Friday, December 30, 2005

World's greatest blog found

Confederate Leaders

a blessed companion is a book

My beloved and I received a large number of books as Christmas presents. People must have us down as readers. As part of those seasonal pieces which write themselves, I will now list all these books. You can have fun guessing which ones will have been read in three months time. Some of these are my beloved's books rather than mine; try and work out which.

Tom Garvin Preventing the Future: Why was Ireland so poor for so long?

A friend mentioned this book in conversation, and I've been going on about it ever since. It's about how a blocking coalition of Gaelgeoirí, the Church, conservative politicians, native industrialists, etc. pursued policies to their own advantage which had the side effect of keeping Ireland's economy in stasis. There is an anti-leftist tone to this book - the author loves to scove at the resentment towards the rich prevalent in Ireland before the 1960s.

Gideon Defoe The Pirates! in an adventure with Scientists

ARRRRRRRR!

David Toop Haunted Weather: Music, Silence and Memory

Well-known brainy music writer talks about stuff. Dipping into it suggests a pleasant writing style.

Neil Belton A Game with Sharpened Knives

A novel about Erwin Schrodinger, including stuff about his sojourn in Ireland during the Second World War. So kind of like "Improbable Frequencies", only without the tunes.

Mark Kurlansky 1968: the Year that rocked the world"

Any book by Mark Kurlansky has to include the topics of all books he has previously written. Thus this book has a chapter on the Basque revolt of 1968, triggered by harsh Spanish taxes on the sale of the salt necessary to preserve their catches of cod.

Christopher Hitchens Letters to a young contrarian

What, do people think I'm some kind of contrarian? I was dimly aware of the gin-soaked popinjay when this book came out, having high opinions of him as a denouncer of that cockfarmer Henry Kissinger. I do not really go for "contrarianism" as a concept, it seems too much like being against things just for the sake of it. Since then Hitchens has followed that line of thought to the logical end, and is adopting stupid positions simply for the sake of it, becoming a darling of the Right in the process. The cover shows him in true contrarian form, smoking away on a cigarette to show how un-tamed by convention he is. That said, dipping into the book suggests that he is possessed of a wonderfully fluid and clear writing style, suggesting that this will be a pleasant book to read.

John Peel & Sheila Ravenscroft Margrave of the Marshes

The first half is how far Peel had got with his autobiography before he died, the second is the wife's memoir of him. Skimming it reveals that Belle & Sebastian were the most debauched band ever to visit the House of the Peels. The wife's stuff about Peel is very touching.

It has to be said that Ms Ravenscroft is incredibly hot, and judging by the recent photos she has still got it big time. So eh, if you ever google yourself and find this blog, my e-mail address is on the right.

Mark Larson & Barney Hoskyns The Mullet: Hairstyle of the Gods

You can't beat books about mullets.

Shane Brennan In the Tracks of the Ten Thousand

If like me you had an education, you will know all about this Greek chap called Xenophon who led ten thousand Greek mercenaries out of Iraq after some sneaky t-heads treacherously murdered their leaders. This guy seems to have decided to walk the same route as old strange voice. Who knows if he will have similar adventures and fight hard to resist the charms of big asian women?

James Landale Duel: A true story of death and honour

This seems to be a book about a particular duel and then more generally about the whole dueling phenomenon thing. They were mad for the duels back in the past, but then they suddenly went out of fashion big time. Off in Spy School I have read stuff suggesting that war is going the same way.

C.S. Lewis The Chronicles of Narnia

In general, one should beware anything whose title features the words "chronicle" or "saga", unless it was written more than five hundred years ago. Nevertheless, these books make me happy as I had great wuv for them as a child. This collected set has the nice Pauline Baynes covers and internal illustrations - none of that film tie-in shite. Apparently there is some kind of religious subtext to these books, can't wait to see if I notice it.

Have I missed any?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

and everybody's got to live their life

One thing you may have noticed about blogs is how popular they are with people who like to drone on about their inconsequential lives. I am as bad as everyone else, and the only reason why I talk so much about shite here (rather than my inconsequential life) is that I have no life - all my time is taken up by post-modernist international relations theory and other stuff to do with Spy School.

Anyway, if you click here, you will be transported to a blog where the author does at least have something interesting to talk about. Doing aid work in Darfur is probably more exciting than whatever you are doing. The great insight I have learned from this blog is that Darfur aid work is a great way to get some action for yourself if you are a single man. I wonder is this true of aid work generally? Perhaps I will discover this myself if I take that three month placement in Haiti.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

My Christmas Gift To You

Would you like a burned CD of pop music from the non-Western world? If so, send an e-mail to dirtydotvicaratgmaildotcom with your name and address, and I will send one to you. The CD will feature tunes from four continents. I cannot supply you with a tracklisting for this CD at this point. My tastes are broad but not deep, and I do not wish to expose myself to the ridicule of any readers with more advanced knowledge of the topic.

we're not university material

I've been listening to Pink Floyd a lot lately. This has been triggered by my viewing earlier in the year of the Italian film "Good Morning, Night", about the Red Brigade kidnapping of Aldo Moro. It uses 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' effectively to evoke a general air of menace and malign expectation. Since then I acquired "Wish You Were Here", and have derived great enjoyment therefrom.

Since then I picked up the "Live at Pompeii" film, "Meddle", and "Atom Heart Mother", the latter being two records from before they went completely mega. "Live at Pompeii" captures them in roughly the same time period, mainly playing stuff from "Meddle" and "Saucer Full Of Secrets". It is an intriguing oddity - a live album without an audience. I suppose the idea is that you are meant to focus on the music, man, and filming without spectators in Pompeii allows for some great visuals. I was sorry they did not use the Cave Canem mosaic, but that's probably in Naples now.

The film seems to focus a lot on Nick Mason, with him being where the cameras point when covering the band playing. This is probably because a drummer is always more visually arresting than someone using a guitar to produce interestingly textured sounds (and no one in their right mind is going to put a camera anywhere near Roger Waters if they can help it). However, it did make me consider Mason's playing a bit more than I would have done previously, and it did seem a more important element in the Floyd sound than might hitherto have been thought. I think I must now seek out Nick Mason solo albums, and the likes of the studio record of "Ummagumma".

The "Live at Pompeii" bonus features are of interest. There are some wonderfully "dude" interviews with the director, where he goes on about how the new beginning bit (with planets and rockets and stuff) is meant to be about people on other worlds picking up Pink Floyd transmissions and then deciding to come to Earth and check out the music makers. Makes you think. There is also a great "and I don't want that" interlude filmed in the canteen of Abbey Road studio, where one of the band is going on about how you should always try not to get a corner slice of apple tart.

You know "Meddle". It has been said that basically the record is all about 'Echoes' and 'One Of These Days'. The other tracks are perhaps a bit slight, but I am still glad they are there. And if Low saw fit to cover one of them then there must be more there than I am appreciating, hein?

"Atom Heart Mother" is perhaps a bit over experimental, a product of the era where the band were considering making an album entirely from the sounds of the human body. Fortunately it is not as annoying as that, and the long title track is an enjoyably ambient listen. We must also salute the producers of one of the world's most iconic record covers.

Compared to all of this, however, any tracks I have heard from "Dark Side Of The Moon" are at best amazingly bland, at worst decidedly annoying (Woaaawww owwwww aoowwwwww etc.). But what really is TEH SUCk is "The Wall". One of the lads at work has been listening to a Pink Floyd compilation album a lot lately, and it is shocking how devoid of redeeming features the supposed good tracks are (apart from 'Another Brick In The Wall', obv.). It is amazing to think that the same band could produce a track with the menace and inventiveness of 'Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun' as the suck-ass easy-listening shite of 'Comfortably Numb'.

You may disagree. But your opinions and addresses will be noted, leading to impromptu visits from the taste police.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas roundup

Today is Christmas day. My understanding is that there are no civilian flights through Irish airspace on Christmas day, so what were those high-flying aircraft I saw go by? More bomb fodder for Iraq, or more prisoners for the torture camps of the secret gulag?

