alexsarll: (default)
I remember doing one of these with 52 entries, an album which had really impressed me for every week of the year. Last year, 20. This year - a Top Ten. Wow. Obviously there were lots of other albums with brilliant bits (Her Parents, Teeth of the Sea), ones which were pleasant enough backdrops (Ejecta, Edwyn Collins), ones which were only moderately coasting (British Sea Power, no pun intended). But when you're summing up and trying to make 'almost as good as an Elcka comeback album might be' (Filthy Boy) sound like a warm recommendation, you know it's time to hack and slash the list. Honourable mentions to Lady Gaga, Mike Patton and Monster Magnet - who, if still a long way from their imperial height, have made stuff a lot more worthy of ear-space than most of their work in the interim. Dishonourable mentions to David Bowie, Adam Ant, Suede, Justin Timberlake and George Pringle. Between them, each has made music that gave sparkle to a decade. Together, they've convinced an old triskaidekaphobic that 2013 was indeed destined to suck.

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alexsarll: (default)
A few weeks back, Livejournal stirred into something approaching life, and in the manner of the old days there was A Meme. About what people were up to a year ago, five years, ten. And the nostalgia of it all...well, people sometimes forget that the '-algia' in there is pain. That was an apt precursor to The World's End. Shaun of the Dead was already a film about the pain of growing up, so stack the best part of another decade on top of that, then go see it with some approximation of the old gang, and even a film assembling this much comic talent (and there are plenty of laughs) is going to feel like a twisted knife in places. I can't recall such a bittersweet comedy which is still so successful qua comedy since Withnail. Part of the power is in the way it dodges polemic: yes, refusing to grow up is seen as a sad and sorry way to live, but so is growing up. In so far as there's any kind of answer, it's the knowingly grand and ridiculous grab for another, impossible option which reminds me of the Indelicates' 'Dovahkiin'. It's not just a self-regarding elegy, mind - it also has lots to say about how the new cinema ideal of bromance is no more realistic or healthy than the Hollywood take on romance. Which is obviously no less saddening. I'm going to miss the Cornetto Trilogy, not mollified by their being in part films about missing the films you grew up on.
Also seen at the cinema (on the same day, which I don't believe I've ever done before - it does the trailers no favours): Pacific Rim, in which Guillermo del Toro has giant robots punch monsters, and vice versa, in a delightfully solid way which always feels like a Guillermo del Toro film, until the humans start interacting with each other when his normal sureness of touch deserts him, and even normally dependable actors fall oddly flat (one excellent and un-publicised cameo aside). And not at the cinema, but on the same day as its cinematic release, A Field in England. Which I applaud, even while thinking that a little more forethought about the casting might have made it more instantly convincing as the psychedelic horror it wants to be, rather than the oddball comedy as which it inadvertently opens.

More nostalgia: the Buffy-themed bash at the GNRT. Even more so, back to the Woodbine for the first time in a while, and the last time was itself the first time in a while too. As if to emphasise how long it is since that was a regular haunt, there's foliage growing into the Gents' and a wine called Tempus. Subtle symbolism there, Life. Still, there have been times of living too. Celebrating the Solstice atop Primrose Hill, and walking back from Mr B and the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra along the dusky Parkland Walk, eternal moments when the level of drunk and the setting are exactly as they should be and one feels no longer apart from the world but in contact with the infinite and suffused with joy and peace. Took [ profile] xandratheblue to Devon and, in the five years or so my parents have been there, this was the first time I swam in the sea, as against paddling, because for once I'd timed it right weatherwise. And we found a dragon skull on the beach. Then to lovely little Sherborne, and up Dancing Hill, which is in fact rather steep for dancing but I guess satyrs are nimble. Back in London, we were greeted by St Paul's and it's blue trees as a reminder that, lovely as holidays can be, this is the place to be. Though we did then go see Eddie Argos in an Edinburgh show about holidays, which might have made more sense before rather than after our own. Still lovely, mind.
(Other Edinburgh previews seen: Henry Paker, being powerfully bald, and Jeff Goldblum and his prawn (aka Ben Partridge). Not seen near so many this year as the last couple)

Wrapping up, since who knows when I'll get round to posting again: having chance to dance to Pink for the first time since Don't Stop Moving stopped moving, and 'Elephant Elephant' for the first time full stop, was a delight; I like the view from Telegraph Hill, though not the walk there in the sun (and it should have kept the old name, Plowed Garlic Hill); and I love how in a European city the Holy Thorn Reliquary would be in the cathedral, what with having part of Jesus' crown of thorns inside, but in London we just stick it in a back room of the museum, because we basically have the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark but let tourists wander around it 'cos we're cool like that.

*I've seen the Indelicates and Keith Totp (&c) twice since I last posted, and the Indelicates don't even play London that often anymore. Even seen the very seldom-sighted Quimper, who are coming into their own with the new live set-up, all disturbing projections and shadowed lurking. Also Desperate Journalist, who already had a good soundscape going, but are a lot more compelling now [ profile] exliontamer has started really going for it on stage. And Mikey Georgeson aka Vessel aka Mr Solo, formerly a frequent fixture (and I think probably still the performer I've seen live the most times) for the first time in a year or so. He was, of course, excellent - the new tracks as good as ever, in particular 'I See What You Did There' and the waltz which sounds like imperial phase Bowie working with Tom Waits.
alexsarll: (default)
Feels like life has been fairly quiet of late, (except when it hasn't, of course - Hyde Park picnics, Leyton pubs that are at least decently apologetic about hating my people, SE14's answer to the Shaftesbury). But in early summer, especially this year as it's still picking up from the tardy spring, I don't mind that. The evenings are still simply beautiful, without that complex melancholy they acquire later on - though it would help if I had the park for them, when instead it's being turned into some sort of prison camp for Madchester arseholes (sorry, tautology, I know). Still, I've had my chances to go a-roaming - up trees, over banks, through hedges and across a Heath resplendent with buttercups like I've never seen. Even got to share a tree with a jay at one point - a much better companion than parakeets, who may be beautiful, but in prolonged proximity are no better than the sort of person who wears Beats By Dre headspeakers. Guessed a stranger's dog's name, too - though given my guess was Slobberchops, based on obvious physical features, I don't think that's much proof of psychic potential.

