Monday, October 27, 2003

Hitting full stride

At last - a comprehensive league victory, and a supreme performance to match. Portsmouth were the unlucky opposition, packed off on the long journey back to the South Coast with tails between legs after being utterly outclassed in a resounding 3-0 defeat.

Our record at home against Pompey is good, and never looked in danger at any stage on Saturday afternoon. Shearer managed to bag another goal (another penalty, incidentally - his fifth successful spot-kick of the season), while Ameobi continued to deputise admirably for the injured / recovering Bellamy, chipping in with a second-half strike to complete the rout and kill off any lingering hopes of a comeback. We've had the ability, talent and spirit for a while, but this is just the sort of ruthlessness we need to become a real force.
Hands up! Gimme all your pies!

From the front page (unbelievably) of the Birmingham Evening Post, sometime last week:

"PIE PLEA

A man accused of stealing a pork pie from an 89-year-old woman and her 92-year-old husband only wanted a light for his cigarette and the couple completely misunderstood his actions, a jury was told yesterday.
"
James Whittaker is the Antichrist

If there's one thing more repellent than all the kerfuffle over Paul Burrell's "respectful" memoir of Diana, it's being incessantly subjected to the opinions of self-appointed royal "watchers" or "experts". All these reactionary leeches need their brakes tampering with.
Flash the cash

London just seems to become more London every time I visit. At Euston on Friday evening, barely five minutes after stepping off a train, I found myself in WHSmith behind a man paying for a copy of the Evening Standard with a £50 note.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

The post-rock poster boys are back in town

Is this some kind of unannounced Dinosaur Jr reunion? Stage right, we have the spitting image of Lou Barlow, bespectacled and floppy hair. Stage left, we have a guitarist whose lank locks hide his face for almost the entire set. In the middle, on drums, is someone who could pass for Murph. OK, so only if it was a dark night. And you were blind. No, these five waifs and strays, fronted by an out-of-it Thalia Zedek type, are Bardo Pond, and they come on like Kevin Shields playing Black Sabbath with sweet vocals floating somewhere over the top. They're a stoner band gone feral - a deliciously sludgy soup with some flute and electric violin stirred in for a bit of prog seasoning.

I don't want to sound snobbish here, but thank fuck Mogwai seem to have shaken off some of the dickhead hangers-on they were attracting two years ago. Last time I saw them indoors, they were playing at Leeds Met, much larger than tonight's venue the Birmingham Sanctuary, and the crowd was interspersed with laddish wankers shouting out undeserved abuse at the support act. Tonight a smaller and much quieter audience is served up the fruits of this year's brilliant Happy Music For Happy People LP - namely 'Hunted By A Freak', 'I Know You Are But What Am I?', 'Killing All The Flies', the gorgeous 'Golden Porsche' and a thundering 'Ratts Of The Capital', which wraps up the main set. A couple of the longer tracks from Rock Action get an airing, but the real highlights are reserved for the encore. First of all we get 'Xmas Steps' (though THAT bassline is sadly not loud enough to shake the floor) and then the blinding strobe-augmented genius of 'Mogwai Fear Satan', which, although minus flute and weighing in at just 12 minutes tonight, is quite enough to suggest that the sound of Concorde taking off will not be missed. The volume dial is up to 11 for the second encore, too, comprising of just the classic 'Summer'.

So, still head and shoulders above all the imitators. If there was to be any criticism at all, it would be that, although what they're doing is genuinely amazing and beautiful, they look slightly disinterested, as though they do it every single night - aside from the flicker of a smile that crosses Barry Burns's face every time the noise steps up a notch. Of course, they DO do it every single night - and that's why people want to see them.
Ful fall foul of Al

"When there are people like Shearer in the opposition, you know it is not game over". The words of Fulham boss Chris Coleman, speaking in the aftermath of his side's 3-2 defeat at our hands on Tuesday night. He's right - you simply cannot write the man off. Two vital goals, one from the penalty spot, snatched us a victory from the jaws of defeat, simultaneously propelling him to the top of the Premiership scorers table and into second place, above Len White, on the club's all-time top scorers list. He now has 154 - Jackie Milburn is top with 200, but the way Al's playing at this stage in his career, there's a real chance he could go on to top that figure.

