'huge, queer and tawdry' but 'much admired by the public'|
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|Friday, January 1st, 2016|
|Albums of the Year - 2015
I'm nowhere near as finger-on-the-pulse as I was (but then who is?); more even than not knowing about the cool new thing, it's a matter of simply not getting it when I do hear it. The more music you've heard, the more the new music sounds like the old, and you begin to understand how Mojo
readers happen. Still, there are enough exceptions to prevent one altogether becoming one's uncles.10. Bad Love - Summer Camp
Sheer froth, like John Hughes minus the tension or Wet Hot American Summer
minus the snark. But when the world appears to be setting up a multiple apocalypse sweepstakes, sometimes you need a vision of an endless summer where the biggest threat is Bobbi inviting the wrong boy to the prom.9. The Race for Space - Public Service Broadcasting
It doesn't quite tug my heartstrings like the utter Britishness of their debut, but setting the brief moment of interplanetary possibility (see #1) to danceable backings (which would be awesome if there remained anywhere to dance) was always going to get me on side.8. Beat The Champ - The Mountain Goats
For me, their best album since Heretic Pride
- what's come between I liked rather than loving. The theme this time is wrestling, which I've always said would be the sport I got into if I ever got into a sport.7. At Least For Now - Benjamin Clementine
Austere yet playful, majestic yet intimate, incredibly strange yet somehow able to win the Mercury. Reminiscent, in fact, of the last Mercury winner I recall placing on one of these - I Am A Bird Now
, ten years ago. Antony, incidentally, is now going by Anohni, and made a late claim on my song of the year with the haunting, despairing, borderline evil '4 Degrees'
.6. The Most Important Place In The World - Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat
The former Arab Strap 'singer' continues to age disgracefully; the best tracks here are founded precisely in the awareness that behaviour which was heroic a decade or two ago just makes you look like an arse in middle age. And yet, it keeps happening. Room for a couple of suitably bleak state-of-the-nation tracks, too.5. Rose of the Lanes - Cleaners from Venus
I wrote a whole press release about this one, of which the only thing I can remember is "the poet laureate of late summer afternoons". Wonderfully wistful, cantankerous, Dickensian in the good ways rather than the George Osborne sense.4. Art Angels - Grimes
I'm still catching up with Grimes, at once enticed and delayed by the sheer strangeness of her music - like Björk reborn on a half-shell from the foam of the Internet. If only all her generation were like this, the world would be saved. Or possibly even more doomed, but it'd sound amazing either way.3. To Us, The Beautiful! - Franz Nicolay
"To us, the beautiful - and to those who disagree, may their eyes fall out!" Which somehow wouldn't have sounded half so powerful if he were beautiful by any conventional standard. Defiant songs of love, loss and partying by the former Hold Steady collaborator who - in the continued absence of Jason Webley - is surely our finest accordion troubadour. 2. FFS
The union of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks sounded great on paper, but could have easily been a mere novelty on record - or even abandoned altogether, as when FF worked with Xenomania. And yet, from the opening of 'Johnny Delusional' ('inchoate yearning' is one of my favourite musical registers), this lived up to the promise.1. Elevator Music - The Indelicates
Look, I'm sure there was one year they put an album out and it didn't top my list. But it wasn't this slow a year, and their album wasn't about one of my especial hobby-horses - humanity's shameful, feeble abandonment of the stars. This one is. Heartbreaking. Also, a concept album. Which despite what a few moany punks may still claim, is generally the very best sort of album. Current Mood: blank
|Tuesday, September 29th, 2015|
So it looks like entries every other month is now standard. I still have notes in amongst the films and bands about kicking the leaves around, and here we are almost at that point again (though for now it's still altogether too hot for my liking, with the prospect of donning the big coat nowhere near appealing). And I wish I had been better about writing stuff up, because there are names in those notes of bands I know I liked, but about whom I remember nothing - like Tomorrow We Sail. I'm sure they have a page somewhere which would remind me, but that's not the same as a record of how the show felt. At least with Pete Astor I had the sense to offer myself some reminder - "more like Nick Drake than most Nick Drake wannabes; timeless but raw". It's not much, but it's a snapshot, which is the most any diary can be. Him I saw supporting John Moore at a rather undersubscribed evening; subsequently, Moore's novel would be the first project I've tried crowdfunding which did not meet its target, is not (at least in that manner) coming to pass. If a cult act are too popular, get T-shirts in Top Shop, their cultishness comes to seem rather a joke; if they can't even draw a decent crowd to the Lexington, not even with balloon tricks and an impromptu Black Box Recorder reunion, that may be going too far the other way.
