Saturday, September 30, 2006

Know Your Enemy

About time I resurrected this semi-regular feature, I think...

"Typically fussy, too-clever-by-half noodle by arguably the single most over-rated human being alive. In wiring together a thudding electronic beat, a bit of scratching, a vaguely South American rhythm, a rapidly mumbled lyric and a coda which sounds like another song entirely, Beck repeats his characteristic error of assuming that if he stuffs enough ideas into one track, nobody will notice that none of them are any good".

Andrew Mueller on Mr Hansen and 'Cell Phone's Dead', the lead single from his new album The Information.

The last Beck album I own is Mutations, and I haven't heard much of Guero at all. One of those artists I loved (and do very much still like), but whom I seem to have lost touch with over the past few years. Not a conscious decision, just a gradual parting of the ways.
The perfect location

'Dogtown', a new BBC3 comedy series, has been drawing comparisons to 'The League Of Gentlemen' in that it features a northern town inhabited by a cast of grotesques. The real-life setting for Horton-le-Hole? Wearside, of course...

Friday, September 29, 2006

"Annoying and incomprehensible"

That was Stewart Lee's first impression of The Fall, as revealed on Friday's BBC2 documentary 'The Wonderful And Frightening World Of Mark E Smith', originally screened on BBC4 in January 2005. Of course, Lee nevertheless found himself strangely compelled by the racket he heard, and now counts himself among their fiercest devotees.

I say "they" and "their", but, as the programme title suggests, The Fall are Mark E Smith. Certainly he's the only surviving original member and has orchestrated more line-up changes than Rafa Benitez - though "orchestrated" may be the wrong word, suggesting as it does a modicum of planning, organisation and forward-thinking... Lest viewers of 'DiG' might think spectacular onstage fall-outs and fisticuffs are the sole preserve of Anton Newcombe and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, the documentary featured footage of The Fall's infamous 1998 gig at Brownies in New York when the band imploded in acrimonious and very public fashion.

Paul Morley was very honest in saying that, during Smith's lowest ebb in the 1990s (when he was REALLY fucked up on booze and speed), Morley came to question whether the man he'd been hailing as a genius was actually a drunken tramp, and he'd merely been investing far too much meaning in his shouted rantings. Thankfully, though, Smith pulled out of that particular nosedive and managed to carry on (even though his status as a cantankerous old curmudgeon is now set in stone).

I've said it before, and I'll no doubt say it again: what possessed the BBC to invite him to read out the football results in 'Final Score'? A very risky business indeed...
Home cinema

The second installment of a post I started many moons ago (note to self: don't make promises you can't keep...)

'Capote' is rather misleadingly titled - it's not a biopic of the legendary American writer (in fact, in the DVD extras, star Philip Seymour Hoffman reveals that that's exactly what attracted him to do the film), but instead tells the story of Truman Capote's most famous book 'In Cold Blood', written about the Clutter murders in Kansas.

Capote himself is naturally centre-stage and, though I'm in no position to say whether or not Hoffman manages to recreate or inhabit the character, I gather that many viewers have said the likeness is uncanny. At least that can be his excuse when people complain about THAT voice - a bit like Ben Stiller's in 'Zoolander', it does really grate after a while (and I bet that's the first time 'Capote' and 'Zoolander' have been mentioned in the same breath...)

But, beyond Capote himself, the subject of the film is, essentially, authorial ethics. Capote is shown trying to win the trust of the murderers (particularly Perry Smith), but this comes to seem not as compassion but as a ruthless attempt to inveigle his way into their confidence so he can use them for his own ends. Ultimately he is depicted as wracked with guilt because he wants their stays of execution to expire so he can finally finish the book. 'In Cold Blood' indeed. Unsurprising, then, that it was the masterpiece that both made and broke him, and that he never finished another book.
Feel good hits of the 28th September

1. 'Soft Sugar' - Noxagt
2. 'Smallpox Champion' - Fugazi
3. 'Death To Los Campesinos!' - Los Campesinos!
4. 'Ohio Riverboat Song' - Palace Brothers
5. 'Kicker Conspiracy' - The Fall
6. 'Glasgow Mega-Snake' - Mogwai
7. 'All Roads To Fault' - Yourcodenameis:milo
8. 'Fun Fun Fun' - The Beach Boys
9. 'Show The Way' - Semifinalists
10. 'Drain Cosmetics' - Serena-Maneesh

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Heathen chemistry


I love intimate gigs like this - trying to spot who will emerge from the crowd at some point and take to the stage when nearly everyone looks like they could be in a band.

