Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Fashionably late

I feel awful. I forgot the birthday of my own child. Silent Words Speak Loudest was born three years ago last Tuesday.

Long may it grow and prosper at the expense of many more worthwhile causes, pressing demands and my sanity.

Thank you for reading.
Slanted and enchanting

STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS / CLOR, 17TH SEPTEMBER 2005, BIRMINGHAM ACADEMY

Serial support act Clor (by the end of the year they'll have played with Tom Vek, Sons And Daughters and Maximo Park as well) are an odd-looking bunch. A mop-topped becardiganed bassist bobbing around at the back of the stage. At the front, a guitarist who looks like the sort of bloke you might find yourself approaching to ask for a bank loan. A frontman who, with his youthful appearance and curling locks, resembles Chris Martin back when Coldplay were still in nappies and the prospect of marrying Gwyneth Paltrow and fathering a child named after a fruit was a distinct improbability.

Sonically they're odd, too - jerky new wave complemented (rather than merely supplemented) with keyboard effects which is forever changing direction. I find myself desperately trying to isolate and cling onto a recurrent lyric or sequence of sounds just to get a handle on what it is they're doing. The live environment might not be the best way to be introduced to them (I'm left feeling I could have done with a crash course with their debut LP beforehand), but 'Tough Love' and the singles 'Outlines' and 'Love And Pain' do enough to arouse my interest.

The last time I saw Stephen Malkmus, he was sat serving drinks from behind a bar made out of the front of a double decker bus. We were in Hull. I think this may call for an explanation.

October 1999, and Pavement were about to embark upon what turned out to be their final UK tour. To accompany them on the road, they'd chosen to take Salako, who, like their drum technician, hailed from Hull, and a secret warm-up gig was organised for the 200 capacity Adelphi. My friend Ele worked behind the bar there during the holidays and tipped me off about the gig, and so it was that we found ourselves en route for Humberside, Ele busy writing "It's never dull in Hull" in icing on a massive cake she'd baked for the band.

Just before they arrived onstage, she told me we'd managed to score an impromptu interview for our student magazine - the cake may have swung it. Afterwards we made our way into the private bar room adjoining the gig venue, and one by one the band members appeared, having freshened up after the show. We split up for the interview - I spent most of my time talking to Scott Kannberg, while Ele chatted to Bob Nastanovich. Lacking even the most basic recording equipment, we were forced to scrawl questions and answers down as best as possible on the backs of flyers for an organic fruit and vegetable shop we'd picked up in the foyer - how professional we must have looked.

When our conversation drew to a close, I made my way round the room having a quick word to the other band members Mark Ibold and Steve West, before wandering over to the aforementioned bar, where Malkmus - wearing a furry Hull Tigers hat - was debating the merits of Hull's renowned fish 'n' chip shops. What did the future hold, I asked. "European shows until late November, then easy times. We'll be celebrating the Millenium in Cambodia".

Little did I realise that "easy times" meant splitting up.

Almost six years on, and Malkmus is as youthful as ever. Like his peer Thurston Moore, he is ageless, still the same indie-loving college kid's poster boy he was in Pavement's heyday, still gangly and with the same choirboy haircut and mischievous glint in his eye.

He also shares Moore's goofiness, thanking Clor by adding that "they totally shred" and scoffing at a suggestion from a member of the audience (misheard) that Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood might be gay: "No, he's got a baby. He listens to classical music, which is a bit gay". His trademark surrealism isn't confined to his lyrics, either - quite how he gets onto the subject I'm not sure, but at one point he declares that Pilates was invented by Pontius Pilate.

Malkmus is in Birmingham to promote his latest solo record Face The Truth. Having played his self-titled debut nearly to death, I found the follow up Pig Lib much less enjoyable. Coming as it has in a year of great albums, Face The Truth hasn't got much of a look-in either. But the new songs form the basis for tonight's set and it's live that many of them take on an added dimension.

'Post Paint Boy' starts things off before the pace is ratcheted up a notch with Pig Lib's ace power-pop single 'Dark Wave'. The changes of tempo continue with an elongated 'It Kills', 'Malediction', 'Pencil Rot' (which perhaps benefits most from live performance, coming across as much less formless) and the deliciously languid 'Church On White', but the first really explosive moment of the night is a raucous rendition of stomping new single 'Baby C'mon'.

After that we get two of the finest tracks from Face The Truth, 'Mama' and the sprawling Sonic Youthy jam 'No More Shoes', the latter exemplifying the way in which Malkmus's fondness for noodling (a fondness which tarnished Pig Lib) translates much better live than on record.

The set winds up with 'Jenny And The Ess-Dog', a bona fide pop gem from his first record, and for an encore there's 'Dynamic Calories' - a B-side to 'Dark Wave', but infinitely superior to much of Pig Lib - and '(Do Not Feed The) Oyster'. Malkmus departs with a broad grin on his face. He may not have quite the same special chemistry with The Jicks (guitarist / keyboardist Michael Clark, bassist Joanna Bolme and drummer John Moen, the latter replaced tonight by a "wild card" called Billy) as he did with Pavement, but he's evidently still enjoying himself. And, from the reaction of the crowd, still inspiring the same level of adoration.

The Pavement Interview story isn't quite over. A little over a year later Ele appeared in the magazine office, breathless and brandishing a copy of the Marble Valley album Sunset Sprinkler. Marble Valley were Pavement drummer Steve West's side project, and the album had been released on Hull label Pork Recordings. She opened up the CD inlay, and there it was - the cake, immortalised in all its glory, shortly before five indie-rock legends hungrily set about it.
Get real

I think it's safe to say it wasn't the future I foresaw for myself back when I was a teenager. Back in those heady paintstripping-cider-swigging days, I couldn't ever have imagined going to a CAMRA organised beer festival, let alone enjoying it.

But perhaps I didn't fully appreciate that the cider on offer at such events, whilst not skimping on alcohol content, would be of a far superior quality to that which routinely came in two litre green plastic bottles for under £1.50. On Friday a half of golden and slightly cloudy Prinknash Abbey (7%, made by Benedictine monks in the cider hotbed of Gloucestershire) slipped down very nicely indeed.

Then it was on to the real ale - a couple of halves of Welsh Ale (chosen on the strength of the name of its brewer, Evan Evans) and one of Slaters Bitter - and a bottle of delicious lemon-scented Aiguille Blanche, hailing from the Rhone-Alpes region of France. Throw in a Bratwurst smothered in mustard and a couple of bags of Tyrrells crisps and you have all the makings of a very enjoyable evening.