To be fair, though, this was a real team effort, and a reminder of the numerous occasions over the last two seasons that we've scrambled our way to a win having been behind and up against it. The resilence and character is evidently still there, despite the off-pitch antics of some players and the dissatisfied grumblings of others. Robert's third goal in his last three starts suggests a player with a point to prove, while Jenas seems to have rediscovered his form of last January and February. Bowyer is also at last performing at something approaching his best.

Of course, it wouldn't be Newcastle if we hadn't allowed two former players to score against us within the first ten minutes. Both Lee Clark and Louis Saha finished well, Clark's muted celebration a mark of his Geordie sympathies. But once we'd got a foothold through Robert's goal, we managed to seize the initiative - this time with the help of a former player, Alain Goma, who brought Ameobi down for the penalty. Given the way Fulham have started the season, and our previous two away performances against them, this victory - our fourth in a row - is not to be sniffed at.
"Give us your fucking money!"

Well done to Bob Geldof, who in his appearance on Monday night's 'V Graham Norton' defended his penchant for swearing, pointing out that a judiciously-placed swear word can have a wonderful effect, and that swearing is one of the most expressive resources available in the English language. The possibilities for inventing new ways of insulting people, and creatively coining new words and phrases are almost endless. It's thanks to Anna that I heard the term "fuckbunch", and to Alun Woodward of The Delgados that "cockwank" entered my vocabulary as an adjective expressing extreme disgust.

French Connection might have tried to turn the original and best swear word into an "edgy" brand name, but, frankly, fuck 'em.
Blogwatch: in brief

Guest week on Troubled Diva: for the occasion LondonMark has developed a parallel to his own blog's fantastic The Art Of... series, called The Science Of...; meanwhile, Fiona has been pondering at length how our lives might be different if evolution had equipped us with tails.

Dead Kenny has clearly been quite the bookworm of late, judging by his review of recent reading material, including J G Ballard's much-lauded 'Millennium People'. It's on YOUR recommendation that I bought Max Barry's 'Jennifer Government', Kenny, so I'll be holding you personally responsible if it ain't up to scratch!

Invisible Stranger on the delicate and potentially fraught subject of urinal etiquette. It's only a matter of time before a fly-on-the-tiled-toilet-wall docudrama is made following the same blueprint as that C4 programme about dinner parties, with a couple of respected and seasoned toilet observers on hand to see what goes on: "Did you see him taking a little peek there? Let's get that in slo-mo"; "Oooh, look, is that urinal going to overflow before he's quite finished? And... Yes! All over those lovely new shoes!"; "That is DISGUSTING! I'm not sure it's even legal in Amsterdam!"...
Dumbing up

Words to strike fear into the heart: "'Hollyoaks' is now going five nights a week". Presumably that means they'll be needing some more boyband wannabes and brainless talentless blondes for the necessary extra storylines. Still, I'm sure that won't be a problem - they seem to be attracted to the show like flies to shit.
Quote of the day

"A catchy single is to a well-flowing album what a quickie is to real sex."

Alex on Close Your Eyes.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Smiles on Smogside

Not even the most blinkered Geordie could honestly say that Saturday's victory in the Tyne-Tees derby on Smogside wasn't rather fortuitous - but, given the start we've had, we'll take points however we can get them. Despite coming under severe pressure, and Shay Given pulling off several excellent saves, we snatched the win courtesy of Shola Ameobi's first goal of the season. It's about time another striker began to shoulder some of the burden for scoring - for once, Shearer could have a quiet day in front of goal without it costing us dear. That makes it three wins and three clean sheets in a row, and things seem to be improving steadily.

After the international break the games are coming thick and fast, with the trip to Fulham tomorrow night our third away match in less than a week. In contrast to the Riverside, Loftus Road is not a happy hunting ground - we've suffered very disappointing defeats there in the last two seasons. This is the time to put it right.