Zumbar are four unassuming enough chaps, and their set is equally unassuming, displaying a predictable penchant for Black Sabbath and doom rock and a rather less predictable interest in Spanish guitar licks. Unfortunately, then, that they labour under a truly dreadful name (yes, Zumbar really does exist, in Manchester) and that there are difficulties with the monitors, meaning the discipline, tightness and perfect timing demanded by the changes of pace are often conspicuous by their absence.

Speaking of absence, Thread have had to pull out, and in their place we get Caerphilly foursome Circa Regna Tonat. As their name ("Around The Throne Thunder Roars") and their friendship with Swansea bruisers Taint suggests, Circa Regna Tonat make one hell of a racket. Propelled by some awesome drumming, their schizophrenic aural assault is at times overpowering, especially the song featuring two basses and the repeated scream of "You're gonna die!". The only disappointment is the new slower song, which just goes to prove they're best when on the attack.

Truckers Of Husk are an excellent example of why it's so dangerous to judge a book by its cover. We watch them set up, anticipating a jarring set of emo froth, only to be astounded by a series of compellingly odd and incredibly complicated instrumentals (think the weirder and more experimental end of the Dischord roster, perhaps - Q And Not U?). Bassist Hywel Evans has played with local heroes Jarcrew and former Mclusky man Andy Falkous in Future Of The Left, but it's not entirely clear whether he's actually on stage. For tonight's gig they're a threepiece, you see, and this means audacious mid-song instrument swapping to make use of the additional drumkit, but even more impressive is the fretwork of the salmon pink-jumpered guitarist - virtuoso, but without the arrogant ignorance of all else around it.

How will headliners Noxagt (it's pronounced "Nox-att", apparently) follow that? Quite simple: by blowing them - and us - away with sheer force.

The Norwegians may just be the heaviest band I've ever seen live - a band who don't bat an eyelid when, barely halfway through the first song, a huge shard of drumstick shears off and narrowly avoids spearing the diminutive guitarist. Listening to them isn't like being hit by a 10 tonne truck. Neither is it like being run over by a steamroller. No, it's more like being hit and run over by a 10 tonne truck carrying a load of steamrollers. And behind the wheel of the truck is Rik Waller, with Meat Loaf and Bella Emberg (oh, look her up...) as co-drivers. And all three have just eaten a four course meal, each course consisting of an anvil.

All the more remarkable, then, that the third (self-titled) album they're currently touring is their first with a guitarist - before a viola was integral to their unholy din.

The unearthly rumble is virtually continuous, only the odd infrequent gap allowing pause for breath. It's not hard to see why they call it "sludge". If you boil metal down (assuming it's in a liquid state to start with - Science Ed), then this is what you're left with - primal, pummelling, dissonant, brutal. There's a motorik groove to the songs - admittedly the sort of motorik groove that makes you feel like you're Rik Waller, stuffed on a four-course anvil meal and driving a 10 tonne truck loaded with steamrollers and an equally stuffed Meat Loaf and Bella Emberg squeezed into the passenger seats, but a motorik groove nonetheless.

It's to Noxagt's credit that they know the value of keeping the onslaught brief - it's all about maximum impact rather than vicious mercilessness (take note Winnebago Deal). I left the house with the words "Don't go burning any churches" ringing in my ears - but, by the end, I'm thinking that if they go on much longer, I'll have ringing ears and an unquenchable desire to buy some petrol and a box of matches on the way home. It doesn't come to that, quite.

