Thursday, September 16, 2004

The end is nigh

On Saturday, I leave Nottingham after seven years of happy residence.

Yesterday a friend suggested I should look on it as the beginning of a new era, but at the moment I can't help but see it as the end of an old one, and a golden one at that. For the last few days I've been mooning around the place, suffering from what must be a near-fatal dose of sentimentality. I'm too attached, too nervous about change, to be able to look forwards.

How to solve this problem? Easy - pickle myself in lager.

The last hurrah includes another George's meet-up with Mike, Mish and Nixon amongst others, and then a massive boozy blow-out tomorrow winding up in the legendary Irish by which time I'll hopefully be unable to see.

Amidst all the upheaval, SWSL is likely to be something of a ghost town for the next week or so. See you on the other side (of the Midlands).
Hounds of hate

For me, the most appalling thing about yesterday's pro-hunt protest wasn't the "invasion" of the House of Commons by a bunch of ill-dressed loons - "men in T-shirts apprehended by men in tights", as one MP quipped.

Neither was it the mob violence. (Us left-leaners are used to having our arguments ignored amidst condemnation of the actions of a minority of protestors hell-bent on causing trouble, so it's nice to see the shoe on the other foot now - let's see what the organisers have to say...)

Neither was it the response of an embattled and baton-wielding police force. (Watching the news, I was surprised not to hear any bloodied and howling protesters shouting, "Why don't you go and catch the real criminals?")

No, it was the interview with a woman in full tweed clobber perched on a horse whose justification for hunting was that her and her family go out every Saturday between September and April, and what would they do if it was banned? "What better way to spend time with the family?", she reasoned. Words fail me.

Incidentally, the incidents of bottle- and coin-throwing (50p's rather than 2p's, I imagine...) make them no better than your average football hooligan.

(To read Inspector Sands's similarly unsympathetic thoughts, click here.)
Sad to see you go

Johnny Ramone RIP. You can't stop the rock.
Is it just me...

... or was the second half of Tuesday's episode of 'Six Feet Under' not the most intense half-hour of TV this year? By the end I was left feeling as brutalised as David was by his attacker / kidnapper Jake. Incredible stuff, as always.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Toddling along merrily

Exactly two years ago today Silent Words Speak Loudest was born.

Since then it has very gradually (I think) become toilet-trained and learnt how to crawl and then walk, but it remains something of a sickly child in the company of its more well-nourished and well-adjusted web brethren (see sidebar under 'Blogs'). Perhaps it'll grow up to be strong and healthy, and its dreams of being an astronaut or lorry driver will come true. Or perhaps not.

Whatever the future holds, thank you for your help and support in bringing it up thus far.
Primal scream

PJ HARVEY, BIRMINGHAM ACADEMY, 11TH SEPTEMBER 2004

If anyone wasn't aware of the fact that Ms Harvey left her delicate and sombre period behind some time ago, then they are as soon as '50ft Queenie', a song that truly deserves the title 'blast from the past', roars out of the amps. Clearly prisoners are not to be taken tonight.

The set - which, compared to her Glasto showing, is remarkably light on material from her most recent outing Uh Huh Her (only 'Who The Fuck?', 'Shame' and the marvellous single 'The Letter') - bears the imprint of the company she's been keeping lately, Josh Homme and Mark Lanegan, in its rawness and general aggression.

Resplendent as ever in yellow, and singing with the same sumptuously rich voice live as on record, she's flanked by a bounding straggle-haired guitarist straight out of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and a lanky bassist who seems to have got lost on the way to an audition for a Damned covers band, while long-time collaborator Rob Ellis pounds the skins.

Disappointments are few, but if my companion's main gripe is her ignoring his repeated pleas for 'Down By The Water', then mine is her decision to reappear for a second single-song encore rather than to leave a fantastically strident 'Big Exit' as just that - her big exit.

More than anything, though, the night reminds me of the gaping holes in my record collection which need to be plugged. Selectadisc, here I come...

Note to the Birmingham Academy: Maybe it's just me, but I don't expect to have to wait fully half an hour to buy some shit and stupidly overpriced lager, thereby being forced to "enjoy" the first five songs of the headline act with my back to the stage, especially when the gig ticket has cost the best part of £20. You twats.
Don't believe all you read

On Saturday I finally got to see the face behind the hand, the face of Telford's most pre-eminent blogger. Yes, I met up with the real Dead Ken.

I hope he doesn't mind if I undermine his carefully-cultivated web self-image, but...

Don't believe all that self-deprecating nonsense he's posted over at Parallax View, or, for that matter, any of the self-deprecating comments that routinely appear on the site - he's a lovely chap, and great company. But if he can apologise for "the dribbling, drooling idiocy that is the live! interactive! Dead Kenny experience", then I can thank him for indulging me in my alcoholically-lubricated rantings and ravings about everything from Birmingham to The Stone Roses.

All this real rather than virtual interaction with bloggers is starting to become quite addictive.
"Got a devil's haircut in my mind"

The latest installment of Stylus's I Love The 1990s series - this time, 1996 - featuring contributions from He Only Lives Twice and yours truly.

