Monday, December 29, 2003

SWSL Top 10 Live Performances Of 2003

A large proportion of my 2003 has been spent in fields and grimy sticky-floored venues exposing myself to both the new, the familiar and the breathtaking. Each and every gig or festival has been documented here on SWSL: this year, as I wrote in the wake of the Leeds Festival, “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.

So, the highlights of what has been another busy year of gig-going – the Top 10:

10. THE DELGADOS, 2nd February, Birmingham Academy 2
What sets The Delgados apart from the crowd is the fact that the strings and woodwind are completely integrated within the fabric of songs which blossom into glorious technicolour, to the extent that self-pity and disillusionment attain a bittersweet grandeur. Although with the lyrical content of their tracks they may, like Arab Strap, have their hearts in the gutter, like The Flaming Lips their eyes are very much focused on the stars.
(Also seen at Glastonbury)

9. YEAH YEAH YEAHS, 22nd August, Leeds Festival
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.
(Also seen at Nottingham Rock City)

8. MOGWAI, 27th June, Glastonbury Festival
But then what was already great becomes instantly magical with the opening chords of ‘My Father My King’. Almost 23 minutes of the reworked and instrumental version of the Jewish hymn later, and having taken the song from the brink of silence to the outer edges of the sound barrier, the band’s diminutive and moustachioed genius Stuart Braithwaite is rubbing his guitar on the edge of the stage and then pushing it up and down the tracks fitted for the moveable cameras. Awesome. The title of the new album might be ironic, but they leave happy people everywhere.
(Also seen at Birmingham Sanctuary)

7. EELS, 6th July, Birmingham Irish Centre
The real gems, though, are reserved for the encores, of which there are three – E thanks us for playing the game of ‘celebrity cat and mouse’ for applauding and encouraging them back on. It is here that the rock mask slips, to wonderful effect. In the first encore, sandwiched between ‘Rock Hard Times’ and ‘Grace Kelly Blues’, we get the one song I’ve been praying for, ‘It’s A Motherfucker’ from the Daisies Of The Galaxy album. Short, simple, understated and effortlessly heartwarming, it’s what E does best and what marks him out as quite such a talent. In the second encore, they finally play ‘All In A Day’s Work’ in its entirety with vocals, and then, with neat and effective symmetry, Shootenanny’s closing track ‘Somebody Loves You’. In the third we get just E and his keyboard for an unexpected rendition of the gorgeous and touchingly na├»ve ‘Beautiful Freak’ which somehow blows everything that has gone before out of the water.

6. THE RAVEONETTES, 30th October, Birmingham Academy 2
Eventually, after the queasy and bruised metronome of ‘Love Can Destroy Everything’, dedicated to Johnny Cash, the warped surf guitar genius of ‘Untamed Girls’ and a fabulous mauling of Buddy Holly’s ‘C’mon Everybody’, old favourites ‘Attack Of The Ghost Riders’ and ‘Beat City’ round the evening off in a joyous celebration of pure noise. The biggest compliment I can pay them is that they make me want to go out, buy some gut-rotting headfuck white cider, drink it in the bushes, enjoy a drunken snog and then go home to spew all over the carpet. As it is, I step back into the rain with ears and head buzzing, glowingly happy. As PJ Harvey sang, this is love.
(Also seen at Leeds)
5. THE FLAMING LIPS, 28th June, Glastonbury Festival
Close your eyes for a second, and then open them – you feel as though you’re on a serious LSD trip. Accompanied by numerous 6ft animals and two ‘permanent suns’, Wayne Coyne – white-suited and face covered in fake blood – is stood centre-stage leading a field of thousands in an impromptu version of ‘Happy Birthday’ for the five-year-old daughter of one of the T-shirt vendors.
(Also seen at Birmingham Academy)

4. JANE’S ADDICTION, 7th November, Nottingham Rock City
‘Ain't no wrong now, ain't no right / There's only pleasure and pain…’. The hedonist's credo, according to Jane's Addiction - a band who know what they're talking about. A band that have fucked anything that moves and snorted or injected anything that doesn't, and lived to tell the tale. … When the steel drums of 'Jane Says' bring the set to an end, the whole band line up at the front of the stage to bow and take the applause together. The theatricality of the whole show is encapsulated right there - we know we've witnessed a PERFORMANCE. If there really is only pleasure and pain, then the world was a much more painful place without them.