So, a marvellous joint venture from Forecast and Lesson No. 1 - and all for a measly £6, too. With this headfuck psychosludge you are really spoiling us...

2006: fast becoming the year I rediscovered metal.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Three's a crowd (of excellent new additions to the SWSL blogroll)

The Overnight Editor: a nicely acerbic blog (think the male Betty of Betty's Utility Room), as spotted by Mike

Kilroy's Chinos: the new MP3 blog from Ben of Cardiff indie types Shake My Hand, as recommended by Simon

Swing Batter Batter!: the place where Greg Smyth - a freelance music writer, Howling Bells fan and honorary Geordie - has been "being snidey about popular culture since 2004" (in other words, if not a sister site to SWSL, then certainly a favourite cousin)
Quote of the day

"I'm more interested in the future of the Arctic Circle than the future of the Arctic Monkeys".

Yeah, good one, Gordon. Be sure to thank your speechwriters for that.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

'Extras': special?

Not really.

I managed to catch the second episode of the second series of Ricky Gervais's show on Thursday night. Although it was better than the first (in which the comedy, such as it was, essentially revolved around "deconstructing" (Gervais's word) Orlando Bloom by playing on his vanity and putting racist sentiments in the mouth of Keith Chegwin), it was still far from brilliant.

While it was good to see Gervais and co not relying solely on the crutch of a celebrity to prop up a script devoid of many good ideas (David Bowie's appearance lasted less than five minutes, and featured him composing a song about Gervais's character Andy Millman), the regular characters still don't feel well-developed or broad-shouldered enough to bear the burden.

For me, the particular problem with Thursday's episode was that, in tracing Millman's first experiences of fame, it was autobiographical - I couldn't help but feel that Gervais's own arrogance came out in it, not least in making a comedy which is essentially about himself.

Of course, all might have been forgiven if it was funny - some of the scenes with Shaun Williamson were, as was the exchange with the homeless beggar (one of those classically awkward social interactions Gervais does so well), but consistent quality was again conspicious by its absence.
Quote of the day

"The other day I ate so much toast I had to lie down"

Jonathan Ross might be more than a bit smarmy, but he does at least have a knack of drawing embarrassing confessions out of his guests - and himself (see above). Last night he got Ian Wright to admit the reason he likes the "larger lady" is because of an attraction to one of his aunts as an eight-year-old. An apparently drunk and giggly Brenda Blethyn needed rather less cajoling to reveal that she pissed on the collar of her Oscar outfit shortly before taking to the stage to collect her award and embrace Nicholas Cage...

Musical guests were Sparks, who played new single 'Dick Around' and (inevitably) 'This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us' - both suggesting that the brothers Mael think 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is the finest song in the history of recorded music and thus should be the blueprint for everything they do. I think Ron Mael might have the most curious and distinctive moustache I've ever seen - it hugs his upper lip so tightly that it looks as though it's scared of falling off.

Update: Olav has taken great pleasure in pointing out that 'This Town...' was released in 1974, a year before 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. OK, OK, Mr Smartypants. The similarities are still striking, though.
Camping it up

Four days since my last post, so that must mean it's time for more frothing over Los Campesinos!. Today's links are to a pair of interviews, one from the MP3 blog Keep Hope Inside and the other from the icWales site.

But lest you suspect that they're in danger of being overhyped (here and elsewhere), you're not alone - judging by his comment on this recent live review on Drowned In Sound, guitarist Tom Bromley (the sole interviewee for the icWales piece) agrees. So yes, they are a work-in-progress who have found themselves thrust into the limelight rather earlier than they might have hoped - but it's that promise that's so exciting. There are rough edges, sure - but I just hope they don't get blunted because that's a very large part of their charm.
It just doesn't add up

"£561bn: What the world spent on arms this year.

£32bn: The annual amount given in aid.

£275bn: Total debt of developing countries.

(Figures from Oxfam via the Metro.)

International Action Network on Small Arms

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

You! Me! Dancing!


