Saturday, April 26, 2008

Link action, my amazing life

After my amazing last post, I thought of never posting again. But here I am. I thought I would fill you in on forthcoming events in my amazing life. But first, some link action...

1. Don't Stop Comma Believinnnnn brings you the latest adventures of secret agent James Momus

2. Trashley illustrates the death of Charlton Heston, drawing an obvious but strangely not otherwise made point.

3. "Queenie" is inviting people to nominate THE GREATEST BANDS OF ALL TIME. I cleverly forgot all about Sonic Youth.

4. Randy McDonald likes t.A.T.u.

5. People on the Internet are very mature. (requires login)

And so to my amazing life. These are the things I am looking to go to over the next while. Maybe see you at them.

26/4/2008 - dinner with spymates

29/4/2008 - Japanese New Music Festival, featuring people from RUINS and ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE

2/5/2008 - Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, perhaps the greatest piece of music ever written.

3/5/2008 - My birthday party. Dude, this will be totally awesome. Kegger!

10/5/2008 - Original punk Jonathan Richman returns to these shores.

13/5/2008 - Black Mountain bring their spacey rock sounds to Dublin. A festival band say some, others may disagree.

15/5/2008 - Battles. I only know one of their songs.

16/5/2008 - Ladytron. Darling!

25/5/2008 - Public Enemy. I think they may be doing that Don't Look Back shite to It Takes A Nation of Millions.... Normally I am against this kind of thing, but maybe I would rather see Public Enemy do it than not see Public Enemy.

That's enough for now.

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Friday, April 25, 2008


Sie sind gefährlich. Anfahrt mit Vorsicht.

Das Bild kommt von hier.

Pinups & Pricks: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds "Kicking Against The Pricks"

For those who have not read the last two posts, I wrote the text below while listening to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Kicking Against The Pricks for the first time. This was part of a project to compare this album to Pinups by David Bowie.

Note – this record has less in the way of sleevenotes, so with the tracks I do not know I have nothing to go on for who might originally have recorded them.

1. Muddy Water
This seems to be some kind of po' folks and their miserable lives songs, with some river having burst its banks and flooded all their stuff. Oh dear. Its grimness makes it somewhat of a piece with Cave's own musical oeuvre; I suspect that this will be a feature of this record.

2. I'm Gonna Kill That Woman
The title suggests that this is one of those songs about some guy who is going to kill his wife, a lyrical subject that Cave managed to get a whole album of original tunes from. The songwriter on this is John Lee Hooker, and you can hear the bluesiness of this, for all that it has the more strung out Cave-style arrangements. That woman of the title seems to have done the narrator wrong in some way, and now she is for it.

3. Sleeping Annaleah
(Newbury / Folger)
I don't know this one, I don't recognise the composers. It is in waltz time, with an intro that almost calls to mind the Dresden Dolls. I think this song might be some older man affirming his love to some young lady… maybe I am projecting, but I think the lady might be very young indeed, making the singer something of a dirty rotter.

4. Long Black Veil
(Del / Wilkins)
Mmmm, is this sung by a ghost, about his still lover and how she remains true to his memory? The tune manages to be both jaunty and miserable at the same time. I am curious as to whether this is an English or American folk tune.

5. Hey Joe
This is of course most famous in the Jimi Hendrix Experience version. Rather than compete with Hendrix, Cave and the Bad Seeds have recorded a version with the guitar lines fairly buried. Instead, this sounds slow and doomy, without the slightly poppy features of the more familiar rendering. And it is another song about a man murdering his woman. Huzzah!

6. The Singer (a.k.a. The Folksinger)
(Cash / Daniels)
I'm guessing that the Cash above is Johnny Cash, as opposed to Barry Cash. Or maybe not, it does not have the kind of boom-tisch boom-tisch beat you expect with one of his tunes. It is an
[not quite sure what happened there, oh well, I was probably going to say something about how totally epic this song is]

7. Black Betty
This starts off like something from Oh Brother Where Art Thou?, and then turns into a version of the song that is perhaps best known in its recording by Ram Jam.

