Monday, July 18, 2005

Blogwatch

Welcome...

Kaptain Kobold, who's very soon disappearing off Down Under.

Meanwhile...

Jaymaster recounts his experience of taking part in Spencer Tunick's latest art project in Newcastle, along with 1500 other naked people (probably not safe for work).

Elsewhere...

Kenny - whose blog Parallax View has a new look (now with added comments facility!) - reports on the recent Supersonic festival, held at the Custard Factory in Birmingham;

Alan too has been soaking up the music at a rather larger festival, T In The Park - Part One and Part Two;

Swiss Toni reflects upon the "trend" of formally observed silences;

Vicky sets off on one of the more unusual series of blog posts I've spotted this year, the fascinating A Cult A Day (scroll upwards);

Smacked Face is moved to tears by Iceland's proggiest, Sigur Ros - I know someone who can relate;

JonnyB pays a visit to Northumberland, the county that I called home for the best part of twenty years, and contemplates reporting a "walk-by bagpiping" to the police;

Del goes cold turkey;

Phill wants to know your West Indian cricketer name.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Lazy laughs?

Ricky Gervais talks to the Guardian's Tim Adams in advance of his new series 'Extras', which begins on BBC2 on 21st July.

Given the recent debate about his show 'Politics' on Musings From Middle England, it's interesting that he is disparaging about lazy stand-up: "If a comedian tells me that sometimes politicians are corrupt or dictators are bad, my reaction will be: no shit, never thought of that before. I have no interest in telling people that George W is not all he might be. For that reason my comedy targets tend to be, you know, Gandhi or Thora Hird".

There's also a reference to a joke he cracked about Stephen Hawking at the Comedy Awards, just after the man himself had been up on stage. In my book Gervais is a very funny man indeed, but he's not immune from slipping into slightly lazy comedy territory himself.

Anyway, 'Extras' looks promising - just so long as the laughs don't come predominantly from the self-parodying involvement of the celebrities (see: 'A Bear's Tale').
Free publicity

Two fine examples of band-promoting graffiti spotted in the downstairs toilets in Scruffy Murphys last night:

"Endless Torment - heavier than Roseanne Barr riding a concrete hippo"

"S.I.B. - fucking shit up Worcester style 2005"

Newly resident in Worcester, Phill was particularly puzzled by what the latter might involve...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Read Herring?

Now up on Box Social: a review of Richard Herring's stand-up gig in Liverpool on Monday. Skif is rather less enthusiastic about the 'Someone Likes Yoghurt' show than I was back in March.

On his blog Warming Up, Herring acknowledges that some of the material fell a bit flat, but it sounds as though the later stand-up performance, delivered in the midst of a pub crawl, was rather more eventful: "I don’t think it gets much better than standing on a table in the dark watching a member of your audience being taken away by the police".

Other recent Warming Up posts of interest: Herring writes on the day of the London bombings about the need for comedy even in the face of tragedy, and defends his material following a complaint from a Christian.

Incidentally, you may have noticed that since a flurry of comedy reviews / features in February and March, there's been nothing whatsoever on that front. Well, hopefully it'll be remedied soon - just not sure when. Herring's old mucker Stewart Lee is playing The Station Pub in Sutton Coldfield (where J and I saw him in February) tomorrow night, but we've already decided to wait until he returns to Brum with his Edinburgh show 'Stewart Lee - 90s Comedian' towards the end of October.
Hysteria is not just a Def Leppard album

Of course it was bound to happen: a Daily Mail columnist - on this occasion, Melanie Phillips - calling for the Human Rights Act to be repealed in the wake of last week's London bombings. Because keeping it would be political correctness gone mad / "moral madness".

Apparently, multiculturalism is a "disastrous doctrine", religious fanaticism is a phenomenon observable only amongst Muslims and if things don't change we're all going to die. Oh yes.

A staggering assault on the Muslim faith - not surprising, though, from someone who is an unashamed apologist for Israeli policy in the Middle East. And, in the contrast between Muslims as a "minority group" and the "indigenous majority", there's a disturbing undertone of far-right rhetoric.

"We have to tackle all the sources of this poison" - indeed we do, Ms Phillips, starting by stopping the Mail publishing such hysterical, scaremongering, racist crap.

(Thanks to New Links for the link.)
Bard news?

A fascinating Guardian piece in which two eminent Shakespeareans look forward to next year's RSC productions of all 37 of Will's plays.

Dominic Dromgoole, the incoming artistic director of the Globe, claims the Bard is arguably more relevant now than ever, whereas Gary Taylor, one of the editors of OUP's Complete Works, is markedly less enthusiastic, arguing: "What we will get ... is the old cliche about Shakespeare's 'infinite variety'. The aesthetics of the supermarket. Walmart Shakespeare. Walmart is international, Walmart is ambitious, and - if we measure 'universality' numerically - Walmart tells us more about human nature than the Complete Works of Shakespeare. But we all pay a price for Walmart (whether or not we shop there), and we will all pay a price for the year-long bard binge the RSC is about to impose on us".
Feel good hits of the 14th July

1. 'Going Missing' - Maximo Park
2. 'Don't Worry Baby' - Beach Boys
3. 'Rebellion (Lies)' - The Arcade Fire
4. 'Suicide Life' - Eels
5. 'The Good Ones' - The Kills
6. 'Be Gone' - British Sea Power
7. 'She Sings The Mourning' - The Coral
8. 'Homesteader' - Kid Dakota
9. 'Good Times, Bad Times' - Led Zeppelin
10. 'Lenny' - Supergrass

The Kills and British Sea Power tracks are both from a free Guardian CD I rediscovered recently. Unfortunately, it also features 'Caroline, Yes' by The Kaiser Chiefs, and the Leeds tykes have consequently managed to commandeer my internal jukebox this week far more times than I'd have liked. The bastards.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Under threat

It wasn't until I glanced out of my twentieth floor window and noticed the police had cordoned off Priory Queensway that I knew something was definitely afoot. The eerie emptiness of Moor St Queensway, usually jammed with buses, told its own story too.

You see, we're used to the regular wail of sirens, being situated next to the Birmingham city centre fire station and just round the corner from the Steelhouse Lane Police Station.

We're also used to the sound of helicopters overhead - the air ambulance helipad for Birmingham Childrens' Hospital is right next to our tower block.

This was different, though - sirens blaring continually, a helicopter circling incessantly but not landing.

Evacuating 20,000 people from the city centre on a Saturday night is no mean feat. There might ultimately have been no danger, but the incident has at least proved that, if necessary, an evacuation on that sort of scale is possible.