3. LOW, 10th February, Birmingham Academy 2
This is a band for whom superlatives were invented. Pretention, glitz and showmanship be damned - this is all about the stark, the fragile, the beautiful. It's all too easy to erect a huge wall of noise on stage behind which to hide. Watching Low, that defensive tactic starts to smack of downright cowardice. This trio are, by contrast, courageous enough to leave vast gaps and spaces in their songs. These are artists who, in the normal course of performing their music on stage, must ritually leave themselves utterly exposed and defenceless - they play at such a low volume and slow tempo that the slightest murmurings of conversation in the audience would be fatal. They seem to have an innate understanding of the power of interweaving light and shade, tone and depth, music and silence; indeed, on songs like 'Closer' and '(That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace' the silence really does speak loudest.

2. SIGUR ROS, 29th June, Glastonbury Festival
Everything – the sense of a gathering storm presaged by a few large raindrops, the falling dusk, probably even the leylines of legend – is in its right place so that it all makes perfect sense. As on ( ), the songs seem to flow seamlessly into one another, less discrete stretches of music than the constituent parts of a much larger whole. Consequently the performance itself seems to trace a narrative progression, starting slowly but gradually and gracefully building up through successive songs to a climactic peak, the final track from ( ), which erupts with volcanic passion to stunning effect. Comparisons with Mogwai – who, through their curation of the 2000 All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, introduced the UK to the band (and vice versa) – are not only inevitable but also, it must be said, favourable. As good as Braithwaite’s bunch of Buckfast-swilling noisemongers were, on this occasion they can consider themselves overshadowed and outdone: this is even more wondrous, even more awe-inspiring, and – crucially – even louder.

1. RADIOHEAD, 28th June, Glastonbury Festival
The reason tickets sold out in record time, Radiohead could have ambled onstage and farted and still drawn a rapturous ovation, such is the esteem in which they are held by adoring fans and bands alike. This is being billed as a homecoming, after the spectacular triumph-over-mud that was 1997. Thankfully, though, instead of opting to thrill the crowd with their trouser trombone techniques, they sweep through a wonderfully majestic set that cements many times over their status as our most valuable national treasure.
Every other band I’ve enjoyed / endured live this year:

Aereogramme, Alfie, Asian Dub Foundation, Bardo Pond, The Black Keys, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Blur, Billy Bragg, British Sea Power, Calla, Cave In (x2), The Darkness (x2), The Datsuns, Death In Vegas, Doves (x2), Dureforsog, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster (x2), Elbow, Electric Six (x2), The Fabrics, The Fiery Furnaces, Franz Ferdinand (x2), The Futureheads (x2), Grandaddy, Har Mar Superstar (x3), Hell Is For Heroes, Hope Of The States, Hot Hot Heat (x2), Hundred Reasons, Idlewild, Interpol (x2), Jet, The Kills, Kings Of Leon, The Libertines, Linkin Park, The Mars Volta, M.A.S.S., Mclusky, Metallica, Mew, Mull Historical Society, My Morning Jacket (x2), The Polyphonic Spree, Primal Scream, Radio 4 (x2), The Rapture (x2), Razorlight, REM, The Sights, The Soledad Brothers, Sparta (x2), Stellastarr*, Sugababes, The Sun, System Of A Down, Therapy?, The Thrills, The 22-20s, The Warlocks, Winnebago Deal

And, last of all, a reminder of the SWSL Top 10 Live Performances Of 2002:

1. GUNS ‘N’ ROSES, Leeds Festival
2. SONIC YOUTH, London Shepherds Bush Empire
3. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, Glastonbury Festival
4. JANE’S ADDICTION, Leeds Festival
5. THE ICARUS LINE, Leeds Festival
6. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, Nottingham Rock City
7. THE WHITE STRIPES, Glastonbury Festival
8. GODSPEED! YOU BLACK EMPEROR, Hackney Ocean
9. J MASCIS, Nottingham Social
10. FUGAZI, Nottingham Rock City
Christmas turkeys

Last week found me pondering whether a goalless draw at Charlton constituted a good result. A 4-2 win for the Addicks over Chelski and a couple of abysmal Toon performances later, and it (and especially the clean sheet) looks positively miraculous.

Boxing Day last year saw us go down in spectacular fashion, 4-3 at Bolton. This year, a lacklustre display at lowly Leicester looked like ending in a similarly dire defeat until substitute Darren Ambrose nodded in a rebound from a Jenas shot in the very last minute to salvage a point. What should have been a meat-and-drink victory for any side with Champions League aspirations turned into a nervy get-out-of-jail draw.