Part One: Beck, 'Dilbert', Bone Thugs 'N' Harmony, 'Fargo', Mentos adverts
Part Two: MTV2, Rage Against The Machine, 'Romeo + Juliet', The Fugees, 'Scream'
Part Three: 'Swingers', Tamagotchis, Busta Rhymes, Jackie Chan vs Chuck Norris, No Doubt
Part Four: the Macarena, 'Space Jam', Garbage, Playstation vs N64, 'Trainspotting'

Other Stylus goodness: Andrew Unterberger does his level best to convince us to reappraise the merits of nu-metal, whilst Ian Mathers is enraptured by the new Low B-sides and rarities box set A Lifetime Of Temporary Relief - "There’s a reason Low are known as a band who often write about Christian issues, but not as a Christian band. They’re not recruiting, they’re searching. Once you begin looking at the issues raised in Low’s music as questions asked and not dogmas received, the band opens up and you can focus on the gorgeousness of music without any guilt."
Quotes of the day

"Three years since the terrible events of 11 September 2001. And what have we learned since then? Years ago, there was an argument about whether terrorists were merely freedom fighters. Now we now what terrorism really is - an act of violence against America, or an act of violence which isn't funded by Americans."

Inspector Sands on terrorism.

"Seeing 'Teenage Riot' live was like touching the face of God and feeling a pleasant electric shock surge through you; hitting those memory centres untouched since years of prior discovery."

He Who Cannot Be Named on Sonic Youth at the Brixton Academy.

"The last in-depth conversation I had with him was about cheese, and I know for a fact he knows nothing about cheese."

Noel Gallagher on Liam on 'Friday Night With Jonathan Ross'.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Blogwatch: extra time

More titbits from the blogosphere without which yesterday's Blogwatch would be incomplete:

Robin writes about extremism in the wake of the Beslan massacre. If you read one blog post this week, read this.

Anna recalls calling Steve Coogan "a wanker", a label his behaviour had deserved. Coogan's response wasn't too friendly, apparently...

And, last but not least, Badger Minor is now Orbis Quintus.
Quotes of the day

"I write here because I don't want to do it at home. I don't think my family should be subjected to the creative process which is undignified and shouldn't be seen by anyone. It's kind of like closing the door when you use the toilet."

"I do know a lot of people who've gone through a similar thing and denied what has gone before. It's like a born-again thing where you clean up and fall in love and everything that happened before is suddenly worthless. I don't see my life that way at all. You still haul yourself with you, no matter what you've been through. You still have the same difficulties with the world. The fact that your circumstances have changed doesn't necessarily remedy that. You just learn how to duck and weave and not be constantly up against it, and I suppose I've learnt that."

"If I have two years to spare I'll [write another novel]. If I wrote two I'd really be an author - having only written one I'm just some jerk who wrote a book. And the world's full of them already."

Nick Cave talks to the Independent. 47 and still making records full of sound and fury - brilliant. Can't wait for 20th September when his new double LP Abattoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus is released.

(Thanks to Vaughan for the link.)
Misery loves company

Just been watching the new series of 'Grumpy Old Men'. It might give a platform for some real tossers to sound off to their heart's (dis)content - Antony Worrall-Thompson, Jeremy Clarkson, A A Gill, Rick Wakeman etc - but on most issues I really felt their pain. Frankly, I'm worried.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Blogwatch

Congratulations to Neil on his engagement!

Happy birthday to Diamond Geezer, now entering the terrible twos!

A warm welcome to Marshall - if his most recent posts are anything to go by, he's a man with a keen eye for a good pun - and to Has It Really Got To This?, discovered via Parallax View!

A cheery wave to old friend Our Man In Hanoi, now blogging all the way from, well, Hanoi!

And to Vik, whose blog has cost her her job - well, I'm speechless. What a prize cunt your former boss must be.

Elsewhere:

Wan's been caught up in a couple of earthquakes: "It is almost impossible to describe how it feels when you are stuck in a shaking room, where the bed is walking across the wooden floorboards, the shelf with the TV on is rocking back and forth and the bathroom starts to creak and moan under the strain";

Kenny delivers his verdict on his recent reading, including Martin Amis's 'Yellow Dog', Mark Haddon's 'The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time' and D B C Pierre's 'Vernon God Little';

Jonny pens "an open letter to Mr Brian Richards, Director of Customer Development, Norwich Union, and hopefully a man who Googles himself", concerning a recent item of junk mail: "‘I have been specially selected’ is flattering, but perhaps exaggerates somewhat my specialness. I would imagine you have sent this to thousands of people. If you haven’t, and it’s just for me, then I am going to change the locks and take out an injunction. Your offer of a free mini radio is tempting. Perhaps printing ‘Free Gift of a Mini Radio – APPROVED’ as if it had been rubber-stamped in red ink over the margin was over-egging, somewhat. I refuse to believe there is a man in your office with a rubber stamp whose sole job is to check each recipient to see if they are worthy of a crappy mini radio. That would be unusual business practise, even in Norwich";

Not content with analysing their new LP Out Of Nothing track-by-track, He Only Lives Twice has travelled the country to see Embrace three times in one week - now that's what I call dedication to the cause, and it rather puts my bleatings about the biannual Sonic Youth pilgrimage into perspective;

Jonathan of Assistant has been to Eastbourne, or the "Costa Geriatrica" if you prefer: "One shop was the 'World of Hair'. What a vision. Beautiful Victorian B&Bs, connecting this street to the seafront, boasted of 'hot and cold water in every room'. One even had a 'Colour TV Lounge'";

