Thursday, February 25, 2010


A wise man once said: "Don't chase the buzz". Yet that is what my beloved and I did when we found ourselves buying tickets for an Orbital concert in Tripod. One of our pals was billing it as a potential recapturing of the mid-1990s vibe, so we thought that the potential for big fun was very possible.

Unfortunately, the venue did its best to recapture the more rubbish aspects of ye olde ravey experience. As you know, Tripod used to be the Red Box, a venue famous for its tendency to overfill itself for dancey events. And so it was tonight. The place was packed to the rafters, meaning that there was no room to dance, and that at every given moment there was always someone pushing past you to go somewhere else. They also seemed to be really going for it with their thing of having flunkeys mopping the floor at all times. And there was a higher percentage of cockfarmers in the crowd as well; the long queue for the cubicles in the gentlemen's toilets suggested an unwelcome change in people's drøg habits.

As to Orbital themselves… well I liked them, but I was in a rather appreciative frame of mind. They did not break astonishing new ground with their set, but they did spice up a couple of old favourites and generally make me happy to hear them all again. I particularly liked 'Satan', with its inclusion of Condoleezza Rice in its litany of servants of the Evil One. With that, and 'Halcyon', and a couple of others, it was almost possible to forget the unfortunate surroundings.

And then it was all over. We might have stayed to dance in the main auditorium, but the Tripod people were clearing it. Rather than stay in the Tripod back room, now stuffed to the gills with wankers, we made our way into the night.

Ruff Tailed Lemur

an Inuit Panda production.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Homelights was this folkie festival thing taking place in Whelans over a couple of days. We bought tickets for just the Sunday and then only came down to see what was on in the evening. When we arrived, Adrian Crowley was playing. It was nice to catch him, as my understanding is that he had organised the festival. He seems to be one of those singer songwriter fellows, and he played tunes accompanying himself on guitar. He also had some woman with him playing fiddle or something like that; I think she might have been temporarily recruited from another band playing at the event.

I am not sure Mr Crowley was that great, with the tunes being not all that, and what was good about them live was often the stringy arrangements, possibly lacking when he plays on his own. I did like one song that he played near the end, but I thought it might be a cover; discussions with my beloved suggested that it might just be one of those songs that sounds very like a song by someone else. I straightforwardly liked the last song he did, something about three saucy sisters where he liked the shy one best (matron), even if the lyrics seemed a bit odd. And it is only fair to say that Mr Crowley has an appealingly understated stage manner.

Next up was Andy Irvine. Handy Andy always delivers the goods live, and here he treated us to something of a greatest hits set – so we had 'Arthur McBride (And Then We Bate The Shite Out Of Them)', the one about Woody Guthrie, the one about the farmer whose crops have dried up, the one about the soldiers, the one about the gold miner who meets a lovely young lady, etc..

The gold miner one is a particular favourite. I remember him saying a while ago that he has never recorded it, because it is the kind of song that loses its magic once preserved in such a format. I could not but agree with him, on seeing the reaction of an audience who seemed largely to be hearing it for the first time. The one about Woody Guthrie also went down well, with everyone loving the 'All You Fascists Bound To Lose' sing-a-long refrain.

And then Vashti Bunyan. She is one of those people who recorded one folkie album back in the 1960s before disappearing off into obscurity, only to have come back to musical life in the last few years with new recordings, concerts, and suchlike. She has some oddly contradictory qualities – she is obviously a bit shy and nervous about playing live, yet she seems to really enjoy playing and gets a real thrill from bringing her music to an appreciative audience. The contradiction actually contributes to how enjoyable her music is live. The delightful songs are also an obvious help here.

Sadly I could not pay too much attention to Ms Bunyan, as the heat and close atmosphere of the venue (in stark contrast to the cold and damp outside) meant that I became a little bit faint and had to go and sit down at the back. I am so un-rock and roll.

an Inuit Panda production.

Golden Lion Tamarin

Monday, February 22, 2010

Finders Keepers Fail

Dracula's Music Cabinet The Vampires of Dartmoore
Do you remember my saying that my record player had not been reconnected so that I was unable to listen to this Finders Keepers record I bought a while ago? Well, the record player is now working again, so I can listen to it… and it's not very good. It is in fact the weakest Finders Keepers record I have yet heard. The sleeve makes some kind of comparison between this and the Vampiros Lesbos soundtrack record*, I suppose because they are both vampire associated sound-tracky records originally from the 70s.

