Sunday, May 30, 2004


... and surprising to see 4 good bands on the same bill... After the horrors of that band showcase we attended at the Zap a couple of months ago the Totally Wired / Brighton Rocks event at the Komedia on Friday night was a reassuring reminder than not every band in Brighton is consumed with teenage angst. Further, we saw four bands with a bit of imagination.

The first, Turncoat, were reminiscent of Interpol and BSP, but not so much to make them a bore; their songs were a little odd and at times ambitious, sometimes introducing charming piano riffs and peculiar harmonies, though also resorting to a quiet-loud-quiet-loud formula which they would do well to dispense with. But that said I am famously intolerant of unnecessary loud bits and they would do just as well to ignore me. I don't think I'd buy their records, but they were promising.

Oom I like very much, beautifully programmed clunks and whirrs, guitars and the kind of blissy, engaging vocals which the likes of Lamb have made almost over-familiar: no disrespect to Oom, who did it very well.

One kind of wishes that the floodgates for trip-hoppy, glitchy pop music had not been opened so wide that so many inferior, coffee table acts got through - it dilutes the effect of the style when it is done properly. At their best (usually when the electronics took the lead), Oom were at least as good as any of the post Bjork, post Portishead contenders. Their set was about ten minutes too long, though.

La Momo are the most exuberant and fun band to watch; they seem to enjoy themselves. I always do too; their set is simple, insistent, peculiar and memorable. I keep thinking of the Residents' peculiar harmonies as their songs whizz along. La Momo are the first band I've ever wanted to join on backing vocals.

The Komedia (upstairs) is a really nice venue; perhaps the nicest of its size in Brighton (certainly an improvement on The Pressure Point and the Pavilion Theatre). The series of Brighton Rocks nights have been, I gather, quite a success, and I can see why. The final band of the night, Waxed Apple, were really super-engaging; no more bad indie haircuts, no more harmonies, and lots of fun with violins, cellos, huge drums, lurching bass and edgy electronics. Sampling themselves as they went along, delivering dizzy dub workouts or - once - an electrifying piece of instrumental hip hop with chilling RZA-style piano chops, they opened with the best couple of tracks I've heard live in a long time.

As the set progressed they seemed to wind down a bit, or perhaps I just got used to their unpredictable set-up and wanted more surprises, but they have the essence of a unique sound. Veterans of the Gravity newsletter reports of a previous show...

"They went all experimental on us. No drums, no violin and a new member with a bad, bad hat. The set started with nearly ten minutes of multiple seconds long movie dialogue snippets, each referencing the current war in Iraq. Added to that were locked grooves on a turntable playing Asian harps, chanting and birdcall; and live vocal sampling. It seemed like a completely new set; harsher, more effects, less laid back".

Without being able to tell you exactly what to expect, then, I recommend them...

Thursday, May 27, 2004

it says nothing to me about my life...

A great article here, which I turned up on some spurious web crawl; an utterly bizarre and peculiar examination of whether or not The Smiths were a conservative rock band. This author, who is clearly a bit mad, thinks they're not. I could quote from it pretty much at random.
"They confound whoever wishes to analyze them but the one thing they do not appear to be is conservative. When Morrissey sang "I'd like to drop my trousers to the queen…the poor and the needy are selfish and greedy on her terms" we do not think of laissez faire economics"

True enough. Granted our man gets a bit bogged down in discussing Moz's sexuality and gets a bit out of his depth, but he's never less than entertaining. At one point he cries

"This worthless era of hip-hop and rap is infinitely depressing"

Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ, Hang the... oh, sorry, got distracted.

Infinitely depressing? Oh, you Smiths fans! I thought that's what you LIKED!

In memory of...

Tracy Emin - Everyone I Have Ever Slept With

Jake and Dinos Chapman - Hell

Chris Ofili - Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars

some questions....

1. Why is that, even though I know very well that the clock on the outside of Brighton Station is at least three minutes fast, every single morning for the last three months, when I have got off my bus outside the station I have looked up at the clock and panicked? It's fast. I know it's fast. And yet every morning I forget. What is wrong with me?

2. Anyone else just feel really depressed at the incineration of all those works of art? It's just horrible. People tend to focus on the fact that Tracey Emin's tent has been lost but there's so much more that has been destroyed; the Chapmans' Hell (which was just magnificent), early Chris Ofilis, stuff by Sarah Lucas, Gary Hume, Patrick Caulfield, Paula Rego, 50 paintings by Patrick Heron (50!) - it's just tragic. The Daily Mail's suggestion that the art was 'just rubbish' deserves only contempt :-(

3. Anyone hugely cheered, despite it all, by Chris Ofili's response?

"The super hero Captain Shit has in-built protection against the flames of Babylon. He will return ... the saga continues."


(postscript; five minutes later.

Just read another quote; this time by Dinos Chapman. "It's only art - there are worse things happening around the world.")

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

baked assistant

Bit of a traumatic rehearsal last night, as Engines and Anvils made its customary last minute bid to get dropped from the set. The problem this time was an out of tune keyboard. We might be down to six songs for the gig, then, unless we can solve the problem quickly.... Set sounds great, that apart, though.

