Monday, July 07, 2003

E is for excellent

The Birmingham Irish Centre is the most bizarre gig venue I’ve ever been to. For a start, there’s a carpeted area surrounding the dance-floor. The speaker stacks jut out into the room either side of the stage so you can’t see what going on onstage unless you’re stood almost right in the middle of the room. The stage itself has a proper arch, behind which the drumkit is set up and where, presumably, numerous amateur dramatic performances have taken place. And most bizarrely of all, one wall is covered with sentimentalized depictions of the Irish countryside and on another hangs a wooden clock in the shape of Ireland.

The mix of people assembled in the venue is almost equally strange – eyelinered teenage girls, portly white-haired fiftysomethings with Cure T-shirts, male indie obsessives in thick-rimmed glasses, soberly-dressed husbands and wives enjoying a night of freedom from the kids… They all have at least one thing in common with each other and with me, though – a love of the idiosyncratic genius that is Mark ‘E’ Everett.

For a man who looks as though he has serious issues just venturing out of his bedroom, E makes an incongruously grand entrance – as his band The Eels crank out the thudding riff to ‘All In A Day’s Work’, the opening track on new album Shootenanny!, a torch picks him out at the back of the room as he makes his way to the stage before ripping into three songs I’ve never heard before. When the familiar stuff hits, it’s evident that – at least initially – they’re in no mood for delicacy. 2001’s Souljacker LP (for the most part a collaboration with Koool G Murder, aka John Parrish, who plays bass tonight) revealed a new more sinister side to E’s songwriting, and it’s consequently unsurprising that the voodoo rock of ‘Dog Faced Boy’ and ‘Souljacker Pt 1’ is more satisfying than the likes of ‘Packing Blankets’. ‘I Like Birds’ and breakthrough hit ‘Novocaine For The Soul’ are both reinvented along the same lines as recent single ‘Saturday Morning’, as wired, upbeat pop-rock songs. Of the newest material, ‘Numbered Days’ and ‘Love Of The Loveless’ (with which they end the main set) sound particularly impressive.

The real gems, though, are reserved for the encores, of which there are three – E thanks us for playing the game of “celebrity cat and mouse” for applauding and encouraging them back on. It is here that the rock mask slips, to wonderful effect. In the first encore, sandwiched between ‘Rock Hard Times’ and ‘Grace Kelly Blues’, we get the one song I’ve been praying for, ‘It’s A Motherfucker’ from the Daisies Of The Galaxy album. Short, simple, understated and effortlessly heartwarming, it’s what E does best and what marks him out as quite such a talent. In the second encore, they finally play ‘All In A Day’s Work’ in its entirety with vocals, and then, with neat and effective symmetry, Shootenanny’s closing track ‘Somebody Loves You’. In the third we get just E and his keyboard for an unexpected rendition of the gorgeous and touchingly naïve ‘Beautiful Freak’ which somehow blows everything that has gone before out of the water.
Give ‘im enough rope

I finally got round to watching ‘Bernard’s Bombay Dream’ on video yesterday, and as I’d expected it really was a case of give ‘im enough rope – or, to be more precise, give ‘im enough camera time. Manning proceeded to do an excellent hatchet job on himself, making such pronouncements as “The world would be a much better place if everyone spoke English” and coming across as pathetically frail, absurdly egotistical and – in storming offstage when his jokes were falling flat and blaming it on a faulty microphone – comically unprofessional and thin-skinned. For perhaps the first time ever, I was pleased to hear a Daily Mail journalist – she managed to outwit and tie him in all kinds of knots (according to Manning’s bizarrely illogical logic when put on the spot, racial attacks really happen so they can be the legitimate subject of jokes, whereas Jo Brand and other female comics shouldn’t joke about menstruation because that’s “sick”, and presumably doesn’t really occur). Yes, “a joke is a joke”, Bernard, and that’s you all over. Channel 4 gave you the rope, and you managed to hang, draw and quarter yourself for the pleasure of the viewing public. Well done you fat wanker.
The Silent Words Speak Loudest Glastonbury 2003 Rock ‘N’ Roll Diary

Sunday 29th June

13.20, Other Stage

It’s always a great delight when you take advantage of a festival’s extensive line-up to check out a band out of sheer curiosity and find yourself overwhelmed by how good they turn out to be. Of course, this delight is also always tempered by the feeling that there must be dozens of these undiscovered gems performing unseen and unheard by you; every time you choose to see one band, you’re letting others slip through your fingers. But hey, let’s not dwell upon these negative reflections, but upon the positive and, more specifically, upon Kentucky’s MY MORNING JACKET. I have no idea what these guys sound like on record, but live it comes across as dense and expansive Southern stoner rock – Fu Manchu do the complete works of Lynyrd Skynyrd, perhaps. Having championed Cave In, it seems Dave Grohl has found another cause worthy of his support, and Kings Of Leon really should have been there taking notes. With his long hair, beard and flying V guitar, grizzled and barefooted frontman Jim James looks to have stepped straight out of some Neolithic metal band. At one point, he asks, “Do you guys have Smarties candy over here?”, before going on to announce, “Well, I’ve got a Smartie stuck to my foot. I have no idea where it came from” – to which some pissed-up wag in the crowd shouts, “Only Smarties have the answer”… Sadly their set overruns and some burly jobsworth stage-manager pulls the plug. That won’t stop me from hearing more of them, I can assure you of that.
14.30, Main Stage

In many ways the Main Stage at Glastonbury, with its Oxfam and Greenpeace banners, is the natural habitat for ASIAN DUB FOUNDATION, the perfect platform for their righteous musical polemics about everything from Dubya to asylum seekers. It was here in 2000 that I first saw them in action. The intervening three years have done little to change the bhangra Rage Against The Machine – in performance they’re still vibrant and buzzing with belief and well-directed vitriol. The backbone of the set seems to be comprised of old favourites – ‘Free Satpal Ram’, ‘Naxalite’, ‘New Way New Life’ and ‘Real Great Britain’. ADF’s problem, though, is that they’ve been allotted a huge time slot when their style is surely more ideally suited to short sharp sets. Consequently after a while the energy the band generates and the crowd’s interest begin to waver and wane, and what is initially direct and arresting about their approach gradually becomes rather laboured and unappealingly preachy. A shame, because for 45 minutes or so they’re great to watch.
16.20, Main Stage

