Monday, October 10, 2005

Things I Have Learned From / Noticed In A Three-Week Old Issue Of NME, Having Not Read It For Ages

About time I acquainted myself with what's down with The Kidz, I thought - and so it was to NME that I turned. Never mind that you could have got a better dissection of the issue on No Rock & Roll Fun three weeks ago...

1. A message from editor Conor McNicholas: "WELCOME TO YOUR NEW NME! You'll notice that NME looks different this week. That's because we've been making loads of improvements all the way through the mag". Forgive me for saying this, Conor, but don't you trot out that breathless froth every fucking week? Accompanying the message is a picture of Mr (or should that be Master?) McNicholas, looking as big-conked and gawky as ever.

2. Alex Kapranos has quite incredible teeth.

3. Ian Brown has stepped in to sponsor London non-league side Chiswick Homefields. And I imagine that every single member of the team, from 1 to 11, is a better singer than King Monkey.

4. The Futureheads and Bloc Party bassist Gordon Noakes are among those involved in a John Peel charity single, a cover of The Buzzcocks' 'Ever Fallen In Love'. The single's to be released on 21st November with all proceeds going to Amnesty International. Marvellous.

5. Irish band Red Organ Serpent Sound, now signed to Vertigo, have just released their debut single, the excruciatingly titled 'In Search Of Orgasmuz'. Having seen them play with The Fiery Furnaces and Sons & Daughters last year, I won't be buying it.

6. Kasabian's Serge Pizzorno on the band's hopes for their second LP: "We're just going to try and make that Stones / Floyd record that you can't deny is a great album, whether you like us or not". Well, by the sounds of it I'm likely to be able to deny it, Serge.

7. Rick Parfitt of Status Quo talks to Peter Robinson about the band's past: "It was all projectors in those days, and we'd project pornos onto the side of a white building. And we'd just lie there on the bed, collectively wanking. It didn't help when you were in your vinegar strokes if someone told you a joke. But that's all part of being mates in a rock band". I remember seeing Parfitt on BBC1's 'East Midlands Today' a couple of years back - he was being treated for Repetitive Strain Injury by Leicester City FC's physio. He claimed it was because of playing the same chords over and over again, but now I'm not so sure...

8. A guide to the free CD (the real reason I crossed the newsagent's palm with silver). The theme? "The soundtrack of your summer". The reason? "According to the results of our readers poll, 2005 really WAS the greatest summer ever for live music". Nice to see the magazine's continuing to encourage a startling lack of perspective. How many summers of live music have the majority of NME readers witnessed? Not many is my guess.

9. A band called The Arctic Monkeys seem to be the current can-do-no-wrong Next Big Thing. "There haven't been so many people trying to stuff into a tent at Reading since Foo Fighters in '95". I've never heard of 'em. Their contribution to the CD is 'Fake Tales Of San Francisco'. The merest whiff of Franz Ferdinand, but the almighty stink of The Kaiser Fucking Chiefs and their odious Britpop revivalism, plus a singer who sounds EXACTLY like Tony Wright of Terrorvision. It is rubbish. Rubbish name, too.

10. Ronnie Vanucci, drummer with "cover stars" The Killers, IS Johnny Knoxville.

11. The Killers' Brandon Flowers: "There are so many bands who write bullshit, and I don't know how they can play it every night without being embarrassed". Exhibit A, m'lud: 'Indie Rock 'N' Roll'.

12. Sweet relief - a pleasantly combative "interview" with Noodle of Gorillaz, whose cage is rattled entertainingly by Rob Fitzpatrick. At one stage she is goaded into declaring: "Gorillaz have never released anything musically, visually or in any other medium that has been anything less than superlative". I'd like to think there's an element of sarcasm in there...

13. A full page feature on Kanye West's declaration during the Hurricane Katrina telethon that "George Bush doesn't care about black people". No new quotes. Why not make it the main news item, rather than tucking it away deep in the magazine? Might it not be more worthy of inclusion there than, say, the massive picture of West with Franz Ferdinand behind the scenes on 'Friday Night With Jonathon Ross'?