Unfortunately, while the Vampiros Lesbos has a certain pizzazz and swagger, The Vampires of Dartmoore sounds very much like a bunch of session musos dicking around in a studio. I fear this is destined to find its way onto Oxfam's shelves in the near future. And by breaking the Finders Keepers run of consistently good records it has made me wary of picking up anything else by them, lest it too be "not great".

an Inuit Panda production.

das ist kein Pandabär

*from the guy who also did the soundtrack to classic film Schülmädchen Report.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

January in Portugal

Ruined Churches
My beloved and I went to Lisbon in January. We went on a day trip to Sintra, out in the countryside past Stalinist tower blocks. I took pictures and posted them on Flickr, where they remain safely unviewed.
Sintra From Above

More Lisbon Pictures

More Sintra Pictures

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dead Batman in Coffin

Batman and Robin #7, by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart

The new Batman (none other than Dick Grayson, formerly Robin) is off in London, teaming up temporarily with Squire, the kid sidekick of some funny UK superhero. After preventing King Coal from exploding a dirty bomb in central London, he pays a visit to the Tower of London, in order to try and get some information from The Pearly King on just why King Coal and The Pearly King's minions have been fighting over some mysterious abandoned coalmine. Once in the mine, the reader learns the truth – the new Batman is hellbent on tampering with life and death himself, for the pit contains a Lazarus Pit, in which he plans to resurrect the original Batman. Dan Dan DANNNNNNN. Surely nothing can go wrong.

The thrill power is strong in this one.

Caped Panda

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Man Hold Tattered Red, White, and Blue Costume

Superman: World of New Krypton #12, by James Robinson, Greg Rucka, Pete Woods, and Ron Randall

Final Issue! You may recall that I gave up on this title after it showed signs of turning into some kind of DC Universe wankathon. But now the final issue – I could not miss that! Anyway, this is the one about the Kryptonians from the city of Kaldor. Evil robotic genius Brainiac had shrunk their city down to teeny tiny size and put them in a bottle, but then somehow they were brought back to normal size. Rather than clutter up Earth with super people, they went to live on a new planet on the other side of the Sun. Superman, or Kal-El as he likes to be called, went there with them (I'm not sure what Lois Lane, with whom he was now married, made of this). Various exciting things happened, and various not so exciting things, but the big and interesting thing was Kal-El's ambiguous relationship with General Zod (you know, the badass Terence Stamp plays in Superman II). Kal-El distrusts Zod, but the General is a hero to the Kryptonians.

More recently, things have been happening which seemed to be pushing New Krypton towards war with Earth (less one-sided than you might think, as the USA (obv.) has been developing superkilling weapons). But now it turns out to all have been some kind of crazy plot by bad people. And then… at the very end… a most amazing cliffhanger

And also, for all that World of New Krypton is finishing with this issue, a new Last Stand of New Krypton title is joining us in a month's time. So it's not over yet.

The Panda of Tomorrow

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Red Haired Woman, Windows

Demo #1, by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan

Apparently this is only #1 of the new volume of Demo, volume one having been published by some minor indie publisher. This seems to be one of those self-contained-story titles. In this one, a woman has a recurring dream of seeing someone fall from the whispering gallery of St. Paul's Cathedral that she quits her job, goes to England, and makes here way to the whispering gallery. Now, if this had been a Misty's True Tale of Terror or a Tharg's Future Shock then I reckon you would know how this would end up. I maybe like it slightly more for not following that path. So yes, a likeable enough issue, with atmospheric black and white art.

Tharg's Future Panda

Monday, February 15, 2010

Classic Book Club: First Book Announcement

I had a thrilling response (mostly on Facebook) to my post about starting a book club for those classic novels of the 19th century I've never got round to reading. So now it is time to announce the first book. It is Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. We will meet to discuss the book in a to-be-decided venue on Monday the 15th March.

If people outside Dublin want to play too, then we will have to do something online. Maybe I will just post post here about Moby Dick, set to appear on that day, and people in the virtual world can leave responses. Or maybe other people can post responses with links to their blog posts. Or maybe something else entirely. What do you think?