Been mucking around with designing covers for the last day or two. Quite like this one - kind of Watery Domestic-era Pavement...

The background is the super-exposed town of Shishmaref in Western Alaka, where global warming and the thawing permafrost are collapsing towns in on themselves. More info here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

bicycles and tricycles

Tried out the first three tracks of the new Orb album in MVC at lunchtime; odd that it's actually been so long since I listened to them that I'd kind of forgotten what they sound like, although I remember now. Of the three tracks only one really jumped out at me. The first, Orb is made me think of Groove Armada, consisting as it does of a laidback hip hop beat (played on live drums), a naff trumpet sample and moody, swishy synths. The next, Aftermath was much better; a brittle, fairly ordinary hip hop beat (which in fairness later twists into a much more appealing techno clatter) and string sweeps and a just lovely vocal from Soom-T, a really odd, juddering rap with bursts of near-patois and an accent which swings from New York to her native Glasgow. The Land of Green Ginger isn't a new song and I've heard it before, and it's kind of old-school Orb - an arpeggiated synth-riff which sounds great when it twins up, towards the end, with the tinny electro beat, but the vocal samples and ambient noodles are just so irritating. I'll have a listen to some more in my lunch hour tomorrow; so far my impression is that it's more beat-y than previous efforts, but a bit aimless thus far - at times it had me thinking of pre-Endtroducing MoWax stuff; head-nodding and well produced but ultimately thin.

Bedsit Bomber Challenges the Majors

An interesting Press Release concerning Bedsit Bomber below:

PRESS RELEASE: New Band Bedsit Bomber Challenges the Majors with Budget Online CD Store

more on Mike

Another odd thing about that Streets record - can anyone recall a record in the hip hop / garage / urban genre which resists all temptation to brag about the rapper's finesse with lyrics or beats? Better than that, the words "The Streets" don't even appear on A Grand Don't Come For Free. In fact the only mention of music on the entire record is when Mike mentions his, erm, admiration for Femme Fatale, and even then he's not talking about her mixing skills. The closest it comes to "Original Pirate Material - you're listening to The Streets" is that 'No-one gives a crap about Mike' chorus - that's the only way he refers to himself. And the only other mention of music on the entire LP is oblique; that awkward trance riff in 'Blinded By The Lights'. I'm not sure why I really like this fact, as I've no objection to name-dropping in music. I just like the way he's decided not to.

Friday, May 21, 2004

nul points...

Certain events draw us all together - universal things, things that touch everyone...

Yes, that's right, I resisted it so far but I think it's time I mentioned Eurovision. Not because it was any better or worse than usual, of course, although the winning song was, I think, particularly tuneless, but because there's plenty to read on the subject and lots of it entertaining. Andrew from Bedsit Bomber started the ball rolling with his minute by minute dissection of the songs as they played, creating some lovely descriptions along the way. Simon at No Rock and Roll Fun did the same, and - showing remarkable prescience - got behind Ruslana from the start. Between them there's a wealth of insight...

Bedsit Bomber: Holland. The singer's taken the whole "orange" motif a bit too literally, just remembering to leave a gap for the mouth.

No Rock And Roll Fun: Norway - Knut Anders Soren. A really, really cheap-looking silver suit here; they must have been collecting tinfoil all over the nation for this.

BB: F.Y.R. Macedonia. Wet-look hair, funny moustache; "string" beard; high-collared, fluted, Flash Gordon tunic; huge belt buckle; and enormous satin flares. Truly extraordinary look, but the song's pretty hard to digest. At best, 4/10.

NRARF: Croatia - Ivan Mikulic. Apparently this was a big hit in Croatia. He's got a tiny set of features placed on a very large face, like having a kid's meal on the All Day Breakfast plate. At times the song appears to want to turn into a James Bond theme - the AHa one, we think - but never quite works up the momentum.

Greece. "Shake, shake, shake ... give it some more". The girls get their costumes ripped off by the lupine guy in the white jacket and ripped jeans. Now they've ripped his jacket off! Where will it end?

Poland - Blue Cafe. Called 'Love song", which sounds like it was a working title and they forgot to change it. The singer is Betty Blue's more homely young sister, wearing a revealing dress which could have put a nymphomaniac in need of viagra; some guys in white suits with brass; a bloke with guitar - they all produce a bit of a mess. Betty Blue Junior sings Love Song "Laave Sung", like she's in fackin' eastenders.

United Kingdom. If Bernard Sumner had fallen off his yacht, been washed up on a Turkish beach after a week at sea, then dragged comatose to the Eurovision auditorium by the authorities and had an 80s suit put on him, you'd have the look of James Fox

Elsewhere, everyone got into a flap about the vote-rigging. But Jakester at The Uncertainty Principle is more relaxed. Block voting happened. And it was hilarious. He quotes Pop Justice...

"Let's not blame Fox's failure on block voting by neighbouring countries. After all, Ireland gave us our highest mark of the night, and we gave Ireland their only points, so it's obviously not favouritism that annoys the Wogans of this world, it's just the fact that not enough people actually like the UK for it to work in our favour."

