Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Records from Oxfam

One of my friends manages an Oxfam shop in Dublin. Her shop were promoting music a lot in October. Or was it September? Part of this involved lunchtime gigs on Saturday afternoons, the idea being to get people into the shop so that they buy stuff. It worked for me the afternoon Handsome Karl was playing music with some other jazzers. This is what I came home with:

Close Watch - An Introduction To John Cale (CD): I have been thinking about checking out John Cale’s post Velvets music for a while. On the strength of this compilation it is not much cop. Wor bird reckons Cale runs Roger Waters a close second in the coveted Ugliest Man In Rock competition.

Echoes of Nature 5: Whales of the Pacific (CD): This is one of those relaxation CDs you hear about. It features lots of sea noises, the occasional plaintive "waaaoooo?" whale noise, and music of the new agey sort. It is far better than this description makes it sound. Ooooaaoooo?

Electrelane The Power Out (CD): I have mentioned Electrelane* before, these being the all-girl, all-music, all-action combo who pursue a somewhat avant-garde bent (i.e. they appeared once on the cover of The Wire) but still sound essentially rock-oriented enough to play to your mum. This is one of their earlier albums, and while it does not have songs on it that hook me like the train one or the cover of 'The Partisan', it is perhaps a more solid album over all, being all good tunes from start to finish.

*Oh no wait, I just thought I had. They rock, but in an ever so slightly avant garde kind of way. The other album of theirs I have is called Axes, which features the above mentioned storming version of 'The Partisan' and the song I always refer to as The Train Song, for obvious reasons if you have ever heard the song.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


While in Berlin, I checked out some museums. That inexplicably controversial exhibition on European refugees of the 20th century was fascinating and moving, but did feature a lot of people doing the Children of Men sad face. I also visited the Jewish Museum, which is interesting but maybe slightly hollow, and checked out the Memorial For The Murdered Jews (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden). This is an oddly extensive structure built over an acre or so of uneven ground, consisting of a number of blocks of dark stone pillars, each occupying the same ground area but rising to different heights. The piece was reminiscent of the Giant’s Causeway, though less impressive because of its newness. I really liked it as a piece of art, but did not really find that it worked as a memorial - instead remembering the victims of the Holocaust, I found myself imagining a complicated set-piece shoot out among the pillars, or the crack you could have playing chasing among them or jumping along the tops of them in a dangerous manner. Needless to say, playing chasing in the memorial or running along on tops of the monoliths is strictly VERBOTEN.

They like remembering bad things in Berlin. If you are ever there, check out the Topography of Terror (Topographie des Terrors). This is an open-air museum located in what were once cells in the basement of the Gestapo headquarters. Two periods of history meet with the museum being located right up against one of the few surviving sections of the Berlin Wall. The Topographie des Terrors documents the Nazis progression from bullying their political opponents to plotting the extermination of entire ethnic groups. It is a particularly evocative place to visit in the depths of winter, when the weather and the chillingly bureaucratic activities of the Third Reich combine to suck the life from your soul. Maybe there is something grotesquely inappropriate about engaging aesthetically with a memorial to terrible evil, but it hard not to be impressed with this exhibition's roughness.

If you've ever tried to learn German, you will probably have come across the Vater & Sohn comic strips. It was upsetting to learn that E.O. Plauen, their creator, was driven to suicide by the Nazis in 1944, after he was reported by a neighbour for suggesting in conversation that Germany was unlikely to win the war.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


My beloved and I went to Berlin recently, visiting two record shops: Station B on Kastanianallee and Saturn on Alexanderplatz. We were going to go to some place called Gelb in suckass West Berlin, allegedly Europe's best shop for minimal music, but sadly their opening hours are also a bit minimal.

Station B is a shop most forward thinking people would like, selling as it does lots of psychey, worldy, and jazzy music, as well as the hip music of today. It is presided over by this excitable German guy who tells you any given record you are looking at is brilliant. When I was in the shop before he did this with Sonic Boom’s compilation Space Lines, so I am inclined to take his word. Saturn, meanwhile, is a megastore type place.

Actual records acquired:

v/a Pebbles vol. 1 (vinyl): You know, scratchy psyche and late ‘60s punk. Notably this features 'Action Woman' by The Litter; sexual frustration never sounded so good. I was also amused to discover that Pop Will Eat Itself’s 'Beaver Patrol' is actually a cover. The sleeve notes claim that a beaver is a type of long hot dog popular in the Los Angeles area. O RLY?

v/a Ethiopian Modern Instrumental Hits (vinyl): This turns out to mostly include tracks from the volume of Les Éthiopiques that we already have, but it’s nice to be able to listen to Ethiopian jazz on vinyl Sundays.

