Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Praise the Lord

Fellow bloggers, please forgive me for publicly and gracelessly prostrating myself at the virtual feet of the Diva - and probably not for the last time. Mike has 'ad a word with He Or She Who Runs The Internet, or with one of his or her minions, and fixed it for me to be added to the Updated UK Weblogs list. So, my advice to you - if you've got a problem, if no-one else can solve it...
Know Your Enemy #20

"I didn't like that peace and love shit."

The Velvet Underground's Maureen Tucker on hippies in 'Please Kill Me'.
Quote of the day

"A painting that doesn't shock isn't worth painting."

Marcel Duchamp.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Know Your Enemy #19

Elizabeth Taylor on George W Bush:

"I'd love to get my hands on him. He wouldn't come out looking real good."
Quote of the day

"It has been said that everyone who listened to the Velvet Underground started a band... I know I did."

Steve Severin, bassist with Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Blogwatch

Hoorah! This will make no sense whatsoever to those who haven't been following one of the Blogworld's most long-drawn-out sagas, but Mike has finally been released from his imprisonment at the callous hands of Care Bears and kittens! Yes, free at last to write less than complimentary reviews of recent Nottingham gigs by the Tindersticks and Yes. Indeed, gig disappointment seems to be this week's mood in Blogworld - Alex and Dead Kenny have been left feeling let down by Cat Power's Chan Marshall and Grandaddy respectively, too.

Congratulations to Nixon for (it seems) losing his job in fairly spectacular style - the joy is mixed with sadness, though, as this presumably means an end to his wonderfully cynical observations about Call Centre Life.

Elsewhere: Vaughan has been writing on the "modern malaise", the Social Quandary; Leon on those incessant TV list programmes; and Anna on words that give pleasure in the saying and sound ever so slightly rude.

And finally... Birdman has been expressing his incredulity at some of the inclusions on the Queen's Honours List, including Jamie Oliver. Are awards now distributed according to width of tongue or something?
Know Your Enemy #18

Captain Sensible, bassist with The Damned, on The Sex Pistols:

"When I first heard 'Anarchy In The UK' I thought it sounded like old man Steptoe wailing over a dodgy Black Sabbath riff."

Friday, June 13, 2003

Quote of the day: a G2 special

"totally flawed"

Election expert Graham Elson on the Daily Mail's National Referendum on Europe.

G2 really is a veritable feast today. There's the cover story by James Meek about the aforementioned "referendum". "Today", the Mail claimed yesterday, " is unique in the democratic history of this country". Shame, then, that the whole process turned out - predictably - to be an utterly shambolic act of pompous self-aggrandisement. Two further choice quotations from the article that I simply couldn't omit:

"[The Daily Mail] is usually described as rightwing, but this does not necessarily tell strangers to Mail-land much about it, in the same way that 'interested in women' would be an accurate but not useful characterisation of Peter Stringfellow. Reading the Mail if you are not used to it is like being an American watching cricket: the rules are hard to understand."

"It's a heartwarming, gladdening sight to see that in its ballot count the Mail - a paper which has often called on the government to impose more restrictive immigration rules - is providing paid employment to people from Africa and Asia who appear to be starting out on a new life in Britain."

Other features of note include Caroline Sullivan's interview with the Devil's own Simon Fuller, and Alexis Petridis's 'state of the nation' music piece which covers (amongst others) The Darkness, Franz Ferdinand and Dizzee Rascal. Note to Alexis, though: if you're going to stress that The Futureheads, from Sunderland, are "determindedly regionalist", it's wise not to suggest that they're Geordies...

Plus, of course, an article by the Blogworld's very own Olav about his appearance on tonight's 'Grand Slam' on Channel 4...
Why I love The Works

It's simple, really: over the course of the past couple of months, I've managed to pick up hardback copies of Salman Rushdie's 'The Ground Beneath Her Feet', Don DeLillo's 'Underworld' and, most recently, Stephen Colegrave and Chris Sullivan's mammoth tome 'Punk' for a combined total of just £16. Going into The Works is very different to going into other bookshops like Waterstone's - you have to be in a certain mindset, or you'll end up frustrated. As long as you're not looking for anything in particular, and remain an open-minded browser, you can't fail to pick up a bargain.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

What's in a name?