Others seemed intent on enjoying themselves more visibly than me, however - not least the bloke looking like a cave-dwelling acid casualty who leapt about amidst the group of sweaty, drunk real ale enthusiasts as the live band kicked out songs by The Rolling Stones and Steppenwolf. Born to be wild? Born to have stiff limbs and a skull-splitting hangover in the morning, more like...
This week on Stylus

Colin Cooper predicts that Takk could be the record that sees Sigur Ros going overground, even though it is "in many ways a much darker record than any of the band’s previous work, with tempestuous conclusions and moody, almost pouty endeavours making up the bulk of its content". My first impressions: it's another mindblowing album.

Roque Strew proclaims Devendra Banhart's fourth LP Cripple Crow the site's Album Of The Week - "Gone is any splinter of freak-folk purism. Influences crowd Cripple Crow, with the usual suspects appearing and disappearing—Tiny Tim, Donovan, Marc Bolan, Nick Drake. But it’s the collage of styles that distinguishes this album: Cuban and Indian flourishes, Eisenhower-era doo-wop, the smoky Stax groove, bucolic British trad-folk, the eccentricities of American folk, of both the Dust Bowl troubadours and the Vietnam flower-children".

Ryan Potts is disappointed to discover that Black Dice's new LP Broken Ear Record is "more direct and deliberate, grounded and obvious" than previous releases. I really ought to invest in a copy of Beaches & Canyons.

Ross McGowan finds Death Cab For Cutie's Plans the work of "a band that’s consistent to a fault".

Cameron Macdonald revisits Royal Trux's Twin Infinitives - "One could loosely trace the skronk-thrash to the past glories of Pussy Galore, Dinosaur Jr. and SF dada-punks Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. Sun Ra’s Moog freakouts from the 70’s also figure in, along with a sense that Royal Trux is a garage band that must go to sleep every night with the sprawl of unholy guitar feedback coughed up by Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music blackening the sky".

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Four play

MIDAS / BEATS CAPRI / STRANGETIME / SINISTRA, 13TH SEPTEMBER 2005, BIRMINGHAM FLAPPER & FIRKIN

Has the second city been hit by another tornado? No, that'd just be the swirling fog of noise coming from the stage, courtesy of Sinistra. Somewhere, underpinning the squall, there's a drum machine and bass, and over the top vocals ring clear. There's no doubting the Flapper & Firkin soundsystem showcases their atmospheric stadium goth to better effect than that of Scruffy Murphys, where I saw them first.

Also on the bill that night were StrangeTime, who similarly benefit from the superior quality of this venue's equipment. The Scruffys appearance had been their first ever live outing, and a couple of songs into tonight's set they're looking increasingly assured. Some of the longer songs have a tendency to sag in the middle, but, when summoning up the fiery spirit of early PJ Harvey in bone-rattling post-feminist punk songs like 'Dressing Up', they're a riveting prospect.

Better still are two-boy-two-girl art-punk combo Beats Capri, who - hailing from Derby - are the night's only out-of-towners. Vocalist Joanne O'Neill and bassist Esther Brown's matching outfits bring a bit of Pipettes style glamour to the night, and when they kick into '1.45', with its chorus of "Make me make you make your move now", we know we're in for a treat. Propelled by a thunderous rhythm section, the songs are consistently arresting, none more so than tremendous set-closer 'Me Your Girl', saved up until last like the biggest present under the Christmas tree.

Stourbridge fourpiece Midas find Beats Capri a hard act to follow, and their cause isn't helped by the dwindling crowd and a couple of slightly limp songs like 'Oxygen Tax' midset, proof that not everything they touch (ahem) turns to gold. For the most part, though, their high-octane amped-up riffola (think 'Hysteria' by Muse) warms my cockles, 'Heads Will Roll' and 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' thrashing around particularly furiously.

So, full credit to Phill, for it was he who helped organise the night, the first of four this autumn under the banner of A Different Kettle Of Fish. The best idea of the evening? Distributing free CD samplers featuring a track from each of the bands appearing at the gigs, enabling us to take home what we've seen and whetting our appetite for what is to come over the next three months. Though the free cake and biscuits on offer were also a good move...

Other reviews of the night: Parallax View, Cheese In Space
Blogwatch

Welcome...

Ninja Polymath Blues - the new home of Robyn following the demise of Orbyn Dot Com

Alcuin And Flutterby, a unique poetry blog

(Thanks to Kenny and Jonny B respectively for the links.)

Meanwhile...

When the Doonesbury cartoon strip was axed as part of the changes to the new "Berliner" size Guardian, Pete, Mike and Jonathan led the outcry, and it's now been reinstated. (Look out for the brilliant Perry Bible Fellowship strip too.)

Elsewhere...

Pink is invited to take part in a Channel 5 show which "promises to be the most explicit and informative programme about sex ever to be seen on terrestrial TV".

Skif narrates his love affair with cricket and reacts to the Ashes series victory - "The unfathomable Sunday morning at Edgbaston was witnessed in a chalet with one of those very stags as we metaphorically held onto each other for strength while awaiting the start of our mutual friend’s beautiful wedding. I was nervous enough as it was about having to deliver a speech. Australia taking it down to that kind of margin did not help".

Jonathan recalls his ill-fated decision to take up jogging - "The trainer took one look at me and said 'You can go out with those lads'. The 'lads' in question were a spindly-looking group of sextuagenarians in 'Chariots Of Fire'-era training costume, limbering up gingerly in the corner".

Pete tries to convince us that wine-tasting is "harder than you think".

Paul asks who you'd want commentating on you having sex - "John Motson - Always thought the array of stats that Motty has at his fingertips would be slightly unnerving.
Sample Quote: 'That's the fifth time he's scored like that this year, the last time being away at Kettering on a wet Wednesday night in February'
".
Cat power

As a child I remember reading the book '100 Things To Do With A Dead Cat' over and over again and I'm pretty sure this wasn't one of them.

"A German inventor has angered animal rights activists with his answer to fighting the soaring cost of fuel - dead cats. Christian Koch, 55, from the eastern county of Saxony, told Bild newspaper that his organic diesel fuel - a home-made blend of garbage, run-over cats, and other ingredients - is a proven alternative to normal consumer diesel".

Marvellous. Such resourcefulness should be applauded.

The response to the current fuel crisis has been to demand an increase in production and supply. If Koch wins people round to his way of thinking and there happens to be a fuel crisis, then I'm guessing you'd be better off keeping a very close eye on Tiddles. There'll be Shell, BP and Esso vans driving around the streets at night, flooring the accelerator every time a cat hoves into view...

A note to potential commenters: don't even think about mentioning catalytic converters.

(Thanks to Graham for the link.)
Feel good hits of the 15th September

1. 'Me Your Girl' - Beats Capri
2. 'Losing Touch With My Mind' - The Icarus Line
3. 'Love In A Trashcan' - The Raveonettes
4. 'Old Flame' - The Arcade Fire
5. 'Chicago' - Sufjan Stevens
6. 'Glosoli' - Sigur Ros
7. 'Dressing Up' - StrangeTime
8. '9 Out Of 10' - 18th Dye
9. 'Once, A Glimpse' - Maximo Park
10. 'The Fox' - Sleater-Kinney

Funny how The Icarus Line's gloriously fucked take on Spacemen 3's 'Losing Touch With My Mind' always gravitates towards my stereo at the most appropriate times...