14. Yet more slavvering over The Stone Roses and Spike Island. Yawn.

15. The new 'Help' album, 'Help: A Day In The Life', features new tracks by Radiohead, Maximo Park, Bloc Party, The Coral, The Magic Numbers and The Go! Team. Unfortunately, it also features Belle & Sebastian, Coldplay, Razorlight, Keane and The Kaiser Chiefs, the latter performing a cover of 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine'. For every swing a roundabout, eh? But then it's all for charidee - surely that can be the only reason for rating it a 10?

16. The new Ladytron LP Witching Hour makes Pete Cashmore want to have sex. A sweaty red-faced NME hack - what an unpleasant image.

17. "Tracks"? Of course, no "Singles" anymore. The Go! Team are acclaimed as "the most unabashedly fun band in Britain" - true enough. 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' by The Arctic Monkeys - them again - pips 'Bottle Rocket' for the accolade of Track Of The Week. If it's anything like as bad as 'Fake Tales Of San Francisco' then that's a travesty. And they're signed to Domino?! What are they doing dirtying their hands with this sort of dross?

18. A new (to me) NME Classic Single Of The Week feature - 'The Weeping Song' by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, released in September 1990. "an, uh, audacious choice of 45 ... this is really an expensive folly considering the kind of people who will decide the fate of it on-air". 45s? The possibility of serious airplay for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds? Very puzzling for the majority of readers, I imagine.

19. The Duke Spirit are the stars of another new feature, Pub NME, in which a band plays a couple of low-key pub gigs. They already had Club NME, you see, so this is really clever (even though it makes for a pretty damn dull feature). A biscuit to Mr McNicholas or whoever came up with it.

20. ... and we're into the live adverts. Oh look, Kim Gordon was obviously left feeling so dirty by Sonic Youth's appearance at the V Festival that she was intent on making amends by collaborating with Tony Oursler and Phil Morrison on a film called 'Perfect Partner' at the Barbican, live soundtrack supplied by her, bandmates Jim O'Rourke and Thurston Moore and others. Normal service is resumed, then.

21. The Recommender - another new feature, and one we like. This week, it's Paul Smith of Maximo Park telling us he's been listening to everything from Joanna Newsom to Broadcast via The Blue Nile, Scott Walker and John Cage. His main tip are Field Music, who have Futureheads / Maximo Park connections: "They've recently made a gorgeous debut album which is sort of like chamber pop with strings". Sounds very pleasant indeed. And he also 'fesses up to a love of Prefab Sprout's Swoon. Oh dear, it was all going so well.

Postscript: a Guardian interview with The Arctic Monkeys that Jonathan's already commented on. It seems the name was used by one of their dad's bands in the 1970s - that doesn't make it any better, though. Their Sheffield origins would explain the Terrorvision thing. Frontman Alex Turner on 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor': "It's a bit shit. The words are rubbish. I scraped the bottom of the barrel. It could be a big song, like. But I'd hate to be just known for that song because it's a bit ... crap". Well, why release it then?! Try harder not to be crap! And if we are going to suffer the misfortune of you sticking around for the foreseeable future, please try harder not to be this fucking dull and say-nothing in interviews.
The Art Of Noise

The Art Of Noise is a new (of sorts) collaborative music-oriented blog set up by myself and Jonathan of Assistant. The original idea was to create a site where we could pool posts about music that appear on our personal blogs, though there's the potential for bigger things to sprout from this acorn - more contributors and exclusive content perhaps.

Just to clarify, then, this doesn't mean that Silent Words Speak Loudest will become a music-free zone. What it does mean, though, is that if you only come around these parts in search of music posts, then you'd be better off going there instead - not only will the wheat be automatically sorted from the chaff for you, but you'll get to enjoy Jonathan's thoughts too.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The dark is rising

My SWSL review of last month's A Different Kettle Of Fish gig at the Flapper & Firkin has appeared (alongside that of Kenny of Parallax View) on opening act Sinistra's site. Cheers guys.