Glastonbury’s Sunday line-up for the Main Stage is usually an eclectic mixture of the weird and wonderful, perhaps best exemplified in my experience by the wonderful sequence of 1998 – Tony Bennett, Sonic Youth, Bob Dylan, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds and finally Pulp. So it’s no surprise to see SUGABABES popping up between ADF and Macy Gray. It is a surprise, though, that they get only a lukewarm response from the normally charitable and enthusiastic Main Stage crowd (although, of course, were they to show up at Reading or Leeds they’d be bottled off stage by pimply teenage meatheads in Slipknot hoodies, just as Daphne & Celeste were in 2000). It’s all rather disappointing: they’re slick and sexy, without doubt the finest pop act we have, and yet it seems few people can muster the energy to show any appreciation for what is a capable and classy demonstration of what they can do – and yes, that includes singing live. ‘Overload’ and ‘Stronger’ drift by without much acknowledgement, and unfortunately by the time the tremendous singles ‘Round Round’ and ‘Freak Like Me’ (the latter being my favourite single of 2002, dontcha know) put in an appearance, I’ve left in search of The Raveonettes on the Other Stage. Even more unfortunately, the Swedes’ stupendously short set means they’re gone by the time I arrive. Arse. Foiled again by the festival gods.
17.20, Other Stage

THE RAPTURE are dizzyingly disorientating, and present me with a whole host of questions. What, for instance, is the appropriate behaviour for a member of their audience – should you just nod your head, or should you go the whole way and actually dance? Can I make sense of what’s going on? And, most importantly, do I even like it? Just as I’m beginning to get my head around it all and come to terms with their “standard” fare, skronky post-punk-influenced funk with saxophone lines scrawled all over the top, they chuck an incongruous yet very fine slice of thumping house into the already complicated equation. By the time former Happy Mondays dancer and legendary pillhead Bez appears for set-closer ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’, I’ve pretty much written them off as the sort of band destined to remain forever the darlings of the too-cool-for-school set and very unlikely to ever touch the lives of anyone else. This infectiously thrilling single may suggest otherwise, but there’s also no doubt whatsoever that it’s far superior to anything else they’ve played today. A bit of a conundrum, to say the least.
18.20, Other Stage

GRANDADDY are also something of a conundrum. Often bracketed in with The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, they’re evidently not in the same league – and neither do they really want to be. Sporting a fine array of beards in what seems to be some kind of weird tribute to the festival’s organiser, they blend together chugging riffs and swirling electronic effects in a way that is somehow both unremarkable and thoroughly agreeable. Stand-out tracks include ‘Sumday’ and ‘The Crystal Lake’ (sadly minus the dancing bear of the video), which form an arresting opening salvo, and recent single ‘Now It’s On’. Between songs Jason Lyttle eulogises about the festival and, more specifically, the ready availability of illicit chemical substances on site, and the large crowd departs glad in the knowledge that they’ve just spent the best part of an hour in the company of a bunch of drug fiends who also happen to know their way around a tune.
19.40, New Stage

From drug fiends to songs about drug fiends. Yes, it could only be THE DELGADOS. As if to emphasise that they feel far more at home in their own world of junkies, depravity and grim concrete tenement blocks than in a field in Somerset, Emma Pollock complains about the quality of the strong cider available from the beer tents: “It’s warm, it’s flat and it’s pish” (she does say more, but as it’s in nervously mumbled Glaswegian it remains incomprehensible to the vast majority of the audience, including yours truly). Meanwhile, fellow vocalist / guitarist Alun Woodward looks, as usual, like a startled rabbit who’s been let out of his hutch to play on the motorway. What feels like a deceptively short set starts off in grand fashion with ‘The Light Before We Land’, and takes in all four singles from their last two LPs – ‘American Trilogy’, ‘Hate Is All You Need’, ‘Coming In From The Cold’ and ‘No Danger’. The highlights, though, are the sinister yet beautiful nursery rhyme from Hate, ‘Child Killers’, and The Great Eastern’s ‘Thirteen Gliding Principles’, with which it is juxtaposed and which surges and rages to force home the point that The Delgados can and do rock. I’m reminded to thank once again the friend who strongly recommended that I see them in Birmingham back in February – that gig marked the start of a blossoming relationship.
21.00, Other Stage

Sometimes SIGUR ROS appear to me to be one of the most ridiculous bands on the planet. I mean, singing in a made-up language? Insisting on playing guitar with a violin bow? Listen to Agaetis Byrjun or ( ) in a certain frame of mind and it seems so excessive and prog-rock indulgent that it becomes impossible to imagine how you could distinguish a parody from the real thing. At the same time I’m often struck by how distanced and emotionally frigid their music can seem. Tonight, though, these thoughts are very far from my mind. Everything – the sense of a gathering storm presaged by a few large raindrops, the falling dusk, probably even the leylines of legend – is in its right place so that it all makes perfect sense. As on ( ), the songs seem to flow seamlessly into one another, less discrete stretches of music than the constituent parts of a much larger whole. Consequently the performance itself seems to trace a narrative progression, starting slowly but gradually and gracefully building up through successive songs to a climactic peak, the final track from ( ), which erupts with volcanic passion to stunning effect. Comparisons with Mogwai – who, through their curation of the 2000 All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, introduced the UK to the band (and vice versa) – are not only inevitable but also, it must be said, favourable. As good as Braithwaite’s bunch of Buckfast-swilling noisemongers were, on this occasion they can consider themselves overshadowed and outdone: this is even more wondrous, even more awe-inspiring, and – crucially – even louder.
23.00, Other Stage

Of course it’s inevitable after Sigur Ros have redefined epic, but DOVES can’t help but taste like weak tea. My appreciation of their set is also hampered by the violent intrusion of techno terrorism as well as the screamed and not-so-polite requests “COME ON YOU BASTARDS!” and “MAKE SOME FUCKING NOISE!” coming from The Glade, where Squarepusher is hard at work splitting skulls. At several points I’m on the verge of joining ‘em, being unable to beat ‘em, and on occasion Doves are only a hair’s breadth away from becoming a little bland. That’s not to say, though, that they’re a disappointment overall: a poignant ‘Satellite’ is dedicated to Marc-Vivien Foe and his family, and triumphant tunes from The Last Broadcast like ‘Pounding’ and ‘There Goes The Fear’ bring what has been a superb festival in all respects to a highly satisfactory conclusion. Jimi Goodwin expresses his gratitude at having been here, and so – quietly, to ourselves – do I and thousands of others.

