Tuesday, August 12, 2003

(Nice day for a) white wedding

Indeed it was, albeit rather warm - especially when wearing a morning suit and waistcoat... On Saturday Paul and Lisa were joined in holy matrimony, I managed to get through the day without cocking up with either the rings or the speech, and an enormous quantity of alcohol was consumed, much of it by Olav, who consequently provided those assembled with a good deal of entertainment, particularly when it came to flailing around with a screwed-up face in what I can only assume was an attempt to dance to the ceilidh band. A good time was had by all, and now that I'm pretty much stress-free, the resumption of work and regular blogging can take place. Hurrah!
The legend of Old Nick

More excellent viewing, this time on ITV1 in the form of Sunday night's 'The South Bank Show', which focused on the work of Nick Cave. It was a superb overview of his career, moving from the raging turmoil of his post-punk rabble The Birthday Party (very clearly a massive influence on the likes of The Jesus Lizard, The Icarus Line and The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster), through the fire-and-brimstone early years of the Bad Seeds which yielded the classics 'The Mercy Seat' and 'Tupelo', and up to the more sedate and haunting songs of recent years.

Cave himself talked candidly about his drug-taking (prodigious), his influences (Johnny Cash, Nina Simone, John Lee Hooker), his literary inspirations (predominantly the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament) and his approach to songwriting. At one point he opined: "For me, the great love song has within it an ache" - true enough, and, as was illustrated by a snippet from 'The Sorrowful Wife' from 2001's exceptionally brilliant No More Shall We Part record, nobody writes them better. What particularly interested me were his comments about intensely personal lyrics - he confessed of 1997's The Boatman's Call that "there is an element that disgusts me", referring to the most openly and undisguisedly autobiographical songs like 'West Country Girl' and 'Black Hair', both written about Polly Harvey. Since then, he claims to be standing more "outside" his lyrical material.

A fine supporting cast, including Will Self, Wim Wenders, The Observer's Sean O'Hagan and members of the Bad Seeds Blixa Bargeld and Mick Harvey, offered their own perceptive observations - O'Hagan claimed, I think rightly, that with the Bad Seeds the focus is very much on Cave and his lyrics, the music existing as a complementary backdrop, and Self argued that although Cave's novel 'And The Ass Saw The Angel' isn't the most gripping narrative ever committed to paper, it is however "beautifully written".

And that's perhaps what the programme forced me to re-acknowledge: Cave - the son of a lecturer in English literature - possesses a conviction in the power of the written and spoken word, and often wields this power to devastating effect in his lyrics. I'll be amazed if I ever hear an opening verse of a song that's more stunning than that of 'Into My Arms' from The Boatman's Call: "I don't believe in an interventionist God / But I know, darling, that you do / But if I did I would kneel down and ask him / Not to intervene when it came to you".

Thanks to Leon for being the first to make me see the light.
Just for Larks

Quite why there has been a recent flurry of programmes about Philip Larkin I'm not entirely sure.

First came C4's 'Philip Larkin: Love And Death In Hull', essentially a frank and unflinching portrait of the man. Despite the involvement of several admiring associates from the literary world and further afield, the programme was something of a character assassination - or, at least, it would have been, had the details of his unsavoury prejudices and sullen demeanour not already been fairly well-known.

And then, a couple of weeks' back, BBC2 gave us 'Love Again', a dramatisation of Larkin's adult life. As the title (taken from one of his most famous poems) might suggest, the focus was squarely on his complicated love-life, his emotional inadequacies and his fear of commitment and restriction within relationships. Consequently, the dramatisation was far more sympathetic in tone than the C4 documentary had been. The darker aspects of Larkin's personality - the racism, the sexism, the alcoholism late in life - were skirted around or only briefly touched upon (although his downtrodden relation to his domineering mother was well-drawn), and instead Hugh Bonneville portrayed him as a surprisingly jovial and amiable character. His bumbling mannerisms and inability to express his feelings made him seem an endearingly comedic figure, naive and harmless rather than someone who irrevocably damaged the women's lives he touched.

In this respect, it reminded me of the spring TV adaptation of the novel 'Lucky Jim' by Larkin's close friend Kingsley Amis, which featured Stephen Tomkinson in the lead role, and it also left me feeling a little disappointed that they couldn't make it as equally "warts 'n' all" as the C4 portrait had been. I suppose, though, that this angle renders Larkin a more palatable figure to swallow - and, as I conceded on this very blog a short while back, this is an issue I struggled with myself a few years ago.