This month's ADKOF night takes place this Tuesday (11th) at the same venue. Unfortunately Hooker have had to pull out, but 51 Breaks have stepped in as last-minute replacements, and top a bill that also features When Bears Attack and The Graham Parsnip Liquidiser Torture Think-Tank (Project). £3 in, cheap booze - what's not to like?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Blogwatch

Farewell...

Exultations & Difficulties - Martin (a contributor to February's Right To Reply feature on poetry) has gone to take up a teaching position at a university in Zhuhai, China. Best (belated) wishes Martin.

Meanwhile...

He Who Cannot Be Named dredges up as many memories as he can of August's Bencassim Festival - "You have to keep on moving; many of the old warhorse bands (for this is no place to make your iconic breakthrough) were nothing better than dead sharks. Yet lest we despair, here comes Nick Cave and his gospel-rock juggernaut. The superlatives laid upon the high-kicking Hove resident since he unleashed Abbatoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus have been too rich and frequent to make you believe he would fail to deliver. He overwhelmed us with ease. It's what he does so well now; the backing singers, thrashing percussion, sheer incandescent devilry and unity of sound may have reached their optimum peak (how can he keep this up in years to come, you ask). The hand clapping for 'Supernatural' was not demanded but given so easily by a bewitched crowd, it charmed this cynical fucker's heart. And, of course, 'The Mercy Seat' was a haunting but blistering rollercoaster. Fighting imaginary demons can be so exhilarating fun to watch".

Elsewhere...

Willie analyses the Tory Party Conference speeches with far more wit and insight than any pundit you'll read in the papers - "It's always been said that a successful Tory conference speech has to tickle the erogenous zone of the party faithful in the hall ... Admittedly, when you survey the rows of elderly buffers and bufferines from the Shires who make up the Tory conference audience, 'erogenous zone' are not the two words that would immediately come into your mind. Nor theirs, for that matter. 'I'm sure I've got one somewhere but I can't remember where I put it. And I've got the wrong glasses on. Put the big light on, would you dear, so I can find my readers. Then we can look for....what was it again?.......an orange comb?'"

Jane dissects 'X Factor' - "Kate Thornton looked really tired on Saturday night's show. Eyes like hard boiled eggs with tiny holes poked in them".

Vicky directs her readers to a fascinating (if unpleasant on the eye) site called Abandoned Places (right up the Inspector's street, I'd imagine, if he doesn't already know of it).

Robin chronicles his struggles to uproot a couple of unwanted bushes - "A short break followed, for breath and high level planning, but soon I was back to the first stump wielding axe, fork and spade. I tried a variety of siege strategies, having rather lost the element of surprise by then, while it gradually became apparent that Stump One had put the respite since July to good use and had managed to connect itself to the centre of the earth". Note to JonnyB: you're not the only one who can wring comic genius out of the mundane...

And finally...

Phill reflects upon his girlfriend's dream that Jesus is alive and playing in midfield for Bolton Wanderers.
Quotes of the day

Two quotes that encapsulate much of what is rotten in the state of America...

"President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq...' And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And by God I'm gonna do it'".

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, speaking in a forthcoming BBC series called 'Elusive Peace: Israel And The Arabs'. Everybody get scared - Georgie Boy's hearing voices... Of course it's hateful and maniacal when a Muslim claims to have acted on God's command, whereas when George does so it's just, righteous and not at all irrational.

"Here we are trying to free another country, and I have to get off a plane - over a T-shirt. That's not freedom".

US citizen Lorrie Heasley, who was ordered off a Southwest Airlines plane in Portland, Oregon for wearing an "offensive" T-shirt. The T-shirt bore pictures of George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice with the legend "Meet The Fuckers" underneath. Freedom of speech, eh? Well, I guess everything has its limits...
The carrot-munching bastards that cannot be named

No doubting the weirdest story in the news today: "Posters for the new Wallace and Gromit film on a south coast island will not feature the word 'rabbit' because of a local superstition". Naturally I was surprised to discover it was Portland in Dorset rather than somewhere just off the coast of Norfolk - after all, East Anglia's an extremely superstitious place, and regular visitors to JonnyB's Private Secret Diary are only too well aware of his ongoing battles with pesky rabbits...
Shameless self-publicising

My review of Beats Capri's 'Me Your Girl' / 'Venus Across Town' sampler is now up on the Vanity Project website.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Telling untold stories

Plenty of interesting-sounding new book releases to get my teeth into. Louis Theroux's 'The Call Of The Weird: Travels In American Subcultures' sounds like the sort of non-fiction book I'd enjoy, and what I've read about Brett Easton Ellis's long-awaited semi-autobiographical novel 'Lunar Park' has made it seem an intriguing prospect - come on now He Who Cannot Be Named, I'm expecting a review...

