Monday, September 29, 2003

The darkness

When I was back up North last week I took the opportunity to make my now-customary visit to the Baltic. A bit of a disappointment on this occasion, it has to be said - mainly because three of the floors were closed while staff prepared for a couple of new exhibitions opening this Saturday.

On the ground floor was Eva Grubinger's 'Dark Matter', comprising primarily of a huge black headset which emits a weird high-pitched whistling sound constructed from human voices. In the smaller room adjacent were four smaller scale models of a block of flats, a cooling tower, a nuclear reactor and a airport control tower. All were the same dull black, except for the windows which were shiny and reflective. The underlying themes of the exhibition are paranoia, and the transmission or concealment of information. All fine and well, and it was worth a look, but this exemplified my reservations about conceptual art - the concepts can be worthy and fascinating in themselves, but when they overshadow the consequent works of art you begin to wonder whether the art doesn't become redundant, an afterthought. I like to be intrigued by what it IS, rather than just by what it says. (That probably sounds like a terribly antiquated view...).

Better was Jane and Louise Wilson's video installation, revolving around themes of space and place. On an array of different screens, most hanging from the ceiling at different angles but some flat on the ceiling itself, images were projected from several locations in the North-East - including an oil rig, an electronics factory and a 60s concrete pavilion in Peterlee. The wonderful cinematography made the ostensibly mundane subject matter quite beautiful, and the crystal-clear sound system augmented the experience no end - during the shots from the electronics plant, all the gentle whirring, whining and clicking made me feel like I was inside a Matmos record.
Gunned down

Another Premiership match, another crushing disappointment. But the defeat to Arsenal at Highbury was galling not because of any lack of commitment or spirit, but because we should have left London with at least a point.

Overall, the performance was of a very high standard - excellently-worked goals from Robert and Bernard, Dyer again seeming to hint that he's at his most dangerous on the flanks rather than straight through the middle, Bowyer giving his best showing in a black and white shirt. The defending, too, was for the most part sound.

But only for the most part.

We gifted an injury-plagued Arsenal side three goals and emerged from the contest pointless when, but for stupid individual errors, we might have got all three. Bramble did very little wrong all night - except for swinging wildly at an attempted clearance and allowing Henry a simple tap-in for the first goal. Then we gave Gilberto a free header, and - worst of all - Jenas inexplicably raised his hand to a cross from the right to concede the penalty from which Henry notched the winner. I'm still not convinced JJ actually touched the ball - but simply raising his hand in the first place was utterly stupid. It wasn't even as if he was trying to gain extra height in jumping with his arms up - he was already well off the ground.

So, naivety costs us dear once again, and we remain off the bottom of the table only thanks to Kevin Davies's late equaliser for Bolton against Wolves. But we might have escaped such severe punishment for our mistakes against a worse side, and we'll definitely play worse than that this season and win. As the magnificent Breda fans sang on Wednesday night just after Shearer had made it 4-0, "always look on the bright side of life"...
Feel good hits of the 29th September

OK, so this is coming very quickly after the last FGH, but hey - for the first time in a while I've been listening to lots of music, including (as you might guess from what follows) the free NME CD...

1. 'Never Understand' - The Jesus & Mary Chain
2. 'Hurt' - Johnny Cash
3. 'Jane Says' - Jane's Addiction
4. 'Bad Day' - REM
5. 'Chinese Rocks' - Johnny Thunders And The Heartbreakers
6. 'The Golden Path' - Chemical Brothers with Wayne Coyne
7. 'In Like The Rose' - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
8. 'Obstacle #1' - Interpol
9. 'On A Rope' - Rocket From The Crypt
10. 'Hand In Glove' - The Smiths
Know Your Enemy #28

May I join with Dead Kenny in lamenting the sad demise of It Makes No Difference, shut down in the last week by The Man. The author of this garrulous, eccentric and vitriolic dissection of popular culture inspired and cajoled me into starting up SWSL - I owe a debt of gratitude to you, sir.

So, to all at The Daily Telegraph, and especially The Minx: fuck you.
"Then the moment: the dog let loose from the straining chain, the voluntary step off the ledge, the bright light of an explosion before the sound; the tsunami of the four coming together"

Stylus's Scott McKeating on the high point of Jane's Addiction's Ritual De Lo Habitual LP, 'Three Days'.
Quote of the day

"Outside of a dog a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Groucho Marx.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Dutch mastered

Some poor misguided fool recently stumbled across Silent Words Speak Loudest having entered into Google the search request "people with the name Ben are cursed". Now, just at this very moment, I'm more inclined to say that I'm a lucky talisman. Allow me to explain...