Nixon details his experiences of that modern torture chamber known as the gym: "All this needless and self-inflicted pain reminded me of the Flagellants of the 14th century who whipped themselves in public to atone for sins, but whereas the sins in the 14th century were masturbation or forgetting to pray, the gym-goers' sins were over-consumption and eating proper mayonnaise";

Dave's been to see Mozzer, and caught him in garrulous mode: "He talked about 'Constipation Street' and how he's had two songs played on the Rovers jukebox lately. Apparently he left the venue wearing a flat cap. I wonder who's cleaning out his pigeons in LA while he's on tour";

and hats off once again to Jonathan of Crinklybee for introducing his intrepid readership to Pie Club: "The Sales Office Pie Club was formed by myself, Chris and Warren, in response to the growing menace of Slimming Club, a shadowy, female-dominated organisation committed to holding interminable conversations about the precise calorific content of various brands of rye bread". (If you're worried that this post might violate the first rule of Pie Club, don't be - the first rule of Pie Club is not "We do not talk about Pie Club" but "We do not talk about Ryvita".) Is there anyone out there who still refuses to believe that this guy has sold his soul to the God of Blog?

… And finally: Alex has a confession to make: “It feels really weird saying 'vagina' down the phone to a stranger”. It’s not as bad as you might think, though…
Picture imperfect

In addition to the usual flocks of pigeons and chavs in Villa shirts, Birmingham city centre is currently playing host to 'Earth From The Air', an impressive exhibition of photos by Yann Arthus-Betrand. The pictures were taken all over the globe from the vantage point of a helicopter.

In purely aesthetic terms, they're stunning in terms of colour and framing. Particularly arresting are those pictures which reveal the incredible symmetry and patterning to be found in the natural world, but all bear eloquent testimony to the planet's beauty.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the photos are accompanied by explanatory passages which repeatedly underline the fragility of the natural environment and by gruesome statistics which bring home the full extent of man's destructive impact and the inequalities between the developed and developing worlds. Though of course necessary, this is all laid on thick, and not always to good effect (one caption, for example, claims that alcoholism is a direct consequence of poverty and unemployment - ?!). The message is clearly that we need to moderate our behaviour and reverse the most worrying trends, but I couldn't help but feel crushed by the weight of the statistics and left feeling as though, whatever we do now, the damage has been done and environmental apocalypse is inevitable.

What I found more depressing, though, were the numerous boards proclaiming that the exhibition is sponsored by Bird's Eye, for obvious reasons. Whilst ostensibly supporting artistic endeavour and endorsing the exhibition's message, they've actually seized the opportunity to advertise and brag about their own "sustainable" practices. Yes, patronage of the arts has always existed, and yes, such exhibitions wouldn't happen if it wasn't for financial investment and involvement of private organisations, but there's something deeply offensive to me in the way corporate sponsors insist on leaving their grubby fingerprints on everything.

Still, the whole event earns my much-maligned soon-to-be-adopted home some credit. In terms of the arts, this sort of large-scale, free, public exhibition beyond the confines of the conventional gallery space is precisely what city councils should be looking to promote.

Thanks to Ken for alerting me to another potentially intriguing arts event taking place next month: The Birmingham Book Festival. There will be appearances from the likes of David Lodge, Lesley Glaister, Hanif Kureishi, Roddy Doyle and Jim Crace, as well as writing workshops for prose, poetry and short fiction, though I expect the limited places on those will already have been filled.
Quote of the day

"This is a bit noisy. Hasn't got much melody. I don't like it very much. Don't you think it's noisy? What is it?"

J on - yes, you've guessed it - Sonic Youth's latest full-length offering. Clearly her musical education has a long way to go yet. But never fear - when I move in in a couple of weeks' time, my record collection moves with me (cue much hand-rubbing). Plus I'm taking her to see PJ Harvey on Saturday and Nick Cave in early November, so I think I'm doing my duty.
Text message of the day

"I'm in the pub and on the next table are 2 ladies in their late 50s discussing oral sex. Nice."

Thanks to Leon for that. Enough to put you off your pint.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The perfect storm

SONIC YOUTH, 2ND SEPTEMBER 2004, LONDON BRIXTON ACADEMY

Set-list: 'I Love You Golden Blue' / 'Stones' / 'Pattern Recognition' / 'Unmade Bed' / 'Eric's Trip' / 'Teenage Riot' / 'New Hampshire' / 'Mariah Carey And The Arthur Doyle Hand Cream' / 'Paper Cup Exit' / 'Dude Ranch Nurse' / 'Brother James' // 'Pacific Coast Highway' / 'Expressway To Yr Skull'

I don't know who the support acts were, and I don't care - this was all about the main act, the main event: Sonic Youth.

I've seen them every couple of years since 1996, and on this occasion only just got my ticket in time, having to sit in the balcony not out of choice but out of necessity. Aside from an appearance at All Tomorrow's Parties in the spring, this is their first show in the UK since 2002, and the only UK show of a whistlestop European tour.

As such, it feels like something of a pilgrimage. Some might go from all over the world to Mecca in search of inner peace and enlightenment and to be closer to their god, while us Sonic Youth fans are drawn from all over Britain to the Brixton Academy on a warm evening in early September to marvel at the huge red capital letters proclaiming the appearance of our heroes. And, yes, they are heroes.

