Monday, July 31, 2006

"Stop me now, before I kill again!"

Sometimes I think it would be a good idea if the European Union invoked the human rights clauses in its trade agreements with Israel.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Trapped In The Chalet: part one

Let’s talk the United Sounds of ATP, this being the music festival in Camber Sands to which I went in May. This year had three curators Mudhoney, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Devendra Banhart, looking after Friday, Saturday, and Sunday respectively. In this episode, I will discuss Friday, the day curated by Mudhoney.

The first act I saw was Holly Golightly, she being famous as a sometime associate of Billy Childish and a guest star on The White Stripes’ Elephant. Live she comes across as a raddled yet stylish woman who poses with a guitar while a band plays around her. The music is the kind of mid-sixties retro-rock you would expect from her pedigree. I did not recognise any of the tunes, but I wager that that many of them were cover versions or indistinguishable from same. Much fun was had.

After that, a succession of acts who ploughed similar furrows to Mudhoney. This kind of thing can be the curse of ATP – unimaginative curators who only like bands who sound like themselves. Friday saw lots of acts with stoner rock guitar riffs and testifiers on lead vocals, with a general tendency towards lots of tremelo and occasional bursts of Hawkwind keyboards. The later acts seemed better than the early ones, but maybe this was because my mood had become a bit more appreciative.

The Drones came from Australia and provided us with an attractive lady bassplayer as well as the usual stoner riffs and testifying vocals. They had at least one really impressive song, built around an endlessly repeating and thuggish bassline. The singer had a somewhat Nick Cavey air to himself, and had an expressive command of his voice that allowed him to do both quiet, mumbley stuff as well as the screamy thing.

Total Sound Group Direct Action Committee broke away from Friday’s straitjacket, being instead a rather free-form outfit whose looseness suggested that they were either crazy improvisers or hopelessly under-rehearsed. They had a trumpeter whose endearing thing was jumping into the audience and blowing his horn at people while the rest did their stuff onstage. I liked them.

The Scientists were more straightforwardly part of the evening’s bill of fare. Their most notable features were perhaps the striking appearance of their lady drummer (whose austerity did not prevent her from being able to pound out the beats) and the mullety guy with the “Support Your Local Prostitute” t-shirt. Jesus, is that all I have to say about this band?

Comets on Fire were also straight down the line in terms of their conformity to the evening’s lines of engagement, yet they seemed to do it better than the others and were one of the finds of the festival for me. They particularly went for the Hawkwind-esque keyboards and exuded a general air of woahhhh-ness. They also had some nice looking t-shirts for sale, which I now wish I had bought. Sadly, the merchandising was a bit fucked up this year, with bands only selling their stuff in the immediate aftermath of playing. I don’t like being railroaded so I was hostile to buying things in that kind of setup. Their loss.

Black Mountain also impressed. They are apparently from Vancouver in the Canada. They also laid on the spacey keyboards big time and lived in a world of proggy art-rock, which met with my approval. One fascinating feature was the band’s lady member, who played occasional instruments as well as vocalising in a manner sometimes oddly reminiscent of evil Clare Torry, only not rubbish. The lead guy meanwhile was capable of both singing and delivering the most amazing guitar stuff, which caused some astonishment. That said, they maybe served up their best songs first before trailing off somewhat.

Mudhoney were the final band of the night. You know the score – Sabbath riffs and drawling vocals. They are a bit piss-takey and very “dude”. A lovely moment was when one of them had to be helped up by a roadie during a guitar solo after falling over backwards Tufnell-style.

They were nevertheless surprisingly engaged. One song that stuck in my mind was about this anti-war one about a nerdy guy who finds himself getting loads of action because all the jocks have been drafted and sent off to be killed. He concludes ruefully that the rightwingers who love war are all dirty old men who want to get the young guys out of the way so they can screw younger girls. Makes you think.

They also played ‘Touch Me, I’m Sick’ and many other YEOW! classics, before finishing with ‘Hate The Police’ which, though a cover version, seems to be their anthem. Sadly there was no performance of their version of Spacemen 3’s ‘Revolution’, but they definitely delivered the goods. Nevertheless, some found them a bit repetitive and went back to the chalets to crash. I felt that Mudhoney repaid close attention, even if their claim to have been the best ever ATP curators was a bit wide of the mark.

