Monday, September 08, 2003

Black and whites (and reds and blues) unite

For most of the country, the biggest football match of the day on Saturday was in the Macedonian city of Skopje. But for a few hardy thousand, there was a much more significant match taking place in England, at Meadow Lane in Nottingham. Even then, the game itself, between Notts County and Luton, was overshadowed by what was going on around the pitch and behind the scenes. There was a very real chance that County were playing their last ever match before being kicked out of the league today as a result of their dire financial plight. As the oldest professional football club in the world (County were founded in 1862), this would be tragic.

County undoubtedly benefitted from the reduced number of fixtures taking place on Saturday due to the international programme, drawing wellwishing fans from clubs as diverse as Southampton, West Brom, Derby, Colchester, Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Ipswich, Liverpool, Stoke and Leicester, as well as from city rivals Nottingham Forest. Not only did these supporters swell the attendance to an impressive 7505 and add to the coffers, but they helped make the atmosphere quite unique - the remarkable array of different football shirts made it feel as though we were united there behind a single cause, a love of the game, rather than because of any tribal allegiance. Football needn't be divisive, and it was heartwarming to see the extent of goodwill amongst all those who went along. For a diehard County fan's perspective on the sort of afternoon that could leave grown men in tears, read this.

Thankfully it's been announced today that the city's council has agreed to underwrite a £250,000 loan to ensure the club's immediate survival, in the hope that a rescue package and takeover can be worked out in the very near future. There's a long way to go yet, but at least this is a glimmer of hope for the fans.

From a personal point-of-view, though, Saturday afternoon was a sobering experience of the reality which so many lower league clubs are facing, the sort of reality of which fans of large Premiership teams like myself can all too easily become ignorant.
Fuzzy logic

I'm starting to come around to the realisation that my current exploits and experiments with facial hair (not so much an active choice, as the result of extreme laziness) might be a little misguided. Meeting a friend on Saturday, I was greeted with the comment: "Have you just come off a submarine?"
Feel good hits of the 8th September

1. 'The Love Gang' - The Raveonettes
2. 'Minerva' - Deftones
3. 'House Of Jealous Lovers' - The Rapture
4. 'Up The Bracket' - The Libertines
5. 'Regular John' - Queens Of The Stone Age
6. '09-15-00' - Godspeed You! Black Emperor
7. 'Spanish Main' - The Coral
8. 'A Picture Of Dorian Gray' - The Futureheads
9. 'Good Vibrations' - Beach Boys
10. 'Club Tropicana' - Wham!
Three Of A Kind #6

Three books I wanted to reread as soon as I'd finished them:

'A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man' - James Joyce
'Brighton Rock' - Graham Greene
'The Rainbow' - D H Lawrence
Quote of the day

"I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day."

Frank Sinatra
Know Your Enemy #26

Ulterior on David Blaine:

"The advert says: "Can you watch a man starve?" If it's David Blaine, then the answer is yes. I could quite happily get the araldite out and glue the horrible man in there and watch as he wastes away with nothing to eat but his own soiled nappies. He is quite possible the only living person that can make Paul Daniels look 'nice' and even 'sane'."

Friday, September 05, 2003

For your reading pleasure

Urgent! Read these fine blogs!

We're Freaks
Ulterior
London Mark

Refreshing to discover a fellow blogwriting sufferer in the form of London Mark, who has dreamt of playing "in central defence for Newcastle United, captaining the side and winning the Premiership and Champions' League" - well, it ain't gonna happen this season, but, given the porous state of our back four, perhaps you're the man for the job!
Three Of A Kind #5

Three actors whose films I always look out for:

Steve Buscemi
Jack Nicholson
Adam Sandler
Is it just me or...

... does David Blaine look and sound like he's on opiates?

Hey, this could become a regular feature...

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

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

At last - the final installment of what has become a gargantuan chronicle. For alternative perspectives on some of the bands and performances, go visit Olav at It Makes No Difference and Dead Kenny at Parallax View.

Sunday 24th August

12.05, Radio 1 Stage

Wonderfully eccentric and spiky, THE FUTUREHEADS are fast becoming a real favourite with these ears. Their clattering brand of new wave, with its bizarre jerky rhythms and unexpected time changes, quite probably doesn’t agree with the sore heads of all those awake early enough to witness it, but in this and the extraordinary vocal sections of ‘Carnival Kids’ and recent single ‘First Day’ there is a great deal to admire. They’re the early 80s punk Coral, and it’s a measure of their appeal that I can stand of my own volition for a full half hour in a tent full of people who, upon being asked, proudly claim to hail from Sunderland. Set-closing Neil Young cover ‘Piece Of Crap’ is very definitely not self-referential.
12.55, Main Stage

Deep blue almost cloud-free skies and soaring temperatures – hardly ideal atmospheric conditions for Boston’s CAVE IN to make an impact, one would think. But, after ‘Stained Silver’ and ‘Jupiter’ get them off to a solid if unspectacular start, the dense and muscular likes of ‘Joy Opposites’ and especially ‘Youth Overrided’ somehow seem in perfect sync with the prevailing mood. They can’t resist the temptation to introduce some jarring dischord into proceedings, though, bludgeoning their way through two double-bass-pedal-heavy brutes from their screamo metal past – a past so unfamiliar to most that frontman Stephen Brodsky feels the need to tell the crowd that they’re not cover songs. After this self-inflicted sabotage, ‘Anchor’ and ‘Inspire’ then represent some kind of attempt to re-rail the set. They might sound more like a slick focused post-hardcore powerhouse these days, but their potentially perilous ambition and capacity to straddle apparently incompatible genres of rock music remains evident.
13.40, Radio 1 Stage

This year there’s a lot of competition, make no mistake about that, but the Hairiest Band Of The Festival award goes to… MY MORNING JACKET. It’s a wonder that their grizzly bear of a frontman Jim James doesn’t choke on his own flowing mane, given that at practically no point in the entire set does it allow the crowd the opportunity to see his face. As at Glasto, their heavy frazzled Americana – Black Sabbath meets ‘Free Bird’ – hits the spot. Alongside Canyon, Wichita have unearthed another country-rock gem, it seems.
14.15, Carling Stage

Trashy and scuzzy, THE SUN make up for me having missed Young Heart Attack the previous day. As with several bands on this weekend’s bill, though, they’re great fun for the length of time they’re onstage (barely 20 minutes), but I’m left with no overwhelming and all-consuming desire to rush out and buy / steal any of their recorded output. When all’s said and done, all that makes them stand out from hundreds of other bands is a couple of ill-advised moustaches (particularly the one drooped over the portly drummer’s top lip), and a nerdy-looking frontman who’s a bit like Rivers Cuomo. Sorry guys, but lots of energy and loud songs about chicks and drinking ain’t good enough on their own.
14.40, Radio 1 Stage

I want to hate JET, I really do, especially after their recent political and sociocultural outpourings as reported in NME which made them come across as, perhaps above all else, staggeringly stupid. There’s inevitably something equally staggeringly stupid about their good-time rock ‘n’ roll boogie (and new single ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ in particular), but it’s damn hard to dismiss out of hand, or even to dislike. Until you realise that you’d be much better off by not flattering the stupendous egos of these braindead muppets and just listening to the Stones, that is.
15.05, Main Stage

Today THE LIBERTINES have even more car-crash appeal than normal. They were frequently a perversely engaging mess even before Pete fell overboard. Pity poor Mick Jones, whose job it was to try and get their ramshackle tunes down in the studio – that the result, Up The Bracket, is so all over the place only goes to confirm that the task was beyond him. But now that Pete’s sidelined for the foreseeable future with what you might euphemistically refer to as “personal difficulties” (ie drug addiction and a burglary charge), I find myself drawn by the lure of what will surely be the band’s gruesome death throes, and the spectacle of Carl Barat desperately trying to hold it all together on his own. In this respect I’m left disappointed – they’re competent and tidy. But then that’s not what we want from The Libertines – we want scrappiness with the occasional glimmer of genius, and we want the onstage duelling and banter between Barat and Doherty that gives their gigs a frisson of excitement and unpredictability. When Carl sings ‘What A Waster’ (“What a waster, what a fucking waster / You pissed it all up the wall”), I can’t help but feel it’s directed squarely at his errant bandmate.
15.25, Radio 1 Stage