(The journey home that evening was one of the times I've had strangers get a bit overfamiliar on account of the beard. I wouldn't mind so much if they weren't always straight men with lesser beards wanting some kind of symbolic contact)
Who else? Sarah Cracknell's new band. Martin Carr's new songs. Martin Newell. You'll notice a theme here; new but not new. Every so often I read a piece about some hot new act who aren't an act I already liked reconfigured, and unlike its kin it doesn't instantly bore me, and I give whoever it is a listen. And at best I think...yeah, that's OK. Last night it was Julia Holter. Magical stuff, I'd been told. But what I heard was perfectly pleasant background music.
That all sounds terribly jaded, doesn't it? But even beyond all those old favourites that still do it for me music-wise, London retains its infinite supply of everything else. A little depleted by the bastards and the oligarchs, perhaps, but not half so much as the dismal opinion pieces might suggest. You can still hear Arthur Machen's 'N' being read in Abney Park, happen upon accidentally private rooms in pubs that haven't been gentrified and gastroed to death, attend celebrations of life's odd contents which have speeches about anything from lifts (Boring) to exorcisms (Nine Worlds). The galleries have Gothic gems and surprise chunks of Grayson Perry. I think the decider for me, at the point where too much stuff was closing down and too many people calling it quits, was rediscovering Bingo Master's Breakout, London's premiere bingo, poetry and karaoke night, where every month a band plays a karaoke set of themselves, and the poets have to sing and the singers have to read poems, and the landlord has a real thing for Half Man Half Biscuit, and someone wins a Werner Herzog film. It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way. Current Mood: unedited
|Sunday, May 3rd, 2015|
|Glimmers of optimism
Found another little basement venue lurking unsuspected last night. Same as Date With The Night at the Albany, or G I R L S at the Star of Kings (the former Cross Kings, now mercifully rid of its rapey murals), it's good to know they're still out there, more numerous than we could ever suspect, hiding in the cracks, resisting. And when the current London plague passes, like the wars and fires and moral outcries before it, they'll breed again. I just hope it's soon enough for us all to get the benefit. Meanwhile, I've been at places like the Windmill more; lurking far enough outside Brixton proper, one hopes Roofdog will keep it safe from the developers, though of course you can never be sure. It seems to run much more smoothly now than it did, which enables the acts to be the chaotic ones, whether that's Franz Nicolay coming across like Jason Webley's more disreputable cousin, or Her Parents doing a 'Virginia Plain' cover which should be sacrilegious yet somehow mostly comes off. And already some of the slain are rising again, though having seen what the horribly tinny sound at the new '12 Bar' did to poor bloody Dom Green's Mystery Machine, it remains open to question how advisable such zombie establishments might be.
Went to the National Gallery this week for the new Tom Stoppard, The Hard Problem
. The play was fine, if not one of his best, but the cast were mostly poor, all dodgy accents and hectoring, declamatory delivery. How does that happen? How does one of the country's most prestigious venues, our best playwright, not get you at least decent if not astonishing actors? Especially when you consider how many people are doing better for the love of it. Princess Ida
in Greenwich a month or two back; not quite on a par with the last Gilbert & Sullivan I did there, comically inept scenery changes, but overall an essentially hobbyist cast did better work than the NT's mob. Cosmic Trigger
, the bonkers epic play/experience/ritual based elliptically on the life of Robert Anton Wilson, which I saw at a weird establishment in Wandsworth last year and whose cast were at most semi-pro: astonishing. And yet you can put in much more money for far inferior results. I know that's always the way, across so many media, but somehow in the theatre one expects at least a little more Darwinism. Current Mood: accomplished
|Monday, March 23rd, 2015|
|For the sake of ending the hiatus: some rushed thoughts on films
Bloody Hell, didn't post at all in February and now March is almost done. Clear up some of the notes, at least; I've got a list of films stretching back to Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever
, and being a civilised human being, I only watch Christmas films in December.
(I watched it mainly because Aubrey Plaza voices Grumpy Cat, which is a bit of a disconnect given how much I fancy Aubrey Plaza, but in the increasingly crowded ranks of 'films which know they are terrible and run with that', it's a lot more entertaining than the ones with shoddily-realised sharks)
Christmas itself generally seems to be a bit short of Christmas films (maybe it's different in the States, but over here the idea that It's a Wonderful Life
is always showing is pure falsehood). And it's not because they don't show oldies; I think last year was the first time I'd ever seen Singin' in the Rain
in full, and what a delight it was. But mainly it's the recent-ish family fare; Avengers
again (still awesome), The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists
(much more successful on screen than I'd expected, the verbal games of Defoe's books replaced with equally inventive sight-gags and some excellent plasticine acting.
