Friday, October 31, 2014

Feel good hits of the 31st October

1. 'Comfy In Nautica' - Panda Bear
As opening tracks on albums go, this is simply stunning. More fool me for taking so long to get round to listening to Person Pitch. Asked to describe it for the sticker to go on the front of the album, a Rough Trade East employee responded: "Simple, take the Beatles White Album and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and it would sound like this ... with owls". High praise indeed - and it's merited.

2. 'Wooden Trunk Blues' - The August List
Speaking of opening tracks, here's another - a live acoustic version of the song that kicks off O Hinterland, the debut from Oxfordshire-based alt-country The August List. They're not local darlings without good reason.

3. 'It's Over' - Ty Segall
It's that man again. Manipulator is perhaps a bit flabby, but its high points - 'It's Over' included - are right up there with anything else he's ever done.

4. 'Fire Spirit' - The Gun Club
Thanks to Iggy Pop, Nick Cave and Thurston Moore for coaxing me into investing in The Gun Club's first album Fire Of Love. 'Sex Beat' and 'For The Love Of Ivy' were already familiar (the latter due to the Japandroids cover on Celebration Rock), but it's 'Fire Spirit' that's my current earworm.

5. 'Annalisa' - Public Image
Another band I've finally investigated and am discovering what I've been missing out on. 'Annalisa' is good enough to excuse pretty much anything idiotic that comes out of John Lydon's mouth.

6. 'Kiss Ass To Your Peer Group' - No Trend
From Public Image to a band heavily influenced by Public Image, and one I'd never heard of until directed to debut album Too Many Humans by my chum Matt of cuddly popsters Necro Deathmort. As that title would suggest, they were a misanthropic bunch (the title track's chorus is "Too many humans / You breed like rats / And you're no fucking better"), while 'Kiss Ass To Your Peer Group' is a venomous commentary on the irony of the conformity of those within the hardcore/straight edge scene. This article recounts the history of a band that made it their mission to piss off and alienate absolutely everyone, including their own fanbase. No Trend indeed.

7. 'Possessed' - Eagulls
The final song (inevitably) of Eagulls' set at the Jericho Tavern the weekend before last - and probably the first one you might actually find yourself humming.

8. 'Intro' - Warpaint
A gentle introduction to Warpaint's second album, and characteristic in being pleasant enough without ever threatening to become genuinely arresting.

9. 'Minotaur' - John Knox Sex Club
I'm hearing a bit of Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad, but perhaps the best description is early punky Idlewild playing late folky Idlewild. Basically, very Scottish.

10. 'Metal Flake' - The Young
Matador signings who I recently came across and who have a nice line in chunky indie rock riffage (though a bit of YouTube research suggests this track is head and shoulders above anything else they've done).

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Access denied

Generally speaking, I'm a staunch supporter of the BBC, but their refusal to consider including Green Party leader Natalie Bennett in the proposed televised election debates - despite offering an invitation to Nigel Farage, whose party UKIP have the same number of MPs (one) - is indefensible. Their rationale is that  "UKIP has demonstrated a substantial increase in electoral support since 2014 across a range of elections along with a consistent and robust trend across a full range of opinion polls; the Green Party has not demonstrated any comparable increase in support in either elections or opinion polls." Perhaps the corporation might like to reflect on the fact that a primary factor behind UKIP's current popularity is the oxygen of publicity that the mainstream media seem intent on giving to the party - oxygen that the BBC seem equally determined to deny to the Greens, thereby perpetuating their marginalisation.

(Thanks to Mhairi for the link.)

Lost in translation

What to do when you've just discovered a massive £263 million black hole in your profits, are facing a criminal investigation and are watching your share price fall away? Simple: advertise free erections, in the hope that that might tempt male shoppers in...

(Thanks to Seralynn for the link.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

All at sea

Oh the humanity. The government has decided that operations to rescue migrants stranded at sea have "an unintended ‘pull factor’, encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths" and therefore British support should be withdrawn. Far be it from me to point out that this withdrawal will lead to "tragic and unnecessary deaths"...

It's coming to something when a Tory policy is not only criticised by the Torygraph but explicitly likened to one of the BNP's proposed measures.

(Thanks to Laura and Rob for the links.)

Know Your Enemy

"He’s such a fucking child. And then the song is just idiotic, he’s just a fucking idiot."

The War On Drugs' Adam Granofsky's considered response to Mark Kozelek and his song 'War On Drugs: Suck My Cock'. I'm with Granofsky on this - Kozelek really has made himself look like a complete twat.

