Thursday, July 24, 2003

Blogwatch

Yes, Blogwatch has returned from holiday, tanned and at last reunited with its luggage, to find that out there in the blogosphere there's been some ch-ch-changes...

Not So Soft is no more, but do not fear - every end signals a new beginning, and it has been superseded by the all-new Me(ish). Meanwhile, over in Austin TX, Nigel has a new job, and Wan has announced he'll be moving to Japan permanently in less than a month's time - here's hoping blogging doesn't cease. Anna's Little Red Boat is on temporary hiatus, and will be sorely missed.

Now unemployed, Nixon has been making the most of his time and has constructed a graph showing the cost per kilogram of his degree certificate in relation to the cost per kilogram of gold bullion - can you guess which works out as more expensive?!

Prodigious postage galore by Olav, who's been writing about, amongst other things, attending the annual River Cafe Quiz, and being distracted by the back of Charlie Higson's head whilst watching Yo La Tengo and Calexico.

As well as expressing glee at Cameron's squirmings on 'Big Brother' when confronted with questions about homosexuality, Mike's posted his top 30 singles of the year so far. For an antidote to that, and particularly to the uncharacteristically naive optimism of my recent Feel Good Hits Special posting, look no further than Blissblog, where Simon Reynolds pours scorn on the notion that the satellite music channels are in any way interesting and lambasts those who myopically insist that 2003 is proving a great year for music.

Other music-related posts of interest: Steve on Embrace's self-titled 1986 LP - just to avoid any unpleasant confusion, that's the American Embrace, emo pioneers on Dischord Records and featuring Ian Mackaye, and not the wet Oasis-worshipping muppets from Yorkshire; Dead Kenny on the Kings Of Leon's debut LP Youth And Young Manhood - "a cautious, but hairy, thumbs up"; and Matthew on recent gigs by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks and The New Pornographers - read how he wrote the set-list for the latter...

For Alex, 'Hulk' turned out to be pretty much a hulking great piece of shit, "lumbered with an appalling script"; and Ian Penman's been 'fessing up about his fascination with Warren Beatty.

And finally... Happy birthday to Invisible Stranger and (belatedly) Vaughan!
Brum undone

Newcastle v Birmingham in the Premier League Asia Cup tournament in Malaysia: our first televised game of the new season, resulting in a not particularly convincing win with goals from messrs Shearer and Ameobi. Although the performance of the team and of individuals is not as important as the fact that it was a good competitive work-out in difficult humid conditions, there were one or two things to note.

Bellamy looked lively, winning the penalty for Shearer's goal having been played through by Bad Boy Bowyer and felled in the area by Kenny Cunningham (who was harshly dismissed), and putting in the cross for Ameobi's headed winner. Dyer also looked full of running, especially in the first half, but worringly again never looked like a real goalscoring threat - if only he could add that to his game... Bramble was also his usual self - a few excellently-timed tackles but one ill-judged lunge at Danny Carter resulting in the penalty equaliser converted by Paul Devlin.

Special mention must go to Stern John for his spectacularly atrocious open goal miss in the second half, and to Griffin and Bad Boy Bowyer for comprising what must surely be the most intellectually-challenged right-sided pairing the beautiful game has ever seen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Quote of the day

"God, we must be in a bad state in this country if we have to bring in a bloody foreigner at a ridiculous, exorbitant salary. Not only that but The Swede.

Have you ever been to Sweden? The word is boring. Get stuck there for three years and it would be like breaking out of prison to stop yourself going crazy. Were they neutral in the war? Course they were. They can't get excited and emotional about anything. Well, one thing.

We do know The Swede is as bad a judge of women as he is of centre halves. I tell you, he's lucky he's not English. If he had been the FA would have sacked him for his embarrassing affair with that Ulrika girl. That and a few other bits and bobs to do with the football.