Bands or artists I would have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / excessively packed tents / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Manic Street Preachers, Hope Of The States, The Raveonettes, The Streets, Squarepusher, Beth Gibbons

Friday, July 04, 2003

The Silent Words Speak Loudest Glastonbury 2003 Rock ‘N’ Roll Diary

Saturday 28th June

12.20, Other Stage

THE 22-20s hail from Lincoln, and they’re doing their darndest to disguise the fact. That means studied insouciance, leather jackets, grubby raw stompalongs and lyrical references ripped straight out of the book of blues clichés. There’s nothing inherently offensive in what the precocious foursome do, but they allow interest to wane and songs to drift on past their optimum cut-off point and into a superfluous third or even fourth minute. It all seems a bit lacklustre, and that’s mildly criminal. Put simply, of the bands who are roughly following in Jack White’s footsteps, The Black Keys and The Kills (who sadly fail to appear at the festival) could eat this bunch for breakfast and still have room for a full English, toast and tea. This may well be an off-day, sure, but what the incessant buzz that has surrounded The 22-20s suggests about the mainstream music industry is, of course, that it’s as myopically obsessed with a quick buck as ever, lazily backing those who follow in the wake rather than actively seeking out and putting faith in those who stand at the vanguard. Given a straight choice between this lot and The Futureheads, I’d take the latter every time.
14.20, Other Stage

On a day of hip and furiously hyped bands, SPARTA are the unfancied underdogs. I’m sincerely hoping and praying that they can not only make up for their frustrating showing in support of Hundred Reasons at Rock City in November, but more importantly steal the show from under the noses of those around them on the bill, afforded column inch upon unjustified column inch. From the very outset, though, it’s clear that it’s just not meant to be. Perhaps it doesn’t help that molten anger, which is at the absolute core of Sparta’s sound, is an emotion simply not naturally welcome at Glastonbury. Even still, the songs sound leaden, all the subtleties of their recorded counterparts buried and lost beneath the sludge. Vocalist / guitarist Jim Ward confesses that the band are coming to the very end of a 16 month period of touring, and they do look exhausted and desperate to escape into the studio to record the follow-up to last year’s fabulous Wiretap Scars. The devastatingly melodic ferocity of the LP begins to swim into focus with ‘Assemble The Empire’ and ‘Echodyne Harmonic’, but not even these nor a rousing finale of ‘Cut Your Ribbon’ and ‘Air’ can save the set. This is now the third time I’ve seen them, and I’m left having to face up to some unpleasant truths: guys, I adore and will continue to adore your record, but somehow you (or these tracks) just don’t quite cut it live. A crushing disappointment.
15.40, Other Stage

And so, head cowed, I accede once more to the jibberings and yabberings of the hipsters and hypesters, and dutifully catch the end of THE THRILLS. But – ha! – the hipsters and hypesters are wrong again too! By contrast with Sparta, the joyous sun-worship that seems to be their raison d’etre should by rights ensure that The Thrills and Glastonbury go together perfectly, like Michael Eavis and his Amish beard – and perhaps they do for most onlookers. However, the band go together with me more like Andrew Motion and rap, Liam Gallagher and humility, David Gray and entertainment – I could go on, but you get the picture. ‘Santa Cruz (You’re Not That Far)’ and ‘Don’t Steal Our Sun’ sound to these ears like a bad Britpop hangover – slight, undercooked and downright bland tunes idly dressed up with a few references to that wondrous life-giving golden orb in the sky and selected mythically idyllic places on the American West Coast in order to masquerade as summer anthems. Well, I’ve seen through your little scam, boys, and I’m not falling for it.
16.20, Other Stage

THE EIGHTIES MATCHBOX B-LINE DISASTER: just what the doctor ordered. Although, I hasten to add, if your doctor really did prescribe The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, you’d have to be concerned for his professional capabilities and mental wellbeing. Ugly and blunt, the Brighton oiks put in a performance that chews up The Thrills and spits them out into the beaming faces of anyone else whose set automatically benefits from the good weather and the cheery vibe – hello there The Polyphonic Spree, who are on the Main Stage at the same time shooting fish in a barrel by singing more songs about the sun. Taking to the stage with a giant flag that reads “I want to fuck your mother” (smaller flags have been distributed to members of the audience), Guy McKnight proceeds to rip out his lungs in the name of entertainment. And then the second song begins and he does it again. The set is a thrashy take-no-prisoners pillaging of their psychotically unhinged debut LP Horse Of The Dog. The first genuinely electrifying band of the day, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster are a wild and truly idiosyncratic proposition – please, please, please, let them be spared from being tamed at the hands of a major label.
17.30, Other Stage

Thankfully, the mood is now far removed from the jaunty optimism and misty-eyed nostalgia of earlier, and in that respect at least the stage is set perfectly for the arrival of INTERPOL. The clement weather, though, is rather less conducive to their appearance, and it’s no wonder that vocalist / guitarist Paul Banks, suited and booted like the rest of the band, complains about the heat. In fact, it’s almost surprising he doesn’t go on to complain about the exposure to sunlight… Nevertheless, ‘Untitled’ kicks things off in fine fashion, the gloom descending metaphorically if not literally and transporting us away to the dimly-lit streets and subways of New York. They plough on through the majority of fantastic debut album Turn On The Bright Lights – the likes of ‘PDA’, ‘Obstacle 1’ and ‘Roland’ all masterful slabs of Joy-Division-meets-The-Strokes near-perfection. But it’s album highlight ‘NYC’ that perhaps inevitably steals the show – dramatically grandiose and elegant in the way it unfolds, the song comes across rather like a slightly darker OK Computer era Radiohead. Like Mogwai a day earlier, Interpol triumph in spite rather than because of the circumstances.
18.30, New Stage

Scurrying over to the New Bands Tent as quickly as possible pays handsome dividends as Interpol’s fellow New Yorkers RADIO 4 are still on stage. They might well share geographical origins, but this fivepiece showcase an entirely different side to the city to Banks and co. Upon arrival the dancing, good-time vibes and party spirit demand more than a little mental and emotional adjustment, but once I step out from underneath the dark cloud it’s evident that there’s a great deal to recommend Radio 4. Hell, they must be good – final song ‘Dance To The Underground’ features an extended bongo solo, and if I heard that kind of thing in any other context at Glastonbury I’d be rather less inclined to nod and applaud as I find myself doing here and rather more inclined to embark on a homicidal spree around the Stone Circle with Primal Scream’s ‘Kill All Hippies’ reverberating around in my head.
19.00, New Stage