Been watching a lot of adventure series lately - The Avengers, Brisco County Jr, Adventure Time - and hardly any films. One exception: Night of the Eagle, which as the name suggests is close kin to the MR James adaptation Night of the Demon. Peter Wyngarde - excellent value as ever - plays a sixties Richard Dawkins who discovers his wife's a closet witch and makes her burn her "protections", after which their lives go about as smoothly as you'd expect. There are loose plot threads all over the place and it doesn't even seem quite sure whether magic works or not in its world, but it's thoroughly eerie nonetheless. Spartacus ended for good, and Doctor Who for now; the former was the downer it was always going to be, the latter much better than I'd dared expect, though it may have helped that I had the contrast of having just finished the rambling Reign of Terror, the first full Hartnell I've attempted in a decade or more.

And then after 'The Name of the Doctor' there was Eurovision, in which as ever the worthy victor was robbed - this time it was Romania (or rather Romoania) with the gay dubstep vampire. We left after that and Bonnie Tyler to see The French Electric live down the road, sounding like the National before they went boring, covering songs from Dare! and getting away with it. They were followed by a tragic act who could have sounded like Mazzy Star or Lana del Rey if only the drums had been turned down (or preferably off), which was my cue to depart. Thee Faction and Joanne Joanne at the Buffalo Bar were excellent, same as last time they played there together, and once again I drank entirely too much. Possibly because I'd realised that, if they're a genderswapped Duran Duran and Keith and I had been hanging with them in the pub earlier, that made us genderswapped 'Girls on Film' video babes. I should possibly be seeing them again tonight, but outside was calling, and I'm still in a certain amount of gig-shock after seeing the Art Brut birthday gig on what they weren't allowed to call the Glass Ceiling Tour. Ten years! They've learned a lot in that time, though. And the Scala...I'd forgotten how much I liked that venue. I'd forgotten how much I like the rare big gig - and it turns out they do still exist - where the crowd Get It. And the support slot from Keith et al wasn't bad either - I think the best show I've seen them do since the Devant support with the spiralling, near-infinite 'One Thing After Another'. They're a big band, a big stage suits them.

Anyway, my dears, I think I need another cup of decaf tea before Justified. It's a rock'n'roll life and no mistake.
alexsarll: (pangolin)
Just finished two months with Netflix - a free trial followed by a period paid-but-with-cashback-coming, courtesy of Quidco. The selection of films is patchy, though I did enjoy the Norwegian oddity Troll Hunter and the gleeful retro vigilante pastiche Hobo With A Shotgun, and to some extent Double Indemnity, even if a noir classic is always going to be slightly hobbled if, as here, the obligatory femme fatale resembles Frankenstein's monster in a Little Lord Fauntleroy wig. Where the site really excels, though, is TV. No HBO, alas, what with Murdoch having still not had all his ill-gotten gains prised from his dying grasp - but exactly the sort of thing you want to watch once but not own, and might not get through in a week from the library. The second series of Whedon's Dollhouse, for instance - which, while still sometimes deeply creepy in ways that don't seem wholly intentional, gets away from the generic episodes that clogged too much of the first series, moves the action on while only feeling *slightly* rushed, and - uniquely for a Whedon TV show - feels like it ends at just the right spot. Or Killing Time, the true story of an Australian criminal lawyer who comes to a bad end, starring Faramir. I also got through the first season of Breaking Bad, but that's a different matter, feeling more like the start of a new obsession.
But that's done now. Ditto the final Thick of It, Silv in Lilyhammer and Frodo in Wilfred. Parade's End and the misfiring Doctor Who seasonlet feel like they were ages ago, Misfits has gone off the boil, and I don't feel quite ready to embark on the second series of Blake's 7 just yet. So until I commit to another box set, the extent of my TV commitments would seem to be Friday Night Dinner. Guess I might finally use up some of those library loyalty cards and catch up with all the films I've not seen this year; only one I've borrowed lately was A Fantastic Fear of Everything, which is far better than the artistic output of Crispian Mills has any right to be.