Own goal

Travelling alone after a match? Pfft. Surely the real offence committed by Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg is driving all the way from Birmingham to Newcastle to see Ed Sheeran in concert. He deserves all the punishment he gets.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Reasons To Be Cheerful Part II

(If you're wondering what this is all about, click here.)

#14 - Mostly Books

These days, with that tax-dodging ogre Amazon stalking the land and attempting to crush anything in its path, few towns the size of Abingdon can claim to have one independent bookshop, let alone two. The Abingdon Bookstore is decent enough (though you'd hope avowed bibliophiles might have a smidgen more creativity in coming up with a name), but my favourite is Mostly Books.

Situated on Stert Street, it's friendly, welcoming and aptly named because, in addition to a decent range of books (particularly for kids) for such a cosy little shop, it also has a good range of cards, is a meeting place for book groups and regularly puts on some great events that demonstrate it punches well above its weight. In the last month alone, there has been a local authors/illustrators day, with work created in situ, and the launch of The Word At War, a fascinating-sounding book about linguistic change during the Second World War.

Next month, when David Mitchell returns to his alma mater Abingdon School to talk about his new book Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse, it will be in conversation with Mostly Books' Mark Thornton. (I managed to snap up a ticket before it sold out, and can assure you the decision had nothing whatsoever to do with the possibility of bumping into Victoria Coren-Mitchell.)

It's not just the locals who appreciate what Mostly Books has to offer, though - in August it was named Julia Donaldson Children's Independent Bookshop Of The Month. A deserved accolade - and fitting, really, that it's where I picked up a signed copy of Donaldson's Sugarlump And The Unicorn for Stan a year or so ago.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Living the Americana dream


Perhaps in tribute to Vienna Ditto, for whom they’re last-minute replacements, Swindlestock have slimmed down to a duo for the evening. It hardly matters. Dava possesses a better set of pipes than the tobacconists on High Street, even if he doesn’t have a harmonica case (“I should get one instead of a fucking Tesco bag”), and a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Lungs’ isn’t noticeably superior to any of their own rootsy folk. The jaunty ‘Sitting On The Stoop’ sneaks in an improbable reference to snorkelling before the complete contrast of final song ‘Let It Storm’, which finds Dava really letting rip.

While Swindlestock have scaled down for the occasion, The August List have scaled up. Normally a twosome comprising husband-and-wife combo Kerraleigh and Martin, tonight they’re backed by electric guitar, bass and drums to give us a flavour of the fuller sound of debut album O Hinterland.

At first it’s something of a curveball, rendering the stupendously good ‘Wooden Trunk Blues’ – the set opener and a personal favourite – disconcertingly unfamiliar. By the end of melodica-powered second song ‘Cut Your Teeth’, however, I’m coming around to the idea. A couple of tracks later, spellbound by the additional depth and force the backing instrumentation brings to their bruised and bittersweet songs, I’m completely smitten, drawing favourable comparisons with the similarly raw, dark-hearted Americana of early Sparrow & The Workshop and quite prepared to stand on street corners loudly proclaiming them the best band in Oxford.

Chinnor’s answer to Carter and Cash do get the stage to themselves for a while (“We let the band go and ring their families, so they can let them know they’re OK”), inspiring a mass stompalong to ‘High Town Crow’, as sinister a tale of claustrophobic small-town life as you’ll hear. Their accomplices return to provide backing holler on rollicking ode to moonshine ‘Forty Rod Of Lightning’, Martin noting that the Bullingdon bar doesn’t sell it “so you’ll have to make do with a Sol”. The only misstep is the cover of Jenny Lewis’ ‘See Fernando’ to finish, if only because they could put more faith in the strength of their own material to do the job.

Also launching a new album, Plumes, are Co-Pilgrim, who immediately situate themselves somewhere between the American Midwest and the West Coast and whose tender songs wear their melancholy like a comfort blanket. ‘I’m Going To The Country’ clearly signposts where the set is headed, though with detours for the gorgeously slow and meditative ‘Come Out Alive’ and the prime Teenage Fanclub jangle of ‘Pushover’.

‘It’s Curtains For Me’ is the appropriately titled set-closer (“If you’ve still got the will to live after that, come and say hello”, jokes Joe Bennett), though it’s testament to their abilities that they somehow manage to pull off a percussion-free encore of Don Henley’s ‘The Boys Of Summer’ despite reluctant frontman Mike Gale being five audience-purchased whiskies worse for wear and struggling to recall the lyrics.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Just put 'Gary Numan' for every other answer..."