Like being in charge of the only England team I've ever seen go down without a fight. The way we lost that World Cup quarter-final to Brazil was a bloody disgrace. No passion. But then he doesn't have it in him to get fired up, demanding and emotional. It's not in the Swedish nature. He doesn't understand us. He doesn't know how and when to play to the strengths of our national character. He does not know what the England team means to an Englishman.
"

Who else but Brian Clough, sounding off in the Daily Mail about Sven Goran Eriksson? Now there's a marriage made in heaven: Brian Clough and the Mail - both equally stubborn, cantankerous, xenophobic and bigoted.
Something smells fishy

If you think you can stand any more of me waxing lyrical about Eels (and if you can't, I don't blame you), you might like to read my full review of Daisies Of The Galaxy for Stylus.

Also on Stylus, Dom Passantino has been writing less than admiringly about the latest Eels record, Shootenanny! - not that I agree, but I can kind of see where he's coming from.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Feel good hits: satellite music channel special

Over the past week or so, I've been spending far more time than is healthy for me in front of the TV watching music videos. If nothing else, it's at least validated a belief that there is plenty of good music out there, if you look for it, and that it can and does make it onto the major music channels. Here's what's been catching my eye and ear, in proper Top 40 rundown stylee:

40. ‘You Drove Me To It’ – Hell Is For Heroes
Ah, I remember back when vocalist Justin Schlosberg used to play with Wide Angle, his band at university, in front of a handful of interested students. And now here he is, on MTV2, the object of adoration for thousands of teeny Kerrang! fans. The boy done good.

39. ‘Vampire Racecourse’ – The Sleepy Jackson
Luke Steele is clearly deranged, and, fittingly enough, this is like a slightly deranged Grandaddy. Alternately pleasant and odd.

38. ‘In A Young Man’s Mind’ – The Mooney Suzuki
Impeccable black-clad Noo Yawk garage rock thrills, guaranteeing at least short-term excitement before you forget all about it. So, I hear you ask, what, according to The Mooney Suzuki, is in a young man’s mind? Well, there’s a little room for music and the rest is girls. Apparently.

37. ‘Over & Over’ – Young Heart Attack
More grubbily exuberant rock action from the US of A. The video appears to have been filmed in Emo’s in Austin, Texas, during this year’s South By Southwest music shebang.

36. ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ – Bjork
Grand, showy, choreographed to perfection, and sung by a mentally unstable nymph with perhaps the most distinctive voice in pop today.

35. ‘My Own Summer (Shove It)’ – Deftones
Performing a song while standing on platforms which are bobbing around in shark-infested water is not my idea of fun, but hey…

34. ‘Eternal Flame’ – The Bangles
OK, so, blotting from my mind the criminally limp Atomic Kitten cover, I can honestly say that this is the best power ballad ever written. So sue me.

33. ‘Let’s Kill Music’ – The Cooper Temple Clause
Intense, insistent, bilious, confrontational. “We dare you to mean a single word you say”, they cry, presumably while sticking their fingers in sockets to achieve the desired ‘explosion in a hairdresser’s’ look.

32. ‘The Irony Of It All’ – The Streets
Mike Skinner is on a one-man crusade to inspire a musical revolution – songs like this breathe wit, imagination and playfulness into a genre which is for the most part tediously obsessed with booty, guns, cash and braggadocio.

31. ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ – Basement Jaxx
Thumping shouty lager-swilling dance music to get a headache to, but – let’s be honest here – they were on to a winner as soon as they decided to feature monkeys heavily in the video.

30. ‘Juneau’ – Funeral For A Friend
And they call this ‘screamo’? The vocalist only screams about ten words in the whole song! Pah! And what is it with cheerleaders in videos?! Anyway, it’s kinda like a cross between Hundred Reasons and The Promise Ring pre Wood / Water, only wearing Misfits T-shirts.

29. ‘Judge Yrself’ – Manic Street Preachers
The last ever song written before Richie James went AWOL to live as a hermit in the Welsh valleys / work in a chippy in Southend-on-Sea – and it shows. A welcome return for all the spikiness, spite and sloganeering of their early releases. By putting this out it seems they are indeed judging themselves, and harshly so – their recent recorded output pales in comparison, and they must know it.