I'm open to book suggestions; if you have anything you think we should read, drop me an e-mail. Bear in mind, though, that I already have a list of books for the first couple of months.

Call me Panda

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Thing That Should Not Be

Coming soon to Birmingham is CRABZILLA, a Japanese Spider Crab with 1.5 metre long feeding claws. This ungodly monster can be seen at the National Sea Life Centre.

Curator Graham Burrows reported that people should not be alarmed. "He will absolutely dwarf the other crabs in there, but our master is not aggressive and his human prey should have nothing to worry about. Until it's too late."


Big Man, Chinese Lanterns

Criminal: The Sinners #4, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Lawless escapes from the MP trying to bring him back to the military, but not without taking a cap in the shoulder. It's only a flesh wound, no problem. What is a problem is that the guy his boss (sinister crime lord Sebastian Hyde) has trailing him sees who he gets to come help him out. Hyde had suspected that Lawless was getting it on with his daughter, but the tail was rather disturbed to see Mrs Hyde come to Lawless's aid. While Hyde's flunkies wonder how they will break the news to the big man, Lawless blithely continues with his investigation into who is taking down criminal figures across the city, only to find himself in yet another wrong place at the wrong time – and now marked for death by the Chinese mob. Oh dear.

Lawless Panda

Saturday, February 13, 2010


The Duckworth Lewis Method The Duckworth Lewis Method
What's this? Why it is a concept album about cricket by Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy and some other geezer from a band called Pugwash. I suppose in a way it is Neil Hannon's equivalent of that Baader Meinhof record by Luke Haines (except that is about sport, not terrorism).

It is funny how you randomly take against people... for a while I used to like the Divine Comedy, but then I arbitrarily decided that I hated them and their stupid singer. If you had told me a year ago that I would be buying a record by my near neighbour Mr Hannon then I would have laughed in your face. Now who is laughing? Not me, not since my interest in cricket was picqued by radio coverage of the Ashes last summer.

The record features a number of whimsical songs about the great game. I get the impression that some of these may refer to celebrated incidents in the cricketing history. The whole thing is evocative of the jolly-good-show clichés one associates with the sport. It is all a bit languid, and I could imagine it would make a nice accompaniment to some cucumber sandwiches and pimms.

I am not entirely comfortable with the way the record goes on about how cricket is a game for "gentlemen" – it does remind me of the sport's posho associations. But I am interested in the record's blurry sense of nationality. As you know, Neil Hannon is Irish, the son of a Church of Ireland* bishop. The record tends to treat the English cricket team as "we", as though he is denying or downplaying his Irishness. There is one song, though, where he does talk about playing cricket as a child with his brother, while on holidays in the Irish seaside town of Arklow**. There is a line there about cricket being the opposite of everything he hates about the world. You could endlessly analyse that. At one level, cricket embodies the lost qualities of sportsmanship and gentlemanly competition etc***. Cricket is, however, the quintessential "garrison game", the one foreign sport it is hard to imagine a true Gael ever playing. Is Hannon here implicitly casting himself as an outsider, beyond the mainstream of Irish society? Maybe this is part of what I find interesting about the game.

*The Church of Ireland is our equivalent of the Church of England or the USA's Episcopalians; it is important to clarify this point, because Hannon's being a C of I bishop's son establishes him as being a bit posh, while if he was the son of a Catholic bishop then his very existence would be scandalous.

** The town that gave us Roisín Murphy of rubbish band Moloko and more recently of underwhelming solo records.

*** I'm not sure where body-line bowling and ladies' cricket fit in here.

Henry Blofeld

Jonathan Agnew and friend

Big Man, Gun Antlers, Blood Rain

Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth #6, by Jeff Lemire

Jeppard and Sweet Tooth have gone their separate ways. I was wondering if maybe this meant we would be seeing no more of Mr Jeppard, but no. This episode mainly follows Jeppard on a journey, with flashbacks to his life in the early days of the plague. We see behind Jeppard's mask to a far greater extent than hitherto, and the sketching of his past as someone who had some kind of life before everyone died is quite powerful. We also get an idea of how Sweet Tooth himself is settling in to his new, eh, home. The business of him possibly being older than the plague that brought human-animal hybrids into the world seems to be increasingly mysterious.