But what brought the biggest smile to my face when I was browsing the shelves of Borders was the sight of Alan Bennett's new collection 'Untold Stories'. I hadn't even been aware that it was in the pipeline (note to self: read the TLS more often). It collects pretty much every short piece of writing Bennett's produced since 1994, when 'Writing Home' was published - and given my love for that, 'Untold Stories' is very definitely high on the wishlist.

Nicholas Wroe has interviewed Bennett on the eve of the new volume's publication. Wroe stays firmly in the background, his narrative simply filling in the gaps between Bennett's own words. The playwright / writer talks about his reading habits, confesses to an appreciation of comedy series such as 'The League Of Gentlemen' and 'Little Britain', and offers a number of observations about what he does: "Writing is an unseemly profession because you seize on things and almost your first reaction is, 'is that something I can write about?'". A sentiment most bloggers can easily understand...

Incidentally, my own reading has picked up after a period of stagnation. Not far to go of the volume of Woolf's selected letters, and also meeting the fairly formidable challenge posed by Pynchon's 'Mason & Dixon' head on. I've been catching up with purchases for quite a while now and hadn't bought anything new until the last fortnight, when I've picked up Martin Amis's 'Experience: A Memoir', Alan Hollinghurst's 'The Line Of Beauty' (remembering that good things were said about it on Troubled Diva last year) and Andrew Motion's 'Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life' (acquired on the strength of Bennett's excellent long review of it in 'Writing Home').

Incidentally - again - while I'm rambling about matters literary, there's also an interview with Forward prize-winning poet and Jerry Springer lookalike David Harsent on the Guardian site, in which he (amongst other things) reflects upon the value of poetry in a way that recalls February's Right To Reply feature on the form: "Poetry is important for the same reason that the arts in general are important. They tell us how we live".
This week on Stylus

Loads of great stuff this week...

Cameron Macdonald writes brilliantly on Rage Against The Machine, politics and "selling out". There's no doubt in my mind that Cameron's argument is valid - though their alliance with Sony might have been viewed by many as at least suspect if not downright hypocritical, RATM spread the word far further and louder than they ever could have done had they not been raging from within the machine itself.

Cameron has also taken a look back on Thurston Moore's 1995 solo LP Psychic Hearts. It's an album I've owned for a while but to which I haven't given much time - that may well change now...

Nick Southall explains why he doesn't like going to gigs.

In the weekly UK Singles Jukebox feature, it's a big thumbs up for Rachel Stevens and Bloc Party, and bottles of warm piss for James Blunt and Starsailor.

Josh Love expresses his disappointment at Franz Ferdinand's You Could Have It So Much Better... and in the process kicks up a comments-box debate about the place of "fun" in music.

Other album reviews worth a look: Justin Cober-Lake on Calla's Collisions and Derek Miller on Broken Social Scene's self-titled second LP.
Platitudinously speaking

Trawling through the hundreds of jobs advertised on the Guardian Jobs page isn't a particularly enjoyable experience, not least because of the vacancies advertised by this media recruitment agency.

The fact that they claim Yin-Yang is their "philosophy" is bad enough, but worse is the way that, underneath the job title, location and salary, they insist upon putting just the sort of cod-mystic platitudes and aphorisms that Francis Wheen so sharply lampoons in the early part of 'How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World instead of any additional useful information.

A couple of excruciatingly awful examples:

"In the depth of winter I learned that within me there lay an invincible summer".

"And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb".

'Nuff said.
Quote of the day

"[She] got all the madwomen down from the attic and into the charts".

A Kate Bush fan on the extent of her influence.