Incidentally, it's exactly seven years to the day since we thrashed Man Utd 5-0 at St James'. Probably the most enjoyable Newcastle match I've ever had the pleasure to watch. Didn't stop the bastards from winning the league, though.
Free Auntie Cyn!

THE blog to be reading at the moment, as is so often the case, is Troubled Diva, where Mike has thrown his doors open to a whole host of guest bloggers while continuing to post himself now and again. This week sees LondonMark join the party, amongst others.

I was horrified, though, to hear that one of last week's guests, Mike's lovely old Auntie Cyn, has been detained by the authorities with a consignment of suspect jam. Here's hoping she can bribe them with Rich Tea biscuits, but in the meantime I think recording a protest song would be in order. I'm off to get my 'Free Auntie Cyn' T-shirt printed right now. And I'd also like to lend my voice to the campaign to get her her own blog, once she's been released.
Know Your Enemy #30

Vaughan on "civic entertainment":

"Surprisingly, the exotic sound of the steel drum failed to lull me into thinking I was relaxing on a sun-kissed Caribbean beach. No, it was still a cold Saturday in October outside a west London branch of Superdrug. And today, the streets were alive to the sound of born-again Christian rappers. Yes, you heard - Christian rappers. Most of what they were shouting was unintelligible, but at one point I may have heard one of this God-fearing rap crew freestyling: "Yo, Jeee-sussss! He da man! Get down with JC - he da number one dude in da hood, y'all!" Or something. Sadly, these words didn't inspire any sort of spiritual awakening in me, but perhaps that's because it was the road to Hanwell rather than the road to Damascus."

Just the sort of curmudgeonly sentiment that I identify with increasingly these days.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Breda beaten

The second leg of our UEFA Cup tie against NAC Breda was always going to be a formality, and we emerged with a 1-0 victory on the night and an aggregate scoreline of 6-0 over the two legs. To be fair the highlights suggested that Breda gave our backline a testing time, but another clean sheet was very welcome - the third in four games. It was a well-worked and well-taken winning goal from Robert, too, and Lua Lua should have added a second just before the final whistle but somehow contrived to miss an open goal from four yards out. This morning's draw has pitched us against FC Basel of Switzerland in the next round - a tougher prospect, to be sure, given their remarkable escapades in the Champions' League last season.

A quick note on the pre-match violence: having been to the first game at St James', and seen how well the opposition fans were received (vocal throughout, they got a standing ovation from the rest of the stadium at the end of the match), I was bemused to hear that there had been brawls involving Newcastle fans in the run-up to this game. Though there was talk of Feyenoord and Chelsea fans being there to stir up trouble, and though it looks like all those arrested will be released without charge, it's worrying that a small minority seem intent on worsening the club's current PR headache. We've got quite enough to deal with already, thank you, what with the off-pitch antics of certain players.
Feel good hits of the 17th October

1. 'Eriatarka' - The Mars Volta
2. 'One Hundred Years' - The Cure
3. 'Remember' - The Raveonettes
4. 'Fractions & Feelings' - Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
5. 'Fight Test' - The Flaming Lips
6. 'Confessions Of A DDD' - The Coral
7. 'I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself' - The White Stripes
8. 'No Good Advice' - Girls Aloud
9. 'Lack Of Communication' - The Von Bondies
10. 'Apocalypse Please' - Muse
Quote of the day

"Today, after receiving the nineteenth unreasonably and impossibly deadlined telephone "request" from Someone Upstairs who pays my salary, I penalty-kicked my company phone across the office in a fit of pique, whereupon it shattered into a hundred corporately-beige pieces. God, try it sometimes! You can't believe just how much fun it is!"

Invisible Stranger

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

A farewell to arms

Spending the last few days in and around Belfast has proved to be a real eye-opener.

To my eyes the Northern Irish countryside, though undeniably beautiful, does not resemble the postcard-perfect verdant idyll used to sell thousands of pints of Guinness to dumb Americans who claim to have traced their ancestry back to Irish lords of the Middle Ages - the sort we found cluttering up the shop at Giant's Causeway in search of authentic Irish toffee and ginger-haired dolls. Neither, though, do the cities and towns resemble the grim warzone images to which I was exposed by the mass media throughout childhood.