Bros were on TOTP2 on Xmo eve. In retrospect they are even shiter than I can remember. They are completely devoid of any musiciany or vocal talent. The songs (written for them) are lameness incarnated. They look like members of the Aryan Thrust, with suspicious crotch enhancements. And instead of dancing they jerk spasmodically, like dead chickens with the gush. Their presence in the dustbin of history suggests that the human project is leading to actual progress, yet it is odd to think that there were people once who liked their music and found them sexually attractive.

I am struggling to think of any non-rubbish secular Christmas tunes.

Continue reading to learn of my amazing Christmas offer.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

HI DERE I R TOTALLY WIRED

One of my beloved's great insights is that Mark E. Smith is a pioneer of the whole "HI DERE" mode of discourse.

Mark E. Smith is of course the lead singer of The Fall, one of John Peel's favourite bands. And John Peel died on Irene's birthday. So as not to wreck Irene's birthday buzz they decided to hold a load of John Peel Day concerts a couple of weeks early, on the 13th of October. In Dublin the Peel Day stuff was on in The Hub, and the line-up promised two acts who had recorded Peel sessions together with two who had not. However, in the end Peel sessioners Luggage did not play, with Mr Luggage instead compering. His laconic understated manner was oddly inappropriate for this kind of carry on, despite making him one of the more engaging front men the Irish music scene has produced.

In between the sets they did a lot of playing music of the sort Peel would have liked, perhaps replicating a particular one of the Festive Fifties. Sadly, the DJs were a bit reliant on shite MP3s downloaded for free from the interweb, meaning that everything ended up sounding like it was produced by The Go! Team. Or maybe they were trying to reproduce the inerference-tastic experience of Irish listening to Peel. The venue also played videos (without sound) of a variety of tracks from the early 1980s... christ the video for 'Geno' is amazing, whatever about what Dexy's did after that, it is a real shame that the early line-up could not stay the course. Another impressive video was that for The Jam's "A Town Called Malice". Conceptually it was a simple case of the band being filmed while miming to the song, but the execution had the kind of verve and swishness that you would associate with someone as image conscious as Weller.

Er, sorry, this is all going a bit incoherent. The first of the bands on tonight were House of Mexico. I do not know if they have any link at all to Peel, but they did sound like one of those bands you would get playing in the Buttery when I was in College (the Buttery was the name of the college bar, gentle reader). I thought they were a bit pedestrian, but my partner in crime (a gentleman I can identify only as "Dave") was more impressed.

The next band were none other than FEMALE HERCULES. WOAHHHH! These guys may never have recorded a Peel session, but you cannot but think that he would have liked them. Eh, I'm not sure why I say that, what I really mean is that I like them and so all right-thinking people, such as John Peel, should also like them. They play a kind of souped up primal rock-n-roll with more than a taste of rockabilly. Plus, they are fronted by a rock animal who plainly lives to, er, rock, 24-7. The other two guys in the band may not rock 24-7, but they certainly do while onstage, so when you have Female Hercules playing in front of you, you know you are in for a an uncompromising treat.

I feel more people in the world should be aware of this great band, and I am privileged to live in the city where they still play gigs on a reasonably frequent basis. I was also grateful to their decision to cover 'Ex Lion Tamer', in tribute to the great man (insofar as it was on his programme that they first heard it). All in all the surf-psychobilly sounds of the Irish Buff Medways more than repaid the price of admission.

The last band on the bill were Hey Paulette. They recorded at least one Peel session at some stage in the late 1980s to early 1990s. I met one of them at a party once, and had a conversation about H.P. Lovecraft. He did not like him, or at least his girlfriend was very vocal on the idea that Lovecraft is as nothing compared to Edgar Allan Poe. Still, if Poe is so good, how come there's no role-playing game based on his writings, eh?

Moving back to today, Hey Paulette live seemed like the kind of band who released records on Sarah back in the day. I cannot judge whether they are a particularly good example of the genre, as it was already past my bedtime when they came on, so I made my excuses and left before they had finished their first song. It might be a good idea if gig organisers bore in mind that not everyone who goes to gigs is a time-wasting dilettante like themselves, and some of us have very important meetings to go to in the mornings, meetings for which we need to be on top of our game.

So anyway, this gig - value for money? Given that Luggage did not play and I missed most of Hey Paulette, you might think not. However, the admission was half-nothing, and Female Hercules played a stormer, so I judge this event a success.

I know that many movers and shakers in the Irish indie world read this blog - maybe in future they could make sure that the gigs they organise end at a sensible time. That way, people with proper jobs could stay to the bitter end, and not just dilettantish time-wasters.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

and make them large ones



When Britain was at its greatest, the country was ruled by men who were drunk morning, noon, and night. So why are the Liberals looking for a new leader?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The magic of Khmer Pop



v/a "Cambodian Cassette Archives: Khmer Folk & Pop Music Vol. 1"

I bought this Sublime Frequencies release in New York. I became interested in Cambodian pop after reading an article about it in "Mojo" a while back. Apparently Cambodia had a flourishing pop scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s. before all pop practitioners were extermnated by the Khmer Rouge. This record collects a load of tracks from the scene, mostly lifted from cassettes the compiler located in Californian public libraries. These in turn seem largely to have been at least semi-pirated, and not too bothered about details like naming the performers or titles of songs, with the result that more than no tracks here are credited to Unknown.

The compiler mentions another interesting thing about Cambodian pop music - that it is forever being remixed. Whenever someone brought out a new cassette of the music they would always overdub it with new vocals or new keyboards or something. Like George Lucas they cannot leave well enough alone. This record catches most of the tracks in versions before they had synthetic noise dumped all over them.

Anyway, this is a great record, with that crazy pop sound I've come to expect from non-Western pop music. I love the way the way these kind of records show the reapproptiation of western musical ideas in local contexts to produce something bright and new. In this case the tracks are mostly perky up-beat numbers that you could imagine being great floor fillers. They're all sung in foreign, making it easier to focus on the music without being distracted by the verbiage.

What with this, my Bollywood music, and my Arabian pop records, I think I might just have enough world pop to DJ an entire set of that kind of thing, were some forward thinking person to be daring enough to look for such a thing. I could even live the dream and throw in a couple of DDR-tastic tunes.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Heroic Dog To Be Honoured By Statue



The Montrose Bamse Project has raised £50,000 to commission a statue of this brave dog, who was apparently a symbol of Norwegian resistance to Nazism despite the occupation of their country. Unlike many dogs today who are afraid of fireworks, Bamse used to stay at his post at his ship's gun tower throughout hostilities. On land, he would fetch errant sailors from pubs when it was time to put to sea.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

beware imitations

I find this very mysterious. In case anyone has any doubts, the real Inuit Bikini Scarlet Carwash resides here on Blogger.

I fear this means that the false Inuit Bikini Scarlet Carwash will soon be claiming to be the real one. World of meta.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Nice hair



I'm getting a bit fed up of people shiteing on about the secret Christian sub-text of the Narnia books. I have also found it ever harder to take Aslan seriously since realising that lions model themselves on Peter Stringfellow, and not the other way round.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Return of Toasted Heretic

Toasted Heretic are the band one could most credibly claim as The Irish Smiths, except that they never really became that successful and eventually split up to pursue careers in long-term unemployment. They've been riding the whole nostalgia thing recently, re-issuing their first two cassette-only albums on CD, and playing a couple of gigs around the country. I have never been a great man for the nostalgia... on the other hand, TH were the first band I ever left Dublin to see (breaking my glasses in the process), so I eventually drifted along to their Dublin gig in Whelans. Annoyingly, it started way earlier than a Whelans gig normally does. This meant that when I sauntered in the gig was half over (so that the venue could turn into a shite student disco), although they did at least let us in for half price.

And the band were amazing... I was really sorry to have missed the whole set and harboured fantasies about travelling around the country to see them again for weeks afterwards. It was funny how unlike a band who have reformed to milk the nostalgia circuit they were, coming across more like an exciting new band on the way up. i (and indeed the band) were quite struck by how young so many of the crowd were - surely these people were still in primary school when TH were in contention for the big time? This might explain singer Julian's repeated invitations to audience members to come and get to know the band after the gig.