Delighted to report that Cradle Of Milf scored a narrow and hard-earned victory in the Audioscope Music Quiz last night, despite mustering just five out of twenty in the fiendishly difficult synthpop round set by Nightshift editor Ronan Munro, referring to Karen Carpenter as Carol and mistaking Linkin Park's cover of Adele's 'Rolling in the Deep' for the one performed by Aretha Franklin. Idiot savants, that's us. The team we beat into second place were called ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Correct Answers. Serves them right for being smug.

All proceeds from the event will go to Shelter, as will those from Audioscope's annual one-day festival, which this year takes place on Saturday 8th November. Public Service Broadcasting headline, while Silver Apples, The Telescopes and local favourites Kid Kin and The Neon Violets are also among those on the bill. Sadly, I won't be able to go - and neither will you, as it's now sold out.

Quote of the day

"I feel like I don’t want to be decoded. The type of songwriting that was going on in Sonic Youth I think at some point was fairly well figured out. When we used to tour, the audience always had this kind of question mark over its head, but that kind of disappeared later on because they figured us out. People could dig the music, but it wasn’t really surprising anymore."

Thurston Moore hints that Sonic Youth might have gone creatively stale and run their course even before his split with Kim Gordon ripped the band apart.

His comments came in an interview with Salon to promote new solo album The Best Day (high on my shopping list, naturally). Also on the agenda were his acclimatisation to living in London, rebellion and authority, and the politics of haircuts.

Not looking forward to the future

Another characteristically fascinating post on Letters Of Note: Aldous Huxley writing to George Orwell in 1949, ostensibly to praise 1984 but ultimately to claim that his own dystopian vision of the future in Brave New World would prove more accurate.

(Thanks to Tim for the link.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

'Calypso' canned

So Mike Read, the DJ who in the 1980s refused to play Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'Relax' on the grounds that it was "obscene", has now found his own single 'UKIP Calypso' - a song in praise of Nigel Farage - branded offensive. Karma's a bitch, ain't it Mike?

That said, while the song's casual racism isn't merely "a bit of fun" (as both Read and UKIP would have us believe), it's not exactly the worst thing a Radio 1 DJ has ever done...

Predictably enough, UKIP have bleated about "synthetic outrage" and "the 'right-on' media" that have led Read to ask for the single to be withdrawn from sale. Even more amusingly, the charity earmarked to benefit from the proceeds, the Red Cross, has given the party a slap in the face by sticking to their principles and turning down the donation: "As a neutral organisation, we cannot benefit from something which overtly supports one political party. In addition, the Red Cross has a proud history of helping refugees and asylum seekers who are negatively referred to in the lyrics."

"I think there should be more Norwegians everywhere"

Yesterday I posted about John Lydon's current ubiquity. If he wants a lesson on how to have a book to promote but show absolutely zero interest in playing the media game, he'd be well advised to take tips from Richard Ayoade, who recently seemed to have made it his mission to be Krishnan Guru-Murthy's most awkward and difficult interviewee ever. Credit for refusing to jump through hoops.

Know Your Enemy

"If Beast were a chap, he would be a part-time rugby player smelling of Ralgex who’s trying to tell you he’s deep and thoughtful, even though he’ll later be implicated in an incident involving a traffic cone and a pint glass of his own urine."

Jay Rayner on fine form, setting about the task of reviewing "deeply silly and ruinously pricey" London steak and crab restaurant Beast with as much relish as if it was the best thing on the menu. Truffle and foie gras salt on your chips, sir?

(Thanks to Mike for the link.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A direct assault on the media

It baffled me why John Lydon suddenly appeared to be ubiquitous - until I realised he had a new book out, just in time for Christmas. So much for smashing the system.

In a Radio 4 encounter with John Humphrys, Lydon claimed to have waged "a direct assault on mediocrity" and "absolutely completely changed the face of pop music" in the late 1970s, but, when his failure to change society was mentioned, dismissively branded Humphrys "a silly sausage". At least there doesn't appear to be any prospect of The Sex Pistols: The Musical, with Lydon commenting "I certainly don't want a bunch of strangers contemplating my navel".

Quite how Humphrys might have responded to a kiss on the cheek from his interviewee is anyone's guess, but on Newsnight Andrew Neil proved the consummate professional and held it together despite Lydon's antics. Maybe things would have turned out differently for The Sex Pistols if Bill Grundy had received a smooch rather than a volley of abuse.

