primitive and relentless barrrage of kick drum and bass guitar with squalls of jagged guitar and occasional bullet sounds from the snare, combined with primal boy / girl vocals. It made me think instantly of the wonderful Huggy Bear, while the Fall inluence was equally obvious, and some the guitar solos could have come straight off Slanted and Enchanted (take a look at the design of their website if you want proof of that influence). All the songs carried a snarling menace and a stripped down focus which made them very appealing. The final song, meanwhile, worked itself up into a terrific Fall/MBV crescendo. Not sure I'll see a much better band this weekend, truthfully.

Next up - after a trek to the Ocean Rooms - were a band that we thought were Norway's Super Electric. Ooh, we kept saying, look how handsome and Norwegian-looking they are! And it's funny, isn't it, how Norweigan accents sometimes sound quite American? The music itself was cool and lots of fun. The temptation to explain them as four big kids having a tremendous amount of fun with a bunch of kids' toys is hard to resist, although there may be more artistic reasons why they pursue a sound - propulsive, kinetic patterns of squelches and clattering rhythms - with toy keyboards rather than samples and sequencers. How much they were improvising I'm not sure, but their dynamic, hands-on electronica was cheering and involving. Just a shame that the Ocean Rooms was charging fifteen quid for four bottles of Staropramen. Oh, and guess what, they were neither Norwegian nor Super Electric. They were in fact, Toronto's lovely Holy Fuck. Myspace page here, with a couple of cool tracks.

Next on the plan was to head up to the Pressure Point and catch the Rumble Strips, but we stuck around to watch a few songs from Buck 65 (myspace), also from Canada, before we moved on, and enjoyed his set so much that we knocked our schedule severely out of kilter. Rapping over his records and pausing only occasionally to do a little, very rudimentary, scratching, Buck was an appealing, friendly presence, telling wry jokes between tracks and insisting that we all sing along to a new song where the only word in the chorus is 'Dang'. Far more folky and fun than his frequent puff-pieces in Wire magazine suggest, he was entertaining, and I was sorry not to see the whole thing, but we were determined to hotfoot it for the Freebutt to see The Crimea (myspace), and we just about made it, too, although we only caught the last few songs, which were well executed in a slightly serious, slightly epic English indie rock way, and I wish we'd seen more, or seen the small amount we did see more sober. By that point though we'd been going for hours and there was no sensible alternative but to head home and start recuperating for the next day's action.

Which is why we spent twenty minutes at the 80s club at the Penthouse, revealing our secret and shared liking for the songs of Mr. Mister, and several incoherent hours back at the after-show party thing at the Ocean Rooms. Time passed. I remember walking home in the rain. That's day one dealt with.

Plans for tonight? Les Incompetents, Howling Bells, Misty's Big Adventure, Ladyfuzz, Battle and (yipee!) The Young Knives. Then, if my stamina can take it, either Serena Maneesh or The Gossip. If I'm not dead. That's the plan. Tune in tomorrow to see how awry it went...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I am a socialist. I will infect you.

A few years ago, few people dared to call themselves socialists, [Chávez] says. Now it is different. "We have to marshal our ideas for a better world. We have to infect people. Let's have a badge, saying, 'I'm a socialist. I will infect you'."

Embarrasing admission of the day: Against all my better judgement, I think I am in love with Hugo Chávez.


Monday, May 15, 2006

my lastfm page

While sorting through a few of the links in my sidebar earlier today, it suddenly came to my attention that I've neglected to point to one of the few other places online where I can be found - my lastfm page, which feeds into iTunes on my computer and catalogues what I listen to each week. It's a fairly simple yet interesting tool, although not the most consistent method of tracking what I listen to, as my computer is only one method I use of listening to music.

My iPod supposedly should feed into lastfm, but it rarely seems to do so - for example, I spent most of last week with the new Ghostface Killah album blasting out of my headphones, but that doesn't look like it's been successfully noted. Anyway. Click here to see what I listen to on my computer, and gasp in amazement when you see who comes top in the all-times listened-to stakes...