28. ‘Low’ – Foo Fighters
Solid, dependable and consistent – that’s the Foos these days. They can also always be depended on for enjoyable videos – this time we find Dave Grohl and pal Jack Black playing hairy truck-driving rednecks who rendezvous in a motel room to indulge in an illicit passion for dressing up in ladies’ clothes. Surely it’s only a matter of time before Grohl gets a role in a Jack Black comedy?

27. ‘Into The Groove’ – Madonna
An absolute pop classic – and a timely reminder of former greatness, when Madge is busy trying to fob us off with the haplessly clichéd tripe that is ‘Hollywood’.

26. ‘Fallen Angel’ – Elbow
The sort of song that stealthily creeps up on you unawares, until you suddenly decide it’s really quite good. The video revolves around paranoia, vocalist Guy Garvey attempting to maim his bandmates only to get his comeuppance at the end.

25. ‘Now It’s On’ – Grandaddy
Another stealthy grower. Distinctively Grandaddy – chugging riffs, sweet vocals and acres of beardage.

24. ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ – The Hives
The track which fired the Swedish Kinks-gone-punk to stardom. The sight of bassist Dr Matt Destruction’s pornotache never fails to amuse.

23. ‘Space Oddity’ – David Bowie
His finest hour? I think so. But for someone who’s such an icon and idol, he’s had some fucking terrible looks over the years (as well as releasing some terrible records), hasn’t he? Here he looks like the sort of scrawny gawky nerd that attends Star Trek conferences.

22. ‘Soldier Girl’ – The Polyphonic Spree
Yes, yes, yes, I’ve been bitten by the happy bug (damn it, but even part of ‘Santa Cruz (You’re Not That Far)’ by The Thrills is starting to sound like Pavement). Must book myself in for the inoculation – I hope it’s not too late.

21. ‘Can’t Get It Back’ – Mis-Teeq
One word: feisty. The British Destiny’s Child strut around a courtroom sayin they ain’t standin for no more lyin an cheatin, while a discarded brassiere is surreptitiously pocketed by a bemused-looking judge.
20. ‘Stop’ – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Fortunately, the first single from forthcoming second LP Take Them On, On Your Own just about manages to stay on the Good side of the Jesus & Mary Chain / Oasis divide, like the majority of the first record. Outfit news: messrs Hayes, Turner and Jago are wearing black.

19. ‘Strict Machine’ – Goldfrapp
I’m in love with a strict machine” – not sure quite what Alison Goldfrapp is singing about, but it sounds positively filthy. Deliciously slinky and sexy electro. This is getting a lot of play on Q – if the channel’s demographic is anything like that of the magazine, then there are thousands of white balding thirty-something men in living rooms all over the country getting sweaty palms and inappropriate urges.

18. ‘I Luv U’ – Dizzee Rascal
The Streets meets Squarepusher – in other words, quite astonishing. There’s some serious talent at work here, it just took me a while to get my head around it.

17. ‘First Day’ – The Futureheads
Pure idiosyncratic genius, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the emergence of The Coral. They’re all wearing white coats – surely they’re the ones that should be in the straitjackets?!

16. ‘Super Trouper’ – Abba
Anna-Frid, Agnetha, Bjorn and Benny made some unsurpassably fabulous pop songs – but then they also made some unsurpassably bad videos too, didn’t they? Nice knitwear, mind.

15. ‘Race For The Prize’ – The Flaming Lips
Glorious widescreen splendour from Oklahoma’s finest. The lyrical content – ambitious and determined scientists competing against each other in the search for a cure – is hardly the standard fare of rock ‘n’ roll, but then The Flaming Lips are hardly the standard rock ‘n’ roll band. Long may they continue to amaze.

14. ‘Seven Nation Army’ – The White Stripes
Sadly, hearing this might have led Mondeo Man to believe he knows all about ‘the blues’, but there’s no denying it’s quality through and through. If you’re prone to getting migraines or have an irrational fear of triangles, though, watching the video is best avoided.

13. ‘Psychosis Safari’ – The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster
Fancy a journey into the fucked-up world inside Guy McKnight’s head? Well, hang on and enjoy the ride! The Brighton psychobilly rabble are resolutely ploughing their very own unique furrow - just don’t let them near your mother.