There’s something about THE WARLOCKS that grates on me, and I can’t quite pin it down definitively. Is it the fact that for the most part they look so damn perfect on stage, black-clad and the (engineered?) epitome of drugged-up and blissed-out cool? Is it the fact that, while playing guitar, eyeliner-wearing frontman Bobby Hecksher has an irritating habit of bobbing up and down and gurning like Ozzy Osbourne trying to force out an especially troublesome shit (this, I should add, is not the epitome of cool)? Is it the fact that they have two drummers who, because they play exactly the same drumlines, just seem like an attention-seeking gimmick? Or is it the fact that there’s the nagging feeling that, while songs like ‘Hurricane Heart Attack’ and ‘Shake The Dope Out’ are certainly decent, this sort of narcotic rock has been done earlier and better by The Velvet Underground, Spacemen 3, The Jesus And Mary Chain and even Black Rebel Motorcycle Club when they’re in the right frame of mind? Needless to say, I can still see myself getting a copy of Phoenix. Am I a sucker?
20.10, New Stage

And then, once The Warlocks depart, all hell seems to break loose. In a short space of time the crowd swells dramatically, doubling, trebling, quadrupling in size. Whereas the reception afforded to The Warlocks was modest and polite rather than feverish, there’s suddenly a buzz of expectation and a frisson of anticipation in the air – and the next act haven’t even appeared yet. When KINGS OF LEON finally do walk onstage, there’s an almighty cheer. And then they start to play. And my heart sinks. It’s pretty clear that, despite being hyped to the heavens – especially by NME hack Imran Ahmed, who seems incapable of finding fault with anything, least of all bright young things with guitars – they’re nothing particularly special. So, they play a bit of Southern boogie stuff and look just right with their tight jeans and eccentric facial hair arrangements – am I supposed to fall fawningly at their feet? Read my lips, hypesters: I ain’t doin’ it, I tells ya. I’m long gone by the time they saddle up and leave town.
21.05, Main Stage

Now THIS is what excitement is all about. Three years ago, THE FLAMING LIPS headlined the New Bands Tent. This year, they’ve brought their technicolour magic show to the Main Stage, and, from the glorious opening headrush of ‘Race For The Prize’ to the very last strains of Pink Floyd cover ‘Breathe’ (dedicated to Thom Yorke), it’s fabulous. Close your eyes for a second, and then open them – you feel as though you’re on a serious LSD trip. Accompanied by numerous 6ft animals and two “permanent suns”, Wayne Coyne – white-suited and face covered in fake blood – is stood centre-stage leading a field of thousands in an impromptu version of ‘Happy Birthday’ for the five-year-old daughter of one of the T-shirt vendors. While the setlist is by and large a foregone conclusion (I know we’ll get ‘Waiting For A Superman’, ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’, ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt2’), we’re treated to projected footage of a man snorting part his own brain through a banknote followed by the onscreen warning: “Don’t snort your own brain, just enjoy The Flaming Lips”. Sound advice, of which everyone (at least, as far as I’m aware) takes heed. I have to confess, though – it feels rather strange singing the chorus to ‘Do You Realize??’, “…that everyone you love someday will die”, with a huge grin plastered across my face.
22.55, Main Stage

How do you follow that? Simple, really: by turning in the best performance of the festival, bar none. The reason tickets sold out in record time, RADIOHEAD could have ambled onstage and farted and still drawn a rapturous ovation, such is the esteem in which they are held by adoring fans and bands alike. This is being billed as a homecoming, after the spectacular triumph-over-mud that was 1997. Thankfully, though, instead of opting to thrill the crowd with their trouser trombone techniques, they sweep through a wonderfully majestic set that cements many times over their status as our most valuable national treasure. The set is predictably heavy on material from Hail To The Thief – ‘There There’ and ‘2+2=5’ get things underway in fine style, but the real pleasure is that less remarkable album tracks like ‘Sit Down, Stand Up’ and ‘Where I End And You Begin’ suddenly start to make a good deal more sense. There’s also plenty of room for older material, too, particularly from OK Computer – ‘No Surprises’ is radiant and ‘Lucky’ is dedicated to Thom’s longtime friend Michael Stipe, sat with his band at the side of the stage, just as spellbound as the rest of us. The twin pillars of the show, though, are ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ and ‘Idioteque’, the former inducing thousands of voices to join in and the sensational latter inducing an outburst of schizophrenic dancing. Having never seen the band live before, it strikes me that for a supposedly difficult and troubled artist Thom appears to be grinning to himself rather a lot, and at one point completely loses track of the setlist, sitting at the piano only to be told by Colin that he should have picked up his guitar. Might Mr Yorke have sampled some of the festival’s traditional chemical fayre before the show? The clue is there in his repeated between-song mumble of “Hash for cash”. On his way offstage once ‘Karma Police’ has finished, he pauses at the microphone and sings the line “For a minute there I lost myself, I lost myself”. Unaccompanied musically, it’s not long before he’s accompanied vocally. A Very Special Moment indeed.

And yet, and yet… Walking away, knowing I’ve just witnessed pure brilliance at work, I can’t help feeling, well, a tiny bit disappointed. It seems hypercritical and absurdly churlish to gripe, but… Curiously, for instance, there was absolutely nothing from Amnesiac. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I love ‘Climbing Up The Walls’, and tonight it sounded out of this world. But isn’t it quite a strange decision to play that and ignore ‘Pyramid Song’, ‘Knives Out’ and Amnesiac altogether? Reading the setlists for their recent gigs, I’d got my hopes up that we’d get one or possibly even both of ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’ and ‘Exit Music’. I also can’t help thinking that the two most wired guitar songs, ‘Just’ and ‘Paranoid Android’ (still a remarkable single six years on) sounded a bit, I don’t know – rushed and ragged? It’s at this point, contemplating and reflecting out loud, that I’m told to shut up by friends, so let’s leave it like this: Radiohead were the best – but, from a personal perspective, they could have been even better.
Bands or artists I would have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / excessively packed tents / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: The Coral, Super Furry Animals, John Cale, The Libertines, Jimmy Cliff, The Polyphonic Spree, The Bandits, DJ AFX, Bill Bailey, Simon Munnery

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Blogwatch

I hope you're enjoying the day-by-day Glastonbury diary postings, but if you want more or a different set of perspectives then allow me to direct you to the following: David has written about his own personal experiences down on Worthy Farm, not solely confined to the music (thanks to Mike for pointing me in this direction), while there is also much of interest about this year's festival on Wisdom Goof, Parallax View and No Rock 'N' Roll Fun, all written from the perspective of those who missed out on tickets / made a conscious decision to avoid the mud, stench and hippies and watch events on TV in the comfort of their own home.