Belfast is a city crawling its way slowly and steadily away from the past. Though the streets are not scarred and disfigured by ubiquitous McDonalds, Starbucks and branches of Gap (not yet, at least - the land of giants is yet to be conquered by the corporate ogres, it seems), there is a modernity and vitality about the city centre, and the huge number of new homes in the suburbs testifies to the vast sums that have been invested and ploughed into redeveloping and regenerating the city.

And yet it is still inextricably bound to what it is trying to leave behind. The past is there in the almost absurdly fortified police stations. It's there in the incredible gable-end murals, which continue to appear overnight - sentimental depictions of "heroes" and "martyrs" in Republican areas, chilling representations of paramilitary might in Loyalist areas. It's even there in the famous Crown Liquor Saloon, in the sign at the bar prohibiting the wearing of football shirts - here, your allegiance could be a matter of life and death.

The lines are still drawn, the territories marked out with mesh fences and flags and bunting and painted kerbstones: it still matters which side of the lines you're standing on. To the English visitor, used to political stability and a secular society where religion matters very little, Belfast can seem an unsettling place.

But things are changing. We spot a car with Republic plates on the Shankhill Road. "You wouldn't have seen that five years ago", we're told, "they would have had their windows put out." Two days later we go up to Flagstaff Point near Newry to admire the view of the mountains. Unfortunately the mist is so thick we can barely see five metres in any direction, but we later learn that "that was a place best avoided during the Troubles". Just being able to be there was what mattered - the freedom of movement, the freedom from fear.
In loving memory?

In the latest of Stylus's regular Playing God features, Josh Love takes a hatchet to Radiohead's Amnesiac LP. Being cruel to be kind, or just being cruel? You decide. Me? I love it just the way it is.
Scraping through

There was nothing but sheer relief for me when the whistle blew on Saturday night. Despite the fact that England dominated the match and should have been leading by at least a goal, Nihat came nail-bitingly close to winning it for Turkey in the final minute. Amidst all the drama, I couldn't help but be absorbed by Kieron Dyer's contribution as a second half substitute. The last couple of weeks can hardly have been ideal preparation, but all credit to him - he came on and was full of verve and energy, stretching and threatening the Turkish defence at the exact moment when they were desperate to launch some attacks themselves. Credit too must go to Sven, for having the foresight to make the switch. There's never been any doubt over his abilities on the football pitch (apart, perhaps, from his disappointing scoring record), and he can still go on to be a tremendous player for the club - but he has to stop allowing his off-field antics from overshadowing what he can do with a football. Firmly on the back page, with a successful Newcastle side, is where he belongs.

In other Newcastle-related news, it's farewell to forgotten man Clarence Acuna. After three years on Tyneside, the Chilean international has been released from his contract by mutual consent and returned home to care for his sick mother. Aside from being the most spectacularly ugly footballer to play for us since Peter Beardsley hung up his boots, Acuna was someone we could always rely on to do a job - not the most talented midfielder, but one who would pop up with the odd important goal and who never gave anything less than 100% for the cause (and thus 95% more than some of the others at the club when he arrived). It'll be some time before we have another Clarence in our ranks - that is, unless Sir Bobby's planning to relieve AC Milan of Seedorf...
Prune Bush down to size

Public apologies to James of Cha Cha Cha, who (I discovered today) had asked me to promote the Bands Against Bush day of action, which took place last Saturday. Only too glad to link to the organisation's website, though - politics and music should intersect in just this sort of way more often. Did anyone manage to support the cause by going along to one of the numerous events worldwide?

I also owe James a debt of gratitude for introducing me to another couple of very fine weblogs / websites: The Beat Surrender and Glamorama. The editor of the latter, Michael, says that the dual inspirations behind its conception were Radiohead and Bret Easton Ellis - and that really is all you need to know. Get reading.
You WHAT?!!

prince william slash fiction
justin hawkins monkey suit
zimbabwean words of wisdom
robbie williams skinned alive
giant pigeon costume
imaginary diary of jimmy greaves

Not here, my friends, not here.