At first THE RAPTURE make very little sense to anyone except the mid-afternoon off-their-trolley pill-poppers, conspicuous by their shirtlessness and a tendency to gyrate in ways that have been hitherto undiscovered. Slowly, though, as the set moves from ‘Olio’ through ‘Sister Savior’ to its inevitable climax, ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’, it all starts to add up – the beats, the snatches of guitar, the saxophone warblings, even Luke Jenner’s crazed wounded-dog yelping. Evidently, though, not everyone is listening closely enough – during ‘I Need Your Love’ (or is it ‘Love Is All’?) a massive brawl breaks out right in front of me, the song’s message sadly trampled in the stampede, along with one unfortunate gentleman’s head.
16.15, Radio 1 Stage

There are two types of chemistry: the sort that involves liquids changing colour, and the sort that involves dropping a fingernail-sized amount of caesium into a large glass tank filled with water and seeing what happens (clue: it explodes). Guess which sort of chemistry THE KILLS have together onstage. PJ Harvey is an obvious influence on VV, who prowls about the stage like a velvet-throated panther, while Hotel does an excellent job of concealing the fact that he was once a member of Placebo-supporting indie never-rans Scarfo. At their stomping red-raw best (‘Black Rooster’, ‘Fried My Little Brains’), they’re like Jack White if he ditched the cloyingly naïve love songs and really got his boots muddy in the dead leaves and dirty ground. Playing ‘Wait’ and lost Velvet Underground track ‘Kissy Kissy’, both longer and more trance-inducing than the rest of their material, back to back in the middle of the set douses the fire they’ve lit somewhat, though.
17.15, Main Stage

Who’d have thought it? DOVES the perfect summer band, I mean. ‘Satellites’ and ‘Caught By The River’ unfurl gracefully in the sunshine, soothing hearts and minds stoked by the weekend’s almost incessant torrent of noisy rock. It’s enough to make you want to close your eyes and drift off for a bit. Just mind out you don’t end up lying down on a dollop of ketchup, or – worse still – a dollop of luminous noodle-‘n’-lager chunder.
17.55, Carling Stage

It’s pretty evident which way THE SIGHTS are looking. Yup, you guessed it, it’s backwards, to the 60s. But at least it involves the liberal use of an organ in place of a second guitar. Theirs is a slightly psychedelic take on that whole Deeeetroit garage blues thang – vaguely reminiscent of The Pattern, not as good as The Bellrays and infinitely more soulful than Jet. Quel surprise.
18.25, Radio 1 Stage

When a band’s arrival is heralded by the music from Kubrick’s classic ‘A Clockwork Orange’ blaring out of the PA, you’re prepared to be brutalised and utterly disorientated, but this is absolute fucking insanity. If The Sights are looking backwards, THE MARS VOLTA are most definitely looking forwards, and creating the sort of music that feels as though it has only ever been imagined in the heads of those onstage. One minute guitars slash, drums pound and shards of chorus stab into your head, and the next it’s back to the free jazz meanderings that twist and turn but never quite peter out. I gulp, feeling as though I need a PhD in chaos theory to understand it all, and find myself wondering how long it’ll be before Cedric Bixler skewers himself with the mic stand and marvelling at the fact that each musician seems to know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. How many songs have they played? I have no idea. By the end of a 45 minute set, all I know for certain is that they didn’t play extraordinarily accessible new single (well, everything’s relative…) ‘Inertiatic ESP’. So, are they actually any good? Well, come back to me with that one in fifty years, by which time I might just about have started to get my head round their LP – but, for the time being, what is frequently breathtaking on record is simply a bit too much live.
19.15, Carling Stage

A word of warning: it’s not a good idea to go and see a band like SOLEDAD BROTHERS when suffering from the medical condition known as a “Mars Volta hangover”. What you really need is a period of rest and recuperation (perhaps a relaxing two-week holiday in Barbados), but what you get is much thrashing and crashing as the blues is put through a blender. Fiery, righteous and scrappy but, despite all the right connections (Jack and Meg White, John Sinclair), just not as darn good as The Black Keys.
19.30, Main Stage

BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB have never quite cut it for me live – the trademark drone-rock has tended to drift into a uniform mid-paced dirge, and the refusal to interact with the audience has seemed less like studied cool and more like ungraciously giving the cold shoulder to their fans. But now, filling in for The White Stripes in a slot they probably only dreamt of occupying, the pressure’s on – and they rise to the challenge. That they mean business is clear from the opening quintet of songs – ‘Red Eyes And Tears’, ‘Spread Your Love’, ‘Six Barrelled Shotgun’, ‘Stop’ and ‘Love Burns’. As soon as I read James Oldham’s characteristically gushing review in NME, I was immediately sceptical about the quality of their new LP Take Them On, On Your Own (how is it so radically “different” from anything else around at the moment, eh? Your own great white hopes The Hiss are seemingly hell-bent on grabbing onto BRMC’s coat-tails, you twat), but the tracks aired today are promising – even the single ‘Stop’, which some days irritates me with its cockily complacent swagger recalling Oasis’s early years. Meanwhile, ‘Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘N’ Roll (Punk Song)’ is splendid and they confound expectations with a fine rendition of ‘The Hardest Button To Button’ dedicated to the absent Jack and Meg. The whole set feels refreshingly purposeful and focused.
20.45, Radio 1 Stage

When HUNDRED REASONS’s ‘EP2’ first landed, I could be heard exclaiming: “Woo-hoo! It’s Surrey’s answer to At The Drive-In!” Two years later, and the EP’s lead track ‘Remmus’ is the stand-out moment in a set of uberslick stadium metal specially crafted for The Kidz, whereas ATD-I’s Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez were creating absurdly complex, unwieldy and ambitious jazz-prog-punk on the very same stage just two hours before, as part of The Mars Volta. Hundred Reasons, it pains me to say, have beaten a hasty retreat from becoming anything genuinely interesting. Since I last saw them, they’ve done away with their ‘Final Countdown’ intro tape, preferring music from ‘Monty Python And The Holy Grail’ instead, but the skeleton of a well-established set remains unchanged (‘I’ll Find You’ to kick things off, lighters-out ballad ‘Falter’ and ‘If I Could’ to bring things to a close) and vocalist Colin Doran is as goofy as ever. In their own limited terms, they rock – but, judging the new material in the same terms, it may well be worrying them that they haven’t managed to hit on anything as anthemic as on debut LP Ideas Above Our Station.
21.40, Main Stage

Blah blah blah BLUR blah blah blah too many spineless tuneless little dwindlers blah blah blah ‘Crazy Beat’ still crap blah blah blah ‘End Of The Century’ still not-quite-so-crap blah blah blah still unable to surmount personal dislike of cretinous self-important flat-cap-wearing frontman blah blah blah where’s Coxon when you need him to stop you from yawning and pull ‘Coffee & TV’ out of the bag, eh?
22.25, Carling Stage

If Damon Albarn seems to pick up political causes as and when it suits him and his profile, then BILLY BRAGG certainly couldn’t be accused of doing likewise. This is a man who has over the years exemplified a passionate belief that music can unite people, it can give hope, it can rouse people into consciousness and action, it can change things. So, striking a defiantly outspoken note at the close of the festival, he declares his intention to play several miners’ benefit gigs next year, the twentieth anniversary of the miners’ strike, before proudly performing ‘There Is Power In A Union’; he talks about the changing face of the Left and his commitment to a ‘Socialism Of The Heart’; and, to widespread cheers, he rails against the machinations of the British and US governments in the invasion of Iraq in ‘The Price Of Oil’. By no means is it all dryly serious political rhetoric, though. Indeed, for much of the time Bragg is more like a stand-up comedian than an impassioned left-winger stood on a soapbox – at one point he tells us: “Even folk festivals are getting hardcore these days – the other day I saw a morris dancer smash a bottle and carve ‘Real Ale’ into his arm…” ‘A New England’ finishes off a superb set. At what is now a heavily corporate festival, Billy Bragg is a genuine and articulate dissenting voice, and the sort of authentic rebel most of the weekend’s lank-haired and tattooed monkeys can only dream of being.

Bands or artists I would have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Beck, The Streets, The Agenda, The Sleepy Jackson, The Buff Medways, 2 Many DJs, Funeral For A Friend, Thrice, Whirlwind Heat, The Bandits, Stellastarr*, The Cooper Temple Clause, Junior Senior, Pennywise, Turbonegro, Boy Sets Fire, Poison The Well, Gold Chains.
A black day for the black and whites

If you consider yourself a football fan, or even if you don't, please spare a thought for Notts County. The oldest football club in the world, and the one whose strip inspired the mighty Juventus's choice of colours, is in very real danger of going out of business in the next five days, after another proposed takeover fell through. The simple fact is that around £3m must be found immediately to stop the club being wound up.