Anyone with any sense at all ignored the ridiculous machinations of the voting systems, the vast majority of the music (and no sense of British superiority here - Sam Wallaston in the Guardian noted that James Fox's "lamentable song, Hold On to Our Love, made me want to shoot myself, and thoroughly deserved the nul points most people gave it.") and simply enjoyed the spectacle. If he can bear it, the normally infuriating Terry Wogan can have a job for life doing this. At one point Russia paid tribute to the Ukraine, and Tel noted, ironically, 'such a great history of friendship between the two nations'....

And Ruslana will be huge, there's no doubting it. Popbitch says

she's fabulous - drinks like a fish, loves Deep Purple and Bach, plans to write a Rock Opera, and vocally supports gay rights in Ukraine. When her Eurovision translator failed to translate her swearing properly Ruslana corrected him to make sure he said "shit" not "hell".

Most positive about it all was Joan Bakewell, who remarks in her Guardian column that it is a "a time-warp record of how we are and how we might be, left over from a more innocent age. It has become part of television's own archaeology, the strata of different eras laid down, yielding to the knowing viewer its clues to shifting allegiances and loyalties".

And what a demonstration of how Europe has changed and shifted.

"What a line-up the eastern countries made against the puny presence of old Europe: France, Britain and Ireland got hardly a look in. What came striding through with the vigour of a new world were the former Balkan and Soviet states"

I did read, cringing, a day or two later, an old interview with James Fox, our hapless entrant, from a few days before the contest. It appears he was pretty confident of winning. Oh dear. But Andrew sums the whole thing up best when he suggests that "There's no place for bitterness and recrimination. If James Fox is picked up in the early hours of Sunday morning, staggering through the dim-lit streets of Istanbul, swearing at revellers, and smelling strongly of alcohol, we should have no sympathy for the embittered former singer - it's just a bit of fun."

Fun!? Are you joking? For us bloggers this is serious business....

You couldn't make it up pt. 2435

Victoria has eyes like a hawk. The Evening Standard website carries the disconcerting headline 'Thousands may have CJD', after some new research has raised the prospect that around 4,000 Britons may unknowingly have varient CJD. Slightly to the right of the said article another headline, 'With Relish', implores us to celebrate one hundred years of the burger!!!

"Are they trying to be funny or what?", Vic asks...

Thursday, May 20, 2004

braying noises like a donkey

No-one ever let them tell you it's fun being a Christian...

Childless couple told to try sex

A German couple who went to a fertility clinic after eight years of marriage have found out why they are still childless - they weren't having sex.

The University Clinic of Lubek said they had never heard of a case like it after examining the couple who went to see them last month for fertility tests. Doctors subjected them to a series of examinations and found they were both apparently fertile, and should have had no trouble conceiving.

A clinic spokesman said: "When we asked them how often they had had sex, they looked blank, and said: "What do you mean?".

"We are not talking retarded people here, but a couple who were brought up in a religious environment who were simply unaware, after eight years of marriage, of the physical requirements necessary to procreate."

Meanwhile, according to the Times (who I won't link to as you can only read their articles for seven days before you have to register)...

The world's first cyber pulpit has been shut down after a large number of online worshippers logged in as Satan and shouted expletives. The internet Church of Fools, opened last week at, is sponsored by the Methodist Church, which takes a strong line against profanity. It allowed online visitors to kneel to pray, cross themselves and perform an arm-raising "hallelujah!".

Church wardens are on duty with "smite buttons" to consign blasphemers to virtual hell. But some of the worst offenders are from the US and Australia and visit in the middle of the night, when the wardens are asleep. Hackers have broken in disguised as wardens, sworn at the congregation or greeted newcomers by saying "Satan loves you".

The organisers have now closed the pulpit and apse to visitors. They have also removed the "shout" button so that worshippers can whisper to those closest to them without the whole church hearing. The number of wardens is also to be increased.

Virtual parishioners reacted defiantly. One message on the site's internet chat room yesterday said: "It's just a load of sad individuals playing 'wind up the Christians'."

Since it was announced at the Christian Resources Exhibition last week, the site has attracted 20,000 visits a day. Stephen Goddard, a spokesman for the cyber chapel, said: "We obviously use the ‘smite’ button where we can. But we have very few resources to police it 24 hours a day."

He drew an analogy with John Wesley, the 18th-century founder of Methodism: "When Wesley went out in the early days, people swore at him, made braying noises like a donkey and spat on him. At least we know we are not preaching to the converted."

And finally, spotted this link on Mark K-Punk's blog - CS Lewis: The Devil's Finest Tool. Brilliant. My favourite bit is "The Chronicles of Narnia are one of the most powerful tools of Satan that Lewis ever produced. Worst of all, these books are geared toward children. Please go to the next page to read about this indoctrinating tool of witchcraft"...


Go here, instead. I worked with Tim on the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians a few years back, and just found his blog - The Rambler. It's really excellent.

Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 911

A nice article by Jackie Ashley on Michael Moore in the Guardian today; she sums him up pretty well. Over the last year or two I've kind of blown hot and cold on what he does - like Mark Thomas he does that self-satisfied thing a bit too much and I find it irritating - but Ashley points out that he's as self-aggrandising as he is because he wants to be as much of a nuisance as he can possibly be. He wants to hog the limelight and shout about what he believes, and to do that you have to be populist, brash and confident. And god knows it's hard getting across a liberal perspective in the States.

"But now America has Michael Moore. He's huge. Huge personally - a great big hairy doughball of a man. He's huge commercially. He's huge on the web. And he's huge in the scale of his ambition - he is determined to bring down George Bush"

Having read some reviews, I really wanna see Fahrenheit 911!

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


Here's my genius-idea-for-a-weblog award of the day; Songs!; which brings together disparate fragments of lyrics shorn of their context (with references hidden below). An absolutely great idea...

Meanwhile, Chris Clark (sadly not he of Clarence Park fame) has a diverting blog here - Hush Reality - and, best of all, has MP3s of Kraftwerk's Coachella set.

Turner Prize 2004

A rather uninspiring Turner prize shortlist has been announced; on first glance it is pretty straightforward, uninspiring stuff - nothing as dazzling and wonderful as the Chapmans' exhibit last year (and plenty as unimpressive as Grayson Perry's). There's a feature displaying several works by the nominated artists on the Guardian, but it doesn't give much away - not a single work is aesthetically pleasing.

Of the nominated artists, I'd hope that the decision would rest between Jeremy Deller and Langlands and Bell. The former, like all four of the artists, is avowedly political; a video artist whose films reference George Bush and Texas as well as the Miner's Strike, which he memorably recreated using military re-enactment societies and former miners. Langlands and Bell look reasonably interesting, if not exactly exciting. Their recent work includes a project 'The House of Osama Bin Laden' which is, apparently, "an interactive virtual reality model of an abandoned house in Afghanistan". I'm not quite sure what that means...

The Guardian says that "Yinka Shonibare is shortlisted for his sculptural installations in which he uses African fabric to subvert conventional readings of cultural identity". That's as maybe, but the pictures I've seen of his stuff are just vile, and I would like to stress that I do not mean that in the same way that Thatcher meant her covering up of the African print on the British Airways model all those years ago:

I feel we have a Grayson Perry situation developing here, mind... Shonibare does at least make art which one feels like one could reach out and touch - often important. I suspect the public may make more of his exhibition than his contemporaries.

Kutlug Ataman apparently makes eight hour films about life in Turkey. I mean, very well, but whatever happened to art as immediate, sudden, even (and I use this word advisedly given the path it has led much modern art down in recent years) shocking? Well, I won't pass judgement on Ataman 'til I've seen a bit of his films, but it all rather makes one yearn for Jake and Dinos, no?

Update: Jeremy Deller won. Good.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

rates of exchange

Some more thoughts on travel, having read Geoff Dyer's super Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do it and written a little about it, about the author's conception of a zone - not a physical space which can be travelled to (with the exception of Black Rock City), but the moment of absolute, peaceful pre-occupation which occurs sometimes, which is sudden and temporal. Dyer, we sense, is a good traveller; a traveller who does not go looking for something, but who goes hoping it will find him somehow.

I'm re-reading Malcolm Bradbury's hilarious Rates of Exchange at the moment. His protagonist, the hapless Petworth, waits for his plane to board in a Heathrow departure lounge, about to head to an unknown European city somewhere 'east of the Rhine'.

On the digital clock, flight time comes and goes; Petworth orders another Scotch and finds himself caught by and old and nameless fear - the fear of being trapped here, for all eternity, in the unassigned, stateless space between all the countries, condemned to live forever in a cosmopolitan nowhere, on clingfilm-wrapped sandwiches, duty free whisky, tiptree's jam.

Not the stateless space that Dyer writes about, this...

It is a fate he knows he deserves; he is a man who has spent his life circling around and away from domestic interiors, hovering between home, where he sits and thinks, and abroad, where he talks and drinks.

Travel is a manic cycle, with abroad the manic phase, at home the depressive; there is some strange adrenelin that draws him into the fascination and the void of foreignness, with the plurality of sensation, its sudden spaces and emptiness. He travels, he thinks, for strangeness, disorientation, multiplication and variation of the self; yet he is not a good traveller...

I've been discussing with my parents the many holidays we went on when I was a child, trying to sift between them and work out which happened when, and in what order. It's very difficult to make each its own and put it into context. All our holidays, many of which were in repeated destinations, blend together like an unsorted collection of photographs. The only bits I remember, if you like, was when I was 'in the zone'. I have a particurly strong memory of a weekend in Evesham with my grandparents when I ran my hand along the side of a cobbled house, for instance

Other memories are significant because they represent moments when I struck out for myself; my first drink of beer (actually a french shandy called 'Force Four'); the first time my parents let me out on the town in the evening without them, the time me and Zoe escaped altogether and made for the motorway... Mostly these memories are fragmented and the circumstances which surrounded them are hazy. This seems oddly fitting, though, because they were strange, dislocated moments which together form the plurality of sensation which made up my childhood. I'm torn between working out more - fitting dates together - and leaving them where they are; like torn pages from an old scrapbook I fleetingly kept.