12. ‘Golden Retriever’ – Super Furry Animals
What’s great about this can be narrowed down to three things. Firstly, hair, hair, so much hair. Secondly, a twin-necked guitar. Thirdly, the appearance at the end of the video of a real golden retriever, which proceeds to piss on the cardboard box the band have been playing in – unfair comment, I feel.

11. ‘West End Girls’ – Pet Shop Boys
Smart, literate and charming pop music, like most of their early stuff. Shame that they’ve been off the rails for the last ten years or so.

10. ‘Pass It On’ – The Coral
Merseybeat with a country twang, and another effortlessly brilliant pop gem from one of our finest bands.

9. ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ – Muse
Take the material from Origin Of Symmetry and turn it up to 11. One day Matt Bellamy and company are going to go so far over the top that they fall down the other side – but not just yet.

8. ‘Hard To Explain’ – The Strokes
And to think I’d forgotten how great Is This It sounded when it first came out. Doh!

7. ‘Saturday Morning’ – Eels
Powerpop magic soundtracking a video which somehow moves from E selling home-made pancakes by the side of the road, to him playing guitar in the back of an articulated truck and surrounded by zombies.

6. ‘Just Because’ – Jane’s Addiction
A blazing proclamation of their return, this track could come straight from the first half of Ritual De Lo Habitual. Thirteen years may have passed, but little has changed – Perry Farrell looks the very embodiment of camp flamboyance in his pink jacket, tight silver trousers and pink boots, while Dave Navarro still appears to have a fear of clothing designed for the upper body.

5. ‘Windowlicker’ – Aphex Twin
One of the best videos ever made, and surely the sweariest. Deeply and delightfully disturbing.

4. ‘There There’ – Radiohead
Wandering through a dark wood Thom Yorke comes across a gold jacket and a pair of gold boots. When he puts them on, he’s chased down by a pack of ravens and turns into a tree. The moral of the story is, I assume, don’t try to steal from Perry Farrell’s wardrobe.

3. ‘Growing On Me’ – The Darkness
Sorry Mr Farrell, but even you have been upstaged in the camp flamboyance stakes. You can’t get much better than a revealing pink all-in-one Lycra bodysuit worn by a long-haired pouting gentleman from Lowestoft. On second thoughts, Muse have evidently got some way to go. It’s all so wrong, I feel so dirty etc etc.

2. ‘Crazy In Love’ – Beyonce feat Jay-Z
Single of the year? Quite possibly, and that’s despite Jay-Z’s irritatingly smug and incongruous rap stuck right in the middle like the aural equivalent of an eyesore. With a song this amazing, it’s not immediately obvious why Ms Knowles should feel the need to borrow his cred. It’s also not immediately obvious why Ms Knowles should feel the need to use her body to sell the song to us, but boy oh boy does she sell it. It’s all so wrong, I feel so dirty etc etc.

1. ‘Gay Bar’ – Electric Six
Good clean homoerotic thrills in the White House with President Abraham Lincoln. I wonder if George Bush gets up to this kind of thing – wearing Lycra cycling shorts and sticking pepperpots into bodily orifices – when he’s not busy choking on pretzels or being stupefyingly ignorant. #1 by virtue of being endlessly watchable and always raising a smile – the bit where the riff starts up again and the hamster starts crawling through the tube is fucking superb. It’s all so wrong, I feel so dirty etc etc.
Feel bad hits...

Of course, it's not all been good - far from it. Here are just a few of the atrocities that have made me cry "Please, for the love of God, no!!!" and reach for the remote to switch over to the teleshopping channels:

10. 'Faint' - Linkin Park
9. 'Bring Me To Life' - Evanescence
8. 'Complicated' - Avril Lavigne
7. 'Misfit' - Amy Studt
6. Anything by Good Charlotte
5. 'Something Beautiful' - Robbie Williams
4. 'Picture' - Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow
3. 'The Logical Song' - Scooter
2. 'We Just Be Dreamin' - Blazing Squad
1. 'Fast Food Song' - Fast Food Rockers