But then Sunday’s showing, at home to Blackburn, was even worse. That Paul Gallagher’s winning goal was an unbelievably blatant handball shouldn’t be allowed to detract from the fact that we thoroughly deserved to lose. Who would have thought that, in the very next home match after the 4-0 thrashing of Spurs, we could look so woefully unimaginative and disjointed in attack? This in itself was very worrying, but what continues to gall me is the number of times I’ve been angered by the constant references by media types and pundits to the weakness of our defence, only for the players themselves seemingly doing their utmost to undermine my case. Even after yesterday, it’s worth noting, we have the best defensive record at home in the Premiership, but I won’t be inviting the pundits to stick that in their pipes and smoke it, though – judging by yesterday’s excruciatingly inept defensive display, that statistic masks some serious deficiencies. At times it was like something out of a slapstick comedy, as a back four minus the cool-headed marshalling of Woodgate staggered and stumbled around like a bunch of punchdrunk clowns. All it lacked was some cream pie throwing and Bramble swinging a ladder around, knocking O’Brien out and allowing Andy Cole a free run on goal.

All of which roughly translates as: “Dearest fans, merry fucking Christmas, love all at Newcastle United”.
’Tis the season…

Hearty SWSL congratulations, felicitations and salutations to Leon, who has just got engaged. All the best, mate.

PS Get your rock ‘n’ roll arse up to Nottingham!
Quote of the day

From one friend to another on Saturday night:

If I didn’t know your parents, I’d say you were raised by wolves

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Yellow fever

If you're wondering why SWSL has been rather quiet of late, it's because I'm back home without easy and regular internet access. I'm realising quite how attached I am to many of my regular blog reads - plus I've just discovered I've been missing out on all the rumpus surrounding Belle De Jour and the Guardian award.

Anyway...

It’s good to be home – the reassuringly cold weather, the prevalence of black and white striped clothing, the barely comprehensible mutterings of shovel-handed men in the pub, the ubiquity of yellow-faced women…

“What?!”, you might well be asking. Have you heard of the Orangemen in Scotland and Northern Ireland? Well, here in the North-East we have the Orangewomen. It’s a phenomenon I’ve only noticed fairly recently, prompted by the observations of a friend who’s just married into the Geordie race. Whether it’s due to the rashly liberal application of fake tan, or inadvisedly long spells under a sunbed, or an outbreak of jaundice somehow confined to this region and to only one gender, I’m not sure. What I do know is that there are so many part-bronzed women everywhere that it’s like inadvertently walking around a sculptor’s studio. Perhaps fellow blogger and resident of Morpeth Sarah might be able to shed more light on the matter – she’s far too sensible to have succumbed to the yellow fever herself, I’m sure.

Time for some blatant comments-whoring: do people in your part of the world seem to have any strange collective tastes / foibles / mannerisms? This could of course turn into all-out inter-regional warfare, but we’re all adults, aren’t we? Aren’t we?!
Shay saves the day

Another draw, this time on Saturday 0-0 away to Charlton, once again prompts what is becoming a recurring question here on SWSL: two points dropped, or a point gained?

As a side aiming to put right this season’s wrongs by again securing a Champions League place, and this time prevailing in the qualifier, we might be expected to put away sides like Charlton, who possess excellent team spirit and collective drive but arguably lack real star quality (Parker and Di Canio aside, perhaps). Their home record isn’t good, and sides like Arsenal and Man Utd go to The Valley fully expecting a three point haul, while the likes of Man City and Leeds have both won there fairly comfortably this season.

[Woah there, you're fast in danger of upsetting regular reader and Charlton fanatic Inspector Sands there - quick, redressive action needed...]

All the same, they’re a decent side, and well-placed in the league themselves, so a clean sheet away from home for our much-maligned defence (especially considering the untried combination of personnel Bobby entrusted with the job) is not to be sniffed at, even if we did depend rather too much for comfort on goalkeeping acrobatics to keep the likes of Jason Euell at bay. Having been overshadowed by Shearer and Robert for the majority of the season, Given underlined that we have more than one or two match-winners – or match-savers – in the side. So, right now, I’d say this was a point gained – of course, things might look rather different come the end of the season.

All this leaves us in sixth place going into Christmas – respectable after the terrible start we made, but there’s a good deal of room for improvement.
Quote of the day

"Saturday revealed to me that a; Michelle is not a singer of any instant, recognisable quality, and b; the public still like to patronise overweight people by assuming automatically that they must be talented or ‘lovely’. This is not the case. Fat people are just as likely to be ridiculous, callous no-marks as thin people."

Nick Southall of Auspicious Fish on the "thrilling" climax of 'Pop Idol'.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Welcome! Willkommen! Bienvenue!

New to SWSL:

Largehearted Boy
The Naked Maja
Some Disco
Whitley Road

A hearty festive welcome to David, Marcello, Scott and Damo (another Toon-supporting blogger - hooray!) - come on in and help yourselves to mince pies and mulled wine.