This week's chart
1. The Blue Aeroplanes (25 listens)
2. The Futureheads (18)
3. Giant Drag (17)
4. The Go-Betweens (14)
5. Islands (14)
6. Mulatu Astaqé (13)
7. Dhaffer Youssef (13)
8. Steely Dan (12)
9. The Lemonheads (12)
10. Assistant (7)

One drawback of Lastfm, as you'll see, is that they automatically categorise my band, Assistant, as The Assistant, assuming we're the same band. They're a U.S lot. We're not.

Friday, May 12, 2006

theo walcott - past it?

is it just me is Theo Walcott, at 17 years of age, not a bit past it for international football? Ireland have just called up Spurs's 16 year old and a-bit-tasty-apparently Terry Dixon to their not-the-World-Cup squad. That makes him the new Theo Walcott, and I look forward to the new Terry Dixon in a week or two.

somebody's unholy hoax

Two great letters from The Guardian follow. First, Helen Brown's hilarious assertion that it is impossible to be good without belief in God, and then Claire Raynor's beautifully terse response. Great stuff.

"Julian Baggini's article on sin (G2, May 9) misunderstands the significance of sin. There is in fact no distinction to be made between doing something contrary to God's will, and doing something contrary to our own good. The Aristotelian guiding principle of human happiness, to which Baggini refers, is not intrinsically without reference to God's will - if human beings have been created by God, then the happiness of the rational animal will involve conformity to God's will, as only God can satisfy the human body and soul.

Of course today's youth is not amoral as such; young people are still human and capable of thinking about morality. But a true rejection of God is ipso facto a rejection of good: you cannot have the latter without the former.

Without the knowledge of God, one can neither fully appreciate the calamitous condition of fallen mankind, nor make fully informed moral judgements, nor by grace attain beatitude. To reject God's will is not to reject the arbitrary rule of a tyrant, but to reject the most loving overtures of the creator who has made us for the only lasting happiness, eternal happiness with him.
Helen Brown

"The arrogance of Christians like Helen Brown is breathtaking (Letters, May 10). To state as she does that it is not possible to be good without believing in a supernatural being domiciled in a supernatural heaven, who keeps his (never a her, of course!) worshippers in line by reminding the faithful of a disgusting hell ruled by another supernatural being, is positively juvenile. Indeed, by saying so I insult the many children I know who have a far clearer view of the real world than she does. I hope they will forgive me.

I am as offended as must be the many hundreds of thousands of other secular humanists who share the view of Thomas Paine - a real, breathing man, and not in the least supernatural - who, when quizzed by one of the sort of person that Helen Brown is and represents said: "My country is the world, and my religion is to do good." Like him, today's atheists need neither heavenly carrots nor hellish sticks to persuade us to be moral, ethical persons who love our neighbours as ourselves simply because it is the right and good thing to do, and not because of supernatural flummery.
Claire Rayner

Seeing as we're talking about both letter-writing and God, let's end with a quick verse from XTC's terrific 'Dear God', shall we?

"Dear God, don't know if you noticed, but
Your name is on a lot of quotes in this book...
That us crazy humans wrote,
you should take a look.
'Cause all the people that you made in your image
still believe that junk is true.
Well I know it ain't, and so do you, dear God".

Thursday, May 11, 2006

the waste memory-wastes

"I can still remember the night you sang 'Moon River',
The way the moonlight fell, like a bracelet on your wrist"

Somehow I missed this and just found out yesterday afternoon. I can't believe that Grant McLennan is dead. From the Guardian obituary,

"The Australian singer-songwriter Grant McLennan, who has died aged 48, would have recognised the irony of his own death - while taking an afternoon nap prior to holding a party - because his keen, literate songs always observed the nuances and mysteries of life. McLennan was half of his country's most critically acclaimed rock group, the Go-Betweens. With his songwriting partner Robert Forster, he pioneered a strong, subtle musical style that was lauded by critics and a discerning public."