The latter is by far the most unholy thing I've ever heard in my entire life.
You WHAT?!!

harry potter iron-on transfer T-shirts
sigur ros iraq
strong cider prince william
mushroom haircuts
jason lyttle gay
matt leblanc's cock

You've taken a wrong turn back there, my friends.
Know Your Enemy #21

No Rock 'N' Roll Fun on big bad media wolf Clear Channel:

"In conclusion, reports MediaGuardian, Mr Parry also said he wants to put paid to "myths and legends" about his company and address its image as "big bad" ogre of the industry. "They want to portray us as mindlessly commercial, only interested in selling hamburgers. We absolutely accept the fact we are a commercial broadcaster. Our success is based on maximising advertising revenue. The part [British radio executives] chose not to hear is that we do that by maximising and delighting listeners - if you don't have any listeners you don't have anything to sell." So, erm, that would be be being mindlessly commercial then, Mr. Parry - what you do is maximise listeners by appealing to the Lowest Sustainable Denominator. However much it might delight the audience, you're still flattening down the radio landscape to do it."

(Read more about Clear Channel's plans for world domination here.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Baltic: cool

As hoped, I got to see the newly completed work by Antony Gormley at the Baltic in Newcastle at the weekend. Although local people initially had reservations about Gormley’s giant Angel Of The North sculpture in Gateshead, I think it’s fair to say that it’s now widely and fondly regarded by most as an instantly recognisable marker of regional identity and community, even though to many initially it felt like an imposition on the community.

‘Domain Field’, by contrast, actively involved the local community (250 people) in its production, and in fact the production process was equally as important as the finished installation. Visiting the Baltic back in April, I was able to look down from a viewing gallery and watch the artistic team at work, cutting up vertically the casts they’d made and beginning the process of welding together the short steel rods within the cast halves so as to create an army of dense jagged sculptures. In this way, the participants were intimately involved in the project, and once all the casts had been made, the wider public were able to view the production process almost as a work of art in its own right, evolving day-by-day.

The finished work, though, is naturally still the main focus of interest. In the exhibition guide there is an essay by Darian Leader called ‘Drawing On Space’ which discusses ‘Domain Field’ and its creation in the light of Gormley’s other works and in relation to their characteristic themes – belonging, identity, bodily boundaries, bodily presence and absence. Although this essay makes for a very absorbing and informative read (and incidentally made me realise that I’ve eaten my lunch several times whilst unwittingly sitting in the middle of a Gormley sculpture called ‘Planets’ at the British Library!), inevitably it doesn’t capture everything about the work or everyone’s personal experience of it.

I loved walking around in amongst the work, discerning and distinguishing the figures in what initially seems like a dense sea of metal, and looking at each one individually. They reminded me of 3-D models of chemical structures, or diagrams of constellations. It was intriguing and disorientating that they have very definite shape from a slight distance (to the extent that many participants have been able to recognise themselves), but seem to lose this definition close-up. Why were some figures incredibly dense and “thick” in terms of the number of steel rods used, while others are painfully thin and almost not there? By striking contrast with the apparently solid block-like concrete and wood figures of ‘Allotment II’ (also on display at the Baltic, on the floor below), though, all those of ‘Domain Field’ seemed to be fragile, almost ethereal and literally insubstantial. In some strange way, they also seemed more human.

The ‘Domain Field’ exhibition, which also includes the earlier works ‘Earth’, ‘Fruit’ and ‘Body’, runs until 25th August, and if you have the opportunity to go along, I’d thoroughly recommend it. And if you enjoy the experience, afterwards you can buy the T-shirts, postcards, bags, books, videos, notebook… I’m sure it must be fairly unique and unprecedented for an artist and a gallery to have so much branded merchandise, but then I don’t begrudge them capitalising on Gormley’s involvement and using merchandising as a means of promotion and raising revenue, given that entry is free to all.

All this talk about and focus on ‘Domain Field’ has meant that the Baltic’s other exhibition at the current time is being unfortunately overshadowed – I say unfortunately, because it’s excellent in its own right and would, I’m sure, at another time have been the gallery’s star attraction.

Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen’s ‘The Coal Coast’ is a collection of photographs taken over a three year period on the coast between Seaham and Hartlepool in County Durham. At the turn of the last century the area was thriving industrially, its pits producing vast quantities of coal, but now all the mines are closed and the beaches littered with mining paraphernalia and refuse.

What’s brilliant about Konttinen’s photos is that she has managed to turn what might initially appear to be unsightly industrial waste (concrete, rusting girders, pit ventilation tubes, red pools of iron oxide) into aesthetically engaging subject matter. I was struck by how powerfully she has captured the way in which nature appears to be reasserting its dominance and primacy over the artificial and the man-made, at the same time as she implicitly acknowledges the damaging environmental effects that the mining industry has had on the beaches. And despite this damage, the picture of a miner’s boot half-buried in the white sand is on its own a remarkably eloquent and poignant epitaph to the demise of a once-thriving industry, and one which will no doubt strike a chord with many of those from the region who visit the exhibition.

A few words about the Baltic itself. It was really pleasing to see that it’s evidently fulfilling its remit and attracting those who are unused to visiting art galleries – myself included. No doubt this is due in the main to the fact that it’s in the city centre and completely free. It’s also worth noting that both of the current exhibitions are of immediate relevance and interest to local people, and consequently it’s admirably promoting a genuinely populist idea of art as something that need not be utterly abstract and removed from the lives of ordinary people. As one participant in the ‘Domain Field’ project has said, “It was nice to be part of this scheme and I shall boast to friends and family for many years. I was born in Gateshead and wanted to remain part of the city”. Another has said, “It was so exciting to be involved in such an arts project – it isn’t often that an opportunity like this one is afforded to the general public”. This level of involvement and lack of elitism is healthy and refreshing – long may it continue.
Quotes of the day: an Antony Gormley special

The perfect form of sculpture is the bomb

Our bodies are on temporary loan from the circulation of elements in the atmosphere
Calling all quote afficionados!

Regular SWSL readers will know that I'm a sucker for quotations. Well, those of you who are equally fond of the well-wrought phrase or the good point exceptionally well-made need look no further than Quotes Du Jour for your daily dose of quotage. My favourite from today's selection comes from English philosopher, pacifist and Bloomsbury associate Bertrand Russell:

Patriots always talk of dying for their country, and never of killing for their country.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Where's THEIR heads at?!!

OK, so I've just been giving the Mars Volta album its first spin, and here are some initial thoughts:

They've evidently decided that the material on last year's 'Tremulant' EP was too conventional... The LP is full of clanking, buzzing and bizarre syncopated rhythms that occasionally and suddenly coalesce and explode into real, genuine SONGS - albeit ones that sound nigh-on impossible, like someone's placed a fucking huge free jazz bomb under a hardcore band (well, that would go some way to explaining the hair, at least...).

Is it insanely ambitious, or is it irredeemably pretentious? Only time will tell. For the time being, though, I'm off for a long lie down.

(If you're wondering what this might sound like in concert, let Olav tell you.)
The Moore the merrier

There’s some catching up to do – it’s high time I got round to writing about my personal impressions of reading Michael Moore’s ‘Stupid White Men’, a mere six weeks since I finished it…

Having bought the book back in January, and having read so much about it, it wasn’t until fairly recently that I picked it up and digested it for myself. It’s perhaps because it had been hailed almost universally as a brilliant piece of polemic that I immediately found myself looking for faults and weaknesses. Two things in particular struck me.

Firstly, at times I found Moore’s attempted satire too flippant. For instance, he suggests that the solution to the political and religious conflict in Northern Ireland lies in the conversion of all Protestants to the Catholic faith. Elsewhere, he encourages the people of the former Yugoslavia to attend self-help groups to deal with their addiction to violence, warning them “If you don’t do this, we are going to drop thousands of those shitty little Yugo cars from cargo planes high above your country. It will never be safe to go out of the house because you’ll never know when one of those 2000-pound lemons is heading for your head”. Admittedly these passages raised a smile, but the problem as I see it is that, while Moore writes disparagingly about the way the USA insensitively imposes itself upon the rest of the world in economic, political and cultural terms, he leaves himself open to a very similar charge – that in proposing flippant solutions to the world’s trouble-spots which fail to engage with the very real complexities of the circumstances (albeit in a way aimed at eliciting laughter), he is imposing what come across as his own arbitrary and ignorant ideas. On occasion I also had some difficulty in swallowing his reasoning: just because some states abuse the recycling system, for example, doesn’t mean that we should all just stop collecting and sorting waste for recycling – that’s just being thoughtlessly defeatist.

