Monday, May 12, 2003

Round them up in a warehouse and drop the bomb

I only managed to catch the top 50 of Channel 4's 100 Worst Britons on Saturday night, but it made for fairly entertaining viewing, mainly because Will Self featured, characteristically and mercilessly wielding the English language to delightfully devastating effect. For those who missed it, the full list is here, and the top ten were:

1. Tony Blair
2. Jordan
3. Margaret Thatcher
4. Jade Goody
5. Martin Bashir
6. Gareth Gates
7. Alex Ferguson
8. H from Steps
9. Geri Halliwell
10. The Queen

Although I was slightly surprised to find that slobber-tongued Mockney c**t Jamie Oliver way down the list at #28, it was pleasing to see that the Great British Public has the good sense and taste to single out H and Alex Ferguson as particularly cretinous gits.
Quote of the day

"Fuck you you American pigdogs, I've got a hoverdonkey"

Geordie loon Ross Noble onstage at Nottingham's Cabaret venue last night. The man was on fabulous form, dominating proceedings in his role as compere, even though the headline act - foul-mouthed quick-talking Irishman Dara O'Briain - was also extremely funny. And the good news is - he's compering again at the same venue for four of the next five weeks! Thanks to the guys from Just The Tonic for a superb night out.
Over and out

So, that's it. A great season for Newcastle United ends in a damp squib of a draw against long-ago-relegated West Brom, in which we once again threw away a lead and only salvaged a point through a moment of genius from Viana. Even allowing for injuries and suspensions, it was not a good result. Still, last weekend's results had made the match completely redundant, and now it's over all eyes should be refocusing on next season. While acknowledging the fantastic progress we've made this time out, we need to be mindful of the fact that we simply cannot lose so many games if we want to have a realistic chance of the Premiership title or a longer run in the Champions' League. We also can't afford to draw at places like West Brom.
Lyric-that's-stuck-in-my-head-and-won't-leave of the day

"Feeling lucky / I've been feeling lucky / I've got someone who knows me / And she still wants to hold me"

The Jesus & Mary Chain - 'Feeling Lucky'

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Music Sounds Better With You #5

'Drunken Butterfly' - Sonic Youth

If #4 in this series, Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', has been the single most important and influential song in the genesis of my music tastes up to the present, then this must run it a very close second.

Do you remember the first time a song made left you dumbfounded, breathless, open-mouthed, scraping your jaw up from off the floor? Do you remember the first time a song made you want to pick up a guitar and wreak havoc with it, your eyes having been opened to the sheer fucking COOLNESS of thrashing around abusing musical instruments? And do you remember the first time a song made you realise that, whether on the surface or on some deeper level, all rock 'n' roll is about SEX? Well, I do. For me, it was some time in 1992, when I saw Sonic Youth play 'Drunken Butterfly' on what I think was a compilation show of performances on the American TV programme 'Saturday Night Live'.

Of course, it helped that they were in absolutely impeccable company - the list of fellow performers reads like a 'Who's Who' of early 90s American alternative rock and indie: Pearl Jam ('Alive'), Rage Against The Machine ('Bullet In The Head'), Screaming Trees ('Dollar Bill'), Dinosaur Jr ('Get Me'), Smashing Pumpkins ('Rhinocerous'), Jane's Addiction ('Been Caught Stealing'), REM ('Half A World Away'), Belly ('Feed The Tree') plus, if I remember correctly, appearances from Sugar, Soul Asylum and The Lemonheads. Together with 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', this formed a fantastic introduction to and induction into a whole new sphere of music.

But it was 'Drunken Butterfly' that stood out - a quite glorious cacophonous headfuck explosion of noise that sounded to my wet-behind-the-ears ears like something that had been beamed in from another dimension. A brief synopsis of some of my thoughts: "Is she trying to SING?!" "How can you do THAT with a guitar?" "Is that chorus REALLY 'I love you / I love you / I love you / What's your name?'?!" Straight away, though, I knew this band had SOMETHING. I didn't know what it was - but I just knew I needed it, badly.

And so it was that I availed myself of a copy of Dirty, the album upon which 'Drunken Butterfly' appeared. It was copied onto cassette for me by a guy from school who I wasn't especially friendly with but who I knew was into good music. He'd had an ear-to-ear grin on his face when he managed to get hold of the limited edition Nirvana / Jesus Lizard split single, and when I saw him wandering around school in a Daydream Nation T-shirt I knew he was the person I had to ask. So thanks, Steve H, wherever you are - I'm eternally in your debt.