McLennan wrote some of the purest, most idealistic, passionate songs I've ever heard. I don't think there's a better song anywhere than 'Cattle and Cane', nor a song which better evokes a sense of time and place. It should be the Australian national anthem.

God, the Go-Betweens were great; like all the very best bands it was about the dynamic between the individuals at the heart of everything - Robert Forster cool, elegant and detached, noting that "Hair is important. Hair is placed fairly and squarely upon your head, to be admired and cared for", while McLennan was naive, wistful and easy-going. Most songwriters would wilt in Forster's shadow, but that never happened with the Go-Betweens. This morning, sleepy and melancholy as I always am when I have a hangover, I listened to Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express on the train. Tremendously beautiful, if you've not heard it.

Over at A Cool Noise, there was only ever one band.

"So began a love affair that has never quite ended. More reliable and constant and long-lasting than any other love affair I've known. The Go-Betweens were a combination of two of the finest songwriters of my generation. In my pantheon of taste, there is noise, aural assault, depressive epics but only One Great Pop Group. One band who wrote the best melodic songs of hopeless or inspiring love. One band that with a couple of guitars and occasionally with a violin, could create atmospheres of spring rain, hot dark nights, stillness, and how a broken heart can heal."

I'm so sad and surprised at the news, and sorry that I'll never hear a new record or song by a tremendous writer and - by the sound of the eulogies I've read - a thoroughly decent man.

"When the rain hit the roof,
With the sound of a finished kiss,
Like lip lifting from a lip,
I took the wrong road"

The next beer is for Grant McLennan, agreed?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

hoggart on blair

I still have trouble liking Simon Hoggart after all the grim Spectator gossip a year or two back, but I have to admit that he is one of several journalists - like Nancy Banks Smith, Craig Brown or Jon Ronson - whose style can be much imitated but never bettered. His sketch of the extraordinary press conference Blair gave yesterday, in today's Guardian, is delightful.

""Oh, he's going to go all right. But not until he has transformed this country - health, education, climate change, housing, parliament itself. Yesterday he outlined a programme that would have kept the Victorians flat out for a century, while insisting that he would leave his successor plenty of time "to bed himself in".

It was wonderful: demented, mad, crazed. Did he hear what he was saying? Blazing neologisms flew past like those plasma things airmen imagine are flying saucers".

Later, having painted a precise verbal picture of our PM (specifically his eye, "closed like a lizard's when the questioning got rough, or else opened wide, like a poached egg on a slice of grilled gammon."), Hoggart goes on to address Blair on Brown...

""He will be absolutely New Labour to his fingertips!" he added, and we recalled that the chancellor's fingernails are chewed to rags, as if he is trying to get rid of the New Labour taint by eating it."

Brilliant stuff - more here, if you're minded.

Monday, May 08, 2006

links update

Just a quick note to let you know that I've finally updated parts of the links column over on the right, creating a new mini-section for 'mp3 blogs', stripping down the 'essential blogs' section, and remedying some broken links - so we are now hooked up, once more, to the blogs of my good chums Natalia, whose We've No Time For Later Now is here, and Tim, whose The Rambler has recently switched over to WordPress and looks lovely for it. His blog is here - and there are links to both over to the right.

I've stripped quite a few blogs out of my essential blogs list and added them to the blogroll - but this is not an editorial decision in any sense; those sites, like the always super Random Acts of Reality and JonnyB's Private Secret Diary, are just as essential as ever. It's just that I never seem to find the time to read them anymore, so they've been shunted accordingly. But they're still ace. Some blogs, sadly - like the brilliant The World Is Full of Pisswits - have disappeared, archives and all. Other faves likes My Unemployment have been quiet for a couple of months, but will hopefully spring back to life.