The quote comes from this article by Barbara Ellen on Bush's return to the limelight (metaphorically speaking, at least) with her first LP for twelve years, Aerial. Ellen might not be a music critic, but it's a decent piece. Incidentally, I've not heard the single 'King Of The Mountain' yet, but I certainly want to.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Lost in translation

Adam Jacot de Boinod's book 'The Meaning Of Tingo' sounds fascinating - a survey of foreign words which have no exact equivalent in English.

For someone who thoroughly enjoyed Melvin Bragg's 'The Adventure Of English', and in particular the etymological titbits and anecdotes, it could well be right up my street. Albanians have 27 words for "moustache"! The Japanese have a word for "a girl who appears pretty from behind but not from the front"! German has a word for "the excess weight gained from emotion-related overeating"!

My favourite words:

Plimpplampplettere (Dutch) - skimming stones (onomatopoeic genius!)

Backpfeifengesicht (German) - "a face that cries out for a fist in it" (I can think of many, many Backpfeifengesichte...)

Koshatnik (Russian) - "a dealer of stolen cats"

(Thanks to J for the link.)
"A keen eye for detail"

While I'm on the subject of language, forgive me a grumpy Lynne Truss esque moment of pedantry. Trawling the job agencies on New Street yesterday, I came across an advert for a job requiring someone who is "literate" and has "a keen eye for detail". Judging by the appearance of words like "acheived" and "vacancie's" in the same notice, I can only assume it wasn't for a position at that particular agency. Or that whoever wrote it has a well-developed sense of irony.
Feel good hits of the 4th October

1. 'Headlights Look Like Diamonds' - The Arcade Fire
2. 'Do You Want To' - Franz Ferdinand
3. 'Baby C'mon' - Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
4. 'Bottle Rocket' - The Go! Team
5. 'Sleepwalk Capsules' - At The Drive-In
6. 'Forever Lost' - The Magic Numbers
7. 'Tribulations' - LCD Soundsystem
8. 'Quay Cur' - The Fiery Furnaces
9. 'What A Lovely Dance' - Hal
10. 'You've Come A Long Way' - Bobby Conn
Know Your Enemy #62

"A huge cuckoo sitting in the middle of our nest"

Ken Clarke talking at the Conservative Party Conference about Tony Blair and his appropriation of Tory policies and ideology. I'm with you on that one, Ken.
Every picture tells a story

Look At Me is an online collection of photos found in a variety of circumstances. The names of the people featured in them have been lost to history. A simple idea that makes for a really fascinating site.

(Thanks to London Calling for the link.)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Blogwatch

Welcome...

Conditional Reality, a fantastic blog by a poet called Mario who tries to write posts of exactly 100 words every day. Sample: "The speech balloons began to appear above our heads whenever we said anything. They fell out of the air when we stopped talking. Piles of them started collecting everywhere. At first we gathered them up and tossed them out, but that got to be so time consuming that soon we all just ignored them, letting them pile up everywhere. We consulted cartoonists about storage. They were no help. All over the world people talked much less, just so they wouldn’t have to deal with the speech balloons. Deception became a much rarer event. A lot of us enjoyed the quiet".

(Thanks to Pete for the link.)

Meanwhile...

Jonathan receives a mysterious gift in the post, a Parka coat, containing an even more mysterious anonymous note - "Like my name and address on the package it was hand-written. Neat, young person's handwriting, in pencil. Nothing threatening about it - but still I was quivering a bit as I read: 'Jonathan- welcome to the club!'. And underneath, an email address - 'Parka-club at something-or-other dot com'". Don't know about you, but I'm desperate to hear whether Jonathan can get to the bottom of it all.

Elsewhere...

By The Sea Shore plays New York I Spy - "Inadvertently picking up American phrases ('I guess', 'Can I get the check please?', 'I did not have sex with that woman'.): 5 points".

Kenny reviews David Cronenberg's new film 'A History Of Violence'.

Willie enjoys Martin Scorsese's two part film about Bob Dylan (which I'm gutted I missed) - "At one concert Pete Seeger had to be restrained from taking an axe to one of Dylan's electric cables. Somewhere I have an old Pete Seeger 'EP' that I bought in 1965. If I ever find it, I shall stamp on it".