It's all very bleak, yet almost elegiac. I find it quite affecting, and continue to see this title as the best thing being published right now.

suave panda

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Music of the Spheres

v/a The Velvets Revolution: 15 Bands Inspired by the Velvet Underground
This compilation of Velvets influenced stuff came with Uncut magazine. It is surprisingly good, featuring some wonderful pieces of music by such kewl bands of yore as The Feelies and Suicide, while contemporary hipsters like The Vivian Girls throw in some top tunes. The tracks by all of these bands are highly recommended. The Feelies do sound like they may well have heard the odd VU record in their time, but I also detected a certain motorik Krautrock influence. The Vivian Girls seem to be shoegazing revivalists rather than VU followers as such – so their Velvets influence is at a much greater remove. But their track here ('Tension') is a stormer, and I think I may have to seek out more of their music. Indeed, I am starting to regret not including this track on my end of year CD.

I found Orange Juice's 'Blue Boy' a lot more appealing than when I first heard it twenty years ago – maybe Orange Juice are not actually rubbish? Further investigation may be required.

Velvet Pandas

Autopsy, bumper cars

Harker #8 & #9, by Roger Gibson & Vince Danks

So now I have bought up all the back issues of this British crime title, so I am slap bang up to date. This story is about a murder mystery writer who was murdered in Whitby at a murder mystery weekend. Kerr-aaaazy cop DCI Harker finds himself sucked into the investigation, together with his sidekick Critchley and his London pathologist, who have all been despatched up north in a somewhat unlikely fashion. More people start dying, stereotypical mocking of the local plod takes place, and so on. It is not big and clever, but it is somewhat entertaining, and I like seeing the illustrations of the Whitby locations.

detective panda

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sulky Woman Sits In Car

Stumptown #2, by Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth, and Lee Loughridge

This exciting PI caper set in the mean streets of, er, Portland continues. It's the usual missing person, PI with funny home life mix-up stuff, but well executed and with attractive art. I know Greg Rucka from his writing on the greatly missed Gotham Central (a comic about sulky cops in Gotham City, who spend all their time grumbling because a freak in a Halloween outfit gets all the credit for their busts), so I know he is good at the crime stuff, particularly when it gets all character driven. So yes, this is fun, if they ever bring out a collection then maybe you will like it.

Stumpy Pandas

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mary Ann, Take My Hand

Spacemen 3 Forged Prescriptions
I bought this on the back of Sonic Boom's storming performance at Christmas ATP. And only after picking it up did I register that this was not the Spacemen 3 album The Perfect Prescription but a record of alternative versions, demos, b-sides, and so on. No matter, this is all deadly stuff, possibly even better than the versions that appear on the actual album. If you want to sample the smacked-out drone rock of the Spacemen then this could be a good place to start.

Experimental Audio Research Phenomena 256
This is another Sonic Boom band. I cannot say that I have as yet listened to this one too much, but it does have a great interior illustration of one cartoon animal performing oral sex on another. It is also a record recommended to me by none other than Mad King Ken himself. Listening to it right now I can reveal that it is very droney.

Sonic Panda

Sulky Boy, Scattered Toys

Joe The Barbarian #1, by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy

Grant Morrison is one of the very biggest names in the world of brainy comics that with mainstream appeal. The problem with the Scottish writer is that not everything he does is brilliant – for everything like Seaguy, his run on X-Men, or We3, there is disposable rubbish like Kill Your Boyfriend, The Filth, or Vinamarama. Which side of the fence does this title fall on? Well, it's a story about a sulky boy, bullied at school, with a problematic homelife, who drops into a fantasy world in which his toys are all alive and stuff. A work of stunning originality, I am sure you will agree.

Joe The Panda

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

"Journey to the Centre of the Earth" by Jules Verne

I read this a while back in SF book club. It is about these people who descend down a volcano in Iceland, intent on journeying to the very centre of the Earth. It is a truly great book, with Verne managing to create great drama from nothing more than the overcoming of various natural obstacles – i.e. they do not find themselves battling a subterranaean army of troglodytes. It is also rather funny, with the narrator's endless invocation of his insipid fiancée ("my poor little Virlandaise") never failing to bring the roffles. The crazy Professor who heads the expedition and their taciturn Icelandic guide are also good for the comedy, while nevertheless becoming more complex when the travellers' journey places them in situations of terrible danger. Verne's general descriptive powers are very striking, with his account of the journey through Iceland to the volcano being rather evocative of the bleak landscape of that country – I am curious as to whether he ever visited there, or was just working from the accounts of others.

