Monday, July 28, 2014

Going, going, gone

Poor old Didcot. Now that the three of the infamous, iconic cooling towers are gone, with the other three facing the same fate next year, the town's only remaining point of distinction will be the fact that you can catch a train to London just in under an hour...

Words weird and wonderful

I'm not sure that this list of facts and trivia about English and specific English words necessarily make the language "downright bizarre", but they're worth a look all the same. "Hobidy-boobies" sound rather less threatening than scarecrows, while "sermocination", "percontation" and "gowpen" are among the words it's useful to know actually exist. OK then, back to the quomodocunquizing for trinkgeld...

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Remember Bookshelf Porn? Well, courtesy of photographer Eilon Paz, here's the record collection equivalent. I had to close the site down to stop myself from salivating...

Smog on the Tyne

As if David Cameron wasn't odious enough already, he's now managed to confuse Tyneside with Teesside. How very dare you, David.

(Thanks to Tim for the link.)

Let them eat fascist cake

I've long been suspicious of cupcakes - justifiably so, it turns out, given their alleged connections to neo-Nazi politics. It's a novel way to spread far-right propaganda, to be sure...

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Quote of the day

"In my work, as a writer, I only photograph, in words, what I see. If I write of 'sadism' it is because it exists, I didn't invent it, and if some terrible act occurs in my work it is because such things happen in our lives. ... Censorship is the tool of those who have the need to hide actualities from themselves and from others. Their fear is only their inability to face what is real, and I can't vent any anger against them. I only feel this appalling sadness. Somewhere, in their upbringing, they were shielded against the total facts of our existence. They were only taught to look one way when many ways exist."

Charles Bukowski, on learning that his book Tales Of Ordinary Madness had been removed from the shelves of the Public Library in Nijmegen following a reader's complaint. Further evidence that I should visit the Letters Of Note site more regularly.

(Thanks to Tim for the link.)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Rage against the machine

As good as Six Feet Under? Possibly. And that, coming from me, is just about the highest praise there is. The series in question is The Wire, which we're gutted to have finally finished.

Of the many remarkable things about it, perhaps the most remarkable is the way the writers somehow manage to marshall such an amazing range and number of characters and keep multiple plotlines moving forwards. In truth, though, the fact that they're ruthless in killing off some of the main protagonists - and indeed that who the "main protagonists" are shifts from series to series - indicates that the focus isn't on individuals at all. On the contrary, it's actually on the institutions with which they come into contact, which chew them up and spit them out.

What the programme underscores repeatedly is that everyone - from the mayor to the drug baron to the policeman to the homeless addict - is at the mercy of their particular circumstances, subjected to things beyond their control. Good intentions, as laudable as they might be, ultimately count for nothing; everyone is forced into some kind of compromise. There is no black and white, only varying shades of grey. Sure, some people manage to escape their predicaments - but it's largely arbitrary. There are no neat resolutions, and in many cases vicious cycles prove to be perpetuated.

It's hard to pick a favourite series - possibly not the first, as it took us a while to acclimatise ourselves to the speed and cadences of the dialogue, and probably not the fifth, as the central plotline stretches credulity somewhat. Perhaps the fourth, which focuses on the education system - though that also arguably makes it the hardest to watch.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Written warning

Thinking of writing a novel? If your motive is fame, fortune, immortality, the potential for having your ego stroked or a sense of personal achievement, then let Spanish novelist Javier Marias talk you out of putting yourself through the effort. Still, at least he does concede that if you prefer living in a fictional world than in the real world, then the life of a novelist may just be for you.

Trading places

I've regularly bemoaned the demise of Nottingham's Selectadisc here - so it was with some surprise and delight that I greeted news of Rough Trade's plans to open a branch in the city. Fingers crossed the shop prospers - and doesn't damage the likes of Music Exchange in doing so.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In the line of fire

New York: an island of enlightened liberalism in a deeply conservative country? So you'd think - though the verbally and occasionally physical violence perpetrated by pro-life protesters outside the city's abortion clinics would suggest otherwise. Sex blogger, author and friend of this site Zoe Margolis has reported on what it's like to work as an escort for one of these clinics, protecting prospective patients from the baying crowds, and it makes for disturbing reading.

Courtroom drama

There are very few books that attain iconic cultural status, and even fewer that do so during the author's lifetime. It must have been very strange indeed for Harper Lee to have witnessed the extraordinary success of To Kill A Mockingbird and the industry that's grown up around it (branded onesie, anyone?). Of course, the famous recluse has done so from a distance - something which has no doubt contributed to the steady stream of litigation and squabbles over autobiographies that have characterised her late life.

Sea view

Here's ammunition for those who claim modern art is inaccessible: you'll need your scuba mask and maybe even full diving gear to be able to appreciate Jason deCaires Taylor's sculptures. Or, alternatively, you could just enjoy this gallery of photos.