(This is becoming a bit of a regular series - my blogroll's expanding out of control, but there are just so many great reads out there in the blogosphere!)
While you're waiting...

The Stylus Top 20 Singles Of 2003 - no Strokes, White Stripes or Darkness in sight, just lots of Timberlake. Interesting reading, and packed full of stuff to get your groove on to.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Daylight Robert-y

(Excuse the slightly inappropriate title for this post - I'm a sucker for a good pun...)

Since arriving on Tyneside in the summer of 2001, Laurent Robert has established himself as the most maverick left-winger in Britain after Tony Benn. Some days he traipses around the pitch in a daze of disinterestedness. Some days he at least displays ambition and effort - though sending the ball whistling way over the crossbar from 40 yards out for the umpteenth time and shouting his Gallic mantra of "Putain!" is not what you might call value for our £9.5m outlay. And on some days he's simply untouchable, more than capable of leaving you scratching your head and wondering why he's not in the French squad, even if they are the best side in the world, rather than just scratching your head.

Saturday, thankfully, was one of the latter, Robert singlehandedly destroying a shell-shocked Spurs side with two brilliant strikes from distance and then laying on two further goals for Shearer. For someone who, according to last season's official statistics, shoots more often than nearly every other player in the Premiership (including strikers), he's never really weighed in with a decent number of goals. This season, though, he's already got several to his name, and in important matches. As a creative force, too, he's a vital figure - when he's on his game, Shearer must lick his lips in anticipation.

As for the skipper, his first of the afternoon marked his hundredth for the club at St James's Park. For Shearer, at the age of 33, and in a league boasting such frightening striking talent as Henry, van Nistelrooy, Owen and Crespo, to be out in the clear at the top of the goalscorers' chart is some achievement.

A final word about the opposition. There's always a particular satisfaction in beating Spurs, especially when it's a thrashing, and I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps it's something to do with the conviction of their fans that they're a big club who have some divine right to success - a case of recognising ourselves in them, then? At least we seem to be in a much healthier position to achieve that long-yearned-for triumph, and hopefully someday soon we might leave them to their misty-eyed reminiscences of the days of yore in favour of some glory in the here-and-now.
Christmas time: mistletoe, wine and lists

A word of warning to those who dislike great big fat lovely lists (actually, if this is you, then what the fuck are you doing here in the first place?!!): my end-of-year assessments will be appearing on SWSL in the course of the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, there's still work to be done - at present this involves putting pairs of singles onto my critical scales and weighing up which is better. Do I prefer Outkast's 'Hey Ya!' or Junior Senior's 'Move Your Feet'? Does 'Growing On Me' or 'Just Because' rock harder? Strokes or Sugababes? Johnny Cash or Justin Timberlake? Be patient, my friends: all will be revealed in time - and relish the fact that this year you can take me to task for my choices...
We got him!

Following the discovery of Saddam Hussein's whereabouts comes the news that another dangerous man has been tracked down. Glamorama has traced erstwhile NME hack Steven Wells to his hideout on Play Louder, where he has presumably been cultivating a copiously hairy beard and seeking refuge from the oppressive forces of anodyne journalism.
Know Your Enemy #33

"Chelski also suffered a humbling reversal at home to Bolton Wanderers, but a couple of footsoldiers from Roman's Army advised me on the tube that the one consolation for them was that we'd been turned over as well. When I patiently pointed out to them that Nationwide games last 90 minutes and we had in fact turned around our deficit to take all three points, their faces dropped as if Mr Abramovich himself had consigned them to a lengthy spell in the salt-mines. And you know how I hate to piss on anyone's spuds, particularly when they've had to queue up for three days for them."

Kenny, fresh from witnessing a brilliant Hammers comeback against the Mackems, on Chelsea fans. There seems to be an awful lot of them about these days, doesn’t there? I wonder how many remember the glory days of Kerry Dixon and co.
Quote of the day

"'Six months that saved a year' best describes t.a.T.u.: from January to June they became a tabloid devouring demon, claimed the top spot in Google's “nude upskirt oops” search, were arrested near Lenin’s tomb, and found time to piss off every other competitor in the Eurovision. They found time to release some music as well, the pick of their output being this East European techno torch song. Then one of them went off to have sex with a karate black belt, and they didn’t release their Smiths’ cover as a single. But, boy, was it fun while it lasted."