And no, before you ask, I didn't pick 'Chicago' just because I can't be arsed to type out any of the other song titles from Illinois. It really has been - thus far - the stand-out track for me.

Monday, September 12, 2005

From the ashes to the Ashes

All together now:

Merv Hughes, Kylie, Russell Crowe, Dame Edna, Steve Irwin, Alf off of 'Home And Away', Nick Cave, Jason Donovan, Richie Benaud, Nicole Kidman, Rolf Harris, Michael Hutchence, Mick Dundee - your boys took one hell of a beating!

Not only did we withstand the anticipated Aussie onslaught on the final day of the final test, but our adopted stupid-haired South African gonk Kevin Pietersen bludgeoned Warne and company all over the ground.

A tremendous victory overall in which every member of the team played his part, but Michael Vaughan's tactics and field placings were spot on, and Freddie Flintoff thoroughly deserving of his Man Of The Series award.

There was sadness amid the tickertape and confetti, though, with Richie Benaud leaving the commentary box at an English test for the last time - but this is the sort of series he'd have wanted to bow out on (though presumably given the choice he'd have opted for an Australian win..).

One final question (other than the obvious - whether we can retain the Ashes on Australian soil in 2006-7): have you ever thought about the fact that if cricketers didn't have a ball in their hands when they're shining it, they'd probably be arrested for vigorously rubbing their inner thighs in a public place? It lends a new meaning to the expression "ball-tampering"...

Other bloggers' reactions: Swiss Toni's Place, Delrico Bandito, Cage Of Monkeys, Casino Avenue

(Thanks to Martin for suggesting some of the names at the top of the post.)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Reasons To Be Cheerful: Guest Contributor Special

On 17th September 2004, after seven years living in Nottingham, I moved across the Midlands to Birmingham. As a way of helping myself to settle in, I started a series of posts about the attractions of my new home entitled Reasons To Be Cheerful - you can find them in the sidebar under Miscellaneous Features.

To mark the first anniversary of my time in Birmingham, I thought it would be a good idea to throw the feature open to fellow bloggers either currently or formerly resident in the city, and ask what they would choose to write about.

The contributors:
Phill of Danger! High Postage
Vicky of The Highrise
Pete of Pete Ashton's Interweb Presence
Bushra of Fudge It
Pete of The Whole Wide World Of Fat Buddha

Phill: My nomination - the music scene. Growing up as an indie kid in Brum meant that to go to gigs you generally had to trek to deep, dark Wolverhampton or brave the horrors of the NEC. Things seemed to change with the opening of the Academy in 2000. Admittedly it's a dingy underground bunker full of overpriced watered-down lager - but it does get a fantastic selection of bands and it seemed to kickstart something in Brum's music scene.

2001 saw Radio 1's Soundcity event come to Brum and from then on, the music scene has been blooming. Now there are great gigs every week, with a wealth of fantastic independent promoters like Capsule, Cold Rice, Chick Dig Jerks to name just three, bringing top international bands to the city. There's also a thriving DIY scene with new bands, club nights, labels and venues springing up every week. It's inspired me to begin promoting my own gigs too...

Just don't mention King Adora, OK?

Vicky: The Crown, located conveniently enough for some opposite Birmingham Crown Court, has seen more rescue operations than even the most veteran St. Bernard; from spit and sawdust drinking hole for that post committal-appearance pint and fight, through Friday night mobile disco hell to its current incarnation as a pretender to the crown (ha ha) of some of the local chain bars.

Mavis the clumsy barmaid no longer graces the optics, having dropped one mixed grill too many en route from kitchen to table - and in general staff turnover is high since the last revamp, but the food is okay (and reasonably priced) and the magic words "Do you want to make that a double for an extra 20p?" still ring from behind the bar.

Decor is part faux Queen Anne-style furniture, part musty old codgers - much of the former graffiti'd on by wasted staff from the now-defunct HSBC credit control department, once located in the McLaren building just down the road - but the general atmosphere and history of the pub makes it worth at least one visit in your lifetime.

Pete Ashton: I'm currently doing a fair bit of cycling, trying to get out every day or so for a blat or a bimble around the cycle paths and canals of south Birmingham. My favourite spot is an unlikely stretch somewhere between University station and Five Ways on the Birmingham and Worcester Canal. It's a dead straight piece of towpath where you can kick up some serious speed but I particularly like it for the trees hanging over the dark water of the canal and the Mordor-like black brick wall rising up from the railway. It's silent and a little bit spooky, yet right in the centre of the city. Magic.

Bushra: [I'd recommend] my first place of work, Balsall Heath Library on Moseley Road. The only way a lot of people can find it is if you tell them it is next door to the Moseley swimming baths. I went there a lot as a kid with my brother. There's always something going on, there's free net access and really helpful staff.

I think for me it was finding out about the eccentrics, there was an toothless old guy called Tom who would shuffle in and gave a big smile if you handed him the Times without asking, or the group of Muslim men squabbling over the only copy of the Pakistani newspaper The Jang. I remember how they all frowned when I stopped wearing a headscarf.

It was also very cool closing up at lunchtime, you'd get the library to yourself for a whole hour. Another good point, Balsall Heath Library was the only library that didn't need a security guard! Definitely my best job.

Pete Fat Buddha: "I feel like a tourist now whenever I return to Brum, so long have I been away and so much has it changed, and most of my thoughts on it are based on subjective memory, rather than objective fact. Most of my visits home now are to go the football and my ritual is to arrive a couple of hours before kick-off and grab some scoff at Café Soya, which needs no introduction from me on this blog.

Most of the pubs en route to the ground are cack and full of tossers so I tend to head for The Anchor on Bradford Street. On match days this is a good place to be, attracting a good mix of civilised rival fans. I don't know what it's like at any other time but the building itself is full of character and there is always a good range of well kept real ales.

Bank is good for scoff if you are not short of a bob or three; Imrans is my balti house of choice if skint.

The Harborne Mile was my nightly habit when I lived in the town but I suspect the pubs down there have all become fun palaces now, with large, fun loving gents on the door to ensure a warm, fun loving welcome, but I might be wrong.

Thanks to Phill, Vicky, Pete, Bushra and Pete for their contributions.
Blogwatch: in brief

Badger offers a first-hand account of the effects of Hurricane Katrina in his home town of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Elsewhere...

Betty eavesdrops on unsuspecting female members of the public to find out "what the wimmin are saying, y'know".