(Thanks to James for the link.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Riffing on riffs

Lessons learned from catching half of The Joy Of The Guitar Riff on BBC4 last night:

1. I really must buy some King Crimson and Runaways albums.

2. Nile Rodgers' guitar motif on Chic's 'Good Times' has to be the most plagiarised riff ever.

3. Brian May looks more like an eighteenth-century French aristocrat with every passing day.

4. There has only been one really iconic riff written since Kurt Cobain came up with 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', and that's the White Stripes' 'Seven Nation Army'. I was spluttering with disbelief, but on reflection it's hard to argue with.

5. I ought to watch more BBC4 music documentaries.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"One thing that I will not miss about working for the Mail: unspeakably awful and demeaning spreads about women."

Soon-to-be-ex-Daily Heil journalist Becky Barrow (by her own choice) reacts to the way the rag reported last week's cabinet reshuffle - with an article about the "Downing Street catwalk".

Credit to the New Statesman for wasting no time in satirising the Heil's sexism.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Courts in the act


James Hoare is clearly a workaholic. Not content with one side-project (The Proper Ornaments), the Veronica Falls guitarist has begun another, this time with Mazes’ Jack Cooper. At first, they’re not so much Ultimate Painting as Slapdash Doodle On Back Of Fag Packet. “This is our fourth show”, Cooper says sheepishly. “We’ve got an album out in October. Maybe we’ll have figured out how to do this by then.”

Gradually, though, with the assistance of the headliners’ Austin Brown on bass, the songs swim into clearer focus, transporting us back to the halcyon days of British indie – Teenage Fanclub, The Wedding Present, The Jesus & Mary Chain et al. As nostalgia trips go, it could certainly be worse.

In tonight’s company, The Wytches feel like gatecrashers, barging their way through the door with brute force and bludgeoning riffs rather than relying upon the slightly subtler wiles of their recorded output to win hearts and minds. The result is a gloopy, grungy stew superficially garnished rather than richly flavoured with psych that proves undernourishing for the vast majority.

When Parquet Courts came to prominence last year with Light Up Gold, they bore all the hallmarks of being a Pitchfork writer’s wet dream made flesh: nerdy, witty, literate twentysomethings with a penchant for Pavement and a keen sense of their adopted home city of New York’s punk/garage lineage, from Television through Sonic Youth to The Strokes. While that widely acclaimed album had a perky and chaotic immediacy, its successor Sunbathing Animal is a rather different beast, largely a less accessible exercise in sustain and release that hints at greater influence by The Modern Lovers.

If perhaps less welcome on record, this shift turns out to work well in the live environment, where songs like ‘Bodies Made Of’, ‘What Colour Is Blood?’, ‘She’s Rolling’ and ‘Instant Disassembly’ come into their own, also throwing their faster counterparts into relief. According to Brown, Sunbathing Animal is about freedom and captivity, and certainly the quartet refuse to be held hostage to audience expectations, airing (by my reckoning) just three tracks from the album that made their name. For a band whose sound is often joyously messy (while simultaneously impeccably tight), they’ve earned a reputation for being surprisingly frosty and aloof, and Brown’s co-lead vocalist Andrew Savage eyes the moshpit with a degree of disdain.

But, in pleasing themselves, Parquet Courts succeed in pleasing this punter, at least, and in the end they give their public what they want, wrapping up with the two albums’ title tracks. ‘Sunbathing Animal’ in particular is stunning in its blistering pace and wired intensity, albeit a cruelly punishing finale to the set for poor drummer Max Savage.

In keeping with the punk ethos, there’s no encore. Beforehand, I would have thought that not playing ‘Stoned & Starving’ would have been unforgiveable, but by the end I could forgive them just about anything.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

There is power in a union

... as Billy Bragg once sang. We're used to musicians collaborating with each other, but not so much record labels. But now a whopping great 700 indies - including such instrumental players as Sub Pop, Matador, Domino, 4AD and Jagjaguwar - have come together to sign up to the Fair Digital Deals Declaration, in a bid to ensure their artists are properly compensated for their music in the digital age. Presumably the news met with a round of applause in the Yorke household.

It wasn't all about self-policing and setting guidelines, though - a Global Independent Manifesto has also been produced that sets out the labels' positions on copyright and their relationships to majors, among other things. Fair play to them for standing up for themselves.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Quote of the day

"Knowledge of who is in the toilets in whatever lobby is a very important piece of information for any chief whip and I take this as evidence that he was carrying out his duties very assiduously."

By mocking Michael Gove for getting stuck in the toilet on his first day in his new job, William Hague just went up in my estimation. A bit.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Hurrah - Weird Al Yankovic is back, posting new material each day this week. The best thus far has been 'Word Crimes', which turns Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' into an informative and entertaining grammar lesson. The video features fewer tits than the original - not least because Thicke isn't in it...

(Thanks to Josh for the link.)

Completing the picture

Telmo Pieper may have grown up to become a professional muralist, but he still looks back fondly at his childhood drawings rather than dismissing them as embarrassing juvenilia - so much so that he now uses Photoshop to give full realisation to the things his four-year-old self imagined and sketched. I particularly like the car, which looks significantly more aerodynamic than our family-sized brick...