After weeks with very little change to my blogroll, I suddenly seem to have come across several excellent blogs in the last couple of days - check these out:
Casino Avenue
Creepy Lesbo
MarkCity
Master Of The House
The latter is of particular interest to anyone who's fond of that great British institution, the public house (ie everyone).

Gig reviews: Alex went to see Arab Strap at the Cottier Theatre in Glasgow, and suggests Aidan Moffat and co might even be lightening up (God forbid!); and Matthew saw Sonic Youth do their thang in New York's Central Park. Not only did they play new songs 'Peace Attack' and 'Mariah Carey And The Arthur Doyle Hand Cream', but golden oldies like '(I Got A) Catholic Block' and 'Making The Nature Scene' were dusted down and given an airing.

Elsewhere: there's been a sudden explosion of posting activity on Badger Minor, where you can find discussion of such bands / artists as Dizzee Rascal, LCD Soundsystem, Radio 4, The Darkness, British Sea Power and The Futureheads, as well as some welcome anti Ann Coulter vitriol; Kevin has been noting the striking similarities between the covers of albums by Marilyn Manson, ARE Weapons and Mogwai; Invisible Stranger has described his experience of being on a Gay Pride march in Berlin; Troubled Diva has moved, and Mike is inaugurating the new site by attempting to constrain himself to precisely 100 words for each of 100 consecutive posts (best of luck, mate!); and Ian Penman seems to be having the same difficulty with the new "improved" Blogger as me, finding himself no longer able to post long pieces. I'm reserving my judgement on the changes for the time being.

And finally... if you're a "cakey person" you might like to take a peek at Not So Soft. The discussion of the precise classification of a Jaffa Cake (biscuit or cake?) is surprisingly fascinating and very well-informed.
Monkey business

Last night I think I had the pleasure / misfortune of watching 'Ed', quite possibly the worst film ever made(although I confess to having not seen '2 Fast 2 Furious' or 'Biker Boyz' yet). As I sat on the sofa open-mouthed at the movie's unprecedented levels of awfulness, several questions troubled me.

Firstly, who in their right mind could possibly come up with the following equation: chimpanzee (or, more precisely, bloke in chimpanzee suit) + 'Friends' star (Matt LeBlanc) + baseball + vague love interest + bad guy whose toupee keeps coming off with hilarious consequences + soundtrack by the likes of Meat Loaf and Dire Straits = artistic triumph and box office paydirt?

Secondly, who at ITV thought that 11.20pm on a Wednesday night was the ideal time for the premiere of a "family comedy"?

And thirdly, which braindead hack at The Sun found it in their heart to award the film a three-star 'Good' rating in the paper's weekly TV guide?

The basic plotline involves a chimpanzee (the Ed of the title) becoming a minor league baseball team's mascot and rooming with one of the team, played by LeBlanc. It then transpires that the chimp is in fact an excellent fielder and he helps the team to success. I was willing the film to follow a 'Boogie Nights' style trajectory, and depict Ed's new-found fame going to his head, his unique talent wasted and his personal and professional life spiralling down into the depths of crack-and-whores depravity, leaving him destitute and working as a rent chimp blowing old men for cash - but, sadly, there was a happy ending. I did, however, like the intimations of bestiality in the "special relationship" between Ed and the young daughter of Matt LeBlanc's lady friend - underneath all that monkeying around (arf arf), there was evidently a simmering sexual tension. I swear it.

Essentially, though, the film was just an excuse for lines like the following: "I'm going to spank the monkey", "Why not hang out with your room-mate?", "He's not an animal, he's a ball player", "He's a VIP - very important primate". I'm sure the line "You've made a monkey out of me" was in there somewhere, but I must have missed it.
Quote of the day

D H Lawrence, writing in the Introduction to his volume of poetry 'Pansies':

"I am abused most of all for using the so-called "obscene" words. Nobody quite knows what the word "obscene" itself means, or what it is intended to mean: but gradually all the old words, that belong to the body below the navel, have come to be judged obscene. Obscene means today that the policeman thinks he has a right to arrest you, nothing else."
Kill all Henmaniacs

"Am I the only one who is praying for Little Timmy Boy Henman to get his skinny arse kicked at Wimbledon, so we can enjoy tennis played by skilled, charismatic foreign players and not endure hours of hero-worship of a dull, over-privileged Home Counties washing-powder salesman?"

No, Darryl, you're certainly not the only one who wishes nothing but misfortune for Tim Henman. I for one am most definitely not a Henmaniac. He's a spoilt little Mummy's boy whose parents always look smug-ugly and who's become the acceptably clean-cut and charisma-free pin-up for Daily Mail reading Middle England.

Incidentally, we were having a conversation the other day about how inappropriate the nickname he's been ascribed is: "Tiger Tim". Surely some other species of animal would be more fitting? I was thinking along the lines of woodlouse or gnat. Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Techno-problems

Below is the first installment of my Glastonbury diary - Blogger, it seems, does not take kindly to long posts, so I've had to break it down. The next two installments should hopefully be appearing over the next couple of days or so. Thoughts / comments from anyone who went or watched on TV are very welcome - just email me at the usual address.
The Silent Words Speak Loudest Glastonbury 2003 Rock ‘N’ Roll Diary

Friday 27th June

10.15, Main Stage

The whole festival is just awakening from either a fitful or a drugged slumber to discover that the valley is suddenly alive with the sound of Guns ‘N’ Roses circa 1987 as THE DARKNESS take to the stage with some slick uber-camp cock-rock gems. Naming a song ‘Love On The Rocks With No Ice’ is a sure-fire way to garner yourselves a support slot with Def Leppard, as this lot have done. They prove that winning over a dead-headed early-morning crowd is simple provided you have in your arsenal a song like ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’ and a spanking cover of Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit’ (in their hands it somehow becomes a lost Iron Maiden classic). Frontman Justin Hawkins, clad in the requisite spandex suit, plays guitar behind his head, charms the crowd and struts the stage with a presence that belies his band’s currently lowly stature. The whole set is a bold, wild and tremendously entertaining attempt to stick a flag in the festival and claim it as their own. It’s little to do with irony, and everything to do with having a fucking blast – and that’s Glastonbury all over.
11.10, Other Stage