8. Running Scared
(Orbison / Melson)
Roy Orbison tunes always have a certain epic quality, here accentuated by the Nick Cave treatment.

9. All Tomorrow's Parties
It's odd to think that Nico was still alive when this was recorded. Cave does not try to imitate her voice, which is probably just as well, but you do miss her on it. The arrangement manages to evoke the Velvet Underground recording, without particularly sounding like it.

I remember once recording the original for someone, and she hated it, pointing out that it just goes on forever with Nico droning out the same verses over and over again in a dirge-like style to an accompaniment that neither changes nor developments. This song is a bit more dynamic, but it does still suffer from the repetitive lyrics problem.

10. By The Time I Get To Phoenix
This song is of course very well known, by this stage having several definitive versions. This version seems pretty straight, with Cave maybe showing off here the side of his musical self that would see him ultimately becoming a popular figure with people who do not like challenging music. That is not necessarily a criticism, for with this kind of song you do not really need to add on any prickology.

11. The Hammer Song
I do not know this song. It is interesting.

12. Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart
(Greenaway / Cook)
I think this is most famous as sung by Gene Pitney, but I am more familiar with the recording by Auto Da Fe. These were an Irish electropop band whose members were tradders selling out their heritage in an unsuccessful quest for yankee dollar. In retrospect, Auto Da Fe were probably pretty lame, but I was then fond of their somewhat gothic approach.

This version is pretty gothic too, and not very electropop.

13. Jesus Met The Woman At The Well
(Trad arr. The Alabama Singers)
I was wondering if this might bear any similarity to Planxty's 'The Well Below The Valley', another trad arr. tune apparently based on the story of Jesus meeting a woman at a well and telling her all about her self. Sadly, this is considerably less grim, featuring no child murder or incest, and sticking more closely to the god bothery story in the Bible. I reckon this is probably one of those Negro Spirituals you hear about.

14. The Carnival Is Over
(Springfield / Farlan)
Unlike Bowie, Nick Cave knows how to pick a song to end a record with. I do not know anything about this song, but I am be curious as to whether it originally ended whatever album it appeared on.

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Pinups & Pricks: David Bowie "Pinups"

For those not paying attention, I wrote the text below while listening to David Bowie's Pinups for the first time. This was part of a project to compare this album to Kicking Against The Pricks by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

1. Rosalyn
(Duncan / Farley)
This seems to be by the Pretty Things. I don't know anything about them. I think this might be one of those 60s mod tunes you hear about, or maybe something from the more frenetic end of 1950s music. It is pretty groovey.

2. Here Comes The Night
And this is the song that Them recorded. I'm curious about the songwriting credit to Berns. I wonder was he one of Them, or is he just some guy from somewhere, whose song was taken by the Nornie rockers. As with the Them version, this recording shows up the song's strangely dichotomous nature, mixing as it does the epic chorus with the frankly cheesy verses.

Was the sax break on the original?

3. I Wish You Would
I wonder where this is from originally? It sounds almost like Southern Rock, with its hot riffs and occasional 'When The Levee Breaks' noises. I suspect the Blues of being somewhere involved here.

The notes suggest this might be a Yardbirds song.

4. See Emily Play
This is of course a version of the Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd classic, though with vocals and treatments that call to mind the Beatles' 'I Am The Walrus'. That said, I am somewhat getting the way Bowie is doing all the songs on the album now – they seem to be definitely rocked up as compared to the originals.

5. Everything's Alright
(Crouch / Konrad / Stavely / James / Karlson)
This is not the song from Jesus Christ Superstar, but a tune by some people called the Mojos. It is hard to pin down from listening to it what the original would have sounded like. Maybe freakbeat, maybe white soul, or early 1970s pop.