I wonder if it is significant that Verne wrote this book shortly before the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The Professor and the narrator, his nephew, are both German, and they are presented as amiable fellows, with the Professor in particular a jolly eccentric. I wonder would Verne have painted things differently if writing after the Germans had stuffed his country out of it in a war that saw Paris besieged and bombarded.

Journey to the centre of the Panda

I present a proposal

I am always thinking that I ought to get round to reading those great 19th century novels that people are always talking about. And now I have started thinking – maybe other people want to do this too! So let's put this out and see if the cat licks it up – anyone interested in a 19th century book club? I will pick the books, they will all be ones like Moby Dick and Wuthering Heights that are easy to get from libraries, and we can meet once a month in a pub and talk about the books. Awesome. People who either live abroad or do not do human interaction can join in the fun online.

Any takers?

oh wait, shouldn't I have written this in the style of a 19th century novel? you can do that in your replies, if you reply.

Wuthering Panda

Monday, February 08, 2010

Nightmare 2009: Slight Return

An audience readies itself
MBV KFR #1: About half an hour into one of their sets, one of the band addressed the crowd for the first time. "Thanks", she said, acknowledging applause. "Shut up and play more music", someone shouted from the crowd.
MBV KFR #2: A FOAF was travelling back from an Irish music festival at which MBV were headlining. Stopping in a pub for a bite to eat, they saw none other than Kevin Shields of MBV having lunch with his parents, who had been down to see their son play. They were apparently berating him for being so uncommunicative onstage. "All those people had travelled a long way to see you, the least you could have done was say thanks to them".

More Nightmare Before Xmo pictures


My beloved and I are going to Cuba on holidays over Easter. We are doing things independently – flying into Havana, then taking it easy about where we go. We plan to stay in casas particulares rather than hotels, as they seem to be substantially cheaper and are better crack. Or so I here.

Has anyone reading this ever been to Cuba? Any recommendations of places to go to, or places that you would advise any right-thinking person to avoid? Our current vague planned destinations include Havana itself, Viñales, Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus (or mini-Trinidad, as it likes to be known), and maybe Cienfuegos. But the eastern end of the island has a certain appeal too, so maybe we will skip some of those places in favour of Bayamo, Baracoa, and Santiago de Cuba (or Ciudad Jinitero as I hear it is being renamed).

Commandante Panda

Important Panda News

Two Pandas have been flown from the USA to China. Under the terms of an international Panda treaty, the offspring of all pandas must be returned to China, so although Mei Lan and Tai Shan were born in the United States, they are now "back" in China.

Meanwhile, Panda Scientists have discovered that lady Pandas chirp when they want to get pregnant.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Nightmare 2009: My Boring Valentine?

And I suppose I should say a little bit about the curators, My Bloody Valentine. They were playing three sets, with people being allocated a night to see them but being able to bunk into see them on others. So I saw the whole of their set once, on the last night, and the trail end (from the back) on the Saturday. And they were… alright. Once you got over how ear-splittingly loud they were, it was hard not to think that they are actually a bit dull as a live band. Don't get me wrong, I still love them on record, but they are too static and uncharismatic on stage to really work in that context. The whole loudness thing – it really is just a gimmick. Why play so loud that you have to give earplugs to the audience? Why not just play more quietly? Because then, perhaps, people would notice how dull you are? Maybe so.
MBV on stage
Even the Holocaust – the extended section from the middle of 'You Made Me Realise' where they all play one note over and over and over as loudly as possible – seemed a bit less than totally exciting. It did have a certain power to it, but it also seemed a bit formulaic. There may well have been a time when audiences were shocked by the Holocaust, but now it is all a bit expected.

One final thing to mention about this ATP is the plague of flatulence that seemed to have descended on the festival. This was particularly noticeable when we were packed into the throng up the front waiting for MBV to come on, but it was a general feature of the whole weekend. I think this might be one the downsides of having so much real ale available.

