Monday, September 22, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"We’re the pierced and tattooed, shorts-wearing, skunk-smoking, OxyContin-popping, neurotic dickheads who’ve presided over the commoditisation of the counterculture; we’re the ones who took the avant-garde and turned it into a successful rearguard action by the flying columns of capitalism’s blitzkrieg; we’re the twats who sat there saying that there was no distinction between high and popular culture, and that adverts should be considered as an art form; we’re the idiots who scrumped the golden apples from the Tree of Jobs until our bellies swelled and we jetted slurry from our dickhead arseholes – slurry we claimed was 'cultural criticism'."

Will Self may be railing against the ubiquity of hipster culture (as well as the internet, for being a democratic platform that permits anyone to think they're an "artist"), but much of his ire is reserved for his own generation for allowing it to happen. While I can take his general point, I'm less enamoured by the sneering at "frothy-coffee joints and vinyl record shops" and the sweeping dismissal of Clifton in Bristol and the Northern Quarter in Manchester as nothing but horrible hipster hangouts.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

Quote of the day

"It’s such a horrible idea to try teaching Moby-Dick or Dubliners to high school juniors. Even the bright ones lose heart. But it’s good to make them reach a little. They’ve got to see there are brighter literary worlds than Twilight. Reading good fiction is like making the jump from masturbation to sex."

Stephen King, talking to Jessica Lahey of The Atlantic about teaching literacy. King's literary instruction manual On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft sounds well worth a read.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Punk's puddings

From drummer in seminal hardcore bands to acclaimed pastry chef at one of the swankiest restaurants in New York: it's an improbable journey, but one that Brooks Headley has managed to make. It's not even as though he's actually left his punk past behind, either - he's in a supergroup (of sorts) with Dean Spunt of No Age, and has got Steve Albini to write the foreword for his new cookbook (of sorts) Fancy Desserts. I'll admit I'd not heard of him before, but how can you fail to love a chef whose ethical food-buying policy is shaped by listening to Fugazi and who's made use of the cover of Melvins' Bullhead in his book?

As for Albini, it's no secret that he loves food too - and Stereogum's Greg Bouchard has reported on recently having the privilege of witnessing him at work in the kitchen and sampling one of his meals. Playing and recording music, poker, cooking: is there anything of value that the man isn't good at?

Quote of the day

"I've got the best record collection that I know."

The boast that Cerys Matthews claims scored her a slot on 6 Music. While I don't doubt the claim, I do doubt the truth of the statement, frankly - after all, if it really was that good a record collection, how on earth could she have contrived to come up with Catatonia and their post-Britpop slurry?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pro Contra Bono

Of all the responses to U2 and Apple stealth-bombing people with the former's Songs Of Innocence, I think Washington Post critic Chris Richards' pithy effort might be my favourite: "On Tuesday afternoon, U2’s new album was just there, waiting for you. Like an Ikea catalogue. Or a jury summons. Or streptococcus."

Richards was certainly not alone in being irritated by the stunt, to the extent that Apple have bowed to pressure and made it easier to purge your iTunes library of the offending album.

Not that the ongoing collaboration between the band and the firm is showing any signs of coming to an end, mind - on the contrary, they're apparently working on a new digital music format that "will prove so irresistibly exciting to music fans that it will tempt them again into buying music - whole albums as well as individual tracks". I've got news for you, Bono and Cook: some of us never stopped.

(Thanks to Neil for the first link.)

The fading of the light

How would I respond in the face of impending death? I'm not sure, though it certainly wouldn't be as eloquently as either Charlotte Kitley, a mother of two who this week wrote a powerful final blog for the Huffington Post on the importance of enjoying life before succumbing to bowel cancer, or veteran broadcaster Clive James, whose poignant poem 'Japanese Maple' about his own slow "fading out" has recently been published by the New Yorker.

Quote of the day

"I like manatees. They seem pretty mellow."

If you didn't know this was J Mascis responding to the question "Which animal would you want to be?", you could have guessed. It's not a very Pitchfork question to be asking of musicians, but there you go...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland the not-so-brave

Scotland: the cool, rebellious teenager with exceptional music taste who is always shouting "I HATE YOU" at their Daily Mail-reading parents but who can't quite bring themselves to fly the nest and cut themselves off from the Bank of Mum and Dad.