6. I Can't Explain
The Who's classic made to sound slow and relentless rather than poptastic. So it maybe not so much a floor filler as an object of threat.

7. Friday On My Mind
(Young / Vanda)
I think this is originally a late 1960s pop psych tune. The sleevenotes suggest that some people called The Easybeats might be involved. This one is maybe a bit slight.

8. Sorrow
(Feldman / Goldstein / Gottehrer)
This is Bowie trying to establish his "proper singer" credentials, taking on the kind of song your ma would like. The original seems to have something to do with people called The Merseys. I do not know them. I find this almost reminiscent of the Walker Brothers.

9. Don't Bring Me Down
This sounds like it might be some kind of old electric blues tune given the Bowie treatment. It is possibly another track by The Pretty Things, thus proving either that I cannot judge the origin of tunes or that Bowie's arrangements are confounding expectations.

10. Shapes Of Things
(Samwell-Smith / McCarty / Relf)
This sounds like another uptempo pop psych tune, almost like a UK version of 'I Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In'. Oh wait, it is a Yardbirds tune, if I am reading the notes correctly.

It has a slightly strange drawn out ending, not quite what you would expect from something so poppy.

11. Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
(Townshend / Daltrey)
This second Who song sounds a lot more like its progenitor than the previous one. Bowie seems even to have yeowed up his vocals, in emulation of the Daltrey. I like it.

12. Where Have All The Good Times Gone?
And this is The Kinks. I thought I knew the big Kinks tunes, but this does not ring bells. I know The Kinks had their electric moments, but this seems a lot heavier than anything that lot managed. This is maybe not the best tune to have finished with, as something quieter or more epic might have done the job more effectively.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pinups & Pricks

Pinups by David Bowie and Kicking Against The Pricks by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds are albums of covers by two well-regarded artists, both recorded relatively early in their careers. These days it is rare for artists to record albums of covers, and doing so is usually seen as either a sign of inspiration running dry or treading water to finish off a record contract. My prior impression of both these records, though, is that they were intended as serious contributions to their respective artist's canon. Nick Cave has always been a great man for the covers, throwing a few onto many of the albums he records. Unlike a lot of musicians, he remains part of a world where people sing both their own songs and those of others; his record clearly positions himself there, for all his gothic stylings. Bowie, meanwhile, is not so famous for the cover versions. His record is meant to be a tip of the hat to the people who inspired him to take up music.

Until recently, these records were a mystery to me – they are ones that I have long heard of but never heard. So bought the two records and then, for my learned colleagues in Frank's APA, I wrote about them, track by track, while listening to them. Maybe you are familiar with these records, maybe they are as new to you as they were to me, and maybe you will be interested by what I have to say about them and maybe you will not. Part of my idea in doing these two together is to see which one appeals more to my own music al tastes. What do you reckon?

Cave and Bowie both have mullets on the covers of their records.

The next two posts will be my real-time impressions of the two records.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

The World's Greatest Blog???

Perhaps if it had been updated in the last two years...

Concert: Los Campesinos

In the depths of January I went on spec to a gig in the Village by this indie band called Los Campesinos, about whom I knew next to nothing. On my part, this was largely an attempt to get over an instance of midwinter psychic malaise. In this it largely failed, with my lethargy and mopiness meaning that I was unable to fully engage with the music being played. I may therefore have ended up judging it too harshly.

Before the main attraction, we saw one of the support bands they had brought over with them from Blighty, a group called Johnny Foreigner. This three-piece consisted of a man on guitar and vocals, a woman on bass and vocals, and someone else on drums. Their music was basically not that good, seeming almost emo at times. However, the in-between-song chit-chat of the two fronters was very entertaining. The woman bassist also had a certain gothic jailbait sex appeal, so the band are not without redeeming features.