Otherwise, there was Bonfire Night, for which I did nothing in particular but still saw fireworks because London, and Hallowe'en. I only dressed up on the Saturday before, and yet even with the cape sweeping behind me felt deeply underdressed at the American Hallowe'en bash. How I would have coped the Saturday after next to [ profile] xandratheblue as Judge Anderson, I dread to think, so I kept it suited and booted. And in between, on the night itself, there was the terrifying spectacle of Keith Top of the Pops and his ALL WEARING KEITH MASKS Backing Band. Chilling. Though less so than Without Fidel, who featured a glockenspiel and had a singer playing the awkward schoolghoul, and did covers of 'Super Bass' and 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' which made a strong case for outlawing cover versions. Still, Her Parents were great. Hardcore is still not something I'd necessarily listen to at home, but they do a very good show.
alexsarll: (bernard)
So I'm reading back through the week's LJ, and seeing excited posts about the return of Soul Mole/Don't Stop Moving - which from the vantage point of The Future, I now know to have been gazumped, because most London venues are run by vermin. And I have a rotten cold. At the weekend. Thus far, 2012 is not going entirely to plan.
However! I did manage to drag myself out last night for a bit, so I've finally been inside Aces & Eights, which I've passed dozens of times and thought looked interesting - and indeed it does, having that American bar (but still doing pints) vibe that T Bird used to before their identity crisis. And on Friday Guided Missile put on a whole bill of bands who are all about the live experience (Keith TotP, the Angry Bees and the London Dirthole Company), and made me think Bill Drummond-influenced thoughts about the limitations of recorded music as a medium. Not that I'd go as far as Bill and write it off entirely, you understand, but part of the point of Bill Drummond is that he goes further than everyone else.
Also this week: I watched Hussein stand-in flick The Devil's Double, which is almost as good as I'd heard, and saw a Celeb! getting Papped! in Soho without having the faintest glimmer of a clue who she was.
Right. More Lemsip, then I need to brave Tesco. If nothing else, I suppose I can spread my sniffles to the gormless hordes who infest it on Sundays.
alexsarll: (crest)
Another delicious day off, so I should probably update this thing while there's a slightly greater chance of anyone reading it. Plenty of good gigs lately - the final Vichy Government show and the first for Quimper was a fine passing of the torch, or 'passing of the torture' as Mr Chilton creatively misheard it. There were some bands in between, but the less said about that the better - though I was amused by this review: "blended with a cover or two (my favourite had to be Red Hot Chili’s ‘Give it Away’), which not only kept the whole crowd engaged, but completed energised.". Which is not technically untrue, if you count the aforementioned Mr Chilton running upstairs, screaming about the horror, as 'energised'.
And then, a couple of nights on, Keith TotP, gloriously shambolic as ever, and Kit Richardson (who was much better than I expected from an unknown quantity singer-songwriter, and even got away with covering QotSA's 'No One Knows'), and the Indelicates. Who are always very good, but with a few of the more seldom-played songs breaking up the familiar set, were simply jaw-dropping.

John Brunner's The Jagged Orbit is not on the same level as The Sheep Look Up, let alone his masterpiece Stand on Zanzibar, though it forms part of the same project: a prismatic view from c1970 of the dystopian near future ie now. But, though it's didactic in places, though the whole emphasis on race war and apartheid was mercifully mistaken, elsewhere it demonstrates the same prophetic gifts as those greater books. Here is "this incomprehensibly complex modern world where the forces of economics and macroplanning ruled with the impersonal detachment of storm and drought", a world of veils on Western streets and churnalism in place of news, of casual psychopharmacology and near-ubiquitous diagnoses of newly-created mental illnesses. Hell, Brunner never quite managed to predict the Internet - though at times you can sense him groping mere hair-breadths from it - but he still managed to see that the world of the future would need what we now know as the spam filter. Though I'm sure that my friends who work in TV would have some bitter words with his shade regarding the sections on making a TV show: in the second decade of the 21st century, computers mean the editing process takes a matter of minutes!
Interestingly, although the nicked-from-John-Dos-Passos-then-improved narrative technique of Sheep and Zanzibar isn't fully realised yet, there are sections where Brunner shows his workings, pasting in an article (often from the Guardian) from the papers of his day, usually one ending with recommendations for avoiding future escalation of the problem it describes. That'll be a chapter. The next chapter, titled "Assumption regarding the foregoing made for the purposes of the story", will read in full: "Either it wasn't done, or it didn't work."

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena avoids the traps of a prequel well. Yes, there are characters you know can't die, and others you know won't be sticking around - but there are still plenty of bad things that can happen short of death, especially in a show this wickedly inventive, and there's more than one way for a character to exit the stage, even with death so close at hand. It's very much in the same vein as Blood and Sand - though there are times when you wonder if they feel the parent series was, somehow, slightly lacking in the sex and gore department. The one real revelation is that the guy who plays Crixus can in fact act, and had just been very good at playing a complacent lunk when that was where the character was.


Jan. 31st, 2011 10:58 am
alexsarll: (Default)
One can't say he was taken too soon or anything, but it's still a shame about John Barry. I watched a film he scored this weekend, Boom. Tennessee Williams' favourite film adaptation of his own work, and directed by the great Joseph Losey, it is nonetheless a dispiriting, messy slog. Elizabeth Taylor, after so long as the epitome of female desirability, has here become the sad, pilled-up drag queen's pastiche of herself that we know today - a much-married woman still convinced of her own desirability, hemmed in by injections and paranoia, the fleshiness of that face already running to fat. Noel Coward queens around in a role that contributes little beyond exposition and some baffling innuendo. Richard Burton has a certain battered dignity, looking surprisingly plausible in a kimono, but he can't do more to save the film than help with the couple of scenes near the end where Taylor remembers she can act.

I'm reading a Bogart biography at the moment, so it's appropriate that this weekend was mainly spent at gigs watching the usual suspects. Bevan 17 in Brixton first, and then much of the PopArt weekender, with Brontosaurus Chorus (if 'Louisiana' really was their last song ever, it's a shame Johnny and I didn't barrel on stage and start in with the chainsaw); Subliminal Girls (I spent almost the entire set at the bar, the service at the Bloomsbury Bowl was so bad); Keith TotP et al (vocals inaudible, but hey, lots of guitars); MJ Hibbett (I was obliged to contribute a sort of civilised heckle over his buying into Fantastic Four death hype, but the song in question mentions 'sulking like Black Bolt' so I can forgive much); The Laurel Collective (since I last heard them, Mystery Jets have happened, so now the poor sods sound like they're ripping off Mystery Jets even though they were doing this first); Abdjouparov (Les Carter was a young Bowie fan, and alas, he is now in his own Tin Machine phase); Mr Solo (minty Polo); and the PopArt Allstars (complete with Mr Solo mixing 'Space Oddity' and 'The Laughing Gnome' into the 'Modern Love' outro, Hibbett's 'Live and Let Die' accompanied by terrifyingly exothermic party poppers, and a 'Brimful of Asha' which I genuinely thought might never end).
Perhaps more importantly, I also confirmed that I have not lost my table football skills. Excellent.