Not that I would have blamed the Scots for wanting independence - who could, given that they voted in one Tory out of 50+ MPs at the last election and still ended up with a Tory(ish) government? And not that I can't understand their reasons for voting "No" - the "Yes" campaign were unable to provide convincing answers to a lot of questions and there was just too much uncertainty and risk involved.

Of course, the danger now is that the "No" vote is taken as an unequivocally positive preference for staying in the union rather than an expression of mistrust in the "Yes" campaign's sketchy vision of an independent Scotland by many who favour independence in principle, and that as a result David Cameron's rhetoric about further devolution is just that - rhetoric. Given that the result wasn't as close as predicted, I wouldn't be surprised if Cameron is already privately regretting his pre-referendum promises and looking at ways to backtrack. I can only hope Andrew Marr's right: "What the Scottish shock has done is produce a constitutional revolution on a very, very tight timetable. Possibly the most exciting political story in my lifetime."

To end on a cynical note, the 84% overall turnout is certainly impressive in the context of other elections. However, when you consider that 25% of people in Glasgow couldn't be bothered to queue to directly decide their long-term future while others will queue overnight to get their hands on a new fucking mobile telephone, it puts things into a different perspective...

The late review

"Self-admiring, manipulative and psychopathic": all admirable qualities, yes? Just seeking some reassurance - as someone who very definitely habitually stays up late, I'm supposedly statistically more likely to be all three. Though I'm also neither phenomenally successful and rich nor in jail. Just a matter of time, perhaps.

(Thanks to Siobhan for the link.)

Keep quiet

I see The Script's new album is called No Sound Without Silence. In their case, there's no sound that's preferable to silence.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

mclusky do Dallas South Wales

An obsession with tomato pesto, near-death experiences with chicken, the expression "wank-priests", describing his current band as like "Mo Farah with a can of Heineken", disappointment that they can't be Mission Of Burma, a footnote that reads "I would never dream of calling a woman a cunt unless that was her given name, and then with some reservations": why, yes, of course, that would be Andy "Falco" Falkous explaining the decision to reform mclusky (sort of) for a couple of November gigs in aid of two of the venues that helped put the band on the map, Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff and Le Pub in Newport.

The latter's need is greatest, given that it's under threat of closure if £10,000 can't be found to cover the cost of soundproofing - another case in which the adoption and implementation of the Agent of Change principle proposed by the Music Venue Trust would have helped. As Falco himself says ("with all due respect"), "Newport does not need to be losing places of cultural import right now".

Jones keeping up with the Guttenbergs

First it was Steve Guttenberg attempting to launch a new career as a kids' author; now it's Michael Winslow aka Jones putting in an appearance on a track on the new album from Killer Mike and El-P aka Run The Jewels. He contributes "guest robot voice", naturally. So who's next to surface? Tackleberry? Hooks?

Monkey business

So now we know that murder "comes naturally" to chimpanzees - it's not the result of years of being forced to dress up and be filmed drinking shit tea.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hunger games

A reminder that, no matter how dire things seem in the UK, they're usually worse across the pond. Here, we've witnessed prominent politicians, national newspapers and vacuous publicity-seeking imbeciles attacking food banks and those who use them - but in the US, an increasing number of cities are introducing outright bans on charitable organisations donating food to the homeless. Following the old adage that you are what you eat, this basically means they're nothing. How very humane.

(Thanks to Ian for the link.)

Know Your Enemy

"I hate that beer commercial lead-guitar shit. This next song is called 'The War on Drugs Can Suck My Fucking Dick'."

Not content with branding a paying audience as "fucking hillbillies" for interrupting his set, Mark Kozelek has now started lashing out at fellow musicians for the same reason.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Forward thinking

The problem with modern science fiction? Too much doom and gloom, and not enough excited optimism. At least that's the view of author Neal Stephenson, the figurehead of Project Hieroglyph, which finds sci-fi authors turning their backs on bleak dystopian visions and teaming up with prominent scientists to develop and explore more positive visions of the future that could become reality. Might the long, long wait for hoverboards finally be nearing an end?