Aston University was always likely to play a prominent role in the event of any emergency. The Main Building has been earmarked as a triage centre and one of the sports halls as a temporary morgue. As it was, we were less than 400 metres from where the controlled explosions took place and so must have come very close to being evacuated ourselves.

Thankfully it proved to be an empty threat, and all that was required of the University was that some 300 evacuees could be accommodated in the Great Hall of the Main Building. Speaking today to the Residence Tutor involved, it sounds as though some of the people bussed over were drunk and rowdy and others were upset at not being allocated empty student rooms, but many were just grateful for the shelter, bedding and refreshments laid on at such short notice.

For all the defiant statements made in the wake of the London bomb attacks on Thursday - about not being bullied or intimidated, about going about one's business as normal - it's clear that attitudes have shifted. There's a greater sense of vigilance, and also a slight jumpiness amongst people that's entirely understandable.

I'm not about to get as indignant as many of the London-based bloggers and come out with something along the lines of "How DARE they do something like this in my city" - after all, not only were no bombs detonated or lives lost, but I don't really feel like Birmingham's "my" city - but I do have a message for those responsible for posing what the police called a "real and very credible threat": FUCK YOU.

Links:

The evacuation in pictures

Bongo Vongo on the evacuation

Friday, July 08, 2005

A week to live long in the memory

Quite a week for the capital.

Saturday: Hyde Park hosts the biggest of the Live8 concerts, watched by millions around the globe.

Wednesday: It's announced in Singapore that London's bid to host the Olympics in 2012 has been successful.

Thursday: Euphoria turns to horror as co-ordinated terrorist attacks hit the city's transport network. Around 50 people lose their lives, and hundreds are injured.

An awful lot to take in, and I'm not even a Londoner. I've got very little to add to it all, except to echo the condemnation of the perpetrators that's been coming from all quarters, and the praise for the emergency services. Watching TV in horror as it all unfolded, it was clear that even in such difficult and traumatic circumstances plans were in place and a great many people were sufficiently clear-headed to gain control of the situation. Their efforts were as remarkable and admirable as the resilience and resolution of ordinary Londoners.

Condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones in the attacks.

My only hope now is that the incidents don't distract Blair from the business in hand at the G8 summit. After all the pressure that's built up over the past few weeks with the Make Poverty History campaign and the Live8 gigs, it would be terrible if a calculating act of callousness disrupted discussions about the future of the whole planet.

Links (aka far more eloquent / significant responses than mine):

An eyewitness account from the Edgware Road blast (thanks to Mike for the link);

Mish recounts an horrific day;

Londoners' reactions: Excuse Me For Laughing, Casino Avenue, Smacked Face, Diamond Geezer;

Robin imagines the conversation between the triumphant terrorists and a bemused God.
Blogwatch: in brief

While JonnyB's been away, the mouse - aka Salvadore Vincent - has come out to play, with great posts about radio interviews and, rather more disturbingly, his testicles. A far cry from the simple earthy pleasures of Jonny's tales of Norfolk village life, but no less chucklesome.

Elsewhere...

Things are hotting up in the Big Blogger, where The Girl avoided eviction by the skin of her teeth and survives for another week in the company of the remaining seven other housemates. Good to see Mike, Mish, JonnyB and Zoe all still in there, their feet firmly under the table.

Meanwhile...

Big Blogger contestant Alan finds himself caught up in the midst of the G8 "riots" in Edinburgh - "They say you should strive to do one thing every day that you have never done before. The thing I did today that I have never done before was to be detained under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Which was nice";

Skif has decided to dedicate Hobo Tread exclusively to his wanderings around the country (and beyond) in search of sporting endeavour, and started a new music-centred blog as an offshoot of his fanzine Vanity Project.
Christmas come early

There's nothing quite like the feeling you get when you take delivery of a fuckbunch of new CDs. I went on a bit of a post-Glasto spree, inspired by what I'd heard over the course of the festival:

The Coral - The Invisible Invasion
Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger
The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike
The Dresden Dolls - The Dresden Dolls
Sons And Daughters - The Repulsion Box

I thought I'd better give the latter LP a chance despite their disappointing showing down on Worthy Farm, simply because I really liked last year's mini-album Love The Cup.

But my purchases weren't limited by what I'd witnessed. I also picked up the new albums from Stephen Malkmus (Face The Truth) and Sleater-Kinney (The Woods) and the debut EP from The Arcade Fire, which I didn't even know existed until Chris enlightened me at Glasto.

Someone else who's been listening to the Stephen Malkmus and Sleater-Kinney albums is Kenny - you can read his assessments of them - as well as recent releases by New Order, The Duke Spirit, Electrelane and Teenage Fanclub - here.
Don't believe the truth

Little White Lies is a new(ish) magazine for lovers of film. Each issue is centred around one new release - issue #1 takes an in-depth look at Wes Anderson's 'The Life Aquatic' and #2 at slick ultraviolent comic book adaptation 'Sin City'. A rollicking good read, and one for which my old mate Jon is partly responsible and to which Mat The Hat also contributes.

So, if you're sick of the same old anaemic Empire crap, you know what to do.
The empty page

Earlier in the week I stumbled across the fact that the author Henry Green wrote a novel called 'Nothing'. This amused me.

"Henry, what are you up to?"

"Oh, 'Nothing'. I've been working on 'Nothing' for ages."

Such are the amusements of an English lit research student...
A fishy tale

The Birmingham Evening Mail excels itself again.

On one of the sandwich boards on Wednesday: "MIDLANDS CRAYFISH'S AMAZING JOURNEY!"

Somehow I think that exclamation mark is superfluous.

Monday, July 04, 2005

SWSL Glastonbury 2005 Diary

Delayed by a combination of illness and slackness – but, as they say, the best things come to those who wait…

(For what is in effect a précis of this, check out my 15 Festival Earworms at Swiss Toni’s Place.)

Wednesday 22nd June

6.30am
Up at what is for me an ungodly hour, so we can beat the rush, get down there quicksmart and secure a prime Pennard Hill spot. The bleary-eyed face with a month’s worth of patchy beard growth staring back from the bathroom mirror reminds me that I’ve successfully managed to cultivate the look of a semi-feral road protestor who’s been holed up underground before the festival’s even started.

9.30am
And we’re off!

10am
Traffic jam. Arse.

1pm
We celebrate our arrival at the back of the queue to get onsite with a Ginsters pasty (well, we ARE practically in Cornwall, aren’t we?). Nearly there…

3pm
After a long and arduous walk from the E3 car park, the tents are up and we – Rob, Steph, Gav, Martin and myself – are cracking open our first beers of the day under clear blue skies and in scorching heat. It doesn’t get much better than this.