Meanwhile, the Guardian got Lydon to conduct a webchat and then compiled his best responses - which included labelling Russell Brand as "arsehole number one" and describing UKIP as "a black hole for the ignorant to fall into". The paper also carried John Harris' review of Lydon's book, Anger Is An Energy, which did a good job of convincing me that it would be a sound investment regardless of how likeable its author is as an individual, and that it might make a good companion-piece to Jon Savage's England's Dreaming.

Coincidentally, I've been listening to a lot of Public Image's first album of late. Suffice to say that 'Theme' is quite a way to introduce yourselves - and a serious statement of intent as regards a new direction veering away from The Sex Pistols and into post-punk. That said, for a long time I thought Lydon was singing "I wish I could fly" - turns out it's actually "I wish I could die". Orville the Duck would have been a slightly darker creation if Keith Harris hadn't also misheard the lyrics...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rebel alliance

UKIP really are desperate, aren't they? When their Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group lost an MEP, they first attempted to recruit the leader of a German dadaist party whose election slogans include "Hands off German willies: no to the EU penis-norm", but have settled for an MEP from the Polish far right with whom not even France's Front National would form an alliance. Given Farage's concerns about HIV and AIDS, you'd think he might be a little more cautious about who he himself jumps into bed with...

Flying the (Wild) Flag

If you, like me, were saddened by the demise of Wild Flag, mourn no longer - because, twenty years after they formed, Sleater-Kinney are back with a new single ('Bury Our Friends') and a new album (No Cities To Love). Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss aren't the only former members of Wild Flag to have been inspired to start again by the band's split - Mary Timony also has a new project, Ex Hex, named after her 2005 solo debut.

Also making an unexpected comeback are the Smashing Pumpkins. Billy Corgan is not noted for his restraint and humility, and so - true to form - there are not one but two albums on the horizon. The first (at least) features Motley Crue's Tommy Lee. Perhaps he's the only drummer sufficiently thick-skinned to work with Corgan?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Foot-in-mouth disease

No sooner have I slated former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson than his replacement Liz Truss suggests she's no better, describing large-scale solar farms as "a blight on the landscape". No doubt that's what the Heil On Sunday's Little Englander readership wants to hear. Her argument that such farms are occupying valuable land that could be used for food production was immediately rubbished by Friends Of The Earth.

Not surprisingly, Truss isn't the only Tory minister to make idiotic comments of late, with Andrew Selous opining that "disabled people work harder because they're grateful to have a job" - a follow-up to Welfare Reform minister Lord Freud's claim that the disabled are "not worth" the minimum wage. That "Nasty Party" tag is clearly a thing of the past...

Meanwhile, UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall has categorically denied playing Bungle on children's TV programme Rainbow, just in case you were wondering. On a similar note, Bob Holness didn't play the saxophone solo on 'Baker Street'.

Ebola outbreak prompts idiocy outbreak

The answer to the ebola crisis? Homeopathy, obviously. It's about as crackpot a suggestion as that of Joe Wilson, a Tea Party congressman who claims that Hamas will use the disease as a kind of suicide bomb against the US. Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth...

(Thanks to Zoe and Dan for the links.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sex symbol

There was a lot of controversy stirred up a couple of years back when Damien Hirst's sculpture Verity was erected in Ilfracombe, a move the local regeneration board described as having "huge potential for the regeneration of the town". I wonder how those outraged by an enormous foetus-bearing woman might have reacted if instead they'd got a massive green butt-plug...

If you're feeling sinister

Find a few old photos, take them completely out of context and you've got an incredibly sinister gallery. Gasmasks, shadowy figures and crying children feature regularly. Some of these would make perfect album covers - not least the one with the kids in Disney masks in front of the burning car.

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A town called malice

A few days ago I wrote about the South African town of Orania, where apartheid is still alive and well as a noble and honourable concept. If Peter Griffiths had had his way, there would have been apartheid in Britain too. It's now fifty years since Tory Griffiths defeated Labour in a General Election in Smethwick with the infamous campaign slogan "If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour". This Guardian article tells the story of that election, as well as of Malcolm X's subsequent visit and of what has changed since.

The "logic" of the racism that immigrants from the Commonwealth faced is completely incomprehensible. They were predominantly brought in to meet the pressing need within the British manufacturing industry and so, far from being a drain on resources or taking the jobs of "natives", directly contributed to the stirringly patriotic task of keeping Britain Great - and yet were rewarded for their efforts with vilification and abuse.