Beyond that: a higher proportion of horror than usual; maybe it's all those dark nights. Been meaning to see Robert Wise's The Haunting
since reading Jeremy Dyson's survey of the supernatural horror film, and it's almost as disorienting as he suggests, all without much in the way of special effects. Whereas the original Thing from Another World
just feels like bad sixties Doctor Who, all base-under-siege and central casting characters without the spark provided by a puckish interloper. The Mist
gets off to a good start by casting Thomas Jane and Andre Braugher, then running a fairly faithful adaptation of a Stephen King story that, for once, is about the right length to become a film (seriously, a novel needs to be a miniseries at least; a film is a novella at the absolute most). Faithful, of course, except for the ending, which Frank Darabont made even darker, the bastard. The Babadook
is not quite the genre-redefining classic some of the initial press suggested, but still an efficient little frightener. And you could probably call Only Lovers Left Alive
horror, but that's not because its fabulous, ethereal lead couple are vampires; it's because those poor luminous creatures have to share the world with moronic, destructive 'zombies', also known as the human race.
Ralph Fiennes' Balkan Coriolanus
is a good attempt at dealing with one of the Shakespeares on which it's probably hardest to sell a modern audience, but it's all so dour and tensely homoerotic that I was almost hoping the ludicrous chatterbox Nahum Tate added in his clusterfuck reworking of the play would bustle in to lighten it up. That said, Baby Doll
leavens the usual Tennessee Williams psychosexual tension with an unusually heaped dollop of farce, and only ends up a bit of a mess, and we all know what an ungainly beast the end of Peter Jackson's Hobbit
sprawl became, so maybe clarity of tone can be respected even when it gets a bit one-note. Inherent Vice
was for me a very powerful movie precisely because it contained such multitudes - Lebowski
-style stoner noir pastice mixed with genuine high stakes and a sense of an era slipping away - but when it apparently caused mass walkouts among audiences who want a film to be either one thing or another, who regard art and ambiguity as a bug rather than a feature, you can see why directors stick to pigeonholes.
Not fitting into any of those vague groupings: Ruling Class
. Peter O'Toole is always watchable, and he makes for an incredibly hot Jack the Ripper, but I could really have done without the songs. Current Mood: tired
|Monday, January 26th, 2015|
|What I Did On My Holidays
Just over a week now since I got back from Prague; the now-traditional late anniversary trip which has taken us ever further afield, first Margate, then Bruges, and this year Mitteleuropa. The first time I've flown in getting on for a decade, too, and I still can't abide the ridiculous mixture of security theatre and profiteering which we still have to go through on account of one half-arsed terror scheme all those years ago.
In Berlin, which even more than Paris seems to have made too many concessions to the automobile, we almost wholly failed even to skirt the fringes of the city's famous nightlife. True, it can't have helped that we were there on weeknights in January, but mostly we tired ourselves out sufficiently doing the hits (museums, Wall fragments, the Brandenburg Gate) that evenings in with Lidl fizz were a welcome wind-down. The exception being the black light crazy golf, which was a truly consciousness-expanding experience (not something one often hears said of golf), even given we left the cocktails until after. And then, a train along the Elbe, all castles and crags. Well, I say that; first there were interminable plains which made East Anglia look fascinating, but I try to forget those. But then the romantic riverside, and then Prague itself, one of the very few cities which to me is a thing in itself rather than a monoculture ultimately traceable to a cutting from one London district. This was my third visit, and I hope it won't be my last, for each time there are new riches, or at least new riches to me - the Cubist cafe, the old Jewish cemetery and the Municipal Hall have all been standing since long before my first time there, way back in the nineties. There's a lot more English spoken now, which I put down to the stag parties and the Internet; also a lot more Thai massage places, which I'm pretty sure will just be the stag parties. But it's still Prague, still cheap by any standards other than the past's, still enchanted. And long may it remain so.
Since I returned, I've managed to be busy without being particularly social, in part because I was already booked elsewhere on the night of the month's big people-I-know-gig. Still, worth missing the odd show to see Daniel Kitson, who remains, well, Kitson - more comedic this time than sometimes, more play than storyteller, but still a law unto himself. Ditto Birdman
, a film I like despite it being up for awards from the Academy, whose general cluelessness is finally beginning to become more widely apparent now they've snubbed The Lego Movie
(I'm not saying they're the world figures most in need of hanging from lamp-posts, but I would like to see them on that list). Even at the Union Chapel, for my first Daylight Music of the season, I managed to miss many of the people I knew on account of it being unusually full of people I didn't. Who could have known that the mainstream draw they needed was Amelia Fletcher singing about chickens, Sarah Cracknell's new sixties-style side-project, and Darren Hayman doing William Morris?