I think I missed most of my favourite songs, so the fact that I loved this so much suggests that it must really have been very good indeed, or maybe I have just been seduced by nostalgia.

Now Toasted Heretic have a website where you can buy the re-released combo of "Songs For Swinging Celibates" & "Charm & Arrogance" and take part in discussion forums and stuff.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Yet more Fatal Deviation action

It seems like ten minutes since I last posted about Fatal Deviation, so maybe now I will discuss the film in slightly more detail than I did last time, and gratuitously link once more to the cover of the DVD. As you know, it is about this guy called Jimmy Bennett (played by Jimmy Bennett) who has to avenge his father's death and take part in the well-known Bealtaine martial arts tournament that takes place every year in Trim, Co. Meath. Along the way he is trained by a monk and gets on the wrong side of the local crime-lord. He visits a pub, gets into a fight, disarms some FULE who pulls a shotgun on him, and utters the immortal line “Fuck you and your gun, you prick”. For the ladies, the film features a naked man bathing in his own urine. So maybe It is hard to describe what exactly makes this film such a triumph; it does help that the way the hero looks like the kind of brick shithouse who would come around and kick your head in for scoving at his film.

It is easy to scove, but I do find myself with a grudging admiration for Mr Bennett (who also directed and wrote the script). I've never wrote or made a film, and I suspect that people will still be chortling at this sludgefest long after I have been forgotten.

Mikey Graham (of the Rock Group ‘Boyzone’) is great as the main villain, managing to make lines like ‘You made me look bad – and that’s not good’ sound almost credible. Clearly, he has a great future ahead of him.



STOP PRESS Amazingly, if you google “Fatal Deviation” this blog comes up in the first page of hits, meaning that it’s only a matter of time before Jimmy Bennett googles his film, finds this, and then comes around to pull my arms off. The last words I hear before dying of bloodloss might very well be “Fuck you and your blog, you prick”.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

No! The Pincers!

"Giant Water Scorpion Tracks Found: A six-legged water scorpion as big as a man walked the Earth some 330 million years ago, according to a largest fossil trackway of such a beast, unearthed in a layer of sandstone in Scotland."

Spark the hooter

Here is Sean Haugh:


Here is Sean Haugh's Blog.

Sean Haugh is an old-time superstar of Frank's APA, who dropped out to dedicate himself full time to Libertarian Party politics. He is a great man, and if his blog had been updated in the last month I would probably have added it into the links on the right.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Please Do Not Kill Us

Al Jazeera workers have started a blog, asking the United States not to drop bombs on them.

Of especial interest are the anonymous comments from mad people.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

An Amazing Discovery

I have just discovered that popular band The Jimmycake are actually called The Jimmy Cake. And amazingly, if you do a web search for "Jimmycake", the first thing you find is a thread I started on ILX.

Vicars are funny

Or so claims an article triggered by some shite Rowan Atkinson film.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Together at last - Damo Suzuki & The Jimmy Cake

Some time ago I separately discussed Damo Suzuki & The Jimmy Cake. Now I get to discuss them... together! As you know, Damo Suzuki used to sing with Can, but now he wanders the world playing improvised music with random musicians. His preferred modus operandi is apparently to play with random nutters who are meeting him and each other for the first time on stage, but he does occasionally play with actual bands. He did that last time he was in Dublin, playing with E+S=B. And tonight he was playing with The Jimmycake. This was in the Spiegeltent, a tent with mirrors which they had down in Dublin's docks as part of the theatre festival.

This was another of those gigs where you do find yourself thinking "come on man, how improvised is this?". I heard that the Jimmycake had rehearsed some general principles before the show but were still kind of playing it by ear during the concert, and had not discussed musical direction with Mr Damo (or Mr Suzuki) in advance of the concert. Things still sounded fairly under control to me, if not actually producing the kind of music your mother would like. The Jimmycake played a stormer tonight, and DS trimmed his sails accordingly, producing a gestalt evening of pure music. Of particular enjoyment to me was the J-Cake's new duelling keyboards direction, with Jurgen and Paul Smith (sp?) beginning the set with a twin keyboard onslaught that kept tripping in and out of phase with each other, before DS and the rest of the band joined in. And you may recall my commenting on how I reckoned losing so many of the brass instruments would leave the Cake a bit exposed in the wind department. Paradoxically the net effect this time was that I found myself paying far more attention to the slabs of clarinet noise.

It's a funny old rock and roll world. I feel that my inability to talk about music coupled with my poor note-taking has left me unable to do justice to this concert here. It was great to see musicians raising their game for each other, and it is hard not to look back on this as one of the musical highlights of the year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Death to independent media!

Political blogs are boring worlds of self-important discourse, so it is with a heavy heart that I now turn to world affairs. Nevertheless, this whole George Bush Wanting To Bomb Al-Jazeera thing is both fascinating and disturbing. When you read the reports on the BBC or Guardian websites, you start off thinking "What is this nonsense?". By the end, when you see how the British state is using the full power of the Official Secrets Act to prevent further discussion of the document you realise - that there is an actual document which is a transcript of an actual conversation in which Bush & Blair discussed the bombing of a television station simply because it was not toeing the US line. Of course, Bush might have been joking, but the joke is not one that the families of Al-Jazeera journalists already killed by his soldiers would share.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Guns don't kill people, cockfarmers do

On friday I went to a conference where this very important guy talked about the UN and the way the world is going. I was interested by the way he basically equated Bush's blocking of some international treaty on the small-arms trade with the Iranians non-cooperation with the IAEA. I know which of these has already claimed more lives.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Current Reading

Thanks to Spy School, I've been reading a lot about theory of international relations lately. Hence all the stuff about political realism and the timeless wisdom thereof. Currently I am discovering the magic of post-positivist approaches to the subject, which are not really that interesting to people outside the business.

But what of the things I had been reading back on the 12th of October? I finished the eight issues of "The Authority" I acquired. They are entertaining enough in a big and stupid kind of way, but they are maybe a bit too stupid for all that they take themselves way too seriously. I have skimmed "Anatomy of a Dictatorship" sufficiently to grasp the basic point - that the DDR was a nasty dictatorship in which the Church represented the one major body not fully under the regime's control (for all that it was still very compromised). And I am still plodding through "Rip It Up And Start Again". Now I am on the exciting Psychic TV/Coil chapter, a welcome return to proper music after the false post-punk of the SST chapter.

And what of "Heart Of Darkness"? Amazingly, I have managed to stall on this again, which is a bit poor considering how short and enjoyable it is. But hey, Spy School comes first.

One fictional thing I have been getting much enjoyment out of is Vol. 2 of "The Essential Fantastic Four". They really don't write 'em like that anymore. Was the early 1960s Marvel explosion the US equivalent of "2000AD"? Perhaps.

There is a real danger that my next Spy School essay will be an analysis of international law as it appear in the "Fantastic Four". Oh dear.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

White Light / White Heat

I have been listening to the Velvet Underground a lot lately. In the past, whenever I thought of or listened to the Velvets, these comments of a Sinister subber would come to mind:

[copyrighted material deleted]

For more, see here. This is now somewhat ironic, as I am hoping to write about the Velvet Underground for my work magazine.