Friday, October 10, 2003

The city never sleeps

A few days ago Vaughan posted a wonderful piece about falling in and out of love with the city (and most especially London). Even though I love going out into the country, I'm very much a city boy now. My home town is situated on a sort of border, between the wilds of North Northumberland and the Cheviots to the north, and Newcastle and the grimy towns to the south. Since living in Nottingham city centre, there are a couple of major differences between urban and rural life that have struck me:

In the city you can always hear sirens, wherever you are. Living as I do just off the long road on which the city's A&E hospital is situated, that high-pitched wailing sound comes to seem like a part of the overall urban tapestry, like traffic noise and shouting in the street, hardly noticeable after a while. Blue flashing lights are criss-crossing the city every minute of the day. Their existence and the direction they're travelling doesn't seem to matter - until something happens in front of you.

The other day I saw a lad get hit by a car. A group of concerned passers-by quickly gathered around him, and there was nothing I could have done to help. Walking on home, the sirens seemed to swim into focus in the air, and I found myself re-sensitised to their meaning. You suddenly appreciate that they're not just going round and around endlessly all day long - they're always going somewhere, to someone. You couldn't, I don't think, lose this sense of perspective living in a rural area.

Secondly, only when you stay out in the country do you appreciate that night never really falls in the city. There's always a lurid or a sickly wan light sneaking around and through your curtains. It's as if we're intent on displacing the natural cycle of days and nights, and making "night-time" distinguishable only with respect to the clock. Only in the country is the night genuinely pitch black, so dark that you feel relieved to have walls and windows separating you from it.
Ghost story

Ever since I bought it months ago, the copy of Don DeLillo's 'Underworld' has been perched untouched on the bookshelf. It's just such a daunting weighty tome that I haven't been able to bring myself to steel myself, pick it up and begin. So I decided instead to tackle his much shorter novel 'The Body Artist' first - the theory being that it would be easier to dip my toes in the paddling pool than to plunge headfirst into the deep end.

And I'm so glad I did.

'The Body Artist' is an astonishing book. In some ways it's rather like 'Donnie Darko' - beautiful, enchanting, mesmeric but not immediately (or perhaps even ultimately) comprehensible. It's so short that it's more a novella or even a short story than a fully-fledged novel, and this physical slightness is replicated in the remarkable slightness of the prose. Appropriately enough for a book which deals with the impact of a death and all the subsequent haunting echoes and resonances, 'The Body Artist's prose is ethereal, oblique, not-quite-there, so light that it barely seems to touch the page, and yet at the same time strangely rich. On this evidence DeLillo is the sort of writer who makes you marvel at his mastery of words, and opens your eyes as to the creative possibilities of language.

All of which forms quite a contrast to one of the last books I read, Tom Wolfe's 'The Bonfire Of The Vanities'. To some extent I think it succeeds as an encyclopoedic portrait of a city and an era, but the cultural dissection and satire could have been sharper ('American Psycho' cuts it to shreds) and although I liked much of the dialogue and some of the images, the writing never left me breathless in the way that the work of other authors can - and has, in the case of 'The Body Artist'.

From what I can gather, 'Underworld' is a very different sort of novel (and equally different from the earlier 'White Noise'), but this little aperitif has given me a real appetite for the big feast.
Stupid white men

So, despite the allegations levelled against him (of sexual harrassment and being a Nazi sympathiser), Arnie has strolled into power in California. The only thing that worries me more, in political terms, than that inexperienced meathead being in charge of the fifth largest economy in the world is the thought that Dubya is still in charge of the largest economy in the world.

On a slight tangent, it was quite bizarre last night hearing my girlfriend say: "The Nazis were quite nice actually, weren't they?" Thankfully she was talking about the characters of the much-loved much-missed British innuendo-fest of the 80s that was 'Allo Allo'...
Another one bites the dust?

More upset for fans of the wonderful DeSoto label - not long after both The Dismemberment Plan and Burning Airlines decided to call it a day comes the sad news that the members of Juno have put the band on "indefinite hiatus", with no guarantees about their future.