Shortly after 9pm the lights go down and we’re treated to a brilliant set that sees them coaxing the very best out of the new material from this year’s Sonic Nurse LP (perhaps only ‘Mariah Carey…’ – surprisingly – is slightly underwhelming) whilst also playing some of their most legendary trump cards. When it comes to creating beautifully textured discord and honing in on the exact point that high-brow conceptual art meets dirty noisy punk thrills, there’s simply no-one out there to touch them, more than twenty years after they took their first steps as a band.

2002's Murray Street LP saw Jim O'Rourke become a permanent member of the band, but, although he's fitted in seamlessly, augmenting what was an already potent force, he'll always be on the periphery of the core four.

No-one sits hunched in intense concentration over a drumkit quite like Steve Shelley.

No-one can elegantly juggle a guitar quite like Lee Ranaldo.

Kim Gordon looks stunning, as ever, in a blue dress and savage high heels which, when she starts doing her trademark hop, make me want to shout, "Be careful, you'll turn your ankle!" She might not be as vocal as on previous occasions, but when, during 'Pacific Coast Highway' - an unsettling blend of seduction and threat - she prowls around the front of the stage, her status as one of the most iconic women in rock is beyond doubt.

But the star of the show has to be Thurston Moore, an art-punk legend dressed up as Bill or Ted. Even in middle age he's a goofy teenager getting to do what he's always dreamt of and loving every minute of it, tossing that unchanging mane with the same enthusiastic abandon of youth. "The last time we were here was about ten years ago. Those were the days, baby!" Barely fifteen minutes into the set and he's humping his guitar on top of the enormous speaker stacks as 'Pattern Recognition', confirmed tonight as a modern classic in the same mould as 'The Empty Page', drifts away into feedback. "Who's this lady Jordan?", he asks, puzzled, before claiming to have seen Ms Price's face on the cover of every magazine ("Time, Newsweek, The Wire") upon arrival in Britain and dedicating 'Brother James' (or was it 'Shaking Hell'?) to her.

The evening may culminate with some tremendously self-indulgent dicking about - Thurston dangles things in front of his amp for effect, Jim fetches an accordion, a couple of members of one of the support acts appear with an inflatable guitar and Kim leaves the boys to it before Thurston literally pulls the plug on himself with glee as disgruntled stage managers lurk in the wings - but all that can be forgiven.

Likewise the lack of anything from the seven albums preceding Sonic Nurse. After all, if I wanted to hear my ultimate Sonic Youth set it'd last for days - EVERYTHING (apart, perhaps, from the odd track from A Thousand Leaves) at least twice.

And why can all that be forgiven? Just take a look at the set-list. I've seen them play 'Teenage Riot' AND 'Expressway To Yr Skull' ON THE SAME NIGHT. I can die happy.

There's life in the old dogs yet, despite what some might have said in haste...
The city is here for you to (ab)use

Jonathan Franzen is best known for 'The Corrections', but his debut novel 'The Twenty-Seventh City', first published in 1988, also garnered rave reviews. A thriller of politically motivated subterfuge and corruption set in St Louis in 1984, it's an impressively intricate work in which Franzen interweaves the lives of a vast array of characters, winding the various plot lines up like a coiled spring for the frenzied climax. He's perhaps at his best, though, in his evocations of place - through his eyes what would ordinarily be non-descript urban sprawl becomes somehow profound.

But there's still something curiously unsatisfying about the book - not least the fleeting relationship between its central characters, prominent businessman Martin Probst and corrupt police chief Jammu, which fails to convince. In hindsight it looks like a marvellously designed and constructed work of architecture, but one which arrests only the visual attention and leaves the emotions cold.

Perhaps I should have lost my Franzen virginity to 'The Corrections' instead. Hey ho, that's what comes of shopping for books at The Works - you take whatever you can get on the cheap.
Car crash listening

Stylus's Albert Soto reviews the new Libertines LP - "this eponymous album doesn’t cohere like Up The Bracket". Sorry, it's LESS coherent than Up The Bracket?!! Christ, that'd be quite an achievement.

Meanwhile, Dave McGonigle tries to make sense of the latest offering from Les Savy Fav, Inches, a generically disparate collection of nine singles spanning nine years and nine labels.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Is it just me...

... or is it Simon Pegg doing the voice-over for that Lenor advert? Oh dear.
Feel good hits of the 6th September

1. 'Teenage Riot' - Sonic Youth
2. 'Back In Black' - AC/DC
3. 'Why Won't You Talk About It?' - The Radio Dept
4. 'Evergreen' - The Fiery Furnaces
5. 'Distortions' - Clinic
6. 'Cat On The Wall' - PJ Harvey
7. 'La Lune' - Sons & Daughters
8. 'Regular John' - Queens Of The Stone Age
9. 'Scissoring' - Burning Airlines
10. 'Kiss Like Lizards' - The Icarus Line

Thursday, September 02, 2004

The empty page

It probably hasn't escaped your attention that content has been somewhat thin on the ground in these parts of late - you can blame that on my decision to shift all the football ranting and raving over here, where it's all been happening, much to my distress...