Friday, July 28, 2006

News from Beirut

When I holidayed in Lebanon a couple of years ago, I used to read The Daily Star, the local English language newspaper. At the time, there was a sense of Lebanon as a country that had left war behind it, and the paper seemed to reflect that optimism. Now it tells a different story.

at last somebody is offering to help the widow's son

I received a most fortuitous e-mail today:

Date: 27 July 2006 17:57:13 IST
To: dirtyvicar@XXX.XXX

"Dear Benefactor Of 2006 Masory Grant,

"The Freemason society of Bournemout under the jurisdiction of the all Seeing
Eye, Master Nicholas Brenner has after series of secret deliberations
selected you to be a beneficiary of our 2006 foundation laying grants and
also an optional opening at the round table of the Freemason society.

"These grants are issued every year around the world in accordance with the
objective of the Freemasons as stated by Thomas Paine in 1808 which is to
ensure the continuous freedom of man and to enhance mans living conditions.

"We will also advice that these funds which amount to USD2.5million be usedto
better the lot of man through your own initiative and also we will go
further to inform that the open slot to become a Freemason is optional, you
can decline the offer.In order to claim your grant, contact the Grand Lodge
Office co-secretary

"Dr Charles Anthony Catagnus Grand Lodge Office Co-Secretary's
email:( )

"Dr Charles Anthony Catagnus,
Co-Secretary Freemason Society of Holdenhurst Road,

"John C. Gerspach,
Secretary Freemason Society of Holdenhurst Road,

There is a lovely picture of their lodge here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It's always better on holiday (slight return)

The last picture may not have worked, maybe this one will. If it does not, copy and paste this into the address field of your browser:

Monday, July 24, 2006

It's always better on holiday

the future

I am thinking of going to some concerts.

Section 25 are playing with Luggage at the Skinny Wolves club on Thursday. I heard a track by Section 25 on that Palatine compilation once. I can't remember what it sounded like, but if they were on Factory they must have been good. Luggage are old favourites from the distant past.

Queen Kong are playing live on Saturday. I don't really know anything about this band, but they have a great name and I saw their singer shouting "Razorlight" for no obvious reason at [retards] gig put on by Skinny Wolves. It is possible they are GOTHS.

Sunday sees another band of Cork people coming up to play us their music, for Fred are coming to Whelans. Come for the freak, stay for the music.

Have fun trying to work out which, if any, of these I actually go to.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Easy Lover

I went to a wedding on Friday. The band playing there were called Spring Break, and they play US rock from the early 1980s. Much fun was had by retro-ironists and people with questionable musical taste alike. I was disappointed that they never got to 'Eye of the Tiger'.

It took me a long time to find Spring Break's website.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The free world is in safe hands

Everyone in the world has read this by now, but it is still worth paying attention to what the overlords like to talk about. The great mystery for me is who Tony Blair is talking about when he says "He is honey"

Our country is in safe hands

I basically see the market economy as a lesser evil, something that works more convincingly than any of the alternatives. Nevertheless, it does tend to favour twatmunks, as this encounter by my beloved reveals:

"Really bizarre experience getting the bus to work this morning. All the bus stops appeared to have been taken over by gaggles of besuited muppets who had no idea how to board a bus. They seemed to have no concept whatsoever of the idea of queuing, getting on the bus in single file, not blocking the doors while others are trying to get on or get off … It was really quite painful to watch.

"My bus took twice as long to get to Donnybrook, as it had to stop for ages at each stop while these geniuses strove to get their
branes around such gargantuan stumbling blocks as Having The Right Change, Not Blocking The Aisles, and Knowing Which Stop To Get Off At.

I was completely mystified by it, until I remembered that there’s a taxi strike today. These are people who get taxis to work every day! In other words, the people who are in all probability running thecountry. And they are completely incapable of using public transport."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Surgical Precision

It's weird watching the news and seeing a country in which you had a pleasant holiday get blown to shit. It's strange thinking of Tyre, a quiet seaside town where a schoolgirl showed us how to bunk into the magnificent Roman ruins, where my beloved talked to a quiet café owner who had perfected his English in London; sixteen people were killed there when the Israeli air force bombed a civil defence centre. I also find myself thinking of the guy on the reception desk in the apartments we stayed in in Beirut, or the taxi driver who drove us back to Beirut from our trip to Beiteddine, showing us his blessed medal of Our Lady of Medjugorge and rabbiting at us in Arabic until he registered that we couldn't understand a word of what he was saying, or the guy who doubled up as both the head guy in Baalbek's wonderful Hotel Palmyra and tour guide to the cyclopean Roman remains there. A nice country, I hope there is some of it left for the next time I go there.