Los Campesinos themselves are from Wales, have a huge line-up, consist of both men and women, and play all kinds of instruments including xylophones. They position themselves in an indie tradition, not that of Blur and other false indie bands, but a one going back to Sarah Records acts and other oppositional figures. At the same time, their music does not sound like they are just some kind of Field Mice tribute act. However, they did not really gel with me. I think this might have been down to my own miserabilism rather than to any negative qualities they themselves had. I was also struck by how young both they and their fans were. Maybe if I still had my best days ahead of me then I would have been able to throw myself into supporting this group, but I don't, so I can't.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Other people write blogs too

But they tend not to feature pandas.

One of these other people is "Rottenhat" (not his real name), whose blog is currently called The Colour of Memory. He writes about various things.

I sometimes look at Whereof One Can Speak, a blog about comics, but sadly it is mostly about comics lacking in thrill power.

And there is also New Music Strategies, in which this Andrew Dubber guy talks about the changing face of the music business and so on. He tends to be big on how you can't keep going with doing things the old way, and is not so hot on surefire ways to make a quick buck, so I have not used his blog to make myself rich yet. Which is a shame, as if he were to tell me how to become rich through almost no effort I would definitely throw him a couple of quid.

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Hurry Boy, It's Waiting There For You

As you know, I am thinking of going on holidays to Ethiopia in July. I was going to write that no one I have mentioned this to seems to obviously think I am barking mad to consider such a thing. Sadly, this is no longer the case.

TV: Christmas 2007 Dr Who

It was quite a while ago now. It was also rubbish. It's a while since I have seen any nu-Who… is it all this bad? The Poseidon Adventure in space premise was enjoyable enough, but the ponderous scene on the narrow bridge across the abyss was straight out of the book of hackneyed clichés. And the music was dreadful, in the wrong kind of bombastic way. On the other hand, Kylie Minogue was surprisingly pleasant, and looked far less like the Aphex Twin than she does in photographs.

Film: "Mangal Pandey: The Uprising"

This is a film about Mangal Pandey, this soldier guy in the British East India Company's army. He becomes more and more annoyed by his bosses, and eventually revolts against them, lighting the spark that will bring the Company's rule to an end. This is a Bollywood film, the first I have ever seen. And it is total genius. Never having seen any of these before and, I suppose, being a closet racist, I had the idea that they would be hokey and lacking in decent production values. Not a bit of it, this film looks great, is well-acted, and deals with its subject with a level of nuance that compares well with equivalent Hollywood films. And it has loads of songs. What more do you want?

It is of course interesting to compare this film to what you get in other nation's cinemas. Male bonding seems to be a really big thing in Bollywood, with the relationship between Pandey and the Scottish officer he initially befriends but then turns against being far more significant than Pandey's courting of a woman imprisoned in a brothel for white Company officers.

I would love to have seen this in India… I bet there isn't a dry eye in the place at the end, when you see news reel footage of the Indian flag going up as the British finally leave.

Does anyone have any other Bollywood recommendations?

Where are the Pandas?

Sadly, internet connectivity problems continue to mean a lack of pandas here on a blog once characterised as all pandas, all the time. Feel free to post links to pictures of pandas in the comments.

It's an ill-wind that blows no good, and the lack of home internet means that last week I managed to READ A BOOK. It was by John Le Carré, was about spies, and had a sadface ending.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Book: "New Penguin Dictionary of Music" by Paul Griffith

We bought this at the Ligetti thing… the author himself was there, so they had it for cheap. I should have got it autographed. This is not actually a dictionary of all music (there is no entry for Dumpy's Rusty Nuts), and in fact it is mainly all about what people sometimes describe as classical music, with occasional nods to other forms. We got it so we could find out what all that funny stuff musos talk about means – you know: atonality, keys, time signatures, all that shite. The book is good fun to dip into, with the author having an endearingly grumpy writing style when discussing things of which he does not approve. I did think his attitude to "Popular Music" (essentially all Western music that is not either classical or jazz – you know, heavy metal, pop music, country and western, acid rock, that kind of thing) was simplistic and ultimately problematic, but this is hardly a new thing with classical music writers. Which reminds me, still have not written my letter to the Journal of Music in Ireland.