Give the Random Bandname Generator a whirl - hours of fun! Probably the best suggestion pitched to me over the course of a few pulls of the lever was The Infinite Chains. Not sure about the weirdest, though, but it has to be between Slamming In The Mustard, Sheryl Crow's Your Toga and Gargoyle In The Buttrocker. Any takers?

(Thanks to Drumfan for the link.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Morrissey: the importance of being a frequently infuriating enigma

In the light of my recent (well, over the past year or so) awakening to the "joys" of The Smiths, I watched Sunday night's Channel 4 interview / documentary 'The Importance Of Being Morrissey' with more than a little interest - and found it a little frustrating and disillusioning.

On the one hand, it conveyed well his status both as an iconoclast (as one friend commented, "If you spend time with Morrissey you always find yourself dissecting and annihilating people's characters") and as an icon in his own right, a position he has come to assume mainly through remaining perpetually elusive and enigmatic. He gave away precious little to the cameras and interviewer.

On the other hand, though, his grudges and bitterness at times seemed vain and ugly - when asked about the Mike Joyce court case, for instance, he referred to it as a "gross miscarriage of justice" and said he "wished the very worst on Joyce". No doubt Morrissey has good reason to bear grudges and to be bitter, particularly due to his treatment by the English media. What was most disillusioning, though, was the fact that this acerbic, fiercely intelligent, principled and quintessentially English figure has responded to victimisation by moving to Los Angeles and immersing himself in all the shallow, plastic and spineless superficiality and conspicuous consumption of Hollywood, things he set himself against in the 1980s. We saw him driving his open-top Jag, wandering around his swanky villa (just off Sunset Boulevard, and once owned by F Scott Fitzgerald) and taking tea with Nancy Sinatra. As Will Self said, "He's fully embraced his destiny as an eccentric", but I was hoping he might come across as rather more likeable than he did.
Scum

Saddening to read that at Sunderland's Stadium of Light last night, our very own Shola Ameobi was subjected to racist abuse and monkey noises from Mackem onlookers who were - in theory, at least - there to cheer him and his England Under 21 colleagues on to victory. Morons, pure and simple. Anyone who thinks racism in football has been effectively eradicated in this country, and that it's only now a problem abroad (such as Anne Widdecombe, who expressed this very view on 'Question Time' last year) needs to wake up and smell the shit on our own doorstep.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Quote of the day

"Academia is just one huge circle jerk."

Brenda in last night's particularly brilliant episode of 'Six Feet Under', just one of several Channel 4 programmes that made for compulsive viewing over the weekend - the others being 'The Importance Of Being Morrissey' (more later), the triumphant return of 'Bo Selecta' and, of course, 'Big Brother'.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Music Sounds Better With You #7

'Angels Vs Aliens' - Mogwai

The most important band to emerge from the British underground for years, and probably the most influential band in Britain bar Radiohead right now, Mogwai entered my life at just the right time. University had opened me up to new people, new experiences - and new music. Ten Rapid was my first contact with them, and 'Angels Vs Aliens' was the first song to take a real grip of my imagination - I think it was all the clattering percussion.

So, what's so special about them? Well, they opened my ears to a whole new type of music. Call it post-rock if you will, but the band themselves famously hate the term. They sounded like they took Sonic Youth's most abstract arty soundscapes as a starting point, not an endpoint. I was enthralled - "You can go FURTHER than that?!". They eschewed all lyrics - that meant no trivial platitudes or self-absorbed cliches foisted upon the listener, no need to explain yourself endlessly in interviews, no fans obsessing over and overanalysing words printed in sleeve notes. And they went to the absolute extremes of the sonic spectrum.