On a positive note, the band's legacy includes one cast-iron classic - the brilliant A Future Lived In Past Tense, an LP I stumbled across almost by accident. It's an ambitious and arty prog-emo masterpiece (I'm aware that description hardly makes sense and certainly fails to do the record justice).

It's also worth remembering that At The Drive-In went on indefinite hiatus, and just look what rose from the ashes there...
Quote of the day

From Casino Avenue comes a disturbing image:

"I'm slowly starting to become fascinated by Iain Duncan Smith - he's unsettling, isn't he? Every time he starts to say something fierce, he sounds as if he's about to go into some kind of pyschopathic trance. Poor bloke. Channel 4 News tonight said MPs who had been disloyal to him were in for a 'roasting' from the chief whip next week. Hopefully not the footballers' style of roasting, but being Tory MPs, they'd probably love it."
Text message of the day

"3 Inches Of Blood are the most metal band ever. It's like Rob Halford never came out."

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Last night a DJ kept me up

Ah, the joys of student house-parties! The living room full of people, the fridge full of beer, the bath full of puke. Last night our delightful new neighbours decided to throw a bit of a bash, and to impress upon the whole street right into the early hours just how loud their stereo could go.

At least whoever had commandeered charge of said stereo had the decency to exhibit remarkably good taste. As I lay in bed, it was more a case of counting songs in my record collection than sheep. Over a period of around two hours, we got: 'Dreaming Of You' - The Coral, 'Harmonic Generator' - The Datsuns, 'Anarchy In The UK' - Sex Pistols, 'This Charming Man' - The Smiths, 'Caught By The Fuzz' - Supergrass, 'Derelict' - Beck, 'Sabotage' - Beastie Boys, 'Changes' - David Bowie, 'Teenage Kicks' - The Undertones, 'White Riot' - The Clash, 'Geno' - Dexys Midnight Runners. All a cut above the usual "banging" warehouse-club techno.

I'm being particularly charitable here, though. When, having traversed backwards and forwards across the border of the Land of Nod for an hour or so, I finally fell asleep to the strains of 'New York City Cops' by The Strokes, it was 3.45am. Hardly an ideal situation for my housemate M, a newly-qualified teacher whose school has the OFSTED inspectors in this week...
Freudian slip

Dreams are supposedly wish fulfillment. Well, OK then, that explains why I dreamt the other night that Pavement had reformed and were playing to an audience of one - namely, moi. However, it doesn't explain why I dreamt that I had discovered a liking for Belle & Sebastian. After all, I've got no desire to hang around making daisy chains with the sort of hairslide-wearing wendy-house-dwelling schmindie wet blankets who get all drippy at the mere mention of Stuart Murdoch's name - well, not unless that particular desire is lurking VERY deep in my subconscious, at least.
Shut your trap

Now that Craig Bellamy's actually been fined for opening his stupid mouth and letting the obscenities pour forth, rather than just being yellow-carded for it, perhaps he might learn to shut up and grow up.

It's a sad state of affairs when, in the context of recent events, Lee Bowyer appears positively saintly...
The Dismemberment Plan dismembered

Chris deMaagd's review of A People's History Of The Dismemberment Plan, an appropriately diverse collection of remixes which marks this remarkable band's final farewell.
Three Of A Kind #9

The three biggest Newcastle victories I've witnessed in the flesh:

5-0 - Home to Bristol City, Division One, September 1992
6-1 - Home to Spurs, FA Cup 3rd Round Replay, December 1999
5-0 - Home to NAC Breda, UEFA Cup 1st Round, September 2003
Know Your Enemy #29

"We have to hate our immediate predecessors, to get free from their authority."

D H Lawrence
Quote of the day

"Unlawful, inhumane and ridiculous"

Margaret Lally, deputy chief executive of the Refugee Council, on shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin's proposal to process all asylum applications on an island far from Britain.

Monday, October 06, 2003

And the blogroll goes on...

The latest raft of blogs to arrest my attention:

Arpeggio
Cha Cha Cha
D4D
Frizzy Logic
Fudge It

The authors of D4D and Frizzy Logic are both guest bloggers over at Troubled Diva this week, in Mike's cyberabsence.