I've finally read David Mazzuchelli's much-praised graphic novel (and for once, the term does apply, instead of just being an embarrassed synonym for 'comic') Asterios Polyp and yes, it is excellent. Remember a few years back when the mainstream critics were getting over-excited about the miserable piece of crap that was Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth? Because being, quite often, middle-aged men who feel they have wasted their lives, a lot of critics like works addressing similar themes (a good example in cinema: Sideways). Asterios Polyp, like Jimmy Corrigan, is a miserable middle-aged man, but instead of taking it to the absurd and risible lengths of Ware's effort, Mazzuchelli's protagonist is a success, of sorts...just one who still doesn't feel like he's succeeded, because how many people do? And beyond being more believable, it has vastly more to say. The one thing I did like in Jimmy Corrigan was the architecture...well, Polyp is an architect, and that gives us the way in to what Mazzuchelli is getting at here, expressed in a staggeringly versatile art which gives key characters their own art styles and then lets those spheres of influence ebb and flow into each other as a way of investigating how our own subjective worlds sometimes, somehow do manage to connect.
I don't want to get carried away here - obviously it's no All-Star Superman - but for people who really can't stand reading anything involving superheroes or robots or magic or teenage antics (ie, anything genre; ie, anything fun) then this may be the best comic in the world.
alexsarll: (Default)
Get Smart amused me - much as the original series did, when that was repeated during my childhood, because in many respects my tastes have not changed much - but even by his own recent standards, Terence Stamp was really 'phoning it in.

As it starts to feel properly autumnal, it's good to have seasonal events as a bulwark against the cold and the dark. Last night was a delayed Hallowe'en ghost walk, and even though I thought I knew the Covent Garden area very well, it's honeycombed with so many alleys I must have passed unwittingly. Half of them have a haunting, and half of those are William Terriss, the spectral version of those celebrity slags who'll turn up for the opening of a crisp packet. And on Friday, [ profile] darkmarcpi once again hosted a fireworks viewing from his tower, London laid out before us with its competing displays like a happier, sparklier version of Beirut - even if the gas main that was up around the corner was too much of a spoilsport to do its festival bit and join in.

Whenever I've listened to Mitch Benn's 'Proud of the BBC', I've been watching the video, and it's been a heartfelt anthem, a rallying cry. Until Saturday, when I was walking through the dark and heard it for the first time on my headphones. And there, in isolation, it had me on the edge of tears. Especially when my MP3 player's alphabetical play followed it up with Morrissey, and specifically 'Interesting Drug' - "There are some bad people on the rise..." And indeed there are. I worry for the BBC. Hell, I worry for all of us. I was on route to Dalston's Victoria, a local pub full of old black dudes playing dominoes, who seemed bemused rather than upset by the arrival of Bevan 17, their fans and various other bands for a gig in the back room. Odd place, but I like it. Then over to the Lexington for a birthday downstairs, which was the most crowded I've ever seen it, plus occasional visits to Glam Racket upstairs, where the innards of eviscerated Kermits were emulating snowdrifts. The next day was backing vocals for [ profile] augstone at [ profile] keith_totp's studio, before which Aug got mistaken for a homeless by one of the cast of Doctors, whom the young ladies were accosting even though he was stood right by the unmolested Victor Lewis-Smith. Young people today. As for the recording itself...well, Bolan recorded there, and Bowie made Scary Monsters, but really it was all just preparation for Sunday. Links will doubtless follow once the beast is unleashed.
alexsarll: (bernard)
A few weeks back I wrote about a Ray Bradbury story I read which made me feel terribly sad that in the intervening years we haven't made more progress into space. Bradbury himself just restated much the same thoughts, which is nice - but then, by a freakish transformation which would not be out of place in his own books, turned into a silly old fool. "We have too many cellphones. We've got too many Internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now." Oh dear.

I've been listening a lot lately to the Spoiler Alert! EP, the work of masked musicians who quite coincidentally resemble Eddie Argos and Keith TOTP. Now, as a rule I don't like songs which simply restate the plot of a book or film, because it tends to feel clodhoppingly Literary and a bit sixth form (hence 'The Seventh Seal' being a major reason why I think Scott 4 is the worst Scott Walker solo album called Scott). But possibly because of the sheer lunacy of this project - trying to fit decades of convoluted, multiple-writer backstory into one pop song, Spoiler Alert! works. In particular, the song about Booster Gold brings out an aspect of the comic which I'd never really considered - the extra layer of secret identity implicit in a hero who has to carry on acting like a berk around other heroes, while covertly saving all of space and time behind the scenes. And, it's a lovely song. Whether it will have any appeal whatsoever to the distressingly large proportion of people with no idea who Booster Gold is, I could not say.