[Going off on a tangent - I guess everyone has friends they share and copy music with (in this respect I owe huge debts to Olav and Leon, amongst others), but do you ever feel thankful and grateful to those people who you've perhaps only known briefly or in passing but who have contributed to your record collection in some small way? One guy I really didn't like copied Nirvana's Incesticide for me, and if it wasn't for a girl I knew briefly a couple of years back, I'd never have had anything by Unwound. From a personal point of view, I should also mention the small and rather eclectic range of CDs available for borrowing, and therefore copying, at my local library back home - by this means I've added to my collection albums like: Led Zeppelin - IV, Soundgarden - Louder Than Love, Sugar - Copper Blue, Portishead - Dummy, Bananarama - Greatest Hits...]

Despite the opinions of self-styled hipsters and indie elitists, Dirty is a loud, brash and quite brilliant album, and was for many, including myself, a superb introduction to an inestimably influential band - don't just take my word for it, read Andrew Unterberger's excellent review for Stylus magazine of the recently released Deluxe edition of the album. It sounds rather curious to describe a Sonic Youth album as particularly accessible - but everything's relative and Dirty is, at least more so than a record like Bad Moon Rising. One thing about Dirty is that the tracks on it don't sound strange when abstracted and taken out of their recorded context, partly because the album doesn't quite have the aesthetic coherence and wholeness (even if it does have the consistence of quality) of their previous albums. Whether that makes it a "pop" record or not, I don't really care. Daydream Nation may be the absolute pinnacle of their achievements, but there is a piece of my heart that is forever Dirty.

Inspired a love of: experimental / noise / art / indie rock, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Dinosaur Jr, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Pavement, Sebadoh, The Stooges, Come, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, The Velvet Underground, Blond Redhead, Idlewild, Clinic, My Bloody Valentine, Sleater-Kinney, Shellac, Boss Hog, Love As Laughter, Seafood, Unwound, Urusei Yatsura...
Quote of the day

From No Rock 'N' Roll Fun:

"There's a picture in the Big Issue of Huey Lewis and The News, who now look like Huey Lewis and The Junior Finance Ministers of the G8. Huey doesn't eat before gigs because "you can't sing the blues on a full stomach." Maybe not, but if all you're doing is 'Hip To Be Square' and 'The Power Of Love', you could probably get away with a finger buffet and two helpings of death by chocolate. And a side of pork."

It's a stick up! Or is it?

It's not every day you walk into your local post office to hear a man shouting the words "Give me the fucking money!" - although, admittedly, it's rather more likely if - like me - you live in a slightly less-than-desirable area and your local post office has been targeted by gun-toting hoodlums several times in the past few years. Anyway, turns out this bloke was just angry he couldn't claim his pension because their records slip suggested it had already been collected. Imagine my relief.
Know Your Enemy #14

D H Lawrence, writing in 1912, on the English:

"Curse the blasted jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the snivelling, dribbling, dithering palsied pulse-less lot that make up England today".

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Blogwatch: bumper edition

This week's must-read musings are those of Ian Penman on Western fundamentalism in the light / wake of the invasion of Iraq:

"Imagine a MUSLIM country...which has a Hollywood which spends X billion on just passing trivial movies, bits of fluff, but bits of fluff which are THROUGH AND THROUGH propagandistic ... full of GUNPLAY and GOOD GUYS VS BAD GUYS and siege mentality but in which you, your country, your 'values' impossibly, always win . . .

How would we feel if we were being bombarded with such films/culture day in day out, along with attendant publicity. . . which is a polite way of saying NO ESCAPE (there being Hollywood PRs who make the American military look like sulking choreographers at a Judy Garland convention...]

... and you begin to think that the YOU-S in its creepy unspoken DON'T FUCKING PROTEST HERE PINKO essence is increasingly nearer a kind of totalitarian or fundamentalist state... and make no mistake they ARE FUNDAMENTALIST these people. . .
"

Elsewhere, people seem to have been telepathically stealing my prospective postings. Graham has posted about his enjoyment of 'Donnie Darko', "whatever the hell it was all about" - my assessment EXACTLY, when I saw the film a couple of weeks back. He also raves about Michael Azerrad's excellent book 'Our Band Could Be Your Life', which I read not too long ago and thoroughly enjoyed.

Meanwhile, The Yes / No Interlude has been detailing the experience of a non-fitness-freak visiting the gym - almost PRECISELY the same as mine on Saturday, when I was lured / dragged along to one such palace of expensive personal torture. Initially perspiring through fear of displaying pathetic physical inadequacy in a very public setting, I ended up perspiring through sheer unfitness. The realisation is dawning, though, that doing exercise might not be a choice but a necessity in the near future. Urgh.