Dom Passantino on t.a.T.u’s ‘Not Gonna Get Us’, #19 in Stylus’s Top 20 Singles of 2003.
Three Of A Kind #11

The only three players to have scored Premiership hat-tricks against a former club:

Robbie Keane (for Spurs v Wolves)
Andy Cole (for Man Utd v Newcastle)
Paul Kitson (for West Ham v Charlton)

Ah, the joys of Stat Of The Day on ITV1's 'The Premiership' on Mondays - the source of countless brainteasers with which to entertain / irritate football-loving friends down the pub...

Friday, December 12, 2003

Welcome! Willkommen! Bienvenue!

Roll out the red carpet, to herald the arrival of more bloggers new to the SWSL blogroll:

Grayblog
Mo Morgan
Naked Blog
Speaking As A Parent

So - Graybo, Mo, Peter and Robin: welcome, come on in (no need to wipe your feet round SWSL Towers), and help yourselves to Bucks Fizz and Bombay mix.
Warning

If, tomorrow night, you find yourself in the vicinity of Littlehampton in West Sussex, and you come across a foul-mouthed and inebriated individual staggering along, do not approach him - it may well be Olav (he of It Makes No Difference notoriety), who will have been out celebrating his birthday and might well crown the night by vomiting on you. You have been warned.

Happy birthday fuckface.
ToonNews

In the draw for the next round of the UEFA Cup made earlier today, we managed to avoid the likes of Auxerre and Spartak Moscow, landing Valerenga of Norway instead. Apparently they flirted with relegation domestically this season, so we've got to fancy our chances of progressing further - though, as a seasoned Newcastle fan, I'm inclined not to expect anything...

Congratulations to our highly promising young England central defender Steven Taylor, who's off to Wycombe on a month's loan to continue his development with his hero, Tony Adams. One for the future, without a doubt.

... and finally: happy birthday Nobby! Hope you and the rest of the team give Spurs a good stuffing tomorrow.
Feel good hits of the 12th December

1. 'Hey Ya!' - Outkast
2. 'Memorial' - Explosions In The Sky
3. 'Get In Or Get Out' - Hot Hot Heat
4. 'Bowels Of The Beast' - The Raveonettes
5. 'Crawl Home' - Desert Sessions
6. 'TV Eye' - The Stooges
7. 'Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!' - Do Make Say Think
8. 'Rise Or Fall' - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
9. 'Mahgeetah' - My Morning Jacket
10. 'Boys In The Band' - The Libertines

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Encomium

Never let it be said that SWSL is afraid to follow where other blogs have trodden long before - this time in publicly paying tribute to Mike, who has decided to put Troubled Diva on "indefinite hold, effective immediately", bowing out with justifiable pride and characteristic dignity.

Ever since I started blogging, I've looked up in awe at Troubled Diva - even more so since my original inspiration, Olav's irascible It Makes No Difference, was shut down by The Man in October. Here was someone based, like me, in Nottingham, with a brilliantly written and all-encompassing blog. Mike has always seemed streets ahead of the rest in everything he does - the range of content, the depth of knowledge, the wit, the Guest Weeks, the regular series... More than that, on a personal note, he's supported SWSL since its early days by reading, commenting and linking, and was one of the first bloggers to make me realise there is a genuine community out there. His site has been responsible for putting me and many others in contact with other people via their blogs.

Of course, he might very well claim (as in fact he has, in response to the influx of tributes and messages of goodwill) that Troubled Diva is / was "just" a weblog, one among thousands. Well, it's been a hell of a lot more than that to me, mate, as it has for many of your readers.

Anyway, in accordance with Mike's wishes, ahem, it's not all doom and gloom around here - hopefully this is more a celebration than a glum tribute. I'm looking not at the corpse but at the fucking flowers, as the man himself might put it.

So, would you all please raise your glasses in a toast - to Troubled Diva!

*clink clink clink*

Mike - SWSL salutes you. All the best.
'Hey Ya?' Hey yeah!

Why does it seem like I'm always the last to catch on? I FINALLY heard 'Hey Ya!' by Outkast on Friday, and, like everyone else was about two months ago, I'm loving it loving it loving it.

Next week on SWSL: Ben sings the praises of the wheel.
Ho ho ho!

I'm a firm believer in the credo of fun, but if you asked me whether my definition of fun would include being stood dressed as Santa with a couple of thousand other people dressed as Santa in a park in mid Wales in near freezing conditions early on a Sunday morning in December whilst being subjected to Jive Bunny records, I'd have said, "Are you a few baubles short of a Christmas tree?"