All of which leaves HAR MAR SUPERSTAR rather surprisingly upstaged, even though he’s accompanied on this occasion by his scantily-clad female dancers from Ibiza club Manumission, where he has a residency this summer. To his credit, though, his sweaty gyrations and sleaze-hop tales of seduction and furtive sexual encounters (see ‘Power Lunch’ and ‘No Chorus’ in particular) prove to be rather more appealing than they were when I first witnessed them in the, ahem, flesh (when he supported Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Rock City back at the end of February). The cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Sir Duke’ is still strained and terrible, but in ‘Brothers And Sisters’ he’s got a genuinely fine pop song and bonus points also for donning over his trademark Y-fronts a pair of ladies’ knickers that had been thrown on stage for the finale. Hanging out with the cream of New York cool, writhing around with beautiful women despite his pie-fetishist’s physique in front of thousands of people – this guy’s got it good, and doesn’t he know it.
12.15, Avalon Stage

And down comes the rain, barely an hour and a half into the festival proper. Taking shelter in the Avalon Tent I have the misfortune to witness THE FABRICS. At first I’m prepared to be charitable – after all, the friend of a friend is playing guitar – but it soon becomes clear that all diplomacy and tact will have to be jettisoned. They are shite. Individual members of the band may well be talented (especially the drummer), but the end product is an unholy, gruesome, free-jazz-funk slop. The saxophonist has got a goatee and a leather waistcoat, for fuck’s sake. Although The Fabrics make me feel quite nauseous, in a way I owe them a debt of gratitude – their performance serves as a reminder of the dangers of straying from the main music stages in search of what dewy-eyed hippies are inclined to call “the real Glastonbury”. This is it, my friends, and it fucking stinks. I vow never to venture so afar astray again.
14.25, New Stage

And now, a bombshell: I think I could grow to love Sunderland, in a very small and specific sense – for giving me and the wider world a cracking new band. Now, just pause for a moment. Those of you who are regular readers will know of my affiliations to Newcastle Utd and corresponding antipathy to all things Mackem. So you are right to assume that this is a painful thing for me to acknowledge, and that THE FUTUREHEADS must be a very special prospect indeed. Taut sinewy songs that sound something like The Clash and early Jam and jab you repeatedly in the chest, accompanied by wonderfully choreographed vocal gymnastics. Tracks from their recent ‘Carnival Kids’ EP are superb, and in a short, electric set we also get fine covers of Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds Of Love’ and The Television Personalities’ ‘A Picture Of Dorian Gray’. Their album, when it hits, should be very good indeed.
15.25, New Stage

The first of very few disappointments of the weekend. As things currently stand, just over half way through the year, MEW’s ‘Comfortable Sounds’ is my favourite single of 2003 – nine minutes of chiming, towering shoegazery wonderment. Naturally my interest was aroused – is this sort of thing their stock-in-trade, or is it a momentary lapse into brilliance which stands out like the sore proverbial on their debut record Frengers? Unfortunately, it seems to be the latter. Gorgeous vocals aside, there’s little to merit anything more than a slightly disheartened shrug of the shoulders. Impelled to leave for the Main Stage by the imminent appearance of a certain Glaswegian fivepiece, I miss ‘Comfortable Sounds’ itself. The upshot of it all? Sorry lads, but your album’s off my shopping list.
16.00, Main Stage

God proves Himself to be a man of impeccable taste: whereas he had eloquently passed comment on The Fabrics with the downpour, by the time bona fide post-rock legends MOGWAI shuffle out in front of probably their biggest audience yet, the skies are blue and the sun is baking hot, so much so that I can literally feel my neck burning during the opening song, ‘You Don’t Know Jesus’. Mid-afternoon on the Main Stage was always going to be a challenge for Mogwai, but they cope with the adverse circumstances admirably – and then some. Several tracks from recently-released fourth LP proper Happy Music For Happy People get an airing - the likes of ‘Hunted By A Freak’ and ‘Kids Will Be Skeletons’ billow up from very little, spreading and spiralling majestically, while album centrepiece ‘Ratts Of The Capital’ ascends to a Sabbath riff that pounds down on the already sun-beaten heads of the assembled masses. There’s also room for old live favourite ‘Summer’, which soars and swoops like a jetplane. But then what was already great becomes instantly magical with the opening chords of ‘My Father My King’. Almost 23 minutes of the reworked and instrumental version of the Jewish hymn later, and having taken the song from the brink of silence to the outer edges of the sound barrier, the band’s diminutive and moustachioed genius Stuart Braithwaite is rubbing his guitar on the edge of the stage and then pushing it up and down the tracks fitted for the moveable cameras. Awesome. The title of the new album might be ironic, but they leave happy people everywhere.
18.40, Other Stage

It’s ELECTRIC SIX, and everyone is here for one reason: ‘Gay Bar’. This year’s late-night chant of choice amongst the great unwashed, you see, is not “I’m Tiger Woods!” or even that perennial festival favourite “Bollocks!”, but “Gay bar!”. They eventually play it, and it’s very well-received. As is previous chart-bothering single ‘Danger! High Voltage’. As is the cover of ‘Radio Gaga’ by Queen with which they close – complete with a bloke in a silver spaceman’s suit encouraging the crowd to clap along in time. These are – predictably – brief periods of respite from the rest of their set, which consists of unimpressive dreck culled presumably from new LP Fire. To be honest, to these ears they’re fighting a losing battle from the moment they step on stage – when it comes to the honour of the festival’s most absurdly entertaining band, how were they to know that The Darkness had already got it sewn up?
20.00, Other Stage

IDLEWILD seem destined for a life of being perpetually yet frustratingly consistent. They’re always good but never great. Tonight is effectively a celebratory run through an array of splendid singles – of the twelve singles on their last three albums, eleven are aired – and yet somehow it never quite ignites. ‘American English’, which last year sounded radiant and anthemic, fits into place neatly, suddenly nothing special. There are few surprises, either – nothing from noisy debut mini-LP Captain and, despite it being over a year since The Remote Part was released, no new material. Roddy Woomble – definitely the best-named man in rock – still ruffles his hair between every song, and Rod Jones still leaps around like he’s got a firecracker up his arse. Allan Stewart and Gavin Fox seem to have slotted into the line-up without much fuss. However, we do get ‘Tell Me Ten Words’, almost a pre-emptive tribute to REM’s performance later on, and ‘The Remote Part’/’Scottish Fiction’ makes as good a set closer as it does an album closer. It’s still not quite happened for them, though, I don’t think. Forever the bridesmaids, never the bride.
21.30, Cabaret Stage