Things tell less and less

The Guardian writes today that a previously unseen Kingsley Amis poem has been discovered by his biographer, Zachary Leader. It's reproduced below.


Things tell less and less:
The news impersonal
And from afar; no book
Worth wrenching off the shelf.
Liquor brings dizziness
And food discomfort; all
Music sounds thin and tired,
And what picture could earn a look?
The self drowses in the self
Beyond hope of a visitor.
Desire and those desired
Fade, and no matter:
Memories in decay
Annihilate the day.

There once was an answer:
Up at the stroke of seven,
A turn round the garden
(Breathing deep and slow),
Then work, never mind what,
How small, provided that
It serves another's good

But once is long ago
And, tell me, how could
Such an answer be less than wrong,
Be right all along?

Vain echoes, desist

The Guardian suggests, rightly, I think, that it is a suitable companion poem to Larkin's magnificent Aubade, which you can read here, if you are minded to do so.

waking up all groggy and

listening to DJ Letitia on 1xtra with a cup of tea. She plays some brilliant records; just heard Controversy by Hot Sounds ft Fonti - that tune woke me up and killed my hangover in one shot. She's currently playing a kind of mash up she's compiled with the help of her listeners, who have voted on various songs whose constituent parts have beens pliced together to create 'the heaviest song ever'. I heard elements of Biz Markie's Beat Box and Just a Friend, a verse by Bounty Killer, Canibus's strangely dated LL diss and fragments of Diz and Wiley. It all sounded pretty ropey together, I sadly report, but it was a nice idea, and probably sounding great in its early stages.

some good links://

Some kind links from some excellent blogs: many thanks to Parallax View and Silent Words Speak Loudest for noticing and referencing the blog.

Parallax View seems to have been written exclusively for me, oddly, containing as it does interesting stuff about the Fiery Furnaces, Maggie Gee, Helen Walsh and The Stills, all of whom have been recommended to a greater or lesser extent in recent months by Assistant Blog - as well as lots more music, arts and cinema related stuff. Silent Words Speak Loudest covers similar territory with painful thoughts on Newcastle's season breaking from midfield. Both blogs are great reads.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Moz on BBC1

Just watched Morrissey on Jonathan Ross's programme; such an odd fellow, and by no means as likeable as one might hope. Nevertheless, it is truly unsettling to watch someone who is honest when he is asked questions. Or perhaps it is all part of the act, I'm not sure, although he told Ross, self importantly,

"This is all real. Only seals perform".

Either way, he was caustic and obstructive in the face of the heavily ironic questions he faced. "Will you be my friend?", Jonathan Ross asked. Morrissey squirmed. "I don't think so", he eventually replied. "Why not?", the host came back. "I have too many friends, and you don't have enough".

Silence from Morrissey. "How many friends do you have?", Ross continued. "Seven", his guest replied.

"I don't like people", he said, elsewhere.

The two songs he played were very different. I think that Irish Blood, English Heart is a fine pop single, largely by virtue of that lovely, tremulous "there is no one on earth I'm afraid of" line. Yet the closing Every Day is Like Sunday, was just, ooh, magnificent.

Trudging slowly over wet sand
back to the bench
where your clothes were stolen.
This is the coastal town
that they forgot to close down

His voice, occasionally, still soars. We were wondering, my dad and me (for I am visiting my parents this weekend), how old he was when the first Smiths record was released. Because how does so someone so young, so serious, create such a singular style, such a self-assured presence? If Morrissey is a berk now, which of course he is, how much better that he is supremely confident and arrogant having done it all, having done so much, rather than being, say, Paul Weller, whose achievements are so lauded, and yet who pales into insignificance in comparison.

And not just him. How did David Byrne and Elvis Costello do it? How did they create such overwhelming, stunningly original material at such tender years? All my songs, my poetry, my writing before I was 23 I now find immature and derivative (and will doubtless think the same of this in two years time). So Morrissey can at least claim he earned the right, I suppose. The right to be above change, to be Morrissey above all else, the right to be alone, as only Morrissey can be...

"So Morrissey", Jonathan Ross says, "You keep saying you want to be my friend..."

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Site re-design, techie stuff, and Orientalism in Iraq

OK - so as you can see, I've redesigned the blog, or rather - utilising Blogger's new templates - I've shifted my old blog into a new pair of clothes. I feel slightly guilty, as I actually did quite a lot of fiddling with the old template (to the point where I - vainly - considered it mine) - this new one looks nice, I think - but it's off-the-peg. Still, the new Blogger does offer several whizzy things, like the profile (right) and comments facility, which I trust will see a little use after my barren attempt at introducing them previously. Even if you've only wandered onto the site in search of information on Gordon Ramsay (hello!) or Kano's version of 'Fit But You Know It'...

You see, I've been reading my referrals. You know, if you drop me a line I can talk about reality TV for as long as you like :-)

Lots of good stuff in the Guardian today, as is usually the case on Thursdays.