Anyway; there you go - feel free to go exploring...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

live blogging - lost transmission (pt. 4)

Live blogging three consecutive episodes of 'Lost'. Or am I? Scroll down for earlier posts.

12.15: Ha ha - happy days; my duties come to a premature halt.

No, my TV has not blown up, nor have I turned it off. Just turns out that the Guardian was wrong to say that they were showing three episodes in a row on E4. Just two, it seems. Well, that's actually quite a shame - despite it all I was looking forward to seeing what happened next. Well. Good things come to those who wait, and I for one will be... actually, I think I'll be going out the next time an episode airs. But never mind.

Thanks for reading, if you made it this far...

Live 'Lost'-blogging. Part three.

Currently live-blogging the first three episodes of the new series of 'Lost'. Scroll down for earlier comments. And I'm tired, so forgive me for being excessively sarcastic.

11.50. Hmm. Episode Two is really trying my patience. The storyline concerning Sawyer and the kid's father, currently playing pooh sticks on two raffia table mats in the middle of the South Pacific, could not be lacking any more drive or tension. Even the shark is lacklustre and failing to contribute. In addition, this element of the story (wherein they take it in turns to fall into the sea, then shout each others' names) is happening in parallel with - concentrate - the storyline that happened in the first episode. So rather than just get the raft storyline quickly out of the way, we're watching it cut with the bunker story. Yes. The one we've already seen. Ridiculous. So we're now forty minutes into Episode Two and have just caught up with the end of Episiode One. Stupid.

Meanwhile, the chaps on the raft have just made the protagonist of 'Jaws' look a complete pussy. They've dispensed with the shark with a single bullet. Easy. I'm reminded of Woody Allen in Annie Hall, saying, "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark."

A plot should be moving forward too, guys. The flashbacks of Walt and Michael (with lots of minor chords in the background) are even more predictable and flat. What I think we have here is a dead shark.

Do I really have to watch Episode Three?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

lost blogging part two

I'm watching the first three episodes of Lost and blogging the experience. Yeah, yeah, I know. Scroll down for earlier installments.

It's now 11.10.

OK, so the first episode has finished now. It did that annoying Lost thing of getting me intrigued in the last ten minutes, which means I have to stick with my plan of watching the next episode. They just pulled the old, tuggy-heartstrings moment of magic type stuff which irritatingly always works. Within minutes of Jack's patient getting the feeling back in her legs I was sighing and clucking like the broody friend of a new mother. And, yup, I was right. 'Desmond' was down the hatch, a moment of stunning foresight on my part which earns me, I think, another sizeable glass of wine. I've opened another bottle. Stay with me, friends.

'lost' live blogging part one

Okay, in the interests of journalistic enquiry and faced with the prospect of a cripplingly boring night in on my own with a distressingly three-quarters empty bottle of wine, I am forcing myself to watch three episodes of Lost. Four episodes if you count the fact that I watched the hour long synopsis of the first series, which, robbed of the dramatic tension of the individual episodes, revealed hilariously that there was precious little character development, serious narrative or events of consequence over the lengthy series.

But never mind that. We're half way through episode 1 as I type. Episode 1, Season 2, that is. I really hate it, by the way, how since bloody 24 and all those long running, fucking-boring American shows got big we've had to resort to calling everything 'season two', rather than 'series two'. I had a good laugh when I saw the DVD of Extras advertised as 'Extras, Season One'. Anyway.

10.40. Right now lots of people are lowering themselves into a hole in the middle of the Island, which appears to lead to the kind of supervillain's lair, deep underneath a dormant crater, which you find in 1960s spy movies. They are trying to escape from 'The Others', which is a bad Nicole Kidman film. Meanwhile the weird little kid, who is supposed to be kidnapped by pirates, appeared in the middle of the forest, gasping for breath and dripping with water. My theory is that Sawyer flushed his head down the toilet.