The project has arisen from a conference at which Stephenson spoke of "our society's inability to execute on big stuff". As wonderful an invention as the internet is, he suggests, a great deal of time and effort is squandered on essentially trivial achievements (such as grappling with and developing algorithms for search engines) that could be put to much better use advancing knowledge and technology in other spheres. "I saw the best minds of my generation writing spam filters", he notes wryly. As someone frequently distracted from the serious task at hand and falling into a YouTube binge, I understand exactly where he's coming from...

(Thanks to Simon for the links.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

The politics show

Such a shame that Rob Ford has withdrawn from the Toronto mayoral election. I genuinely mean that - after all, wouldn't it have been amazing to witness him face to face with Fucked Up's Damian Abraham? Presumably this means Lias from Fat White Family will be moderating the debate between the candidates for the next mayoral election in London.

Pretty fly for an 85-year-old

Surely the perils faced by silver surfers are already sufficiently legion - being besieged and tricked by spam, having to remember a multitude of different passwords - without Facebook making it all too easy for grandmothers to accidentally tag themselves as hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash...

(Thanks to Nick for the link.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"Black metal is music made by pussies of the lowest order, and we felt it was necessary to investigate this aberrant anti-music behavior. We feel like the sound and attitude of black metal is a loss of self, life, light and desire in a way where it becomes so negative that a whole new bliss arrives where we become super pussy."

Unlike a lot of musicians, Thurston Moore doesn't often open his mouth without first engaging his brain, but this comment - from an interview building up to the release of Pure Bleed, the album he's recorded with Chelsea Light Moving drummer John Moloney - suggests he's made an exception. Handed the opportunity to defend his comments by Rolling Stone, he laughed at the upset they caused but didn't make much (if any) attempt to retract them.

The latter interview, incidentally, also found him talking excitedly about his new backing band for forthcoming solo album The Best Day. Certainly, the title track promises much.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Quote of the day

"Were they upset for me, because I got maced? I don't even remember what I said, but that was right after [the macing incident] happened, so you'll have to excuse any misogynistic feelings I might have had. It was just my victim mentality kicking in—I'm going to get trolled for saying that. But the funny thing is, nobody came to my defense. And I don't expect them to. I got over that. I could be an asshole, and that's my right. People need to get over that. It's not illegal to be an asshole. It's not illegal to be racist, even. It's not illegal to do anything.  You have to deal with other people's bullshit, man. You live in this world, and we kill people. Humans kill people. Men kill people. Nitpicking about ideologies and all that kind of stuff is silliness. There are bigger fish to fry."

Ariel Pink, unrepentant over misogynistic comments made in a recent interview. The guy is about as likeable as his music i.e. not very.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Change of use? Change of law

The Music Venue Trust's campaign has stepped up a notch with Frank Turner's petition to Culture Secretary Sajid Javid calling for the Agent of Change principle to be adopted into UK law, as it is elsewhere in the world. Under current legislation, buildings adjacent to pre-existing music venues can be transformed into residential accommodation and yet the burden of soundproofing falls on the venues - as was the case for the late, lamented Point in Cardiff, which was bankrupted by the cost of the required work. A farcical and patently unjust situation, and, as Turner explains, the Agent of Change principle is the only sensible and equitable solution if the rights of venues are to be respected.

Know Your Enemy

"In a world where the album has been consistently devalued over the last 15 years or so, U2 have finally reduced it to the status of spam email. Well done Bono, well done indeed."

A commenter on this lightweight Guardian article on U2's decision to partner up with Apple and distribute copies of their pretentiously named new album Songs Of Innocence free. Nail, meet head.

"And you can count - on me waiting for you in the parking lot..."

While Richard Kiel will no doubt be best remembered for playing Jaws in the James Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, let's not forget his splendid role as Happy Gilmore's ex-boss and Shooter McGavin's nemesis, or his double act with Jackie Chan in Cannonball Run II.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Feel good hits of the 11th September: bumper edition

1. 'Forgiven/Forgotten' - Angel Olsen
I'm so smitten with Burn Your Fire For No Witness that I don't even care if it means I'm now in Uncut's target demographic. This brilliant single should be prescribed to anyone who was raving about Waxahatchee's overrated Cerulean Blue last year.