Otherwise: I've seen the artist formerly known as [ profile] verlaine, back from the frozen North for a quick visit; I've been up Primrose Hill for the first time this year, which proceeded to do a fairly good impression of said frozen North; and I've finally seen the British Library's maps exhibition, which is gorgeous but has the problem of all themed or single-artist exhibitions - after three or four rooms of beautiful, enormous old maps, whatever wonders are in the next room can't help but feel, quite unjustly, like more of the same.
alexsarll: (seal)
More than the usual weekend dose of Doctor Who; on Friday, after catching my first seven elephants (including James Bond elephant!) and a brief stop at Poptimism, I was one of the five Doctors at Are Friends Eclectic?. The eighth, obviously, because his TV career may not have been great but his outfit was the best. There may have been certain breaches of the First Law of Time and the Blinovitch Limitation Effect. AFE is great.
And then on Saturday, 'Vampires of Venice'. For some reason I hadn't got that excited in advance of this episode, in spite of having already seen the library card business. And there was plenty more to love, mainly in the interplay between the Doctor, Amy and Rory - the bouncing up and down with excitement, "let's not go there", hushing, combat deployment of Your Mum gags. But ultimately, it dragged a bit, resolution by Adam West-style climbing was anticlimactic, and how did it make any sense at all that a species change should be easier than a sex change? Not a disaster by any means, but a flawed mid-season entertainment. It's weird how even with Moffat in charge, Who is never consistently perfect. Perversely, I think it's somehow right that way.

Saturday: another Keith TOTP/Indelicates show. I've run out of things to say about these except that I swear 'I Hate Your Band' and 'Savages' get even better every time. Some Thee Faction-style intra-band ideological controversy when Simon said "our drummer's had to go to emergency homosexual rehabilitation camp"; this surprised me if only because Julia let him get away with "she said 'snatch'!" again. There was another band in between whose set seemed to last about 26 years, of which the first song was OK. They tried to flog us vinyl afterwards and I could quite legitimately reply "I don't buy records from people who diss Tesla". This on a night when I'd already discussed unicycles with the Vessel. I love my life. Would have hung around to give Black Daniel another chance, but my presence was required for dancing to pop at Don't Stop Moving. Mmmm, pop.

Strolled over to Hampstead yesterday for a combined birthday/engagement/welcome back to Britain drinks. Saw two puzzling things en route. One was a life-sized model camel which I somehow missed last time I went to ALE MEAT CIDER, even though it's just down the road. The other was a street sign where the legitimate N7 had been crossed out and graffiti added: 'N19! w@nkers'. I've heard about these youth gangs going by postcode affiliation, but they seem not really to have grasped how the system works. Terribly sad. Though as a Shield/Sons of Anarchy fan, I have to wonder whether these N19 loyalists call themselves One-Niners.
alexsarll: (bernard)
The bubbling 'SPRING BREAK!' excitement of Maundy Thursday collapsed somewhere between rain and general inertia, leaving me with a QNI instead, so on Good Friday I was rather making up for lost time. This was error. A while back I learned an important lesson: never try to do three drinking events in a single day. On Friday, some cocktail of consolation, 'Tesla Girls' and seat of the pants theology saw me forget that lesson. It won't happen again - or at least, not for another few years. Good to hear Herman Dune in a pub, though.

On Saturday...well, I've already posted about Saturday's main business. But then I headed out for a quiet pint in the Ewok Village while we had it all to ourselves (always the best way for a pub (garden) to be), then on to the Mucky Pup. Which was full of people I didn't recognise even a little, something I'm not used to in North London. All of them split into very distinct little tribes, too, in spite of how small the pub was - lots of rockabilly girls with tats at one table, and stereotypical lesbians at the next, and one man with a lightning flash shaved into the back of his head, and one man who had the angriest face in the world but wasn't angry at all. The only problem, aside from my fragility after the night before, was that the Mucky Pup doesn't have a dancefloor, and when they're playing loud and dirty stuff like the Cramps, that's not really ideal for sitting and chatting. Cue for an early night.

PopArt's Cure special on Sunday kicked off with Girls On Film, who were very loud and did a good 'Cut Here', then Typewriter, with 'A Forest' and some great Barney Sumner stage presence from Matt. Then two bands I didn't know, so the Hell with them, time to sit outside. Keith TOTP had his own inimitable take on gothing up, drawing 'My Cold Black Heart' on one side of his shirt and writing 'I Never Asked To Be Born, Mother' on the other. Ace. He joined in with Mr Solo for a set whose lack of Cure cover can be forgiven on grounds of general awesomeness, but before them it was the White Witches punking their way through 'Killing An Arab' - a song even the Cure have now apparently retitled in case people miss the point. Jessies.

Monday brings the Greenford Tubewalk. Greenford still has a wooden escalator at the station - but only going up. Opposite the station is an estate agent's called Brian Cox & Company. And our walk begins through a park called Paradise Fields. What wonderland is this? Well, no. Within Paradise Fields the map indicates an area called The Depression, which is more like it, though at least the empty 12-packs of Durex around its margin indicate that the local people are taking steps to cheer themselves up. At our destination, Northolt, we pass a Harvester just before the station. Fortunately, from the station we can just make out another pub sign in the distance. Has to be worth a try, because how can it be worse than the Harvester? Here's how: it has burned down, and only the sign remains.