Sadly, this is what I now think of whenever I hear the Velvets.

edit (26/5/2011) - now with working links

Sunday, November 13, 2005

iPod Top Ten

Before my iPod crashed, these were my most played tunes:

12. 'Der Volkspolizist' by Uschi und Der Kinderchor Des 'Etkar-Andre-Ensembles' 8 plays

12. 'Mocca-Milch.Eisbar' by Thomas Natshinski & Gruppe - 8 plays

12. 'Sag Mir Wo Du Stehst' by Oktoberklub - 8 plays

12. 'Born To Lose' by Johnny Thunders And The Heartbreakers - 8 plays

12. '... It's A Moral Issue' by Baader Meinhof - 8 plays

12. 'Meet Me At The Airport' by Baader Meinhof - 8 plays

6. 'Daft Punk Is Playing At My House' by LCD Soundsystem - 9 plays

6. 'Baader Meinhof' by Baader Meinhof - 9 plays

4. 'Suerte' by Shakira - 11 plays

4. 'Losing My Edge' by LCD Soundsystem - 11 plays

2. 'Whenever Wherever' by Shakira - 12 plays

1. 'Aktuelle Kamera' by Musik [aka the East German TV news music] - 14 plays

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Lex Iure Imperii

Recently I read some reprints of old Lee-Kirby Fantastic Four comics. In them a recurring event is the foiling of some nefarious Doctor Doom plot, which then sees Ben Grimm suggesting that they throw the Doctor into jail. "No Ben," Reed Richards then says, "Doom is the head of state of Latveria, and as such is entitled to diplomatic immunity". This always seemed a bit unlikely, but it was a handy way of ensuring that Doom was able to return in a month's time to threaten American freedom once more.

Bizarrely, it turns out that Reed Richards was acting correctly here, as heads of state (and other senior state officials) are in fact entitled to full immunity when fulfilling the functions of their office, which in Doom's case would include trying to take over the world.

This is the kind of important matter my course in International Relations covers.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

PANDA BREAKOUT!

It's only a red panda, admittedly: Missing red panda spotted in tree

"He was very clever and stayed away from the roads and kept near the berries."

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Selfish Cunt

First up, if my mother is reading, it's not my fault that the band I am going to be talking about here has such a rude name. I would nevertheless like to apologise for bringing such foul language to what has hitherto been a nice family blog.

I saw popular band Selfish Cunt play in the Voodoo Lounge a while back.
Cockfarmer Huey from the Fun Loving Criminals owns this venue, so he was responsible for the great support acts. First up were The Retards, who perform wearing furry suits, by which I mean that they dress up as furry animals. Their music was VERY LOUD and challenging, albeit in a metallic kind of way. I particularly liked their last song (about rejection), which had these wonderful lyrics:

I saw you at the bar
I only wanted to dance
Who's laughing now?
YOU'RE CRIPPLED!

Makes you think, eh?

The next band were local act Andalusia, who seemed to be kind of country rock of some sort. From a musical point of view they were probably a lot better than The Retards, but they weren't as challenging, which means they are objectively inferior. A friend thought they sounded like The Stunning, and was astonished when I said that this was a bad thing.

And finally, the Cunt. I only went to see this lot because they have a very rude name. It turns out they are like some kind of weird early '80s goth band. The guitarist guy looks relatively normal, but the vocalist is essentially Marc Almond's love child, and he poses around the stage intoning rather than singing. He also wears funny make-up and stares people into the faces of random punters. Sometimes he jumped into the audience and poked at people (but not me - I'd have floored him). And it was all very loud. Basically, this was great stuff, extreme, poncey, artsy, and not the kind of thing your mother would like (unless you are YOURNAMEHERE).

I think SC are meant to be political in some way... they have a song called 'Britain Is Shit', which is about how Britain is shit. It might have got more of a reaction if they had changed it to 'Ireland Is Shit'... it's always nice to hear the neighbours engaging in self-criticism, but it would have made the gig even more confrontational if the band started telling us how rubbish Ireland is.

This gig happened some time back... astute readers will by now have realised that I have run out of new things to talk about and am going back further into time for material. Coming soon - the time I went to see Strereolab & Laika in Columbia Mills.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Selfish Chimp

Latest research shows that Chimpanzees are gratuitoulsy unfriendly, always keen not to help their fellows even at no loss to themselves. I wonder, though, is this the shagger chimps I've heard about, who are meant to be incredibly friendly, or the less pleasant war chimp subspecies?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4381516.stm

Beaver Patrol

Plans are afoot to reintroduce the beaver to these islands. And in a parable for our times, it is the friendly European beaver that is returning, not its brash American cousin.

Read all about it here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/gloucestershire/4380276.stm

Monday, October 24, 2005

Dog Befriends Orphaned Wallaby

The BBC reports that an orphaned Wallaby called Wenda has been befriended by a dog called Brook: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_west/4360612.stm

Here is a picture of the two friends:

I Am Not Damo Suzuki

Some time back I saw popular improviser Damo Suzuki playing in Dublin venue Crawdaddy. I republish my comments here for anyone who did not have the opportunity to read them last time, and as a taster for my forthcoming incredibly fascinating discussion of the time he played with The Jimmycake.

Supporting the well-known sultan of improvisation were a couple of local acts. First up, some laptop guy. He made the kind of music laptop people make. You can buy programmes that generate this stuff automatically for you, can't you? Anyway, all enjoyable enough if not earth shattering. Next support was this amazing Scottish guy whose thing is hitting cymbals. He would use a drumstick in one hand and a set of maracas in the other, or some variant thereof. Sometimes he just scratched at the surface of the cymbals to create a strange shimmery sound. All in all this was a lot more interesting than it sounds, being hypnotic and trance inducing. I wish I could remember his name.

Damo Suzuki himself was playing with some local musicians from the band E=S+B - two keyboardists, a drummer, and a percussionist, all masked. Allegedly Damo never rehearses with the bands he plays with, meaning that there is always the risk of any performance he gives being a formless, meandering mess. Tonight things seemed a lot more focussed, to such an extent that you would think they were playing prepared pieces. It is possible that essentially the band were playing the kind of stuff they always play and Damo was just improvising vocals over the top, but even at that it seemed a lot more together than might have been expected. Someone did say on the interweb that they did a very long soundcheck, so maybe that in practice doubles up as a backdoor rehearsal.

I liked the music that came from this collaboration a lot. Like the drum guy, it was hypnotic, but it was a good bit more melodic and rocky. My intention for the future is to seek out more music from these E=S+B people. I heard that they are some kind of off-shoot of the band Wormhole, who were liked by me in the early 1990s.

I bought a Damo Suzuki double album from the nice German lady doing his merchandising, but I haven't listened to it enough yet to say too much about it.

Spurred on by the Damo Suzuki gig, I've been thinking about what a funny old rock and roll world it is. I mean, take improvisation (please, take it (nurse, call the sides doctor!)). Everyone loves it, at least in the world of music, but imagine how irritated you would be if novelists just made up books as they went along and never went back to re-write anything? I can definitely see the appeal of improvisation to musicians, but looking at the matter from first principles it is hard to see any intrinsic benefits for listeners in making up tunes as you go along.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

There Are No Rules




I've finally seen "Fatal Deviation". It is indeed the greatest film ever made in Trim.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Skinny Wolves

Skinny Wolves should be a band, but is actually a club. Some time back I went to check it out. It bills itself as playing krautrock and post-punk, but what they had on offer sounded more like textured electronic noise, with the DJs sounding like they had put a single by Double Leopards on repeat.

There were two actual bands playing tonight. First up were The Retards, whom I saw previously supporting Selfish Cunt. They wear animal suits and play retarded music. I recommend them highly. The second band were Somadrome. By this stage, I had had a couple of shandies, so I do not remember much about them other than that they were quite good.

The crowd were a bit restrained through all of this. I suppose the music isn't that dancey, but I thought maybe the punters were over-posey, doing too much in the way of standing around and looking cool. What the music really cried out for was for drunken people to keep waving their fists in the air while shouting "Woahhhh!", ideally while modelling ARE Weapons style wife-beaters. I may have to drink from this cup on my next visit to the club. In this context the woman who kept inexplicably shouting "Razorlight!" is to be applauded, whatever you think of that band.

A great thing about the venue (The Hub), is that one end of it is really stinky, and if you sit there you feel like you are sitting in a blocked toilet cubicle. Actually, this is not so great, and explains why everyone was sitting in the other end.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Monday, October 17, 2005

A Farewell To Brains

Popular Dublin band The Jimmycake played a couple of free gigs as a way of live rehearsing some new tunes of theirs, in preparation for recording them on a new album. I went to the one in The Village, because it is round the corner from me. It seems like ages since I last saw the J-cake, and they seem really different now. For one thing, they have been shedding members... there are hardly any of them left now, a mere eight people onstage tonight, one of whom was playing his farewell gig.

