Friday, May 23, 2003

Another black sheep for Bobby's family

Well, it seems as though the signing of Bad Boy Bowyer is now imminent - and I have to make some sense of my own opinions on the subject.

In footballing terms he's a fine acquisition, particularly on a free transfer - for a midfielder he's scored a lot of goals in his career, and, after all, Liverpool were prepared to pay £9million for him only last summer. It has to be added, though, that he's just had a very poor season, and did precisely nothing to help keep his beloved Hammers in the Premiership - partly due to a troublesome ankle injury which also raises question marks about the wisdom of the deal.

Sir Bobby has shown patience with young players who have got themselves in trouble off the pitch (and we've got quite a few of them at Newcastle: take a bow, Messrs Bellamy and Dyer - or more likely, a swing...) and a willingness to bring in others with tarnished reputations whether on the park or off it (Robert, Woodgate...). Nevertheless, this signing makes the club seem even more like an Institute for Young Offenders, and open to attack by the media. I'm not the only Newcastle supporter for whom Bowyer's arrival will leave a very unsavoury taste in the mouth - he's unrepentant, thuggish and not the steadying presence we need at the club if we're to continue our development into a side that can mount and sustain a serious title challenge.

And of course there's also the untold damage the signing could well do in terms of race relations. Will Asian fans feel comfortable cheering him on from the stands? I think not.

Read a more measured and considered response to the signing here.
Crisis averted

Re: my horror at being unable to avoid thinking of Coldplay when trying to find suitable comparisons for Mew's 'Comfortable Sounds'. Well, I've got a much better one - Six By Seven's toweringly magnificent not-quite-post-rock debut single 'European Me'. Phew, that was a close call.
Quote of the day

From 'Spaced' Series 1:

Brian: "How do I look?"
Tim: "Hmm..."
Brian: "Do you think I should lose the waistcoat?"
Tim: "I think you should burn the waistcoat, cos if you lose it you might find it again."

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Music Sounds Better With You #6

'Stupid Girl' - Garbage

For a short while in the mid 90s, Garbage were A Good Band. It's worth stressing, though, that everything is relative. Their stature was partly due to the proliferation at that time of fuckawful bands like Menswear, Cast and the below-mentioned Sleeper, all beloved of the Shine! compilations. Liking Garbage was not so much sorting the wheat from the chaff as picking the sweetcorn out of the turd. But at least they had a fiery magnetic frontwoman in Shirley Manson, and drummer Butch Vig was already a legend for his production duties for Nirvana and Sonic Youth (amongst others). Of course, their status as A Good Band didn't last - second album Version 2.0 was on the whole pretty weak (as the title suggests, a poor facsimile copy of their self-titled debut) and the less said about the "long-awaited" third LP Beautifulgarbage the better.

BUT (and, yes, that is a deliberately big but) 'Stupid Girl' was a deliriously good single. And perhaps even still is, as I was prompted to think while watching them with indifference at last year's Glastonbury. It's everything a pop song should be - instant, sexy, stylish, a little dark around the edges. I can hear its influence in much of the best pop of today, including the likes of the fabulous Richard X / Sugababes collaboration 'Freak Like Me' and Girls Aloud's debut single 'Sound Of The Underground'.

In the context of music tastes, I'm grateful to 'Stupid Girl' for two reasons: it awakened me to the invigorating potential of electronic beats and it alerted me to the possibility of mainstream pop being innovative and positively exciting rather than merely sterile and platitudinous - before this I'd been very much cloistered in my snobbish plaid-shirted-American-white-boys-with-guitars-only universe.

Inspired a love of: Beck, Primal Scream, Death In Vegas, Chemical Brothers, Le Tigre, Beastie Boys, Portishead, Prodigy, Sugababes...
Old indie singers don't die, they just write bloody awful sounding books

Remember Sleeper, the absolute epitome of all that was sick and wrong with the mid-90s Britpop boom? You do? Well, we're in the same unfortunate boat, you and me. The horror! The horror! And now I'm afraid I have to share with you the news that frontwoman Louise Wener hasn't just faded away and disappeared with a modicum of decency and dignity. Oh no. I've discovered that the author of some of the most dire lyrics ever committed to record is now a published novelist whose first book 'Goodnight Steve McQueen' was rated "Brilliant!" by OK! Somehow I doubt Will Self need feel threatened just yet.