Diamond Geezer outlines The Seven Ages Of Blog (I think I'm somewhere between #3 and #4).

He Who Cannot Be Named confesses to the nine worst songs he's ever downloaded from iTunes (beware: this post features references to Tony Hadley, Dido and Queensryche).

Mike writes brilliantly about weddings and the traumas and dramas of other formal social occasions.

It's 'Question Time' over at Swiss Toni's Place, as his readers get to know a little bit more about him and vice versa.

Alex reviews the film 'Primer'.

LondonMark has difficulty coming to terms with navigating his way around his new home, New York.
Reasons The Internet Is Great #781

A few weeks ago, I was reading London Calling... and happened across this post. Having never heard of 18th Dye before, I was intrigued - it only takes a whiff of a Sonic Youth comparison for that to happen - and asked which album D would recommend. He replied by offering to send me both their albums, Done (1994) and Tribute To A Bus (1995).

A couple of days later and they arrived by post. First impressions justified the Sonic Youth reference, though the three-piece are rather more primal and less intricate and arty in their construction of fearsome bursts of noise, a bit like The Wedding Present around the time of Seamonsters. I'll be giving both LPs many more plays before finally making up my mind, but they certainly make an appealingly dirty racket.

So, thanks to D for his generosity and for introducing me to a band I wouldn't otherwise have come across.
Dead good

Unable to wait until it airs on terrestrial telly, I've been sneaking a peek at the final series of 'Six Feet Under' on E4. It might have one foot in the grave but, for me, it's still the best thing on TV by a country mile. Tuesday's installment was particularly gripping, not least the cataclysmic surprise party arranged for Nate's 40th birthday during which the Arcade Fire got a look-in on the soundtrack front, 'Rebellion (Lies)' the perfect accompaniment to a blazing row between Nate and Brenda.

That night I dreamt I went out on the lash with Billy. I'm not convinced that a bipolar fuckhead who's stopped taking his medication and is looking even more feral than normal would make a good drinking buddy, are you?
About time

Over a year after his death, Nottingham City Council are finally preparing to unveil a tribute to one of the city's most loved faces, Frank Robinson aka Xylophone Man. The tribute, which will take the form of an inscribed paving stone, will be on Listergate, where Frank could most often be seen playing.

All well and good - but how has it taken them so long? And why is it just a paving slab? Judging by these responses to the news, the form the tribute will take is far from universally popular amongst local residents.
Mutton dressed as lamb

Wandering down to the Arts Cafe by St Martins Church at the Bullring yesterday, I was struck by the massive queue gathered outside Borders. And not just any old queue, either - almost entirely female, acres of sagging middle-aged flesh, mutton dressed as lamb, touching their hair and giggling with nervous excitement like teenagers at a school disco.

Who could they possibly have been there to see, I wondered. Tom Jones? Alan Titchmarsh? No, it was Donny Osmond, in town to promote his new book (Wednesday he was in Guildford, after Birmingham it was on to Milton Keynes - no rest for the wicked, obviously). Good to know that the written word can still inspire such feverish interest.
"An unwanted souvenir"

You can expect festivals to leave you with a hangover like death and a bank balance well in the red. What you perhaps don't expect, though, is that you might end up suffering from a dose of trenchfoot. That said, if you're a Glastonbury regular then it might not come as that much of a surprise. Quite how I avoided it I'm not sure, given that for the entire Friday I was walking around sockless in boots filled with sloppy mud. Wisdom and rationality were in short supply during the deluge, I can tell you.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Dereliction of duty

As the scale of the death and destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi seemingly continues to worsen, it's difficult to know quite what to say.

It beggars belief that the administration of the richest and most advanced nation on the planet could not have reacted quicker to save and help its citizens. The disaster may have been natural, but the inadequacy and slowness of the response is entirely manmade. Some might feel it's the wrong time for political debate and finger-pointing, but it's not - Bush and company have an awful lot of explaining to do, not least on the issue of the budget cuts that have crippled the emergency services and rescue operations.

One person who's been asking awkward questions is Howell Raines, a former editor of the New York Times. In this article he celebrates what made the now devastated city of New Orleans so special and expresses disgust at the way Bush has responded to the crisis: "This president, who flew away on Monday to fundraisers in the west while the hurricane blew away entire towns in coastal Mississippi, is very much his father's son when it comes to the kinds of emergencies that used to call forth immediate White House action before its Bushite captivity. When he was president, his father did not visit Miami after Hurricane Andrew, nor for that matter, did he mind being photographed tooling his golf cart around Kennebunkport while American troops died in the first Iraq war. Now the younger Bush seems determined to show his successors how to holiday through an apocalypse".

Equally appalled is Bill of Orbis Quintus, who lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana: "The response to the worst natural disaster to hit the United States has been a disgrace and an embarrassment".

Thousands of people have lost their lives and incompetence and mismanagement are largely to blame. It will take years for the cities, the region, the survivors to recover. Bush's political reputation may not.

(Thanks to Dr Migs for the link to the Raines article.)
While you were sleeping

The plot of 'Goodbye Lenin' is as straightforward as they come. The year is 1989, and an East German woman who believes passionately in her country's socialist political ideals falls into a deep coma. Meanwhile Communism crumbles, so does the Berlin Wall and everything she believes in is swept away by the inexorable force of capitalism. When she suddenly awakes eight months later, a doctor tells her son and daughter that the slightest shock might trigger another potentially fatal heart attack, and so they have to try and conceal the collapse of the Wall from her. Cue all manner of elaborate strategies aimed at protecting the secret.

The film might hinge on a single "joke", but that hardly does it justice. Though lightened by frequent touches of humour, it never descends into farce. A moving personal story, it's also a powerful documentation of the incredible pace with which events unfolded, and of one of the most dramatic periods in recent European history. It makes some valuable points about the way in which East Germans were soon disabused of their illusions of freedom as the realities of capitalist society hit home. Beautifully acted, too.
Up in smoke

What's that burning smell? Oh, that'd be the political career of Labour Peer Mike Watson going up in smoke. You see, Lord Watson of Invergowrie - to give him his full title - has pleaded guilty to setting fire to some curtains at a hotel in Edinburgh last November whilst veh veh drunk.

The story wouldn't be quite so amusing were it not for the marvellous irony that that night Watson had attended the Scottish Politician Of The Year Awards. So was he just miffed at missing out? To be honest I think it's unlikely he'll be in the running for this year's award.
Monkey business

Today J and I saw a load of monkeys mucking around in trees. I know what you're thinking - there are no trees in Birmingham. And you'd be right. So we went here. It might just be the most fantastic place in the world. If you've got kids and it's within fairly easy reach, I'd strongly recommend it. And even if you haven't and it's not, then go anyway. You're guaranteed to have a great time.
Better Kate than never

It seems that, after twelve years out of the limelight, Kate Bush has heeded her own advice: don't give up. One of English pop's most intriguing eccentrics is returning with a new double album entitled Aerial at a time when her stock is rising thanks in the main to SWSL favourites The Futureheads and their cover of 'Hounds Of Love', the title track of Bush's 1985 album.