Thankfully all that's firmly in the past, though - right? Not so, according to local film-maker Billy Dosanjh, who's under no illusions as to the current state of British politics: "Characters like Nigel Farage and Nick Griffin are unbelievably similar to Peter Griffiths. In the 60s, immigration was associated by racists like Griffiths with bringing in disease. Now you have the same thing with Farage". Indeed, in some ways, things are actually worse: "The difference is that while in 1964, Wilson dubbed Griffiths a 'parliamentary leper', today Cameron and Miliband are following Farage when they ought to be standing up to him". Dosanjh is right - it's a very sorry state of affairs.

(Thanks to Neil for the link.)

Quote of the day

"Diversify, Bernard. Present some bird watching show. ... Did anyone see Countryfile last night? Countryfile was great. There was this guy out there who drove his camper into the woods with his computer and recorded birdsong. Then he'd imitate it himself, put it in the computer and mix it in with music to create something. The presenter was on about ... what was the man's name? Vaughan Williams. And the music in relation to the country. I thought it was a beautiful programme."

Old punks don't die, it seems - they just start watching Countryfile. The punk in question is Iggy Pop, and the advice came in response to a question from none other than Joy Division and New Order's Bernard Sumner.

Pop had just delivered this year's John Peel Lecture. I had no idea he was now a semi-regular on Radio 6 - looking at recent playlists, he's gone in for a lot of classic krautrock (Amon Duul, Can, Popol Vuh, Michael Rother) and shown The Beach Boys some love, but still found time to give Protomartyr's 'Scum Rise' a plug.

Papery prison

Locked in a branch of Waterstones? I can think of worse places to be. At least you'd have cultural sustenance (a plentiful supply of books), nutritional sustenance (courtesy of Costa) and lots of toilet paper (Dan Brown novels).

That said, I'd much rather be locked in any of these bookshops instead, all of which feature in Jen Campbell's The Bookshop Book. Nice to see that Northumberland institution Barter Books features - and quite rightly so.

Know Your Enemy

"The green blob is holding the line. You had Dr Parr on from Greenpeace yesterday and he skirted round Justin Webb's questions questions on golden rice. Since yesterday, 6,000 people have died from vitamin A deficiency and he batted away Justin's questions on them stopping it. It was utterly wicked that last year Greenpeace activists trashed trials in the Philippines on golden rice. This is a huge problem around the world."

No, Owen Paterson - what's "utterly wicked" is smearing Greenpeace, given that they weren't even involved in halting the trials he mentions. This, lest we forget, is the man Cameron appointed to the position of Environment Secretary - a climate change sceptic who refers to environmentalists as "the green blob". At least he's since had the good sense to sack him.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Vat's your lot

Things I learned: on this day two centuries ago, the London Beer Flood happened, claiming the lives of at least eight people. Well, I suppose at least there are worse ways to go (unless the beer in question was Carling).

(Thanks to Dan for the link.)

Guilt and ... Innocence

What's this - a touch of humility and contrition from Bono? He's apologised for the release strategy for U2's latest album Songs Of Innocence, describing it as "a beautiful idea" but admitting that "we got carried away with ourselves" and that a "drop of megalomania" was involved. Well, at least he has a measure of self-awareness...

Make quilts not war

We're a peace-loving bunch up in the north-east, honest - when we bomb, we do it with yarn. That said, it was no surprise to learn that this happened in somewhere like Prudhoe rather than, say, Ashington or Blyth...

(Thanks to Ross for the link.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"Ariel pinks delusional misogyny is emblematic of the kind of bullshit everyone woman in this industry faces daily."

Grimes was clearly so annoyed by Ariel Pink's latest outburst that she decided to dispense with grammar. Pink had announced he'd been invited to work on Madonna's new album, but then declared she'd suffered "a downward slide" and "a drain of values" since her debut. Amusingly, Madge's manager Guy Oseary has since claimed that neither he nor his charge have even heard of Pink, and stated that she has "no interest in working with mermaids". Ouch.

This isn't the first time Pink has been accused of misogyny - only last month he faced the same charge following some dubious comments made in an interview but remained resolutely unrepentant.

Naming rights

Wolves In The Throne Room, !!!, Yo La Tengo and Fucked Up are among the nine best-ever band names suggested by the marvellously monikered ... And You Will Know Them By The Trail Of Dead. No mention, sadly, of Alpha Male Tea Party or another outfit I came across recently, Badly Timed Acid Flashback. Tsk tsk.