5.30pm
I help carry a crate containing several burst cans of lager to the tents, and realise that I now look AND smell like I should at the end of the festival – yet the first bands are still two days away.

7.30pm
The rest of our party arrive – Mark, Micky, Graham, Andy, Dan and Chris. On the path leading through the Pennard Hill campsite from the Glade to the Stone Circle walks a man selling hits of nitrous oxide from a canister. Two passers-by take him up on the offer, and we watch as the first doubles over unable to control himself and the second crumples slowly and spectacularly to the floor in a fit of hysterics. Having inhaled nothing but Glastonbury air, we laugh ourselves stupid at the whole spectacle.

9.30pm
Meeting up with Andy P and Phill by the Jazz World stage, I decide I’m already sufficiently alcoholically disorientated and pass up the opportunity to sample some of the infamous Brothers Bar pear cider.

3am
Far too drunk, I find myself at the Stone Circle stood around a big fire while a half-naked satyr-like figure chunters incessant nonsense over the sound of tom-tom drums. I set off down the hill for home.
Thursday 23rd June

9.30am
I wake hungover, tired and hot and suffering from the beginnings of a sore throat. Thankfully, unzipping the tent and gazing out upon the sunlit Glastonbury site is always a panacaea. That, and a good strong cup of coffee.

10.30am
As each member of our party gradually crawls and clambers out of their tent, I’m reminded of the fact that at Glastonbury you can be assured there’s always someone in a worse state than you – on this occasion Andy and Graham, our two resident pillheads. Andy: "My head’s like a big field. A big field full of tents that are all empty".

11am
Graham: "If I have half a pill I’ll puke".
Andy: "You’re such a V Festival type".

2pm
A second trip to the car to retrieve my remaining two litres of wine. The heat is intense, and we collapse exhausted in the car park for half an hour, enjoying the stillness and silence and feeling our skin cooking.

4pm
The return journey to the tents is punctuated by a stop-off for alcoholic refreshment at the Leftfield Tent. This impromptu break ends up lasting a couple of hours, during which time we spot the first great T-shirt slogan of the festival – "My money went to Nigeria and all I got was this lousy T-shirt" – and Gav discovers that Ian Brown’s on the bill: "That means I’m the second worst singer at Glastonbury".

8.30pm
Following the afternoon’s pints of Burrow Hill, the wine is slipping down dangerously easily. The sun is setting, and at last the temperature is becoming bearable.

2am
Still at the tents, a drunken mess, having failed to hook up with Phill, Andy P or Swiss Toni, explore the site or indeed achieve anything meaningful. Where the fuck did the day go?
Friday 24th June

6am
Peals of thunder are only just audible over the roar of rain on canvas. I’m fast learning that the single-skin tent I "acquired" at last year’s festival isn’t exactly waterproof. I contort my 6ft frame uncomfortably to avoid touching the sides, before discovering I’ve just been dunking the end of my sleeping bag in a pool of standing water.

8.30am
After a brief period of respite the storm starts up again with greater force and intensity. More pools are collecting inside the tent, at the top end too now and faster than I’m able to mop them up with an assortment of grubby T-shirts. It’s soon apparent I’m fighting a losing battle, and I abandon the rapidly sinking ship with all my stuff for the relative dryness of Dan’s twin-skinned three man tent. Chris soon joins us, all his clothes drenched.

9.30am
We unzip the tent cautiously and look out and JESUS FUCKING CHRIST! What was standing water outside the tent is now a full-on river running through our camping area and indeed under some of our tents. Martin and Andy, who’s been enjoying the experience of sleeping on a waterbed, are awoken by a girl screaming "GET OUT!". Andy opens his door to see a box of wine floating out of his porch and off down the hill. Martin’s first words on seeing the scenes unfolding outside his tent: "I’ve read about this in the Bible. This isn’t weather, this is an attack". Micky, whose tent is facing uphill, opens his door and, as water streams in, frantically scrabbles around trying to locate his phone. Meanwhile Graham sleeps through it all.

10.30am
Rob and Steph’s tent, directly in the flow of the river, collapses into the water despite careful attempts to keep it dry while taking it down. Chris and me paddle around barefooted, like the others trying to help out as best we can. Micky, who has just about managed to save the contents of his tent, cracks open a can of lager. We all gradually convene under a neighbour’s gazebo, the spirit of community, camaraderie and friendly assistance strong as it always is here. Huddled together around a portable radio, we hear Chris Moyles tucked up in his London studio chuckling about the atrocious conditions and power cuts which are preventing Jo Whiley from broadcasting her show live from the site. Right on cue comes ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’

11am
Moyles has got Michael Eavis on. His customary bullishness wins us over, as he insists the show will go on and it’ll be fantastic. The rain peters out and there’s a remarkable sense of euphoria as the sun breaks through. He may just be right…

11.30am
The rain starts up again.

12noon
It’s stopped once more, thankfully, and the river is dwindling to a stream. Soaked to the skin, I take a walk down the hill in search of warm caffeinated sustenance and encounter the carnage at the bottom by the railway track, where a couple of hundred tents are submerged in as much as four foot of muddy water. People stand around clutching what they could salvage in the panic and scratching their heads in disbelief. We’ve got off lightly – it could have been much, much worse. After all, that’s where we were camped last year.

2pm
A small patch of deep mud has been fenced off and has a yellow plastic duck floating on it. A sign reads: "Glastonbury Nature Reserve: Don’t Fuck With The Duck". Shortly afterwards we spot our first two completely mud-covered revellers.

2.45pm
Despite the power cuts, lightning strikes and mud which necessitated the cancellation of several acts, the music has been underway for over two hours. First up for me are Mancs NINE BLACK ALPS (John Peel Stage), who’ve attracted such a sizeable crowd that it seems impossible to squeeze into the tent. Solid rather than spectacular, they blast through tracks from debut LP Everything Is, proving that the litany of Nirvana comparisons are well-founded. Recent single ‘Not Everyone’ in particular could have dropped off the end of Nevermind, such is the melody married to its muscle. I just hope for their sakes they don’t go the same way as the last band to be hyped up as the new Nirvana, The Vines. At least there are no drippy ballads clogging up the Nine Black Alps set.

3.45pm
The first stupendously good set of the festival, and it comes courtesy of the first half of a Geordie double bill, MAXIMO PARK (John Peel Stage). A fledgling outfit they may be, but they’ve got fantastic new-wave tunes coming out of their ears - from ‘Apply Some Pressure’ to ‘Now I’m All Over The Shop’, from ‘The Coast Is Always Changing’ to forthcoming single and set closer ‘Going Missing’. And that’s without even mentioning the crowning glory of ‘Graffiti’. Paul Smith is a magnetic figurehead, scissor-kicking around the stage only to stop occasionally and read his lyrics from a book, but in keyboard player Lukas Wooller Maximo Park effectively boast a second frontman - when he’s not hunched over his instrument Wooller hops around chopping the air robotically like a short-circuiting member of Kraftwerk. Lively doesn’t really do this performance justice.

