Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Know Your Enemy #9

H G Wells reviewing James Joyce's novel 'A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man' in 'The Nation', 24th Feb 1917:

"Like Swift and another living Irish writer, Mr Joyce has a cloacal obsession. He would bring back into the general picture of life aspects which modern drainage and modern decorum have taken out of ordinary intercourse and conversation."

Monday, March 31, 2003

Heart of darkness

I finally got to see 'The Hours' last night - and, as a result, Michael Cunningham's novel is yet another book I now feel duty-bound to read. Not that I'd be approaching it with anything other than genuine interest - I'm intrigued as to how the spliced and intertwined narratives work in print. The film was fantastic from start to finish, heavy without ever becoming leaden and lumbering, and the acting was uniformly superb (personally, I felt Julianne Moore outshone both Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep). Prior knowledge of Woolf's 'Mrs Dalloway' was helpful, though, in appreciating the way narrative strands from the novel are played out (in fascinatingly refracted and distorted form) in the two storylines set in America.

On a personal note the film cut straight to the heart of what Woolf's novels, for me, are really all about - underneath the genteel veneer of social niceties of early twentieth century upper-middle-class English polite society, there is a real and potent darkness. Woolf's themes are the classic stuff of art - death, sex, madness. If you stare them all squarely in the face, you become more aware of life. In terms of film-making, it's gratifying to know that even in the current money-obsessed quick-returns-focused climate, major film companies will not always opt to eschew tackling this sort of serious art head-on in favour of patronising, trite and overhyped drivel.
Quote of the day

Chris Habib on the Stars and Stripes:

"I say "fuck the flag" because it's lost its meaning. It's devoid of all that it once stood for. Desecrate it and start afresh. Take it back, renew its meaning and then return it to the glory of old. It's not disrespectful at all. It's patriotic. Too many people who wave it and rally behind it do so as a consumer convention. It's an icon that people buy and sell and buy and sell into. The lapel pins, the window-clings, the T-shirts, bags, skateboards and fluttering graphics that mar the lower-third of my television... it's become a crass tool of accessible conspicuous consumption.... I will neither wave, nor salute, nor hide behind an icon that has been hijacked by an administration of pirates and poisons. I will not have them wrap my mind in a fabric of a nationalism that I neither condone nor identify with."

(Taken from Habib's 'label statement' for Protest Records, set up by himself and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore in response to the invasion of Iraq - thanks to Wisdom Goof for the link)
Lyric-that's-stuck-in-my-head-and-won't-leave of the day

"The less complete a sentence is the more I guess I tried to say"

'Penny Racer' - Cave In

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Quote of the day

From a Texas Air National Guard press release, March 1970:

"George Walker Bush is one member of the younger generation who doesn't get his kicks from pot or hashish or speed.... As far as kicks are concerned, Lt. Bush gets his from the roaring afterburner of the F-102."

(Taken from this - thanks to The Yes / No Interlude for the link)
Patriot games

The Guardian's Gary Younge on the death of democracy in America (thanks to Wan for the link). It seems that everyone is free to express themselves - as long as they're supporting Bush and his administration. And yet the 'Coalition forces' still claim to be fighting the war in order to liberate the Iraqi people and allow them to enjoy the same freedoms of movement and speech as us in the West. Isn't irony a wonderful thing?

I read with interest all the stuff in this week's NME about radio and TV music censorship. An MTV spokesperson justified their decision not to broadcast videos like Radiohead's 'Lucky', System Of A Down's 'Boom!' and Paul Hardcastle's '19' by claiming that the station "feels that content should be sensitive at this time of war". Well, that's one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is that it's a cynical and calculated attempt to suppress lyrics and images that might be seen to offer a critical perspective on current events and war in general. The web is the only place any kind of freedom of expression seems to exist.

Also quite staggering were some of the comments of Joanne Bell, Head of Music for British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) Radio: "The track used to open the service was Thin Lizzy's 'The Boys Are Back In Town'. That was overwhelmingly requested. It's a very good military 'we're back' sort of record". Tally-ho, Bertie, see you in Baghdad for tea and cakes. Another even more bizarre song featuring heavily on the service is The Clash's 'Rock The Casbah' - even more bizarre, because of the opposition of Mick Jones and the late Joe Strummer to war. Apparently "it always gets played. It's a 'you can't mess with us' record". Add in 'We Will Rock You' by Queen (presumably), and there you have it - the soundtrack to unnecessary and unlawful imperialistic thuggery.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Acting the part

On Monday night I went to the theatre. It's been a shamefully long time since I last went, and the experience was on the whole an enjoyable one - although that particular type of smug knowing laughter you only ever get from theatrical audiences really starts to grate after a while. The performance was of David Hare's 1990 play 'Racing Demon', the first in a trilogy of 'state of the nation' plays, the others being 'Murmuring Judges' (1991) and 'The Absence Of War' (1993). The play explores the Church of England's awkward and marginalised place in British society in the late twentieth century, as more an unacknowledged social service than a shining beacon of faith. Belief and conviction, relevance and tradition are central themes, and, although on odd occasions Hare seems determined to shoehorn particular debates into the play which detract slightly from the dramatic effectiveness of certain scenes, the subject matter is dealt with warmly, intelligently and with a measure of wit. I was perhaps slightly disappointed that there wasn't the 'edge' to the drama I'd been expecting, given Hare's collaborations 'Brassneck' (1973) and 'Pravda' (1985) with the polemical playwright Howard Brenton, whose 'The Romans In Britain' (1978) is really powerful in-your-face stuff - but it was still certainly an evening well spent.
Criminal Records #10

