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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Know Your Enemy

"The rich get the best care. The poor are left to die."

Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization, pulling no punches about the lessons to be learned from the current ebola crisis in west Africa.

Checking online, it appears that the only mainstream British paper to have reported her comments is the Daily Heil - are all the rest running scared of upsetting the pharmaceutical companies?

Quote of the day

"At the end of the day, the Internet is all about whatever kind of pornography you happen to be interested in. For me, it was record porn; if I only knew how accessible all those records would ultimately become."

Damian Abraham of Fucked Up, among the musicians Pitchfork asked to talk about their first and enduring experiences with the internet.

Also interviewed for the feature are Brian King of Japandroids, Conrad Keely of ... Trail Of Dead, Marnie Stern, Owen Pallett, Caribou's Dan Snaith, Flying Lotus, Avey Tare of Animal Collective and Bob Mould. Marissa Nadler recalls using the internet to track down Guns 'N' Roses and Led Zeppelin tablature, while Swans' Thor Harris was delighted to discover eBay as a treasure trove of nineteenth-century woodworking tools from around the globe.

Beastly behaviour

While the Danes are preparing to ban bestiality, the Tories are no doubt looking to repeal our own law against the practice - after all, that would fit squarely with their overarching policy initiative Fucking The Vulnerable For A Better Britain...

(Thanks to Owen for the link.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A line in the sand

"I see nothing wrong with apartheid". So says one of the residents of Orania - and he's clearly not in the minority. Indeed, the town was essentially founded in 1991 as a bastion of apartheid against the reality of twenty-first-century South Africa - it's for white Afrikaaners only.

The inhabitants - who are obliged to abide by draconian rules, including having to seek permission to receive visitors - talk of the town as a safe and secure environment. But they actually appear to live in a constant state of fear, adopting a ghetto mentality and particularly afraid of their culture being "diluted". Of course, that's just a thinly veiled fear of ethnic "dilution" and miscegenation, regardless of empty claims like "We are not against black people. We are for ourselves".

It's quite incredible that such places can still exist, but hopefully Orania's determined isolationism will end up starving it of oxygen.

Kool things

French filmmaker and author Catherine Breillat, comedian Louis CK, an American football shirt, "getting licked by a horse on the Lower East Side late one night": all things Kim Gordon lists as influences. The inclusion of Bill Nace, her bandmate in Body/Head, and the exclusion of Thurston Moore is unsurprising.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Medium in big trouble

Woe betide anyone who dares to question "psychic" Sally Morgan's ability to communicate with the dead. If you do, it seems you won't just get the spirit world on your back - you'll get a sustained barrage of menacing threats and homophobic abuse from Morgan's husband/manager. Campaigner Mark Tilbrook recounts his experience here, and footage of the encounter can be viewed here.

In response, Sally Morgan Enterprises (!) has claimed that John Morgan's behaviour was "out of character" and that she "can only assume that this was the cause of persistent hounding that lead to this altercation". That'd be the sound of shovels frantically trying to dig a way out of a big hole.

Know Your Enemy

"No one should ever confuse the criminal act of stalking with romance. The trivialisation of these serious crimes, like stalking, should have no place in the entertainment industry."

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) react to the video for Maroon 5's 'Animals'. So they've played the shock value card. Well done. *slow handclap*

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Boys on film

Wild Boys: The Story Of Duran Duran was first screened in 2000, but was presumably shown again recently to coincide with the release of Soul Boys Of The Western World, the documentary film about Spandau Ballet - the other outfit who, perhaps more than most, became the musical embodiment of Thatcherite Britain.

In the words of Dave Ambrose of EMI, who signed them up, Duran Duran were "a celebration of 'Let's go out and get it, let's enjoy it, and who cares?'". As the Pet Shop Boys sang, "Let's make lots of money" - and suddenly it wasn't taboo to do so. Consumption had rarely been more conspicuous, and no one - least of all the members of Duran Duran - seemed remotely interested in exercising restraint.

The film charts the band's history, from the early fusion of influences (punk, glam, disco, German electronica) through the heady pop megastar high-life of the mid-1980s to the low points of the 1990s. During that time they got mobbed by obsessed shrieking fans, got pally with Andy Warhol (according to Debbie Harry, "He was very attracted to Duran Duran - I think that they were a picture of pop art come to life") and got to work with Nile Rodgers (who somewhat implausibly claims that 'Wild Boys' could easily have been recorded by The Clash).

Nick Rhodes talks affectedly and arrogantly throughout it all, claiming to have "launched" a sound and sniffily dismissing erstwhile bandmate Andy Taylor's side-project with Robert Palmer, The Power Station, as "very rockist". He'd be well advised to listen to his own band's 2000 incarnation with replacement guitarist Warren Cuccurullo.

Thankfully, Paul Morley is on hand to puncture the pomposity of Rhodes and others, at one point claiming that Simon Le Bon wearing a yellow suit in the video for 'Rio' was like "a lump you'd find in your custard". (Le Bon himself comments that "All that mattered was the image" - call me an old fuddy-duddy, but surely the music should come into the equation somehow...)

In truth, Rhodes does show a sliver of self-awareness, describing covers album Thank You as "another one of our commercial suicide bids" - the mauling of 'White Lines' with Grandmaster Flash and others produced as Exhibit A in the prosecution's case. Lou Reed claims to be "absolutely wild" about their rendition of 'A Perfect Day', though, and Iggy Pop pops up as another unlikely character witness, describing the band as "a group of warm, wonderful and civilised human beings working in today's music industry". Perhaps it's tongue in cheek - it's hard to tell. Duran Duran themselves didn't really deal in such subtleties.