An article on political web-game playing is not particularly interesting, bar one paragraph which describes a game called September 12th:

A controversial "news game" created by Frasca and a team of Uruguayan programmers, it shows a crowded town, where Arab terrorists mingle with ordinary people. Your job is to get terrorists without killing civilians. But no matter how carefully you aim, you end up with some collateral damage. When that happens, lots more terrorists appear. Think of it as SimChomsky.

Frasca says the idea was to play around with gaming conventions. The sniper rifle is meant to suggest the idea of a surgical strike, but when you fire, in Frasca's words "you create a big mess". And, in contrast to most games, you can't shoot constantly - you are forced to wait and see the results of each missile fired. So players are denied their thumb candy and forced to think instead.

There's also a feature on camera mobiles in the what's new section. Now, first, let me set my stall out by saying that I do not have a camera phone, and - although I wouldn't say no if someone gave me one - my interest factor in them is practically zero. Give me a polaroid camera any day of the week. However, the following does sound really interesting, so there's me eating my words...

Snap happy
O2 is hoping to use the camera phone to resurrect the British tradition of sending holiday postcards. Subscribers to the network can now send hard copies of their photos accompanied by a short message simply by sending the image, text and address details via SMS to O2. The network then creates a postcard that is sent first class to be delivered the next day in the UK no matter where the picture was taken. Compatible with all O2 camera phones, the O2 PhotoCards can be sent in more than 50 countries. They cost... (snip)

Anyway, far more interesting than all of that is Jonathan Raban's excellent article on the culture of dehumanisation and orientalism which is so clearly evident in America's war with Iraq. When I was at university I started a book by Raban, Soft City, which I rate to this day as one of the most excitingly written serious books I've attempted. When I say 'attempted' you will realise that, love the first chapter as I did, I never finished it, somehow. Anyway, he is on form here,

"The jail has become a grotesque nursery, with Private Lynndie England (her very name like the nom de guerre of a sex worker), cigarette jutting from her cheerful grin, playing the part of the au pair from hell. The pictures appear to be so single-minded in their intent, so artfully directed, so relentlessly orientalist in their conception, that one looks instinctively for a choreographer - a senior intelligence officer, perhaps, who keeps Edward Said on his bedside table, and ransacks the book each night for new ideas."

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

infoAnarchy || quick review

Another article on AllOfMp3 below - I haven't tried it yet but might do so tonight...

infoAnarchy quick review


BBC NEWS England Kent Fluffy cat keeps postmen at bay

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


"OK", Vic says, "But are there many banging tunes on the record?"

Um. Apart from Fit But You Know It, not really no. At least, nothing in the same league as 'Has It Come to This' or 'Weak Become Heroes'. But just in case you read what I wrote below and wondered if I was talking about a pop record at all... yes, I was. I've already got about five different choruses from the LP rotating around in my head.

There are no prizes for coming second

Tom Ewing's Popular Project looks awesome. He is reviewing the UK's 950+ Number One singles since 1952, in order. He's up to 1960 at the moment. It's a staggeringly ambitious project, so all power to him for doing it. His reviews, currently charting a period of music in which I have no interest at all, yet he still writes engagingly. A keeper.

Meantime, some initial thoughts on The Streets LP. It's dazzling. If Wiley's Treddin' was a surprise because the lyrical content was bouncier and more charming than the icy promise of the music and the 'cold in my heart' brags, then A Grand Don't Come For Free is absolutely fascinating for the fact that at times the narrative seems to swallow the music entirely. It's closest comparison (by my way of looking at it) is Posy Simmonds' incredible graphic novel, 'Gemma Bovary' which, although using a format readily identifiable (in her case, the comic - in Mike Skinner's, the concept album) twists out of it's genre by the force of its sheer narrative genius. Skinner's record is as much as a talking book as a pop record. I've heard snooty critics disparaging the simplicity of Mike's plot (boy loses money, boy finds girl, boy loses girl, boy finds money) and suggesting that - if we are going to call it a (grimace) concept LP - then it is lacking in conceptual ambition.

Quite to the contrary, the album is brilliantly observant and hilariously frank, a considerable achievement whether your plot is as complex as an Umberto Eco novel or as stark as one of Magnus Mill's parables (you see, I can't compare it to, say, Dizzee or Eminem - although the abiding musical echo I hear in the record is Terry Hall, another wonderful storyteller).

I was writing back cover copy for a book the other day and included the quote - "Stories are quite insistent on one point: a tale is not over until it is finished in every detail". A Grand Don't Come For Free has a beginning, a middle and an ending. Actually, two endings.

It's a brilliant record.

Monday, May 10, 2004

This looks excellent...

Guardian Unlimited Online The Russians are coming

Currently listening to....

1. Deep Dish - Toronto LP (really good prog house mix from the Global Underground series)
2. The Stills - Logic Wil Break Your Heart LP (wistful indie pop, but good)
3. Sublime Frequencies Comp - Radio Palestine LP (more fragmented and difficult than Radio Morocco, but more interesting)
4. The Streets feat. The Futureheads - Fit But You Know It (actually not sure if I like this yet, but the bit where the 'Heads screech 'Leave It Out' is wonderful, and they seem to have their own peculiar approach to melodies. Interesting)
5. Boogie Pimps - Sunny (sorry, I like this one - embarrasing, I know)

Friday, May 07, 2004

Begone Western Rock!