'Faith' - Limp Bizkit
'A.D.I.D.A.S.' - Korn
'Loco' - Coal Chamber

Yes, for this final installment I'm afraid it's an ungodly nu-metal triumvirate. Mercifully, what a couple of years ago appeared to be a many-headed hydra now seems to be dying a miserable death. As is usually the case with these things, the genuinely interesting bands, who suddenly find themselves unfairly tarred with the same broad brush as all the bandwagon-jumping losers, ultimately shine through and survive - in this case, the likes of System Of A Down, Deftones and Tool. Here, however, we have three offerings from the less worthy end of the spectrum.

Limp Bizkit's cover of George Michael's 1987 hit 'Faith' was the nu-metal meathead manifesto, at least in the early days before they wrote the tragically bollocks 'Break Stuff' and every self-respecting teen was wearing clothes three sizes too big and dancing like the victims of severe spinal injuries. From there it was on to 'Rollin', Eminem disses, Britney and Fred Durst's ego ballooning so far out of proportion to his meagre talents that the planets have realigned to orbit his head.

If Limp Bizkit spread the plague, Korn can claim to have developed the virus with their self-titled 1994 album. 'A.D.I.D.A.S.' features on the 1996 follow-up, Life Is Peachy (the title is brilliantly sarcastic, you see?), and stands for "All day I dream about sex". The sports clothing manufacturers naturally weren't too happy about being associated with the track. Appropriately enough, given that it's pumped full of testosterone and teenage sexual frustration lacking any outlet, the song is a big sack of wank. The band? Last seen looking fat and peddling the awfully overblown 'comeback' album Untouchables.

Worst of the lot, though, were Coal Chamber. However, even 'Loco' wasn't the lowest point of the whole sorry affair. No, that was their cover of Peter Gabriel's 'Shock The Monkey' with Ozzy Osbourne in tow. At a time when every nu-metal act was hitching a ride on the back of covers of instantly recognisable 80s tracks (most shameful: Orgy, whose 'Blue Monday' rocketed them to popularity before the discovery was made that they had no material of their own), Coal Chamber just had to follow suit - with truly horrific consequences. Nevertheless, from this black hole of musical achievement one moderately good thing did come - a Urusei Yatsura track on the album Slain By... which, for no apparent reason, namechecks bassist Rayna.

Thank god that's it.

Music Sounds Better With You, the new ten-part feature with which I will hopefully redeem myself, will be getting underway in the next few days.
Know Your Enemy #8

Popjustice on the demise of Toploader:

"If you're going to remember Toploader at all, remember them as being unbearably crap, unjustifiably self-righteous, and terribly styled. The world of pop is a better place today and so, paradoxically, is the world of indie."
Quote of the day

Olav on procrastination:

"Sure in thirty years time, when a hoover-car accident cuts short my life, I'll regret every second that I spent watching 'Richard and Judy', but for now I'm quite happy to swim in the stew of my own ignorance and laxity. Effortlessness is, after all, a good thing. Hard work gets you nowhere. Our destination is still the grave."

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Feel good hits of the 25th March

1. 'Beat On The Brat' - The Ramones
2. 'Lost In The Air' - Cave In
3. 'Goodbye' - The Coral
4. 'Jackie Wilson Said' - Dexys Midnight Runners
5. '1969' - The Stooges
6. 'Boys In The Band' - The Libertines
7. 'Kissy Kissy' - The Kills
8. 'Untitled Track #8' - Sigur Ros
9. 'Reasons For Silence' - The Delgados
10. 'Holiday' - Madonna
Blogwatch

The almost-weekly round-up of what's attracted my eye in the Blogosphere recently:

After a temporary hiatus, Wherever You Are is back and in great shape, featuring in recent days astute reflections on the "toned-down" Oscars ceremony and youth involvement in the anti-war protests.

Both Badger Minor and Last Bus Anywhere have respectfully and insightfully taken The Dismemberment Plan's Travis Morrison to task for his predominantly pro-war comments on the band's website.

If the rolling news has been getting you down, take a peek at Little Red Boat for some light relief in the form of a feature (and many subsequent comments) on the subject of irrational fears - these include metronomes, shopping trolleys, soup, ice-cream sticks and "prehistoric-looking animals"...

The musings of Little Red Boat's Anna can also be found over at Troubled Diva, where Mike has temporarily invited guest bloggers to pitch their tents in his garden. One happy camper, Noodle, has his own blog, The World, Backwards - another addition to my list of links and heartily recommended.

And finally ... well done to Dead Kenny's beloved West Ham for banging another nail into the Mackem's relegation coffin! For what it's worth, I hope the Hammers stay up.
Sweet and sour

Revenge, so the platitude goes, is sweet - and don't I just know it after Saturday's result. Down at Ewood Park in the autumn Blackburn had inflicted on us one of our most damaging defeats of the season. On an afternoon when it all went wrong, Dabizas was sent off for handball on the line after just four minutes, we fell behind and then rallied briefly only to succumb to two goals from their Geordie central defender Martin Taylor and suffer a 5-2 defeat. So, how fitting that we should score three times in the last five minutes of Saturday's match at St James' to wrap up a 5-1 thrashing for the Lancastrians, who only the week before had been celebrating doing the double over Arsenal. Robert and Viana in particular both looked good, as the competition for the left-sided slot hots up. The title might be beyond us, but at least we seem determined not to let Arsenal or Man Utd relax for an instant.