This ends my discussion of this festival. One interesting thing I note from the pages of Frank's APA and elsewhere is that a lot of people really loved the MBV live performances, so maybe their sonic attack did not quite penetrate my ears of cloth.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Nightmare 2009: Last Night A DJ Shagged My Wife

Dancing At The Disco
I did not engage too much with the DJs – being old, I had to do a lot of going to bed relatively early. Ian Svenonius played some crazy stuff, while Justin Spear played what I always think of as classic ATP disco stuff – tunes like The Slits' awesome version of 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' and Kim Fowley's 'Bubblegum'. Deadly stuff. That was that, really, though I suppose I should mention the time we were walking past the dreadful Irish bar and heard some equally dreadful music emanating from it, like the kind of thing you would hear at some Irish wedding for munters. It turned out, of course, to be legendary Irish music industry figure B.P. Fallon himself on the decks. I feel a bit mean accusing him of playing rubbish music, but I did not like it.
Death Disco

Friday, February 05, 2010

Nightmare 2009: I'm The Daddy Now

ATP TV showed some fascinating films. I could only take so much of Scum, featuring a young Ray Winstone. This is the one set in a borstal or young offenders' prison. It is a very impressive film, but maybe not what you want to see just before going to bed. I think it was the "I'm no poof – but from now on, you're my missus" bit that made me turn in while I could still sleep without having to scrub out my brain. More disturbing, though, was the whole thing about whoever was the boss prisoner (a position earned and retained by beating the shite out of anyone who even looks at you funny) calling himself the "daddy". So a daddy is not someone who sits you on their knee and reads you bedtime stories, but rather someone who slaps you around and tells you to shut the fuck up – you can guess what kind of happy upbringing these fellows must have had.
Best Festival Ever
Spongebob Squarepants seemed to be completely deranged. OK so we were watching it with the sound turned down, but it really did seem like something aimed more at drøg casualties rather than children. Also bizarre was Scorpio Rising, a film by some famous guy which seemed to intercut footage of gay Nazi bikers with random other bits and bobs. It was not great, but it did keep you occupied. More impressive was Lucifer Rising, by the same guy. This seemed a bit more thought through, and featured filmed footage of Egyptological and occult themed stuff over a brooding prog rock musical accompaniment. It just was.

We also derived some enjoyment from Ed Wood's Glen Or Glenda, the great director's no budget plea for understanding for men who like to dress up in women's clothes. As you probably know from having seen the Tim Burton Ed Wood film, Wood was able to get an aging Bela Lugosi to appear in this, but he seems to have no real idea what to do with him, so rather than having him appear in the main story, the film instead keeps cutting off to Lugosi sitting in a room on his own declaiming stream of consciousness gibberish. They do not make them like this anymore. On actual TV, meanwhile, that programme about UK government spin doctors definitively disproved that old cliché about swearing being a sign of a poor vocabulary.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Nightmare 2009: Minehead Is The Place

Serena Maneesh were my token new band of the weekend. They hail from Norway or Sweden or somewhere. They had a kind of neo-Goth thing going.

Bands seen before who did the job included the Sun Ra Arkestra and The Horrors, both of whom managed to transcend the duff sound of the big downstairs stage. Also impressive were The Dirty Three and Sonic Youth. Warren Ellis and Jim White of The Dirty Three did a lot of seeing other bands during the festival, their full-on beards making them look like escapees from an American Civil War re-enactment society. I wonder what has made the other guy from the band remain so lacking in facial hair. It would be an astonishing coincidence if his name turned out to be Bruce Beard.
Where are my earplugs?
Live favourites Yo La Tengo played a slightly odd set – they more or less completely skipped out the audience interaction I tend to associate with the Tengo, and they opened with a long, driving instrumental that for a brief moment raised the prospect of their doing a repetition of that time Sonic Youth played free improv to a festival crowd; but then they launched into what was apparently a greatest hits set. It is a while since I saw them, and it was noticeable that James McNew seems a bit less like a man treading the thin line between shyness and total rock abandonment.