It's all gone a bit quiet and ominous now, and people are saying things - in the deeply tedious flashbacks - which we are I suspect supposed to find eerily prescient. "I'll see you in another life, brother", one says. Oooooh. Or in an underground lair?

Montreal At Night

So, while I was away in Montreal last week I did a really stupid thing. Over the course of the first four days or so I took a fair few pictures out and about in the city, but most were compromised by bad light and the endless rain. By the time the week was coming to a close and I was about to return, however, the weather suddenly turned and I had 10 hours or so of clear weather to make good on my plans to return with some decent photographs. So, sitting in my hotel room on my final morning, I turned on my digital camera, deleted the rainy, grey city from my sim card, and went back out into the sun.

My next action, naturally, was to find somewhere nice to have lunch and a beer, but - that done - I walked along by the river, my feet dry for the first time in the week, the puddles finally having evaporated or drained,and turned on my camera.

Or rather, I pressed the on button. And discovered, of course, that the battery was flat. Ha ha. So I have little to share, unfortunately, but will try to post a few pictures over the next few days. This, to get us started, is the view from my hotel room at night (click to enlarge).

It's good to have it confirmed that the pair of big red lips I kept seeing out of the corner of my eye was real and not, in fact, a figment of my feverish imagination.

Ten songs for the sixth of May

1. Ghostface Killah - Jellyfish ("Whether Jen, Don, or Shawn its the same situation...")
2. Band of Horses - Our Swords ("Count on us all stepping on our own toes tonight")
3. Islands - Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby ("the sleek sleek skeleton I hold")
4. Gnarls Barkley - Who Cares? ("nobody wants to be themselves")
5. The Streets - Never Went To Church ("just get on with work and sometimes things'll hurt")
6. Silver Jews - Horseleg Swastika ("every single thought is like a punch in the face")
7. Isolee - Jelly Baby/Fish (*hmm, two songs with 'jelly' in the title, must have my iTunes playing alphabetically by mistake*)
8. Mercury Rev - A Kiss From An Old Flame ("Who knows what black and crazy thoughts swim inside a girlfriend's heart")
9. Pavement - Ann Don't Cry ("there is hardly not a lot to say")
10. Leonard Cohen - Famous Blue Raincoat ("New york is cold, but I like where I’m living")

God, I listen to some miserable old music - you'd never guess i'm in a good mood this morning! The Ghostface track is the pick of the bunch, just wonderful. But I had to, er, pick the lyrics out of that one carefully in deference to my more sensitive readers...

dave, read this!

I didn't bother reading the review of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers album when I picked up The Guardian today, but luckily David at work pointed out that it did contain the following, hugely enjoyable opening:

Two years ago, when asked about current music, Nick Cave focused his ire on one band in particular. "I'm forever near a stereo saying, 'What the fuck is this GARBAGE?'" he fumed. "And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers."

Ha ha. I'm just posting this to irritate another friend called Dave, really, and he probably won't even see this. Ah well.

mp3 blogs, pearl jam and carl barat

I'm going to put aside some time this week to sort out and update my links column over there on the right - it's very out of date. In the meantime, why not trying saving money by not buying those new albums you want (The Streets, Flaming Lips, Vines etc - none are that good) and download some amazing and unusual stuff, instead. You do need to go and buy the Ghostface Killah album, however, as it's just stuuuuunnnniinng.

Places to go and things to download:

- r.bally.net; which is packed with great live sets from your indie rock heroes; a devastating Sonic Youth set has been a recent highlight, as were great performances from a youthful R.E.M and Neutral Milk Hotel, both of which are sadly offline now because of technical stuff. But this is one of the best music blogs going at the moment.