So, is her music etherial genius or pretentious drivel? There's something slightly absurd and yet incredibly, fascinatingly compelling about songs like 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Running Up That Hill' (the video to which scared the shit out of me as a child, for some reason). This Independent article is a great overview of her career (despite the inevitable appearance of the words "wacky" and "elfin"), and looks forward to Aerial's autumn release. I'm not the only one who's interested to see how it's received.
Know Your Enemy #61

"Those who run cricket in this country, especially at the domestic level, are for the most part a self-serving, pusillanimous and self-important bunch of myopic dinosaurs unable to take any but the shortest-term view of everything".

Henry Blofeld of Radio 4's 'Test Match Special'. I'm not sure what prompted the outburst, but when it comes to the decision to hand all TV rights over to Sky from next summer, I agree wholeheartedly.

The Ashes tests have stoked up enormous interest around the country, and to take coverage away from terrestrial channels is at best perverse and at worst potentially fatal for the game's future at a time when that future looks incredibly rosy. To get interested, get involved and adopt role models in the sport, young people have to be able to watch the professionals in action, something which will as a result of the cricketing authorities' shortsightedness be denied them.
Feel good hits of the 4th September

1. 'Getting Bright At Night' - The Icarus Line
2. 'Vacant Skies' - Sparta
3. 'Wattershed' - Foo Fighters
4. 'Stones' - Sonic Youth
5. 'The Rat' - The Walkmen
6. 'Blood' - Sons And Daughters
7. 'C'mon C'mon' - The Von Bondies
8. 'Ooh La La' - Goldfrapp
9. 'My Doorbell' - The White Stripes
10. 'Oh Yeah' - The Subways

Friday, September 02, 2005

Absent without leave

My apologies. I've been AWOL for a whole week, and then when I return it's only to fob you off with a pile of links (see below).

The truth is, though, that I've been short of time and inspiration. Much of my energy has been expended over here (inevitably, given the week's events). For SWSL, I haven't been able to rely on the usual reliable sources of content - gigs, TV, films, books - and though there have been one or two social engagements (including a fine all-day barbecue / drinking session chez Paul and his Long Suffering Wife last Saturday, at which Del was also in attendance), there's been nothing much to blog about on that front either.

Must try harder. Bear with me. With any luck, before long there'll be something up on here that'll make the visit worthwhile.
Blogwatch

Welcome...

Reluctant Nomad, the blog of an acquaintance who's just departed Nottingham for pastures new (thanks to Mike for the link)

Southern Bird, home of a suvvern lady resident in Manchester

Welcome back...

Casino Avenue, back with us after a short hiatus

Meanwhile...

He Who Cannot Be Named reproduces a pre-Illinois interview with "Suyfan Stephens" - "[Greetings From Michigan] will find a happy perch in a climate that has begun to swarm with concept records like A Grand Don’t Come For Free and Magnetic Fields’s I. Alongside them, Michigan is fighting the long-player’s battle against the tyranny of the iPod random play button, and is fighting it well".

Elsewhere...

Donna watches 'What Are Men For?' on Channel 5 and finds much to object to - "The whole thing looked rather spiteful and bitter, and if I'm supposed to think that I've got it good, well, I'm sorry but I haven't changed my mind".

Jonathan offers his thoughts on Art Brut's debut LP Bang Bang Rock 'N' Roll - "The most fun pop record I’ve heard all year".

Jane reacts to the revelation that Victoria Beckham has never read a book in her life - "Shit, poor Posh! So exhausted is she after a day at the celebrity coalface that, by the time her nanny has served up a hearty plateful of Orbit, she's good for nothing other than a quick moisturise before her eyelids clang shut. It's amazing that she finds time to exfoliate her tits, let alone read a couple of pages of Jeffrey Archer".

London Calling gets political - "I reckon the Tories are onto something this time: Ken Clarke - beer, ciggies and a slap-up dinner. Gordon Brown - 40 watt bulb, put a jumper on NOT the heating, boiled potato and ham dinner"

JonnyB goes pram shopping - "I don't know when it was that prams became so complicated. Certainly when I was a child, they were very simple affairs, just a box sort of thing on wheels. The one I travelled in didn't even have any brakes, and kept hurtling down the steep hill into the river, or that is what my mother said to the policemen when they brought me back".

Willie ponders a career in the porn industry - "Gay movies are probably the only ones where the Best Boy is more likely to be the lead actor than someone working on the set. But, despite my boyish good looks, I'm probably unlikely to be engaged for either role. Frankly, I'm a bit long in the tooth and I don't think the dental department is where the producers of this oeuvre look for length. Not that I would disappoint on either score, you understand".

And finally...

Swiss Toni goes to the fourth Ashes test at Trent Bridge dressed as a Spanish cardinal. There was a perfectly good reason for it, too.
This week on Stylus

Nick Southall questions the need for Bloc Party's Silent Alarm Remixed, but is smitten by the Four Tet reimagining of 'So Here We Are' - "He amplifies what the tune is about, and he does so by toning it down a little, making the microcosmic details more important. It’s not a tune about love, specifically, but rather (according to Kele in interviews) a tune about the euphoria of an initial drug-rush, and this slightly shifted focus, emphasising the kind of unimportant details that drugs actually accentuate, works marvellously, especially when you realise he hasn’t sacrificed the song’s scintillating and key shift in pace in the latter third. It’s gorgeous, and quite possibly better than the 'proper' version".

Andrew Unterberger sits through the entirety of the MTV Video Music Awards - "Usher gets a Diddy-like entrance, and starts blathering about the history of LA dance. Enter a bunch of LA dancers, at least one of which is a little girl and at least of which is a clown. 'CRUNK CLOWN, BREAK IT ON DOWN!' This is surely going to go down as one of the most surreal VMAs in history. The audience applauds very slowly and hesitantly".

Derek Miller takes a look at the soundtrack to 'Donnie Darko' - "Where most of the film’s music is simply used as timely wallpaper, Kelly isn’t beyond the shrewd use of pop music to subvert what he sees as unwelcome social trends. At the school’s talent show, after a gauche operatic performance by one student, Duran Duran’s 'Notorious' is used diagetically to soundtrack Darko’s younger sister’s dance-squad showcase. As the troupe 'Sparkle Motion', five over-made-up young girls juke, still skinny of age, provocatively to Duran Duran’s overtly sexualized dance smash".

Jill Labrack reviews Scout Niblett's Kidnapped By Neptune - "raw, damaged, modern day folk-blues-punk rock with a vengeance".