The band seem to be losing mostly the people playing the funny instruments, so they are by default moving in a more rock direction. In the long run this is probably a bad thing, but it did mean that they went big time for the wall of sound stuff tonight. I was happy, as this is the kind of thing I like best from them in a live context. They might be a bit too rock next time I see them, however, as they've already lost their saxophonist and this was the trumpeter's last gig, leaving the clarinette as their only wind instrument. What does the future hold for Dublin's leading band?

but of course, since then I saw The Jimmycake's sensational performance with Damo Suzuki. Bet you can't wait to read about that?

oh wait, they're actually called The Jimmy Cake.

Glastonbury 2005, part nine: it's not just for Whitey

Previously

Glastonbury's audience is a tad Caucasian, but the music and stuff on offer is a bit more multiethnic and stuff. In fact, there is an entire Jazz World Stage for people who like jazz or musicians from the world. And it had The Levellers playing at it, as I discovered while walking past one day. They are pretty whitey, but they still seemed to fit. For a band whose moment was over ten years ago, they still sound surprisingly on the ball.

I also saw a bit of music by this Ilhan Al-Madfai fellow. He is a chap from Iraq who plays acoustic guitar with a band who use both Western and Arabic instruments. At the end of the day, I failed to see the point of him. Why play acoustic guitar when you come from an oud playing culture, eh? And if his guitar playing is as amazing as the programme claimed, why was it buried so low in the mix?

On the last night a load of us finished the festival with afro-beat sensations Femi Kuti & The Positive Force. I do not know how Afro-Beat fits into the the rock & roll family tree. Did it develop more or less independently of western music, bar the pulling in of instruments, or is it an African re-appropriation of jazz and funk? In any case, Femi Kuti makes music to which you have to dance. The lyrics tend towards covering very specific Nigerian concerns that often go straight over whitey's head. I, however, felt like I was back in my Introduction to West African Politics course. Some of the lyrics did seem a bit strange stripped of their context - wearing a jimmyhat while you shag isn't quite such a matter of life and death when your country doesn't have a 40% HIV infection rate.

It is not clear how Femi Kuti squares his right-on politics with the presence of the lovely lady dancers in his band.

Does anyone know if Afro-Beat is a uniquely Nigerian phenomenon, or did something similar emerge in other countries in that part of the world?

part nine of nine - that's all folks. Or go back to the start here.

Glastonbury 2005, part eight: Tonight I celebrate my love for you

Previously

A trope of the festival seemed to be making fun of George Bush & Tony Blair, particularly with doctored video footage. M.I.A. preceded her appearance onstage with a video of a joint press conference between the leaders of the free world, where Blair would talk about serious things only to be interrupted repeatedly by Bush saying "M. I. A.". This made Tony a bit annoyed. The best, though, was a video shown at the Groovey Movie - footage of Tony & George doctored so they looked like they were singing 'Endless Love' to each other. We laughed and laughed.

Other classics of the Groovey Movie included a short from the 1970s on how to ride a skateboard safety. It went well with their brandy hot chocolates.

part eight of nine

The story continues

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Glastonbury 2005, part seven: The magic of the green fields

Previously

I like sitting around in the stone circle field, or relaxing with some chai and cake in the Green Fields. I like this a lot more than running around chasing random bands. It is nice to treat the festival as a relaxing experience rather than a frenetic one.

part seven of nine

The story continues

Rip It Up And Start Again - initial thoughts

This is the Simon Reynolds book about Post-Punk that everyone is reading, including me. I like it! In a weird way, it reminds me of a book I read once about the American Civil War. It kept having testimony from people who would say of battles "If only there had a couple more hours of daylight - then we would have really flattened those cockfarmers". The equivalent in this book is bands lamenting in retrospect that some move on their part effectively killed their career. Usually this move is refusing to play Top Of The Pops, often for the lamest of reasons. The Gang Of Four were invited onto the programme, but refused after being asked to change the line "the rubbers in your pocket" to "the rubbish in your pocket". Magazine did actually play, but delivered a weird performance that alienated the audience and stiffed their then rising single. And there are others.

In the world of art generally, not compromising is seen as a good thing. I cannot but wonder in these cases, however, whether the bands were pointlessly refusing to compromise on small things that would have brought the big thing - their uncompromised, pure music - to a much wider audience. That said, I am also not entirely convinced that the big time really was waiting for these bands, because surely if there was a mass market for these angular, spiky acts then at least some of the post-punk acts would have found it eventually? Or maybe the success of acts like U2 shows what could have been possible by a band who were willing to play the game.

These were my initial thoughts... since then I have ploughed further on through the book and read other reviews of it, with the result that my own thoughts have developed. My current thinking is not fully formulated.

S L A Y E D

Sensational developments... they are reprinting the National Song Year storyline from classic lamer comedy 2000AD strip "Robohunter".

See here for details: http://www.2000ad.org/thrillpower/rebsladeplay.html

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Current Reading

This is what I am currently reading, for fun like:

Rip It Up And Start Again by Simon Reynolds. You know, that book about the post-punk music. Of this, more later.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I always had the idea that Conrad did not start writing until he was in his late forties, but it turns out that he had published loads of stuff by the time he was my age, so I am indeed a failure.

The Authority by Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch (& Laura DuPuy). Big & stupid superhero comics, in which the heroes win by being very po-faced.

Anatomy of a Dictatorship: Inside the GDR 1949-1989 by Mary Fulbrook. Everything you ever wanted to know about the DDR, although sadly the index has nothing on DIE PUHDYS.

I may well be reading these for some time.

Glastonbury 2005, part six: is this a puppy I see before me?

Previously

There was a lot of talk about how dance music was being purged from the festival this year. It turned out this talk was false, and this year's festival saw a sizeable expansion in the quantity of dance stuff on offer. In place of the single Dance Tent of yore there is now an entire Dance Village, with two large-ish tents and a plethora of smaller ones and outdoor stages.

I did not spend much time in the whole Dance Village area. That whole area of the festival appeals to me less and less over the years. In many ways, it is the least Glastonbury bit of the site, full of frenetic mad-for-it types who are definitely not in the least bit chilled. My official line is that things were better at Glastonbury when the only dance music on offer was at unofficial afterhours underground raves.

But I still saw more than nothing in the Dance Village. Like Two Lone Swordsmen. These fellows were once known as producers of minimalist abstract dance music, but now they have been listening to so much post-punk that they've decided to start making their own. Change is good, and it's always nice to hear post-punk style sounds in a live context, but at the end of the day this is not a band pushing back the sonic frontiers in the way that PiL or Cabaret Voltaire did. Instead, the new TLS are a post-punk bar band. They also made a great bad decision when they put Andy Weatherall on lead vocals. He can neither sing properly nor does he have the kind of individually expressive voice that gets other non-singers by.

They were maybe a bit more enjoyable to listen to than I make them sound, basically because that genre of music is always easy on the ears of the forward thinking. And other people of more discerning tastes derived great enjoyment from their music, so there might be more going on than I am noticing.

And then there was Jamie Liddell. Some of my friends were really bigging this guy up, but in a suspciously over zealous manner. It turns out that Liddell's thing is that he plays electronic music over which he sings. Then he samples himself singing, treats the sample, plays it back and harmonises over it. Then he samples that and repeats the process , all very quickly. And he sings in a kind of high soulful voice. You have to admire his technique, but I am still undecided as to whether this is My Kind Of Thing or not. It seemed simultanaeously over-cerebral (in the boffiny way in which he made the music) and over-cheesy (all Liddell's "Ooh Baby" squeaks are a bit comedic). Nevertheless, I would be interested in seeing Jamie Liddell again, were he ever to darken these shores, if only to finally settle the question of what I think of him.