In truth, it made for excellent viewing, and there were some fine touches - perhaps most brilliantly when on a joyless Christmas Day spent with his mother, the Queen's Speech on the TV turned into 'This Be The Verse', and switched into Larkin's own voice. The poetry was inserted judiciously, and the dialogue was frequently sparkling:

"Let's face it, I'm no Ted Hughes in the charisma department";

"It's time for some positive thinking"
"They give me medals for negative thinking, Betty - I'm not about to start now"

"Do you feel you could have led a happier life?"
"Not without being someone else"

'Love Again' was one of those rare beasts, the sort of BBC curiosity that goes some way to counterbalancing the atrocity that is 'Fame Academy' and justifying the licence fee.
Warped

I've only seen it once, and, as with 'Jam', on initial viewing I wasn't quite sure what to make of Chris Morris's BAFTA award-winning short film 'My Wrongs Nos 8245-8249 And 117'. It's not the sort of thing that lends itself to an easy plot summary (has it got a "plot"? I'm not sure) - suffice to say that it's characteristic of Morris's work in that it's equal parts surrealist farce (he provides the voice for a talking dog), profoundly disturbing vision and celebration of and delight at the richness and flexibility of the English language. As the first offering from the new film wing of Warp Records, it makes perfect sense. Perhaps the best moment is when the central character - played by Paddy Considine, and having just burst in upon a christening service - pleads: "Can I have the baby back now please? He's representing me in court on Friday."

The good news is that it won't be long before Morris returns to our screens and to the outraged front pages of the Daily Mail - a new series of 'Brasseye' is lurking on the horizon.
Quote of the day

"Vomitrocious - is that a word?"

Brenda in 'Six Feet Under'

Friday, August 08, 2003

Coming up next week on SWSL...

This week has been unusually frantic, what with the wedding and my best man duties looming large tomorrow - so unfortunately bloggage has been sparse, the weekly edition of Blogwatch hasn't materialised (sadly, as there's been some great writing going on out there) and some of the things I wanted to write about LAST week will now have to wait until next. Anyway, here's a taster of what should be appearing here shortly (this way, you can hold me to my promises):

Verdict on Chris Morris's short film 'My Wrongs Nos 8245-8249 And 117'

Review of BBC2's dramatisation about the life and loves of Philip Larkin, 'Love Again'

Thoughts on Newcastle's chances for the forthcoming season (chin up Kenny, it can't be all that bad - you've still got Defoe)

The next (ninth of ten) installment in the tortuously drawn-out Music Sounds Better With You series

Until then, see ya.
Grand slammed

Commiserations to the blogosphere's very own quiz maniac Olav on choking in his 'Grand Slam' quarter-final, screened last Friday. You may be a 24-carat loser, but at least you can hang onto the consoling thought that you've got more of a life than that saddo anorak number-fetishist - everything's relative.

BTW Just in case no-one's enlightened you since Friday - Paddington Bear comes from Peru.
You WHAT?!!

tim henman y-fronts
graham greene masonic
manumission stage sex picture
borstal spanking
hairy gay arab men

Move along now, there's nothing to see here.
Know Your Enemy #24

"It was only a fucking popularity contest you fucking fishmonger."

Olav on Cameron from 'Big Brother'.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Tall tales

Cheers Channel 4 - although what I saw of your four-part 'The Story Of The Novel' series, which finished on Saturday, was very good albeit a little sketchy (understandably so), you have left me immersed deep in feelings of shame and inadequacy. It saddens and appals me that I have read nothing by the likes of Evelyn Waugh, Martin Amis, Saul Bellow, Phillip Roth, Salman Rushdie, William Faulkner... I swear henceforth that this state of affairs cannot and will not be allowed to continue.
Two things I've been pondering about the new Rugrats movie

1. How the fuck did they get permission to include a version of The Clash's 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go?'?!

2. With regard to the advertising posters, what exactly does "Contains some mild peril" mean?!
Lyric-that's-stuck-in-my-head-and-won't-leave of the day

"Let's go down to the fashion show / With all the pretty people that you don't know / We'll sit down in the velvet chairs / They'll hand awards out for best hair / And if we don't win one, well then / We'll blow off our heads in despair"

'Fashion Awards' - Eels
Know Your Enemy #23

"Chris Tarrant is a fucking cunt, he's a fucking fat cunt. I hate him ... If I see [him] again I'd have a shit on his foot."

James Skelly of The Coral on Chris Tarrant, from an NME interview a couple of weeks back - the first really enjoyable feature in the mag for ages (and the enjoyment, I hasten to add, had nothing to do with the journalism and everything to do with the band). Apparently, the pair had a disagreement in the green room before the 'Friday Night With Jonathon Ross' show, with Skelly being sufficiently aggrieved to say "Fuck off, you tit" to Tarrant's face. Well said, young man.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Blogwatch

Minor 9th is back - be there!

Loads of great music writing to note this week, particularly:

on The Pill Box, where Ian Penman has been discussing irony and the way that the ubiquity of certain records leads to brainwashing and the subsequent purchase of aforementioned records - even still, I think buying Alanis Morrissette's 'Thank You' may have been a step TOO far;

on Stylus, where Karim Adab and Nick Southall have dissected the mystique and greatness of Jane's Addiction in conjunction with new album Strays, where Killian Murphy has been brutally frank about the Thrills album, and where Andrew Unterberger has reimagined New Order's Movement as a great album;

on Badger Minor, where the new Neil Michael Hagerty album is described as "like His Satanic Majesty Exiled On Main Street's Fun House";

on No Matter What You Heard, where Steve is wondering whether the increasingly corporate and decreasingly alternative Lollapalooza festival is losing its way;

and on Parallax View, where Dead Kenny offers his views on Martina Topley-Bird's Mercury-nominated album Quixotic.