It was when I first saw them live that my love for them was set in stone: October 1999, in the Nottingham Ballroom. I didn't know much of the material, but that didn't matter. What I remember most is the extraordinary volume, which constantly threatened to pin me against the wall. The finale, a 25-minute long version of 'Mogwai Fear Satan' accompanied by psychotic strobing effects, was so ferociously loud that the Ballroom's wooden floor was positively shaking under my feet. It was like being caught in the middle of an earthquake, or being struck down by the god of thunder.

The difference between Mogwai and some of their contemporaries is that they're not snobbishly aloof. They want to make an emotional connection with their audiences, and they want to rock, whereas a band like Sigur Ros can seem like they're divorced from reality all together, content to exist in a self-enclosed bubble even when performing onstage.

Of course, things have changed over time. The songs have generally grown quieter, lyrics have crept in, the fanbase has swollen massively despite a conspicuous lack of hype. But they remain unwilling to compromise their musical vision. A case in point is their last album, Rock Action. They might have been expected to play the corporate game, and release a single which might be used as a tool to lever the album up the sales charts and garner a new audience ('Dial: Revenge', perhaps?). But no - what they did put out as a single was their previously-unreleased Albini-recorded version of the Jewish hymn 'My Father My King', ineligible for the charts at over 20 minutes long. Fuck the curfew.

Punk is a state of mind and not a musical genre. The term is not applicable to the spiky-haired scatalogical singalongs of Sum 41, or the self-obsessed teenage temper tantrum pop of Busted and Avril. But it is to Mogwai.

Inspired a love of: Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Low, Sigur Ros, A Silver Mt Zion, Codeine, Lift To Experience, Slint, Billy Mahonie, Mew, Hood, Ganger, Laeto, Do Make Say Think
The camera always lies

Last night, proof positive that amidst the dreck ('How Clean Is Your House?', 'Dinner Party Inspectors' ad infinitum ad nauseam) there are still programmes of real substance on Channel 4. I'd not seen any of their 'The War We Never Saw' series before catching 'The True Face Of War', and I'm now regretting it. The programme was a fascinating, brutally frank and frequently horrific insight into the realities of the Iraq war denied to the ordinary viewer and the manipulation of events by government, military and media.

Some of the so-called 'embedded reporters', including ITN's Romilly Weeks, revealed the extent to which their coverage was shaped by the 'media minders' assigned the task of watching over them, and dependence upon the military for food and supplies made dissent from the official line much more difficult. Yes, Blair's spin doctors were at work even in the field, and sometimes engaged not in superficial gloss or even fabrication but in wholescale censorship: Weeks had a report showing Iraqi dissatisfaction at their "liberation" by British and American forces embargoed, and then found herself excluded from official briefings like some kind of naughty schoolgirl. Independent reporters (or 'unilaterals') were distrusted and physically assaulted, and ITN's Terry Lloyd was killed, caught up in the crossfire.

Western news networks consistently condemned Aljazeera for showing images of the injured and dead, while lapping up the British and American government's "fluffy" news items about Private Jessica Lynch and the bomb-finding dog. The grotesque reality went unrepresented on our screens, most broadcasters churning out patrician platitudes about owing a moral responsibility to their viewers not to show anything that might offend or distress - but, as Jon Snow put it, if we go to war our children should be able to see what exactly it involves. Warfare is never precise, mathematical, neat, efficient, bloodless. BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson spoke of the "friendly fire" incident that left 10 people dead, one man dying clutching his own intestines in his arms. Some of the footage shown last night was appalling - exploded heads, charred bodies, hands and feet strewn across roads. This grim reality was denied to us by government and media. The hysterical outcry over the treatment of Allied prisoners-of-war, paraded on Iraqi TV, was nothing short of disgusting in its hypocrisy: the Ministry of Defence were perfectly happy for footage of similar treatment of Iraqis by British and American troops to be shown on our screens - although these prisoners were only filmed with hoods over their heads, supposedly "to preserve their dignity".