There's still a ton of other stuff I should write up - most of Autumn and Winter is jotted in drafts somewhere - but let's post this now, at a sensible length, rather than strive eternally for something compressed and complete. Current Mood: nostalgic
|Wednesday, January 7th, 2015|
|Albums of the Year: 2014
Yeah, it's late. But not by much, and just when I was starting to pull it together I saw a brilliant piece by Ian Watson about the perils of doing an Albums of the Year list before the year is done
. And after today, I'm quite glad to have a chance to look back to 2014, which often seemed like a pig of a year at the time, but now comes across as almost innocent.20. Margaret - Jason Webley and Friends
A scrapbook found in a skip inspires a collaborative album celebrating the life of a doomed poetess and heiress. The sort of project which would never have travelled much past its home town before the Internet, and so a timely reminder that the modern world ain't all bad.19. Puppet Loosely Strung - The Correspondents
Jazz that interests me in the least stopped being made decades ago. But every now and again a band comes along - The Real Tuesday Weld are another - who know that the good stuff is still ripe for a plunder. This itchy pair are another example of that.18. Popular Problems - Leonard CohenDear Heather
was a trial, but the records since then have achieved something astonishing - they almost make old age sound worthwhile.17. The Bunjies Test - Philip Jeays
Having made worrying hints of retirement, Britain's Jacques Brel made a welcome return in 2014. The ballads were always excellent, but now I even like the political songs; I'm not sure whether he's got a little less polemical, the situation has got more desperate, or most likely both.16. Urge for Offal - Half Man Half Biscuit
I once tried to explain HMHB to a young American, before rapidly realising the effort was doomed. Long may these contrary bastards thrive, reminding those with ears to hear that the Wirral was always the cool side of the Mersey.15. The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett - Eels
Not a happy album as such, but E sounds like he's come to some sort of terms with the world, and it makes me glad. 14. The Tyburn Tree - John Harle & Marc Almond
Marc Almond keeps plugging away, generally making albums I vaguely like rather than love, too often drawing on the same somewhat stale signifiers. Whoever Harle is, he's dragged Almond out of that rut, and instead given us a lunatic nursery rhyme of London's dark past. Should be played very quietly in the rooms of the plutocrats devouring the city whenever they try to sleep.13. Angels & Devils - The Bug
Another London album, this time capturing the sound of the city's present. Which is to say it's tense, claustrophobic, on edge and liable to lash out. I'm not sure I even enjoy listening to it, but it doesnt half capture a mood and a moment.12. City Air - The Soft Close-Ups
Ultimately I still prefer them in their synth/guitar duo and acoustic modes, but their full band album still has much to delight, not least the tiny, universal tragedy of Housman setting 'Your Likely Years'. 12. Love Letters - Metronomy
These past few years, I've tried to crack down on the inclusion of 'like the last one, but not quite as good' albums. And OK, this isn't quite as good as The English Riviera
, but that was one of my favourite albums of recent years. And this is no mere facsimile - where that was precise this is woozy. It's a little later in the evening, and things are getting sloppy. 11. Worse Things - Penny Orchids
Generally, when I see bands with a klezmer or Tom Waits influence, I enjoy them at first and then gradually lose all patience. Early on, Penny Orchids were often a bit too loud for the songs to breathe, but with time they've really got the balance sorted and now they've produced this - largely a rise-and-fall concept album, it's punky and wry and regretful all at once. 10. Return to Bohemia - Cleaners from Venus
Martin Newell is still going, a Dickensian figure who veers between sixties-tinged pop and the sound of Essex meadows as summer fades. Sadly this album also includes one track of his satirical poetry, but hey, it's not like he only releases on cassette anymore so it's easily skipped. 9. Run The Jewels 2
I have more or less entirely lost track of hip hop, bar the odd Nicki Minaj video, and it was seldom a genre which produced consistently good albums even when I liked it most. But these guys are exceptional in so very many ways. As urgent in its filth and silliness as its protest songs, because life isn't neat.8. Ruled By Dreams - Andrew Montgomery
Andrew Montgomery used to sing in Geneva, who were amazing but hampered by post-Britpop production on their first album and post-post-Britpop dance crossover production on their second. Somehow, his voice has lost none of its purity in the intervening decades (nor does he seem to have aged in any other way), and he's now his own boss, and has made something which feels at once sacred and playful.7. Floral Tributes - John Moore
The best former Mary Chain drummer in music returns, with all the joie de vivre we'd come to expect from him, ie, none. Music for drinking alone. 6. Company - The Drink
I've known some of The Drink for years, and enjoyed their previous bands, but they were generally variations on the theme of white boy indie. And then they found the quite remarkable voice of Dearbhla Minogue and now they make stuff that sounds like highlife and Krautrock and I don't even know what else, and you can almost see the 'levelled up' graphic flashing.5. St. Vincent
I'd never disliked Annie Clark, but nor had I quite clicked with her before this. I need to go back to the early stuff, check out whether she was always so twitchy and iconic, like the midpoint of Davids Byrne and Bowie. Kept sneaking its way up the list on account of my forgetting that the rest of it isn't *quite* as good as 'Digital Witness'.4. LP1 - FKA Twigs