For anyone who's remotely interested (ie most definitely not me), you can read the tale of Sleeper's meteoric rise to superstardom, legendary rock 'n' roll excess and tragic demise as told by Ms Wener herself here.
Discomforting sounds

I'm rather concerned. I've been trying for some time now to work out what Mew's fucking great single 'Comfortable Sounds' reminds me of. The nearest I'd been able to come was Sigur Ros if only they'd visited this planet once or twice rather than orbiting the earth in their own little bubble. But then it struck me at the weekend - the song's more like Coldplay gone post-rock.

This thought horrified me - but it continues to ring true and I continue to love the track. And despite slagging off Chris Martin and chums on a fairly regular basis on this very blog, I happened to hear 'Politik' on Saturday and remember thinking, "This isn't too bad, actually". So, have I just got it all wrong? I can't possibly be morphing into Mondeo Man, can I? God forbid. Anyway, I've prescribed myself a course of repeat plays of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs album in a desperate bid to convince myself that I'm still into The Music Of The Hip Youth Of Today, and not The Music Of The Soggy-Bottomed Boys.

Any suggestions / advice / messages of condolence and consolation are very welcome.
This is an advertising announcement

Issue #6 of the free Portsmouth-based fanzine Vanity Project is out now and at large. This bumper 12 page issue includes...

Interviews: The Hidden Cameras's Joel Gibb and Qhixldekx (the latter describes his debut album Welcome To Qhixldekx as "'Harry Potter' re-written by Bret Easton-Ellis, featured on 'Jackanory', read by Chris Morris" - and that can only be a good thing, kids...)

Label profiles: Evelyn Records and Kitchen

Reviews: Tindersticks, Daniel Johnston, The Delgados, Detroit Cobras, Turbonegro, Magoo, Kling Klang, [x] Is Greater Than [y], Winnebago Deal, Iron & Wine, Further, F-Minus, Cat Power, Medium 21, Black Box Recorder, The Rain Band, Biffy Clyro, Party Of One, Bearsuit...

Live reviews: Low, Interpol, The Kills, Earl Brutus, Mad Capsule Markets, Turin Brakes...

Interest aroused? Then email Skif45@aol.com for more information.
Illicit love will tear me apart

Dear Deidre

I fear I've embarked upon an affair. You see, I've been seeing Selectadisc for a number of years now, and we've slipped into an easy arrangement, by which I invest a large portion of my funds in their stock of compact discs. But lately I've become aware of another (dare I say it?) prettier Nottingham music store making seductive 'come to buy' eyes at me.

My first real interaction with Fopp occurred on Friday, when the illicit purchase of albums by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Flaming Lips and Television gave me a thrill of excitement, the sort of thrill that only comes with a sense of danger and the tentative beginnings of a new relationship.

Six By Seven keyboard player James Flower has already been seduced into working there, and as I write I can sense myself being torn between the two - between Fopp's plentiful selection of £7 classics and £10 newies, and Selectadisc's still-unrivalled post-rock and US punk / hardcore sections. What should I do?

Yours sincerely

Anxious of Nottingham
Misguided ire?

Following last week's anti-Muse diatribe, I feel I should metaphorically backtrack somewhat in a slightly red-faced sheepish fashion. It seems my reaction might have been a tad overhasty, given the following posting over on No Rock 'N' Roll Fun:

"COFFEE CRISIS: We were interested to receive an email from Fabien, webmaster at MuseandAmuse, who tipped us off that the band are hugely pissed off about the appearance of their Simone cover soundtracking a Nescafe advert. Their official website reckons that they'd refused permission when asked by Nestle. And yet the tune still turns up on the soundtrack. Curious, n'est(cafe) pas?"

I await legal developments with interest.
Feel good hits of the 20th May

1. 'Maps' - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
2. 'Comfortable Sounds' - Mew
3. 'As Quick As It Comes' / 'Carrera' - Calla
4. 'Hitched' - The Kills
5. 'Babe I'm On Fire' - Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
6. 'Selective Memory' - Eels
7. 'Genetic' - Sonic Youth
8. 'From The Bear's Cave To The Squirrel's Drey' - Qhixldekx
9. 'See No Evil' - Television
10. 'Ball And Biscuit' - The White Stripes
Know Your Enemy #15

"[She is] a crusty old hag who looks like she's worn out more men in her life than we have vodka bottles. In Russia we look after the blind and elderly, we don't send them to Eurovision like the Germans."