I've just returned from St James's Park - where Newcastle had scored only once and failed to win in their previous four matches of the season - having witnessed a thoroughly splendid 5-0 UEFA Cup demolition of Dutch side NAC Breda. It was, I'm sorry to confess it, my first visit in nearly three years.

Despite being talked up by the players and in the press, on the day Breda looked overawed, and showed very little of any quality - but to dwell on their failings would be to detract unjustly from the Newcastle performance. Quite simply, from front to back, to a man, we were outstanding, full of energy, drive and commitment - and completely unrecognisable from the woefully lacklustre side of the opening few weeks of the season. Singling out one or two individuals, it was great to see Bellamy back on the scoresheet instead of just in the referee's notebook; Ambrose grabbed a first senior goal which should do his confidence a power of good; and Robert played with pace and passion, terrifying the opposition every time he received the ball on the left. But the plaudits must finally rest upon Titus Bramble, who capped a fabulous defensive display (colossal in the air, fierce in the tackle, composed and accurate in his distribution) with a first goal for the club. His last few performances have given genuine cause for believing that the roughest of Bobby's young diamonds is on the way to being the polished finished gem.

So, a five star five goal performance - but it just wouldn't be Newcastle if there weren't a couple of clouds on the horizon. One is the news that Woodgate is out for six to eight weeks, though Bramble and O'Brien did enough tonight to suggest that they can minimise the impact of his absence. The other is the visit to Highbury on Friday - a much sterner test awaits, to be sure, but after tonight's all-round display there's at least cause for cautious optimism and renewed hope that we might escape from the capital with some reward.

I'll have my fingers crossed.
Something smells fishy

Mr Nick Southall, UK editor of online music magazine Stylus, has his very own blog, Auspicious Fish. You owe it to yourself to check it out - not only does he, as his blog proudly proclaims, write like a motherfucker, but he also has excellent taste in shag music.
Feel good hits of the 24th September

1. 'The Modern Age' - The Strokes
2. 'Darts Of Pleasure' - Franz Ferdinand
3. 'Roulette Dares' - The Mars Volta
4. 'Chain Gang Of Love' - The Raveonettes
5. 'Island In The Sun' - Weezer
6. 'Bill McCai' - The Coral
7. 'Start Choppin' - Dinosaur Jr
8. 'Hate To Say I Told You So' - The Hives
9. 'Heroes' - David Bowie
10. 'Spoonman' - Soundgarden

I think I might finally be getting to grips with the Mars Volta LP...
Quote of the day

"Dealing with the record industry's a lot like dealing with a prostitute. You know what the end result's gonna be, you're just arguing about the money."

Wayne Rosso, president of peer-to-peer filesharing service Grokster.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Got your number!” FUCK OFF!!!

Hello, OK, Rebekah Wade, Piers Morgan, Mark Frith etc take note. Forget bars or restaurants or clubs or glitzy film premieres in London. If you really wanna catch some slebs red-faced, panting, sweaty and off-guard, the event to be at simply HAS to be the Great North Run, daaaahlings. It was a veritable parade of the great, the good and the BBC Weather team. Look, I’ll do your job for you…

There’s disgraced King of Spin Alistair Campbell flanked by a fluorescent T-shirted bouncer. Shame – him getting torn limb-from-limb in a traditional Labour heartland would have made for a real spectacle … Wooooh, that Matthew Pincent’s a big boy, isn’t he? Fnar fnar … It’s Paula Radcliffe! No, hang on, where’s she gone? Oh, there she is, she’d just turned sideways … Why does lecherous granddad Jimmy Saville wear such perilously tight shorts? Surely there’s a great danger that his gnarled old boys might escape from the barracks and scare thousands of young ladies and small children. Oh yeah, his face does that already … There goes Micky Adams. If sweat alone could keep Leicester in the Premiership, he’d have them safe by Christmas … Is that Emily off ‘Emmerdale’? She’s got the pigtails, but to be absolutely sure I’d need to hear that stupid little voice – confirmation I could well do without …

For the second weekend in a row, I had to put up with all manner of forced “wackiness” and yet more twats in 118 running vests, and onlookers humouring them and finding the whole thing hilarious. Fuck running 13.1 miles –THAT’S what I call endurance and stamina.
Stalemate

Some people have been inclined to look at the positives – a first clean sheet of the season, and our first point gained at home. Bramble had another excellent afternoon and nearly scored, while we created several openings and showed a good deal more endeavour and effort than in other recent matches. But the fact remains, though, that we drew 0-0 at home to Bolton, a side we should be routinely demolishing and a side who had suffered 4-0 defeats on their previous two away trips. This was another hugely disappointing result.