About two thirds of the way through tonight's opening set, Little My throw in a cover of 'Monsterpussy' by The Vaselines. As if their love for the Glaswegian shamblers wasn't already apparent enough. Their number supplemented tonight by assorted additional musicians (which leads DJ / compere / promoter / all-round good egg Gary to label them a "Cardiff supergroup"), Little My specialise in very short, very chaotic songs which are as ragged around the edges as they are twee. The C86 revival starts here, kids... Bonus points for... the inventive use of a Guess Who? board as a percussion instrument.

Until as recently as three weeks ago, Shake My Hand went under the name of Yossarian. From what I can recall of their previous incarnation, the moniker change doesn't signal any shift in direction - or, in other words, the songs which were on their old MySpace site are now on their new one, and get an airing tonight. 'Invisible' is typical in that it features wryly amusing spoken word vocals over careful guitar work, but there's not much in their set that really grabs me and shakes me by the lapels. Members of Los Campesinos! in the crowd raise a smile, though, getting revenge on their friends by echoing their fawning shout of "We're here for you!" at the recent Broken Social Scene gig. Bonus points for... the free four track CD, featuring 'Indie Disco', 'Koala', 'Settled' and the aforementioned 'Invisible' complete with stylish handmade inlay.

In this company Porchlight are, unfortunately, fighting something of a losing battle. Not only are they evidently outsiders at what is a bit of a Cardiff indiepop love-in (which also means they don't have their own partisan crowd), but their guitar sound is stodgy and blunt. They don't do themselves too many favours by looking faintly bored, mind. It would be nice to say that what they lack in enthusiasm they make up for with the songs, but the likes of 'Hot Or Cold' and recent single 'Impress Me' don't, er, impress me much - solid enough, but no sense of distinctive identity. Bonus points for... er, how's about playing to an unfamiliar crowd?

But tonight isn't about Porchlight; nor is it about Little My or Shake My Hand. It's about Los Campesinos!.

After a week of touring (their first gigs outside beyond Cardiff and London, I gather), this is their homecoming show in every sense - it's taking place in their natural habitat, upstairs in Dempsey's as part of Cardiff's semi-legendary indie night Twisted By Design. And boy don't we just know it; the anticipation before they take to the stage and the excitement that ensues is palpable.

It might be a matter of time constraints (it's gone eleven by the time they appear), but it's interesting that the incongruous post-rock slowburner that formerly opened the set has been dropped, as I suggested it should be. Instead it's the chorus of "ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR" and we're launched giddily straight into the maelstrom.

The seven-strong student outfit might only have played a handful of gigs, but it's no wonder that the likes of NME, Moshi Moshi and countless MP3 blogs have been foaming at the mouth about them like a rabid Roy Hattersley. Quite simply, they are absurdly good fun, and much more than the sum of their parts: American indie riffage, British tweeness, pop singalongs, wicked humour (a song with an opening line about playing pass the parcel with human body parts, anyone?) and boundless energy.

Excitable frontman Gareth chastises us for "cheering the hits", but in truth nothing is received with anything less than fervour. 'Infinite Lives' and the wittily cutesy 'It Started With A Mix' are ace, closer 'Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks' is even better (climaxing with drummer Oliver standing on his kit and leading the crowd in the chant of "One blink for yes, two blinks for no...") but once again the irresistible 'You Me Dancing!' steals the show - how could it not, as the second musical tribute of the night to Twisted By Design (after Shake My Hand's 'Indie Disco')?

Of course, it's all over far too early. The only people left relatively unmoved by the preceding half an hour are the parents stood directly in front of me. I want to tap the bemused pair on the shoulder and say "Don't worry - they really are amazing"...

Bonus points for... being fucking great from start to finish.


We didn't stay for the club night, which felt wrong after feeling all the love, but in our defence we were meeting others who wouldn't have been allowed into Dempsey's as the gig was sold out. What felt even more wrong was decamping to Callaghan's for the Uber Alles DJs. But one half (if not both) of the duo had been at the gig too, and it was an inspired decision on their part to wrap the night up by giving 'You Me Dancing!' a spin. No thanks to the over-officious doorman who insisted it be turned off before the conclusion, though...