Primal Scream were piss poor, though they were not helped by the main stage's dire acoustics. My special friend described them as being like a parody of a rock band. Maybe they always were.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Nightmare 2009: Honey You Want Me

The really storming olde band at Christmas ATP was Spectrum. As you will recall, Spectrum were the band Sonic Boom formed after the Spacemen 3 split up. Here I think they were basically Mr Boom and a bunch of new musicians, and they treated us to a greatest hits set of the Spacemen and early solo music of Sonic Boom. It took a while, though, for it to be apparent what they were up to. 'How You Satisfy Me', from Sonic's first solo record, started the band on the path of escalation. When that was followed shortly afterwards by a cover of Mudhoney's 'When Tomorrow Hits', it was no surprise when the next track was… 'Revolution' (itself covered by Mudhoney; seek out their version, if you like funny things). After that we had 'Suicide' and maybe one or two other Spacemen classics. The band even accentuated their Spacemen 3 revivalist shtick by having the other guitarist play sitting down, just like Jason used to.
I must say, however, that 'Revolution' was the teensiest bit disappointing. At the time, I thought maybe that the drummer had fluffed it, but he played a stormer on later tracks. Listening to the recorded version, I think maybe the problem was that the drums were mixed too loud. Everything else they did was so impressive that this was easily the set of the weekend. Sonic finished off by doing his little salute thing, god bless him.

Let me return for a second to 'When Tomorrow Hits'. It was a good track for the Spacemen 3 to cover, as it deals with heroin addiction, and not in the kind of jokey way you would expect from Mudhoney. It is a dark and brooding tune, qualities well brought out in the version played by Spectrum. I must seek out the Spacemen 3 record on which it appears (Recurring, isn't it?), to see how it compares to the original version.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Nightmare 2009: The Lure of the Chalet

I went to the MBV-curated Nightmare Before Christmas in December – shortly before Christmas. When I was talking to people at work about it afterwards, I explained that it was a music festival and it took place in a Butlins Holiday Camp. "Oh", said one of my colleagues, "Was it one of those '80s revival things?". "No", I replied, but then I considered the line-up. For it was all a bit 80s (or early 90s) revivalist, except maybe it was more like a revival of underground music that people have semi-forgotten.

I did pretty badly for seeing actual bands this time round. Irene and I were sharing chalets with two home-birds, which made domestic loafing always seem that bit appealing, but also we felt strongly the lure of real ale pubs of Minehead. This meant we were doing a lot of quaffing hearty ales when we should have been discovering new bands. We also went on the Minehead Meander. Ah well, the new bands were probably shite, so no loss.
Minehead Railway Station

So, whom did I see? Well, one somewhat well-known band were the Television Personalities. You may know these fellows from their novelty punk classic 'Part Time Punks', though I am sure that hipster elitists out there will say that they have a great many other wonderful songs. As a live band, they had a certain idiot-savant quality. What I mean by this is that they were not really that great, but they were heroically not great. The music chugged along, but what was particularly striking was the tuneless warblings from their "singer". What made all this all the more bizarre was the way so many of their songs seemed, compositionally, to be reliant on having a vocalist of much greater ability than him. It was all rather strange, a compelling experience from which it was impossible to avert one's eyes and ears.

Of the other old bands, from the tail ends of their sets caught it appeared that Swervedriver and That Petrol Emotion still have it. That said, with the Swervies it was suggested that they only really have a couple of stand-out songs, and the shoegaze sensations waited till the end of their short set to play them. Maybe so, but their stand-out songs are really very striking, and the band had an air of tightness to them that you would not expect from a band so long retired (and after not that much success in the first place).

The Petrols, meanwhile, were a band I was a bit wary of going to see again. I remember liking them when, back in the day, I caught them live at a couple of Trinity Balls, but this was back when my musical tastes were a bit less advanced. I was particularly afraid of bigging them up and bringing Irene to see them, only for it to be apparent once they started from where Har Mar Superstar got his stage act. But actually no, their was a persistent groove to their music, and even without hearing their big hit I heard enough to wish I had come down and caught the whole of their set. Some of their appeal comes from their singer. Aside from his non-wanky charisma, he fulfils the important role of interpreting the incomprehensible patois of the other band members; unlike them, he is not from darkest Derry. But yeah, I left this thinking that I might have to go and look for one of their classic albums or something.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Song to the Siren

Daytripper #2, by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

So in this issue, these two guys go on holidays to some out of the way place. One of them meets this attractive lady, falls in love, but she turns out to be a bit more than he bargained for. It maybe works almost like a magic-realist Tharg's Future Shock, and is effective and atmospheric. However, I am not sure it has any link whatsoever to the first issue, so now I am getting a bit confused as to how this title is going to develop – a series of self-contained stories rather than anything with an overarching story, perhaps? This is not necessarily a problem.