And, as if that wasn't enough pre-emptive plagiarism, Alex writes about his wife calling him "a 'born critic' the other day. I have to concede that she's right - I am Mr Negativity. I can write paragraph after paragraph about how pish something is, but find it impossible to describe a positive experience. Calexico were great - exciting, fun, entertaining, intelligent.... but I can only squeeze out one sentence to that effect." That is EXACTLY my problem too. I know JUST what you mean, Alex, when you say "the vocabulary of negative criticism is so much more delicious."

Other things to have caught my eye: Matthew is revelling in the greatness that is the radio work of Chris Morris and Steve Coogan, while Kevin confesses that Faith No More's Angel Dust album represents a serious musical yardstick for him - and how could it not, featuring such songs as 'Crack Hitler' and 'Jizzlobber'?

And finally... Dead Kenny has been to see ex 'Coronation Street' actress Tracy Shaw prancing around in the nip, in David Hare's play 'The Blue Room'. Excellent to hear that she's made a full recovery after having her head staved in by crowbar-wielding maniac Richard Hillman.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

One small step = one giant leap

Saturday's victory over Birmingham (secured by a fine goal from Viana who was evidently keen to make amends for poor showings in recent weeks) coupled with a crucial defeat for Chelsea at West Ham and Anelka's revenge on Liverpool assured us of both a Champions' League spot for next season and third place, one better than last year. Admittedly we've been stuttering towards the finishing line over the last few weeks and have lost far too many games for a team wanting to challenge for the title, but nevertheless finishing third is a fantastic achievement for such a young and inexperienced side. Both in the league and in European games players have grown in stature and maturity, none more so than Jenas who seems to prove more and more of a bargain with every performance.

Of course, all this means expectations will naturally be even higher for next season, but there's currently no room or indeed scope for pessimism. The side, it seems, can only get better - and I for one am looking forward to the next campaign with relish already.
Feel good hits of the 6th May

1. 'Inspire' - Cave In
2. 'Stab To The Beat' - qhixldekx
3. 'Untitled (track 6)' - Sigur Ros
4. 'Cemetery Gates' - The Smiths
5. 'Guess I'm Doing Fine' - Beck
6. 'London Calling' - The Clash
7. 'Sure Shot' - Beastie Boys
8. 'Souljacker Part 1' - Eels
9. 'Big Exit' - PJ Harvey
10. 'Like A Stone' - Audioslave
You WHAT?!!

You will not find any information about the following here, my friends:

gareth gates is gagged
barnsley town nite life
john denver manchester united
who is rageh omaar married to
are the white stripes talking about jesus in the union forever

Thank you and goodbye.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Quote of the day

BNP leader Nick Griffin on Radio 4's 'Today' programme:

"[An all-white Britain] remains our objective, but it should only be done through negotiation and consent. If it can't be done through consent then we will stop short of our objective."

They're not racist, though... Very troubling times, what with the party securing three local council seats in Burnley last night.
Porn to be mild

Channel 4 screened Scott Gill's documentary film 'Pornstar: The Legend Of Ron Jeremy' again last night, and what a fascinating portrait of the man it is, as well as being a pretty revealing insight into the porn industry. Of course, there's the obligatory acres of bare flesh, gurning open-mouthed faces and whooping beered-up fratboy apes clamouring to meet their idol, along with some truly memorable lines: one porn director and friend refers to Ron as "a competent woodsman" and one of his female admirers confesses her attraction to "that pizzeria owner look"...

But underneath the baby-oil-slick surface there's so much more going on. Beneath the glamour lies the reality of the monthly HIV test , and even though he's obviously been through it countless times before Ron is clearly shown to be on-edge and absolutely petrified. At times he seems rather non-plussed and reticent to talk about sex and what he does, referring coyly to his "devirgination". The opening sequence shows Ron bumbling around the corridors of an airport, utterly directionless and lost. It's a perfect metaphor: he seems to have stumbled into porn in the first place, and indeed he still doggedly harbours ambitions to make it into the real mainstream. He talks soberly about the dramatic theory of Stanislavsky and his own attempts to immerse himself completely in characterclearly feels he has much to offer as a serious actor, even if his background in porn makes some film companies edgy about casting in their mainstream productions. What mainstream films he has appeared in he is fiercely proud of, even if that's a non-speaking role in 'Killing Zoe' that lasts for two seconds before he's shot. When he's shown going through the photos he's had taken with the great and the good of Hollywood he comes across as nothing so much as a starstruck fanboy eager for any chance he can get to meet his heroes, even if more often than not they're somewhat reluctant to be photographed with him.

And there's the irony: one of the most recognisable and idolised faces in film - sweaty, moustachioed - and yet at times he's shown to be lonely and unhappy, desperately in need of love.
Blogwatch

Well, what do you know? No sooner do I mention my burning curiosity to know what 'Jerry Springer - The Opera' is like, than a review appears over at Invisible Stranger - and, of course, it IS as fantastic as I'd been imagining, complete with tap-dancing Klu Klux Klan members...