Tatu on Lou, Germany's entrant for this Saturday's Eurovision Song Contest.

(Taken from Popjustice.)
Quote of the day

"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

American ultra-conservative opinion-spouter Ann Coulter, writing on Muslim countries in a newspaper column published on 13th September 2001. The fundamentalist threat is very real, my friends.

(Taken from this Guardian article by Jonathan Freedland - thanks to Alex for the link.)

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Blogwatch

My good friend Leon has been bitten by the self-publishing bug and started his own online ramblings - though, being too good for Blogger, he's chosen to write a journal on the messageboard of his website. Check it out.

Also unearthed over the past week or so have been another couple of Portsmouth / Southsea based blogs: Drumfan and Expecting To Fly. OK so the latter blog is named after a Bluetones song, but its creator Pete writes about SWSL's favourite things so don't hold it against him. Plus, he's a fan of The Delgados - a sufficient criterion for liking anyone in my book.

Best blog posting of the week? It's just too close to call - but it simply has to be either Invisible Stranger's recording of a conversation between a stranger and the Stranger himself in an internet cafe (a reminder about how strange blogging can seem to an "outsider", and a cautionary tale about the perils of blogging in public), or Agnes of This Is Not An Exit on weird shopping.

Elsewhere: 80s music has been a popular topic - New Romanticism on The Yes / No Interlude and Tears For Fears on Wisdom Goof (I have a sneaking fondness for Tears For Fears, but I'm putting it down to my being a child of the 80s and thus lacking the necessary distance and critical faculties to be able to dislike them - at least that's my excuse...), while Vodkabird has been celebrating Smiths Day; Ian Penman has some strong words about the demise of Channel 4 as an "alternative" TV station; and Dullblog has been featured in the New York Times.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Quote of the day

"I still see my ex-girlfriends - well, not so much see as watch."

Brian in 'Spaced' Series 1
Muse's muse: £$£$£$£$£

So there I am, with a vitriolic little rant about Teignmouth's finest Muse all ready to go, when I discover that Simon of No Rock 'N' Roll Fun has posted a very helpful quasi-mathematical model for analysing my feelings towards them. Over to you, Simon:

An attempt to explain why bands can ebb and flow in how good they are, how tolerable they are, but that there always comes a point where they just go beyond the pale:

Each band is granted, by God, or Paul Morley, a fixed amount of goodwill when they start out. For some bands, it's a lot (Blur, apparently); for others, it's less (Shed Seven).

But all have a certain degree of goodwill. Let's call it x.

As they slug away making records, they can add to the goodwill (making good records, playing small venues in Northumberland, being amusing in interviews) which will increase x.

Or, they can sap the goodwill (putting out the same single three times because it's been used in a mobile phone advert, cancelling gigs to do ToTP, releasing albums of Malawi musicians because you think it's cool, taking loads of drugs to the point where they believe we actually are interested in the drugs they take). x diminishes.

There comes a point - and, I think this what happened with Blur - that x eventually sinks below zero. And once that's happened, there's no way of getting any more. You can build on goodwill, but once it's gone, it's gone.


"So, how does all this relate to Muse?", I hear you cry. "They're a fine bunch of lads, whose ludicrously excessive baroque 'n' roll bombast is a hugely entertaining antidote to the anti-spectacle introspective dribblings of Coldplay et al. They've sampled someone drumming on skulls, they regularly come onstage to the Tom Waits track 'What's He Building?' and Matt Bellamy is a nutcase who persuaded all his friends, whether romantically attached or not, to sleep with prostitutes - and is thus a very amusing interviewee. Surely Muse's x is a firmly positive value?"

Well, I would have agreed - up until yesterday evening. Which was when I first heard their version of the late-but-still-warm Ms Nina Simone's 'Feeling Good' on a TV advertisement. And not just any old TV advertisement, either. Oh no. It was for Nescafe, the coffee manufactured by that most ethically sound of corporations, Nestle. In the space of a few horrific seconds the value of x, previously healthy and buoyant, went through the floor.

So, to be mathematically precise about it:
Before advertisement: x>0
After advertisement: x<0

You wankers.

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..."