I also saw a bit of Justin Robertson DJing. He still plays the kind of dance music I like to listen to, even if it was too early in the day for me to stay.

part six of nine

The story continues

Glastonbury 2005, part 5: man does not live on cake alone

Previously

On Sunday I tested the theory that Man Does Not Live On Cake Alone - for the whole day I ate nothing but cake. Various places saw to my cake needs - the Buddhafield Cafe, many chai places, the Nutters Cafe, random stalls, and so on. I lived to tell the tale without obvious ill effects. Now I am thinking of extending the experiment to cover an entire week or month. Or forever! Maybe I could eat nothing but cake forever and see what happens!

At other points over the weekend I ate from the likes of The Manic Organic, the (disappointing) Israel-Palestine café, various vegiburger joints, and so on. Although I only ate it the once, the taste sensation for me was the Hummusburger - one of those Moonburgers with hummus smeared on top! It is the gorgeous. Why have I never tried this before? And could it be that everything is improved by the addition of hummus? Perhaps soon I will be eating a lovely slice of carrot cake, covered in delicious hummus.

The drink sensation of the festival was brandy hot chocolate (from the Groovy Movie, who also do nice cake), a perfect drink to have before bedtime. I have enjoyed many brandy hot chocolates since my return from the festival.

part five, of nine

The story continues

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Pet Detectives of New Orleans

Pet detectives search New Orleans for lost pets, to reunite them with their owners so that they might retain something of the lives they lost: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4296130.stm

Sadly there is no picture of Blondie the puppy.

Glastonbury 2005, part four: which side are you on?

Previously

Some commentators argued that there was literally nothing worth seeing on the Acoustic Stage. Rockist nonsense. I caught two enjoyable acts on that stage, and in retrospect wished I'd seen a few more. Martha Wainwright (of the McGarrigle-Wainwright Co-Prosperity Sphere) was not the revelation I was hoping for, but she was entertaining enough. And she did reveal that the last time she had played the acoustic stage (with Kate & Anna McGarrigle, one of which is her mam) she had been E-ing her nuts off. This is amusing on any number of levels. I was actually there when she played with them, and she didn't look like she was buzzing to me. But then, I probably wouldn't either if my mother was sitting next to me.

Anyway, deadly buzz.

Steve Earle headlined the Acoustic Stage on Friday night, playing solo. I think now I see why Claudia Gonson of Magnetic Fields threatens to give her guitar to Steve Earle. He played lots of hard-edged politically conscious songs, a well as a love song to Condoleezza Rice. And he went off on a long ramble about the American Civil War, which was cool by me. Some poor fuck in the crowd was flying the Confederate Battle Flag (you know, the Southern Cross), and Earle set the mob on him. My own views on whether that flag is straightforwardly a symbol of slavery and racism are a bit more complex.

Earle was joined by Alison Moorer on one song, much to the delight of the audience's more neanderthal elements. I was very taken by her playing and singing. She reminded me generally of how the whole phenomenon of women avant-country artists is something I've been meaning to investigate, ever since being ensnared by the voice of Paula Frazer from Tarnation who sings on Cornershop's 'It's Good To Be On The Road Back Home Again Again'.

Earle finished off with 'Copperhead Road', obviously.

On Sunday I sauntered along to see Billy Bragg playing the Leftfield Stage. Bragg plays every year, but I always manage to miss him. In fact, I have not seen him live at all since 1987, when I attended a gig of his in Dublin. Blimey. So I had kind of forgotten how good he is. This man is one of the greatest live performers the world has ever seen. And if you are even slightly left-wing the man will reinvigorate you with the white hot zeal for the struggle. This was almost like a religious experience. Bragg was telling us how upset he was that the BNP had won a seat on the council of his home town of Barking; when he revealed that at a Glastonbury Thursday by-election they had lost it again, I felt like I knew what it was to be touched by the Holy Spirit.

But the songs! Many feel that Bragg's music went into decline when he started recording with a band rather than solo. It was therefore great that to see him playing onstage alone with just his guitar, playing the songs that suit that sound like he actually was a born again Woody Guthrie. He even played the Guthrie tune from which Andy Irvine ripped the "All you fascists bound to lose" refrain, leading me to wonder how great an Irvine-Bragg double-header would go down.

Bragg also played popular Civil War anthem "The Battle Cry Of Freedom", albeit with the lyrics changed to make it about joining trade unions. And he was joined at the end by popular comedian Phil Jupitus, to do a song called 'Bestiality' ("I've had relations/ with a great number of Dalmatians" etc.). But he didn't do 'Which Side Are You On?'.

Which side are you on? I heard that some people, notably those from the world of internet forum ILX, found Bragg hard to take. This does not surprise me. In our time of ironic attachment, it is difficult for an ironist to fathom someone of actual beliefs.

Anyway, the highlight of the festival, in fact one of the all-time great Glastonbury performances? Oh yes.

This is part four of nine, incidentally, so you may want to pace yourself. Some of the later installments will be a bit short.

The story continues

Monday, October 03, 2005

Glastonbury 2005 part three: big bands on big stages

Previously

I saw some big name acts on the Pyramid Stage. One of my pals took me along to see Goldie Looking Chain. It says something about this band that when they announced their tour of Ireland, they were playing one night in Dublin but five in Limerick. Live, they come across as a gang of lads who've somehow wandered onstage and are having a laugh at our expense. However, there is a polish and musicality to what they do that belies the carefully constructed facade of slapdashness. They also hop around like muppets and have funny songs like 'Your Mother Has A Penis' and lyrics like "come here baby, I want to jizz on you". Anyway, this was my first exposure to the music of the Chain, and I like it. Together with M.I.A. they have me thinking that it's high time I heard myself some more UK hip hop.

Thankfully the sun had returned on Sunday, by which time Brian Wilson was getting to do his sunshine pop stuff. I had some doubts beforehand about this, wondering if it would basically be a bunch of session musos with Wilson wheeled in from Happy Vale to lend a dubious authenticity to proceedings. In fact, though, while Wilson is plainly not the best in the head department, he did seem to be in control of what was going on musically and didn't give the impression of thinking he was still in his house in Los Angeles.

Two of our friends became engaged (to each other) at the Brian Wilson gig, making this the most loved up Glastonbury ever. There was much proffering of congratulations from random strangers.

Primal Scream were doing their stuff on sunday night, as a welcome replacement for the rubbish Kylie Minogue. Bobby Gillespie seemed a bit the worse for wear, and was doing a lot of berating the audience for real or imagined slights. Eventually the band, having over-ran, had their sound turned off, and some security guys had to help Mr Gillespie off the stage. What I saw of their set was enjoyable, emphasising the MBV-grebo end of their sound.

Many people thought New Order delivered a set of high quality. Sadly, many people are wrong, and one of my favourite bands on record actually played a plodding and uninspiring set where the lack of Gillian Gilbert was sorely felt. These guys very much had the air of people who'd rather be anywhere else but onstage, and were only doing their stuff for the money and the need to promote their suckass new album. And I hated the way Barney told us the name of every song before he played it. Let the tunes speak for themselves, dude.

They were joined for a tune by Ana Matronic from rubbish band Scissors Sisters, looking oddly like friend T-Fal from the Internet. And thanks to real-life friend Mark W., Keith Allen came on at the end to do the John Barnes rap in 'World In Motion'. This was probably the only bit of the Order's lacklustre set where any life came into it. And then they were gone.

The story continues

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Irish Smiths?

Right kids, you know the score. No music stuff appears here until it has first been printed in Frank's APA. Here are some amazing gig reviews you can look forward to reading in the future:

- The Jimmycake playing with Damo Suzuki (like, on the same stage, together, at once)

- Pere Ubu (or the David Fucking Thomas Pere Ubu Experience as it seemed to be in practice)

- a concert in Whelans by the reformed Toasted Heretic

The great annoying thing about the last concert was this. Normally with gigs in Whelans, the main band comes on around 10.00. But tonight there was some suckass student disco on there, which meant TH came on at 9.00... so when I arrived at 10.00 their set was nearly over.

Toasted Heretic have a website here: Toasted Heretic.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Latest Intifada Results

The Al-Aqsa Intifada recently celebrated its fifth birthday. The Israelis have maintained the commanding lead they notched up early on, systematically demolishing their second division Palestinian opponents. Go Israel!