4.45pm
YOURCODENAMEIS:MILO (John Peel Stage) are, appropriately enough, the only band ever to record a Radio 1 session for John Peel on the strength of a demo alone and, even though it’s only Friday afternoon, I think they can fairly confidently lay claim to being the heaviest act of the festival. Certainly their rejection of airbrushed Funeral For A Friend style post-hardcore in favour of a far more complex, intricately crafted and interesting racket isn’t to everyone’s taste, though it was to Steve Albini’s, who produced debut mini-LP All Roads To Fault. For the most part my reaction is one of bafflement - these songs are undoubtedly good but very hard to follow on first listen, and I’m also wondering whether the guitarists are massive or whether frontman Paul Mullen really is that small. Mood music for schizophrenics.

5.30pm
Ah, the calm that inevitably follows the storm. M83 (John Peel Stage) are on hand to ease those frayed nerves and soothe away the headaches that Yourcodenameis:Milo had threatened to bring on. It might seem like a lazy comparison given their shared Gallic origins, but M83 really do sound like Air, albeit performed by a T-shirt-and-jeans-clad indie band with a My Bloody Valentine obsession. The trouble is that the festival’s young and I’m not really in the mood for anything quite this placid. Of course it’s just as we decide our afternoon’s residency at the John Peel Stage should come to an end and walk out of the tent that M83 strike into something with more of a pulse.

6.15pm
Elvis lives! Well, ELVIS COSTELLO (Pyramid Stage), that is. Perhaps it’s my unfamiliarity with his back catalogue, but for a long time there seems precious little to enjoy except the sight of the keyboard player from his backing band The Imposters who – dressed in loud shirt, orange trousers and shades and with long hair and beard – looks like the sort of acid casualty with whom Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski would hang out. Thankfully, Costello comes good with ‘Oliver’s Army’, ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding’, ‘Monkey To Man’ (from his recent The Delivery Man LP), ‘Alison’ and ‘Suspicious Minds’. Amidst all the excitement a somewhat chemically refreshed girl persuades Martin to lift her up on his shoulders (much to the embarrassment of her boyfriend), and he gets his back covered in mud from her wellies for his trouble.

7.45pm
An object lesson in why you should never get your hopes up – they’ll only get dashed. If there’s one band I’ve been most looking forward to seeing for the first time it’s BLOC PARTY (Other Stage). And they turn out to be a major disappointment. Well, no, maybe that’s a bit harsh - after all, they’re still enjoyable enough. But it would be hard not to be, given that they have one of my favourite albums of the year up their sleeve and songs of the quality of ‘Helicopter’, ‘This Modern Love’ and ‘Like Eating Glass’ to call upon, all tense wiry guitar lines and frantic drumming. Therein, perhaps, lies the problem. Accelerated up the bill by the relentless hype machine, they look and sound a little awkward, as if they’re suffering from vertigo, and so rely on the standout tracks from Silent Alarm to see them through, but are unfortunately able only to muster fairly flimsy facsimiles. If there’s something specific that doesn’t translate, it’s the sheer edgy excitement of the record.

9.45pm
I don’t like THE KILLERS (Pyramid Stage). Not one bit. But that doesn’t stop me from appreciating they’re putting on a half-decent show. That said, ‘Indie Rock ‘N’ Roll’ is a truly heinous crime against music in any context, and by sporting a light pink jacket Brandon Flowers is saying to us all: "Look at you, you peasants, all covered in mud – and then look at me". My views of the band remain unchanged, and I curse my laziness for missing out on Willy Mason.

11.15pm
Dan and Chris appear, saucer-eyed and grinning, just in time for THE WHITE STRIPES (Pyramid Stage): "We’ve earned four crystals with what we’ve been through. And we didn’t get locked in once". Fuck me if Jack White doesn’t look ridiculous with his Mexican pimp ‘tache. And Meg still can’t sing. And we REALLY don’t need marimbas. But when the duo avoid material from Get Behind Me Satan (‘Blue Orchid’ aside, which I hear for the very first time tonight), there’s no doubting they’re electric. The set is a procession of fantastic songs, starting with ‘Dead Leaves And The Dusty Ground’ and taking in ‘Hotel Yorba’, ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’, ‘I Smell A Rat’ and the brilliant ‘Ball And Biscuit’ (split into sections and dispersed) before coming to a close, predictably enough, with ‘Seven Nation Army’. But the stage set-up and White’s general demeanour is all a bit pretentious. A part of me can’t help but recall with fondness their Pyramid Stage debut of 2002, even more thrilling because of the complete lack of anything to detract from the music. Then it was just two people bashing out some wonderful modern blues, and now it seems more like the sort of self-conscious spectacle put on by a pair of global rock stars.

1am
Back at base camp, the river has disappeared. I can feel the onset of trenchfoot, but miraculously, after a bit of mopping, my tent is sufficiently dry as to be habitable.

Bands or performers I would have liked to have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Tom Vek, Hot Hot Heat, Editors, Doves, Secret Machines, Willy Mason, Stewart Lee.
Saturday 25th June

9.30am
Waking up this morning proves less traumatic than it was 24 hours ago. Until we discover there’s a poo in a bag next to our tents, that is.

11.30am
Is this some kind of joke? Well, obviously, but HAYSEED DIXIE (Pyramid Stage) are playing a song about keeping an ex-girlfriend’s poo in a jar. Purveyors of what they call "rockgrass", they deal mainly in hillbilly covers of metal classics and tales of "hog farmin’ moonshiners from Bristol, Tennessee". There’s an awful lot of banjoing and fiddling as they storm through near-unrecognisable versions of ‘Ace Of Spades’, AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’, Queen’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ and even Outkast’s ‘Roses’. Finger pickin’ good.

12.15pm
I spot Vernon Kay and then, walking past the Radio 1 tent, have the misfortune to hear Chris Moyles’s unnecessarily amplified voice. Keep out of my way, you fuckers.