On a decidedly sour note, though, it seems that young Master Bellamy has once again bawled himself into trouble, this time while being ejected from a Cardiff nightclub. There's no doubting he's a very talented footballer and a tremendously valuable asset to the club, but these incidents and the subsequent shows of repentent apology are doing his reputation in the game and among supporters no good whatsoever. C'mon Craig - you need to grow up, and fast.
Quote of the day

From the sleevenotes of The Ramones' All The Stuff (And More) Vol I:

"The Ramones saved rock 'n' roll. Assigned a mission by a muse so bored with the mechanical dance rhythms and vapid love songs of the middle 70s - a period of popular music wallowing in its own excremental excesses, the likes of which we hadn't experienced since the pre-Beatles 60s - this Goddess cast the fate of four lads from Queens to blast pop culture from its post-Watergate doldrums."
Know Your Enemy #7

Michael Moore at the Oscars, on the invasion of Iraq:

"We live in a time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fictition of duct tape or fictition of orange alerts we are against this war, Mr Bush."

Monday, March 24, 2003

Terry, June and Saddam

In Chris Morris's absence, you can rely on TV Go Home for all your satirical requirements. In the latest edition of the listings, you'll find details for such must-see programmes as 'Eastenders In Gasmasks' and 'The Third World War In Sepia'. Plus, Nathan Barley is memorably described as a "worthless upper-middle-class London cultural shitblister".
The height of cynicism

Watching the TV the other day, a friend turned to me and said, "Do you reckon the war with Iraq has been specially commissioned by the BBC because they need to fill up their schedules?"
Quote of the day

From the 1966 play 'US' about attitudes to the Vietnam war:

"I would like to see an English dog playing on an English lawn with part of a burned hand. I would like to see a gas grenade go off at an English flower show and nice English ladies crawling in each other's sick. And all this I would like to be photographed and filmed so that someone a long way off, safe in his chair, could watch us in our indignity!"

(As quoted in this article by the Guardian's theatre critic Michael Billington on the lack of current politically engaged drama - well worth a read)

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Criminal Records #9

'Slight Return' - The Bluetones

The year was 1996. The few days when Britpop was actually an interesting cultural phenomenon had receded into the distant past - even at its "peak", I'd reacted against all the boisterous jingoism, the self-importance and the array of predominantly atrociously feeble bands supposedly at the vanguard of the movement, and now the mainstream musical landscape was an arid desert sparsely populated by such drably inoffensive say-nothing-mean-nothing schmindie cockroaches as Echobelly, Sleeper and Menswear. And The Bluetones. There is nothing remotely interesting to say about them or this song. Ultimately, as Mena Suvari's character says in 'American Beauty', there's nothing worse than being ordinary, and yet being ordinary seems to be their very raison d'etre. Like Stereophonics, they stand against everything that is exciting, edgy, novel, experimental, intelligent, passionate and innovatory in music. The world would be neither a better nor a worse place if they did not and had not ever existed - it would be just the same. I can't think of a more damning indictment of any band - that's the exact opposite of what art should aim to be.
Quote of the day

"When the President says go - look out. It's Hammer Time"

US Vice Admiral Timothy Keating on America's readiness for the war with / the invasion of Iraq. I must confess that I'm not entirely sure what this means. Do the battle plans currently include some kind of fiendish plot to confound and bamboozle the Iraqis by making the advancing American and British soldiers wear disturbingly large trousers?

(Quote courtesy of the ever-observant Popjustice site)
It's a knockout

It was always going to be an extremely tall order. Part of the problem was that expectations were so high - probably too high. It was almost taken for granted that we'd beat Barcelona (after all, we'd done it in 1997, and in some style) and so all we had to do was hope that an under-strength Leverkusen side who had lost all five of their second group phase matches could somehow deny Inter a victory. We played well (on another night Bellamy could have got a hatful) but in the end ran out of steam, punished cruelly for two bad defensive lapses by a very professional and experienced side - but our exit from the Champions' League was already confirmed by Inter's comfortable win in Germany. The end of the match marked the end of the road, and precipitated just the sort of patronising media platitudes I'd been expecting - "It's been a lovely adventure" etc etc.