If I had to sum up, though, the main reason why I found reading ‘Stupid White Men’ a more underwhelming experience than I’d hoped it might be, it would be because I constantly found myself comparing it to books like ‘No Logo’, ‘Fast Food Nation’ and ‘The Silent Takeover’. In comparison, Moore’s book felt disappointingly shallow and superficial, with little real analysis and dissection of facts and events.

But, of course, the comparison is grossly unfair – ‘Stupid White Men’ is a completely different beast altogether. There’s absolutely no doubt that his heart is in the same place as those of Naomi Klein, Eric Schlosser and Noreena Hertz – he just approaches the same issues from a different angle. Consequently my criticisms could be accused of completely missing the point. Ultimately, there are at least three very good reasons to celebrate Moore’s achievement – firstly, the fact that it was written by a dissenting American; secondly, the fact that a major publisher felt the weight of pressure and released the book (of course, now it’s turned out to be a major money-spinner but its publication in the post-September 11th climate was initially a very risky business); and thirdly, the fact that the book has captured the public imagination, or more accurately, that it has voiced the thoughts and feelings of thousands across the world. What really matters is that these issues are being discussed and that these viewpoints are being aired at all.
Depression is to me what daffodils were for Wordsworth

More catching up – this time, some thoughts on the Channel 4 programme ‘Philip Larkin: Love And Death In Hull’, which was screened last Sunday but which I’ve only just got round to watching on video.

I was well aware of the nature of Larkin’s character, and despite contributions by a number of literary friends and paramours, the programme was unflinching in its depiction of his vices. ‘This Be The Verse’ famously begins with the lines, “They fuck you up, your mum and dad / They may not mean to, but they do” – in these terms it seems Larkin’s own parents must have done a spectacularly if unintentionally bad job. He came across as relentlessly pessimistic, bitingly cynical, gloomy, “a grumpy old bachelor”, cruel, insensitive, racist, sexist, self-centred, simultaneously obsessed with and petrified of death, misanthropic, and – by the end of his life, at least – an alcoholic. In other words, thoroughly dislikeable.

This wouldn’t be a problem, of course, except that his poetry is almost unfailingly brilliant.

How, then, to reconcile love for the art and distaste for the artist? In Larkin’s case it’s even harder – because the poetry so obviously springs from personal experiences and thoughts. This was something I had to confront a few years ago. Not normally an avid reader of poetry, I became obsessed with Larkin and particularly ‘High Windows’. I’m not quite sure whether I ever resolved the issue – or whether it’s even possible. Still, I imagine I’m not alone – Anthony Thwaite’s edition of Larkin’s collected letters, published after his death, forced many of those who admired his wry observations on the minutiae of everyday life to re-evaluate their views of him. Particularly damaging were his numerous letters to Kingsley Amis – full of sexist and racist remarks, with coldly clinical references to pornography, characterized by a childish tone and toilet humour.

I have difficulty accepting his views on poetry, too. He was notoriously and stubbornly antipathetic towards the notions of experimentation and novelty – without which, of course, the art form would just stagnate and eventually shrivel up. Also, there’s a sense that in his attention to the everyday he is claiming to speak for everyone, when he and his poetry are clearly the product of a particular time, place and person. And in focusing on life’s mundane reality, he perhaps ignores or denies the imaginative power of art

In many ways, he is a fascinating enigma – the racist bigot who loved jazz, a predominantly black music form; the bachelor who preferred his own company and yet who was depressed by his loneliness; the poet who claimed our lasting legacy would be love but who only seems to write about it in terms of frustration, selfishness, self-deception and emptiness…

The fact remains, though, that I can’t help but love his morbidly bleak and blackly comical poetry.