Ian Mathers revisits Weezer's Maladroit and proclaims it "their peak" - "It's the most mannered album Weezer have ever made — a more Weezer album than their others in the way that 'The Royal Tenenbaums' was a more Wes Anderson film than 'Rushmore'. Which is not, sadly, why it's so wonderful; the record's focus on Rivers Cuomo's neuroses hold it back from being as good as it can be. Rather it's a testament to this band's talent that this brief patchwork of an album sounds better than a hundred less queasily self-obsessed others".
Quote of the day

"I was about to play these songs, and no-one has ever heard them before, and it was just like throwing a surprise party for a friend!"

Regine Chassagne of The Arcade Fire on the band's early gigs, as quoted in an interview from last week's edition of the Guardian Guide. Now that's a party I'd like to have been at...

Friday, August 26, 2005

What's Hot On The SWSL Stereo: August 2005

You may have noticed a lack of decent content round these 'ere parts of late, and in particular a dearth of music-centred waffle (partly a consequence of my shameful gig-going drought). So to go some way to rectifying the situation, here are some long overdue thoughts on a few albums that have commandeered my stereo for long periods in recent months...

Bloc Party - Silent Alarm

When I said long overdue thoughts, I meant long, long overdue. Not least because I've already written about the new first non Silent Alarm single 'Two More Years'.

There are two things I love about this album. Firstly, the spidery guitar lines and clever effects. Secondly, and even more importantly, Matt Tong's incredible epileptic drumming - always inventive and unusual, it gives the songs a twitchy on-edge feel ideally suited to the lyrics. 'Like Broken Glass' and 'Helicopter' are particularly special, but best of all is 'So Here We Are', a brilliant, brilliant song illuminated by Tong's contribution and guaranteed to be right up there in my end-of-year lists.

And of course it's all borne out of the band's impeccable taste in music. If songs this clever and complex can capture kids' imaginations, then there's hope - which is why it would be a shame if 'Two More Years' signals a more direct and poppy direction for album number two.

Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger

At last - a band from Newcastle that I can unreservedly endorse! Maximo Park are never going to oust Mackems The Futureheads from my affections, but then no-one's asking me to choose between them. The world's big enough for the two of 'em, and my record collection certainly is.

Any album featuring three of the very finest singles of the year - 'Graffiti', 'Going Missing' and 'Apply Some Pressure' - and a great double A-side from last ('The Coast Is Always Changing' / 'The Night I Lost My Head') was always going to be decent, but of course the worry was that they'd be the peaks and everything else would seem like troughs. Naturally, on the first few spins the singles do stand out, but it doesn't take long for the other tracks to reveal their considerable charms - 'Once, A Glimpse', 'I Want You To Stay', 'Limassol', 'Kiss You Better', 'Now I'm All Over The Shop'...

Unlike near-neighbours The Futureheads, they steer clear of clattering punk and display more of a pop sensibility, coming across like a rough-around-the-edges and slightly less arch Pulp gone new wave. That template serves them well, and it's only when they abandon it that they find themselves on less solid ground - vocalist Paul Smith might be most proud of his lyrics to 'Acrobat', but the song, co-written with keyboardist Lukas Wooller, is the only dud on the album, as well as the only track that veers towards sounding like their label Warp's more usual fare.

A Certain Trigger is a great debut by anyone's standards. J's standards are rather different to my own - she likes it "because he enunciates really well and you can hear what he's singing"...

The Coral - The Invisible Invasion

It seems that the negative effects of all that pot-smoking are making themselves shown. There have been hints of a darker side to The Coral - witness 'Keep Me Company' from Nightfreak And The Sons Of Becker and the lyrics to incongruously jaunty single 'Bill McCai' from second album proper Magic & Medicine - but, as its title suggests, the prevailing mood of The Invisible Invasion is paranoia and sombre reflection.

Nothing wrong with that, you might think - and certainly that's the sort of thing I'm normally drawn to like a moth to a lightbulb. But The Coral are all about fun and playfulness, and in musical terms this all feels rather lacklustre and lifeless alongside the pop genius of songs like 'Dreaming Of You' and 'Pass It On' - 'Arabian Sand' and a couple of others aside, the new tracks just don't grip the imagination in the same way. Little wonder, then, that they looked so disinterested showcasing them at Glastonbury. Perhaps, a few albums in, they've just become jaded.

Even more surprising, though, is the relative lack of novelty and invention - especially given that their last release, Nightfreak..., was stuffed full of fantastic ideas hinting at all manner of possible new avenues.

A disappointment, sadly.

Queens Of The Stone Age - Lullabies To Paralyze

How would Queens Of The Stone Age sound post-Oliveri? Well, pretty much like they did before he and Josh Homme parted company.

True, Lullabies To Paralyze sets off on a disarmingly different tack with 'This Lullaby', a gossamer-light track with vocals by Mark Lanegan that wouldn't have been out of place on the ex Screaming Trees man's last album Bubblegum. But then 'Medication' kicks in, and it's business as usual - primal hard rock to make your ears pop, your head nod and your face grin.

It takes a little while to warm up, but there's a four track sweet spot right in the middle which includes the single 'Little Sister', the softer and more delicate 'I Never Came' and 'Someone's In The Wolf', a stoner jam with a relentless groove that recalls the sound of their eponymous debut.

Sure, it's too long - it could lose the bluesy Billy Gibbons' collaboration 'Burn The Witch' and the tedious 'Skin On Skin', and I wouldn't miss much - and Homme still hasn't quite come up with the album to match the quality of their live performances, but Lullabies To Paralyze is a fine follow-up to Songs For The Deaf all the same.

The Arcade Fire - Funeral

Regrets - I've had a few. One of the most recent is passing up the opportunity to get tickets to see The Arcade Fire when they came to Birmingham in May. The gig sold out well in advance - those who were lucky enough to get tickets, including Kenny, obviously knew something that I, at the time, didn't.

And now I do know it. And what I know is that Funeral is an absolutely stunning album.

The Montreal band are utterly unique - the guitar sound of The Strokes or The Talking Heads, the strings and sense of the epic of Godspeed! You Black Emperor (unsurprising given the involvement of G!YBE's Jessica Moss and Sophie Trudeau), the thumping disco drumbeat of Blondie (courtesy - on record at least - of Hotel2Tango recording engineer Howard Bilerman), the widescreen vision of The Flaming Lips (witness the incredible opening to 'Wake Up') all unfeasibly coalesce to create something quite astonishing which plays your heartstrings like Jimmy Page in his prime.