Meanwhile, Mike and Vaughan have been instigating an outburst of conceptual, performance and installation art from their fellow bloggers. Sorry I didn't join in guys, but my creativity level is currently at zero.

Special mention must also go to Anna for sharing with us her recent experience of kicking a baby. It was accidental, though.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Quote of the day

"I don't do diplomacy - you may have noticed"

Who else but Donald Rumsfeld?

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Music Sounds Better With You #4

'Smells Like Teen Spirit' - Nirvana

"Here we are now, entertain us"

September 1991, and this changed absolutely EVERYTHING. It may be an oft-echoed cliche, but behind every cliche lies at least a grain of truth. A few listens to Nirvana's debut single on a major label, and that was it. The venerable chronicler of Seattle Everitt True, of course, would maintain that the city's scene had peaked in 1988 and 1989, and that by 1991 it was sterile if not comatose or even half-dead. Not for me - this was the shot in the arm I'd unknowingly been waiting for.

The effects were felt almost overnight. It seemed no longer possible for music to be a neatly compartmentalised part of my life, something in which I could take a passing interest from time to time. No, 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' marked the beginnings of a serious obsession which would colonise and monopolise my time and energies - and with this obsession came the discovery and burden of taste. No more flitting randomly between mainstream artists and bands, no more passive acceptance of Iron Maiden and Motley Crue records round at friends' houses, no allowance made even for the mighty Guns 'N' Roses - I recall Appetite For Destruction and Use Your Illusion II being ceremoniously purged from my record collection, to be rediscovered some years later. I adopted a righteous scorched earth policy, leaving only an almost played-out cassette copy of Nevermind. Ruthlessly pruned, my collection was then allowed to grow afresh.

This single was a baptism of fire, an introduction to so much: the band, the scene, the American underground, the emotional force of pure angst (before it became diluted and preprocessed by record companies as a marketable commodity), the potency of punk rock. Above all, it was a wake-up call to the sheer visceral thrill of the electric guitar when attacked with passion.

That's entertainment.

Inspired a love of: Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Pearl Jam, Afghan Whigs, Therapy?, Hole, Pixies, Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains, Placebo, Sugar, Weezer, Green Day, Offspring, Soul Asylum, Stone Temple Pilots, Compulsion, Brad...

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Quote of the day

James Joyce in a letter to Carlos Linati (Sept 1920) on 'Ulysses':

"Now, as I hear, a great movement is being prepared against the publication intiated by Puritans, English, Imperialists, Irish Republicans, Catholics - what an alliance! Gosh, I ought to be awarded the Nobel prize for peace!"
Know Your Enemy #13

An early reviewer of Joyce's 'Ulysses':

"experimental, anti-conventional, anti-Christian, chaotic, totally unmoral"
"Slick, gimmickless and free"

This is a shameless plug for the fanzine Vanity Project. Of the last issue The Fly magazine wrote: "As usual, there are more words that you thought it was possible to pack into a modest amount of paper, with the intelligence and wit a lot of zines forget to apply ... Eight pages have seldom been put to better use." The forthcoming issue will feature an interview with Portsmouth-based electro-pop ghoul Qhixldekx and is available by contacting skif@vanityproject.co.uk.
It's better to burn out than fade away

Hard on the heels of the news that The Dismemberment Plan have called it quits comes my (belated) discovery of the sad demise of another of DeSoto's leading lights, Burning Airlines, after only two albums. Still, both 1999's Mission: Control! and 2001's Identikit were very good records, so their legacy is of a uniformly high standard, and mainman J Robbins (ex Government Issue and Jawbox) is working on material with a new band.

Monday, April 28, 2003

A rush of blood to the head

In what very quickly came to seem an act of incredibly foolish masochism I proposed watching 'Bridget Jones's Diary' on Saturday night. "Well", I had reasoned, "know your enemy and all that." Sometimes I feel myself becoming rather too twisted and cynical, but this is just the sort of film that corroborates and revitalises that cynicism. Perhaps nothing is quite so excruciating and nauseous as the heroine's self-obsession. OK, it might be symptomatic of 'the modern condition' (as hoary old literary critics like to call it), but it's portrayed straight and with a repulsive degree of approval and sympathy - at least in the film (I haven't troubled myself with the book). Essentially, it's the difference between the cappucino-frothy neuroses of the characters in Candace Bushell's 'Sex In The City' and the knife-through-butter social satire of Bret Easton Ellis's 'American Psycho'. The latter avoids implicit approval or endorsement in favour of analysis and cold dissection - all is empty, meaningless, showy, superficial, trivial (which is why I cannot understand Ellis's praise for 'Sex In The City').