If nothing else, email your messages of support and solidarity to the unofficial fans' website, Notts County Mad, but if you find yourself in Nottingham on Saturday afternoon then join me in going along to Meadow Lane to lend your support in person at what might sadly prove to be the club's last ever match.

Thanks to Mike for putting the current plight of my own team into proper perspective.
Quote of the day

"Gradually the perception stole into [Ursula]. This was no religious retreat, no seclusion of pure learning. It was a little apprentice-shop where one was further equipped for making money. The college itself was a little, slovenly laboratory for the factory ... All the while, it was a sham store, a sham warehouse, with a single motive of material gain, and no productivity. It pretended to exist by the religious virtue of knowledge. But the religious virtue of knowledge was become a flunkey to the god of material success."

D H Lawrence, 'The Rainbow' (1915).

If only he was alive today to experience how much truer his words are now...

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

The damage is Dunn

Another embarrassing home defeat on Saturday, this time to Birmingham, and afterwards Alan Shearer wasn't pulling any punches: "We're not getting in behind and stretching teams, we're not creating chances, the simple fact is that we aren't playing well. We're not doing an awful lot right as a team. It's been a rotten week, we haven't played well and we have to be man enough to say it."

Despite the fact that Sir Bobby rang the changes since our last Premiership disappointment - Speed dropping back to left back allowing Jenas to play through the middle, Solano and Viana in for Bowyer and Robert on the flanks - our performance was still woefully inadequate. The midfield in particular looks utterly stagnant at the moment, and none of the players who have come in have done anything to suggest they merit an extended run in the side. We can't expect to rely on Shearer when he's given no service whatsoever, and neither can we expect Given to perform miracles week in week out. Birmingham have a few decent players, most notably mulleted matchwinner David Dunn, but they're precisely the sort of opposition we should be sweeping aside at St James'.

The only thing more galling than the result and the predicament in which it leaves us was Steve Bruce's continual attempts to proclaim himself to be a Geordie. What a cock.

Our catastrophic week inevitably makes me wonder about the prudence of not adding to the squad when all those around us were. When a side like Middlesbrough can go out and land players of the calibre of Mendieta, Zenden and Mills (albeit on loan deals), it puzzles me why we haven't pursued potential new faces rather more thoroughly.

When all's said and done, though, you don't become a bad side overnight. Let's just hope that the two week break for the European Championship qualifying matches gives the players a chance to clear their heads, rediscover some form and get back to basics - like stringing passes together, creating chances and scoring goals.
Three Of A Kind #4

Three London pubs / bars I visited this weekend:

Auberge, Waterloo
Footlights, Wimbledon
The Frog And Forget-Me-Not, Clapham

Thursday, August 28, 2003

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

Saturday 23rd August


15.00, Carling Stage

Me? Playing guitar in front of a group of excitable young people, some of whom are female? With MY reputation?” OK, so FRANZ FERDINAND’s rakish frontman Alex Kapranos doesn’t actually say this, but he does do a pretty passable if unintentional impersonation of Paul Whitehouse’s charming yet ever-so-slightly lecherous ‘Fast Show’ cad. With their floppy fringes, and wearing the sort of shirts that should surely have seen them skinned alive in their native Glasgow long before now, Franz Ferdinand deal in arch and erudite art-pop, somewhere between Interpol and Pulp. Eccentric but not forcedly so, they end their set with forthcoming single ‘Darts Of Pleasure’, for part of which Alex trades in his gentle Scottish burr for the harsh cadences of German. On first listen, no idea what it’s all about - but it sounds great, as do other songs aired, most notably ‘Shopping For Blood’. Ones to watch, as they say.
15.35, Main Stage

Once again, for the early hours of the afternoon the Main Stage has been awash with the sound of “punk” bollocks courtesy of Bowling For Soup and Less Than Jake. Salvation comes at last in the shape of THE DATSUNS. The New Zealanders are apparently on a mission to break records for tightness of trousers, and Dolf is fiercely defensive of his – having had them ripped off at last year’s festival by a Carling Stage crowd that was rabid for a piece of him. He does, however, allow us to marvel at his red boots. We only get one new song (another, ‘Girl’s Best Friend’, has to be dropped from the set as they’re held up with technical difficulties). It must have been galling for the band this last few months, seeing The Darkness rise rocket-like from relative obscurity to usurp their heavy metal crown, but today we get a timely reminder that they’ve penned some corking singles, at least. ‘Supergyration’ and its thumping great chorus is quickly followed by the thudding repetitive riff of ‘Harmonic Generator’, and later we get ‘Motherfucker From Hell’ and the brilliant ‘In Love’ in close proximity. The question is: can they repeat the trick on the next album?
16.30, Radio 1 Stage

For a band with such an incredibly dull name that seems to promise acoustic fumblings, monotone delivery, knitwear and perhaps a slide show (if we’re lucky), MULL HISTORICAL SOCIETY turn out to be unexpectedly perky, all bright-eyed power-pop and beaming grins from mainman Colin MacIntyre. The likes of ‘I Tried’, ‘Animal Cannibus’, ‘The Supermarket Strikes Back’ and ‘Watching Xanadu’ may be a diversion from the metal might of other bands on today’s bill, but given that Staind are droning away on the Main Stage, that diversion is pleasant enough, and more than welcome.
17.45, Main Stage

As far as entrances go, it’s a classic in its own peculiar way: Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ and ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ by AC/DC over the PA, followed by “Hello, we’re THE DARKNESS from Lowestoft”. They may have blotted their copybook since the triumph that was Glastonbury (a triumph that incredibly helped propel debut LP Permission To Land to second in the UK album charts, second only to Beyoncé) by not only participating in a fashion shoot for the Daily Telegraph but also supporting that cretinous little whingebag Robbie Fucking Williams at Knebworth – for me at least, this is their opportunity to redeem themselves. And they do so with ease, and without the cover of ‘Street Spirit’ or the extravagant jumpsuit changes of Glasto. At the precise moment they play it, ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman Motherfucker’ sounds like the best single ever released, and my enjoyment is only spoilt when, during soon-to-be-huge anthem ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’, I get hit on the shoulder by some smoked cheese. No idea where it came from – perhaps God is passing comment from above? Other bands may be wary of descending to Spinal Tap levels of excess, idiocy and self-parody, but The Darkness seem to regard the film as something of a Rock Code Of Conduct. Who knows? Maybe they genuinely believe it’s an honest fly-on-the-wall documentary. After all, for many years Ozzy Osbourne did. But, then again, I suppose he had been snorting an extraordinary amount of cocaine.
18.45, Radio 1 Stage

From one rock pantomime to another. ELECTRIC SIX draw what is easily the largest second stage crowd of the weekend (it’s at least 20 people deep all the way round the outside of the tent), and EVERYONE’s there for just one song – though ‘Danger! High Voltage’ stokes up some interest. In answer to the between-song chants of the audience, frontman Dick Valentine exclaims in exasperation “Do you REALLY think we’re not going to play it?!” ‘Improper Dancing’ and new single ‘Dance Commander’ drift past, hardly registering with anyone – and then, to an almighty cheer, it’s ‘Gay Bar’. As soon as it’s over, the majority of the crowd disperses. I hang around just long enough to hear Mr Valentine say “Enjoy the rest of the festival, and if the guy from Linkin Park tells you it’s the best night of his life, just remember that he said that last night”, and for the band to break into their cover of Queen’s ‘Radio Ga Ga’. In the battle of showmanship, they’ve had their arses soundly kicked.
19.10, Carling Stage

Pummelling drums and bass, Satan’s burps passed off as vocals, and a evilly grating and harsh guitar sound that could have your face off – no real surprise, then, that Steve Albini is a big enough fan of psychotic Welsh three-piece MCLUSKY to have twiddled the knobs for their second LP Mclusky Do Dallas (though, then again, Albini has also produced Low – hardly ugly noise merchants). The closest touchstones are probably Albini’s own outfit Shellac, and the early tracks on Nirvana’s Albini-produced studio swansong In Utero. Never let it be said that these boys are po-faced, though – their first album was called My Pain And Sadness Is More Sad And Painful Than Yours, and they perform a single from it, ‘Joy’, which, rather than being a radical Polyphonic Spree style departure from the norm, is just over a minute of incredibly abrasive noise which scours the ears to the point of bleeding. One for the grandparents.
19.35, Radio 1 Stage