Results in full here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4294502.stm

Glastonbury 2005 part two: the magic of the John Peel Tent

Previously

I saw a couple of great acts at the John Peel Tent. Part of the magic of this experience was that I saw these bands on the vague recommendations by random people. And the random people came good.

Being impressionable, I followed friends up there when some M.I.A. person was on there. She turns out to be an English-Sri Lankan rapper who performs with another rapper to backing tapes. And she rocks, being almost the perfect act with her combination of politicised lyrics, good time partyness, and attractive young woman perkiness. Nice visuals as well - maps of London, stone throwing kids in PLO scarves, etc. Right on.

I bought her album "Arular" in Bristol and have been listening to it continuously since then. It did trigger the same kind of thoughts I always have about hip hop - basically, are rappers an over-indulged shower of wasters when the real musical powers in hip hop are the producers? An interesting question in this case, but one leading to no definitive answer. The crunchy beats that back the rapping are very impressive in this case, but I don't think they'd amount to much without M.I.A. doing her stuff on top of it.

I wonder is this the grime music that the young people like?

I am not a fan of Coldplay. Therefore, I did not go to see them on Saturday night, but instead trekked to the John Peel Tent for The Go! Team (or The Fishm, as they like to be called). This mixed-race mixed-gender outfit come from Brighton, and had a great picture of themselves in the programme. They turn out to be a perfect festival band, playing good-time music that's fun to dance to. A friend asserted that they are a bit like The Beta Band. Well they're not *that* like them, but I can see where he is coming from. There's a similar kind of willingness to pull in musical sources from all over the shop, a similar commitment to dance rhythms, and similar air of indie kids playing with rap. The Go! Team are a bit more pop, though. and I love the pop. I got swept along by the way they get the crowd to join in with their songs, and loved being able to shout "Go! Team!" at them during 'Huddle Formation'.

They were a bit plagued by the sound (this is the John Peel Tent, after all), losing the vocals for one track. I was amused to watch their perky singer doing her stuff on stage without any sound from her reaching us. They did leave the stage for a bit while the engineers fixed things, and then came back and did loads of their best songs again. Hurrah!

Overall though, the sound in the John Peel Tent compares favourably with that on the Go! Team's album (the appropriately named "Thunder, Lightning, Strike"), which sounds like it was recorded over a bad phone line from Kathmandhu for 50p.

The final exciting band I saw in the tent were called Dresden Dolls. Some guy I bought magic beans from said they were good, and they have a German-ish name. While waiting for them to come on, I realised that something strange was happening... there were a surprisingly large number of Goths in the audience. And when the band came on, it was like the Goths had landed. The Dolls (as they call themselves) are a man and a woman. She dresses like a Weimar-era strumpet and plays keyboards set to sound like a piano. He is dressed almost like a harlequin and drums in a clown-like manner. His playing style was also reminiscent of the mentalist drummer from some lamer Australian band I saw in a local venue once. There was very theatrical quality to their performances... in the opening song the singer was singing one of those songs to a rubbish lover, while the drummer was being the lover, mocking her earnest entreaties.

When I say Dresden Dolls were Goth, I mean of course in the early 1980s artistic sense. There was nothing metallic or industrial about them. Since the festival I've looked at their entertaining if Flash- and image-heavy web-site, and they have an entire section of hate mail they received from Nine Inch Nails fans after they opened for the Reznorites on some tour. "YOPU R SUCH A GAY BAND TAHT I BET TRENT DIDNT PICK YOPUTO BE TEH SUPORT ON HIS TOPUR" is a typical comment.

I liked Dresden Dolls... I liked their playfulness, theatricality, and sense of artifice. The woman has a way with words too. And I like their cover of 'War Pigs', which rocked in the way that only a voice-piano-drums combo can. They also did a nice cover version of Jacques Brel standard 'In The Port Of Amsterdam'. What's that song all about? There's this old drunken sailor in a pub in Amsterdam, and he is drunk, is that it?

'Coin Operated Boy' is maybe the most striking of Dresden Dolls' own songs, conjuring up a wonderful image of clockwork sex toys.

The dreadlocked roadie guy still calls the shots at the John Peel Tent, and he liked the Dresden Dolls.

The story continues

Glastonbury 2005 part one: enough about me, let's talk about the weather

Join me in a time trip back to June of this year, when I attended the exciting Glastonbury Festival. The weather was quite extreme this year. Wednesday and Thursday were scorchers, but rumours circulated about how thunder storms were expected some time Friday afternoon. I was actually kind of pleased when I heard the first sputters of rain early on Friday morning, as it meant that my tent wasn't going to turn into an oven by 8.00 am, making a lie-in at least possible. But then the rain got heavier and heavier, and was joined by scarily loud thunder. Electrical storms can be scary enough when you are indoors, snugly wrapped up in bed. When you are in a semi-waterproof tent out in the open they are impressive things indeed. While I lay there wondering if tents are Faraday cages or not, I was nevertheless faced with a spectacle sure to dwarf anything the festival itself would offer.

The rain poured down in torrents for, I dunno, six straight hours or so? It did slacken off a bit now and then during that time, but it didn't stop, and the lightning and thunder kept up as well. Some of us made our way to the Field of Avalon during a relative lull, only to be driven into the Avalon Café by a renewed bucketing. There we witnessed a woman being advised not to lean against the tent's metal supports, in case she ended up being fried by lightning. Nice.

Various things around the Festival site were indeed struck by lightning, and electrical power throughout the site was knocked off for a bit. They did get power back by the middle of the afternoon, allowing bands to start playing again. But the storm had wreaked its damage more through the rain. The market area flooded in a manner reminiscent of the year of the Unpleasantness, and there were reports of riots at Joe Bananas as frenzied mobs battled for the last wellington boots. The area around the New Bands Tent (now the John Peel Tent, in tribute to John Peel) became a quagmire, and a series of rivers erupted across the field in front of the Other Stage.

Most striking, though, was the way the bottom of Pennards Hill flooded to three or four feet of water. Or water mixed with sewage, as the toilets at the bottom of the hill were also engulfed. Reputedly this all happened in the space of a few minutes at the height of the storm, leaving those afflicted no time to save any of their belongings.

I chanced on the Pennards Hill devastation myself during the afternoon. I was in a rather relaxed state, and seeing the tops of tents stick up out of murky water was one of the most "dude!" moments of any of the Glastonburys I've been to.

I have often thought how Glastonbury has aspects of a refugee camp to it, albeit a very well-appointed one for well-heeled refugees. This year maybe some people got a bit too much of a taste of what a real refugee camp might be like, and they did not like it. Apparently you had to queue to walk off the site on Friday afternoon, so many people were leaving. Surely more must have seen the television footage and thought "fuck that!" and stayed at home.

However, after the Friday morning downpour the weather remained rather clement. I do not think it rained again, and the sun put in occasional appearances on Friday and Saturday afternoon, while Sunday was just full on sunny. In some ways I agree with Michael Eavis' comments that the wet years are more crack than the dry ones, in that you don't have the Yellow-Face threatening to burn you or making you feel stinky and sluggish. Still, I wish I had brought gaiters.

The story continues

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Dog v. Rabbit

Dog chases rabbit into pond. Rabbit then escapes on dog's back: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/north_yorkshire/4287856.stm

In my life there are no rules

I ate lunch in Govinda's today, and had paneer with mixed veg, rice and dahl.

In the evening I had some soup and a cheese and pickle sandwich.

So - dinner at lunchtime, lunch at dinnertime - I'm just mad.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Monday, September 26, 2005

Finnish booty

I notice these blog things seem to sort by date in ascending rather than descending order. I bought these CDs at the Subcurrents concerts I discuss below. Reading the discussion of the concert might assist you with analysis of the records.

Kemialliset Ystavat "Alkuharka": More striking on record than live, perhaps, but this might be because I'm usually less tired when I listen to it.

Avarus "Jattilaisrotta": Not unlike their live performance... no vocals bar strange primal yelps, and music that lopes along in a manner unconnected with classical songwriting.