So, my blogroll just continues to grow and grow. One day I really must prune it - but, for the time being, I'm shrinking from the task.
The wait is over

At long last we registered our first League victory of the season on Saturday, at the seventh attempt - and it just had to be Shearer who did the trick, scoring his 250th career league goal against one of his former clubs. Although Southampton hardly played like they have been in recent weeks, we still managed to make hard work of it - but grinding out a win was all that mattered. A shame from our perspective that Leeds, Spurs and Wolves all won too, but the result should hopefully improve confidence and morale, and signal an upturn in fortunes.
The tunes, the sweat, the mullets

Quite why those short of stature often have absurdly high opinions of themselves is beyond me. Take Friday night at Sanctuary in Birmingham, for instance. I spent half an hour listening to a small moustachioed gentleman, pot-bellied and slick with sweat, singing songs about seduction and bragging about the size of his cock before shouting “Give it up for me – I’m the fucking best!

It was the third time I’ve seen Har Mar Superstar, and the joke has finally worn thin. The flyer promised “the white Prince and all-American pocket-sized brief-wearing disco-funk-soul stripping sex machine”, but for the most part his set was less an engorged love-poker and more a pathetically flaccid post-pub trouser-maggot. The low point was, as usual, the seedy violation of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Sir Duke’. Things picked up towards the end, though, with ‘Power Lunch’ and ‘Brothers & Sisters’, which triggered a mass stage invasion (and which, incidentally, will not now be seeing the light of day as a single due to “some hippy cunt in New York”). Even still, it took some time for Har Mar to work himself up, and his departure, just as things were getting moist, felt premature. As he disappeared from view making his way through the onstage throng shouting “Don’t fucking touch me!”, those around me were only too happy to massage his ego.

The night wasn’t wasted, though – far from it. We might have missed Chikinki, but there was always fashion-victim-spotting to be done – the place was practically wall-to-wall feathered mullets and horizontally striped T-shirts. As my significant other commented: “I know it’s trendy at the moment to look awful, but you can take it too far.” I blame Karen O and all of The Cooper Temple Clause.

Thankfully Zane Lowe was also on hand and on the decks – and, to use the popular parlance, he completely tore the place up, playing everything from Queens Of The Stone Age to NWA via At The Drive-In, Beastie Boys, Weezer and The Strokes. Respect due for making me realise quite how brilliant The Rapture’s ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’ could be in a club, and for wrapping up the set with ‘Stop’ by Jane’s Addiction. Come back again soon.
Wot, no Futureheads or Mogwai?

The Guardian’s list of the current Top 40 British artists. And, no – Radiohead aren’t at #1…
Is it just me…

…or could you make a great bootleg by putting the vocals from ‘Round Round’ by Sugababes over the music from ‘Waiting For My Man’ by the Velvets?
T-shirt slogan of the day

Join the army: travel the world, meet new people … and kill them.
Quote of the day

I feel very weak. Women have been leading me astray, and making me sin.

Former Newcastle striker and professional nutcase Tino Asprilla.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Blogwatch

Yes, the rancid corpse of a formerly regular feature that was slowly and quietly allowed to die has been exhumed - but for how long? Not sure, but what I do know is that there's been so much fantastic writing going on that I simply had to unbury the dead, if only for one week.

First of all, congratulations to Anna, who has now finished turging Drama in Glasgow and is heading down to London where the streets are paved with gold and Big Mac wrappers to seek fame and fortune, and to be with her gentleman friend. Awww, innit sweet?

Already in the Big Smoke, and giving the Diva a run for his money in the prolific stakes, is my new favourite weblogger LondonMark. The wonderful recent additions to his 'The Art Of ...' series ('... Anticipating', '... Buying' and '... Snacking') are the sort of posts that make me feel like I should just give up right now and leave it to the professionals. Here he is on the subject of buying popularity:

"Although not buying popularity directly, a certain amount of generosity or largesse generally proves to influence the way others will look at you. A bottle of champagne bought at the correct strategic time suggests not opulence, but opulence shared. 'See how I have not only money, but also that I spend my money on us all' is the (often not-so-subtle) underlying message. A semi-eaten pack of pork scratchings will rarely have the same effect, by the way."