Things should hopefully be back to normal soon, but first I'm off to that place where the streets are paved with gold to see my favourite bunch of forty somethings kick out the motherfucking jams.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The polyphonic spree

Whether it was because for the first time in a few years I was missing out on the customary exposure to dozens of exciting acts at Leeds, or because I'll shortly be leaving Nottingham and decided to take as much of Selectadisc with me as possible, I embarked upon a major CD buying spree on Saturday. A few thoughts on some of the CDs which found their way into my grateful arms...

Attention all bands out there who want to gain my immediate patronage: forget innovation and originality - if you can make your single sound like the very best bits of Psychocandy then it's guaranteed to push my buttons, no questions asked. It really is as easy as that to bypass my critical faculties. So well done to Swedish noisemeisters The Radio Dept for realising this, and turning out 'Why Won't You Talk About It?', the finest slice of hurricane pop since, ooooh, fellow Scandanavians The Raveonettes last year.

Even by their own immaculately skewed standards, The Fiery Furnaces' recorded version of 'Single Again' is utterly bonkers, all buzzing synths and colliding rhythms. B-side 'Evergreen' is much more sedate but no less brilliant for it, particularly as it appears to concern Eleanor Friedberger's visions of being a tree.

Love The Cup, the mini-LP by Sons & Daughters, is just what I was expecting, following 'Broken Bones' (the track featured on a recent NME CD) and their set in support of The Fiery Furnaces at Stealth in Nottingham last week - deliciously dark no frills bar-room country blues that staggers around with menace threatening to glass you in the neck.

My initial impressions of Bubblegum by the Mark Lanegan Band aren't wholly favourable, though - yes the man's legendary croak is as awesome as ever and the supporting cast is phenomenal (Duff Mackagan, Izzy Stradlin, Josh Homme, Nick Oliveri, Polly Harvey, Chris Goss, Greg Dulli, Alain Johannes, Natasha Shneider, all of Burning Brides), but on first listen the songs seemed unremarkable and dulled by unnecessarily poor production. Maybe it's a grower.

As for the rest, I plead for more time to assess fairly the merits of Clinic's Winchester Cathedral LP, TV On The Radio's 'Staring At The Sun', Aberfeldy's 'Heliopolis At Night', The Stills' 'Still In Love Song' and The Shins' 'Fighting In A Sack'.
Missives from the front line

Texts received from a friend who had the pleasure / misfortune to attend the Reading festival:

"Sub-aqua gear would've been a great idea. We came in by boat, no joke."

In response to my reply which warned him against getting trenchfoot:

"The mud is so deep it'll be trenchcock instead."

At least Kenny made it back in one piece, hopefully without any serious bodily afflictions. Your review of the weekend is eagerly awaited, sir.

Update: Kenny duly obliges, and it's Mozzer who came from nowhere to steal the show.

Friday, August 27, 2004

By George's

Another fine evening in George's in the company of fellow Nottingham bloggers Mike, Mish and Nixon, as well as Alan - only Buni was missing. Somehow conversational subjects managed to range from blog politics (of course!) via the benefits of St John's Wort, Edinburgh, James Joyce, 'Sex And The City' and Ethel Merman (thanks again for the CD Mish!) to extra nipples and dogging...

And then on for the first time to Stealth with Mike to meet up with Dave and Martin for an unexpectedly wonderful gig (see below).

Not bad for an evening that started with a walk into town during which I nearly witnessed someone getting hit by a car and I then had the misfortune to spot the smug bald bloke from 'Strictly Soho'... And not a trace of a hangover today! If only more evenings could be like that.
Family values

THE FIERY FURNACES / SONS & DAUGHTERS / RED ORGAN SERPENT SOUND, 26TH AUGUST 2004, NOTTINGHAM STEALTH

Sons & Daughters are the sort of band for whom the staple gig sound of clattering and shattering bottles is the perfect accompaniment. Adele Bethel (vocals / guitar / keys) and David Gow (drums) are members of the Arab Strap live set-up, and it shows. They take the red-raw blues riffage of labelmates The Kills and weave it with rockabilly rhythms into a distinctively Scottish form that also hints at folk and The Delgados, with whom they'll soon be touring.

Guitarist / vocalist Scott Paterson howls and hops around the stage like a coiled spring, while mandolin and bass player Ailidh Lennon obeys that key unwritten rule of rock 'n' roll - if you can't really play, then just look good on stage, and she's impeccably cool, swaying gently on the spot like one of Robert Palmer's robotic backing band.

They're obviously still finding their feet, but as soon as 'Broken Bones' is out of the way - as the one track which most of the crowd know following its appearance on the recent NME covermount CD showcasing the Domino roster, it already feels like a bit of an albatross - they hit a deliciously sweet spot. 'Blood' and new single 'Johnny Cash' slope past before they ratchet things up once again for a finale which feels like being strangled with a rattlesnake - well, they say asphyxiation heightens pleasurable sensations... What is it with Glasgow? There's something in the Buckfast, I swear.

The last time I saw the evening's headliners proper The Fiery Furnaces, at Rock City last November, my response, like that of the majority of a crowd assembled to see Hot Hot Heat and Franz Ferdinand, was predominantly one of bafflement. This time around it was rather different.