So - has it left me gutted? Not really, no. I feel proud, more than anything. We surpassed all initial expectations and survived being repeatedly ignored by ITV schedulers and written off by pundits who seemed to think we were just in it for the ride; we played with a tremendous sense of spirit and resolve; we genuinely rattled some very big-name teams; we enjoyed some spectacular evenings of edge-of-the-seat entertainment. Most important of all, though, our young players (of whom there are many) gained invaluable experience for the future. We'll be back, you can be guaranteed of that.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Criminal Records #8

'I Will Survive' - Cake

Ah yes, the cover song. The good, the bad and truly criminally ugly. There are plenty of covers in my record collection which I'd class as more than a bit special - The Dismemberment Plan's 'Crush', Nirvana's 'The Man Who Sold The World', Jimi Hendrix's 'Wild Thing' and The White Stripes' 'Death Letter', for instance. There are also a few whose quality is rather less assured - Redd Kross's pop-rock version of 'Dancing Queen' springs to mind. And then there's Cake's gruesome cover of Gloria Gaynor's disco classic 'I Will Survive', the precursor to Destiny's Child's 'Independent Women' and soundtrack to a million girlie nights in and out. The follow-up to the very-fine-indeed single 'The Distance', this was never anything other than a big fucking mistake. You do find yourself repeating the mantra of the title, though: endurance and mental resolve are required just to make it through to the end.
Know Your Enemy #6

"I, along with many other Americans, do not feel that the French government appreciates the sacrifices men and women in uniform have made to defend the freedom that the French enjoy today."

Republican Ginny Brown-Waite, who has taken American anti-French feeling to new levels by proposing that the US government should offer financial aid to families who might want to bring home from France the remains of relatives who fought and lost their lives in the two world wars.

(Thanks to The Yes / No Interlude for the link)

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Hitler: alive and well and appearing on a popular BBC2 music quiz show near you

How fucking scary was Ron Mael of Sparks on 'Nevermind The Buzzcocks' last night? Only less scary than the image of a gay Chuckle Brothers put into my mind by Bill Bailey and that Geordie comedian.
Criminal Records #7

'The Last Ever Love Song' - David Devant And His Spirit Wife

I hope you appreciate what I'm putting myself through for this little project, I really do. I made myself listen to the David Devant album Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous last night, for research purposes only of course, and I don't think I've ever felt quite so filled with self-loathing. How in the name of Beelzebub could I possibly ever have thought that this was a good thing? The Divine Comedy were one of the most abominable boils on the sweaty arse that was Britpop. They shunned and sneered at the beery indie anthems of Oasis et al; instead they took their cue from the arch pop of Pulp and the wry observational lyrics of Jarvis Cocker, but produced such offensively smug and witless dross that you wanted to garrotte chief tosser Neil Hannon with his scarf. Well, it's hard to believe, but David Devant And His Spirit Wife were WORSE. If I recall correctly, Mr Devant himself used to sport an unappealing moustache (come to think of it, I've never seen him and Har Mar Superstar in the same room at the same time...) and frilly dress shirts, and 'The Last Ever Love Song' has an end-of-the-pier cabaret waltz feel to it that makes you want to stave your own head in with a brick.
"The deep dung of cash"

'Nottingham's New University' by D H Lawrence

In Nottingham, that dismal town
where I went to school and college,
they've built a new university
for a new dispensation of knowledge.

Built it most grand and cakeily
out of the noble loot
derived from the shrewd cash-chemistry
by good Sir Jesse Boot.

Little I thought, when I was a lad
and turned my modest penny
over on Boot's Cash-Chemist's counter,
that Jesse, by turning many

millions of similar honest pence
over, would make a pile
that would rise at last and blossom out
in grand and cakey style

into a university
where smart men would dispense
doses of smart cash-chemistry
in language of common-sense!

That future Nottingham lads would be
cash-chemically B.Sc.
that Nottingham lights would rise and say:
- By Boots I am M.A.

From this I learn, though I knew it before
that culture has her roots
in the deep dung of cash, and lore
is a last offshoot of Boots.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Knife attack

The Flaming Lips' new US-only single will feature a new track called 'Thank You Jack White (For The Fiber-Optic Jesus That You Gave Me)'. Two questions. Firstly, do rock musicians routinely give each other gifts? And secondly, what's wrong with writing a simple and private thank you letter, Wayne?

Oh, and the EP will also feature a cover of 'Knives Out' by some British beat combo called Radiohead.
Criminal Records #6

'Someone Always Gets There First' - Bennet

The only defence I can possibly offer for possessing this big thick slice of awfulness is that at least it's not "their other song", 'Mum's Gone To Iceland', for which the jolly japesters stole the slogan from a TV advertising campaign and sang about the joys of shopping for frozen foodstuffs, with a complete lack of ensuing hilarity. And as excuses go, that's very lame. My sincerest apologies.
"What's wrong with being sexy?"

According to this, Andrew WK's, er, eagerly awaited new album is going to be called (wait for it...) Blow Your Bone and feature such fantastically-titled ditties as 'Never Ending Party', 'Close Calls With Brick Walls' and 'I Am Totally Stupid'. The guy really is one in a million. Still not sure if that's a good or a bad thing, though.

(Thanks to Fluxblog for the link)
Your heroes will always let you down

The Guardian's Alexis Petridis on The MC5 whoring themselves in the name of Levi's.

(Thanks to The Yes / No Interlude for the link)

Friday, March 14, 2003

Criminal Records #5

'Long Way' - Rootjoose

Once again, I'm going to pass the buck. Upon arriving at university in September 1997, I made the acquaintance of a young gentleman named Dave who introduced me and my associates to a band from the West Country called Rootjoose. They were friends of his, you see, and over the course of the year he arranged for them to come up and play at the university on a couple of occasions. Although they were undoubtedly a lovely bunch of lads, and although their gigs made some semblance of sense when heavily intoxicated and flailing around the students' union bar, it must be said that in the cold harsh light of day what the world really didn't need was a pub funk version of Reef attempting to compensate for a lack of earthy sexuality by gurning a lot and wearing an assortment of wacky and brightly-coloured hats. To make matters worse, the B-side to the single 'Long Way' was, I think, 'The Paradiddle Song', named after a drumming technique. Still, their cover of 'Taxman' by The Beatles wasn't quite as atrocious as it might conceivably have been.
Blogwatch

A quick round-up of a few things to have caught my attention in the blogosphere.