Obviously, there are many nice people in Haifa too, but I have never been there and don't feel the same connection to the place, though I hear it is one of the more pleasant spots in Israel.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bono farms cock

It's amazing how much I loathe Bono these days. Back when U2 counted for anything I was at worst indifferent to him, but now a significant part of my day is taken with brooding on how that annoying narcissist is feeding his ego with his campaign to save Africa, oblivous to the way the likes of Bush & Blair just use him as a way of appealing to the U2 demographic. Tonight saw RTE broadcast the last ever Mystery Train, and it was largely ruined for me by Kelly choosing to waste valuable minutes on a phone-in with that leather-waistcoated twerp. If I wanted to hear him shite on about whatever has come into his silly little head I would head out to Dalkey and break into his house - he sells enough records, it isn't much to ask that he stays away from the few radio programmes I listen to.

Kelly did not mention Bono's latest shame - his corporate links to a shady games company producing war simulations for the US military, and creepy games about US mercenaries invading Venezuela.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Do you know the way to Canterbury?

My old friend and quaffing partner James Wallis has decided to walk from Winchester to Canterbury. People are encouraged to pay him money to do this, which will be passed on to a deserving charity. He also has a blog wherein you can read about his preparations for this noble endeavour.

This new philanthropic path is something of a novelty for Mr Wallis... last time I met him he was engaged in the selling of young ladies as slaves to boardgamers.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I've been thinking about death a lot lately, mainly due to grim events in my extended family. But also, today I noticed that Syd Barrett has died. The iPod knows all, for it threw his music at me as I walked to work. The plaintive sounds of 'Baby Lemonade' have never failed to affect me, sounding as they do like a love-song to his disappearing sanity.

Barrett died young (in the sense that he is not much over 50% older than me), but I always think of his life as being relatively happy. I don't know if it was, but that's how I think of it. OK, so he had his breakdown, but I imagine him pottering about his house not really doing very much, living in a state of splendid idleness. Meanwhile Roger Waters was writing operas about the French Revolution - which would you rather be?

Nevertheless, in these trying times, only one thing can save us - cute animals. I have been deriving great solace from the little birds who come to eat the food that my beloved has left out for them. They are tits and they love flying, and it's nice to hear them munching away in the small hours of the morning.

The other piece of exciting news is that Cave of the Yellow Dog opens on Friday. This is the latest film from the people who brought you that one about the weeping camel. In it a cute little dog has to prove his worth. There's a lot riding on this film, and I hope it delivers.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


I have been watching that TV series Rome, which is about Rome in the last years of its Republic. It was on the television a while ago so you have probably seen it already. Or maybe you are not interested in ancient Rome, in which case public crucifixion shall be your fate. The series follows a number of different characters as Rome falls into civil war between the Senatorial faction and Julius Caesar. Coming so soon after I finished the wonderful Rubicon book, this is like a gift from the Gods for me. Watching it with my beloved has proved to be quite entertaining, for whereas I have some understanding of the career and life trajectories of the characters, she does not. So I am hoping that subsequent series go as far as bringing the story to the end of the Civil Wars. Then we can rent out I, Claudius and know everything there is to know about the late Republic and early Empire, albeit from highly skewed perspectives.

Part of the magic of the programme is the way it makes people who do seriously unpleasant things somewhat sympathetic… Vorenus, lovely bloke if a bit uptight, except he deals in slaves and their deaths only upset him because they leave him out of pocket. Or loveable Pullo, an implicit rapist. I’m waiting for Atia’s simpering daughter to turn out to have some incredibly dark side to her nature. Talking of which, we still have not reached the episode with the lezz up Wood was going on about, but I’m sure it will repay close attention.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Vinyl Sunday

There's a new regime in Scarlet Carwash mansions. Sunday has been declared Vinyl Sunday - meaning that only vinyl records may be played. No CDs, no cassettes, no mini-discs, just big black discs of God's own material. Right now, this means Jazz.