Sadness and pain are what INTERPOL deal in. As ever, they arrive onstage impeccably dressed, and audience interaction is absolutely non-existent – at least on a verbal level between songs. The guitar line of ‘Untitled’, drenched in reverb, invites us into their world – essentially, chain-smoking outside New York art galleries in the drizzling rain. New material is at a premium, but then this hardly seems to matter when they’ve got a cast-iron classic of a debut LP to fall back on in the shape of Turn On The Bright Lights. ‘PDA’ and ‘Stella…’ are as brilliant as ever, and when ‘Say Hello To The Angels’ kicks in, a thirty-something Interpol virgin in front of me grins at his friends whilst wielding an imaginary bunch of gladioli above his head, a mark of respect to the ghost of The Smiths which the song summons up. Following ‘Hands Away’, I force myself to leave and investigate what’s happening elsewhere, but at the precise moment that I’m walking out of the tent they start up ‘NYC’. If anything, it sounds even more magical than it did at Glastonbury. Without doubt one of the songs of the festival.
20.10, Carling Stage

Hopeful that my decision to leave Interpol early won’t be one that I come to regret, I venture over to watch THE BLACK KEYS. Within a couple of minutes it’s evident I’m not going to be disappointed. To put it simply, there is no better blues-influenced act on the bill than these boys. While other bands might have the blues, they’ve got The Blues. Bearded guitarist Dan Auerbach has a quite astonishing voice for one so young (something approaching Eric Clapton), while drummer Patrick Carney is a blur of flailing and hair, bashing out a series of bone-shakingly primal rhythms. Though they themselves have scoffed at the ridiculous idea that the blues somehow “started” with The White Stripes, even they would have to concede that it’s taken Jack ‘n’ Meg’s phenomenal success to ensure that they’ve come to deserved prominence – and that’s something for which we should all be thankful.
20.45, Radio 1 Stage

Interpol might wish they were from Manchester, whereas the band that follow them onto the Radio 1 Stage ARE from Manchester (well, Bury – near enough). ELBOW stride onstage purposefully and glide into recent single ‘Fallen Angel’. Dark and epic, it sets the tone well. ‘Ribcage’, the opening track on new album Cast Of Thousands, exemplifies their range – long, weighty and yet uplifting, it sees the band augmented with female backing singers (later on, they will also call upon a scaled-down brass section). And yet the whole time I’m distracted by visions of a twelve-year-old Guy Garvey in green khaki shorts, grazes on his knees and a stick in his hands, running around “shooting” other children. Confused? You will be if you haven’t read the post below, about his childhood…
21.15, Carling Stage

I said it of their Glastonbury appearance and I’ll say it again: SPARTA are in desperate need of a break. Although their performance here is at least several notches higher than on the last two occasions I’ve seen them (perhaps the result of knowing that they’ve very nearly reached the end), in between songs Jim Ward sounds tired and emotionally drained. They’re also in desperate need of new material – as good as debut LP Wiretap Scars is, it’s now underpinned a year and half of gigs, including UK tours with Hundred Reasons and Queens Of The Stone Age. The setlist too is terribly jaded – even though ‘Cut Your Ribbon’ and ‘Air’ are played with a controlled and carefully channelled aggression, they can’t really function as the desired end-of-set knockout punch when you already know long beforehand exactly what’s coming.
21.45, Main Stage

LINKIN PARK. Look, right, in my defence: I had time to kill before The Polyphonic Spree came onstage – there was no positive desire to see them involved at any stage. Let us not speak of this, except to say that they were of course mind-numbingly shite and Chester Bennington sounded as though he was reading even his between-song patter from an autocue.
22.10, Radio 1 Stage

THE POLYPHONIC SPREE are late – presumably they couldn’t all fit on the same tourbus, and so have had to come in convoy. When they do arrive, their entrance is as theatrically grand as they come – announced in verse by a town crier complete with red uniform, clanging bell and shouts of “Oh yay, oh yay!” They look and sound like The Flaming Lips would if they dropped the existential reflections for demented cheeriness and went on a recruitment drive in a mental asylum. At the centre of it all stands Tim DeLaughter, conductor of the whole crazed orchestra. For about fifteen minutes, or at least the combined duration of opening salvo ‘Hanging Around’ and ‘It’s The Sun’, I’m swept up in it all, utterly enraptured and quite probably capable of being convinced at the drop of a hat that it’d be a great idea to join them in their heavily-defended walled mountain commune to take part in their flower-worshipping, Prozac orgies and ritual suicide activities. But then gradually their attraction starts to wane, the brainwashing drugs begin to lose effect and as ever I find myself called back over to the dark side…
22.30, Dance Stage

…Otherwise known as DEATH IN VEGAS, busy fucking with minds a short distance away in the Dance Tent. Now, you could call it cheating (Hope Of The States, for one, would probably be jealous), but the fact that the Dance Tent doubles as the Cinema Tent later on means that it has a large screen, and DIV put this to extremely good use with some astonishing visual projections that greatly enhance the experience of seeing them live. Just as quickly as I was caught up in The Polyphonic Spree’s happiness mania, I’m intoxicated by the relentlessly throbbing and pulsing music of Richard Fearless and associates. Given their penchant for guest vocalists, there’s one track that’s absolutely crying out for The Raveonette’s Sune and Sharin. Their set ends with a ten-minute version of ‘Hands Around My Throat’, the collaboration with Adult.’s Nicola Kuperus from the Scorpio Rising album, and it’s the perfect conclusion – nihilistic, sordid, dead-eyed and depraved. The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but I prefer it on this side, where it’s black, thank you very much.

Bands or artists I would have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Young Heart Attack, Saves The Day, The Blueskins, Ladytron, Vue, Evan Dando, Buck 65, My Computer.
The unthinkable becomes reality

I fucking hate football.

Three days ago, on this very blog, I wrote "Failure in the Champions' League qualifier on Wednesday is unthinkable". Well, today thousands of Newcastle fans like myself have woken up to find the unthinkable has become reality. To say I was tempting fate would be a gross understatement. In his post-match interview Sir Bobby, on the verge of tears, didn't think to repeat his famous pronouncement of a few months back, which would have been entirely apt on this occasion: "You shouldn't count your chickens before they hatch because they might not lay eggs."

Let's look at the facts. We returned from Belgrade to Tyneside with a clean sheet, an away goal and a creditable performance in severely testing circumstances - and yet last night we contrived to waste our first leg lead, Partizan scoring an away goal of their own before we suffered our umpteenth failure over the last decade or so in a penalty shoot-out. Of our seven penalty-takers, only three scored - and two of those (Lua Lua and Jenas) had already fluffed penalties in horrendous fashion in the past few weeks.

How to describe the display? Anxious, disspirited, utterly abject. We have at most three first-team players who are in form - Shearer, Woodgate and Given - and both the outfield players in that threesome squandered their penalty-spot opportunity last night. Our midfield, on paper one of the strongest in England, is performing abysmally.

Let's not pull any punches here - this defeat is absolutely disastrous, not only from a financial perspective, but also from the perspective that we want to continue to progress as a club and a squad, and our talented youngsters need to be pitting themselves against the best in Europe on a regular basis if they're to improve. Of course, people will say at least we've got the consolation of the UEFA Cup. But we now find ourselves in exactly the same position as Manchester City, who will qualify for the competition tonight having finished fifth in the Fair Play League and then disposing of a bunch of Welsh part-timers in the qualifying round. All our gut-busting efforts to hold off Chelsea and Liverpool in the latter stages of last season have gone to waste. If Liverpool weren't in an equally bad state, I wouldn't begrudge their fans grumbling about the fact that we seized a golden (literally) opportunity from their grasp, only to squander it as cheaply as if it meant nothing to us.

It's at times like these that I wish Newcastle meant nothing, or at least very little, to me. I spent part of yesterday evening down the pub watching the Man Utd - Wolves match with a Man Utd fan who confessed to having never been to Old Trafford, who asked me who was playing in goal for them and who their new number seven was, and who hadn't even realised his team were playing until he'd arrived at the pub. Life must be so much easier.

To return to the facts staring in the face of everyone unfortunate enough to be a hardened Newcastle fan, we're barely two weeks into the new season and already we're out of the Champions' League and eight points adrift of Man Utd and Arsenal in the league (albeit with a game in hand). Last night's result will be a turning point in our season - of that there can be no doubt. Whether it's an upturn or a downturn is up (or down) to the players - but in my current mood I won't be rushing out to place a bet on Shearer holding the UEFA Cup aloft come May.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

If you love music, you MUST read this

The Stylus tribute to The Dismemberment Plan.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

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

In the past, my festival philosophy has traditionally been to watch sets in their entirety and try to cram in as many sets as possible. This time round, though, I decided to try something different – put the emphasis on seeing as many bands as possible, and only watching whole sets when they didn’t clash with anything else of interest. It’s worth bearing in mind when reading what follows, then, that these reviews are likely to be sketchy, impressionistic and personal, given that in many cases I only caught a twenty-minute snippet. In the interest of making an assessment that was at least somewhere close to being fair and representative, I saw at least three songs by every band reviewed, though – for that reason I’ve omitted the likes of The Streets and The Sleepy Jackson.