An unusually high placing for a broadsheet darling. I can understand why she gets pissed off at being called 'alt-R&B' - this spooked, sensual stew sounds far more like someone turned the peaks of Zola Jesus into an injectable form.3. To Be Kind - Swans
Debatable whether this should even be here; I've only been able to listen to the whole album once because it's terrifying. Also incredibly long. Its inclusion here feels a bit like dropping a mass grave in to an architecture awards shortlist, but fuck me, it's some kind of achievement and it needs to be recognised. I've not really listened to Swans since I used to take the piss out of them for songs like 'Raping A Slave' and 'Time Is Money (Bastard)', but I suspect they're finally making the music they always thought they were. 2. The Winter of 88 - Seafieldroad
Wide-open piano songs about Scotland, islands, freedom and cold. It's not a religious album, but it always makes me think of little stone churches on clifftops. I am only slightly biased in its favour on account of it mentioning my name in the title track (the marvels of crowdfunding - I'm not sure I've ever been namechecked on a studio recording before).1. Blood & Brambles - Mikey Georgeson
I had written "this would be even higher if it had only included 'Moth In The Flame'", and then it went and ended up on top anyhow. Formerly known as Mr Solo, the Vessel and (by the confused) David Devant, I always knew he'd do something under his own name one day, but not that it would be quite so wise and wistful and generally lovely. Current Mood: an ever-growing sense of dread
|Monday, November 17th, 2014|
Just tried watching Alex Cox's Repo Chick
. Now, bearing in mind that I consider an evening watching the Blu-ray extras of Repo Man
to be a good evening (especially the Harry Dean Stanton interview)...just no. The idea of using Matchbox cars and model railway sets (plus green screen) in order to do your film on the cheap is quite heroic, but the feeble satire of the Paris Hilton/Kardashian/whoever lead just leaves a void at the heart of it all, and not in a good way.
I've not written anything about films I've seen on here in ages, have I? Some of them don't really need it - it should be easy enough to guess that I've seen Guardians of the Galaxy
and loved it, because demographics. Ditto The Lego Movie
(genuinely an incredibly smart film as well as a thoroughly fun one - layers within layers, and a desire to interrogate itself of which most 'serious' films can only dream). Then you get stuff like Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
, or X-Men: Days of Future Past
, where it's worth going to the big screen for the spectacle, even if the film doesn't quite hold together. Or, in the latter case, is about 80% nonsense. As against the first Hunger Games
which I saw pretty much by accident, but made a very coherent job of surfing the zeitgeist, at least until the last ten minutes. Oh, and finally got around to Frozen
which is...OK? Better songs than Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs
, but I'd otherwise rank them pretty similarly - passable, but no Pixar. Some cults I can parse; other ones perplex me.
A little less obviously:Chronicle
, Max Landis' found-footage superhero film. Very compelling, if slightly derailed the second you realise one of the newly-empowered teens is clearly a men's rights activist avant la lettre. Also on a skewed superhero tip: The Specials
. Rob Lowe, James Gunn, next to no budget, fake documentary style. Flawed, but fascinating. I hope the superhero cinema boom will enable more of these odd little subgenre pieces, rather than swallowing them. Becket
: only the second best film in which Peter O'Toole plays Henry II, but given the other one is The Lion in Winter
, that's still no small accolade. Sightseers
: my least favourite Ben Wheatley film. But again, when you consider the competition...The Philadelphia Story
- I saw this on stage years back, with Kevin Spacey and some other people of note, none of whom I can now remember. They were fine, but they weren't Katharine Hepburn, or Jimmy Stewart, let alone Cary Grant. What a cast. What a film.This Is Tomorrow
- Saint Etienne's documentary about the Royal Festival Hall. The most profoundly restful film I've ever seen.
'His Heavy Heart' - the concluding segment, for now, of Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins' short film cycle. Essentially, David Lynch directing Vic & Bob. I hope a DVD release will get the whole project the wider audience it deserves.Charlie Chaplin's The Circus
went round at least twice as a backdrop in a restaurant. I don't really get most of the silent clowns at all, but Chaplin always makes me smile if not laugh, even in such a chopped-about setting.Tarkovsky's Stalker
- so this is the shared source Jeff Vandermeer, M John Harrison and the rest have all been 'homaging' lately. On the other hand, I tend not to struggle to stay awake in their versions, so they certainly bring something to the party. Current Mood: thoughtful
|Tuesday, October 14th, 2014|
|Listening to the album whose launch you're too enervated to attend
Had one of my occasional weekends at places outside the usual orbit - gay pop night Duckie on the Saturday, country at Come Down And Meet The Folks on Sunday. The former would be in my usual orbit if only it were as easy getting back from Vauxhall as it is getting down there; I can't recall the last time I went to a club and they didn't play a single dud song. The same cannot altogether be said of Come Down..., but they did adopt one innovation which would be welcome at other gigs: the opening acts do two songs each. Enough to whet the appetite, not enough to bore anyone. I've seen so many support acts who'd have benefitted from being restricted to that sort of teaser.