12.45pm
More bands should be introduced on stage by bearded turban-wearing men beating miniature gongs. MODEY LEMON (Other Stage) hail from Pittsburgh. This we know because frontman Phil Boyd tells us on countless occasions. After recent support slots with Dinosaur Jr, Yourcodenameis:Milo and Secret Machines, they’re in good shape, powering through a glut of swampy Stooges style garage rock. ‘Crows’ and ‘Tongues (Everybody’s Got One)’ – from an album called, yes, Thunder + Lightning – thrash around in particularly impressive fashion, but the material from new LP The Curious City, such as ‘Mr Mercedes’ and the single ‘Sleepwalkers’, signals a greater sense of focus and an increased emphasis on the groove, not least because the deep Moog sound is more prominent. Brevity is a virtue they’re yet to discover, though, and they wind up with a very stern-looking stage manager glaring at them. A rather fine prospect live nevertheless, though judging by the sparse crowd gathered at an extraordinarily muddy Other Stage most festival-goers miss out on the experience.

2pm
Drugs! Guns! Rap! Rollerdiscos! Yes, it could only be GOLDIE LOOKIN CHAIN (Pyramid Stage). They announce that Bob Marley’s coming to make poverty history at 4pm - I’m not at the Pyramid Stage to find out. Will the joke wear thin? Without a doubt, but it’s still raising a smile here and the bad news for the haterz is that the Chain have got some new material. Critical faculties are futile. C’mon kids, all together now: "Commodore Spectrum ZX84 / Wanna be a fuckin’ robot after smokin’ loads of draw"…

2.45pm
"Art Brut, play me the sound of freshly cut grass". ART BRUT (John Peel Stage) respond to the request of their frontman Eddie Argos with a brief improvised cacophony. In truth, aside from length, there’s little difference between this and one of their songs. The likes of ‘Formed A Band’ and set-closer ‘Bad Weekend’ feature the sharply fringed Argos narrating rambling Cockerlike tales of frustration and disappointment over a shambolic mess that would make The Fall sound positively polished and cohesive.

3.45pm
If Art Brut are all about idiosyncrasy and eccentricity, then THE RAKES (John Peel Stage) seem to be all about conformity, a laser-guided missile calculated to explode at the precise intersection of The Strokes, Bloc Party and The Jam to maximum revenue-making effect. Phill points out that overexcitable vocalist Alan Donohue has evidently been earnestly studying videos of Ian Curtis in performance, and even their name owes a huge debt to The Libertines. They have no identity of their own whatsoever. The singles ‘Retreat’ and ‘Strasbourg’ have me tapping my feet, and The Rakes are a pleasant enough way to spend half an hour, but any memory of them vanishes clean out of my head the minute I step outside the tent.

5pm
After Bloc Party’s rather lacklustre showing yesterday, was I right to have got all excited about the prospect of THE FUTUREHEADS (Other Stage)? Why of course! This band just doesn’t do disappointment. The set starts slowly enough with ‘Le Garage’ and ‘The City Is Here For You To Use’ before gathering pace and climaxing in style with ‘Carnival Kids’, ‘Hounds Of Love’ (for which the crowd are split in half to sing the two vocal parts), ‘Man Ray’ and ‘Piece Of Crap’. Of their eponymous debut, only ‘Trying Not To Think About Time’ doesn’t get an airing – we’re even treated to a rare appearance of the a capella ‘Danger Of The Water’, in addition to The Television Personalities’ ‘A Picture Of Dorian Gray’ and new song ‘Area’. The band’s front three Barry Hyde, Ross Millard and bassist Jaff have always combined to create some stunning vocal harmonies to overlay their jerky XTC style new wave punk, but over time they’ve developed a real comic repartee, to the extent that they almost come across as a music hall act. As much as I enjoyed them two years ago in the New Bands Tent, they’ve come a long way – from kings of the toilet circuit to stadium rock showmen.

6.30pm
Is it THE CORAL (Pyramid Stage) who are slightly flat, or is it the crowd? Of course it doesn’t help the Hoylake mob’s cause that their most summery tunes ‘Pass It On’ and ‘Dreaming Of You’, though still capable of inspiring a fair amount of jigging, are played out beneath cloudy skies. Nevertheless, and despite James Skelly’s apparent lack of interest, they still do enough to remind me of their status as national treasures. Opening up with a song called ‘Goodbye’ is genius, and ‘Arabian Sand’ is, like many of the tracks from new album The Invisible Invasion, darker and more menacing in tone than earlier material, but with an added bile and bite that strikes a cleverly discordant note on which to end.

7pm
Mudwatch: deep and becoming increasingly sticky. Mobility and stability are problematic, particularly after a few pints of lager.

8pm
I don’t suppose anyone goes to see INTERPOL (Other Stage) expecting laughs a plenty or witty banter. Just as well, because today they’re as lugubrious and serious as ever, without even Paul Banks’s bowler hat or the litter tornado of two years ago to lighten the mood. ‘Next Exit’ gets things underway, my enjoyment tinged with slight disappointment at the knowledge that this means ‘Untitled’ will again go unplayed, before ‘Slow Hands’ shifts the pace up a gear or two. Overall, there seems to be a growing confidence in the material from second LP Antics. Particularly impressive is ‘Not Even Jail’, for me perhaps the stand-out track from Antics, but even that is overshadowed by the by-now familiar brilliance of ‘NYC’ which preceded it. "Turn on the bright lights"? Nah, let’s stay in the dark.

9.30pm
Felicitous indeed that I can take in the entirety of Interpol’s set before making my way leisurely across the site to see the band the New Yorkers are most frequently (and unjustly) accused of aping. Well, not quite – after all, this is NEW ORDER (Pyramid Stage) rather than Joy Division. Yet we’re still fortunate enough to get ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and the song that started it all, ‘Transmission’, during which Martin turns to me and says: "I told you I’d get a hard on if they played this…" Within the first six songs we’ve had ‘Crystal’, ‘Regret’, ‘Transmission’, ‘Krafty’ and ‘True Faith’, but the euphoria can’t last and sure enough out comes Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters for a run through execrably bad recent single ‘Jetstream’. Mercifully, we’re temporarily distracted from proceedings by a girl from Virgin Radio who alights upon Gav as a suitable interviewee. Technical problems curtail the set so we miss out on ‘Blue Monday’, but ‘World In Motion’ is nevertheless a decent enough conclusion, despite the fact that a chunky Bernard Sumner and a grizzled Peter Hook are joined onstage by Keith fucking Allen, filling in in John Barnes’s absence.

10.30pm
From legends fully made to legends very much in the making. I arrive just in time to catch THE MAGIC NUMBERS (John Peel Stage) wrapping up their set to the most rabid reception afforded to any band I’ve seen so far this weekend. As encore ‘Wheels On Fire’ draws to a close, people are going fucking insane for them, not least the hairy gnome-like stage announcer, and, as in Birmingham last month, they’re genuinely humbled, not the kind of band to take it all for granted. Look out for them when the festival returns in 2007 – they won’t be performing in a tent again, that’s for sure.