What really hit home was the way in which corporate language has bled into other forms of discourse - 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' became a crusading slogan which the American government and news broadcasters used to "sell" a particular idea of the war (as a "liberation") to the American people, the same tactic that Nike uses to sell trainers or McDonalds to sell fast food, or any other corporation for that matter. And the sad fact is that, on the whole, the American people were buying.

Then there were suggestions that the whole toppling of Saddam's statue was carefully stage-managed. I hadn't realised that the Americans had claimed the stars-and-stripes flag initially placed on the statue's head was symbolic as it had been salvaged from the Pentagon on September 11th. This, of course, begs two questions. Firstly, do they seriously expect people to believe that this flag just happened to be in the tank at the scene? Credit us with some intelligence, you morons. And secondly, what, exactly, has Iraq got to do with the September 11th attacks? Precisely nothing. Of course, the idea of the statue being toppled as marking the climactic conclusion of the war was pure Hollywood - the international community and the world's media may very well have lost interest, but street skirmishes are still ongoing

Amidst all the horror and hypocrisy, perhaps the only most positive observation was that, thanks to satellite, cable and digital TV and the internet, ordinary people now have easier and less constrained access to a range of alternative perspectives, and so the public perception of events is much harder to manipulate and control. Freedom of information and expression survived the conflict, even though it was often only evident on the web.

This programme was essential viewing.
Blogwatch

Vaughan's back! Well, in truth he never actually went away - it was just naive young souls like myself who thought he'd abandoned us, when in fact his domain name had expired and was promptly gobbled up by someone else. Thankfully he just stuck a '.uk' on the end of the old address, and hey presto, he's still out there, and as thoroughly readable as ever.

Following the news that Avril Lasagne's 'Sk8er Boi' is to be turned into a film, Nigel has proposed a selection of possible scriptwriting and directorial approaches, as well as some suitable actors. I think my favourite is the riot-grrrrl version, though the 'Virgin Suicides' version starring Hilary Swank also holds definite appeal.

This week's most intriguing, witty and perceptive postings have, for me, been on Invisible Stranger and Vodkabird: the former writing about being ginger-haired in 21st century Britain and the purchase of his first Ben Sherman shirt (and all the significances / consequences that go with it), and the latter about the delights of the lunchtime salad bar.

Anecdote of the week most definitely goes to Anna for her tale of a mouse funeral, the understandably solemn occasion disrupted by a particularly insensitive cat.

And finally... Mike has been arguing that the practice of drawing doodles is on the wane, a creative form that is being gradually eroded away and obliterated by blogging. So, if you fancy doing your bit to save it, post or send him your doodles.
Justice is done

The greatness of the web phenomenon that is Rathergood has been acknowledged with the award of a Webby to creator, animator, writer and all-round surrealist genius Joel Veitch. This calls for an extra special performance from the punk kittens - a choral rendition of 'My Way' perhaps?
Quote of the day

"I have immensely absorbed the negative aspect of my time - a time which is very close to me and which I have no right to challenge, but only as it were to represent." - Franz Kafka

After fitful bouts of reading over the course of several months, I've at last finished Kafka's 'The Trial' (in translation, though - memories of A-level German don't stretch very far). The whole disjointed nature of the reading process seems to have impeded my enjoyment of the book - had I sat down and really focused on it for a few days I'm sure it would have been a much more rewarding experience. Still, I did find it a powerful and profoundly unsettling work of fiction, for several reasons: the nightmarish arbitrariness and inexorability of the plot from the very beginning (that famous opening line, "Someone must have been spreading lies about Josef K for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one morning"); the generality and utter absence of specific details, which ensures the book's malleability in terms of its interpretation as a parable or allegory but which also leaves the reader feeling that there is precious little of substance to cling onto; the flat, methodical, arid prose which has a strange and disconcerting deadness to it. Overall, bleak, harsh, disturbing - and recommended.
Bo! Judge Lewison in da house!