Sadly there's been a lack of activity recently over at No Rock 'N' Roll Fun, usually the source of much entertainment, but thanks to Badger Minor for alerting me to the fact that the excellent music webzine Splendid is covering the annual South By South West music festival in Austin, Texas.

Two more blogs to recommend, if you don't read them already: Vodkabird, who uses the classic quote "What we got here is failure to communicate" as a tag line - a quality touch whether it's taken straight from 'Cool Hand Luke' or from the snippet of film dialogue at the beginning of Guns 'N' Roses' 'Civil War'; and Last Bus Anywhere, to which I was immediately attracted by the indignant critique of the latest instance of lazy journalism padding out NME, the Top 100 Albums Of All Time list.

Finally, congratulations to Mike for reaching his target of 235 comments for a single post. As a result he's pledged £100 to Comic Relief - nice one.
Know Your Enemy #5

You-know-who on you-know-who:

"reckless"

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Quote of the day

"Perhaps she would rather glow in the wide if dirty skies of life, than in the somewhat remote and unsatisfactory ether of Art" - D H Lawrence, 'Glad Ghosts'
Lyric-that's-stuck-in-my-head-and-refusing-to-leave of the day

"I want something good to die for / To make it beautiful to live"

'Go With The Flow' - Queens Of The Stone Age
Criminal Records #4

'Something To Say' - Jocasta

This is how it started: "You've got to come along and see this band", said friends at the Reading Festival in 1996, "they were really good when they supported Ash in Newcastle." It finished precisely ten seconds after playing this single for the first time, purchased in the wake of their festival appearance. 'Something To Say', fittingly enough, has absolutely nothing to say - a big drab wet blanket of a song, an empty gesture, the musical equivalent of an utterly indifferent shrug of the shoulders. They sank without trace.
The one-eyed man is king

You can always rely on the Guardian's Steve Bell for incisive political comment.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Criminal Records #3

'Cats In The Cradle' - Ugly Kid Joe

OK, OK, just give me the whipping and the hair shirt now and let's get it over with. Do I really have to write about this? Where I got this from I don't know. What I do know is that there's absolutely no excuse. As for most of those unfortunate to remember them, Ugly Kid Joe first cast their bad-metal shadow over my consciousness with their song 'Everything About You' (chorus: "I hate everything about you"), a sort of sub-Tenacious D track, if that's possible. 'Cats In The Cradle' was the excruciatingly bad soft-rock follow-up single where they tried to go all serious and sensitive. In an extraordinary move, lead singer Whitfield Crane went on to replace Keith Caputo as vocalist of former hardcore mob Life Of Agony. Unsurprisingly, it didn't work out. Anyway, 'Cats In The Cradle' - it's an appalling song, and I'm truly, truly sorry if I've inadvertently awaken bad memories. Just be glad that I haven't tried to inflict an MP3 of it on y'all...
Vanity Project #5

The fifth issue of the very fine free low-budget Portsmouth-based fanzine Vanity Project is out on the prowl right now, featuring (amongst other things):
An obituary of Lonnie Donegan
An interview with Fortuna Pop's Tender Trap (who count former members of Talulah Gosh and Heavenly among their ranks)
A label profile of Cardiff's Trauma Press Recordings
Live reviews of Cardiacs, Ladytron, The Polyphonic Spree, Chris T-T and Queen Adreena
Reviews of My Computer, Ballboy, The Paybacks / The Henchmen, Of Montreal, qhixldekx, Saloon and Hyperkinako.

For more information, email Mr Vain himself at skif@vanityproject.co.uk and check out previous issues by clicking here.
Armani, Versace, Beckham

Hot on the heels of the news that Atomic Kitten have launched their own line of clothing (leading to the astute observation of Simon over on No Rock 'N' Roll Fun that this would make it much easier for parents to clothe their children like Scouse whores) comes my discovery today that none other than Manchester-United-and-England-superstar-David-Beckham has designed a range of kids' clothes for Marks & Spencers. Now, call me cynical, but the concept of David "designing" anything seems rather preposterous. I have visions of him coming home from a morning's training with Scholesy, Giggsy and Nevillsy, grabbing a bite to eat, and then spending his afternoon sat with Brooklyn around the kitchen table drawing pictures with crayons and having to plead with Victoria to be allowed to use the scissors. Anyway, surely the whole thing is going to precipitate a massive increase in traumatised young boys suffering from confusion about their gender, when a Beckham-"designed" child's sarong becomes available?
"That John Denver's full of shit, man"

I'd forgotten just how great a film 'Dumb And Dumber' really is. Of course, the Farrelly brothers have got to shoulder the responsibility for the tidal wave of facsimile frat-boy comedies that have subsequently left cinemas awash in unpleasantly aromatic sewage, but 'Dumb And Dumber' is the zenith (or, more properly, the nadir) of their puerile humour, and it's relentlessly funny no matter how hard you try to resist and look down your nose at it. Compulsive viewing for Jim Carrey's quite remarkable repertoire of facial expressions alone.
The pride and so nearly the glory