Festival: Remembering Ligetti

I think that's what this was called. It was a weekend, ages ago now, of events based around the music of Hungary's late composer. As well as discussions and performances of chamber pieces by the great man, they showed a couple of the Stanley Kubrick films in which his music was used. We watched The Shining. It is still very scary. The chamber performances we attended were most enjoyable, the discussions a bit musicological and over my head, but the most fun musical thing might well have been the performance that opened the festival. This was called Poème Symphonique, and it consisted of a hundred metronomes being set going until they all wound down and stopped. It is amazing how you start attributing human characteristics to inanimate objects, and wondering which metronome will be plucky enough to hold out the longest. The piece is great musically too, or at least great in terms of noise, the endless TACK TACK TACK sounds going in and out of phase while the overall number decreasing calls to mind nothing so much as the start of Kraftwerk's Radioactivity album.

film: "The Assassination of Jesse James [etc.]"

You know the score: idiot savant guy falls in with psychopath gangster Jesse James, idolises him, then turns against him, kills him, becomes rich, famous, and hated, and then is killed by a mentalist. You don't need to see the film now, but you should, because it's great. I have not given away the plot, as the story it covers is a matter of public record.

One maybe interesting thing I was struck by was a possible parallel between Jesse James and the urban guerrilla character in the On The Run / Cavale film in that French Trilogy of linked films. The James gang started as guerrilla fighters in the American Civil War, and kept fighting when the rest of their side gave up. By the time the film is set, Jesse James seems almost washed up, for all his fame and notoriety – a man still going through the motions of fighting a war everyone else has forgotten about.

Nazis - I hate those guys

While I was in Berlin, I saw this exhibition on Hitler and Speer's Germania project - wacky plan to turn Berlin into a corpse city of ridiculously large buildings. It featured models created as props for the Downfall film, showing such delights as the Enormodome, the Great Arch of Victory, some huge Mussolini Column and various other grotesquely oversized buildings and monuments. I have always been aware of what deeply unpleasant people the leaders of the Third Reich were, but it was seeing these models really brought home what total lunatics they were.

Enormous Panda Image Source (have I used this one already?)

I hear the drums echoing tonight

I can reveal that Irene will in fact be going to Ethiopia with Camara (see previous post). This will be in July, apparently one of the wettest months in Ethiopia. It looks like I could be going out there as well - plenty of opportunities to bless the rains down in Africa beckon. Unlike Irene, I will just be going there on a holiday, but you can still send me money if you like.

Irene Speaks

Some of you may know Irene, my beloved. She does not hold with all this blog shite, but she does have a special website of her own at which you can make her happy by donating money to Camara. Here she explains why you might want to do this:

"As some of you may know, I've been doing a lot of volunteering work for Camara, a charity that refurbishes old computers and sends them to education projects in Africa. As part of this work, I'm off to an as yet undecided African country in July to teach computer skills and help set up computer labs. To do this, I need to raise €2000 to cover
my training, flights and accommodation, and to contribute towards the cost of shipping out the computers we'll be working with.

"So I've created a fundraising page on


"Please take a look and consider making a donation online (it's all secure). Whatever you decide to donate, it will be very much appreciated. If you would like more info about the charity and/or the Africa project, just give me a shout.



"PS: Please note, this is not one of those "pay for me to go on my holidays" things you sometimes see advertised (trekking in Nepal/climbing Kilimanjaro etc). I will be teaching in a classroom full-time, five days a week, so it is actual work! But don't worry, I will shortly be setting up a separate "pay for me to go on my holidays" page for those of you who really want to fund my time-share in Benidorm."

I'm not dead!

Just in case you were wondering. I have been having internet connectivity issues. No pandas this time, I am trying to get as much stuff up as quickly as possible before this café closes.