As Larkin once said himself, “I rather like being on the edge of things”. Well, for me, he’s right on the edge of love and hate, somewhere between the two. A couple of years ago I got chatting to the guy in charge of the University’s libraries, and discovered he trained under Larkin at the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull. I must confess to feeling a strange kind of thrill – here I was, speaking to someone who’d actually met the man. Even then, though, I was quite glad that I never met him myself.

(Incidentally the programme was also notable for the fact that Andrew Motion had the temerity to show his face – presumably it was recorded before the appearance of his risible commemorative rap poem for Prince William’s birthday.)
Feel good hits of the 10th July

1. 'Beautiful Freak' - Eels
2. '2+2=5' - Radiohead
3. 'Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine' - The White Stripes
4. 'Crazy In Love' - Beyonce feat Jay-Z
5. 'Just Because' - Jane's Addiction
6. 'Can't Get It Back' - Mis-Teeq
7. 'Losing Touch With My Mind' - The Icarus Line
8. 'Psychosis Safari' - The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster
9. 'What's The Frequency, Kenneth?' - REM
10. 'I Luv U' - Dizzee Rascal
Quote of the day

"With this standardized railroading of the poor going on daily in every city in America, our justice system has nothing to do with justice. Our judges and lawyers are more like glorified garbage men, rounding up and disposing of society's refuse - ethnic cleansing, American style."

Michael Moore in 'Stupid White Men'

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Meeting people is easy

Random thought of the day: how often must we come into close proximity with people who end up some time later becoming a good friend or an important part of our lives? In bars, in the street, probably even in motorway service stations. It’s weird to think that some of my best friends were at the same festivals as me before I knew them, and we probably passed each other completely oblivious. It’s as if we only ever come into existence for each other when something happens to make the relationship close in more than just spatial terms.

(Note to self: think out loud less, to avoid scaring off readers.)
Overheard

(I love eavesdropping, although this little beauty from today’s train journey north couldn’t really be regarded as the result of me actively listening in to a phone conversation – more a case of passively sitting there with my ears open as the woman in front of me blathered loudly into her mobile.)

I’m glad to get out of that hospital. It was like Fawlty Towers. At one point they came in and asked him if the drugs had had any effect, but they’d forgotten to give him any!
Text message of the day

At the Mars Volta gig. Just seen the guitarist outside the Wedge. That’s HAIR!!!

Cheers Leon – looking forward to reading a review!
Music Sounds Better With You #8

‘It’s A Motherfucker’ – Eels

(Neatly appropriate, given my recent gig-going exploits.)

There comes a time in every hardened rock fan’s life when sheer volume alone no longer quite suffices. When amps turned up to eleven is no longer a sure-fire way of getting the juices flowing. When what might at one time have been most likely regarded as a glorious racket is now more often perceived as an unholy din. (C’mon, get to the point, granddad.) When, y’know, your musical tastes might be said to deepen and broaden and – whisper it – mellow and mature.

Well, the third Eels album, Daisies Of The Galaxy, entered my life at just the right time. Before long, it had me eating out of the palm of its hand. “Who needs volume”, I scoffed, “when you’ve got warmth, charm and beauty in spades?”. The record is packed full of wonderful examples, but without doubt the warmest, the most charming, the most beautiful is ‘It’s A Motherfucker’. A wryly-titled attempt to come to terms with the loss of his mother, E’s masterpiece weighs in at just over two minutes in length but is inordinately heavier in terms of its emotional resonance, so simple and yet so phenomenally effective. Anyone wavering over or doubting the capacity of music to speak more powerfully than any other art form, I implore you – just listen to this song.

Inspired a love of: some of the mellower “indie” bands I used to recoil from instinctively and for whom craft and emotion are more important than volume, The Delgados, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, The Flaming Lips, PJ Harvey, The Coral, REM, Calla, Arab Strap, Wheat, Radar Brothers, Canyon, The Black Heart Procession, Bright Eyes…

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.