Perhaps this is all missing the point, though. While art should challenge, stimulate, arouse, incite, more often than not it placates and appeases. Of course people will continue to enjoy escapist and mawkish nonsense like 'Bridget Jones's Diary'. The need for such fictions isn't wholly created and constructed in the media, it does genuinely exist. But as James Joyce once opined: "Nature is quite unromantic. It is we who put romance into her, which is a false attitude, an egotism, absurd like all egotisms."

Christ, that was pompous, even for me. One final non-pompous observation: with 'Bridget Jones's Diary' Richard Curtis once again proves that everything he has touched since 'Blackadder' turns to bollocks.
The future's bright, the future's black and white

Congratulations to our very own Jermaine Jenas for garnering the plaudits of his fellow professionals and securing the PFA's Young Player of the Year award. Some of his performances this season have been outstanding, and despite the public clamour surrounding young Master Rooney, the award is I think justified. So, last year Bellamy, this year Jenas, next year - Ameobi? Ambrose? Chopra?
Goodbye, good riddance

It was with great pleasure that I listened to the joyous sound of Nolberto Solano shredding the script on Saturday afternoon, and inflicting a thirteenth successive defeat upon our delightful North-East neighbours Sunderland. The opportunity was there for those miserable Mackem bastards, already relegated, to urinate on our Champions' League chips from a great height, but thankfully owing to their woeful incompetence and complete lack of talent they couldn't manage it. Instead, we delivered a good hard kick to their particulars, ensuring that they will finish with the lowest ever points total since the Premiership began in 1992 and thus guaranteeing them an ignominious fate in which we can all delight. In fact, the only down side on an afternoon of many ups was the injury sustained by skipper Shearer, which rules him out for the rest of the season. We've got a replacement ready and raring to go, though, in the shape of Shola Ameobi, and we go into Saturday's home match with Birmingham knowing that a win will secure a Champions' League spot. It's in your hands, go out and grab it lads!
Self-gratification

Oh HOW much do I love Will Self. There he was, on 'Newsnight Review', discussing Don DeLillo's new novel 'Cosmopolis' with Mark Lawson, Rosie Boycott and Mark Kermode, beginning a sentence with the words, "Speaking as a practising novelist - which is rather like claiming to speak as a practising onanist..." A fascinating insight into the creative process there, I think. I can just imagine the phone call from Self's publisher Penguin.
Penguin: "Will, we need another novel from you."
Self: "OK, don't worry, I'll just knock one off..."

Friday, April 25, 2003

Quote of the day

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead's arch bullshitter Conrad Keely on the South By South West music festival, held in the band's hometown Austin, Texas:

"Some may like to hear a few words on SXSW. Well, here they are – it was fun. Others asked why we played this year, after denouncing it two years ago. To them I said, because we are hypocrites. Anyone who challenges me on this count, I dare to do so, and I will promptly deny everything I’ve said."
Know Your Enemy #12

Conrad Keely, again, this time on The Dropkick Murphys whom ...Trail Of Dead encountered on their winter tour of Australia:

"There was even a very fun bit of backstage drama involving us and the Dropkick Murphys which is probably too petty to even get into, but needless to say, those guys are really true scholars – true, learned philosophers, real upholders of the traditions of equality, liberty and freedom of expression. When all is said and done, I think history will remember the Dropkick Murphys as bastions of enlightenment and intelligence. In a world fraught with strife and war, its good to know there are such kind, peace-loving apes as the Dropkick Murphys. I want to give a big "Sieg Hiel" to them."

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Music Sounds Better With You #3

Apologies - this wasn't meant to turn into an occasional series, I've just been slack and not kept up with the regular postings. So, tio recap, we've had 'Ring Ring' by Abba and 'Hey Jude' by The Beatles. Next up it's...

'Paradise City' - Guns 'N' Roses (1989)

Oh yes. Up until this point it had been mainstream pop stuff all the way, apart from perhaps Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet (but we'll not talk about that...), but once I heard G 'N' R's mighty 1989 single and subsequently purchased Appetite For Destruction, The Rock had well and truly entered my life for the first time - and it has yet to leave. OK, so there are better cuts than this on the album ('Welcome To The Jungle', 'Sweet Child O' Mine' and, the best of the bunch, 'Rocket Queen'), but this is what inspired me to buy it in the first place. Appetite For Destruction was all about smack, whisky and women - lean and pretty darn mean. By the time of the messy Use Your Illusion double LP, it sounded as though Axl was floundering around in a blizzard of cocaine - waistbands were larger, egos were larger still, and the upshot was perhaps the most spectacularly pompous rock ballad ever, 'November Rain', weighing in at nine minutes in length and accompanied by a video boasting the iconic image of Slash playing his solo outside a white church in the middle of the desert. Overall, though, neither I nor II came close to Appetite For Destruction.