A great story on the BBC website about a High Court judge's research into the "street" lyrics of the Heartless Crew in order to preside over a copyright case. "This", Judge Lewison claimed, "led to the faintly surreal experience of three gentlemen in horsehair wigs examining the meaning of such phrases as 'mish mish man' and 'shizzle my nizzle'." I'm reminded about Alan Partridge's comments along the same lines: "What IS all that? 'Yo, wassup G, some homie's been dissing ma bitch.' What's wrong with 'Good morning' and a firm handshake?"

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Quote of the day

"Music is the most important thing in the world. Songs rule people's lives. People are just waiting for a voice, someone to say something. I've purchased records that are biblical: you think, 'This person understands me, nobody else does.' It's like having an immovable friend." - Morrissey
Know Your Enemy #17

Morrissey on the Princess of Wales:

"To me there's something dramatically ugly about a person who can wear a dress for £6000 when at the same time there are people who can't afford to eat. When she puts on that dress for £6000 the statement she is making to the nation is: 'I am the fantastically gifted royalty, and you are the snivelling peasants.' The very idea that people would be interested in facts about this dress is massively insulting to the human race."

OK, OK, so I admit it: I devoured with relish the Smiths supplement that came with NME this week. I was too young for them to make an impact first time around, but for the last couple of years I've felt it's about time I gave them a real chance. I'm sure to those who were there at the time, waving their gladioli and Morrissey quiffs down at the front, the supplement might have seemed superficial and trivialising (that's assuming any of them actually read it, and let's face it - NME is pretty much kiddy fodder these days) - but, for me, relatively ignorant of their mystique and cultural impact, it was wonderful stuff. It affected me the same way as seeing the Joy Division half of '24 Hour Party People' - I just wanted to listen to all the music, right there, right then. I feel myself teetering on the brink of fandom, adoration and obsession. Just gimme some albums to hear...

Incidentally, what's with the whole concept of a supplement like this? Apart from the fact that they feel the need to cover Radiohead extensively around the release of Hail To The Thief, why did NME choose not to devote an issue of its Specials offshoot series to The Smiths? Not that I'm complaining, though, you understand. For the first time in quite a while, I was thoroughly enraptured with what I was reading, and it's perhaps indicative of a tacit acknowledgement by the editorial staff that what is great is not always what is 'now'. The Smiths are a truly legendary group, a fitting benchmark against which to measure the entertaining but ultimately shallow and disposable bands which are featured week in week out.
Tears on the Tyne

Alas, it was not to be. The joint Newcastle-Gateshead bid to be 2008 European Capital of Culture has failed, it was announced yesterday, despite having been the bookie's favourite. Instead, the honour (and the consequent prospect of lots of cash and jobs) has gone to Liverpool. There has to be a post-mortem of some kind, and I must confess to feeling that all the development was just too centred on the Quayside. Admittedly, what has been done to regenerate the area, particularly with the Baltic art gallery (now exhibiting Anthony Gormley's spectacular new work 'Domain Field') and the "blinking" Millenium Bridge, is tremendous - and a huge armadillo-shaped centre for music is currently under construction on the Gateshead bank of the Tyne. The planning and investment might, I think, have just been too focused.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Quote of the day

"Life is very, very complicated, and so films should be allowed to be, too." - David Lynch

(Thanks to Last Bus Anywhere.)
It's been a long time coming

July 21st sees the release of Strays, the first full record of new material from Jane's Addiction for 13 years. Will it be worth the wait? I can only hope so, but given their last was 1990's awesome Ritual De Lo Habitual, Strays has got an awful lot to live up to. There's one thing we can be certain of, though - if past albums are anything to go by, the cover is likely to feature a naked woman or two...