So, now that that’s clear, off we go…
Friday 22nd August

14.25, Radio 1 Stage

The festival is barely two hours old, and already I’m experiencing my first epiphany. Sometimes I feel capable of coping with mind-bogglingly complex song structures, at which point I’ll pull out Hail To The Thief or The Mars Volta’s debut album (more, much more on them later…). And at other times simplicity is sheer bliss. This is one of those times. A thousand thankyous to Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo for THE RAVEONETTES’ irresistible marriage of The Jesus & Mary Chain and 60s girl groups like The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las. Former singles ‘Attack Of The Ghost Riders’ and the squalling set-closer ‘Beat City’ make an appearance, but the majority of the set is made up of material from new LP Chain Gang Of Love – which, on this evidence, sounds like the determined pursuit of the perfect pop song. Perfect harmonies are garnished with lashings of beautiful noise, perhaps to best effect on the quite brilliant lead single ‘That Great Love Sound’. Glorying in the noble art of feedback, and unrestrainedly celebrating the power of the pure pop song, the whole set is a love letter to music itself. And, what’s more, for those 35 minutes my crippling hangover is completely forgotten.
15.15, Radio 1 Stage

I’m still reeling from my Raveonettes headrush when RADIO 4 take to the stage, so it’s not really their fault that they disappoint. Their funk-tinged punk makes much less impact on me than at Glastonbury, the consequence of still craving a constant stream of three-minute instant fixes, and I wander off before honorary New Yorker Har Mar Superstar joins them to play bongos on ‘Dance To The Underground’.
15.45, Carling Stage

It’s astonishing that a band like WINNEBAGO DEAL can hail from Oxford. They’re a two-man Motorhead playing the complete works of Metallica and Fu Manchu at breakneck speeds, or The Black Keys if only they’d hung out at truck stops and taken heavy metal as a blueprint rather than the good ol’ blues. While other bands take a break between songs to refuel with a can of Stella or bottled water, I suspect that these two very hairy individuals do so literally, swigging petrol neat out of hipflasks. They provoke a spontaneous outbreak of grinning, and even I’m infected, despite their spectacularly loud racket heralding the Second Coming of the monstrous hangover.
16.15, Radio 1 Stage

As with Radio 4, my impressions of THE EIGHTIES MATCHBOX B-LINE DISASTER are inevitably and unfortunately coloured by what has come immediately before. Frontman Guy McKnight still sounds like he’s reciting the Devil’s bedtime stories to the sound of a psychobilly band in the midst of a nervous breakdown (if AFI’s Davey Havoc ever wants to know how to look and sound as if he REALLY does have REAL issues, he could do a lot worse than take a leaf out of McKnight’s book), but somehow it just doesn’t seem as brutal or as obnoxiously and intrusively in-your-face as it perhaps should.
16.45, Main Stage

My first visit to the Main Stage, having carefully avoided the punk-pop shite that’s clogged it up earlier in the day, and PRIMAL SCREAM find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place, or, if I might be allowed to be so graphic, between a steaming turd (Sum 41) and a slightly larger and steamier turd (Good Charlotte). Those in the audience of a baggy-shorted persuasion hold no truck with beat-heavy songs like ‘Pills’, while the perenially snake-hipped Bobby Gillespie provokes further ire by labelling Metallica “American pricks”. But they really don’t do themselves any favours whatsoever by playing a version of ‘Kill All Hippies’, the one track that might have united them with the crowd, that is feeble and lacking all menace, and by slipping ‘Shoot Speed Kill Light’ (great song on record, not so hot live) into the middle of an already-sagging set. Mani looks like a craggy-faced fifty-year-old baboon, and Kevin Shields strums away listlessly as if he’d rather be gazing at his shoes in peace. No punch, no bite, just a bunch of middle-aged men making Exterminator and Evil Heat seem like collections of toothless dirges. It’s a sad sight, and a far cry from their glorious showing three years ago.
17.20, Carling Stage

CALLA tune up nervously in front of what is a pitifully small crowd, perhaps aware that they’re out of sync with the brash rock ‘n’ roll ethos of most of the other bands on the bill. Eschewing the hedonistic party spirit of their New York contemporaries on today’s bill, this four-piece sound like Interpol if once a week they removed The Smiths and Joy Division from the stereo and slipped on a Sonic Youth LP. Arty and dark, they’re not to everyone’s tastes, perhaps guilty of taking themselves too seriously (much like Interpol) - but songs like ‘Strangler’ from their last record Televise possess an icy and aching resonance that I find wholly alluring. On an extended set-closing version of ‘Televised’, frontman and Stuart Braithwaite lookalike Aurelio Valle launches into some angular guitar pyrotechnics which ensures that they burn out rather than fade away. Am I too easily pleased? Well, possibly – but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that Calla are a fine band.
17.55, Radio 1 Stage

In contrast to Calla, HELL IS FOR HEROES have drawn a huge crowd – most of them teens, and most of them bouncing up and down in approval. Me, I’m inclined to be cynical – they really are easily pleased. That’s not to say, though, that HIFH don’t have any redeeming qualities – it’s just that they’re hardly breaking new ground.
18.25, Radio 1 Stage

Radio 4, standing at the side of the stage, must be feeling green with envy. For while they’re adored by the critics, it’s not the critics who pay the bills – it’s the fans who go out and buy the records. And, following the release of one very good single (‘Bandages’) and another that’s something of a grower (‘No, Not Now’), HOT HOT HEAT have fans aplenty. On this showing, it’s not hard to see why. Seemingly endless touring can come to sap a band of all their energy and enthusiasm, and reduce the process of playing live to the status of mindless drudgery - or it can do the opposite, the different elements of the band becoming so tightly-knit that they fuse together, to devastating effect. Thankfully for Hot Hot Heat, it seems to have been the latter. Steve Bays has hip-shimmying moves that even Bobby Gillespie would be jealous of, as well as a peculiarly distinctive vocal style, while they have a well-stocked arsenal of excellent songs from Make Up The Breakdown behind them. Watching with no expectations, I’m thoroughly impressed.
19.25, Main Stage

SYSTEM OF A DOWN have come on early, but I arrive to find there’s been a temporary hold-up after one of the barriers shifts forward. It later transpires that a few fans have been injured, but the band helped to ensure that tragedy on the scale of Limp Bizkit’s Big Day Out appearance doesn’t occur. Once they get underway again, I’m reminded why I find their appeal to the punk-‘n’-nu-metal-loving hordes so strange: they simply don’t play by the rules, even if they’ve allowed themselves to become tarred with the same brush. Not only are they outspoken and overtly political (words that Chester Bennington and Fred Durst would have difficulty in spelling), but they also have the capacity to change gear almost at the flick of a switch, from crushing frantic thrash metal to bouncy childish rhythms to the sort of bizarre Armenian folk music by which they’ve been influenced. There are more ideas in a song like ‘Chop Suey’ than there are in Korn’s whole oeuvre. Sure, it feels at times like your ears are having some kind of seizure, but then that’s infinitely preferable to listening to Staind and Puddle Of Mudd – though, to be fair, not much isn’t. One point of interest: with his long hair and full beard, guitarist Daron seems to be morphing into Bill Bailey.
20.10, Carling Stage

A bunch of young men dressed in military jackets – no, not The Libertines but HOPE OF THE STATES, straight outta Chichester. The scope of their ambitions could quite easily result in them falling flat on their faces in spectacular fashion - if it wasn’t for the fact that they’ve got the substance to back them up (though frontman Sam Herlihy’s vocals could perhaps be better). Imagine Godspeed! trying on Spiritualized’s clothes for size. Now that Mogwai have discovered the (occasional) joys of brevity, I find myself pondering whether we really need a band like HOTS – why listen to the slaves when you can listen to the masters? But, hey, you can never have too much of a good thing, and this bunch are just that. They’re also remarkably resourceful – unable to screen anything to accompany the performance, the band’s two projectionists instead sit on the front of the stage drawing pictures and handing them out to the audience during the set.
20.45, Radio 1 Stage