Thanks to Gary and the bands for a top night.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ate, drank and was merry

(My apologies if you find yourself dribbling on your keyboard on reading this...)

It's no wonder that the weekend's Abergavenny Food Festival was the eighth - it was bloody marvellous.

Mercifully for an event which is predominantly open-air, the predicted thunderstorms and downpours never even threatened to materialise, which meant a bumper crowd nibbling and guzzling their way through all manner of delicious foodstuffs.

We arrived at lunchtime on Saturday, and I started off with the double whammy of a wild boar burger and a shredded duck baguette (the latter replete with peppers, onions and fiery salsa). From then on it was a matter of supping (on pints of locally brewed ale and cider) and sampling everything from cheese, sausages and spicy chutneys to fruit coulis, perry and damson gin. Well, it would have been rude not to. The very best (as far as I was concerned) was saved for last: a rump steak with onions sandwiched in rosemary bread. Mmm mmm mmm.

Appropriately enough for an event at which chefs "perform" live on stages before audiences, the ethically-produced festival T-shirts were provided by Domino aka the record label that Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys (amongst many, many others) call home. Which meant that not only was I able to stuff my face, I was also able to have a chat about Clinic's forthcoming fourth album Visitations ("spookier" and their best yet, apparently) with Domino's international marketing chap ("well, Wales is abroad...") who shared my appreciation of The Icarus Line. Of course a T-shirt was duly purchased...

All in all, a great day out - and not an Oliver or a Worrall-Thompson in sight.
Feel good hits of the 18th September

1. 'You Me Dancing!' - Los Campesinos!
2. 'From Several To Many' - Semifinalists
3. '23 Beats Off' - Fugazi
4. 'Honey Child What Can I Do' - Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
5. 'You Don't Knock' - The Detroit Cobras
6. 'It's Getting Light Outside' - Clearlake
7. 'Machine' - Spotlight Kid
8. 'Like A Child' - Junior Boys
9. 'Dirty Boots' - Sonic Youth
10. 'Disturbance At The Heron House' - REM

Friday, September 15, 2006

If you read one blog post this week...

... let it be this one. It's from An Unreliable Witness, the new blog of a long-time SWSL favourite. Actually, the blog isn't that new, having been started over three months ago - to discover exactly why there's been a three month hiatus, you'll have to read the post. Let's just say it kind of puts the shit I post about into perspective.
Envy and other sins bands

Thanks to Skif (as ever), my reviews of Anathallo's Floating World, Envy's Insomniac Doze and Howling Bells' self-titled debut are now up on the Vanity Project website. So, if you've got any interest in ambitious and otherworldly American indie rock, Japanese post-hardcore or Australian alt-goth-blues, or if you just want to read me getting tangled up in an embarrassing number of superfluous adjectives, take a look.
The Last Romance = the last hurrah

What could be more depressing than Arab Strap? Well, the news that Arab Strap are splitting up. Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton have decided that their sixth album proper The Last Romance will, appropriately enough, be their last.

"Yes, it’s the end for Arab Strap. After ten years, six studio albums, three live albums and all manner of everything else, we’ve decided the story should come to a close. There’s no animosity, no drama, we simply feel we’ve run our course and The Last Romance seems to us the most obvious and logical final act of the Arab Strap studio adventure. Everybody likes a happy ending! We will, of course, be celebrating. Our anniversary compilation, Ten Years Of Tears will be released this October / November to coincide with our Farewell Tour. We hope you’ll be able to join us, but if you can’t make it then let us take this opportunity to thank you for listening."

No, thank YOU.

Arab Strap are a band I really ought to investigate further - the two albums I own, Philophobia and The Red Thread (their second and fourth), are both very good, particularly the latter. And somewhere there's a copy of Middleton's solo album Into The Woods with my name on it...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Quote of the day

"We are spinning a web.
We are knotting a net.
These are delicate threads.

These are desperate times.
We are throwing out lines
so subtle and slight

they are lighter than air.
We are spanning the sky
with wireless wires

too faint by far
for the naked eye,
untraceably thin, imperceptibly fine.