The first half of the album - particularly 'Neighborhood#1 (Tunnels)' and single 'Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)', which winds up with vocalist Win Butler sounding mad-eyed and feral - is breathtaking, but somehow the second half is even better. Kicking off with the splendidly queasy waltz 'Crown Of Love' ("I carved your name across my eyelids", "my love keeps growin' still the same, just like a cancer"), it continues with the aforementioned 'Wake Up', gentler interlude 'Haiti' and the frenzied and intense call-to-arms that is 'Rebellion (Lies)' ("Sleeping is giving in, so lift those heavy eyelids") before winding up with 'In The Backseat' in which Butler's wife, keyboardist Regine Chassagne, takes centre stage. Rarely can a song - and a whole album - soaked with the stench of death have been so powerfully uplifting.

To repeat: this is a fucking phenomenal record that you MUST get your hands on, if you haven't already. Beg, steal or borrow, as the saying goes.

You never know, just around the corner there might be reviews of other recent acquisitions: Sons And Daughters, Stephen Malkmus, The Arcade Fire, Sleater-Kinney, Eels, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Shins, The Dresden Dolls, The Magic Numbers, The Go! Team. I wouldn't hold your breath if I was you, though...

Links:

Stylus review of Bloc Party's Silent Alarm

Stylus review of Maximo Park's A Certain Trigger

Pitchfork review of The Coral's The Invisible Invasion

Stylus review of QOTSA's Lullabies To Paralyze

Stylus review of The Arcade Fire's Funeral

Kenny's review of The Arcade Fire's Birmingham gig in May

He Who Cannot Be Named's review of The Arcade Fire's London gig in March (scroll down a bit to find it)
Blogwatch: in brief

Welcome...

Lex Scripta, online home of Stylus writer Alex Macpherson

Betty's Utility Room, the blog of a recent visitor to SWSL and fellow fan of Musings From Middle England

Meanwhile...

Pink is left disappointed by Scissor Sisters at the V Festival;

Alan is unimpressed by Stewart Lee's Edinburgh show;

Smacked Face gets all tearful at a Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds gig.

And finally...

Mike, "a fully paid-up homosexualist", confesses to liking staring at women's tits.
Know Your Enemy #60

"Went to Kasabian last nite at the Astoria. I sent a photo-message to a friend that said 'Kasabian are messianic shit'. It’s this outstretched arms, worship me like I’m your fucking god attitude that sticks in my craw as a large twig would do. Kasabian are all widdly keyboards and compulsive basslines and non-words like 'Nanana-Boommmm!' ... It is all a swaggering, cock-waving sound that is ultimately empty and futile. Moody bollocks for moody car adverts played by Prada models. The way they look is 23 per cent of their appeal".

He Who Cannot Be Named on Leicester knuckledraggers Kasabian. No-one does vitriol better.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Quote of the day

"I said to him 'How's it going?' and he said 'Quite eventful. I've just shaken hands with someone dressed as a turd. I've never shaken hands with a turd before - unless you count Noel Edmonds.'"

Steve Lamacq on John Peel.

The quote's taken from this article about the news that 13th October has been designated John Peel Day. Gigs large and small will be taking place the length and breadth of the country in memory of the great man - a fitting tribute.

(Thanks to Alex for the link.)
Mo Mowlam RIP

From one sad death to another.

I'd been meaning to post something about Mo Mowlam until I read this post on Musings From Middle England and realised that my own paltry tribute would be pointless and I'd be much better off just linking to Willie's brilliantly written personal response to the news of her death.

"One certain indication of an extraordinary person is when the grief that you feel at their death is out of all proportion to the part that they played in your life. I was not a close friend of Mo and knew her for only a brief period. But, although her death today had been expected for some time, I feel devastated by it and find this very difficult to write. I'm struggling to avoid the worst kind of sentimental cliché but I do feel that there's a little less love in the world now that she's gone. And even as I write that I can hear her shouting 'Wanker!', or something worse".
Heroic failure

A warm "Nice try but no cigar" to Phill and the rest of the Different Kettle Of Fish crew for having the inclination and audacity to invite Alan Fletcher aka Karl Kennedy from 'Neighbours' to play at one of their club nights.

Unfortunately it seems that "Fletch" (as he signs himself) had already opted to showcase debut album In The Waiting Room at Walkabout in Birmingham.

Where next, chaps? You could always try the girl that used to play Charlene.
Casino Cul-de-sac

Sorry to have to report that, owing to ongoing issues with Blogger and the hosting company, one of my essential daily reads Casino Avenue has gone into hibernation indefinitely. Hopefully the problems will be resolved sooner rather than later - I for one am not sure how long Inspector Sands will be able to stay away from the PC...
Music meme

From Del. I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing - nah, who am I kidding?

"List five songs that you are currently digging - it doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they're not any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions and the five songs (with artist) in your blog. Then tag five people to see what they're listening to."

1. 'Unmade Bed' - Sonic Youth
2. 'Love Me Like You' - The Magic Numbers
3. 'Everyone's A VIP To Someone' - The Go! Team
4. 'The Pioneers' - Bloc Party
5. 'Long Hot Summer' - Girls Aloud

I tag:

Paul
He Who Cannot Be Named
Dr Migs
Pete
Swiss Toni (because he gets guests in for his Friday Earworms these days and doesn't reveal his own)

Go to it!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Without rhyme or reason

Francis Wheen's book 'How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World' could be justly described as an angry polemic. But if you're getting images in your head of 'Grumpy Old Men' and Jeremy Clarkson perched atop his metaphorical soapbox pontificating pompously about speed cameras, then you're way wide of the mark. These are not the half-baked rantings and ravings of a belligerent moron, but the articulate and well-researched arguments of an erudite author.

What I was expecting was a light-hearted dissection of the modern propensity for "mumbo-jumbo" in such spheres as business and alternative therapy - and, true enough, there is for instance a chapter dedicated to the legions of books with titles like 'Moses: CEO' and 'The Leadership Secrets Of Attila The Hun' which claim to contain the secrets of corporate success but which are in fact stuffed with meaningless or hackneyed platitudes. What I actually got was a complex and fiercely impassioned debunking and denunciation of what Wheen labels “the new irrationalism” in all its many manifestations – Reaganomics, catastrophists, New Age quackery, creationists, UFO fanatics, conspiracy theorists, the War On Terror – and a corresponding call for a return to reason and Enlightenment values.

For Wheen there are no sacred cows. Ronald Reagan is memorably described as an "incorrigible fantasist", while it’s made abundantly clear that the author is not a member of the Cult of Diana: “In Britain, the undisputed champion of implausible self-pity was Lady Diana Spencer. At the time of her engagement to Prince Charles in 1981 she was just another dim, round-faced Sloaney girl of the kind you could see on almost every street in Pimlico, Kensington or Earl’s Court, clad in the unprepossessing uniform that prompted some observers to liken her, cruelly but accurately, to a stewardess from Air Bulgaria. By the time of her funeral sixteen years later she was routinely if ludicrously described as one of the most beautiful women in the world, and the most saintly”.