A carefully-timed trip to the Cabaret Tent to see ROSS NOBLE, planned so as to avoid the merest hint of a juggler – but disaster strikes! Jeff Green is just finishing up with a long anecdote about the inept sexual fumblings of the average drunken male, and we have to endure – yes – a juggler before welcoming the Geordie loon to the stage. Being restricted to around half an hour means that there’s no time for Noble to really delve into any prepared material – if you’ve seen him before, you’ll know the way he works ie very randomly, feeding off morsels offered to him by unwitting and often inebriated members of the audience. His one completed anecdote is about a female friend of his who had a one-night stand with a bloke who shouted “Show me where your mother lives!” during sex – he’d meant to say “Who’s your daddy?”… Somehow at one point he gets so waylaid and distracted that he’s talking about the fact that he went to a nocturnal school with a group of badgers, and Bill Oddie had to coax them out for lessons by placing meat between his teeth. The man definitely walks the tightrope between genius and insanity: Beethoven, Einstein, Noble.
22.50, Main Stage

Glastonbury, more than any other festival, is about communality. And that’s precisely where REM come in. With a set-list spanning well over a decade and encompassing the likes of ‘Imitation Of Life’, ‘Daysleeper’, ‘What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?’, ‘The One I Love’ and ‘The Great Beyond’ in addition to a smattering of new tracks, Michael Stipe and co provide the perfect excuse for thousands to stand together in the dark in a field and just sing their hearts out. This communal thrill is felt most intensely during the first song of the encore, the Automatic For The People classic ‘Everybody Hurts’. It’s a very special feeling. And this despite the actions of an extraordinarily drunk friend who shall remain unnamed, who attempts to spoil the ambience by repeatedly shouting “Gay bar!” throughout the set and accidentally pisses on his own shoes while trying to fill a paper cup. But hey, I can forgive him: after all, REM are spreading peace, love and happiness, and leaving everyone with an ear-to-ear grin – isn’t that what Glastonbury’s all about? ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’ very aptly brings the curtain down on the first day, as I think to myself that I’d be quite happy for the world to end at that moment – if it weren’t for Radiohead playing the following day…

Bands or artists I would have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / excessively packed tents / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Primal Scream, Death In Vegas, The Cooper Temple Clause, Nada Surf, Echo And The Bunnymen, Yo La Tengo, Tom McRae, Black Box Recorder, De La Soul, Stewart Lee, Ed Byrne

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Normal service is resumed

And lo I return - sunburnt, bearded, wearied and dazed but very happy indeed. The Silent Words Speak Loudest Glastonbury Rock 'N' Roll Diary will be making an appearance here soon. In the meantime, though, thanks to Simon for keeping me on his Christmas card list and here's a special extended FGH as a taster of who I'll be writing about...
Feel good hits of the Glastonbury Festival 2003

1. 'Idioteque' - Radiohead
2. 'Untitled #8' - Sigur Ros
3. 'Race For The Prize' - The Flaming Lips
4. 'My Father My King' - Mogwai
5. 'Everybody Hurts' - REM
6. 'NYC' - Interpol
7. 'Thirteen Gliding Principles' - The Delgados
8. 'Get Your Hands Off My Woman' - The Darkness
9. 'Cut Your Ribbon' - Sparta
10. 'Carnival Kids' - The Futureheads
11. 'House Of Jealous Lovers' - The Rapture
12. 'Celebrate Your Mother' - The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster
13. 'Naxalite' - Asian Dub Foundation
14. 'Dance To The Underground' - Radio 4
15. 'Gay Bar' - Electric Six
Everything changes - for the worse

Fellow Nottingham bloggers may know of a very fine public house near the canal called The Lock and Lace (formerly The Navigation Inn). This particular pub has been the venue for many an enjoyable night for myself and my associates, and has become one of my favourites in the city. Perhaps the main reason for this was its extraordinarily good jukebox, which featured - amongst many, many other things - such fantastic tracks as Sonic Youth's 'Teenage Riot', The Jesus And Mary Chain's 'April Skies' and Dinosaur Jr's 'Freakscene' (note the use of the past tense - the observant amongst you may have noticed where I'm going with this...). Well, in the course of renovating and refitting the pub, the owners have tragically in their infinite wisdom decided to dispense with this 'box of delights. This may seem like a minor gripe, but quite frankly I'm gutted. How often do you find jukeboxes of a really good standard these days?! Perhaps, though, I should be thankful for small mercies - as, far as I can tell, it's not being transformed into a chain pub or theme bar or anything fuckawful like that. Still - sigh.
Shameless self-publicising

You can read my Stylus review of Canyon's Empty Rooms LP here, if you're interested or (more likely) bored and trying to fritter away time on the net - in which case, you might also like to take a peek at reviews of Hate by The Delgados and Antenna by Cave In.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Temporary suspension of service

I appreciate that I run the risk of incurring the wrath of fellow bloggers such as Simon with this announcement, but I still think I should let you know that this will be the last posting on Silent Words Speak Loudest for a week or so. Yes, that's right - I'm off to get off my face on rock 'n' roll and hallucinogenic-strength cider in a field in Somerset, but if it's any consolation I promise not to have too much fun and to remind myself constantly that "it's spending time in mud with trustifarians".

When I return to the blogging fold - short of cash and stinking of piss, joss sticks and burnt plastic - I promise to make it up to you for this temporary abandonment by posting some more substantial entries; it's not escaped my notice that they've been rather underwhelming of late. I might even get around to wrapping up the Music Sounds Better With You series, you never know.

In the meantime, though, behave yourselves. Bye for now.
Blogwatch: hate (and a little bit of love) is all you need

Hard to decide just who's this week's Figure Of Hate in Blogworld. Is it Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, whose embarrassingly awful rap poem commemorating Prince William's 21st birthday has attracted all manner of criticism and mockery from the likes of Popjustice, No Rock 'N' Roll Fun and Wherever You Are.

Or maybe he's just this week's Figure Of Fun. I'd be more inclined to back Invisible Stranger up with his intimation that the true Figure Of Hate is either Harry fucking Potter - or J fucking K fucking Rowling, if you'd prefer. "What I will NOT be doing, and especially today, the Stranger writes, "is reading even one insipid, uninspiring, fifth-rate, derivative, manipulative, over-hyped, word-processed and manufactured sentence by That Woman. Hogwarts? Hogwash, more like." Hurrah!