11.30pm
Following The Magic Numbers on that sort of form is a tall enough order without finding yourselves hampered by technical difficulties, but unfortunately for Brighton’s twelve-legged feelgood machine THE GO! TEAM (John Peel Stage) that’s precisely the predicament in which they find themselves. Their hour-long headline slot is less green light and full steam ahead than a procession of untimely halts. And yet, in the brief flashes we do get - not least ‘Ladyflash’ itself - there’s more than enough to suggest that they could have triumphed. There’s certainly no one quite like them out there, slinging frenzied guitar into the mix with funk basslines, the odd semi-epic keyboard line with energetic rapping. (Incidentally, The Go! Team have gone one further than Modey Lemon, naming their album Thunder, Lightning, Strike - perhaps there’s some wag on the technical team holding them responsible for yesterday’s meteorological onslaught...)

1am
I arrive back at the tents. Andy’s on the phone to his ladyfriend back in London, who’s stoned and giggly, watching the BBC’s Glasto coverage and insisting on singing Keane songs to him. He’s not amused.

3am
Our drunken campfire party is gatecrashed by a toothless drug-wreck who’s barely able to laugh let alone speak. Gradually we manage to coax out of him the fact that he’s called Emile, he’s Swedish and his mate’s given him a load of horse tranquillisers. After a while he stumbles off into the distance, apparently lacking any concept of where his tent might be.

4am
Gav’s body, which has been slumped unconscious in a chair for a couple of hours, suddenly comes back to life and his mouth begins spewing forth nonsense in a splurge that will last for the best part of three hours. Two sample comments: "I am to Dudley what Michael Palin is to the world" and "The problem with Magnus Magnusson is that his north-south equilibrium is all fucked up". Well, quite. Time for bed, I think.

Bands or performers I would have liked to have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Echo & The Bunnymen, Rilo Kiley, Longcut, The Earlies, Simon Munnery.
Sunday 26th June

10am
Blue skies! Heat! A pleasantly cooling breeze! The mud is baking dry! Friday’s apocalyptic scenes are all but forgotten, though recorded for posterity in the form of grubby tidemarks on the previously submerged tents at the bottom of Pennard Hill.

11.30am
On my way to the Pyramid Stage I pass Vernon Kay and, barely twenty seconds later, spot the sweating form of Chris Moyles approaching. They’re stalking me, I swear it!

12noon
BELLYDANCE SUPERSTARS & THE DESERT ROSES (Pyramid Stage) are modelling outfits – or, rather, costumes – so extravagant that even Cristina Aguilera might baulk at the thought of being seen in them, and, as Phill had suggested yersterday, presumably the fact that they’re "superstars" marks them out as the cream of the bellydancing profession. Even still, they’re not a patch on the English National Opera from last year. Not that I’ve paid the Pyramid Stage a visit just to check them out, you understand. No, I’ve come to meet up with My Friend From The Sun Online, who’s here in a semi-work capacity. She’s interviewing James Blunt later in the afternoon (it’s OK, Phill - I urged her to ask about his army background…) and had the pleasure of trying to get some sense out of a near-comatose Goldie Lookin Chain yesterday. I imagine that was about as difficult as it was with our Swedish acquaintance Emile last night...

1.30pm
From where we’re sat, just outside the tent, CHRIS T-T (Leftfield Stage) comes across like a younger more pissed-off Billy Bragg, but one with enough of a sense of humour to begin his set with a song about giraffes. Forthcoming album Red Songs should tell you something about whereabouts on the political spectrum he situates himself, as should the track about the Countryside Alliance (or "’cunts’ for short") with the chorus: "I’ve never been in favour of police brutality / But if you see a huntsman on the march give him one from me". He’s evidently not afraid to ruffle a few feathers on the left, either – he introduces ‘Preaching To The Converted’, which has a sly dig at Bragg himself, by saying: "I offended some people when I played this song yesterday, so I’m going to play it again"…

2pm
Spotted: a T-shirt which says simply "Meat is dinner".

2.30pm
The great hulking figure ambling past the Hare Krishna stall? Why, that’d be Stephen Frost of ‘Blackadder’ and ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ fame. We suppress the urge to shout "Readyaimfire!" at him.

3pm
I’m sat here while JOOLS HOLLAND (Pyramid Stage) is performing. How the fuck did that happen?!

4pm
About this time yesterday I was watching The Rakes. I’ve forgotten everything about them except the fact that they were instantly forgettable. The same cannot be said of THE DRESDEN DOLLS (John Peel Stage). "Brechtian punk cabaret" they label themselves, and who am I to disagree? I’m still desperately struggling to get my bearings, confronted with a sultry gothed-up singer / keyboard player (Amanda Palmer) and a drummer done up like a mime artist who attacks his kit with more ferocity than anyone I’ve seen for a long time (Brian Viglione). Their cover of ‘War Pigs’, the second of the weekend after Hayseed Dixie yesterday, is extraordinary, and ‘Coin-Operated Boy’ is equally striking, not least the section during which they play as though the record has stuck. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. A big thanks to Kenny for the tip-off on this one.

5pm
More glamour and glitz, this time courtesy of SONS AND DAUGHTERS (John Peel Stage). How glamorous and glitzy can grubby punk-country be, I hear you wonder. Well, quite, is the answer, when you’ve got Adele Bethel and Ailidh Lennon wearing what look from this distance to be pristine ballgowns. They strike up into ‘Medicine’ from debut full-length LP The Repulsion Box, and follow it with the single ‘Dance Me In’. Ho hum. So far so OK. Time for something from mini-album Love The Cup? No, it’s another new album track. Then another. Then another. Then another. I wouldn’t mind so much if they were as gripping and raw as the earlier material, but they’re not. Disappointed, I wander off to a pressing engagement elsewhere.

5.45pm
I turn to Martin. "This is going to be something special".

5.47pm
BRIAN WILSON (Pyramid Stage) appears to massive applause. "We’ve brought the Californian weather with us". Just for starters: ‘Then I Kissed Her’.

6.30pm
JESUS H CHRIST THIS IS FUCKING AMAZING! The overlapping vocals of ‘God Only Knows’ (message to The Futureheads: nice try boys, love Brian), the plaintive downbeat beauty of ‘In My Room’ (Martin: "I’ve always wanted to write the alter ego to this song – ‘In My Attic’"), the soaring verse vocal of ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ and the splendid incongruity of ‘Little Saint Nick’ (unlike Swiss Toni I don’t have a Santa hat to hand), all wrapped up with ‘California Girls’ and, better still, ‘Good Vibrations’. Throughout it all the legend himself sits there, calm and composed while all around him are losing their heads.