TURBONEGRO Ass Cobra (CD): Imagine if The Hives were a bunch of camp metal bikers from Norway. Then you would be imagining TURBONEGRO. They sing songs about sailors and about having erections and appreciate how chortlesome Nordic speakers are when talking in English.

v/a Thai Beat A Go Go Volume 1 (CD): I was hoping for something as magical as the Khmer Pop CD I picked up a while back, but sadly this is mostly lamer beat music of a pedestrian nature.

v/a Amiga a Go Go Volume 2 (CD): Amiga was the East German record label; this is a compilation of socialist beat music. Much of it sounds like it would be at home on one of the later Rubble compilations. Particularly awesome was the cover of The Zombies' 'She's Not There', with the lyrics in German for extra madness. Saturn were selling this and volume 1 (previously reviewed in another publication) for half nothing; further investigation reveals that they have been deleted from the catalogues, which is maybe why they are going so cheaply. If you want to check out the magic of communist music, better head on over to Berlin fast!

Young Marble Giants Colossal Youth (CD): People be telling me how good this lot are, record shops in Ireland not be stocking their one album. Now I have it, but maybe the tracks I already know are the best? Or maybe loads of YMG together in one place is more fun. As you know, this short-lived and internally divided outfit played very sparse music accompanying quietly expressive vocals. Friend Eoghan reckons it lays down the template for music I like.

LATER: this record is awesomely good. The minimal music goes well with the minimal vocals, suggesting a world of boutique sadness.

The Greatest Work Christmas Party EVER

"This cheesey rave is quite enjoyable... what's this song, it has a good beat and sounds somewhat familiar... my goodness, is it a cover version of 'The Logical Song' by Supertramp... OMG SCOOOOOOTEERRRR!"

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Adventures in the Dublin Theatre Festival - part two

Emilia Galotti is some famous play to Germans, and was performed here in German by some progressive theatre company. However, they were performing it in a manner that seemed to deconstruct and ironically critique the narrative. This would maybe impress in Germany, where everyone studied the text at great length in school, but I found it all a bit annoying. I gather one of the reasons for the tricksy production was a sense that the story no longer has resonance in a world without hereditary princes possessed of absolute power. But the story seemed to me almost Shakespearian, and everyone loves him. Besides, there are large parts of the world ruled by hereditary absolutists, even if they are not officially monarchies.

I also found this play depressing because of its reminding me of how suckass my German is.

Rattled & Disappeared was a Hungarian adaptation of Kafka's The Trial, with a setting that deliberately hovered between the original Habsburg milieu and the present day. Presumably you know the story - the protagonist gets up one morning to find that two guys eating his breakfast. They reveal that he is under arrest, but it is an open arrest that allows him to go about his business semi-normally, though he soon finds himself up against an incomprehensible bureaucratic establishment.

This version took some of its cues from Kafka's friends reputedly finding the novel hilarious, so they played up the comic elements. They also threw in loads of mimed song and dance routines, giving the whole thing a somewhat Denis Potter air. And they emphasised the at-times seedy eroticism of the book. So something for all the family, though I did think maybe the second half went a bit too song-and-dance, losing narrative coherence as a result.

The set was a thing of wonder, not so much a box as a telescope with much of the action happening seemingly miles away at its end. In the end I would have to judge this the hit of the festival, for all my reservations about the second act. Part of this came down to this being the kind of play that works well in foreign – you kind of know the story already, the dialogue is not as important as the way the characters act towards each other, and there is a lot of running around and people hitting each other.

and that's all I saw. I ran away in terrore from the very idea of seeing the CAPITALE PUNISHMENTE IS BADDE play.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Adventures in the Dublin Theatre Festival - part one

I saw a couple of things, mostly in foreign, and sat too far back to enjoy them properly.

Orestes (not in foreign) won plaudits from many for being the first classically themed production in some time to not have some spurious relationship with the Iraq War grafted onto it. It tells the story of Orestes and Elektra on the last night before their death. The educated among you may remember their tale – they had murdered their mother to avenge her murder of their father; they are then sentenced to death as matricides. This production was based on Euripides' version of the story, and focuses mainly on the psychological effects of murdering your mother, even if it might in some sense be justified. Orestes has completely gone to pieces and has to be looked after by Elektra in a somewhat creepy manner. The play does unfortunately end abruptly, but I liked it.

The Vacationers (by Maxim Gorky) was performed in Russian by some Russian theatre company, with English surtitles. Sadly, the surtitles were not the best and often seemed to bear no relation to what was happening on stage, so it was all a bit incomprehensible. The characters seemed to be all incredibly annoying representatives of the pre-Revolutionary bourgeoisie who were out on holidays somewhere in those dacha things Russian people go on about. The cack-handed surtitles severely detracted from my enjoyment of the play, but it was nice to look at the attractive Russian lady actors.