When they take to the stage, it's neither Eleanor Friedberger nor her brother Matt who first attract the eye, even though Eleanor is sporting a rather fetching lilac cummerbund (destined to be the latest must-have fashion accessory for the Karen O set?). No, the star is hyperactive drummer Andy Knowles, who, with his multicoloured striped jacket and trilby hat looks like a cross between Pete Doherty and Sylvester McCoy's Dr Who.

What happens next is anyone's guess. The four piece career and crash through song after song without pause for breath, and I stand gobsmacked at the awesome intensity of it all, foremost in my mind the thought, "They do this EVERY NIGHT?!!". It starts with 'My Dog Was Lost But Now It's Found', and 'South Is Only A Home', 'Single Again', 'Don't Dance Her Down', 'Blueberry Boat', 'Bright Blue Tie' and 'Tropical Iceland' are all in there somewhere, gleaming pearls of surrealist blues thrown out before the mulleted swine, while snatches and snippets of songs apparently discarded earlier creep back into the set. The encore's something of a disappointment in that respect, the songs conventionally separated from one another.

The quirky imagination of Pavement, the barely contained chaos of The Libertines, a touch of The Violent Femmes, searing garage guitar and end-of-the-pier organ... There's no-one quite like them, and no way of doing them justice in words. They are undeniably brilliant, though.

I know I should give it a try on record, but frankly I'm worried it just won't work.

Red Organ Serpent Sound don't make it onto the stage until around 1am. Looking like half The Dwarves and half Kings Of Leon, they start promisingly enough - the freaky Cramps-like B-movie punk arrests attention especially when performed by a bloke wearing a red stocking over his head, a top hat and a boxing glove. But then it all goes horribly wrong as the stocking coming off coincides with a couple of very duff straight-faced Strokes pastiches, and it's evident they've been trying far too hard to be weird and are cruelly shown up by appearing on the same bill as The Fiery Furnaces. No-one's interested anymore, least of all me.

(Thanks to Mike on whose suggestion I went along.)

LINKS
Kilian Murphy reviews The Fiery Furnaces' Gallowsbird's Bark.
Josh Love reviews The Fiery Furnaces' forthcoming LP Blueberry Boat.
Feel good hits of the 27th August

1. 'Single Again' - The Fiery Furnaces
2. 'Cotton Crown' - Sonic Youth
3. 'A To B' - The Futureheads
4. 'Broken Bones' - Sons & Daughters
5. 'Born In '69' - Rocket From The Crypt
6. 'Kangaroo Heart' - Archie Bronson Outfit
7. 'Millionaire' - Kelis feat Andre 3000
8. 'The Magician' - Clinic
9. 'Comfortably Numb' - Pink Floyd
10. 'I'm A Wheel' - Wilco
Quote of the day

"Sex should be with someone you at least have some kind of relationship with. Otherwise why not just have a wank? It's easier and it doesn't hurt anyone else".

John Peel, a paragon of honesty.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Football: it went that way

After much deliberation, I've decided to shift all my witterings / moanings / dribblings about the beautiful game and Newcastle Utd's valiant endeavours to make it ugly to a brand spanking new site on which I will be collaborating with my good friend and fellow sufferer Paul of 1000 Shades Of Grey.

So, may I present to you: Black & White & Read All Over. At the moment the name is an absurdly hubristic piece of wishful thinking, but you never know - from acorns and all that.

Henceforth SWSL will no longer be sullied with incessant match reports or indeed any references to football. "Hallelujah!", I hear many of you cry, "About bloody time!" Never let it be said I don't listen to my public...

(Special thanks to Inspector Sands, whose removal of that particular rib from Casino Avenue to create All Quiet In The East Stand provided the original inspiration, and to He Who Cannot Be Named, who first suggested the idea of a collaborative blog.)
Blogwatch

This week's new addition to the SWSL blogroll: Spellcnut. Dave's blog was brought to my attention by Mike's homage on Troubled Diva, and mightily enjoyable it is too. I believe he might even be a fellow Northumbrian.

Crinklybee is fast becoming a firm favourite, giving Jonny B's I Don't Believe It some healthy competition in the Makes Me Laugh Out Loud Like A Twat stakes. Most recently Jonathan's been ruminating on the subject of beards: "the Babyliss beard machine started to get temperamental, and would threaten to pack up altogether on you mid-session, leaving you with the sort of comically uneven look not seen since that episode of 'M*A*S*H' where Hawkeye decides to shave the other one's moustache off in his sleep for a laugh. Unless it was Hawkeye who had the moustache, I can't remember. Whatever, it was the type of appearance you can get away with, maybe, if you are a hard-working, hard-partying, and above all fictional frontline military medic in the Korean War, but is less likely to go down well in a departmental meeting in a present-day central Manchester sales office".

Elsewhere: Amanda of collaborative blog The Leither conveys all the thrill of being able to witness local ladies of the night embroiled in catfighting - "Even better were the occasions when a lone teenage trainee pimp foolishly tried to act the hard man with the girls and break them up, I think you’ll agree that there is no better sight in this world than seeing a squealing, Burberry capped Ned being savagely beaten with the blunt end of a New Look platform boot"; following the example set by Nick of Auspicious Fish, He Only Lives Twice has set about posting a track-by-track review of the new Embrace LP Out Of Nothing (this is 'Keeping' - scroll up and down for more) - what inspires such adoration of the brothers McNamara and co I'm still not sure; and Chris of South By South East has been to see The Dirtbombs.