7pm
He wasn’t even finished! And what an encore! ‘Do It Again’, ‘Help Me Rhonda’, ‘Barbara Ann’, ‘Surfin USA’ and ‘Fun Fun Fun’. In glorious sunshine the entire field grooves along as far back as the eye can see. Even my highest expectations have been trashed. My sixth Glastonbury, and that is quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever witnessed. The mud may wash off, but this grin won’t be fading any time soon.

7.30pm
Seagulls wheel and circle ominously above the Other Stage. Chris speculates whether they’ve spotted Emile’s corpse.

8pm
Following this morning’s bellydancing and The Dresden Dolls this afternoon, the time is ripe for more theatricality. Right on cue, RUFUS WAINWRIGHT (Other Stage) appears, clad in a suitably extravagant technicolour suit. As perfect as Brian Wilson was for the early evening sunshine, the prodigiously talented offspring of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle is ideally suited to playing in a slot which sees the sun gradually sinking lower in the sky. There’s a duskiness and smouldering sultriness about his music, and an occasional darkness that recalls Nick Cave. As a frontman he’s voluble and open, effusive in his praise for Jeff Buckley and for his sister Martha (who briefly joins him onstage to duet) and quite prepared to confess that most of his songs are about men he has wanted and failed to sleep with. His voice is his most potent weapon, though - strong and clear rather than unnaturally forced. Want One or Want Two? After that, I want both. ‘Gay Messiah’ indeed.

9.30pm
It’s a happy consequence of Ryan Adams’s cancellation through illness that I get to see LCD SOUNDSYSTEM (John Peel Stage), and indeed hear their punk-funk schtick for the very first time. First impressions? BASSLINES. Lots of them. Insistent and really rather good. It’s testimony to the precision grooves they kick out that even the most jaded and weary festival goer finds his or her limbs twitching and flexing involuntarily. ‘Losing My Edge’ and ‘Yeah’ have me nodding along like a monged Churchill’s dog. Oh, and James Murphy’s white suit is crying out for a few mud pies to be slung in his direction.

11pm
It’s all getting rather messy, both in my head – the consequence of wine, numerous pints and no food – and on stage. After last year’s Pyramid Stage triumph, BRIGHT EYES (John Peel Stage) have been handed the honour of closing out the festival in Ryan Adams’s absence. Conor Oberst proceeds to take that honour between his hands and dash it onto the floor with drunkenly malevolent relish. I may have missed Primal Scream, and Bobby Gillespie’s temper tantrum ("Fucking hippies" eh, Bobby? So were you fifteen years ago...), but Oberst is no less petulant, spitting out jibes at the Make Poverty History campaign and at John Peel himself in between unpalatably tuneless mewlings. I walk off in disgust. He may since have apologised, but it’ll need more than that to rebuild the bridges burned.

Midnight
On the way back to the tents we drop in on 2 MANY DJS (Dance East). It’s a right good old knees-up. Barely five minutes after arriving we’re treated to the Great Lost Track of Glastonbury 2005, ‘Blue Monday’, and we can go home happy.

1.30am
I’m in quite a state. My sleeping bag calls, but I remain conscious just long enough to hear Rob say how a load of mushrooms made him think Dan was "very aquamarine", then that he was a peanut, then that he was Mr Whippy. And he also thought Mark's head turned into a triangle.

Bands or performers I would have liked to have seen in an ideal world but missed due to clashes / rearranged running orders / my own sheer laziness or stupidity: Primal Scream, The Kills, Martha Wainwright, Soulwax, Phil Nichol.
Monday 27th June

10am
Another scorching day. It’s a good thing the festival’s over – we ache too much to be able to carry on. "I feel like I came in my body and I’m leaving with someone else’s", moans Rob.

1.30pm
We discover the news of Richard Whiteley’s death isn’t just this year’s ridiculous campsite rumour. The post-festival mood becomes more subdued.

3pm
An abandoned tent gently smoulders in the breeze. The Jazz World Stage flagpoles look like leafless trees, the flags themselves having been taken down. Everywhere there’s an eerie quiet. It’s time to go. In the heat of the unshaded afternoon sun we slowly make our way back to the car park. This year I’ve been particularly myopic in my exploration of the site, and I’ve also been very conservative on the food front (though my stomach is grateful for the avoidance of experimentation), but it’s still been as good a festival as I can remember.

Other Glasto reports and pictures:

Swiss Toni’s Place

Danger! High Postage

Smacked Face

Andy Pryke

Delrico Bandito

No Rock & Roll Fun (fantastic uber-post from a non-festival-goer)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Technoproblems

Does anyone have any idea why the text on my homepage is currently unjustified and in a different font to normal? The archived pages seem to be fine. From what I can gather from Paul and Inspector Sands, Blogger's been playing up again over the past few days, so I guess it might only be a temporary problem?
Muddied but unbowed

So, I survived (just) and live to tell the tale. As one of our party commented, we can now tick the box in the list of Things To Do Before You Die that says "Wake up in the middle of a flash flood". Actually, regardless of the thunder / lightning / rain / mud of Friday, the whole shebang was really rather ace.

Accompanying me throughout the experience / ordeal was my trusty pen and paper, so you can look forward to a full festival diary appearing on SWSL over the next couple of days, just for you. (Well, that's not strictly true - jotting things down was a handy way of reminding myself each morning of where on earth I'd been the previous evening when booze had started to make it all more than a little confusing...) Expect tales of beards, punk rock cabaret, bellydancing, hillbilly covers of AC/DC songs, ketamine casualties and people mutating into peanuts...

In the meantime, and because what appears here will sadly be photo-free, check out Swiss Toni's report from the trenches and Andy's pictures from the front line.
Richard Whiteley RIP

Regardless of what else is written and said about Richard Whiteley - about his frequently embarrassing patter, awful puns and legendarily bad dress sense (offset only by the jumpers of Giles Brandreth, often to be found in Dictionary Corner), not to mention his occasional deficiencies as a - the first man to appear on C4 in 1982 was a TV institution. Jolly and enthusiastic, he was like a kindly uncle livening up many a weekday afternoon, even if he did make you squirm and cringe at times. Whether 'Countdown' can continue without the man who has become synonymous with it seems to me unlikely.

The Guardian's Lucy Mangan on Whiteley and how we gradually took him to our hearts.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Hippy hippy hooray!

That's your lot for the next week, folks - I know it'll be hard, but please try to hide your disappointment.

The reason? Why, my excursion to the Glastonbury Festival Of Performing Arts, of course! After an anxious wait for delivery of my ticket, courier service Special Mail finally got it right at the third attempt. (So THAT'S what the Chuckle Brothers are up to these days...)