But they carry our breath.
We are making our calls.
They are tightropes, strung

from the end of the phone
to a place called home
so our words can escape,

our voices trapeze
for mile after mile
or in my case traverse

the width of the sea.
My beautiful wife,
sit down in the chair,

put the phone to your ear.
Let me say.
Let me hear.

We are spinning a web.
But such delicate threads,
the links so brittle,

too little, too late.
Not one can save us
or bear our weight.

From Simon Armitage's 9/11 poem 'Out Of The Blue'.

(Thanks to Pete for the link.)
No contest

As a big fan of Stewart Lee, I was disappointed to miss last week's 'Don't Get Me Started' on Five, in which Lee got his teeth into the subject of blasphemy. I gather that some of the stand-up footage was taken from the recording of his stand-up set at Chapter in March. Anyway, the thoughts of someone who did see it can be found here: "The biggest failing of the programme is its tragic one-sidedness - Lee only talks to people who share his opinion, which is a wasted opportunity if nothing else".

Thursday saw the last in the series of 'Time Trumpet', the Armando Iannucci show in which Lee made regular appearances. On reflection the quality of the material was a little uneven at times, but for the most part it was well worth tuning in for.

No sooner does 'Time Trumpet' disappear than more comedy appears to take its place on BBC2: 'That Mitchell And Webb Look' plus new series of 'Extras' and 'Mock The Week'. The BBC must be pleased to have poached Mitchell and Webb from C4, but I've not been that impressed by the trailers. I'll probably give it a go, though. By contrast, the clip from 'Extras' shown on 'Friday Night With Jonathan Ross' did make me laugh, but Ricky Gervais, appearing on the show, didn't convince me by suggesting that this series is more about the main characters than the guest stars. Last time around everything was geared around "deconstructing" (Gervais's word) the star guests, often in very obvious ways (see the Ross Kemp episode) and I doubt it'll have changed significantly since then. Still, I oughtn't write it off before the first episode's even aired.

In the meantime, I seem to be watching an awful lot of 'The Two Ronnies'...
The odd couple

If I had a list of things I never thought I'd see, Mark Lanegan smiling would be right up there. But there he was, in his joint interview with Isobel Campbell on Friday night's Mercury Music Prize programme, with something approaching a grin. A smirk I might have expected, but a smile? Definitely not.

Anyway, it was an interesting little featurette in place of a live performance, in which they talked about the circumstances behind their collaboration and the making of Ballad Of The Broken Seas. (You never know - you might actually get a review some time, if you're lucky.) Afterwards Campbell claimed her nomination statuette, looking like a rabbit in the headlights before the crowd and cameras and mumbling something about Arthur Lee and Syd Barrett before making a hasty exit.

I didn't stay up for the whole programme, but I did see Editors open up with 'All Sparks' (which did nothing to convince me their album is anything more than solid but unspectacular, and not really worthy of its nomination) and Hot Chip perform 'Over And Over' (LCD Soundsystem on a budget anyone?). Most striking was how scary token jazz nominee Zoe Rahman is - all manic toothy grins and very long hair. Couldn't discern much of merit in her performance, but then what do I know?
City delights

Oxford: the city of dreaming spires, of centuries of culture and learning. How, then, did I find myself spending the latter portion of my second ever visit this weekend in the local Yates, complete with Smurf-vocalled dance remixes and one of those knobbish DJs who adopts a special booming "havin' it large" voice when introducing songs?

In my defence, a good portion of the late afternoon and early evening was spent in the much more civilised environs of the Turf Tavern, imbibing a heady combination of Red McGregor and Weston's Old Rosie. Mention must also be made of the delicious burger procured from the Tavern's outdoor barbecue - it's been a long time since I've tasted better.