Party time! YEAH YEAH YEAHS get off to a slow start with two new tracks before roaring into action with ‘Rich’. From then on, it doesn’t let up – we get all the viciously-barbed singles (‘Bang’, ‘Date With The Night’ and ‘Pin’) as well as some choice album cuts (‘Y Control’, ‘Black Tongue’ and the brilliant ie not drearily sappy love song ‘Maps’). Karen O is roaringly drunk and gushingly happy, and (unwittingly?) satisfies the voyeuristic pleasure of those in the front few rows by repeatedly standing with a foot on the monitor in what is a staggeringly short skirt. It’s clear this band is the object of unqualified adoration, not only for their music but also for Ms O’s dress sense. Indeed, if you take a look in womens’ high-street clothing shops you’re bound to appreciate that she’s had a bigger influence on the world of fashion than on the world of music. But then that shouldn’t detract from how good their debut LP is. It’s quite telling that there’s no place in the set tonight for ‘Our Time’ – the track from last year’s ‘Master’ EP that features the repeated line “It’s our time to be hated”. Absolutely bang on the money, and the best band of the day.
21.45, Main Stage

Grizzled veterans METALLICA are pummelling out the classics of a twenty-year career to the delight of thousands of rabid fans, but, although I can appreciate that the likes of ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’, ‘Seek And Destroy’ and ‘Sad But True’ are taken from albums which defined and shaped the course of metal, to these ears and in comparison with System Of A Down they just sound rather stodgy and workmanlike. What is particularly revealing is that only two songs in the entire set are taken from new LP St Anger (‘St Anger’ and ‘Frantic’), and that these are safely inserted somewhere in the middle – that doesn’t exactly suggest a wealth of confidence, faith and belief in the new material, now, does it?
22.20, Carling Stage

It is to my great surprise that, right at the death, System Of A Down have their accolade as Fruitcakes Of The Day snatched back from them. The culprits? Cumbrian weirdos BRITISH SEA POWER. The stage is decked out with model owls and leafy branches, which band members stuff down their T-shirts; blocks of specially labelled Kendal Mint Cake are handed out to promote the band’s single ‘Remember Me’; and a gentleman wearing a Boer War-era army helmet appears onstage and then in the crowd with a drum which the guitarist, having descended from the top of one of the tent poles, proceeds to smash over his own head to end the set. All the madness (or gimmickry, if you want to look at it that way) goes some way to disguising the fact that their brand of gawky early 80s indie rock isn’t particularly memorable. An enjoyable experience live (and better than when I saw them in April 2002 supporting Six By Seven), but I won’t be rushing out to buy their album.

Bands or artists I would have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Grandaddy, Cardia, Squarepusher, The Stills, White Light Motorcade, Har Mar Superstar, Manitoba.
Quote of the day

"They shoot horses, don't they? I think a lot of players would prefer to have been shot once their career was over."

Jimmy Greaves in yesterday's G2.

Monday, August 25, 2003

I believe in a thing called Rock

I return from Leeds warmed by the sun, uninjured by the exploding gas canisters and aerosols, fatigued by the frantic walking between stages, overcharged and under/malnourished by the shitehawks who run the food stalls, bemused by the sight of The Sleepy Jackson's Luke Steele pretending to eat his guitar strings with a knife and fork - but, most of all, refreshed in the knowledge that over the course of three days I witnessed some tremendous rock action.

And over the next few days I'm going to review it.

I could tell you about the joys of alfresco urination; I could tell you about the over-amorous couple last night, rolling around on the empty cardboard pintpots and greasy polystyrene noodle dishes and giving each other "relief" whilst those in the vicinity tried their hardest to avert their eyes and block the whole horrific spectacle out; I could tell you about one of my co-attendee's inadvertent invention of "fucked chic" - simply take a turquoise and navy 1980s tracksuit top, a white Kiss T-shirt, some brown suit trousers with a studded metal belt and a pair of off-white trainers that are falling apart, and wear all at once, until you realise at some point in the late afternoon that you're "dressed like a tit".

But no.

What you REALLY want (well, maybe not, but what you're going to get...) is the Silent Words Speak Loudest guide to the bands that made it such a special weekend - for I feasted at the table of Rock, and I feasted well. Indeed, at times I feasted too well, and was in danger of becoming vomitous. It is now my duty to regurgitate what I have digested for your reading pleasure - a duty I will be performing to the best of my abilities over the next few days. Even if it involves sticking my fingers down my throat to force myself to write about Linkin Park.
Text message of the weekend

From Olav:

"Left Reading after Primal Scream. Littlehampton people do my head in. The golden shower was too much."

As yet, I am not in possession of the full facts - but rest assured that I intend to be enlightened...
Three Of A Kind #3

Three signs / T-shirt slogans spotted at the festival:

"Rehab is for quitters"
"I fucked the girl out of Hanson"
"I survived Barrymore's pool"
Overheard

At the festival:

"I burnt my pubes in science class."
Shearer 1 Man Utd 2

"We weren't playing Noboby United, we were playing Manchester United", opined Sir Bobby, in an unsettlingly upbeat post-match interview on Saturday. Well, it might be another one for the ever-growing list of Bobbyisms, but it's no consolation for the fact that, for the second time in less than six months, we've been outclassed at home by those Red Fuckers. We just HAVE to get over this ridiculous inferiority complex when it comes to playing Man Utd and Arsenal - if WE don't believe we can beat them and challenge for the league title, then who the hell else is?

Most worrying, though, was the utter lack of spirit in our performance. Spirit is something we've had in spades over the past couple of seasons, and it's served us in good stead, getting us out of situations where our prospects had looked bleak. But on Saturday it seems even that deserted us - at home to the champions, 2-1 down with 30 minutes to play, all we could muster was a single shot. More crippling defensive errors proved our undoing - that, and the fact that our bunch of talented midfielders are all struggling for form. Shearer must be despairing at having to play teams almost on his own.

We need a good performance, and fast. Failure in the Champions' League qualifier on Wednesday is unthinkable.
Quote of the day

"I'll admit that I'm a contributor to TV's decline in standards."

Noel Edmonds FINALLY acknowledges his culpability. But, hey, if you thought pleading guilty could get you a lenient sentence, Noel, then think again - I hereby sentence you to four weeks watching nothing but repeats of 'The Chris Moyles Show' and 'I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here'. Followed by hanging by the neck until dead.

BTW did anyone else find the evil little prank-pixie more disturbing when he shaved off his beard? I certainly did - his clean-shaven jowls gave him the ability to wander unnoticed and unharmed amongst the general populace, like some clever disguise.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Re-lapse

Off on my travels again as of tomorrow, galavanting about the country, and as a result there will be no hot steamy Silent Words Speak Loudest action until Monday at the earliest. Sorry. In the meantime, though, here's the compilation tape I'll be listening to in the car - see if you can guess where I might be going....

Side A
'Suite-Pee' - System Of A Down
'First Day' - The Futureheads
'Strangler' - Calla
'Black Rooster' - The Kills
'Amber' - The Cooper Temple Clause
'I'll Find You' - Hundred Reasons
'New York' - Doves
'Harmonic Generator' - The Datsuns
'Awake' - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
'Power Lunch' - Har Mar Superstar

Side B
'Kill All Hippies' - Primal Scream
'New Disco' - Radio 4
'NYC' - Interpol
'Date With The Night' - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
'Inspire' - Cave In
'Inertiatic ESP' - The Mars Volta
'The Crystal Lake' - Grandaddy
'Set You Free' - The Black Keys
'Glasshouse Tarot' - Sparta
'Debra' - Beck

Full report next week, folks.
Blogwatch

Bon voyage and best wishes to Wan, off to Japan in pursuit of fame and fortune. He’s had to make substantial sacrifices, mind – not least missing out on how the ‘Eastenders’ plotline involving Laura, Gary, Lynne and the sprog turns out. Don’t worry Wan, I’ll keep you posted – and thanks for giving me the perfect excuse to watch even more avidly than normal.

More relocation, only this time within the virtual world. After a three month hiatus, This Is Not An Exit has reappeared here.

Badger Minor has linked to this discussion thread, all about favourite musical moments of the year so far. I have three: the sweeping passage building to the loud section in Mew’s ‘Comfortable Sounds’, the sudden and stunning electric thrust of urgency in the middle of Radiohead’s ‘2+2=5’, and (of course) the part in Electric Six’s ‘Gay Bar’ when it goes quiet and then the guitar line starts up again (although this moment is only at its most effective in conjunction with the video).