Yesterday I went to Hampton Court Palace. What's the first thing that springs to mind about Hampton Court Palace? It's the maze, isn't it? Well, the maze is rubbish. I expected something out of Terry Gilliam - or at least The Goblet of Fire. But you can see through the hedges! They're barely higher than my head! The overall area of the maze is probably smaller than that of the Monarch!
Fortunately, the rest of the place is brilliant. Swans getting confused by fences! More tapestries than I think I've seen in my life to date! The largest vine in the world! A palace in two styles which don't go together at all yet somehow work! Just like Brian Cox (not the estate agent) was saying on the last Wonders about how Earth has complex life because it's been stable enough for long enough, so with Britain - it's our knack for muddling along which leaves us with palaces like this whereas in more volatile lands like France they end up with constructions which are grand, unified and slightly dull.
alexsarll: (bill)
Saw two of my favourite bands over the past few days - also, incidentally, the two bands I think of whenever some fool asks why young bands aren't addressing the issues of the day. Any time you see such a diatribe, remember the options: the writer is unaware of The Vichy Government or The Indelicates, and hence too ignorant for anything he says to be worth attention; or else the writer could not understand their lyrics, or did not consider them sufficiently political because they made no mention of 'Tony B Liar more like', in which case he is too stupid for anything he says to be worth attention. Both bands are confident enough that their sets were pretty much stripped of the old favourites, and both are creative enough that it barely registered because the new stuff is at least as good. Where matters diverged was in the support. The Indelicates had England's finest chanson man, Philip Jeays, solo and even better that way, wowing an incongruously young section of the audience; a particularly melodic and vaguely Springsteen incarnation of Keith TOTP & his etcetera; and the increasingly lovely Lily Rae. Vichy, on the other hand, were lumbered with one Joyride. Given they caused only sorrow, and stayed in one place (the stage) when we really wished they'd depart, I wondered whether this name might be cause for a Trade Descriptions case, but apparently not. Ripping off The Fall and the Mary Chain as ineptly as I've ever seen, and that's saying something, they managed to be thoroughly rubbish in spite of having one member in a Girls Aloud t-shirt and a song with the chorus "I'm the Bishop of Southwark, it's what I do".

Just finished Max Adams' The Firebringers - At, science and the struggle for liberty in nineteenth-century Britain, which is a frustrating bloody book. The main problem I had was no fault of Adams' - he overlaps quite a bit with Richard Holmes' Age of Wonder, which I'd not long read. But the comparison does show how Holmes' 'relay race' structure serves him brilliantly, while Adams lacks restraint and tries to tell too many stories at once, breeding confusion and occasional repetition. I was mainly reading the book in so far as I wanted to know more about John Martin, the painter who "single-handedly invented, mastered and exhausted an entire genre of painting, the apocalyptic sublime". I've loved his work ever since I saw his final great trilogy, Judgment, in what is now Tate Britain - it hangs there still, though very badly situated. He was big news in his time, though critical opinion was not kind then and is even less so now; as far as I'm concerned he still sits only a very little behind his friend and contemporary Turner as one of the best painters, never mind British painters, ever. Adams, on the other hand, likes him more than the critics but less than the Regency public. Then, for whatever reason, he has attempted to make this a group biography - perhaps because he was told they sell better now, on which more later. So we also get the other Martin brothers: Richard the soldier (his autobiography is alas lost, so he mainly appears in 'mights'); Jonathan (yes, confusing, but in an age of high child mortality it happened a lot) the religious maniac who set York Minster ablaze; and William, who started as inventor and ended another lunatic, riding around on a self-designed velocipede with a brass-bound tortoiseshell as a helmet, selling pamphlets about how he'd been swindled, a few of the stories true but most sheer paranoia.
Except the Martin brothers are still not enough, so they become a spine for 'the Prometheans', an undeclared, unrealised movement united in their desire to free mankind. Their membership includes Shelley, Godwin, the Brunels, various politicians...or does it? Because Adams' definitin of Promethean ideals seems more Procrustean; obviously most of his posthumous conscripts don't quite fit it, for which they are ticked off. Shelley was too extreme in his declarations, hence unpublishable and useless - but the Reform Bills were too timid and compromised. There is still good stuff to be salvaged from among this historical kangaroo court, but it's a trial.
And then, of course, the publishers clearly told Adams that The Prometheans wouldn't sell, so the title had to be dumbed down to The Firebringers. It's a bit of a mess, but not an uninteresting one.
alexsarll: (seal)
Watching a passable Nabokov travelogue/documentary yesterday, mention was made of the (twice) near-burning of Lolita at the back of Vladimir's house on Seneca Street. And that Wire book I'm reading had made mention of how hard a time David Simon had convincing HBO to make the show, and even then, its survival beyond the third season was by no means certain. And I started thinking, that's what I'd do with a gate between alternate worlds. Not save or conquer parallels that had gone awry, just take people through the stuff that never got made, or never survived. There's plenty we're missing, too - the full runs of Aztek and Big Numbers, more than half of The Canterbury Tales. It would be a productive cultural exchange, and you could make a fortune in the process. Win/win.
(Of course, there'd be a 'Library of Babel' problem where once you started looking you'd find an infinite number of slightly different versions of each lost classic - and indeed, of each extant one. And you'd go mad trying to find the best of them all. This is my problem, even in my daydreams I'm overwhelmed by the endless ramifications of everything)

Saturday night: finally a purpose to the existence of The X Factor manifests, as it delays the start of Soul Mole, meaning I can after all go see the Indelicates. Briefly I wonder whether this is such a good idea - they were so very perfect the last couple of times I saw them, surely this can only disappoint? See parenthesis above; I think too hard sometimes. They are bassless, and have a questionable backing track for 'Savages', so in that sense they are imperfect. But, somehow it still works, feels different not worse. When you're operating within the field of greatness, there's a lot of variation possible without diminution. Support is Keith TOTP, who is very loud and covers 'Lonely This Christmas' while wearing a black Santa hat emblazoned with 'Bah Humbug'. Good stuff.
Then on to Soul Mole for the usual dance-'til-feet-hurt-then-keep-dancing fun. I think it may now be the club I've been attending longest? If so, it richly deserves that.
On my Sunday trip to [ profile] beingjdc's annual festive bash, the first bendy bus has a bit of a spasm and the back doors won't shut. The driver tries to fix the bus by...turning it off and on again. It doesn't work. Their end cannot come too soon. The two I got yesterday behaved rather better, admittedly, as I made a late visit to the bafflingly-redesigned 12 Bar to see that rare beast, a Soft Close-Ups show. The promised elephants are absent, but as well as their own songs (and while 'Ditch The Theory' remains my favourite, 'Fireworks' is rapidly closing on it) we get a rather beautiful cover of 'Life on the Crescent'. As a Devant song, I know a lot of people love it, but I never quite felt it fit the band. Here, it belongs.
alexsarll: (menswear)
'The Solitary Life of Cranes' is a lovely, strange little programme; the men who operate those towering cranes one sees dotted about explaining their experiences and perspective, over beautiful footage of London from a vantage point most of us will never share - high enough to be silent and detached, but low enough to recognise individual people. They come across quite like Wim Wenders' take on angels.