It looks like us festival-goers might be in for a treat. Not only are there loads of intriguing musical prospects spread over the different stages, but the weather's actually forecast to be good too. Can we hope for any more? The Levellers and Jools Holland dying in a helicopter crash en route? That would just be greedy.

Joining me in soaking up the Somerset sun and cider - aside from the usual bunch of reprobates ("ex Nottingham alumni") - will be a healthy contingent of bloggers, including Phill, Andy, Swiss Toni and Smacked Face. If any of you get down there before me, mine's a pint of Burrow Hill, cheers.

Whether I'll be able to muster up the energy to produce a festival diary of the magnitude of last year's is as yet uncertain - rest assured, though, that there will be festival-related postage of some sort appearing on SWSL once I've got home and washed the smell of joss sticks, lentils and vomit out of my hair.

In the meantime, No Rock & Roll Fun can be relied upon for excellent armchair commentary, and this year there's even a blog whose author promises to update regularly from the festival "via GPRS" - dunno what that means, but it certainly sounds impressive.

See you on the other side.
Brute force

'For Whom The Bell Tolls' may not have been my first encounter with Ernest Hemingway - I read 'A Farewell To Arms' ages ago, but don't remember it - but it might well be my last.

I can't seem to reflect on the book without arriving at two of the most cliched views about Hemingway's writing. Firstly, that he's a very male author. As a fictional dispatch from the Spanish Civil War, 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' often reads like the work of a man flexing his muscles. It's packed with admittedly vivid scenes of violence and brutality (I'm thinking of Pilar's tale of the mob lynchings, as well as Andres's recollections of his teenage triumphs baiting bulls), and builds in classic style towards a tense climax when central character Robert Jordan's preparations for blowing the bridge come to a head.

Which is fine, except for the unconvincingly weak and crudely fashioned romantic sub-plot in which Jordan becomes emotionally and sexually entwined with Maria, an escapee from a train blown up by the guerrilla band. The reasons or nature of her attraction to him is never explained or explored, except vaguely by the fact that he is a dashing "Ingles", whereas his attraction to her is signalled repeatedly in the text when they first meet by the thickening of his throat. Huh?

Secondly, that though Hemingway's language - economic and functional, the vast majority of adjectives and adverbs deemed superfluous - is suited to the harshness and brutality of the events which it describes, it lacks finesse and ostentatious craftsmanship. Of course, it's a matter of debate whether a book needs to employ a certain type of language in order to be classified as 'great literature', but personally I enjoy novels whose richness of language I can revel in - that in itself can blind me to a multitude of other sins. Lacking any particularly memorable passages - even the paragraphs describing Jordan and Maria's lovemaking, while looser and more fluid in style, are disappointingly hackneyed - 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' struck me as little more than a competent and well-paced Andy McNab style thriller for readers prepared to venture further afield than airport bookshops.

Not entirely without interest, then, but at the same time not a book I'm in any desperate hurry to read again.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Film 2003

After a flurry of cinema-going at the beginning of the year, it had been a while since I'd seen something new. But the weekend was a bit of a filmfest as I caught up with three films I'd missed when they hit the cinemas many months ago.

I'd had Todd Haynes's 'Velvet Goldmine' for the best part of a year and a half, and I'm quite glad that when I did eventually get round to watching it I was sober. That said, J was sober too and got completely lost trying to follow the convoluted narrative thread, and I found the film's fragmentary nature pretty difficult to deal with too.

It's a fair evocation of the glam era and, through Christian Bale's character, what it meant for the fans, but I couldn't help feeling that it was a bit pointless. Why base Brian Slade's character so transparently on David Bowie, and Kurt Wild's even more transparently on Iggy Pop (Ewan McGregor turning in a fine performance, particularly in the gig scenes)? Why not just document the real life story? After all, '24 Hour Party People' succeeded in doing just that, whilst lacking none of the myth and magic. If nothing else, the original music would have made for a better soundtrack.

Sunday evening's entertainment was two goofy comedies back-to-back. First up, 'Zoolander'. I'd heard good things, and it's not bad, but the voice Ben Stiller affects grated on me instantly, as did the seemingly constant need to wheel out celebrity after celebrity as a source of amusement. There, for instance, in the middle of it all, was David Bowie. Wrong film, Dave - try 'Velvet Goldmine'.

Better - and unexpectedly so, because the trailers horrified me - was 'Galaxy Quest'. Or was it just the wine I'd consumed? Confession time: I was a regular viewer of 'Home Improvement', but that was in another lifetime almost, and my faith in Tim Allen's capacity to carry a full-length film had waned. He does a pretty sound job, though, assisted by Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman, doing his usual hissing-through-the-teeth-whilst-rolling-the-eyes routine. The laughs were more often with rather than at. Something tells me the part of the hanger-on who becomes part of the crew was earmarked for Steve Buscemi, but he was otherwise engaged...
It's gonna booglarize you baby

Issue #14 of Skif's fanzine Vanity Project is out now. It features a contribution from yours truly, but don't let that dissuade you from checking it out. As well as all the usual grassroots goodness from up and down the country and further afield, you can find the following delights inside:

Interviews: John 'Drumbo' French (The Magic Band), Dawn Of The Replicants

Label profile: Hackpen Records

Albums: The Magic Band, Oneida, Steve Turner, Venetian Snares, The Dirtbombs, Snuff, Six. By Seven, Kinesis, Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, The Kaiser Chiefs, Maximilian Hecker, The Chemistry Experiment, Hell Is For Heroes

Singles: The Buff Medways, Misty's Big Adventure, The Rakes, Shitmat

Live reviews: The Arcade Fire, Cranebuilders, Tokyo Dragons, Emiliana Torrini

You can take a peek online at the Vanity Project, where you'll also find details for getting hold of a paper copy.

On a related note, Leon has returned after a lengthy silence to report on his band's recent gig supporting The Magic Band.
"A sort of Satanic emulsion of methylated spirits and Benylin"

A Times article about the beverage that Glaswegians consider the ambrosia of the gods, Buckfast.

The article's author Jane MacQuitty fails to understand its charms, though - "One sniff of Buckie’s evil, brown, 15 per cent alcohol 'wine', reeking and then tasting of burnt raisins, old coffee dregs and black toffee, and it was clear that even the bottle stall at the church fête would not take this one".

I'm sure Mogwai would disagree with that assessment.

(Thanks to Smacked Face for the link.)
Picking over the bones

Culture Vulture: a new blog from - guess who? - the Guardian.

It features contributions by Anna of Little Red Boat, including this post about 'Celebrity Love Island' - "Paul Danan, the man with the charm of a bucket and the emotional memory of a spoon".