However, last weekend I expanded my definition of fun to include such activities. For I found myself taking part in the 2003 Santa Run, a fundraising event which has taken place in Newtown each year since 2001, and the standing around being subjected to Jive Bunny was required before the run got underway. Although the organisers are still waiting for confirmation, they're hoping that this year's event has broken three different world records for large-scale Santa gatherings. It was also good to see local Lib Dem MP and all-round good egg Lembit Opik lending his support and taking the time to chat to constituents on the way round - who needs a "Big Conversation" when you can have lots of little one-on-one ones with the people who've given you the right to represent them?

For me and my associates, the 4.5 mile "run" around the town was more of a gentle gambol in the sunshine which included a swift half of lager in a pub en route, and perhaps even better than the run itself was the ten hours of boozing that ensued in the town's many hostelries. The sight of hundreds of Santas staggering around in a drunken daze must play havoc with the imaginations of the local kids - I don't envy the parents having to explain it all, and assuage any fears that Santa has multiplied and descended into alcoholism.

Even if it turns out that the records haven't been smashed, it was a great day and has benefitted one severely underfunded local charity, Dial-A-Ride, and several hundred others to the tune of over £100,000. Next year's event promises to be even bigger and better.
Making a good point?

A few years ago, under Kevin Keegan, we never ever used to draw matches. It was win or bust - a seemingly constant cycle of thumping 4-0 home win followed the next week by agonising 3-2 away defeat. But not any more - Saturday's 1-1 draw at home to Liverpool was our sixth of the season in the league. Of course one point is better than none, but, as against Villa early last month, we deserved all three and so the one point haul is all the more frustrating.

Liverpool aren't a bad side, even when deprived of several first-teamers through injury, so we really didn't need to go gifting them the lead as early as the sixth minute, Bramble having one of his horrific rushes of blood to the head in clattering into his central defensive partner Woodgate and allowing Danny Murphy to run through easily and slot home. For the rest of the first half we looked sluggish, Ameobi in particular lacking sharpness in front of goal. The second half was a different story: although Liverpool fans would point to decent efforts by Sinama-Pongolle, Smicer and Hamann, the impetus was with us, partly thanks to the introduction of Solano. Shearer crashed home a penalty after Robert was brought down, and was very unlucky to see a late drive brilliantly palmed over by Kirkland, while we also had two shots cleared off the line with the keeper well beaten and Jenas miskicked comically when well-placed to score.

So, full credit for the rousing second half performance, but our reward in terms of points was scant. It's giving cause for concern that we can't seem to turn one point into a valuable three - something we could be rueing by the time we come to face Liverpool again, at Anfield on the last day of the season.

If after Saturday's result the Premiership was firmly beyond us, the one domestic competition that wasn't was the FA Cup. That was until the draw for the 3rd Round was made on Sunday afternoon, and we were paired with Southampton. Our record away to the Saints is terrible, and even the most optimistic Newcastle fan will have to steel themselves for the worst.

A final word on England's group for the World Cup qualifiers, starting in September. It's been a while since we took on any of the other Home Nations, so the prospect of games against both Wales and Northern Ireland is mouthwatering. Our group could potentially have been much tougher.
Ouch!

Last night I dreamt I was having my leg chewed off by a springer spaniel. No idea what it means, but, frankly, I'm worried.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Blogwatch: in brief

Like quizzes? Well, a couple of bloggers out there are offering you the chance to test your knowledge and skill. At Troubled Diva, Mike is inviting you to guess which "recreational substance" has been ingested to inspire which blog posting; while at Popdizzy, you can try your hand at Nixon's AID$ Awareness Quiz.

More inspired (by genius, not by chemical substances) posts over at LondonMark - the sort of stuff to make me sick with envy. But, hey, what's new, you might well ask.

Stuck for Christmas presents? Never fear - Razorhead has the answer: bee nesting kits.

Congratulations to Anna on her successful graduation!

... And finally: Kenny is chronicling his valiant attempt at making his way through Thomas Pynchon's forbiddingly voluminous novel 'Mason And Dixon'. Come on, Kenny, keep it up! Perhaps you should have asked for sponsorship before embarking on this test of endurance, though? 2p a page?
Thoughts inspired by going to a wedding on Wednesday

1. Stevenage is a fucking hell-hole.

2. Wouldn't it be great to get absolutely wasted in a train station pub?

3. Nobody, but nobody, likes musak. It can rouse a murderous lust in even the most mild-mannered of people, and I am not the most mild-mannered of people to start with.
Get your hands off our singer, motherfucker

NME really is getting desperate for "news" these days: "Justin Hawkins almost arrested at JFK Airport.". Tomorrow: "Justin Hawkins almost picks his nose." Or, more likely still, "Justin Hawkins almost gives NME an interview."