I did two numbers myself at Bingo Master's Breakout a couple of weeks back, covering GK Chesterton and Alphaville (and even my apophenia struggles to divine a common thread between those two). Ciccone were there as part of their comeback tour; one of the first bands I ever saw in London, quite by chance, long before I could know I'd end up knowing them, walking the other Parkland Walk with one of the core personnel. It all knits together, one way or another. The other show was at the Windmill, whose gents' is not exactly salubrious, but at least no longer reeks of piss. Likewise, returning to the Rhythm Factory for the first time in a decade or thereabouts, I was pleased to find it no longer full of bad drugs (even if they had been replaced by furries and steampunks; nowhere's perfect). These small tidyings-up, I can forgive; I'm not against all renovation, even all gentrification, but when a once-welcoming boozer like the Noble ends up looking like the departure lounge at a shit airport, something's awry. I try not to worry about London, knowing that every generation is convinced it lives at the end of an era - but sometimes, even knowing that, it's hard to resist.
What else? James Ward, formerly of this parish, seems to be attaining mild celebrity with his Adventures in Stationery
; I went to the launch, where he was interviewed by fellow ex-LJ star Rhodri, and it ended up altogether too much fun for a Monday. John Watterson aka Fake Thackray is another for the list of tribute acts I've caught lately, though readier than most to play the hits, in so far as Jake Thackray had hits. The X-Wing habit is proving hard to kick, even if my results remain patchy. tigerpig
returned to the other side of the world, her passing marked by events including a noise gig which, perhaps down to the occasion, managed to fit a surprising amount of feeling in amongst those dissonant frequencies. Albeit not quite so emotional a show as Martin Newell's Golden Afternoon; Gershwin's 'Summertime' is one of the first songs I remember, one of the first things to make me feel melancholy, long before I knew the word 'melancholy'. Combine that with Newell's natural affinity for the moment where summer's waving goodbye, turn it into a duet with Lorraine Bowen on that most poignant of days, Sunday...yes. Bless the mad old bastard. Current Mood: recumbent
|Saturday, September 13th, 2014|
|September's here again
Planning to write up my seaside trip with xandratheblue
, I realise I haven't even documented the previous Devon excursion without her, when I climbed the hill-fort to hang out with the dragonflies, and hit the country show. The sun was glaring then - enough to turn me into a literal redneck over my brief stay - but it had barely warmed the sea. Whereas this time the light was gentler, and the sea almost warmish once you got used to it. As well as which we took in the model village, the funicular and the ramshackle bookshops, and were generally twee in a fashion I think my parents find more bearable than most other people.
I've still not entirely come down from the Kate Bush show. Despite failing at the final hurdle when tickets went on sale, I was still quietly confident that the world would work itself out, and lo, after a tense weekend we were at the first show, a dream of fish and birds and most of Hounds of Love
(one of the best albums ever, as even the boring rock mags have recently started to realise) live for the first time ever. The problem with that being that all other shows afterwards tend to pale for a while, not least the immersive Lovecraftian theatre thing we attended not long after, Dagon
. Sorry guys, you have some good stuff here, but your fish people aren't the best ones we've seen this week. Also seen: Mr B and the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra, the Indelicates (still amazing even when Simon is dicking around for much of the show), and the Mechanisms, whose steampunk worldbuilding and charismatic frontman are sadly not matched by their slightly lacklustre songs. Plus, the bands at the Spa Fields Festival, which is essentially a village fete with better music/jumble sale contents/location for my convenience, and thus much to be encouraged.
New things I have tried of late include Persian and Nepalese cuisine (each having at least one dish I deem pleasing, neither of the names of which I can properly recall - go food blogging!), and some new clubs. For a given value of 'new', given that Glitterati was essentially playing familiar pop and such, and Glampires is pretty much a revived B-Movie (which was itself already playing music from an earlier period at the time). Still, both fun, and looking at the new music I've been enjoying this year, there's precious little of it that would work in a club - even FKA Twigs, who is somehow bafflingly thrown in with dancefloor genres by too many lazy critics who don't seem to be hearing her even as they recommend her.
(I also went to a Britpop night in Shoreditch, but that is very much filed under 'let us never speak of this again') Current Mood: sneezy
|Saturday, June 14th, 2014|
|Spending warm summer days indoors
Went to the eerie free-standing church tower in Crouch End last night for an evening of music and ghost stories. They had it done up wonderfully, at once properly uncanny and not too terrifying for such kids as were brought along...and then blew it completely. The first teller seemed to be reading his tale for the first time, and it wasn't like the material was going to save him when it had Mayor Richard Whittington in the 17th century (or, at one point, the 19th) and gargoyles falling where no gargoyle had been. Site-specificity is not a cheap way to add heft, it needs work. We left still disagreeing over whether the subsequent cellist's faux-rap was outright racist, or just really shit. A missed opportunity.