- Although Jennings, who runs rbally.net, says - not entirely without justification - that it's over at Heather Browne's blog, I am Fuel, You are Friends, that the best mp3 bloggage is going on. It's certainly worth a visit, although like a few of the blogs I'm mentioning, it does stray disconcerting into Pearl Jam / Soul Asylum territory occasionally. But she does have new Radiohead songs, for those of you who like that kind of thing, and some great old Evan Dando sets and great news for those of us who think that the Lemonheads were hugely under-rated.

- The ace Cable and Tweed is just a treasure trove of oddities and new bands, with new stuff worth looking at all the time. Definitely worth dipping into regularly. Plus they posted a couple of Silver Jews sets a while back, for which I will always be grateful.

- another great place for new stuff and some awesome live sets is the astonishingly detailed Bradley's Almanac, which provides so much useful information about Boston that I want to move there just to have a reference like that usefully to hand. Recent sets by the ever-present Silver Jews, The New Pornographers, and a wonderful, bruising set from the (hurray) reformed Th' Faith Healers, mark out the blog as probably the best place to download beautifully recorded live sets. Oh, there's a great, charming Billy Bragg set there, too.

- Elsewhere, I've been enjoying a vintage Juliana Hatfield set I downloaded from Sweet Oblivion, too. Ah. Juliana Hatfield.

- Again, tons of brilliant live shows available at Ear Farm, which I've only just discovered. I'm really taken with their 'Overlooked Albums of the 90s' feature, too. And, whooow, if you're anything like me, you REALLY NEED this 1992 My Bloody Valentine show.

- And lastly, I've been absolutely loving thursdayborn's stunning Awesome Tapes From Africa, which is exactly that, a selection of unique, fascinating music which the hiplife afficianado picked up on his travels in Ghana. It's only been going a month or so but so far there's been some dazzling stuff - my favourite so far being a raw and rich contribution from Karamoka Keita, which you must hear. Benn Loxo Du Taccu is brilliant for African stuff, too, incidentally.

I know I've said 'stunning' or 'dazzling' or whatever too many times in this post. I'm too gushing so I keep running out of superlatives. Bah.

Having slagged off Pearl Jam earlier - just 'cos I'd forgotten how it feels - they just played 'Alive' on Jools Holland's show, and I had more than a flicker of nostalgic pleasure. And now Carl Barat's new band, The Dirty Pretty Things, are on TOTP. Back in the heady days of the Camden Town mod revival, the one band we all quickly learned to laugh at (more than Menwear, I mean) was the flimsy and pissy Thurman, remember them? Well, Dirty Pretty Things sound just like them on the evidence of the song they just played. Ha ha. Nice work Carlos.

Friday, May 05, 2006

snakes and ladders

As is always the case when a government takes a battering - whether deserved or otherwise - in local elections, the reality is that tons of really good, conscientious people find themselves immediately thrust out of office. I think one can for the most part be optimistic enough to assume that they will be replaced with equally generous and committed people. But it's awful to think of the more than 300 Labour councillors - none of whom should have been punished because of Blair's wars or Prescott's infidelity - waking up this morning to find their jobs turned over to other people.

Over at the big table, of course - where you will find plenty of people who actually are responsible for Labour's fall from grace - little changes. Faces are shunted around a table. Not many big promotions for the younger crowd, no imagination. Clarke goes, Prescott stays with diminished responsibilities. And most importantly, Jack Straw, who has clearly been dicing with political death for ages by repeatedly stating that a war on Iran was inconceivable, has been swatted by Blair and deposed as Foreign Secretary. Cleverly, he's been made leader of the house, which should stymie any chance of his emerging as an ethical voice against the prospect of another disasterous war.

Elsewhere Ruth Kelly, predictably, is demoted while Patricia Hewitt retains her post. Poor old Peter Hain, surely due a more senior role by now, is left in Northern Ireland. It's good to see a promotion for Douglas Alexander, good to see no major promotion for David Milliband, and bizarre to see bloody Hazel Blears being given party chairmanship.

And thoroughly, utterly depressing that Blair still sits at the head of the table. But not much we can do about that for a while, is there?