Olav’s been reading Douglas Coupland’s ‘Generation X’: “Yeah, so the glossary was nice, the definitions perfect and wrought with recognition, the sense of alienation piquant and true. But there's something so smug and hollow about it, so utterly superfluous that it left me utterly cold.” Very true – the narrative itself is unmemorable and feels slight, and I found myself turning the pages not for the story but merely for the terms at the bottom.

At a loose end? Try Sarah’s Northumberland-themed quiz. A word of warning, though: it’s fiendishly hard. I should know – that’s where I hail from.

If you’ve got X and Y chromosomes in your genetic make-up, and you’ve ever tried your hand at DIY, and felt utterly emasculated by your failures and absurdly proud of your successes (the chances are you have), then take a peek at Invisible Stranger’s hilarious tale of his manful and (ultimately) glorious struggle to put up a set of wooden blinds. It’s anecdotal postings like this that has made his one of my favourite blogs.

Elsewhere: Alex has been to see Buck 65 – “Imagine if Tom Waits rapped, and you’re probably close”; Kevin comments on Jello Biafra snubbing his former bandmates in the Dead Kennedys, who had invited him to join them for a reunion gig; and Ian has been engaged in his first spat with a fellow blogger. Been a while since I saw action, come to think of it – anyone fancy sending me a hysterically vitriolic email? Go on, it’ll make me feel loved…

And finally… Vaughan is preparing himself to be interviewed by an academic bod for a study of the weblog “phenomenon”, and finds himself at a loss for words. Any thoughts, anyone?
Know Your Enemy #25

"that North-east version of Little and Large"

Minor 9th on Ant and Dec (part of a vitriolic posting about 'Pop Idol').
Three Of A Kind #2

Three outstanding Kevin Spacey films:

'American Beauty'
'The Usual Suspects'
'LA Confidential'
Secrets Of The Stars #1

I'm guessing this might be a VERY occasional series...

I was amused to see a photo of Elbow's Guy Garvey in NME, posing with his hero Face from 'The A-Team' - even more so, when I learned from a friend who knew him that he spent much of his childhood in Bury "playing army", and had an insatiable obsession with guns and helicopters. Still, I think it's a fairly safe bet he never made a tank out of cardboard and straw, as his heroes did every week.
Feel good hits of the 20th August

1. 'Just Because' - Jane's Addiction
2. 'First Day' - The Futureheads
3. 'One-Armed Scissor'- At The Drive-In
4. 'Minerva' - Deftones
5. 'Like A Rolling Stone' - Bob Dylan
6. 'Freakscene' - Dinosaur Jr
7. 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love' - The Darkness
8. 'Strict Machine' - Goldfrapp
9. 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' - The Smiths
10. 'Dark Wave' - Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Quote of the day

"I know someone who got shot in the face. It's alright if it goes clean through, it's when it ricochets around the mouth you're in bother."

Dizzee Rascal

Monday, August 18, 2003

Music Sounds Better With You #9

'Cosmonaut' - At The Drive-In

Strange as it may seem at a time when a band like The Hiss can stride colossus-like across the musical landscape snorting everything they can find and making James Oldham a wealthier man, but for a short time - the second half of 2000 - there was only one band on everyone's lips, and it wasn't The Strokes, The White Stripes or The Fucking Vines. In fact, they weren't a garage band at all. It was At The Drive-In.

As soon as I read about them, I knew I had to hear them. I ended up buying an issue of Kerrang! that summer just for the ATD-I track that was included on the free compilation CD - and that's why #9 is 'Cosmonaut' and not the more obvious 'One-Armed Scissor'. I remember playing the track again and again, and being gutted that they didn't play it live when I saw them for the first and only time at Leeds that August. Though they were very good then, I didn't appreciate quite what a monumental record Relationship Of Command was going to be.

Fuck anyone who whinges about the record's major label release, or the involvement of producer Ross Robinson, hitherto (in)famous only for giving the world Korn and consequently (if unintentionally) that most abhorrent of genres, nu-metal. Normally I'm all for championing small independent labels that struggle to make ends meet and the bands who populate their rosters. However, compare Relationship Of Command with their earlier releases and it's immediately evident that, with the aid of a top producer and the financial wherewithal that comes with major label backing, At The Drive-In were suddenly able to hone their on-edge sound and channel their on-stage energy into an astonishing album that blows everything that had gone before to smithereens. There are promising stirrings on In / Casino / Out, El Grand Orgo, the 'Vaya' EP and Acrobatic Tenement, all acquired in the wake of getting Relationship Of Command, but nothing that quite prepares you for the full-throttle onslaught of the latter. Whereas the earlier records sound slight and gawky, Relationship Of Command is a electrifying firecracker of an album, packs a serious punch, and is probably the most relentlessly intense and sonically ferocious record in my collection.

Jumping into bed with The Man did ultimately have disastrous consequences, though - commercial pressures and the media merry-go-round hastened the band's demise before they'd had a chance to better Relationship Of Command. Catapulted into the frenzy of the limelight almost overnight from the underground scene with which they were comfortable, it was inevitable that it wouldn't be long before they started falling apart. And the falling apart happened spectacularly, and in public. Their legacy includes perhaps the most discordant and unhinged 'Later With Jools Holland' performance ever. What was supposed to be 'One-Armed Scissor' (an absolutely extraordinary single and statement of intent) became a sprawling buzzing car-crash of a song - Cedric Bixler grabbing a chair and throwing it around the studio, Omar Rodriguez deciding about a minute in that he couldn't be bothered to play the guitar line and instead concentrating on flinging himself about and making as much random noise as possible, Jim Ward manfully trying to hold it all together while his bandmates seemed to be doing their utmost to sabotage the recording. The faultlines were already evident, and in 2001, after some aborted recording sessions for a follow-up LP, they announced an "indefinite hiatus" which became permanent - although their loss wasn't much lamented in the music media that had fawned over them barely six months before, as The Strokes and The White Stripes were on the scene by this point.

Thankfully, that wasn't the last we'd see of them. At The Drive-In have fractured and mutated into two very special bands, The Mars Volta and Sparta, each remarkable in their own way. Perhaps more importantly from the point of view of my musical tastes, however, they encouraged me to investigate Fugazi's back catalogue (though I'd seen them in 1999 they'd still not quite clicked with me), and opened my eyes to a whole host of American bands I'd never heard before. Although it might seem strange to suggest that At The Drive-In prompted my discovery of bands as diverse as The Promise Ring and The Icarus Line, that's the way it happened, and for that I'm eternally grateful - to the extent that I can even overlook The Mars Volta's more outrageously pretentious moments...

Inspired a love of: Fugazi, Juno, The Dismemberment Plan, The Icarus Line, Burning Airlines, Cave In, Les Savy Fav, The Mars Volta, Sparta, Bluetip, Hundred Reasons, The Get-Up Kids, Jetplane Landing, The Promise Ring, Jimmy Eat World, Faraquet, Vendetta Red, Q And Not U...
Never understood? Well, read this

Andrew Unterberger of Stylus on The Jesus & Mary Chain's Honey's Dead. It's been a while since I last bought a J&MC record, so I think I'll have to add this to my collection, currently comprising Psychocandy, Darklands, Stoned And Dethroned, Munki and the B-sides 'n' outtakes compilation Barbed Wire Kisses.

One day I might get round to elaborating and substantiating my theory that The Beach Boys lived on in the 70s in the form of The Ramones, and in the 80s in the form of The Jesus & Mary Chain - but in the meantime, just listen to the latter's Psychocandied-up cover of 'Surfin USA' on Barbed Wire Kisses, and feel the noise. It's a beautiful thing.
To Ell and back - with a point

What to make of yesterday's opening match of the season? I'm still not sure.

On the one hand, we failed to overcome a troubled Leeds side which we were fully expected to slaughter and which is characterised by guts and grit rather than by any skill, quality or flair. They were the sort of "plucky" opposition that Man Utd would have shaken off as one might an annoying yapping little Yorkshire terrier that has attached itself to one's trouser leg.

On the other hand, despite not playing to the best of our abilities at any point, we still looked fluent and dangerous for much of the game (the move for the penalty was as incisive as they come), and created more than enough chances to win - things may have been different had Speed and Bernard not made sloppy and costly errors, and had Robert found the target more often with his numerous wayward thunderbolts from distance. Shearer looks particularly hungry, his two goals an ominous sign for Premiership defences everywhere.

Perhaps, then, we should be satisfied with a point. After all, Leeds weren't easy opposition, combative and fired-up in front of their own fans, plus we didn't pick up any injuries or suspensions (though Woodgate came close to a red card in obstructing Sakho). It was also imperative that we got something on the board before the visit of Man Utd to St James's next Saturday - we need that to give us the confidence to go out and avoid a repeat of last season's mauling...
Three Of A Kind #1

Another excuse to indulge my lamentable passion for lists, masquerading as a new regular SWSL feature. To kick us off, a moderately topical Threesome...