The fact that we can go to the San Siro to take on Inter Milan, one of Italy's best sides, with a team boasting almost nothing in terms of European experience and come away feeling bitterly disappointed not to have secured all three points speaks volumes for our performance. Quite simply, we were magnificent, and nothing can take that away - not the disgraceful displays of theatricality by the likes of Conceicao and Emre, not the ludicrous booking for Bellamy, not the racist abuse of the Inter crowd directed at Bramble, Bernard and Lua Lua. Shearer grabbed another couple of vital goals to take him to five in the last two Champions' League games, and while I'm reluctant to single any one player out for praise, it must be said that Bernard was absolutely outstanding in his commitment, tackling and overall contribution to the game. Unfortunately, of course, to progress in the competition we now need to beat Barcelona at home and hope that Leverkusen somehow manage to spring a massive upset by denying Inter a win. Still, that we're even in this position is a fantastic achievement.

Just can't resist contrasting our current fortunes with the parlous state of affairs down on Wearside. Howard Wilkinson and Steve Cotterill aka The Dream Team lasted just 20 league games (27 games in total), amassing a fabulous 11 points and overseeing some scintillating displays of suicidal football - at home to Charlton and away to Spurs particularly come to mind. So, now the weight is set to fall on Mick McCarthy's shoulders - I suppose Bob Murray's rationale is that at least he's one person who's been proven to get Kevin Kilbane kicking in the right direction...
Quote of the day

Over at Hipster Detritus, a true American calls for the boycott of all music by French artists and their associates:

Remember, to willingly listen to and purchase the music of these TRAITORS TO THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE is to throw up your hands and shout "come on in, Saddam, and sodomise Lady Liberty!"

Ah, I love the smell of satire in the morning.
Know Your Enemy #4

The Guardian's daily teatime football email 'The Fiver' on Sir Alex Ferguson:

"It is certainly one of the weakest in terms of numbers and it looks a bit thin when you get a few injuries like we have at the moment" - This is Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, the world's richest club, moaning about the size of his squad. Fans of Aston Villa, Barnsley, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool, Bolton Wanderers, Boston United, Bournemouth, Bradford City, Brentford, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Burnley, Bury, Cambridge United, Cardiff City, Carlisle United, Charlton Athletic, Chelsea, Cheltenham Town, Chesterfield, Colchester United, Coventry City, Crewe Alexandra, Crystal Palace, Darlington, Derby County, Everton, Exeter City, Fulham, Gillingham, Grimsby Town, Hartlepool United, Huddersfield Town, Hull City, Ipswich Town, Kidderminster Harriers, Leeds United, Leicester City, Leyton Orient, Lincoln City, Luton Town, Macclesfield Town, Manchester City, Mansfield Town, Middlesbrough, Millwall, Newcastle United, Northampton Town, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Notts County, Oldham Athletic, Oxford United, Peterborough United, Plymouth Argyle, Port Vale, Portsmouth, Preston North End, Queens Park Rangers, Reading, Rochdale, Rotherham United, Rushden & Diamonds, Scunthorpe United, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Shrewsbury Town, Southampton, Southend United, Stockport County, Stoke City, Sunderland, Swansea City, Swindon Town, Torquay United, Tottenham Hotspur, Tranmere Rovers, Walsall, Wanderers, Watford, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic, Wimbledon, Wolverhampton, Wrexham, Wycombe Wanderers and York City will no doubt offer him their heartfelt sympathy.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Criminal Records #2

'Stay Together' - Suede

How and why did I allow myself to be seduced by this song, from way back in the early 90s when Suede were considered, by rather more people than is now the case, to be "relevant" and even "good"? The simple fact is that Brett Anderson is a pretentious cock whose offensive vocal mewling and caterwauling would ruin any record, no matter how "relevant" and even "good" it was. Suffice to say that 'Stay Together' is certainly neither now, just one of those songs almost guaranteed (or calculated? - is it some kind of DJ-led conspiracy?) to rear its fuck-ugly head to prick the inflated balloon that is my enjoyment at indie discos all over the land (see also: anything by Cast, Shed Seven, The Stone Roses).
You WHAT?!!

Sorry, 'fraid I ain't got what you guys have been looking for...

solskjaer jesus
tops-off boxing female
anthony wilson duck
does jermaine jenas have a girlfriend
gruesome tit nailing

Jeeeeeeesus.

Know Your Enemy #3

Stephen Malkmus on Sting:

"I'm not much like him. He's one of my least favourite guys. He grosses me out. I hate that world music he makes. He's just so successful. It's like he's got hovercraft shoes, blowing through the world without any problems. He's Mr. Good Life. If there's ever a movie, and he needs, like, an evil anti-Sting that he fights, I'll be that guy."

(Thanks to Fluxblog)

Feel good hits of the weekend

The soundtrack to a corking night at the inappropriately-named Snobs nightclub in Birmingham...