Hmm, 13 years. Maybe this'll be the kick up the backside Axl Rose needs to finish Chinese Democracy, you never know.
Dictionary corner

Q. What have the following words got in common?

feminist, experience, excitement, psyche, appreciating, across, especially, thoroughly, possess, identifiable, privileged, stereotypical, ultimately, deliberately, emphasising, speaks, aligns, arise, acquaintances, benevolence, perceived, parallels, critique, separate, interpreted, extremely, assess, transfers, correspondence, irreverence, interaction, vagabond, devastation, appalled, successful, omniscient, gauge, occasional, predecessors, vengeance, defecation, preferences, language, supposed, bowels, habits, pigeon, fourth, noises, inferences, porous, friendship, atheist, condemning, definitely, received, device, breaks, complement, consumed, already, chooses, subservient, immediately, sadness, technique, revolutionary, androgyny, humorous, eagerness, personification, argument, despises, sinful, minutiae, decipher, concentric, indicative, existence, sanctuary, consistently, absence, explicitly, coherence, incorporating, consummated, overriding, transcendence, submissiveness, wherein, discover, pastiche, ignore, acquitted, phallic, colleague, idyllic, grotesque, aspirations, detrimental, tragedy, desperate, unbearable, metaphorically, independently, vows, stork, crucially, endeavours, dying, symbolic, whether, dramatically, illustrated, forfeits, mimicking, negociator, characteristic, linguistically, suggesting, consciousness, tendency, anonymously, camaraderie, blurs, truly, staccato, monsyllabic, achieves, dysfunctional, approaches, precedes, hallucinogenic, inconsistency, appearance, patriotism, related, dissolves, testament, flippancy, repertoire, misogynistic, deteriorate, compulsory, writing

A. They were all spelt incorrectly at least once by first year English students in the exam scripts I have just finished marking. Bear in mind, too, that I only saw a quarter of the total - my share being 62 scripts...

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Happy birthday to ya!

Many happy returns to all at Stylus on the very fine music webzine's first birthday.
You gotta go away and never come back

Anyone else find last weekend's Sunday Times advert mildly amusing in its offer of a free CD charting "the ever-changing sound of the Stereophonics"? I would have thought it was a joke if I hadn't known better - to the average Times reader I'm sure the Stereophonics sound cutting-edge and a bit dangerous, and they probably secretly like them even though outwardly they're concerned about the corrupting and subversive effect that such tracks as 'Step On My Old Size Nines' might have on the nation's morals.
The dark is rising

Welcome to the emporium of evil: Villain Supply, for all your dastardly deeds. All together now: "I'll be needing a large globe that lights up, some of those small electric cars for ferrying henchmen about and a white cat, please. No, no nuclear warheads thanks - who wants to pay for them when you can just hijack a Russian submarine?" As yet, I've not checked if they've got sharks with frickin' laser beams attached in stock, though.
Feel good hits of the 3rd June

1. 'Sleepwalker' - Canyon
2. 'There There' - Radiohead
3. 'Man' - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
4. 'Woke From Dreaming' - The Delgados
5. 'Wuthering Heights' - Kate Bush
6. 'I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself' - The White Stripes
7. 'Hard Row' - The Black Keys
8. 'Echodyne Harmonic' - Sparta
9. 'I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend' - The Ramones
10. 'When I Argue I See Shapes' - Idlewild

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Quote of the day

"pure unadulterated triumph, unmitigated glory, absolute complete euphoria, melodic ecstacy, and true human victory"

Andrew WK in Entertainment Weekly, describing his new album. Short on modesty, big on hyperbole.

(Thanks to Fluxblog)
Jeremy Ward RIP

What was Jack White saying a couple of months back about 27 being the age of rock 'n' roll death? Jeremy Ward, the 27-year-old sound manipulator for The Mars Volta, has been found dead in LA. Quite where this leaves the band's proposed summer festival appearances is unclear at this stage, but the concluding sentence of their statement - "We are devastated by the loss, but know that Jeremy will continue to be with us in spirit at every show and during the making of every record" - suggests that the performances might still go ahead. Either way, the 'Tremulant' EP is a suitably sparkling if all-too-brief testimony to their work with Ward. RIP.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Blogwatch

No doubting the two major televisual events of the past week: the Eurovision Song Contest and the beginning of 'Big Brother 4'. Judging by the efforts of others, celebrating the former by watching with a load of friends, playing related drinking games and wearing a Viking helmet - as I did - is utterly and pathetically inadequate. Mike once again proves himself Daddy Of All He Surveys not only by attending the event itself in Riga, but also by writing a thoroughly enjoyable and personal blog guide to the happiness / cameraderie / dangerously unhealthy obsession that Eurovision seems to inspire. In terms of effort, then, Turkey to my Jemini.