In other news, Alex is working hard on developing a computer game which successfully combines "lateral thinking and extreme violence" and which will thus be of great interest to Tim Bisley of C4's 'Spaced'.

And finally... Pete has had the misfortune to find in his email inbox what he suspects is Jamie Oliver's forthcoming cookbook, in its entirety. At the moment, it seems it's mishaps aplenty for the wide-tongued one - only yesterday I read he'd been knocked off his bike while out doing the photoshoot for the book's cover. Apparently, he only suffered bruising and a cut lip - presumably, had he been recognised by the offending driver, the injuries sustained would have been much more severe, if not fatal. We live in hope.
Know Your Enemy #22

"All nonAmerican Southern music writers must serve a twelve month tour of the American South, lest nonAmerican Southern music writers make any references about Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner when they don't know what the fuck they are talking about. It's even more ill-informed to make these references than to declare all British comedy owes its existence to Monty Python."

Badger Minor
Quote of the day

"She was looking a bit Philip K Sick to me, a bit 'Terminator 3', a bit cyber-pixie pointed and peaky, a bit tacko Jacko, a bit as if ... the SURGERY is starting to SHOW THROUGH. Sha-MON, bitch! Betta git yo' baaad self on 'Trisha' talk about I FEEL LIKE MY FACE AIN'T MY OWN! Sha'moan motha fucker!"

Ian Penman on Kylie.
"Talkin' 'bout a revolution, yeah"

Last night's BBC2 documentary about the West German anti-capitalist terrorist group of the 1970s, Baader Meinhof, was great viewing - but (at the risk of sounding like the sort of terminal whinger on 'Points Of View'), why oh why are such programmes scheduled so late at night? And, more to the point, why are they originally hidden away and consigned to BBC's digital service?

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Emotion of the day: relief

Just recovering from a stag weekend I'd organised, which actually stretched over into the beginning of this week. All the organisational stuff over which I'd been increasingly fretful in the run-up to the weekend paid off handsomely, particularly the karting (although I kind of wish I'd been MORE organised for Friday night - that way, I wouldn't have allowed myself to be talked into taking the group to Hooters...).

The most important thing is that the groom, one Mr Paul Alan Henry Wakefield, emerged from the weekend physically unscathed (aside from a sizeable hangover) - in possession of a full complement of eyebrows, without any red handcuff marks on the wrists and having remained safely in the country. If only all those who attended could say with a similar degree of certainty that they themselves were psychologically unscathed - the less said about the frankly horrifying combination of hairy-chested 6ft 4ins groom with short purple-sequined dress, stockings and wig, the better...
"Obscene"

Not my word, the word chosen by Sir Bobby Robson to describe Jermaine Jenas's crucial penalty in the sudden-death shoot-out with Chelski in Sunday's final of the Premier League Asia Cup. JJ capped an unusually poor display with a risible chipped effort which sailed over Cudicini but unfortunately also the bar, handing the cup to Abramovich's mob.

Still, there's no real room for complaint about the overall outcome of the game, after we'd held on to a 0-0 scoreline by full time - although we had a few good chances here and there, Chelski were always the better and more dangerous-looking side, with Given very busy particularly in terms of rushing off his line to clear.

Plus points: most of the squad got at least one half under their belts, and we didn't pick up any injuries. Now let's just hope we can step things up for the start of the season proper, and not have our preparations disrupted by the departure of any key players like Dyer...
Feel good hits of last night

Having practically shed tears at the loss of the Lock And Lace's fantastic jukebox, it is with great joy that I've come across a very similar one in the Royal Children. These tracks all got an airing last night:

1. 'Sugar Kane' - Sonic Youth
2. 'Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue' - The Ramones
3. 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' - The Smiths
4. 'I Don't Like Mondays' - The Boomtown Rats
5. 'Regular John' - Queens Of The Stone Age
6. 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' - Joy Division
7. 'Growing On Me' - The Darkness
8. 'Ghost Town' - The Specials
9. 'Gay Bar' - Electric Six
10. 'Wuthering Heights' - Kate Bush
11. 'Been Caught Stealing' - Jane's Addiction
12. 'Holidays In The Sun' - The Sex Pistols
13. 'Rock The Casbah' - The Clash
14. 'Fake Plastic Trees' - Radiohead
15. 'April Skies' - The Jesus & Mary Chain
Quote of the day

Headline in yesterday's Sun for the story that Viagra had been discovered on the bodies of Saddam Hussein's sons:

"Die hard"

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 clich├ęd 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.