1. 'Daytripper' - The Beatles
2. 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' - The Stooges
3. 'Go With The Flow' - Queens Of The Stone Age
4. 'In Love' - The Datsuns
5. 'Jumpin Jack Flash' - The Rolling Stones
6. 'Sex Machine' - James Brown
7. 'Main Offender' - The Hives
8. 'Last Nite' - The Strokes
9. 'Can't Explain' - The Who
10. 'Panic' - The Smiths

Friday, March 07, 2003

Donald Duck-hunter

How ironic (if also predictable) that French opposition to Bush's moves towards war with Iraq has precipitated a surge of virulent anti-French feeling amongst American right-wingers. Here, for instance, you can find a few "hilarious" racist jokes, including one adapted from a comment made by the US Defence Secretary himself, loveable warmonger Donald Rumsfeld, that going to war without the French would be like going duck-hunting without an accordion. And, of course, this follows all the Republican and media references to "cheese-eating surrender monkeys". And then the same people demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of why anti-American sentiments exist in the first place. Quite staggering.
Know Your Enemy #2

By far the best email I've had in a long while - a friend on Gareth Gates:

So what it was, see, I'd had a few and then this competition comes on
the telly. The winner gets to meet Gareth Gates. To enter you have to
text in why you'd like to meet Gareth. My text: "I'd like to meet
Gareth Gates so I can fuck his stupid face up with a crowbar".
Who thinks I'll win?


Reasoned, subtle, witty...

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Word of the day

In normal circumstances the word "proactive" practically makes me wretch (like "multi-tasking" and "thinking outside the box" - it's all wanky business-speak), but I was quite happy to hear Hans Blix's adjective of choice, used to describe Iraq's recent behaviour, being bandied about freely on last night's news programmes. A spanner in the works of George 'n' Tone's well-oiled-and-ready-to-go war machine?
Criminal records

Wahey, another new feature! Please excuse the lameness of the title, and allow me to explain...

Anally retentive music lover that I am, I'm preparing a list of the ten songs which have been most influential in the direction and development of my musical tastes (ANOTHER imminent new feature!). In the meantime, in an act of humiliating semi-public self-flagellation, I thought I'd share with you those evil, evil songs which have over the years somehow found their way by stealth into my music collection, predominantly via recorded tapes, and which, if unacknowledged and accidentally chanced upon one day by some unsuspecting friend, might bring the whole carefully constructed edifice of my tastes crashing down around my ears, with all the shame and anguish that would ensue. Hopefully this will prove to be a cathartic experience. And if you find yourself tempted to laugh, mock and ridicule, then just remember - I bet you've got some horrific skeletons in your closet too.

Anyway, given I've already posted about them once today, I might as well start with...

1. 'Local Boy In The Photograph' - Stereophonics
"The new Manics", I read somewhere in 1997. At least the Manics started off as exciting, spiky, politically-charged, sloganeering, before taking a wrong turn and finding themselves flabby and prematurely middle-aged and waddling around aimlessly in an MOR muckpit. Stereophonics started off in the pit, and the muck level has just risen and risen, as correspondingly have levels of tedium among right-thinking individuals the length and breadth of the land. Let's dissect them, shall we? (Metaphorically speaking - although if anyone has access to a scalpel and knows where they live...) There's the frizzy-haired muppet with the inane grin on drums. There's the beanpole bassist who's such a dumbass that he got his name tattooed on his neck so he'd be able to remember it, and then discovered that, no matter how hard he tries, he can't actually SEE his own neck without the aid of a mirror. And lastly but not leastly, there's the poisonous little runt with the persecution complex up front. 'Local Boy In The Photograph' recounts the harrowing tale of a young lad who commits suicide by jumping under a train. Give me the three band members bound and gagged and take us to a highspeed railway line, and I'll gladly help them towards a more empathetic understanding of the situation.

(Thanks to Mike over at Troubled Diva for inspiring me to come up with some ideas, however cliched, both for waffling about music and giving a sense of structure to my ramblings)
Know Your Enemy

What will be a new regular feature, with any luck. Because everyone loves a spectacularly snide and spiteful put-down.

1. "that egregious confraternity of rhymesters"

No, not Kim Howells on So Solid Crew but in fact Thomas Love Peacock on the Lake Poets in his 1820 essay 'The Four Ages Of Poetry'.
Text message of the day

"Cheating Smoggie motherfuckers" - Paul

Well, that lacklustre no-show rather pissed on our championship chips, didn't it?

"I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast!"

Read Olav's assessment of one of the finest films ever made.
Just cooking

According to that champion of cutting-edge sounds Kelly Jones, the forthcoming Stereophonics album (no, don't run for the hills just yet, there's a punchline coming...) features a couple of songs which are "a bit like Massive Attack, with more electronic sounds". So, that'll be the usual tough-as-old-boots meat and potatoes but with a sprig of parsley on top then?

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Premium quality rock 'n' roll: last seen headed this way

Some of the upcoming gigs at Nottingham's Rescue Rooms which have caught my eye:

16th Mar THE KILLS
29th Mar SIX BY SEVEN
5th Apr BURNING BRIDES
19th Apr RADIO 4
23rd Apr THE FOLK IMPLOSION
9th May SOLEDAD BROTHERS
13th May ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT
16th May THE DELGADOS

It's all good...
Quote of the day

"I'm 27 and that's the year of rock 'n' roll death. I guess I'm just going to try to get through this year without dying" - Jack White

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Why not turn off the TV and go and do something better instead?