Which is why Axl sensibly decided to focus on that at last year's Leeds Festival headline gig. His rag-tag band of musical gypsies might have looked utterly unfamiliar to the audience and each other, but they didn't half dish out the classics with some gusto. Everyone was at least interested, and I mean EVERYONE. ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead cut their set short so they didn't miss the show, and the following night The Breeders' Kim Deal was excitedly asking her audience what it'd been like to witness the G 'N' R freakshow in the flesh. And, fittingly, as far as I remember 'Paradise City' signalled the end of a night that it felt I'd been waiting around 13 years for. Not to be forgotten in a hurry.

Inspired a love of: proper heavy rock and metal, Black Sabbath, Queens Of The Stone Age, Deftones, Fu Manchu, Led Zeppelin, Rage Against The Machine, Monster Magnet, Nebula, System Of A Down, Faith No More, Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Audioslave, Marilyn Manson
Stairs not an option

Two more blogs to have caught my attention. Firstly, allow me to be about the thousandth person to say how much of an enjoyable read former-NME-journalist-back-when-it-was-good Ian Penman's blog The Pill Box is. Secondly, I have instantly warmed to Invisible Stranger, following his memoirs of being a dalek for the day. Great stuff.

(Thanks to old friends Troubled Diva and The Yes / No Interlude for alerting me to these two fine sites)
"You ask me what you need / Hate is all you need"

What a "happy" coincidence. Just as I'm writing a review of Hate by The Delgados (which will hopefully be appearing shortly on the Stylus website), I discover that Olav has been quoting at length from the 18th century essayist William Hazlitt's piece 'On the Pleasure of Hating'. The Delgados song 'All You Need Is Hate' (the second single to be lifted from the album) is practically Olav's chosen passage set to music.
"My best friend's husband fell in love with a King Charles spaniel"

Have I been being some kind of ostrich or something? How could I possibly not have known that 'Jerry Springer: The Opera' has been being performed for nearly two years? Or that Mr Stewart Lee was involved in the project? Judging by this article from The Independent, it's a work of satirical genius. Has anyone out there seen it?

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Who needs the f***ing Osbournes?

I apologise in advance for the coarse nature of this anecdote...

Overheard at a friend's house on Saturday morning (let's call him A):

A: "Mam, I did a bad thing last night. I shagged that girl from work. Now she wants me to shag her over the boss's desk sometime this week."
Mother: "But A, that's a sackable offence!"
Quote of the day

"I know that people will appreciate the darker direction I am taking. Hopefully it will appeal to those who still like their music to have little teeth."

Toyah Willcox on her new mini-album Velvet Lined Shell which - she claims - has been inspired by the likes of Mogwai, Nick Cave and Marilyn Manson. This, lest we forget, is the woman who is currently favourite to win the forthcoming second series of ITV1's 'I'm A Celebrity - Get Me Out Of Here'. Jesus H Christ.

(Thanks to No Rock 'N' Roll Fun for the link)
Losers

I watched 'Millionaire: A Major Fraud' last night (in spite of myself, I should add), and I still can't believe it. No, not how long it took for Ingram's deception to be detected, but why any sane couple would want to give their son the name Tecwen.
Blogwatch

Quite understandably, on Popjustice there has been much wailing, gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands at the news that S Club are bowing out of the big time. Follow the link to sign a book of condolence. Much of their stuff might have been synthetic musical candy floss, but 'Don't Stop Movin'' remains one of my all-time favourite pop singles - very close to perfection, and just the sort of thing that, like Sugababes and Kylie, preserves pop's good name in the face of tedious dirges from the likes of Westlife and One True Voice which amount to a serious smear campaign. Still, despite their demise it's not all doom and gloom chez Popjustice - S Club Juniors are being renamed S Club 8 and their new single 'Fool No More' "is better than anything the seniors have released since 'Reach', meaning that pop equilibrium is restored".

Meanwhile, over at Troubled Diva Towers Mike has interviewed himself about the humble beginnings of his blog and its subsequent blossoming into the colossus of the blogging world that it is today. This guy's dedication and devotion to the art of bloggery is truly phenomenal, which is why it is with some sadness that I read that he is downscaling his postings due to new pressures on his time. So, the sheer quantity may drop, but rest assured that the quality most certainly won't.