2. 'FM' - The Slits
I've got an awful lot to thank Thurston Moore for - the latest being naming The Slits' 'Love Und Romance' as one of his 38 favourite songs ever, and thereby both introducing me to the song and persuading me to get the album on which it appears. More than 35 years on, Cut's inventive elision of punk, reggae and feminist politics still sounds incredibly fresh. Viv Albertine's book Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys has been added to a lengthening reading list.

3. 'Buy Nothing Day' - The Go! Team
As recently mentioned, a serendipitous discovery and no mistake.

4. 'Manipulator' - Ty Segall
Him again. And the title track (at least) is great, again - nicking the rhythm from The Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' and adding some garage organ. Let's just say it won't take much to manipulate me into buying the album.

5. 'Paper Heart' - Howling Bells
Juanita Stein's no Natasha Khan or Cat Power, but 'Paper Heart' is a fair stab at a emotionally freighted piano-led ballad.

6. 'Marathon Man' - The Icarus Line
The fantastically sleazy and violent highlight of last year's undisputed return-to-form album Slave Vows has nothing but contempt for the health of your speakers.

7. 'I Called' - Jenny Hval
An indie-glam oddity from the Norwegian's fiercely idiosyncratic and occasionally brilliant record Innocence Is Kinky.

8. 'Prince Johnny' - St Vincent
Poor Annie Clark. She finally manages to grab my attention sufficiently for me to buy one of her albums, and immediately it's overshadowed by Angel Olsen's. Still, tracks like 'Prince Johnny' suggest that I may become quite the fanboy in time.

9. 'Back In Black' - AC/DC
One of my very few memories of my first visit to Fuel in Cardiff on Saturday night. A song that brooks no argument whatsoever, even if it's performed by a man wearing a tweed flat cap and another dressed as a schoolboy.

10. 'The Specter' - The Besnard Lakes
A track beamed in from that parallel universe where Pink Floyd, My Bloody Valentine and The Beach Boys made sweet, sweet music together. Par for the course for The Besnard Lakes, mind.

11. 'Brightest Star' - Ringo Deathstarr
A high point from ver Deathstarr's underwhelming last album Mauve, a spaced-out reverie that sees Alex Gehring take a back seat.

12. 'Cornelia And Jane' - Yo La Tengo
Georgia Hubley and company make making swoonsome songs sound so effortless. Listening to 'Cornelia And Jane' again has me thinking that I may have done Fade a disservice in last year's album rankings.

13. 'Nighttime' - The Amazing Snakeheads
With Royal Blood soaring high and just named as Mercury Prize nominees, the question is whether an Arctic Monkeys endorsement can have the same effect for Domino labelmates The Amazing Snakeheads. You'd hope so - 'Nighttime' is a nicely sinister glam/rockabilly stomp that recalls The Archie Bronson Outfit.

14. 'Fear Of My Identity' - Best Coast
Nothing sinister about Best Coast - just self-doubt set to cast-iron indie rock of the sort that's supposed to be a dying art.

15. 'Fold The Cloth' - Cate Le Bon
The track with which Ms Le Bon closed her main set in Oxford on Tuesday night - a gig to whet the appetite of someone totally unfamiliar with her work.

16. 'Take It Home' - Lightning Dust
Hearing this - the splendid last song on 2009's Infinite Light - reminded me that I really should invest in Amber Webber and Joshua Wells' latest offering, Fantasy.

17. 'Open Eye Signal' - Jon Hopkins
The reason why Hopkins (and his most recent album Immunity in particular) is so lauded continues to escape me, though 'Open Eye Signal' is one of those tracks that suddenly seems to make a lot more sense in conjunction with its video. Certainly a lot more sense than his collaborations with Coldplay...

18. 'Cycle' - Beck
And thus begins Morning Phase - to all intents and purposes Sea Change Part 2. Like the rest of the album, it's all very nice, but perhaps plods along a bit too tediously.

19. 'Dripping' - Blonde Redhead
It's been a long, long time since I last heard Blonde Redhead - probably around the time of Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons - and judging by the sinuous groove of 'Dripping' they've not stood still in the intervening years.