Swiss Toni opts to give the Dylan film a miss and plumps for a trip to see Editors instead - "Much the same as the album really: they have one or two really cracking songs ('Blood', 'Munich') and a few other decent ones, but they just seem to be missing a little something. Originality certainly".

And finally...

Phill presents for the benefit of Brum-based readers used to encountering Polish bus drivers the "Danger! High Postage Guide To Conversational Polish To Use On The Bus" - "Were you upset when Joy Division changed their name from Warsaw? Byly wy przewracaliscie kiedy Rozdzielanie Radosci zmienial ich imie from Warszawy?".
The name game

As of about a week ago, J and I are proud pet-owners. Nothing exotic, and not even a dog or a cat - no, just a couple of fish that we've inherited from a friend who's moved out.

The greatest pleasure to be derived from acquiring a pet - as I think Paul and his Long Suffering Wife discovered when they got their cat Cleo - is in the naming. Our fish did already have names, but - well, we weren't going to let a piddly thing like that stand in our way. We'll even go so far as to change them by deed poll if necessary.

I think it's very cruel and irresponsible of parents like Bob Geldof and Paula Yates, Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow, and Mr and Mrs Rooney to saddle their children with bizarre and unfortunate names - just think of the psychological damage it could do to them.

The thing is, though, that our fish won't have to make it in the wider world - they can just swim around in their tank, their own little kingdom, without having to come into contact with any other fish who might find their names preposterous and mock them mercilessly. It is for this reason that we've decided to christen them after our two current favourite words.

So may I introduce you to Hoopla (a proper bright orange, a fine figure of a fish) and Falafel (something of a runt - short and fat, greedy, a golden yellow colouring, occasionally suffers from a swim bladder problem meaning that he continually floats to the surface).

Long may they gawp, nibble at vegetation and swim around aimlessly.
Season of mist and yellow youthfulness

It's that time of year again. The time you suddenly realise that the summer has in fact been blissful and idyllic and not at all stressful. Oh yes - the students are back.

Well, some of them are back. Of course, some have moved on, while many of those who pitched up last weekend are just starting out, and it shows - in the disorientated looks and constant glancing at photocopied maps, in the strange eagerness to lavish fortunes on textbooks that may be on the required reading lists but won't actually be touched.

There seems to be two types of male student (the girls are less easy to classify): the nervy gawky type who look as though they're constantly cowering in fear of being shouted at by someone or of being made to look stupid or ridiculous and having their fragile self-confidence shattered; and the chirpy brash type who bray so loudly and repeatedly about their A level results and drinking prowess that one wants to welcome them to the next three or so years of their life by sending them on a night out in A&E.

But I guess nothing's changed - that's what I was like too. Well, the first type, not the second.
This week on Stylus

Jeff Siegel writes about Broadcast's new LP Tender Buttons in a way that makes me keen to hear it - "On its surface, it seems like such a simple little curlicue, all Mother Goose coos, descending-scale melodies, and no-wave screech over dinky drum-machine patters. That's really it; no mucking around in different time signatures, no showy genre fusions, just a single idea, explored at every conceivable angle over the span of a full-length. It reads like a dearth of ideas, but sounds like the product of single-minded, laser-sighted focus. Most acts would falter here, but Broadcast pull it off with an easy grace and breezy elegance that belies its surface tension of noise vs. melody, and a lot of that has to do with the combination of its essentially aleatoric nature and its hypnotic sense of developed repetition".

I know of at least one other person who's got Tender Buttons and likes it (looking forward to reading a gig review, Mike - nudge nudge...)

Nick Southall gets to grips with albums from rising Brit jazz outfits Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear - "both fantastic records, easily two of the most enjoyable I’ve heard all year".

Acoustic Ladyland are playing the Bar Academy on 15th November - having seen them on 'Later With Jools Holland', I'm very tempted to go along.

And now for some acerbic single reviews...