Two launch parties for [ profile] augstone products this week; the H Bird single release and the Oxford Dons premiere. The former was fairly subdued; the latter, I think it is fair to say, got a bit out of hand, culminating in a spontaneous performance by Keith TOTP & His Minor 18 Carat All Star Backing Close-Ups (Featuring [ profile] exliontamer), or something like that, which I'm hoping hasn't got us all barred from the N19 because I'm doing my birthday there this year. The show/film/artefact itself is hilarious, and coming soon to an internet near you. And I'm only an extra in this one.
In between launches, went to the Serpentine Gallery for the first time. Which is silly, but I hadn't realised a) it's free and b) one of the attendants is a friend. Small for a London gallery, but it has the advantage of being set in a ruddy great park, albeit one where the squirrels are no respecters of personal space. The current show, Design Real, is simply well-designed items laid out like artworks, and labelled only with a generic - SHOES, KNIFE, ARMOUR. If you want more, you can check the website - or go the central room, where there are Kindles with the same information. And never having used a Kindle before, I did find them very intuitive and pleasant to use, but they're considerably less portable than a paperback so I don't think text's iPod moment has come quite yet. After that, [ profile] xandratheblue took me for veggie fish and chips, a matter on which I must respectfully disagree with both her and [ profile] hoshuteki. I think the problem is, they both eat fish and expected something along similar lines. Whereas if someone presents me with chunks of deep-fried halloumi, I don't really mind what they call it, I just murmur 'cheeeeeeese' and adopt a blissed-out expression. Cheeeeeeeeese.

Philip Jeays' Christmas shows on the Barge have often tended towards the drunken (not least the time we took a trip to the beach afterwards), but last night still felt unusually tinged with chaos. The first sign was when, after the usual pleasant-but-would-work-better-in-the-background set from Peacock, the annual Speech Painter ordeal began. Except - he had a new poem. A reworking of Phil's 'Geoff', the song in which Phil talks about wanting to kill Geoff for his house, and shagging his wife. The reworking is called 'Phil', and you can imagine the general tone. The natural order is overturned! The Speech Painter is fighting back, and stranger, getting laughs!
From then on, everything feels slightly rackety. The boat is shaking more than usual. The new song with which Phil opens has the chorus "They're all whores!" (repeat x 3). I'm the first person whose number comes up (well, except the berk who requested 'Idiots In Uniform', but they clearly don't count) and when I ask on a sudden whim for 'London' instead of 'The Raj', there's confusion as to which version I mean. Lots of people are claiming tickets they don't have - including, in a moment of Epic Fail, the one Jeays took himself. Busted. One request is actually refused, which I don't think I've ever seen before. One table have to be reprimanded for talking.
And yet, amongst it all, the songs. There are some strange choices made, but also some of the best - 'Here I Am', 'Midnight in Trieste', 'Perry County'. In a world which has embraced Richard Hawley, there really should be broadsheet features for Philip Jeays too.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Gerald Butler as Captain Britain? I've only knowingly seen him in 300, based on which I can see that working. THIS! IS! BRITAIN!

Not sure why I've not updated for a week; I think perhaps I've either been too busy or too tired. What occurred? Another fine Keith TOTP show, this one at the Flowerpot (formerly the Bullet, which I visited once, and before that the Verge which I visited I don't know how many times). Then Panda Day; the story of panda day is here except that does not mention how Miyazaki's fundamental mistake in this early work was making Josef Fritzl the cute lead in his film. After that, went to send [ profile] fugitivemotel off, again, the night this time ending with whisky and headshots. On Friday I sobered up around 2pm and went to pick up my comics backlog, and I enjoyed them all well enough but still find myself glad I don't have a comics blog because I have nothing of any consequence to say about any of them. Then along Oxford Street for the first time in months, and isn't it a dismal shambles these days? Like a closing down sale for a nation. Whereas Crouch End was in particularly fecund and Lovecraftian form, such that muttering invocations to Shub-Niggurath seemed only right and proper.
And then the weekend, with birthday picnics and croquet - or, in other words, excuses to start drinking mid-afternoon and carry on 'til well past dark, even if your croquet skills are as lamentable as mine. Primrose Hill is particularly lovely at and after nightfall, not sure why I've never done that before.