Sublime Frequencies is a US record label which publishes field recordings by Alan Bishop (of jazz-rock noiseniks The Sun City Girls). Their current series of releases comprise of peculiar, beautifully edited recordings of radio, news broadcasts, conversations and found sounds from a variety of destinations. Three new records, 'Radio Palestine', 'Radio Morocco' and 'I Remember Syria' are particularly intriguing. This month's Wire writes that what seperates these CDs from other field recordings is that:

they are not merely recorded straight, out in a field, in real time - set up (you suspect), prearranged, documented and tagged. Instead we are presented with a re-edited mosaic of noices, voices, snatches of Saharan pop music, jazz and orchestras.... Palestine is practically an electronic collage of tiny radiophonic motes, combined with a piece of musique concrete such as [stockhausen's] Hymnen, that makes the piece more like a transformed objet trouve than a documentary.

Going back to Buck 65, who I mentioned in an earlier post, this is more in the way of scavaging for sounds, foraging for sources. I find lots of 'found sound' music / 'found object' art less than thrilling, and often positively pretentious. But there is something about this project which is very appealing. Of the CDs, which I've been listening to a lot recently, Radio Morocco is the most accessible, but all three are fascinating.

Anyway - if you really want a pretentious take on it:

Pitchfork get poetical

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

American Gamelan Institute (AGI)

American Gamelan Institute (AGI)

I downloaded lots of Indonesian gamelan music last night, almost all of it breathtakingly beautiful - recalling Terry Riley, the Residents, Kung-fu soundtracks, eski-beat, 23 Skidoo and a host of noises too alien to be knowable. The site above looks like a comprehensive resource of Gamelan information, and boasts a net radio station, Gongcast, which looks good.


Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The Gordon Strachan of Cookery

Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares was brilliant again. The way he motivates (in stark contrast to the two men at the centre of today's installment, the head chef and proprieter, both of whom needed, in Gordon's words, to grow some balls) made me think of his background in football. The head chef, like the captain, must be constantly talking, guiding younger team-mates on, reassuring them, giving them a good ballocking when necessary (and of course, when not). Yet Gordon Ramsey is surprisingly loveable too; not a bully at all, at times almost tender, and always funny. And the name, the ancestry, the wit... the ginger hair... I've seen it before somewhere...

BSP, Budweiser Budvar and afro-gamelan-bouzouki music...

Been doing a bit of catching up on the activities of British Sea Power by reading their always entertaining newsletters. It seems if an opportunity was going to present itself for me to get a copy of their ltd edition single, A Lovely Day Tomorrow, I may have missed the deadline, as it was available throughout April at their gigs, although it is not impossible I suppose that the lovely people at Brighton's Rounder Records will have a copy somewhere or other. Either way, the idea behind it sounds delightful.

British Sea Power being British Sea Power, of course, they've not got the time or inclination to get obsessed with, say, Woody Guthrie or the Nuggets box sets. No, they've become obsessed with Czechoslovakia - musically, politically, architecturally and even, it seems, alcoholically...

The British Sea Power concert in Prague also sees the band enter into association with the renowned Czech brewer, Budweiser Budvar of Ceske Budejovice. Of course, this happy alliance should not be confused with the typical and tawdry round of booze-rock sponsorship. The fact Budvar are giving the band a modest amount of cash money does not alter this in the slightest. Oh no. BSP are, of course, immune to the notion of money as an end in itself. Just as music and myth are machines for the suspension of time, money for BSP is a mechanism that allows us to do what we must. Frankly, the more of the money supply that BSP can control at any moment, the better for the world.

More usefully, A Lovely Day Tomorrow is recorded in conjunction with Czech group The Ecstasy Of Saint Theresa, and features both English and Czechoslovakian versions. Now, I don't know about you, but I find this idea hilarious and hugely contagious.

In this month's The Wire, Canada's excellent Buck 65, talking about MC Solaar (who, incidentally, is interviewed to interesting effect here) says "Who has the patience, say, to discover what's going on in the Greek music world?". Well, apart from the fact that Franz Ferdinand commisioned a piece on Rebetiko when they guest-edited G2 a couple of weeks ago, it's a good question. Talking about one of his (and my) musical heroes, Harry Partch, Buck 65 discusses his near-gamelan style (more echoes of Wiley here, but I shall restrain myself) and his lack of affinity with the Western musical tradition - and I was thinking again how brave, exciting (and foolhardy!) to look outside the usual Anglo-American sounds we're inundated with.

Elsewhere Woebot displays a stunning collection of front covers from African Ethnographic recordings, noting wryly that it's "sort of shambolic ... not be able to talk about these recordings in the way one might the latest Garage "joint."".