Monday, December 01, 2003

A blast from the past

"My girlfriend says that I need help / My boyfriend says I'd be better off dead / I'm gonna get drunk / Come round and fuck you up / I'm gonna get drunk / Come round and fuck you up / And you can't help my life / But you can hide the knives." As the opening lyrics to an album go, they're quite arresting.

The song is 'Knives', the band is Therapy?, and the album is Troublegum. Released in 1994, it'll always be something of a classic for me, even though it disgusted the majority of the indie press by representing a rejection of the Big Black stylings of their "youth" in favour of Judas Priest. A record full of clean-cut dark-as-night pop-metal, it positively revels in its own pantomimic excess and the sort of wickedly misanthropic soundbites that look good on (black) T-shirts. As far as the critics were concerned, it didn't help that they chose to include a cover version of the sacred cow 'Isolation' (this, incidentally, was my introduction to the brilliance of Joy Division) and relations got much, much worse when they took on Husker Du's 'Diane' on Troublegum's drug-fuelled follow-up Infernal Love, turning it into an eerily epic yet rotten-to-the-core string-laden beast...

A succession of less accomplished albums followed that: Semi-Detached and then, having been dropped by their label A&M, Suicide Pact - You First. By this time, I'd lost interest, so 2001's Shameless and the news that they had a new LP out, High Anxiety, passed me by.

So it is quite bizarre to find myself, almost by accident, seeing them live for the very first time on a Saturday night at Rock City. Little seems to have changed since their heyday - Andy Cairns is still portly and still worryingly fond of his leather waistcoat, Michael McKeegan still evidently worships at the altar of Black Sabbath, and, even though the drummer has changed (again), there is still the unmistakeable whipcrack snare drum sound. New material is wisely kept to a premium - judging by the likes of 'Who Knows' and 'Nobody Here But Us', their best days are very firmly behind them and they're sensible to be concentrating on former glories. Having a pop at 'Heat' magazine and at Radiohead (who are busy playing the Nottingham Arena) from the stage is hardly today's news, either - mere mention of the latter reminds me of what I'm missing out on just being here.

But the opening salvo of 'Nowhere' and 'Teethgrinder' hits the spot at least, and there are plenty of other moments - 'Church Of Noise', 'Dancing With Manson', 'Stop It You're Killing Me', 'A Moment Of Clarity' - when I'm transported back to the dark days of teenagerdom when they really mattered to me. Times might change, my tastes might inevitably move on, but I'll always look on Therapy? (and Troublegum in particular) with affection. Plus, 'Potato Junkie' has one of the finest lyrical couplets of any song I know: "I'm bitter, I'm twisted / James Joyce is fucking my sister"...
Ticking over

Two matches in the space of a mere 39 hours could have spelt disaster, but thankfully we emerged pretty much unscathed in terms of results and injuries - one Wolves fan, however, was not so lucky.

First up, on Thursday night, was the visit of FC Basel to St James's Park. Having won the first leg 3-2 in Switzerland, we were fully expecting to progress into the third round - and, aside from a couple of dodgy moments including a goal ruled out very narrowly for offside, we managed it without too much trouble, winning 1-0 on the night thanks to an own goal from the unfortunate substitute Smiljanic. Shearer had a couple of good opportunities, and we retained possession for long periods, denying them the chance to get back into the tie. Solid and unspectacular it might have been, but let's not forget that Juventus, Liverpool and Celtic all failed to keep a clean sheet against Basel in the Champions' League last season.

Then, on Saturday lunchtime came Wolves, and our big chance to avenge the bitterly disappointing 3-2 defeat at Molineux in the FA Cup back in January, a game for which I was unfortunate enough to be present. It finished up 1-1 - a fair result. Despite having a great deal more class and quality, we didn't really deserve to nick it, and although Shearer hit the bar before Blake opened the scoring and we had a blatant penalty turned down late on, they also had several good chances, including a Gudjonssen free-kick that hit the post and a Camara header in the last minute that flicked off the top of the bar.

It was a game that was there for the winning, and we should really have done better - but it was overshadowed by the horrendous cock-up with the pre-match pyrotechnics display during which Wolves season-ticket holder Denise Butler was hit in the face by a firework. NUFC.com, mockingly dismissive of all the pantomime surrounding a Wolves home game back in January, was even more scathing this time around:

"A staggering bit of small-club stupidity ended in someone getting seriously hurt at the Molineux on Saturday lunchtime.

While Police scour Gloucestershire for terrorists they should switch their attention to the Black Country backwater of Wolverhampton where some some idiot is still at large who insists on filling empty soup tins full of high explosive and firing them into crowds of people. Surely they must have some link to Al Qaeda?