...And finally: happy birthday to Robyn! Whilst I remain envious of your mugs (stop sniggering at the back, it's not rude), £8.95 is rather a lot for something to drink coffee out of. For the time being I think I'll stick with my Steps-emblazoned mug, picked up for a quid in Great Yarmouth. Strangely, I'm not renowned for being classy.
That joke isn't funny anymore

Time for a spot of role-playing.

Imagine you're jug-eared Everton and England wunderkind Wayne Rooney. Now I just know your thoughts are immediately turning to sex with rubber-clad grandmothers, but try to block such visions from your mind - we're talking about football here.

You have the world at your feet, and could play for any side in Europe. You would grace the Champions' League. Your admirers in England alone include Man Utd and Chelsea. Along come Newcastle Utd - a club in utter disarray off the pitch and a team unable to scythe down naive young Premiership saplings Norwich on it - with a bid for your services. Do you say: (a) "Fuck off", (b) "Fuck right off" or (c) "Is this some kind of sick joke? Fuck right off"?

Now imagine you're Sir Bobby Robson. You're probably thinking, "What day is it?", "Who am I?" or "Why am I putting myself through this when I could be tending an allotment, drinking cups of tea and holidaying in Bournemouth?" - if so, then good, you've got yourself into the right mindset.

So, you've just had Jonathan Woodgate, one of the most accomplished central defenders in England if not the whole of Europe, sold from under your nose and against your wishes, and your defence looks about as convincing as Mark Thatcher's. You then learn that instead of prioritising the search for a commanding new centre half, and despite the presence of four strikers with sizeable egos already at the club, your chairman is instead trying to sign another forward for an enormous sum of money. Do you say: (a) "What's going on?", (b) "What the fuck is going on?" or (c) "Is this some kind of sick joke? What the fuck is going on?"?

Now imagine you're a Newcastle fan - not hard for me, but then I spend much of my time fantasising about not being one.

You've just witnessed another tragicomic debacle as your side allowed Norwich to grab a well-deserved draw from two goals down, even Mr Reliable Shay Given making a costly mistake and only goalscorers Bellamy and Hughes plus perhaps Milner emerging with any credit whatsoever. Do you: (a) laugh, (b) cry, (c) laugh then cry or (d) shrug your shoulders in resigned acknowledgement of the fact that your beloved club is a complete laughing stock and that they'll be lucky to finish above mid-table?

Villa away on Saturday. Can't wait.
At last, a laugh at someone else's expense

Yes, and at the Mackems, no less. Proof that even the animal kingdom hates them.
Know Your Enemy #49

"Dido is the draught of popular music. That is to say, you’ll be sitting down, quietly reading the paper, doing nobody any harm. And after a while, you’ll realise that something is annoying you. You can’t quite place it, or its source, but it’s coming from somewhere and causing you a mild irritation. Then you realise that a Dido track has started playing on the radio."

Jonny B on Dido.

I also feel compelled to mention the comment left by Chav Gav to the above post: "Dodo died, Dodi died, Di died, Dando died... surely Dido's looking a bit worried."

Monday, August 23, 2004

Expressway to my skull

As if I wasn't chuffed enough to have snapped up a ticket for Sonic Youth's only UK gig this year (fair enough, it's seated, but at least I'll be there), Stylus's Mike Shiflet only goes and compiles his Top Ten Things About The Sonic Youth Show In Cleveland: "Whatever the reason, the Youth brought the noise to levels I'd yet to witness in the numerous times I've seen them the past few years. Lots of effect-tweaking, feedback & extension of songs. Quite a few even 'jammed' out well beyond the ten-minute mark. Awesome". Having grown to love their latest long-player Sonic Nurse rather more than my initial thoughts might suggest, I'm salivating in anticipation.

On the reviews front, Dave McGonigle is impressed by the Mark Lanegan Band's Bubblegum and Ian Mathers decrees Winchester Cathedral by Scouse oddballs Clinic to be Album Of The Week, making it probably the most critically lauded LP named after a major religious building ever. Funds permitting, both albums should find their way into my collection in the near future.
Soft sell

I'm in Birmingham at the moment, and there's an advert which has been aired several times in this region (I'm guessing that - it's not nationwide, is it?) and which goes something like this (I may be paraphrasing slightly): "There's more to Telford than just great shopping. You can have fun, shop, and just relax". And that's it. Is it just me or are they clearly clutching at straws? Perhaps Telford's very own representative in the blogosphere, Kenny of Parallax View, can do a better job of convincing us of the town's worth?
Quote of the day

"Figuratively speaking, this is the automotive equivalent of another man not only allowing, but actually encouraging, me to touch his penis."

Paul finds himself quite taken by his first time behind the wheel of a friend's car.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

New dawn fades

What we really needed was the sort of result that would shut the media doom-and-gloom mongers up. What we got was a whimpering defeat at home to Spurs, an appropriately dismal end to a week best forgotten. The way things are looking, it might not be the last time this season that we have a week best forgotten.

It all started off promisingly enough. Bellamy carried on where he left off for Wales in midweek, tormenting the Spurs defence with his electrifying pace and movement, while Paul Robinson pulled off a number of crucial stops in the opposition goal, most notably to deny Milner his first strike in a Newcastle shirt.