Appropriately enough given that the city is home to the world famous dictionary, I also learnt a new word, uttered by a young chap who took umbrage at something said by one of our party: "I'm gonna shank you". No idea what it means, though. Have you?
The end of the road

A sad day: after more than three years of top-notch blogging, Inspector Sands has decided to call it quits. Of course, when I say it's a sad day, I mean for us readers - for the Inspector it'll feel like something of a relief, given his confession that the enjoyment's drained out of it recently. For the past couple of years Casino Avenue has been one of my daily reads, one of the first blogs I'll click onto in the morning - and, inevitably, the source of numerous choice links and titbits of information. So, thanks Inspector, and best wishes for the future. (He'll still be writing over here, mind...)

But as one Avenue closes, another one opens up. Paul and Stu of the Newcastle-based Tonto Press have started a blog, and, in a similar vein to SWSL, the most recent pair of posts detail their current recommendations: music, film and - naturally - short fiction.

And then there's Hint Of Sarcasm, a fellow Cardiff-based blog written by a chap with a Smiths / Morrissey fixation. What's not to like?
Ignorance is bliss

Every year since its inception I've vowed not to watch 'Big Brother' but then found myself sucked in sooner or later. It took the first in the new series of 'Friday Night With Jonathan Ross' to make me realise that this year I'd finally managed to be true to my word.

Two of the guests were Pete and Nikki, about whom I knew very little, and let's just say that putting up with just ten minutes of them was enough of an ordeal to convince me that, even if I had started watching this time around, I would have given up again very quickly. And then had to go out and buy a new TV, the other one having had my foot put through it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Prize losers

At Summer Sundae last month it seemed you could barely move for Mercury Music Prize nominees: Richard Hawley on the Friday, Isobel Campbell on the Saturday, Guillemots on the Sunday. All three were ultimately disappointed by Tuesday night's verdict (and deprived of the resulting spike in sales), Sheffield scamps Arctic Monkeys named as winners for the debut Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not.

I've not heard the Hawley and Guillemots albums (or Arctic Monkeys, for that matter), but it's a good thing that Campbell's Ballad Of The Broken Seas didn't triumph. Not that it's a bad album - far from it. It's currently getting a lot of play here at SWSL Towers. The issue is over the fact that it was rebranded as a Campbell solo album because only British artists are eligible for the Prize, when in fact it's very much work of Campbell and American Mark Lanegan. Campbell may have written all but two of the songs, but the former Screaming Trees and sometime Queens Of The Stone Age man is in many ways the more dominant of the two voices (and not just because his is male).

Campbell is now set to follow Ballad Of The Broken Seas with a solo album proper, Milkwhite Sheets, out towards the end of next month.
Get songs. Get gigs. Fly

At risk of it seeming like I've been taking backhanders in return for gratuitous pluggage, I thought it worth mentioning that Los Campesinos! have made their NME debut in this week's issue in one of James Jam's Radar pieces. (C'mon now Jim - more Pavement than The Arcade Fire, surely?)

All this the week after they played The Point in support of Broken Social Scene, and the week before they embark on their first UK tour (of sorts). Anyway, just remember where you read about them first. OK then - that was Sweeping The Nation. Just remember where you read about them second...
Is it just me...

... or does everyone suspect that when it says "£neg" in a job advert, more often than not the "neg" is short for "negligible"?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Achosion I Laweni #6

(If you're wondering what this is all about, click here.)

#6 - Spillers Records

Every city needs a high-quality independent record shop, and Cardiff is no exception. Thankfully the Welsh capital is truly blessed in that department, The Hayes being home to Spillers Records.

As any local music enthusiast will proudly tell you, Spillers is the oldest record shop in the world. It was founded in 1894 and was originally situated in Queens Arcade, relocation to the current premises having taken place in the late 1940s. But it's not just stuck in the past - you can now place orders from their still-wet-behind-the-ears website. T'internet - it's the future, you know.

But much of the enjoyment of an independent record shop is simply browsing the shelves. Owing to the lack of space (the premises are small and narrow), albums in stock are represented not by CD boxes but by photocopied album covers in plastic sleeves. In addition to records, you can also pick up gig tickets and flyers for all manner of events and club nights.