News from elsewhere: Dead Kenny paid his first ever visit to Nottingham this weekend to sup a few ales in Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem and see Radio 4 at the Rescue Rooms - thank you very much, please call again!; Ethan has spent a day listening to nothing but rock operas - Tommy, Sgt Pepper's, The Wall, Ziggy Stardust; BirdMan has been composing a poem for MP George Galloway; and Anna has been eating far too much tuna and reflecting on the vast number of terms for a lady's breasts. Call me extremely puerile for a 25-year-old, but there's a sandwich shop just north of Newcastle city centre called Baps which never fails to raise a smile.
The nerves they are a-jangling

More points dropped, this time against a side with precisely nothing whatsoever to play for. Even though we seem to have put in plenty of effort against Villa and performed better than in the previous three matches, at this stage of the season that's just not good enough. Now it's off down to the Dark Place next weekend for the Tyne-Wear derby. I've been saying all season how great it would be to send them down in front of their own fans - but in the event, given they're already relegated, the big boot is on the other foot and aimed squarely at our backside. They may have lost twelve games in a row, but they'd just LOVE to piss on our chips. Saturday afternoon will be rather tense.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Take that (and censor it)!

Whatever you think of Robbie Williams - and I think he's an ego-driven Grade A prick - you have to admire (grudgingly) the fact that he's made two great visual statements. First there was the video for 'Rock DJ' - everyone given the pound of flesh they'd been demanding. And now there's 'Come Undone' - musically a tedious power ballady sort of thing, but lyrically self-lacerating and accompanied by images of depravity, debauchery and maggots.
A black mark for the White Stripes

In the recent NME interview with The White Stripes (which for me plumbed new depths - they clearly felt the need to run a feature on the band to coincide with the release of Elephant, but then cobbled together the most inane bunch of questions in an apparent attempt to both bore and bewilder Jack and Meg into silence), I was hugely disappointed to read the following quote from Mr White, when asked about his views on the war with Iraq:

"We're not really a political minded band, I don't think. It doesn't really seem like our realm, where we should have opinions - it's not going to do anybody any good if this says, 'The White Stripes are against the war', y'know? It doesn't mean any ... it's not our realm. We're musicians and songwriters and I'd rather not even bother with having an opinion about it."

Look Jack - all art is political, whether you like it or not. Now you might well be making the (perfectly valid) case that some "celebrities" have used the whole war issue as the means of levering themselves back into the public eye - but if you are, it's very poorly stated. It's a very short leap from this to the moronic Kelly Jones 'It's all about the music' mindset, and to go so far as to say that you'd "rather not even bother with having an opinion about it" beggars belief.
Nightmare on Loftus Road

It's a familiar story. Team desperately trying to halt a slide down the table seeks three points to assuage any lingering relegation fears. And, right on cue, the Newcastle team bus rolls into town. Hands are duly rubbed and the necessary three points duly gleaned - on this occasion, in poetic fashion by former Newcastle player and lifelong fan Lee Clark. Why oh why are we so obliging? It's not as if we've got nothing to play for - three consecutive defeats have now left us far less certain of grabbing a Champions' League place than we were a few weeks back. In many ways, the result is even more disheartening than last week's mauling at the hands of Man Utd - at least then we could say they were on fire. Fulham, on the other hand, are hardly the sort of team we should be afraid of, if we are genuinely worthy of another season in "Europe's premier competition". Our position could have been much worse, had Chelsea not lost at Villa. As it is, though, it's time to WAKE UP and finish the job, starting on Monday afternoon.
Feel good hits of the 19th April

1. 'The Light Before We Land' - The Delgados
2. 'Bandages' - Hot Hot Heat
3. 'Comforting Sounds' - Mew
4. 'Move Your Feet' - Junior Senior
5. 'Date With The Night' - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
6. 'Seven Nation Army' - The White Stripes
7. 'Fried My Little Brains' - The Kills
8. 'Heart Of Glass' - Blondie
9. 'Anchor' - Cave In
10. 'Paranoid' - Black Sabbath
Quote of the day

From a poster outside a church:

"Jesus had so much to live for - and so many to die for."

Not in my name.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Know Your Enemy

No Rock 'N' Roll Fun on the new Stereophonics single:

"Oh my. This isn't just poor by any system of analysis you wish to apply to it, it's shaming. If you remember the wrong turn the Primals took when they'd spent too long with their Black Crowes albums, imagine if a bunch of half-hearted pub rock chuggers turned up and tried to recreate the Rocks era of Primal Scream working from that blueprint alone, but with the injunction to make it sound a bit more blokey? Oh my, oh my. This has been a long time coming, and it just makes you wonder what the stuff they couldn't use sounds like. Oh my. Oh my."
Quote(s) of the day

Will Self, from this interview (thanks to Olav for the link):

"The Dorian Grays of today are Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. These are the celluloid imagoes who dominate not only Hollywood, not only the international entertainment network, but actually dominate the psyche of people in a very, very powerful way. They are the people whose images do not age. And therefore people take [them] to be as kind of totems of our culture's values."