Wheen’s targets might generally be found on the Right of the political spectrum, but he has no qualms about taking those on the Left to task too. Noam Chomsky, for instance, finds himself in the firing line, guilty – in Wheen’s eyes, at least – of always assuming that everything comes down to American imperialism and for automatically assuming that his enemy’s enemy must be his friend.

Of course, the fact that Wheen’s subject matter is the "the sleep of reason" means that very often he has very little to do other than to give the perpetrators of irrationalism enough rope with which to hang themselves, something he does deftly and to hilarious effect. On guru and New Labour adviser Edward de Bono: "In unboastful fashion, de Bono often says he invented 'lateral thinking' - which is like claiming to have invented poetry, or humour, or grief". And in the chapter on postmodernism: "Luce Irigaray, a high priestess of the movement, denounced Einstein's E=mc² as a ‘sexed equation’, since ‘it privileges the speed of light over other [less masculine] speeds that are vitally necessary to us".

I found the latter chapter particularly interesting, Wheen arguing that postmodernism’s “enfeebling legacy” is “a paralysis of reason, a refusal to observe any qualitative difference between reasonable hypotheses and swirling hogwash”. It’s a bit of a caricature but certainly not a wholly undeserved one, and the section in which he illustrates postmodernists’ predilection for "babbling impenetrability" by quoting from Gilles Deleuze had me chuckling and nodding my head in agreement. (Wheen does seem a little over-reliant on Terry Eagleton’s critique of postmodernism, though – ironic in that Eagleton himself is not always the most lucid of critics…)

At every turn the text seems to throw up clay pigeons for Wheen to shoot at. If I had a criticism, though, it would be that the book is somewhat scattergun. The chapters which confine themselves to a single issue work well, but others range across several topics, shifting uneasily from postmodernism to creationism and from a robust defence of the Enlightenment project to the sentimentalism of the public reaction to Diana’s death (“Diarrhoea”). In the interview at the back of the book in which he discusses its reception, Wheen dismisses John Gray’s criticism of it as “a rambling and bilious tirade” on the grounds that Gray is just nettled at being singled out for vilification in its pages – in reality, there is an ounce of truth to the comment.

There are also occasions when Wheen is perhaps guilty of rather overstating the case: “For the American defence industry, which had spent the past decade fretfully calculating the consequences of a ‘peace dividend’, the identification of Islamic terrorism as the latest globe-threatening force was very good news indeed”. And: “Those who defend horoscopes as harmless fun never explain what is either funny or harmless in promoting a con-trick which preys on ignorance and fear”.

But these are minor quibbles which hardly detract from what is a bold and intellectually rigorous book that’ll have the level-headed sceptic in you alternately chuckling and snorting in bewilderment at the absurdities of twenty-first century Western society.
Youthful appearance

This weekend, E4 - usually awash with 'Friends' and 'Big Brother Live' - has been given over to coverage of the V Festival, the corporate shindig for people who don't like music.

Only one thing could have enticed me to go: Sonic Youth's only UK appearance of the year. I was very tempted.

And so it was the cause of no little surprise and delight that yesterday, in the midst of interviews with waste-of-space bands like Maroon 5 and some rather dull Doves live material, E4 decided to allocate ten minutes of programming to the New Yorkers.

Kim in an unfeasibly short dress, Thurston like a shaggy dog, Lee dishevilled, Steve a bit pudgy, Jim unassuming. Yes, they might be starting to look their age, but fuck me if they can't still make the hairs on the back of the neck stand up.

We were treated to 'I Love You Golden Blue' and 'Unmade Bed' (E4 strangely steering clear of showing the "classics" I presume were included in the setlist), both played so beautifully they had me reaching for Sonic Nurse instantly. It just gets better with every listen.

(For a critical take on the standard of E4's coverage, see Sweeping The Nation.)
A treat, not a trick

What a splendid idea: a charity-benefit single in aid of UNICEF called 'Do They Know It's Hallowe'en'. And, even better, the North American Hallowe'en Prevention Initiative who are behind the single include Beck, The Arcade Fire, Sonic Youth, Malcolm McLaren, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Peaches, Buck 65, Devendra Banhart, The Postal Service, Sparks and Roky Erikson. And, er, Sum 41. Go to the Vice Recordings site (via the link above) to hear it.

(Thanks to Simon for the link. Simon's excellent music-centred blog Sweeping The Nation is a very recent addition to the SWSL blogroll - go see.)
Indie press

A couple of band interviews of note from the Guardian:

The Magic Numbers talk to Sylvia Patterson about Brian Wilson's sand-box and the 'Top Of The Pops' "incident". "We were never the Hoxton fins", says drummer Sean Gannon - and it's that resolutely unfashionable air they have about them that makes them stand out.

Caroline Sullivan talks to The Dandy Warhols - not normally something I'd bother with, but worth reading in the wake of seeing Ondi Timoner's documentary film 'DiG!'. Courtney Taylor: "Everyone in Europe loves the movie because it makes people feel hopeful, somehow, but it makes me feel uncomfortable and exposed. But what do I know? My favourite part is where Zia wipes something from my face. We're like monkeys grooming each other, 'cos we're like a family".
Feel good hits of the 21st August

1. 'Kiss You Better' - Maximo Park
2. 'Hell's Bells' - AC/DC
3. 'I Love You Golden Blue' - Sonic Youth
4. 'Ladyflash' - The Go! Team
5. 'Do You Want To' - Franz Ferdinand
6. 'Once More' - The Wedding Present
7. 'Two More Years' - Bloc Party
8. 'In The Backseat' - The Arcade Fire
9. 'Safety Net' - Shop Assistants
10. 'Landmark' - The Field Mice
Know Your Enemy #59

Far too long since the last one of these...

"But I thought I’d try a real Tom Clancy book, in case the poor sucker had simply sold his name and forgotten to read the small print about the actual fiction being any damn good. Guess what I found out? The CIA is full of decent, lantern jawed patriots whose honour is matched only by their enthusiasm for staunchly macho pastimes, like repairing Buicks or teaching ruddy cheeked orphans called Jimmy how to stage a coup and blame Communism. Their wives were either doctors or martial arts experts (as well as being damn fine when horizontal, naturally). Someone in the agency might be a touch dodgy but good old-fashioned patriotism makes everything all right.

My fucking arse.

(The writing, by the way, is 11 year old standard. I know. I’ve taught English to 11 year olds. Give them an editor and we could be talking $$$)
"

C J Wood on "that worthless shitbag" Tom Clancy, from a Villains piece on Bookmunch.

Other Villains featured include Jeffrey Archer, David Baddiel and Helen Fielding. In the interests of balance, though, there are also a number of Heroes pieces on Hunter S Thompson, Charles Dickens and Arundhati Roy amongst others - the best being this assessment of Charles Bukowski.