The fact that the missile whistled past the ears of Alan Shearer before entering the lower tier of the Billy Wright stand makes it all the more scary - that could have been the end of our no.9's career (and TV replays later confirmed if anything that Woodgate - and referee Bennett - had an even luckier escape.)

Of course, for the woman who it hit just below the eye it's no less serious and it's to be hoped she sues the Dingles for their every last penny. A totally avoidable accident which will hopefully signal the end of these tin-pot clubs and their tin cans full of pyrotechnics - when will the people who run the game realise we don't want dancing girls, music after goals are scored, pyrotechnics or flashy scoreboards - just entertainment in the form of blokes kicking a ball around. That's all.
"

So much for professional organised displays, eh?
Telling tales

All the best anecdotes should start - as one did that I was told this weekend - with the phrase, "Well, I woke up with sick in my mouth..."
In the dark

I watched 'Donnie Darko' again the other day, and I'm now more determined than ever to avoid the director's commentary which accompanies the film in the DVD version. I simply don't want (someone else's) explanation. For me, picking and chewing over the "facts" of the film involves an unfortunate but necessary compromising of the imagination. Certain details become more immediately evident on re-watching (just as is the case with the Coen brothers' fabulous 'O Brother Where Art Thou', which I just had to see again on C4 last night), but even then the film still seems to exert a strange and undefinable power over the viewer. I'm inclined to think that the commentary would detract rather than add to my enjoyment. Has anyone seen it, and would disagree?

At root, perhaps, is the question of whether the opinion of the artist (whether it be author, musician, director or whatever) is any more valid than your own, as reader / listener / viewer. Often artists appear to be particularly bad judges of their own work, and only seem to offer their opinions as the means of controlling how it's interpreted and understood. The degree to which the meaning of a piece of art can be controlled by its creator is contentious, and part of me, when encountering an artist who seems determined to stress one particular meaning, is all the more inclined to resist this pressure and reject whatever they're trying to suggest (I'm not implying that this is what Richard Kelly is doing with his commentary for 'Donnie Darko', as I haven't seen it - this is in general terms). Once that piece of art is out there in the public domain it's out of the artist's control. But, of course, I'm sure I'd feel more sympathetic and precious about the way my work was being understood and interpreted if I found myself in that position, and this lack of artistic control shouldn't be seen to mean that people have complete license to interpret something in any way they want.

Incidentally, wouldn't it be great if the Gary Jules cover of 'Mad World' by Tears For Fears which closes the film so beautifully made it to the #1 spot for Christmas? Well, just as long as it's anything other than Cliff Richard. Or Blue. Or the Pop Idol mob. Or The Fast Food Rockers.
The twat in the hat

The last few days in my house have been torture. Why? Simple, really: my live-in landlord S has rediscovered his copy of Jamiroquai's Travelling Without Moving. Really, it's enough to make you hanker for the usual dross - Kajagoogoo, Lighthouse Family and tapes of the Top 40 recorded from Radio 1 in 1983...
Razorhead = razor-sharp

Finding himself bored out of his mind on Friday afternoon, Razorhead of Ulterior decided to spend some time rearranging the letters of the names of some of his favourite weblogs. A pursuit born out of boredom, sure - but, to be honest, I'm scared at quite how perceptive his suggestions for SWSL are. Not only does he point out that "Silent Words" is an anagram of "Wonder Lists", which just about sums up most of the content found here in an extraordinarily neat way; he also suggests another anagram, "Sworn Idlest", which is eminently suited to SWSL's author...

So be warned: those who read your blog might know you better than you know yourself.
Wot, no Edd the Duck?

Didn't see the first "fruits" of Andi Peters's makeover of 'Top Of The Pops' (it's called 'All New Top Of The Pops' now, don't you know?) myself, but there are plenty of bloggers out there who did. For a selection of rather less-than-favourable comments, take a peek at Casino Avenue, Cha Cha Cha and Diamond Geezer.
The interlude becomes permanent

As of the end of this week, The Yes / No Interlude is no more. But fear not - the imperious Lord Marmite has a new home, Amblongus.

Meanwhile, welcome to another couple of very fine blogs:

Diamond Geezer (recommended by everyone, ever)
Said The Gramophone (recommended by Matthew)

Unfortunately I wasn't present at this weekend's blogmeet in London, attended by (amongst others) Vaughan, Anna, Adrian and D. Sounds like a good time was had by all.
Shit, I forgot to set the video

From Teletext last night:

"ITV1, 00.45
PARADISE FOUND
Cheryl Baker seeks inner peace
"