Elsewhere you can find: Vaughan's considered views on managing and expressing anger; Simon's tragic tales of disasters befalling record collections - fire, theft but sadly no inadvertently amusing reference to (third) parties; and Kevin's gripe about bands who claim the impossible ie that they sound like My Bloody Valentine.

Amidst all the negative emotion, though, you can always rely on Anna to buck the trend and spread the love with her heartwarming Aged And Ace series, encompassing tales of cheeky old men and Eminem-loving grannies. And not a reference to Werther's Originals in sight.

Thanks to Nigel for - via a fascinating post about the continuing importance of place in music - finally encouraging me to read Simon Reynolds's Blissblog. Simon's thoughts on the subject can be read here.

And finally ... What song(s) do you want played at your funeral? That's the question being asked by Birdman. My suggestion: 'Wake Me Up Before You Go Go' by Wham!.
Quote(s) of the day

It's over to a couple of fellow bloggers today:

"If Orrin Hatch thinks that it is fair to destroy my computer if I MIGHT be indulging in downloading that infringes on copyright property, then exactly what do I get to destroy of his when he violates my civil rights? No fucking way that corporations get the only right to wreck punitive damage on people at their own discretion. If this kind of logic gets put into law, then theft and vandalism belongs to whoever has the most money." - Badger Minor

"People, individually, are lovely things. PEOPLE however, are fuckers." - Little Red Boat
"Idea for programme"

It's almost too Partridge for words. "Lynn, idea for programme. Documentary following hilarious racist Bernard Manning on a tour performing comedy shows around India. Call it 'Bernard's Bombay Dream'. To be screened at 9pm on Thursday, Channel 4." Of course it goes without saying that the concept is only marginally less appealing than 'Monkey Tennis'.
Feel good hits of the 23rd June

1. 'Kids Will Be Skeletons' - Mogwai
2. 'Other Shore' - Canyon
3. 'Black Tongue' - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
4. 'Love Is Happiness' - The Icarus Line
5. 'Arcarsenal' - At The Drive-In
6. 'Robert De Niro's Waiting' - Bananarama
7. 'Been Caught Stealing' - Jane's Addiction
8. 'I Put A Spell On You' - Nina Simone
9. 'Bandages' - Hot Hot Heat
10. 'I Fought The Law' - The Clash
You WHAT?!!

aguilera fat hoax
secret masonic handshakes and words
text message muppet jokes
waistcoat words
muslim pornstar of the week
s club juniors slash fiction

Not here, my friends, not here.

Friday, June 20, 2003

"It's going to be proper bo, I tell thee"

I'll confess - I'm positively excited about spending a Friday night in, glued to the TV (well, to Channel 4, to be more precise). Lots of 'Big Brother' (let's hope either John or Federico stays in to keep the atmosphere at boiling point), 'V Graham Norton', a new series of the very fine American hospital comedy 'Scrubs' and 'Bo Selecta', on which the Bear will this week be interviewing Kerry McFadden (you know, left Atomic Kitten because she was pregnant by the fat one out of Westlife).

I really have got to get out more, literally.
Quick return for Bobby's Borstal Boys

Just what we didn't want: a white-hot atmosphere for our first game of the new season. Bowyer will be making his debut alongside fellow former Leeds boot boy Woodgate at Elland Road, where they're guaranteed a "warm" reception. And THEN we have Man Utd in our first home game - a chance to avenge last season's 6-2 mauling, or an opportunity for Fish-Eyed Fergie and his shower of red-shirted bastards to get another one over us? The chances of us picking up maximum points in the first two matches are not great. And to make matters worse, if we're desperate for vital points on the final day of the season, where will we have to get them? Anfield. Where we've won just once since getting promoted in 1993. Oh joy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Quote of the day

"[Wives'] chattel status continues in their loss of name, their obligation to adopt the husband's domicile and the general legal assumption that marriage involves an exchange of the female's domestic service and [sexual] consortium in return for financial support."

Kate Millett in 'Sexual Politics' (1969) - like Andrea Dworkin, she doesn't mince her words, does she? The quote appears in this article about feminist opposition to George W Bush's plans to actively promote marriage as the means for women to avoid the poverty trap - an interesting read if you can put up with the smugly and mockingly superior tone of the article's author.
At last!

Now that Mr Beckham is now finally on his way to Madrid, what to make of it all? Well, he's got the move he wanted, despite being cynically manipulated as a political pawn in Joan Laporta's ultimately successful bid to get elected president of Barcelona. It's debatable whether he wanted the move at all, though - Man Utd, with no good reason to sell him, seem to have decided to do just that.

Much as I think he's a bit of a laughable character off the pitch, he's earned my respect by virtue of proving himself a good leader on it for England time and again, and that's surely what he deserves for his commitment and loyalty towards Man Utd over the years. Sure, it might be said that it's easy to be loyal to a club that's paying you a small fortune every week, but then he could have doubled his earnings by moving to the continent long before now. Anyway, it seems to have been less a matter of choice, and more a case of him being shipped out in a pretty undignified fashion. Let's just hope the decision backfires spectacularly and blows up in Fergie's fish-eyed face.

Quite how he'll fit in at Real Madrid is anyone's guess, though. He just bolsters the ranks of supremely talented footballers available already, and I sincerely hope Newcastle don't get drawn in their group for the Champions' League - assuming we get through the qualifier, that is...

The Beckham transfer could actually frustrate our ambitions rather sooner and rather more directly than that - both Man Utd and Barcelona have money to burn and disgruntled fans to appease, and are consequently threatening to thwart our pursuit of dentists' nightmare Ronaldinho. Still, the deal to bring Feyenoord's Brett Emerton to St James' Park looks to be edging towards completion - that's some consolation.
Congratulations...

...to the Blogworld's Man of the Moment Olav on becoming one of Rupert Murdoch's news gimps at The Times for a year or two. Yes, that's right - his saturation of all forms of mass media is nearly complete. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Incidentally, you can read his assessment of the new Mogwai LP Happy Music For Happy People here. I would say that reading this review is rather like watching through the keyhole while someone wanks over their favourite band, but then that might put you off - it's worth a look. And, anyway, I said much the same about Mogwai in the last installment of my Music Sounds Better With You series, so who am I to mock?

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'.