I note that the BSP single is, in fact, being widely touted for sale on ebay, so maybe I'll get it yet. In the meantime I've resolved to get 3 albums out of the library tomorrow, and make sure that none of them are from the UK or the US :-)

Monday, May 03, 2004

Bad Music

A rather unsuccessful night out last night. Buoyed by the good weather (the last couple of days in Brighton have been just gorgeous. By contrast it's pouring with rain right now, and I'm sitting here listening to the fire alarm going off and wondering who's burnt their lunch) we decided to go to the Hold Up alldayer, which was a 5pm-2am event at the Zap put on by the boys who do the DJ nights at the (ahem) Pavilion Tavern and Arc. It consisted of six or seven bands and a club thing.

Now, if we'd have thought about it in advance, we would probably have realised how bad it would be. The presence of The Tenderfoot on the bill notwithstanding, we hadn't heard of the other bands playing, and this is normally a recipe for Brighton-rocks style awfulness. Indeed, when we turned up we watched a band (whose name I shan't reveal) who were certainly amongst the worst bands I've seen in ten years of gig-going. Additionally, Hold-Up the club (at the Arc) is turgid; bad indie record after bad indie record. So putting the two together would never work.

To make matters worse, Vic is on antibiotics for her bad foot and I'm on the sympathy wagon, which meant neither of us were drinking. Reasoning that we could probably stick it out until The Tenderfoot came on and then escape immediately afterwards, we sat through the first band, some clueless DJing, and observed the rituals of a clientele all of whom seemed, bar us, to be explitly flouting the over 18s only rule.

Eventually, a band limbered up and began a laboured punk rock / john spencer / idiot-savant routine which was - frankly - the nail in the coffin. Actually, the nail in the coffin was when they announced "We're the last band on tonight" and we realised we'd missed The Tenderfoot. We made way, hoping to find solace in a bar on Ship Street which was having an electroclash night. We tried it, but despite the excellent music - 'Deceptacon' by Le Tigre - we moved on elsewhere; it was overdressed and showy, and crap. Eventually we went for a (non-alcoholic, sigh) drink in the bar at the Joogleberry playhouse, which was, as it happens, lovely, although the fact that we had missed the food by moments didn't lift our mood much.

Still - I'm happy to report that 'The World's Wildest Police Videos' on C5 when we got back was fine.

Assistant Rehearsal - 2nd May

A really productive rehearsal yesterday, as - once more - the completion of the demo was put on hold as we gear ourselves up for next month's gig. We're doing a 35 minute set, which is about seven songs or so, and we're keen to include at least a couple of new tracks, but as we've got about eight new ones on the boil we need to settle down and try to finish two or three; which means finalising vocals and arrangements, for the most part.

Of the new songs, the likeliest contenders are I'm Shit and What It Means. Having struggled with a vocal line last time we attempted the former song, I decided to scrap everything I had bar the two bits which worked the best, meaning that the songs sounds simpler and catchier. With a vocal line and Anne So's keyboards it sounds a bit less Teenage Fanclub style indie-pop, which is good, although it still has a kind of bounciness which made me think, fleetingly, of Franz Ferdinand. The title is a bit silly, but I wanted to counterbalance the chirpy mood of the song with some slightly darker lyrics;

I'm so sick,
of getting fixed
with all this well meant
medicine - advice -
I'm feeling sick
I need to lie down

Keen to add some unusual middle eights and tricks to the songs to make them sound a bit more original, we worked out a nice instrumental break towards the end of the song which necessitates me grabbing hold of my melodica to play a little melody; quite hard to time it right, so we'll have to practice that. But the song is almost complete - we just need to play it through with Andy, who was absent yesterday - and it'll be ready for the gig.

What It Means was over-complicated yesterday by confusion over the arrangement. Originally I intended the main chords of the song to be played on the piano, which is how we first rehearsed it. However, we then switched to Pete playing them on the guitar. Unable to work out, yesterday, which was better, we ended up with neither; Pete finding some more interesting, clipped guitar sounds and Anne-So inventing a really nice little piano melody, vaguely oriental, which sits under the bass and sounds excellent. Additionally, I dropped my guitar line out of the verses meaning that my vocals carried the song's main melody (rather like in Easy to Leave). As a result a song which, when I demoed it, sounded full of noise and a bit relentless, now has a complex, interesting arrangement with lots of holes, lots of space. After the second chorus almost everything drops out and I have to sing, stretching my voice, and rather terrifyingly...

Do you have any sympathy for me?
Well, I don't suppose so. No, no,
I don't suppose so, no no.

before the rest of the band join back in again. It sounds good, but this makes me feel nervous. Especially when I have to yelp 'ooooh my' in a moment of silence seconds earlier, sounding like Frankie Howard being strangled. Hmmm.

Adding those two leaves us with a prospective set list something like:
1. You Should Know
2. Easy To Leave
3. I'm Shit
5. What it Means
6. Vine to Vine
7. Engines and Anvils

So just one more song to do. We've got a fast instrumental which sounds a bit like British Sea Power, the very complicated Don't Ask Me or Too Many Problems to drop in. Probably the latter. We worked on it briefly yesterday. Like I'm Shit and Easy to Leave it's empty and sparse, although we added a big orchestral flourish to the chorus via Anne-So's laptop. It's crying out for a good vocal line - which means my job for the week is to write one.