But after the break, once Spurs took the lead, all that promise evaporated and we allowed the rest of the game to drift along in depressingly insipid fashion, conceding the initiative to a side we should outclass comfortably and never really looking like snatching a point.

Incidentally, in my season preview I wrote: “With the installation of a new management and coaching team comprising of Jacques Santini, Frank Arnesen and Martin Jol, I fully expected Spurs to go on and make significant waves in the transfer market, but it just hasn’t happened. Sean Davis and Paul Robinson are valuable additions to the squad, but there doesn’t seem to have been any momentum”. Oh yes, that's right - goalscorer Thimothee Atouba was one of those I wrote off as an insignificant addition to their squad. Hopefully this will be the first and last time my dismissive overview of our rivals comes back to bite me in the arse, but then I’m not optimistic…

Reality bites, then – hard. The potential’s still there, but at the moment, as for the majority of last season, we’re simply not as good as the sum of our parts suggests we should be.
Woodgategate: the SWSL verdict

Now that the dust is settling on Jonathan Woodgate’s whirlwind move to Real Madrid two days after the event, I’m at last able to bring myself to write about it in some kind of coherent fashion without being reduced to a torrent of obscenities and a series of inarticulate groans.

When I described Woodgate in the SWSL season preview as our “defensive lynchpin”, I meant it. He’s an exceptionally talented defender. With him in the side last season, we looked organised and efficient. His confidence and composure in the tackle and on the ball spread throughout the back line. Without him, we were by and large sloppy, nervous and frail. His fitness (or lack of it) is of course a key issue, and I’m not disputing the fact that he clocked up too many hours on the treatment table, but to sell a player who had such a great influence over the way the team performed seems insane.

£13.4m is a lot of money, true, but those bleating on about it being “a sound piece of business” seem to be forgetting that we’re only making a profit of just over £4m on a player we signed on the cheap in the first place. What particularly upset me, though, was the way that we seem to have thrown our hands in the air and waved the white flag as soon as Real’s interest was firmed up by a concrete bid – all this talk of both club and player being powerless to resist the overtures of a club of their stature. Sure, who wouldn’t want to play for Real Madrid? Woodgate was always going to find it hard not to be tempted. But couldn’t we have put up more of a fight, instead of playing the good little puppy by rolling over and playing dead at their feet? There was a depressing inexorability about it all. The fact that we were prepared to let perhaps our best player go that easily, even if it was for a big pot of cash, does not suggest a great deal of ambition.

What’s more, the transfer has publicly reopened the rift between Sir Bobby and Freddie Shepherd, the manager insisting that if it was up to him Woodgate would have stayed at St James’s Park and thus implying that the chairman continues to ride roughshod over his opinions. There may be (further) trouble ahead.

What we need to do urgently is to invest some of the transfer funds in at least one quality replacement. Numerous names are being bandied about in the media, as might be expected – Jean-Alain Boumsong, William Gallas, Ledley King, Wes Brown, Michael Dawson, Robert Huth, Jon Fortune. Confirming the suspicion that Sir Bobby has had the responsibility of deciding upon transfer targets rudely wrested from his grasp, Fat Freddie claims to have something up his sleeve and is confident it’ll be to the fans’ liking. Let’s just say it’s going to have to be something very special indeed to appease this supporter.

Perhaps it’s too early to be trying to assess it all – but if, when all’s said and done, the deal doesn’t take the club forward significantly in the long term, then it has to be regarded as a bad move. It’s as simple as that.

Alternative perspectives on the transfer from fellow fans:
Paul (1000 Shades Of Grey)
BykerSink (It's Wrong To Wish On Space Hardware)
ILuvNUFC (Look At This...)
Sarah Jessica Parker – I mean she’s just, like, so, like, inspiring!

This weekend I have been subjected against my will to a compilation album entitled Sex And The City: Music From Or Inspired By The Show. This gave rise to a few thoughts:

1. Surely it’s contravening the Trade Description Act to claim that the likes of Daniel Bedingfield and Anastacia were, or have ever been, “inspired” in any way whatsoever.

2. It must also be a contravention of the Act to suggest that Justin Timberlake (for instance) sat down and thought, “I need inspiration. Hmm. Hey, I know what, that episode of ‘Sex And The City’ when they all meet up for lunch and talk about shopping and fucking gives me a little idea…” – and hey presto, ‘Cry Me A River’ was born.

3. The only thing ‘Sex And The City’ inspires in me is nausea and an intense hatred of the greater part of humanity. Much the same effect as Daniel Bedingfield, then.
All you need is … love?!

After eight months without trying to stomach the overexcited bilge routinely churned out by NME journalists, last week’s free cover-mounted CD (an excellent journey through the Domino catalogue) sucked me into relenting and buying a copy. Little seems to have changed – everything has to be taken with more than just a pinch of salt. Example: Universal Audio, the new LP by splendid Glaswegian miserabilists The Delgados, is described as being “joyously upbeat”. Somehow I just can’t see it, can you?
You WHAT?!!

cheetara naked
larry becker lawn tonic
jim morrison haircut greek
jamie carragher and the whipped cream
cornish pasty portugal
putting grapes in vagina

Sorry, people – turn around and go back the way you came.