I also fear I may once again be becoming susceptible to the wiles of 'Big Brother' - it's more 'I-hate-myself-for-watching-this' TV, the sort that causes genuine self-esteem issues, and yet... My excuse? Well, today's is that the club football season properly comes to a close tonight with the European Cup Final, and, hey, I need some kind of structure to get me through life - structure that can be provided by televisual ritual in the absence of football. Tomorrow, of course, the excuse will be different - probably something about needing approximately half an hour of mental sedation every day to get me through life, doctor's orders. Anyway, Dead Kenny has posted a brief guide to the housemates based on first impressions. The thoughts of Ian Penman? "There's maybe sometimes a LITTLE more to a fully lived life than designer fucking T-shirts you bunch of empty headed shiny happy twats you..."

Much of interest written on music and film over the past few days: opinions of the new Spiritualised album Amazing Grace on Fighting Against Making The Pie Higher; of an assortment of new albums on Parallax View (thumbs up for Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Zwan, thumbs down / in ears for Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks); of The Dandy Warhols on Close Your Eyes (Alex is hearing the ghosts of Reed, Cale, Morrison and Tucker); of Broadcast live in Glasgow on Alex McChesney Dot Com; of 'The Matrix Reloaded' on Fluxblog (not, it's safe to say, Matt's favourite movie); and of 'The Good, The Bad And The Ugly' on Second Order Approximation.

And amidst all these opinions, The Yes / No Interlude asks: what makes one album or song "better" than another? It's a pertinent question: review ratings naturally lead to comparisons between records, and the whole notion of lists with which NME seems consumed is predicated upon the belief that these aesthetic artefacts can be ranked in order of "greatness". How can such judgements be made? I don't know. Rest assured I'll keep on making 'em, though.

And finally... a propos of nothing in particular, Olav has had a vision of a cult magazine about extreme weather called The Front. I can spot a potential teething problem for this fledgling project - the publishers of Front magazine might have a word or two to say about the title.
Quote of the day

Following the signing of Mr Bowyer, a speculative projection of how radio commentary on Newcastle might sound next season:

"And now we go over to St. James' Park, where the opening game of season 2003/4 has just kicked off... Given with the ball... short throw to the alleged rapist, who turns it square to the alleged racist... the banned motorist takes possession, finding the drink driver... ball played forward now to the other alleged racist... pull back to the convicted druggie who crosses... Shearer! 1-0!"

(Courtesy of the ever-excellent and 100% unofficial Newcastle website nufc.com)
Know Your Enemy #16

Members of the Peter Hitchens Appreciation Society on It Makes No Difference's Olav.

The reaction to Olav's blog posting about the Daily Mail's prophet of doom and impending apocalypse really has to be seen to be believed. Evidently, hell hath no fury like an army of Mail readers scorned - primarily, one supposes, because they're already indignant at the way this country is being systematically destroyed and handed over piecemeal to Brussels, them damn immigunts and lowlife criminal scum, the sort who spray nasty things on walls and run coins down the side of their Vectras, probably because they're on brain-rotting drugs or something.

Far too much to quote, so I urge you to read it in its entirety, but my favourite jibe comes right at the beginning of the first nettled response: "How long did it take you to dream up that flowery little moniker? "Olav Bjortomt" indeed!" Quite spectacularly and crassly stupid hardly begins to do this Hitchenophile comment justice.

Olav is currently preparing his riposte. Expect it to be bloody.

[Incidentally, good to see that one of those sufficiently aggravated to respond (philipdru) seems to be a self-confessed member of the BNP - isn't it nice when all the ends tie up neatly like that?]

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.)