Dom Passantino on The Go! Team's 'Bottle Rocket': "Because, you know, restraint sucks doesn't it? Can you imagine anyone in 2005 actually turning around and saying 'You know what? Considering how well the recording history of The Avalanches has held up, wouldn't it just be the 'bomb diggity' if there was an indie band version of them?'. Like one of those pizzas at the bottom of the takeaway leaflet that just appear to be the chef clearing out his cupboards of all his unwanted ingredients".

Alex Macpherson on Andy Bell's 'Crazy': "Distasteful and slightly unclean in exactly the same way as feeling someone's hand on your arse in a gay club and turning round to find not a buff young 19-year-old but a sweaty, balding fortysomething man with eyes crazed by desperation and a lifetime of too many poppers".

Of course, Dom's dead wrong about The Go! Team, but his review's so sharp it deserved to be reproduced...
True lies

Congratulations to Jon and the folks behind independent quarterly film magazine Little White Lies on recently featuring in the Media Guardian (registration required). The third issue is out now, and centres on George Romero's 'The Land Of The Dead'.

Incidentally, Jon has pointed me in the direction of Pixelsurgeon, a site which covers all the creative arts. The main page currently includes links to an interview with Imogen Heap and pieces on Guy Ritchie's 'Revolver', Roman Polanski's 'Oliver Twist' and indie hopefuls We Are Scientists.

And while I'm on a film tip: Sean O'Hagan talks to Jim Jarmusch in the Observer - "I am interested in the non-dramatic moments in life. I'm not at all attracted to making films that are about drama".
Culture club

A useful resource, if I ever stumbled across one: the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. Not enormously comprehensive, but worth a look all the same.

No smirking at the expression "literate American" at the back - it's not an oxymoron...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

AWOL

Apologies for the silence and tumbleweed round these 'ere parts for the last few days - let's just say that all my time and energies need to be diverted in a different direction until Friday.

But, as they say (who are "they", and why do they always speak in aphorisms and cliches?), absence makes the heart grow fonder.

In the meantime, there are many other places more deserving of your attention - scroll down the sidebar to my blogroll, and click clickety click away.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Blogwatch

Inspector Sands and Willie Lupin open up a debate on Trevor Phillips's contention that parts of Britain are "sleepwalking toward apartheid".

Elsewhere...

Alan lists his idiosyncracies - this one in particular strikes a chord with yours truly: "The correct way to remove the foil from the lid of a coffee jar is as follows. You take the sharp bit at the leftmost edge of your right thumbnail and pierce through the lid immediately adjacent to the lip. You then move this thumbnail around the inside edge of the lip in a clockwise direction, using your left hand to rotate the jar as necessary, cutting away the foil as you go until you have cut out a perfect disk of foil the exact size of the opening and there is no foil protruding over the lip to impede the smooth entry and exit of the tea-spoon".

Jonathan is astounded at the news that Mr Cantankerous aka Mark E Smith is set to read the results on BBC1's 'Final Score' in November.

Jason is not amused by the latest live appearance of Smith's transatlantic counterpart, Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre - "Of course with Anton you always get more for your money, or less, depending on your point of view. Last night, if you paid for songs, you got none. If you paid for Anton's predictable and sad antics, well then your money was wisely spent".

Bongo Vongo details a grisly pigeon murder - "As I approached the shops, guilt-laden, I concluded that this was either a suicidal pigeon or that it had forgotten how to fly or perhaps it was ill and just wanted to get to the other side of the road. There was a zebra crossing just up the road but it would be stupid of me to expect the pigeon to use that - how would it have reached the button?" (actually, if it was accidental, that would make it pigeon manslaughter, wouldn't it?)

Lady Muck also recounts encounters with wildlife, in her case mice - "I can't bring myself to hate mice. Mice and I share a height problem and hair colour. But when they start living in your bedroom floorboards, it's hard to feel sisterly".

JonnyB takes umbrage at being told he's an unreconstructed "old man" - "the thing about me not being a new man is almost libellous, as here I am, househusbanding away, the newest of new men that there can possibly be. When my other half, the LTLP, gets home, I will have her dinner ready for her if I don't go to the pub, and the place will be spick and span because I have paid the cleaner. And when was the last time she defragmented the hard drive, then. Eh?"

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.)