Taking into account my current addiction, you'd be positively blessed to get a semi-eaten pack of pork scratchings from me.

Meanwhile, Mike has been undergoing all manner of unspeakable cosmetic changes (fake tan, bleached blonde fin haircut) in the name of amateur dramatics - that's some serious dedication there. Incidentally, does anyone else think the David Dickinson skintone effect is best achieved with the liberal application of gravy? Or is Cuprinol better?

Popdizzy is the place to go if you want misanthropic scorn directed studentwards:

"I also realised how incredibly unfashionable and un-studentish I am. The other students all look so... similar but different. I need a neatly-trimmed Craig David-ish beard. Some 'ethnic' beads around my neck and an ironic Pat Sharpe mullet dyed a variety of different colours. And I MUST get some Nike slipper-like trainers! I will buy some clothes from H&M tomorrow and I too will express my individuality with clothes that have been distressed by a machine to make them look more unique."

It's also the place to go if you want to find out how the new series of 'Dr Who' as written by the man behind C4's 'Queer As Folk', Russell Davies, might turn out. Personally, I suspect there might be slightly more Cybermen and slightly less fisting.

Great album covers quiz over at Me(ish) - I managed to get a paltry 30 out of 60, and consequently feel humbled and ashamed.

Elsewhere: Sarah on the phenomenon of charvas and the latest exhibitions at the Baltic; Alex's first experience of a creative writing group; Invisible Stranger's elegy for video jukeboxes; Dead Kenny on Chuck Palahniuk's latest novel 'Diary'; and Steve on Magnet's Top Ten Albums of the last decade, which has Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea at #1.

... And finally, thanks to Rhys and Laura and to Razorhead for the linkage!
A bit like the chicken and the egg, but with smack-rock

I just can't decide. Are my current feelings of extreme lethargy the result of listening to far too much druggy music lately (The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, that Strokes / NME CD)? Or have I been listening to that stuff because it's in tune with the way I'm feeling? Either way, I've got a severe case of head-haze, and thinking about it just makes me want to lie down.
Sir Bobby: sticking at it (for the time being, at least)

Yesterday's club statement:

"Newcastle United notes recent media speculation regarding Sir Bobby Robson and confirms that Sir Bobby Robson has not resigned and that any reports to the contrary are completely unfounded."

So, he might not be leaving us, but something is rotten in the state of Denmark - make no mistake about that.

(Of course, it's typical of the club, and the way football is today in general, that the statement was made to the Stock Exchange and not to the fans.)
From bad to worse?

Over the last couple of days I've been biting my tongue (or whatever the blogging equivalent of that is - sitting on my hands?) and refraining from commenting on a certain subject. I'm sure you can guess what. I'm not intending to comment properly until in possession of the full facts, but suffice to say from where I'm sitting things don't look very clever.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Crisis averted

A thousand apologies - everything now seems to have righted itself, so fingers crossed. Please forgive me for mutating into a panicking drama queen for a moment back there - it won't happen again, I promise.

Of course, I'm now back to square one - comment-less. Sigh.
Confusion reigns

OK, so now I'm even more confused. With that last posting the current page seems to have restored itself, and the sitemeter button-link is now working again. But all the archives STILL only have the first posting visible. What the fuck is going on?!!
Disaster strikes

Oh dear oh dear. Something appears to have gone terribly, terribly wrong.

While trying to install a much-needed comments system via Haloscan this morning, I seem to have contrived to decimate the blog. Even though I've now removed the offending code, I can STILL only seem to get the first posting from any archive to be displayed - I can only hope that this doesn't mean thousands upon thousands of words are drifting off into the cyberether. I'm persistently told there are errors on the page, and what's more, I have no idea who's arriving at the site, or how, as my sitemeter button-link no longer works. Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!

If ANYONE has ANY help or advice they can offer, it is desperately needed and would be gratefully received, thanks - email silentwordsspeakloudest@hotmail.com.

With any luck I'll be laughing this off tomorrow, mocking my naively technophobic ways. Either that, or Silent Words Speak Loudest is going the way of the dodo.

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.