Watching Gonzo is interesting in that for every Hunter S Thompson myth it reinforces, it reminds you of a place where the story is wrong. Like, the whole run for Sheriff in Aspen was doomed, not because he was such a rebel candidate, but simply because he wasn't a very good public speaker before '72 - awkward, mumbling, lack of eye contact. All traits which he worked around once he 'became a cartoon', and for all that he felt trapped by that, for all that he seems to have killed himself partly because he was 'getting in the way of the myth' - what else could he have done? His first wife tearfully says that his suicide wasn't brave, that it was cowardly in "a time when a together Hunter Thompson could make a difference in this country". But surely the lesson of his work on the 1972 campaign is that, at a previous time when the country needed him, he was together and he did his best - and he achieved nothing. Well, nothing except giving us a wonderful record of one man's despair and bafflement, but can we expect anyone to keep doing that when it's clearly such painful work?
alexsarll: (manny)
Up to Kilburn for the first Vichy Government show since the US election. New songs abound, a particular highlight being the typically cheerful 'Siberia' - it may be their take on politics and society which first slaps you in the face with Vichy, but sometimes I think it's the ones which apply the same despair in the personal sphere which I love most. Andrew, ever encouraging, identifies it as 'Winter Forever Part 2'. This isn't entirely unfair, but nor is it any bad thing.
Beforehand, having spent a while reading in Kilburn's oddly congenial little park, I meet the troops at the Black Lion, which soon gets bonus points for giving us free samples of a new Smirnoff vodka - also what I initially take for shots in tubes, a bit like those Eerie Pub cocktails. Fortunately, before I can drink any I am informed that they are actually glowsticks. Everyone else has already gone the bracelet route, so I make mine into a glowing collar like I've been enlisted in the Nu-Rave Penal Battalion. I am already wearing my MAGNETO WAS RIGHT t-shirt* and red Converse; Johnny helpfully informs me that I "look like even more of a dick than usual".
On Saturday, the meet-up is held at the Highbury Corner Wetherspoon's, who have introduced something new and strange: alcoholic ginger beer. It is yummy and, if not quite Ginger And Free as would be appropriate pre-David Devant, it is at a promotional price. I approve. Wetherspoon's may have its flaws, but compared to meeting at the dismal Famous Cock it's the bloody Ritz. I do briefly set foot in the Cock later, to tell Aug not to have a swift pint because Devant are on in five. He suggests halves instead, I acquiesce. Except they don't have any Strongbow. For once, because I have no reason to remain in this shambles any longer, I am in a perfect position to do as I always wish in this circumstance - shout "Well why isn't there an upturned glass on the pump, then? Fvck's sake, it's not exactly complicated!", and exit.
Keith TOTP is on first, and as ever his UK Minor Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band has something new to offer. A sober member! A bassoon (an instrument I have always loved on account of its looking like a rocket launcher)! And a version of Devant's 'One Thing After Another' which really shouldn't have worked but was in fact astonishing.
Then Dream Themes, who cover TV themes, rather well. Although hearing a version of The A-Team theme in a club does give me major Spaced flashbacks.
Finally, David Devant, who I think I've seen live more than any other band, but who even when they're just playing the classics, thrill me every time. Lovely.

Yesterday I saw a butterfly die. It fluttered down on to a leaf, and as I moved over to take a closer look (I'd not seen one sat still in a while), it folded both wings over to one side. I blew, to wake it up, and instead it just fell off the leaf and lay still. I felt guilty about disturbing its final rest, so I feel the least I can do in recompense is memorialise it here.

Any song called 'Tesla's Future War' needs to be a great deal better than the extant example of the form.

*Selected for the Vichy show because it's probably the most confrontational garmen I own, though I always tend to forget that on this parallel it's not really all that controversial, because here Magneto is a fictional character. As I am walking to the station, musing on this, a guy comes the other way with the exact same problem: he's wearing the logo of the Sinestro Corps. We do our best not to acknowledge each other.
alexsarll: (crest)
A moment of unexpected beauty: walking to the dole office, hardly the highlight of my week, I find myself striding through a rain of blossom just as, on my earphones, the Indelicates' 'Unity Mitford' peaks. I've just found a lovely map of fairy places, but can't help but feel it has slightly missed the point when enchantment lurks around every corner if you get the moment right. And so often this week, the moment has been right - spring just starting to feel confident that it's here to stay, the grass going mad to get as close to the sun as quickly as possible, everything alive. Everything possible.

Gigging galore over the past week; last night was the first full Soft Close-Ups show, in the Vibe Bar. Does Brick Lane have more curry houses or complete tossers? It's a close-run thing. The Vibe Bar seems to acquire new rooms every time I visit, and now has an atrium, a giant eagle, a postbox and what looks like a hotel. The set was hampered by the poor sound quality one comes to expect at multimedia art happening experiences, but otherwise wonderful, and I'm not just saying that because [ profile] augstone took my advice after the last show about resurrecting the axe god moves, pedals and feather boa. Or feather boar, as I just typed.
On Tuesday at the less up-own-jacksie Lexington, Jonny Cola & the A-Grades and Glam Chops, both as stylish and pop as ever, the latter with a new jumpsuit for Eddie, whose new Art Brut album came out the day before but who was still here playing small shows with two of his side-projects. The other being Keith Top Of The Pops And His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band, a poorly-recorded version of whose excellent show you can see here. I can't decide whether the highlight was 'I Hate Your Band', with [ profile] thedavidx and James Rocks playing each other's guitars while Keith sings "you could swap members, you could swap songs", or Fvck The MSP, with its rousing final chant of "Nicky Wire can suck my cock", something I hesitate to mention on the internet lest someone write the slash fic where Nicky Wire does exactly that to all 16 members of the band, including the girls.

Listening to the new Decemberists album, I wonder, as I did with the last two, why the same band who can sound so genuinely...unearthly is the wrong word, because I think of our Earth's past, or at least our Earth's past as it should have been, so say 'out of time'...on most of the songs, manage to sound so like a pedestrian indie outfit on the rest. The one which appears to have escaped from a poor PJ Harvey album in particular. Still, all considerably better than the new Bat For Lashes, which I don't even know why I bothered stealing - it doesn't even have one delightfully eerie single like the first album, it's just boil-in-the-bag kookiness for dull people.

January 2016



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