Like Selectadisc in Nottingham, Spillers is very much at the heart of the city's music scene - for promoters as well as bands (I once bumped into the chap from Lesson No. 1 in there - me buying a Mogwai ticket, him leaving a load of flyers for a forthcoming gig). Unlike Selectadisc, however, it's not staffed by the sort of sniffily ubercool music enthusiasts who will look down their noses at your choices (and whom you're secretly desperate to impress).

As if an indication of the fond regard in which Spillers is held was needed beyond the proliferation of Spillers T-shirts on display at local gigs, it came after the recent announcement that the shop is up for sale and could be shut if it's not been bought from current owner Nick Todd by March. Since that announcement was made, there has been a flurry of concern and - promisingly - a number of parties interested in bidding for the shop to keep Spillers alive. Fingers crossed, then...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Places In London I Now Know Better: Kentish Town / Camden Town

Highly recommended: The Pineapple on Leverton Street (ignore the gripes in the linked reviews - it's a fantastic pub), Mamma Mias cafe on Kentish Town Road

Recommended: The Lock Tavern (even if the roof terrace was rather windswept on Saturday night)

Not recommended at all - in fact, give a very wide berth: the takeaway immediately outside the Camden Underworld. The Woody Grill would have been a much better bet, on reflection. (It goes without saying, though, that I wasn't in much of a state for reflection upon stumbling out of said club in the early hours of Sunday morning...)

Questions which remain unanswered: Does the Owl Bookshop only sell books to owls? Or does it only sell books about owls?

(I think this could become a regular post every time I get back from a weekend in London...)

And while I'm on about London: Save the Intrepid Fox on Wardour Street in Soho. (Thanks to Inspector Sands for the link.)
Chaos theory

May I point you in the direction of Simon's latest Video Playlist? In addition to Guillemots' acoustic take on 'Trains To Brazil', the late lamented Mclusky tearing a Welsh pop programme a new arsehole with 'To Hell With Good Intentions' and one American fan of Los Campesinos! demonstrating her enthusiasm for 'You Me Dancing!', the playlist features what remains for me the most memorable 'Later With Jools Holland' performance ever - At The Drive-In thrashing through 'One Armed Scissor' with Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez losing the plot quite spectacularly. Sadly there are no shots of the wee greasy ivory-tinkler's horrified face as his studio is hit by the Texan tornado, though Robbie Williams is captured looking less than impressed.
Hellos and goodbyes

A couple of new additions to the SWSL blogroll (forgive the lack of a fully-fledged Blogwatch post for this):

Smaller Than Life - the new blog set up by JonnyB's regular blogsitter Salvatore Vincent. Highly recommended is the post about song sequels...

Stressqueen - a fine site, not least because she's an avowed Roy Keane hater (which excuses the fact that she's also a proud fan of both Southampton and "Tiger Tim")

(Thanks to Mike and Paul respectively for the links.)

But there's also a fond farewell for By The Sea Shore, one of the my favourite Nottingham-based blogs, which has sadly vanished off into the ether.
Is it just me...

... or is the concept of a Cemetery Park Fun Day rather odd? Especially when it really did take place at a recently redeveloped cemetery (on Moira Terrace in Adamsdown) which has had a play area and basketball court installed, and some of the paths lined with rearranged headstones. I mean, I know The Kids like to congregate in graveyards, usually to quaff the sort of cider that would strip paint at fifty paces (or was that just me too?), but actively to invite and welcome them in for face painting and circus skills sessions seems a little strange.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Much ado about blog

A couple of blogging-centred links courtesy of Mike:

There's a new series from BBC Radio 4 called 'Meet The Bloggers'. Among the featured sites are Little Red Boat, My Boyfriend Is A Twat and Go Fug Yourself.

In her first piece for the Guardian's Comment Is Free site, Anna of Little Red Boat discusses sex blogs, self-exposure and her own prudery.
A study of reading habits

Curious to discover "the reading habits and preferred literary works of your favourite musicians, writers, and activists" including Camera Obscura, Tegan And Sara, The Constantines and ex Cursive cellist Gretta Cohn? Found In The Margins is the place to go.

(Thanks to Ken for the link.)