20. 'Forever' - Iceage
While it's fair enough that Iceage have decided they couldn't keep up the explosive intensity of last year's blistering You're Nothing, I'm far from convinced that the glowering 'Forever', lurching unsteadily like a seasick drunk doing an impression of the Bad Seeds, is the direction they should be taking. The Carry On innuendo in the title of forthcoming new album Plowing Into The Field Of Love doesn't bode well either.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Quote of the day

"We’ve been fine all along the way. I suppose we’ve had our ins and outs, but that’s how it goes with any relationship."

Alice "Nonie" Dubes, who had to wait 72 years before being able to marry partner Vivian Boyack.

Thinking inside the box

What a pretentious tosser Andy Warhol was. What he called "Time Capsules" we call "Boxes Of Crap We Move From House To House Without Ever Unpacking"...

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


Change can be good, right?

It was with some disappointment that I learned of the demise of the idiosyncratic stuck-in-time marvel that was Cardiff's Glamorgan Staff Club, as featured in my Achosion I Laweni series and superbly captured by photographer Maciej Dakowicz. But the building has taken on new life as the Urban Tap House, the outlet for Newport brewery Tiny Rebel - and it's marvellous.

Given that Tiny Rebel were only founded in 2012, establishing a pub may have been seen as running before they had really walked, but Saturday's visit confirmed otherwise - a great range of locally brewed beers and lagers plus a hotdog vendor in the corner to satisfy our early evening hunger. Did I want a garnish of pulled pork and jalapenos? Why yes, I rather think I did.

Adjacent to the Millennium Stadium and running parallel to St Mary's Street, where the roads run yellow with cooking lager spew, Westgate Street is fast becoming an unlikely mecca for the craft beer fan. Not only does it boast the Urban Tap House but also a Brewdog outlet (another recent arrival), and a couple of other more established pubs (the Queen's Vaults and the City Arms) that have stepped up to the plate. Long may it continue.

Rock club Fuel, a short hop round the corner on Womanby Street, was our final port of call after spending most of the evening at the Mochyn Du. You can't really argue with free entry, pints of Iron Maiden-branded ale Trooper all round and some frenetic flailing to AC/DC and Guns 'N' Roses in the company of a bunch of blokes dressed as characters from Super Mario. Though my entire body did its best to protest throughout Sunday...

Monday, September 08, 2014

Quote of the day

"There's always that sense that our best record is still to come."
Radiohead's Phil Selway, as they prepare to go back into the studio together again. I don't necessarily want or expect your best, Phil - just as long as, with King Of Limbs, you've now got your worst firmly out of the way...

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Let's do the time warp

Johannes Gutenberg is credited with being introducing printing to Europe, through the use of moveable type. And now, it seems, book publication may have reached its zenith with the appearance of a tome by his near-namesake Steve Guttenberg.

For most people, Guttenberg's name is a throwback to the 1980s, when he starred in Short Circuit, Cocoon, Three Men And A Baby and several Police Academy films. But what appears to be his first foray into fiction writing suggests the man himself is stuck in the 1970s - the book's called The Kids From D.I.S.C.O. and the kids in question form a "funky superhero team" and embark on escapades that are "totally groovy"...

(Thanks to Lucy for the link.)

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"We really want to try and keep charities and voluntary groups out of the realms of politics. Some 99.9% do exactly that. When they stray into the realm of politics that is not what they are about and that is not why people give them money. The important thing charities should be doing is sticking to their knitting and doing the best they can to promote their agenda, which should be about helping others."

New Tory Minister for Civil Society Brooks Newmark. A prime example of nominative determinism - he was clearly born to be a twat.

Not only is this untrue for me and many thousands of others (what point would there be in giving to the likes of Amnesty, Oxfam and Shelter if they weren't politically engaged?), but it's also even more offensive in light of the government's swingeing spending cuts that are leaving charities such as food banks to pick up the pieces. If charities can identify government policy as causing or exacerbating the very problems against which they're fighting, then they should be perfectly within their rights to broadcast this fact. But with comments like Newmark's, the constraints enshrined in the Lobbying Act look even more like a cynical attempt to silence dissent.

(Thanks to Rob for the link.)