La Tempête was a Canadian production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, done in a high tech styleeee, about which there was always a "blimey, how did they do that?" air. It was all very impressive and so on, but maybe a straighter production would have been better, especially for someone like me who has never seen the play before. I also found having the same (excellent) lady actor play both Caliban and Ariel a bit confusing.

I enjoyed comparing the whole thing to Forbidden Planet, considering out how the characters could be mapped onto each other.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


This evening I went to see Luke Haines, formerly of bands including The Auteurs, Baader-Meinhof, and Black Box Recorder. He was very good.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"This is not a life"

V. quick non-review - if you live in Dublin, run off to the Project to see the Bedrock production of Alex Johnston's This Is Not A Life, before it finishes on Saturday. It rocks. Proper review to follow in a couple of months' time. For the moment, the less you know the better, but if you go sit at the big table.

Monkey Magic

Ever wondered what Monkey, Tripitaka, Piggsy, and Sandy would get up to on the duller bits of their journey to China? Wonder no more. WARNING! The linked to picture is so not safe for work.

Thanks to Momus for information on this Toshio Saeki artist fellow. That link isn't safe for work either.

Monday, November 06, 2006

You will be upgraded!

Have Google turned off the upload pictures capability in un-Beta Bloggers in order to force people to upgrade to Beta or because they want to make me learn more HTML code?

"Just the way I like it - nice and quick"

Attention Young Ladies! Do you find that your man faffs about too much when giving you some loving? You need to move to South Africa, where the new Pronto condom can be put on in just one second.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The sensual sounds of Shoko Asahara

As you know, Shoko Asahara is/was the leader of the Aum Shinryko religious sect, the people who launched the nerve gas attacks on the Tokyo underground. He is now under sentence of death.

In an interesting post ("Fawkes Noose Network"), Momus discusses Asahara's adventures in music. It seems that like like David Koresh and Charles Manson he was also a frustrated musician, although he managed to combine being a cult-leader with making sweet music.

Watch out for those musicians. They are dangerous.

That's just mad

What's the wierdest thing you have ever done? In retrospect, for me the answer has to be going on holidays to the West Bank last summer. Lots of people go to the West Bank for entirely sensible reasons - business, work with NGOs or international organisations, or to stand in front of bull-dozers - but I went there for a holiday. I did take the easy option and spent most of my time in East Jerusalem, but it was still a rather odd thing to do. One of the reasons why I started this blog was to write about, and I still have not got round to doing that, but I will.

In other news, dissident Israeli intellectual Tanya Reinhart is launching a book in the Irish Writer's Centre on the 8th November. Reinhart is a leading advocate of the boycott of Israeli academia and an engaging speaker. The poet Aharon Shabtai will also be reading some of his work, hopefully in a language I can understand (that's assuming I go, of course).

Meanwhile, that Trócaire guy is back in Palestine.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Overhearing things, my new hobby

I also recently overheard A FAIRLY FAMOUS ACTRESS WHO WAS IN AT LEAST ONE FILM/TV SERIES YOU HAVE SEEN talking to some guy (director, other actor?) in a café about something they were filming in Dublin. She is playing one of the more exciting roles from a popular fictional series of books, making me somewhat excited about the whole thing except that it is being done for TV.

Overheard Half Of A Telephone Conversation

"I don't understand all this mortgage stuff.


"What, they give you money to buy a house?


"So, do you have to pay it back?"

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Draws Include All Survivors

I have started playing Diplomacy postally again. It's been a while, and I never played it that much in the first place. In case you have never heard of it, Diplomacy is the boardgame based around playing one of the European great powers at the turn of the 20th century. You engage in a lot of diplomatic discussions, try to form alliances, wheedle pathetically at people when they attack you, etc.. It is all based on a rather Realist view of the world; I am not surprised to hear that Kissinger loved playing it.

The amusing twist with this one is that I am playing it with a load of indie kid tweefuckers. Rather than being the pushovers you might expect, some of them are turning out to be devious little bastards. So fun is being had by all.

Want to play yourself? You could do worse than check out The Diplomatic Pouch or subscribe to a zine like The Abyssinian Prince.

I should point out that the game of Diplomacy is copyrighted by Avalon-Hill or Hasbro or your mum or someone like that.

Dude, war SuXoR!

Israeli stoners are paying the price for the recent war in Lebanon: Lebanon war puts damper on Israeli pot smokers

Sag Mir Wo Du Stehst!

I was in Berlin over the weekend. One thing I am coming to realise is that there is a bottomless pit of crazy ass weirdo music from before The Wall came down. Currently rocking my world is a socialist psych cover of The Zombies' 'She's Not There'. The lyrics have all been translated; I think they are now singing about increasing production in a tractor factory. Deadly stuff.