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

Good evening

So now you know: I can be relied upon in the evening - just don't trust me at all in the morning...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Be careful what you wish for

Now that the dust has settled on Michael Gove's demise, here are a couple of things that may dampen that initial euphoria.

First, there's children's laureate Michael Rosen pointing out that while Gove may be gone, his legacy will live on and is unlikely to be reversed.

And then there's the identity of his replacement as Education Secretary: Nicky Morgan, a committed Christian whom the National Secular Society suspect may well allow her personal faith to influence her decision-making - as she did with the vote on gay marriage, despite being Minister for Women and Equalities.

While I'm not saying it's better the devil you know, things don't look quite so rosy in the cold light of day, do they?

(Thanks to Zoe and Adam respectively for the links.)

Quote of the day

"The death of Tommy Ramone has left most people who wear Ramones T-shirts emotionally unaffected."

Sad but true. RIP Tommy.

(Thanks to Nick for the link.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Taking the Michael

No doubt the teachers among you will be rejoicing that Michael Gove has been deposed as Education Secretary in the cabinet reshuffle. Sadly, as promising as it might be to hear Gove's name and the word "whip" in the same sentence, the horrid little git won't be getting a public flogging - he's now the Tories' Chief Whip. Worse still, Cameron has confirmed that in his new position Gove will "have an enhanced role in campaigning and doing broadcast media interviews", so we'll all get to see and hear a lot more of him.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"Farage is a bulletproof fusion of novelty and familiarity. Among a crowd of guarded political automatons, he's Mr Novelty, poking his head through the window like a wacky neighbour in a sitcom, breaking the monotony with some side-splitting anti-Romanian slurs. The news can't get enough of him, because in TV terms he adds a bit of colour – ironic considering what he represents."

Charlie Brooker on fine form a couple of months back.

Farage wasn't the only politician in his sights, though - on the contrary, they all were: "The more they criticise Farage, the more of their uncanny lifeforce he absorbs, because his entire schtick relies on seeming different to them, which isn't all that difficult considering they all look and sound like wind-up waxed pigs possessed by the spirit of Tupperware, harder to relate to on a basic human level than a Playmobil character or a deck chair"...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Nick of time

A while back I suggested that it wouldn't be too much fun to have Richard Dawkins as a dad. Judging by this excellent recent profile piece in the New York Times, being the spawn of Nick Cave doesn't sound so bad, though. I might have to instigate Inappropriate Film Night with Stan, just to see if we experience "a wonderful bonding moment" over Dawn Of The Dead...

Nice to see, too, that, like many music-obsessed parents, he's regularly aggrieved by his offspring's taste: "They’re just grabbing stuff, on Spotify and all that, and occasionally they’ll find something that’s really mind-blowing. But sometimes I hear what they’re playing, and I just want to cut my wrists".

Rewind to 1988, and few people who came across NME journo Jack Barron's account of his explosive encounter with Cave could have ever imagined he'd ever go on to have kids and become the sort of person who not only keeps disciplined office hours but actually goes to an office to work. I think it's fair to say age has mellowed him somewhat - that, and kicking the drug habit...

(Thanks to Phill for the link.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Master of the dark arts

I don't know why there should be such surprise and consternation at the fact that Mike Ashley's Sports Direct have been flogging Burzum T-shirts. Selling the merchandise of a band whose frontman has served a murder sentence and was recently arrested on suspicion of "plotting a massacre" is surely only to be expected of someone who was more than happy to leap into bed with a company that gets fat on the misfortune and straitened circumstances of the poor and thinks nothing of inventing law firms to put people under pressure to pay up.

(Thanks to Dave for the link.)

Shit shit-stirrer

Oh dear. They don't call it the Daily Fail for nothing, do they? Witness one hack's comically poor recent attempt at trolling some Muslims on a messageboard...

(Thanks to Neil for the link.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"Wearing pink or blue shoes, [the squad] might as well wear women’s knickers or a bra. The liberal ideology of globalism clearly wants to oppose Christianity with football. I’m sure of it. Therefore I am glad that the Russian players have failed and, by the grace of God, no longer participate in this homosexual abomination."

Russian priest Alexander Shumsky does his best to trump Ann Coulter in the Bigoted Mentalist Mouthing Off About Football stakes. All I can say is that I'm glad your nation made a swift exit too, Alexander, but that's because they were bloody awful to watch.

(Thanks to Owen for the link.)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Swans grounded

Much as I feel sorry for anyone who bought an ATP Iceland festival ticket purely because Swans were on the bill, I'm more relieved and pleased that it wasn't their May tour that was affected by Michael Gira's illness. Here's hoping he's back chastising his bandmates and deafening his audience before too long.

Things are looking up down

The more I read about shoegaze documentary film Beautiful Noise - in this instance an interview with director Eric Green - the more I'm looking forward to it. The UK focus will be particularly interesting, making it required viewing for anyone who thinks Britpop constituted some sort of golden age...