Islaja "Meritie": A solo record by the yellow dress woman, whose own music seems to lean towards the world of nice but strange vocals with sparse acoustic accompaniment.

v/a "Sleep Tight, no. 2 Under A Blanket Of Psych": I made the beloved buy this, because it has a track by Fursaxa, whom I wuv, on it. It is a compilation of stuff from people who make that kind of music. Amusingly, the track by Ms Fursaxa seems to be the same one I heard her perform at ATP last year. Or maybe she only has one song.

Rauhan Orkesterj "Hyppi Tunti" 7" : Haven't listened to this yet. I mean, come on - I only bought it five months ago.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Extreme Music Not From Finland

The Saturday night of the Subcurrents bash featured no Finnish acts. First up were Decaer Pinga v. Smack Music. These are actually two separate bands with members of one married to someone in the other. And they feature siblings, for full on sauce action. They seemed to be Scottish, or so sounded the woman who asked for the stage lights to be turned down. The combined bands' music was very BBC Radiophonics Workshopy, and very loud. Like a lot of bands of that ilk it was not immediately obvious where the various sounds they made were coming from. That is of course only a problem if you are aspiring to reproduce their music at home. Anyway, I thought these guys were great.

Cul De Sac were from America, and were not so good. OK, they seemed like amiable fellows with an endearing line in between song patter, but their music wasn't much cop. They were at their best when rocking out in an uninspired manner, but more typically their music seemed to be a mess of uncoordinated elements, made all the more annoying by their obvious skills in musicianship. Their last song showed a bit more togetherness and promise, so maybe one day greatness will fall upon them.

The wonderfully named Double Leopards seem to also come from the America. They shared stylistic elements with Decaer Pinga & Smack Music, being multi-gendered and making strange tone-generated music in a mysterious manner. They had an engaging "WOAAAH!" stage quality and generally projected a manner of living to art-rock. Their music seemed to be based on heavily treated vocals, as they all seemed to spend all their time screaming into microphones, with the output never the less sounding completely ab-human. Some did however feel that they started well and then trailed off, but I think that is a reactionary position.

In between sets, Double Leopards DJed in the CCA bar, playing stuff like 'TV Eye' and 'I Heard Her Call My Name'. ROCK.

Tony Conrad is some famous 20th century classical music guy. Tonight he was playing a violin, with the sound of his playing treated and looped to create a hypnotic wall of sound. And he played backlit, with his shadow projected up onto a sheet separating him from most of the audience. It was all very mesmerising and conducive to falling into a trance state. I've always been a great man for the dozing at classical music events, feeling that this allows the music to be appreciated directly by the subconscious. Here I managed to go into a full-blown snooze. That might make it sound like I did not like the music or performance of Mr Conrad, but he might well actually have been the highlight of the weekend.

The final act were Wolf Eyes. There were three of these fellows, and they kind of sounded like I imagined ARE Weapons would sound when I read about them first. They play rocky electonicsy stuff, and feature a hairy beardy guy on guitar, a hairy guy on vocals, and a baldy guy on keyboards. They were very loud and very "DUDE!", and I was glad to have brought the earplugs. However, by now we were a bit *tired*, so waited a polite interval and then made our excuses and left.

The CCA is on the west end of Sauciehall Street, and when we came out of the CCA there were a load of people milling around the slapper clubs that feature so prominently in that part of town. Thus we found ourselves face to face with the other, non-arty Glasgow - a Glasgow of short skirts, short tops, & short heads. God bless them. A future goal for these kind of art-rock festivals would be to incorporate the other Sauciehall Street into the show as some kind of aesthetic spectacle.

Extreme Music From Finland

I am a bit of a jet-setter. Back in April my beloved & I popped over to Glasgow to see some bands performing as part of this Subcurrents festival thing in the Centre for Contemporary Arts. We had mainly come over for the Finnish bands who were playing on the Friday. An article in the Wire had piqued our curiosity about the underground scene in that country, and this combined with a personal connection to one of the bands was enough to have us booking our flights. While we were at it, we also booked tickets for the Saturday night, when bands and artists not from Finland would be playing.

The festival's MC was one Dave Keenan, who writes for "The Wire". I always had the idea that "Wire" journos would be serious, restrained, chin-strokery types, but Mr Keenan turned out to be an excitable Scottish fellow who kept going on about how "psyched" he was by whatever was coming up next. He almost sounded like he was going to have kittens when he revealed that Fursaxa would be appearing with Finnish outfit Es, but this was as nothing to the quivering wreck he became when he introduced Tony Conrad on the Saturday night.

Kiila were the first band of Friday. There is an Irish band of tradders called Kila, but these are the ones from Finland. You could imagine them having a hoe-down with the Irish band, as they are both a bit folky. Kiila are maybe the more ambitious outfit, playing original compositions with a multi-layered sound. They featured a number of different singers (men and a woman) but one fellow with a beard gave the impression of being Mr Kiila. He pulled entertaining rock god faces while plucking at a mandolin. As their set went on it became more and more mesmerising and immersive.

Es featured a bloke who had already appeared with Kiila, whom I understand to be Mr Fonal, two Finnish women (one of whom is an internet friend) and Ms Fursaxa, who had played on her own the previous night. They all sat on the floor and did overlapping vocal stuff, with Mr Fonal generally doing lead and playing guitar. I think electronics might have been fiddled with, and also people did this strange thing of threading beads over a speaker. The latter created an odd effect, striking in both its prettiness and its randomness. Ms Fursaxa is an interesting presence, gnomic, self-contained, and unknowable.

I had a brief conversation with this guy on the Finnish bands' merchandising stall, thinking that this behemoth in an Acid Mothers Temple t-shirt must be some kind of roadie. He turned out to be Mr Avarus. His was the only one of the Finnish bands who were due to be playing in Dublin's popular club Lazybird two nights later. I mentioned how Lazybird is very popular with the kind of informed audience who like that kind of thing, but revealed that I had never actually made it to the club because I'm always too *tired* on Sunday nights. "Well it is being the strange night for having the club" said Mr Avarus.

In terms of actual performance, Avarus were the most ROCK outfit thus far, featuring a large line-up that included Mr Avarus on actual drums. Various other instruments were also played, and the woman from Kiila was joined by another with a yellow dress (and possibly others) to play the funny electronics and do vocal stuff. If Post-Rock was no longer a dirty word you might lump Avarus into that genre, with their improvy, slow building music that made their set seem like one continuous piece. Avarus featured no language-based vocals, but Mr Avarus and some of the women did deal out the occasional animalistic yelping noise, sometimes seemingly when the spirit moved them. If this is improvised music, I want more of it.

I did think maybe that Avarus are a bit of the tease, in that their music spent a long time suggesting that it was going to break into AMT-style insano guitar riff action without ever doing so. Nevertheless, it did develop a full-on wall of sound by the end. The hypnotic quality of the music meshed well with my tired state.

Kemialliset Ystavet were the last Finnish band of the night. By now I was quite *tired* indeed, so my notes are less than adequate, but I can reveal that KY (as the Finns seem to call them) have musical elements in common with the other Finnish bands, as well as certain differences. They also shared personnel with the other bands, notably the beardy fellow from Kiila and the yellow dress woman from Avarus. Beyond that I can say little about them, except that they brought me enjoyment.

Perhaps some brief generalisations about the Finnish bands are in order. They all seemed to like combining electric, electronic, and acoustic instruments, lending them an air of folkish technophilia. If they had a defining musical instruments, it probably would be beads allowed to drop over microphones, creating a random and thus unpredictable sound. When they sang using words, they weren't in English. I liked that, as I feel lyrics sung in a foreign language allow you to focus not on the narrative but on the musical sound. My new theory is therefore that all bands should sing in Ugaritic, except when performing in Ugariticland. Finally, for all their adventurousness, I was somewhat struck by the musical gender roles in the bands - the blokes almost completely monopolised traditional rock instruments like guitars and drums, while the ladies took control of things like violins or funny instruments.

HI DERE! I R BLOG

I have decided to start a blog. I will probably fill it with long, dull reprints of stuff I have written for Frank's APA, a zine.