Why not indeed? These days, the majority of my energy seems to be expended in procrastination and avoiding anything remotely approaching productive or constructive activity. Last night (as is becoming distressingly common), I found myself unable to switch off the TV and consequently numerous pressing tasks were carelessly laid to one side as I feasted upon a smorgasbord of light entertainment, only becoming satiated and nauseous around 2.30am. To give you some idea of what was on the menu:

'Never Mind The Buzzcocks' (BBC2)
It struck me even more powerfully than ever just how indirectly proportional Phil Jupitus's wit is to his bodily mass, and as such is dwarfed by that of Bill Bailey, a man who resembles a disorientated and ever-so-slightly senile Viking.

'Shooting Stars' (BBC2)
George Dawes: "Knock knock"
Bob: "Who's there?"
George Dawes: "George"
Bob: "George who?"
George Dawes: "What, you blanking me now, eh?"
Only Vic and Bob could leave Penny Smith rolling around on the floor in a giant pigeon costume.

'V Graham Norton' (C4)
Pamela Anderson brought a touch of gravitas to proceedings by being interviewed wearing a bikini, which also left the audience and viewers in absolutely no doubt as to the attributes which have secured her lasting fame. In the second half of the show, it emerged that Duncan from elephant-loving boy band Blue suffers from a pathological fear of logs following a recurring childhood nightmare. Who says TV isn't educational?

'The Book Group' (C4)
A repeat of the last in the series, and - as ever - quite brilliant. Roll on series three.

'Classmates' (C4)
The cameras followed a reunion for the former pupils of an exclusive Surrey sixth form school. Oh how I wanted them to be uniformly twattish, arrogant and ostentatiously monied - and some of them were. But gradually I felt myself being lured into the mawkishly nostalgic love-in. TV be damned.

'Together Again' (C4)
The concept: bring a couple back face-to-face with each other years after they separated so that they can work out their relationship issues and come to some kind of closure. The reality: emotional pornography for the voyeuristic 'Big Brother'-watching curtain twitcher in all of us. Once again, I was watching despite myself.
St Bernard

After three fabulous free-flowing exhibitions of power, pace and skill, it was inevitable that sooner or later we'd have to grind out a result - and that's precisely what we did on Saturday when Chelsea were the visitors to St James's Park. Something of a bogey team for Sir Bobby, but at last he got one over them, thanks to a gutsy and determined display from the team and an excellently taken goal by Olivier Bernard following some wizardry by the returning Viana. If we can get one over the Smoggies tomorrow night - and the Riverside has been a happy hunting ground for us in the past - then we really are cooking on gas.
Quote of the day

"I do not believe in love ... I never could believe in anything I cannot experience" - D H Lawrence

Monday, March 03, 2003

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: OK

And in filed the Nottingham Socialites two by two, with their asymmetrical hairstyles and "individual" approach to clothing - for two hours, at least, they could go to Rock City safe in the knowledge that they wouldn't have to couch their enjoyment in irony or mingle with The Great Unhip. Karen O's got a lot to answer for.

OK, to the music. Whereas other cities had the pleasure of witnessing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Ikara Colt together in an art-trash marriage made in heaven, us East Midlanders were deprived even of supposed support act Cranebuilders. Instead we had to make do with a fat moustachioed Ron Jeremy lookalike who eventually stripped to a pair of blue Y-fronts and whose stageshow consisted of lyrical muckiness, prodigious perspiration and proclamations of his own greatness at the end of every song. Yes, it could only have been Har Mar Superstar. By the end of a half-hour set, his one joke (being a parodic smuttily unwholesome male Peaches) had worn extremely thin, with a Stevie Wonder cover, new single 'Power Lunch' and a track co-written with The Faint leaving me, well, flaccid. Beck did the whole 'postmodern white-boy-does-Prince pastiche' thing with far more wit and panache on Midnite Vultures ('Debra' is a particular favourite of mine), and look what happened to him - he was crucified for it. Still, this guy's got guts (as well as a large gut) - ritual humiliation every night must be hard to take.

If only the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had been as unequivocally and resoundingly good as their moniker promises. The 'Master' EP remains for me one of the best singles of last year, and they rampaged through all five tracks. On first listen 'Bang' and 'Our Time' in particular sounded brilliantly fresh, announcing the arrival of an exciting new talent - and live they were thrillingly primal and raw. 'Art Star', though, lost what (admittedly) little subtlety it has on record. Karen O might have an, ahem, "unique" vocal style, but she was a magnetic presence onstage, one minute with her hands on hips, the next bouncing up and down shrieking lines like "As a fuck, son, you suck" over tribal drumbeats and the abrasive arty Blues Explosion riffs of Nick Zinner, who looks like William Reid of The Jesus & Mary Chain if he'd been locked in a cupboard without food for a week. But the suspicion persists that the new material due to appear on forthcoming album Fever To Tell isn't quite in the same league as the likes of 'Miles Away' and 'Machine', and playing 'Our Time' as the single encore song simply underlined my feeling - it might well be their time to be hated, but, with just two singles under their belt, it's not their time to be trying to blow people away as headliners in Rock City's main room, especially when they don't seem to know how to end any of their songs. You've got to learn to crawl before you learn to walk.