Last weekend, though - that was the first big weekend of the summer. You could even measure it from Wednesday (because normally Thursday is the new Friday, and I had Friday off) when, in a happier use of a normally disregarded space, the funny little community hall on Whittington Park hosted Philip Jeays' comeback show. At first a little uncertain after 18 months away, by the end he looked ten years younger and reminded what a gift he has. The support included two acts who were good if they were character comedy and alarming if they were not, plus - most unusually - a quite good poet, Sophia Blackwell. Don't think I've seen that happen since Murray Lachlan Young.
Then into the long weekend proper, celebrating lovely xandratheblue
's birthday. First comedy; Josie Long (whom I'd never seen do a full set before) and Thom Tuck. Thom's show this year didn't make me laugh so hard I couldn't breathe, unlike his last one (and unlike John-Luke Roberts, who with Nat Metcalfe had done the first Edinburgh preview show I caught this year - yay local comedy mafia). But it's lingering with me like few comedy shows I've seen. I'd like him to get famous, at least cultishly Kitson-style (because I somehow can't see him doing arenas). Then on Friday, to East London and its already famous (though oddly, not to other cult East London businesses) cat cafe. Which does indeed have a lot of cats, even if only two of them seemed particularly keen to talk to us. I suppose if you wanted guaranteed friendliness, you'd have a dog cafe instead. Up to the Geffrye Museum, one of the dwindling band of London museums I'd never visited (it has good chairs), and pubwards for the evening. Saturday, picnic; no pinata this year, but my first ever go on Cards Against Humanity, which is every bit as excellent as the Daily Mail
's hatred of it suggests. Plus, someone brought a dog! See above re: friendliness thereof.
On Sunday, because it was if anything an even lovelier sunny day, I went to sit in a municipal building to listen to a grumpy man. But it was Jonathan Meades, one of our finest grumpy men, so that's OK. The Stoke Newington Literary Festival is somehow even more North London than I'd expected; you even get given a free atheist periodical on the way in. Current Mood: content
|Monday, June 2nd, 2014|
A month without an update there, when really I should have posted about the blossom and the moon, the Wapping waters, the Salisbury and the Constitution, and actually watching Eurovision again now the Russians have pissed off enough of their client states to ruin the bloc voting. Ah well. There was an end to Her Parents staying together for the kids, and I finally saw the Indelicates do 'Dovahkiin' live, and orchestral, with a half-lit giant heart the perfect backdrop. And sticky though that venue was, it still has nothing on the decrepitude of the Electric Dog Show's cave, where Quimper and the venue remain unsound, in different yet somewhat complementary manners. Gyratory System are more upbeat, less pummeling than usual - like the music from a Soviet animation about a happy factory. And headliners Howlround do cruel things to old tape, like they're trying to send a 1960s supercomputer insane. Not sure I'd listen to it at home, but mesmerising to watch.
And I even went to a biggish gig, the sort I normally avoid on account of the sort of audience they attract. Turns out the Union Chapel must be enough to deter the talkers, because Mick Harvey (aka the talented one from Nick Cave's bands) was received in appropriately stunned silence as he played some of his Serge Gainsbourg reworkings. It wasn't entirely reverential - how could it be, when he turned the end of 'New York USA' into a wonderfully black joke, or played the obligatory 'Je t'Aime' as deliberately half-arsed karaoke? But people were paying enough attention only to laugh or talk back when it was mandated, to remain spellbound and silent for 'Initials BB' or the heartwrenching possessiveness of 'Sex Shop'.
Went to the Boring conference on Saturday which, unlike its predecessor, was at no stage actually boring. Alas, managed through drink to mislay most of the delegate pack (Chewits, puzzle book) and also the programme, so I can't remember the names of half the speakers. The biggest surprise was the perpetrator of Comic Sans, whose entrance I felt I could not applaud, but who turned out to be OK. His original impetus was valid - a cartoon dog does not talk in Times New Roman. It's not his fault that precisely the same mistake which inspired Comic Sans now applies it indiscriminately where it doesn't belong. Still, I wonder if Alan Moore knows Watchmen
was one of the font's key inspirations and, if so, whether that's another reason he considers its influence to have been so poisonous?