And so it was, smarting with the knowledge of our failings, that I caught the train from Nottingham to Newcastle. Unfortunately the journey necessitated changing at Derby – at which point, clutching my logo-emblazoned bag, I realised that the Rams had that same afternoon been playing host to Sunderland, and that I’d be joined for the three-hour journey north by hordes of drunken Mackem pondscum intent on making me the focus of their anti-Toon jibes and on telling me repeatedly how great goalkeeper Mart Poom’s last-minute headed equaliser had been. Not, it should be said, the most enjoyable train journey I’ve ever had.

I’m actually getting to see us play on Wednesday, at home to Dutch outfit NAC Breda in the UEFA Cup, only two days before we take on Arsenal at Highbury. The timing is unfortunate, and it promises to be a tough match (Breda beat Ajax at the weekend), but hopefully with a bit more luck in front of goal we can get that desperately-needed first win. As things stand, though, my pre-season predictions look more and more foolish and arrogantly complacent with every match.
The crackle of pigskin

I confess it: I’m an addict. Not to hard drugs. Not to alcohol. Not even to The Raveonettes, although my current obsession with them comes close. No, I’m addicted to that Black Country delicacy, pork scratchings. I just can’t get enough of God’s own pub snack of choice (alongside crisps) – all that delicious salty, crunchy goodness. Even the hairy bits taste great. It’s just a shame that I can practically feel the fat lining my arteries every time I eat a packet. They always say that accepting you have a problem is the first and most important step. So, can anyone recommend an appropriate counselling group?
Know Your Enemy #27

The section of his brain that dishes out adverse criticism seems to have shut down. The book is relentlessly eulogistic. Not a single fault is found with anything Dylan says or writes from start to finish … It remains extraordinarily unfunny, and when you try to work out why, you realise that it is because it is saying all the time ‘I am cleverer than you’. Successful humorists are careful to avoid that message. Ricks belts it out fortissimo.

Sunday Times critic John Carey on Christopher Ricks’s new study of Bob Dylan’s lyrics, ‘Dylan’s Visions Of Sin’. Carey’s tone is sniffily snobbish, but, whether right or wrong, his demolition job makes for great reading. Book reviews are often dull, anodyne, backslapping affairs, but every once in a while they can be really barbed, cutting and downright nasty.
Quote of the day

[Photographs] are the proof that something was there and no longer is. Like a stain. And the stillness of them is boggling. You can turn away, but when you come back they’ll still be there looking at you.

Photographer Diane Arbus.
Spotted

Were the eyes playing tricks or did I really see a bloke reading the Paul Daniels autobiography ‘Under No Illusion’ in public? Has he NO shame?!!
Three Of A Kind #8

Three great alcoholic concoctions:

Turboshandy (Becks / Budweiser / Grolsch / Stella and Smirnoff Ice)
After Eight (Baileys, Tia Maria and Crème de Menthe)
Blackjack (Pernod and cranberry juice)

Another I must try has been suggested to me by a man well versed in the art of drinking - a vodka spritzer, containing Absolut Citron and white wine. Sounds lethal, and even the thought gives me a bit of a headache.
Lyric-that’s-stuck-in-my-head-and-won’t-leave of the day

My girl is a little animal / She always wants to fuck / I can’t find a reason why / I guess it’s just my luck

‘Little Animal’ – The Raveonettes

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Three Of A Kind #7

Three players Newcastle should have at least tried to sign this summer:

Wayne Bridge
Brett Emerton
Harry Kewell
"Without that sense of deeper family loyalty, it just becomes like anything else"

They said it wouldn't last. And it hasn't - Zwan have split after just one album. I marvelled at the fact they'd got together at all. I mean, egomaniac slapheaded former chief Pumpkin Billy Corgan and ex-Slint post-rock guitar god Dave Pajo, with a supporting cast of Matt Sweeney, Jimmy Chamberlain and Paz Lechantin - what were the chances? Really must get hold of their album, though.
It's the end of the world as we know it (and The Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band feel fine)

Stylus head honcho Todd Burns reviews the latest album from the Godspeed-affiliated Canadian collective, "This Is Our Punk Rock", The Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing. With hindsight, it's true - Godspeed's last outing, Yanqui UXO, just isn't as special as their previous offerings, predominantly (as he suggests) because they have begun to sound a touch tired and predictable. If this new LP is anything like as good as the last one (Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards - snappy titles just aren't their thing), then it's an essential purchase.
We wanna be a part of it...