Three great songs about Mondays:

'I Don't Like Mondays' - The Boomtown Rats
'Blue Monday' - New Order
'Manic Monday' - The Bangles
You WHAT?!!

dave navarro stockings
mature erect nipples
gareth gates can he speak
sweaty male lycra
lesbo piss gallery

Sorry, but please turn around and go back from whence you came.
Overheard

In the pub on Saturday, during a conversation about the actors in 'American Pie':

"Mmm, they're the new Brat Pack."

Friday, August 15, 2003

Woodgateway into the Champions' League

While Chelsea were in Slovakia parading their multi-million-pound array of new players in front of the TV cameras, we were in Belgrade facing a far sterner test of our Champions' League credentials. In terms of intimidating atmospheres, it comes second only to the sort of welcome afforded to English teams in Turkey.

Although we rode our luck at times, Partizan having several good opportunities, it was a competent and professional performance that we turned in. Solano got the goal (proving a point to Sir Bobby in Bowyer's absence?), Bellamy was vibrant up front, Given pulled out some top-drawer saves, but the star of a resilient display was Jonathan Woodgate - a colossus at the heart of the defence with his tackling, heading and passing. It seems that some of his composure rubbed off on Andy O'Brien - let's hope the same happens with Titus Bramble as the season unfolds.

So, back to St James's in a week's time, with a clean sheet and away goal under our collective belt. The first part of the job was well done. Now for Leeds...
2003/2004 Premiership Preview

First of all, Newcastle's chances of league glory.

Well, it goes without saying that it'll be very tough. We have to aim to qualify for the Champions' League again, but even relatively modest ambitions like that will be hard to realise. Rather than getting carried away with the successes of the previous two campaigns, I'm inclined to err on the side of caution and to temper any optimism with a side-salad of realism. This summer, we've seen the likes of Ronaldinho, Emerton and Kleberson move elsewhere, and the signing of Bowyer wasn't exactly one I welcomed with open arms.

However, if Bellamy and Shearer can stay fit, if Dyer can supply the end product his hard graft deserves and start finding the back of the net regularly, if Woodgate can be the rock on which opposition attacks founder, and if our very healthy crop of youngsters can turn exciting talent and mouthwatering promise into consistently excellent performances week in week out, then who knows - we do stand a chance of winning the league. Oh yeah, and we also need to stop losing quite so many away matches...

Let's quickly cast an eye over who we're up against (I can't see any other team breaking into this top five):

Man Utd
Bye bye Beckham and Veron, but they've signed some decent players. As ever they'll be very tough to beat, but Van Nistelrooy will miss Beckham's delivery from the right, and if the horse-faced Dutchman picks up an injury they might still fall at the last, lacking a serious goal-getting replacement. Tragic, I'm sure it wouldn't be.

Arsenal
Not wanting to parrot Wenger, but Vieira putting pen to paper on a new contract was probably the best signing of the summer. Just as well, as they've done precious little else in the transfer market. They'll still be a formidable force, of course, but the likes of Pires, Ljungberg and Gilberto need to improve on last season's showing if they're going to stand a chance of winning the league.

Chelsea
Any hopes I may have had that their new side might not gel immediately seem to have been dispelled with their 2-0 Champions' League qualifying victory in Slovakia. They've made some excellent signings, and Veron for one will have a major point to prove, although there could be unrest in the dressing room when the likes of Zenden, Petit and Gronkjaer realise there's no place for them in the side. We can but pray.

Liverpool
Dull and uninventive last season - which is why Harry Kewell, at £5m, should prove the best transfer move of the summer. They have some superb players, nearly all of whom underperformed last time out, and that's reason enough to be worried - they'll be out to set it right. Nevertheless, whenever either Henchoz or Hyypia are out injured, they look vulnerable at the back.
And, finally, some brief thoughts on the rest:

Aston Villa
Even duller than Liverpool last year, and McCann's not likely to change that. Matters aren't helped by the fact that they may very well soon lose Vassell. Still, they've got some decent young players, and if they can get the defence right and Alpay plays like he did in the World Cup, then Sorensen could keep a few clean sheets.

Birmingham
Steve Bruce has bought so many players that some are bound to start getting disgruntled and unsettle the squad - I hope so, because I fucking hate the bastards. Signing Figueroa, Dugarry and especially Dunn shows the extent of their ambitions, though - it'd be hilarious if they get relegated now.

Blackburn
Dunn and Duff will prove major losses, but Emerton was a snip at £2.25m - we were quoted £8m a year ago - and Steven Reid's a useful player. However, Cole and Yorke are past their best, and Amoruso will be a liability in central defence in the Premiership.

Bolton
Despite the heroics of Djorkaeff and Okocha, who rescued Bolton on their own last season, I'd started to think that this year their luck had to run out, primarily because they still hadn't got a proper striker - and then Allardyce goes out and captures Jardel on a free. So, a hugely talented foreigner could prove their lifeline again.

Charlton
How do they do it? Stay up, I mean. Theirs is a competent squad, but one without any star names - until the last few days, that is, when Di Canio joined to give them a bit of much-needed craft and guile up front. And for £750,000, Matt Holland was a bargain.

Everton
A team full of workhorses, and it should show this season - they overachieved last time out, and I can't see it happening again. Gravesen's a driving force in midfield, but they've got no invention or skill in that area, just donkeys like Pembridge and Gemmill. Rooney can't do it all on his own, you know.

Fulham
Underachievers who will struggle again this year. For a team who've spent a lot of money over the past few seasons, their squad seems incredibly thin. Marlet has yet to live up to his price tag (or his place in the French national team), but Malbranque deserves a mention for consistently performing well in a struggling and demoralised side.

Leeds
Another shambolic club. This summer they've haemorraged more of their best players and brought in one or two low-grade replacements (including one Didier Domi - not, in our experience, a player inclined to stick around when the going gets tough), but as long as they can hang on to Viduka, Smith, Robinson and Mills they should be safe.

Leicester
Dear oh dear. I just want to shake Micky Adams by the shoulders and shout "It's quality, not quantity" at him. For his sake I hope he proves me wrong, but as far as I can see he's signed a whole new team of Premiership also-rans (including three of our mid-90s nearlymen - Gillespie, Ferdinand and Howey) to "bolster" a squad that was already very short on genuine quality. Relegated by Christmas, anyone?

Man City
Always going to be fragile at the back, but if they can get off to a good start at their new stadium, and Robbie Fowler can rediscover his form and really click with Anelka, then they could surprise a few people. Sinclair will be a good addition to the side, although with the loss of Foe they look a little soft in the centre of midfield.

Middlesbrough
Frustration in the transfer market for Steve McClaren. He's missed out on Geremi, the club's best player last year, and has yet to decide which of his strikers he should start with (for what it's worth, I rate Malcolm Christie). From his point of view, at least Juninho's fit for the start of the season.

Portsmouth
Redknapp's made some decent signings (Sheringham, Berger, Zivkovic), but they'll still do very well to stay up. Losing Todorov for the whole season is a blow to their chances of survival, although to be fair he didn't exactly set the Premiership alight when he was with West Ham. If Matt Taylor starts the campaign well, he could be off to pastures new come the January transfer window.

Southampton
Along with the rest of the Mackem side, Phillips was appallingly bad last year, so it'll be interesting to see if he can improve with a better midfield behind him and a better striker alongside him (you couldn't have got much worse than Flo). To sound a pessimistic note: Beattie can't keep this form up forever and neither can the central defensive pairing of Lundekvam and Michael Svensson.

Tottenham
Hoddle's gone out and bought himself an entirely new complement of strikers to accompany Robbie Keane - Postiga in particular is an intriguing signing - but appears to have forgotten that his midfield was found woefully lacking last year. If he doesn't find a solid regular partner for Dean Richards he could be on his bike come November.

Wolves
Let's not pull any punches - they're going to struggle. Ince and Irwin are past it, and the squad is very small, Dave Jones having been more selective in his recruitments than Micky Adams. They do have quite a few strikers, though (the signing of Henri Camara may prove inspired) - all they need now is for a couple of them to start scoring as if their lives depend upon it.
Quote of the day

"I've been told so many times that I was an inspiration to people who went into the business who felt 'if he can do it, we've got a chance'. I have to say that makes me feel better than anything in the world."

Sam Phillips RIP

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'