"Books that have genuine longevity are always contentious and kicking against the pricks. Anything that is too in harmony with its time is very unlikely to be timeless."

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Music Sounds Better With You #2

'Hey Jude' - The Beatles (c.1988?)

Picture the scene: it's been one of those archetypal school discos (in our case, a joint one with the neighbouring girls' school) where boys and girls stand in opposite corners for most of the night, in mortal fear of one another, meeting only fleetingly in the middle of the room for Coke and Mars Bars. And yet this one song seems to have broken the ice, and got even the most shy and gawky squits to interact with the opposite sex (yes, I'm counting myself in that number). In the car on the way home, I mention the song - 'Hey Jude'. "Oh, The Beatles", says my dad. I am MORTIFIED. That's, like, from the 1960s, old, parent music - and definitely NOT cool.

Skip forward to September 1998, and my local pub. It's a leaving party for a friend who's about to join the Merchant Navy, everyone's joyously drunk, there's karaoke - and every single person in the place is bellowing out the "Na na na na" bit of 'Hey Jude' with nary a thought of pitch and tune. Some are standing on tables, some can barely stand at all, but everyone - including yours truly - has a beaming grin on their face. A fantastic song. How things change.

The Beatles inspired a love of bands and artists whose careers began or even began and ended before my passion for music was fully formed, and ensured a preparedness to eschew the NOW in favour of the ETERNAL every now and again - The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, The Ramones, Joy Division, Frank Sinatra, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Dexys Midnight Runners...
Art attack

Today I paid my first visit to Baltic, the new centre for contemporary art on the Gateshead bank of the Tyne. The five-floored 'gallery' is so called because it's been converted from the old disused Baltic Flour Mill - and mighty impressive it is, too. Entry is free, and thankfully there's no pay-off for this season's corporate sponsors (Northern Rock) in the form of having their logo plastered all over the guide leaflets. Although two of the exhibitions (Chad McCail's "subversive" cartoon world populated by robots and zombies and 'The Cathedral', a photographic exhibition of work by four different artists centred on Durham Cathedral) left me rather cold, the exhibition of works by the Cobra group (artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam in the immediate post-war period) was worth seeing - a real riot of colours, vibrant and energetic canvasses, abstract but not clinically so. There was also a chance to see the latest Anthony Gormley project, 'Domain Field', in progress: along with a team of artists, he's been making plaster casts of 240 local volunteers in order to construct figures made of "welded steel bars forming a three-dimensional drawing in space".
Sacred profanity

My trip up to Scotland convinced me of one incontrovertible fact - swearing sounds better in Glaswegian than any other dialect.
Secret pint

So, there I was, on Saturday night, in Edinburgh, taking advantage of Scotland's fantastically relaxed drinking laws in The World's End pub on The Royal Mile, having been treated to tales of torture and the supernatural on a late-night ghost walk, talking to a friend about how well Ian Rankin recreates that darker side of the city in his fiction, and about the fondness of Inspector Rebus (and his creator) for Glaswegian noiseniks Mogwai - when I realised that the stumpy hairy-faced gentleman sat at the neighbouring table indulging in a few pints and conversing animatedly about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was none other than Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite himself. Now, don't get me wrong - I love Mogwai, they've opened all kinds of doors for me. But when they decided to allow Levi's to use 'Summer' in an ad, it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth, despite the fact that they said the money would help them to put out records on their own label. And when I noticed that Stuart was wearing a pair of pristine Levi's - well, it might sound very harsh, but all I could think of was Judas jangling his thirty pieces of silver in his pockets...

Your heroes always let you down.

Needless to say, I'll still be buying their new album (Happy Music For Happy People) though.
The devil's work

A mere four days after the event, I now just about feel capable of a vaguely measured response to our thrashing at home by those red wretches. I blame the wonderful regional daily The Journal for it all - after all, they did run a piece on Saturday about how Paul Scholes was "laughably" a fixture in the England side ahead of Kieron Dyer, and the article found its way onto the Man Utd dressing room wall. Result: they embarrassed us just as they themselves were embarrassed by Real Madrid in the week. Still, at least I can cling to two crumbs of consolation, one very real and the other a malevolent hope. Firstly, we stayed in third place, while Sunderland were relegated on the same afternoon. Secondly, there's just a chance that the title will all come down to goal difference, and I'm hoping and praying they lose it to Arsenal by one goal, the one they conceded to us right at the end of the match when they were dicking about like the arrogant tossers they are.

Rant over.
Pushing up tulips

From a sandwich board for an edition of the Nottingham Evening Post last week:

"Widow buries husband in garden"