Watching the opening fixtures of this season's Champions' League was, as I'd expected, a painful experience. Why oh why, I found myself muttering last night, could it not be US suffering a chastening three-goal defeat at home to Inter Milan, and not Arsenal? Of course, matters are hardly helped by the fact that Partizan Belgrade, our conquerors from the qualifying round (though, to be honest, we managed to conquer ourselves that night), have got mouthwatering fixtures against Mr Beckham and his Real Madrid side to look forward to. We were given a prestigious ticket to the party, but carelessly tossed it in the bin. Still, there's always next season - though we need to get some points on the board, preferably starting with a victory over Bolton at St James' on Saturday.
Quote of the day

"Billie [Piper] is on the cover of New Woman, under a strapline which reads: 'The Sex? Chris has shown me things I never knew existed.' Yeah, ginger pubes can be a real puzzler the first time, can't they?"

The ever-wonderful No Rock & Roll Fun.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Wacky races

The assortment of pasty, freakily-shaped and spindly oddballs, hardly an advertisement for glowing rude health. The stench of Ralgex and Deep Heat. The wailing of ambulance sirens. The crunching of discarded plastic cups. And, of course, the "wacky" outfits ("Hey, wouldn't it be simply HILARIOUS if I dress up like Elvis / those two blokes from the 118-118 advert?"). Yes, I went along to the Robin Hood Half-Marathon in Nottingham in my capacity as boyfriend of one of the entrants. I decided years ago that running is a torment I could well do without, and yesterday failed to persuade me otherwise.

And am I alone in thinking that naming a chain of sports and fitness clothing stores Sweatshop is in incredibly poor taste?
SlamDunc-ed

Football has such an uncanny knack of kneeing you in the bollocks. There we were, 2-1 up at Everton with two minutes to play, having been without our full complement of players since the 40th minute. Shearer had stuck away a couple of penalties, Bramble had performed well and nearly everyone had shown signs of having rediscovered their combative spirit. And then, one slightly dubious penalty awarded against us later, who should step up to deny us our first three point return of the season, but that overpaid and astonishingly injury-prone lunk of an old boy Duncan Ferguson?

Though it couldn't be said that we played positively well, the win would have been at least hard-fought and would have got our season properly underway. As it is, the old failings return to haunt us. Surely we should have been able to close out the game with only eight minutes left on the clock when Shearer tucked away his second spot-kick of the afternoon? Once again Robert seemed to confuse 'showing commitment to the cause' with 'rushing about and diving in recklessly with no thought as to the consequences', once again Bowyer was anonymous, and once again the worryingly shot-shy Bellamy got a booking for opening his troublesome gob.

In the circumstances, a point was a decent outcome - but the players know it should have been three.
Johnny Cash RIP

The Guardian's obituary: "a country musician who was too big for country music".

Nick Cave on the Man In Black (link courtesy of Parallax View): "I lost my innocence with Johnny Cash. I used to watch the 'Johnny Cash Show' on television in Wangaratta when I was about 9 or 10 years old. At that stage I had really no idea about rock'n'roll. I watched him and from that point I saw that music could be an evil thing, a beautiful, evil thing."
That great love sound

My attempt to put into words why I'm blissfully in love with The Raveonettes.

And while you're about it, check out Nick Southall's Top Ten Songs That Remind Me Of Sex. It's reassuring to know that I'm not alone in finding the sweet whale sounds of Sigur Ros, the apocalyptic grandeur of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the electric hypnosis of Six By Seven's debut LP strangely arousing.
Quote of the day

"It is a concept EP, the concept being fuck America basically and fuck weapons of mass destruction. It is like a protest record. It is the kind of record that you would want to put on if you are going to go out on a riot. We do feel quite angry about what has been going on with the war."

Jimmy Cauty (formerly of KLF) on the new EP 'Fuck The Fucking Fuckers' by the collective Blacksmoke, of which he is a member.

(Courtesy of No Rock & Roll Fun)
Text message of the day

Received at midnight on Saturday:

"Drunk as a sjunk."

Says it all, really.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

One year old today... well, in two days time, at least

Ahem.

*clears throat*

Silent Words Speak Loudest celebrates its first birthday on Saturday, and I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank my family and friends, God and Allah - but most of all YOU, my blogbuddies, who have supported me through thick and thin, through rain and shine, by reading the verbal effluent that has appeared on the site and by linking to SWSL, a heartwarming gesture which I can assure you felt like being embraced to your virtual bosoms. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It's been emotional.

*pauses to dab eye*

So, now that I've completed my probationary year and solemnly promise to improve the site over the course of the next twelve months (not least by discovering how to get comments - I want interactivity, dammit, not just me standing on a soapbox sounding off about everything and nothing!), may I humbly enquire as to when I get my Polyphonic Spree style robe to indicate my initiation into the Cult Of The Blog?
Music Sounds Better With You #10

'Last Nite' - The Strokes

There's very little to say about this track that hasn't already been said. So, suffice to say it's one of those rare singles that doesn't seem to diminish in quality with age and that, like only a few other songs I could name ('This Charming Man', 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', 'No-One Knows', 'Devil's Haircut', 'Sabotage', 'One-Armed Scissor', 'Been Caught Stealing'...), is always guaranteed of getting me dancing if I hear it blasting out in a club. There's no way I could ever tire of THAT solo.

That said, the inclusion of 'Last Nite' in the current series was a matter of much internal debate - after all, it's not as if they've actually influenced my record collection DIRECTLY very much. What they have done, though, is reignited interest in rock music, opened the floodgates and brought to my ears loads of other great bands that I wouldn't otherwise have heard (as well as - inevitably - several I could have quite easily done without). I'm not disputing the fact that the 'New Rock Revolution' is a concept conveniently invented by NME to sell more issues of the rag - OF COURSE there are always fantastic rock bands out there making great sounds in the forest, even if NME isn't there to hear them. But the fact remains that without The Strokes, other bands may well have not come to prominence.

(Note to Conor McNicholas: Just because The Strokes turned out a great debut LP, and might well be about to repeat the trick, doesn't mean we all want to find out which hand Julian Casablancas wipes his arse with.)

Opened the floodgates for: The White Stripes, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kills, The Hives, The Bellrays, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Datsuns, The Von Bondies, The Libertines, Ikara Colt, The Black Keys, Soledad Brothers, Burning Brides, The Catheters, The Pattern...

And so this brings us almost right up to date, and wraps up what became a tortuously drawn-out series. Just to recap, here are the ten most influential songs in the development of my musical tastes and record collection:

1. 'Ring Ring' - Abba (c.1983)
2. 'Hey Jude' - The Beatles (c.1987)
3. 'Paradise City' - Guns 'N' Roses (1988)
4. 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' - Nirvana (1991)
5. 'Drunken Butterfly' - Sonic Youth (1992)
6. 'Stupid Girl' - Garbage (1996)
7. 'Angels & Aliens' - Mogwai (1998)
8. 'Cosmonaut' - At The Drive-In (2000)
9. 'It's A Motherfucker' - Eels (2001)
10. 'Last Nite' - The Strokes (2001)
Riddle me this...

So the US, faced with the prospect of a costly (in terms of both lives and money) peace-keeping and redevelopment programme in post-war Iraq, is calling upon the UN to come in and lend a hand with troops and resources. Isn't this the very same country who rode roughshod over the UN when it stood in the way of the invasion of Iraq, dismissing it as no longer being a credible or valuable organisation? It's all rather like a petulant teenager who defiantly and hotheadedly goes against the advice and wishes of his or her parents, and then comes crawling back with tail between the legs when it all goes horribly wrong, expecting mummy and daddy to pick up the pieces and bail them out.

And another thing: why do we refer to the Ministry of Defence and the defence industry, when referring to them as the Ministry of Attack and the attack industry would be far more accurate and appropriate?

Anyone care to enlighten me?
You WHAT?!!

The winding and crooked paths people take to arrive at this site continue to amaze me:

purple panda character at idlewild
teens who can function without daily cannibus abuse
ted hughes poetry baggy t-shirt
jane austen the cunt face
get rid of warts with a bible

I can't get the image out of my head of a troubled teen saying "But I just can't get through the day if I can't shout obscenities at rappers..."
Quote of the day

"We've got great tunes. We're the only rock band in this new rock thing that actually have songs in more than one shade. We've got seven rockers on the album and six ballads. It's going to be massive."

Jet's Chris Sester doing his best to sell us his band's debut album Get Born. Don't know about you, but I'm now suffering in an agony of suspense, so desperate am I to get hold of this work of brilliantly diverse genius. Fucking morons.

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