Films: Behind the Candelabra
is exactly the mixture of camp and misery I'd expected, with only Rob Lowe's scene-stealing a surprise. The Wind Rises
is as painfully beautiful as Miyazaki's farewell was always going to be. Kill List
confirms Ben Wheatley as a properly uncanny talent, its bad men in the edgelands leaving a creeping sensation akin to a British True Detective
. This Is The End
, conversely, is an American The Trip
, albeit with more sodomy. Maybe Coogan and Brydon will head that way next series. Godzilla
was my first IMAX experience, and what better film for a format all about the BIG and LOUD, while BBC4's Duchess of Malfi
was equally terrifying on the intimate scale. Current Mood: relaxed
|Monday, March 24th, 2014|
It is, as has been widely observed, Spring. Markedly earlier than last year, albeit marred by the loss of several trees which always made my commute a little less of a chore (lost to developers' cupidity, too, rather than the storms). Though I did also get to see some of the more impressive consequences of the storms when I took a trip down to the margin of the English Riviera to see the Dawlish destruction (and peculiar retail complex Trago Mills, which was a scene of carnage in an existential rather than a weather-damage sense).
Back in London, I've been to a model railway show, which apart from its inherent delights (tiny trains!) was a real corrective to any idea that the crowd at the Geeks Inc Doctor Who
and comics pub quizzes could be considered particularly male-heavy or poorly-socialised. I've learned that some pubs think a table booking is for a two-hour stretch (yes, that is 'pub', not 'prestigious restaurant'). I attended a late opening at the Wallace Collection and enjoyed the empty rooms more than the performances, especially when we found the armour you could try on. I've taken pointlessly precarious routes across the junction of the Limehouse Cut and Bow Creek, had the first ice creams of the season, marked Purim and encountered the usual run of new pubs, some to be cherished (the North Pole and its range of oddly appropriate ciders) and others less so.
Not very many gigs lately, and two of the ones there were were at Paper Dress, a thoroughly Hoxton boutique/venue hybrid which is a lot less annoying than that description would have guaranteed a few years back. Both Mikey Georgeson and the Soft Close-Ups did pretty well there, which I suppose indicates that they at least pay proper attention to sound &c, rather than treating the juxtaposition of functions as sufficient gimmick in itself. Would that all venues could say the same. The last time I went to Power Lunches, they were steadily running out of drinks through the evening, in the manner of shambolic venues everywhere. This time, they had a solution to that - don't have anyone serving (upstairs) until the first band takes to the stage (downstairs). And, just to make absolutely sure there's a rude cunt talking at the back of gigs at your venue, why not hire him as the sound engineer? Though even he had the sense to shut up during Quimper. As who wouldn't, because while they're lovely folk offstage, during the performance they seem to channel something altogether alien and unfriendly (this is a good thing, obviously). Next up was Pete Um, of whom I've heard much and by whom I've heard a little, but whom I've never seen live. This turns out to have been a major oversight. Somewhere, in a world where the story of pop begins with and is dominated by John Shuttleworth, punk sounded like this.
Had something of a disagreement with the minicab driver after; fortunately, weaponised posh accents won the day for the cause of justice. See, they're not just for destroying the structure of the nation. Current Mood: hmmm
|Tuesday, February 11th, 2014|
|Today I appear to be alliterating
Very nearly went a whole calendar month without seeing any gigs there, which is most uncharacteristic. Just managed to avert that on January 31st, courtesy of Desperate Journalist at the Monarch, whose Friday nights were once Nuisance &c, and are now hip hop nights for tiny children in very few clothes. It was well Polanski. The next night, Joanne Joanne at the Dublin Castle, which has not changed, nor is it ever likely to; and since then, Gene covers at Nuisance and the newly-expanded Soft Close-Ups. Which is to say, I'm back in the swing. Earlier gigs I never got round to writing about include Dream Themes in Kiss make-up, the McDonalds (who are apparently not a novelty band), or Untitled Musical Project's drummer having some kind of meltdown at their comeback show. Alexander's Festival Hall have gone pleasingly 'el, and exliontamer
's third band, Violet Hours, make the best musical use of 'The Waste Land' I've heard since the late nineties, when it was incorporated into one of the few bits of DJ mixing I've ever appreciated.
I've also been to more Daylight Musics than usual. Somewhat to my surprise, it really suited the Penny Orchids - when they're a little quieter, in a much bigger space, the nuances of the sound get much more room to affect, especially when hospitalsoup
takes lead vocals for the first time I've seen in far too long. The festive Festivus show was also a joy but, as ever with Daylight Music, you don't half get some odd stuff turning up on the bills. When it's a man playing Philip Glass on the massive organ, that's a joy. But it might equally be someone like We Used To Make Things, a large band who are half brilliant (a suave brass section, a black Rosie the Riveter with an almost holy voice) and half terrible (four Mumfords, one played by Robert Webb, plus a singer who appears to be the horrible result of the realisation that Bobby Gillespie = Bee Gee).
Aside from gigs, there's been X-Wing and arm-wrestling, brunch and - most of all - Bruges. Which really is, as a wise man once observed, a fairytale fucking town. Some of its sillier museums (plus the one thing we wanted to see while changing trains in Brussels) were closed due to our visit being slightly too
off-season, but we could still see the Belfort and the Bosch, canals and churches, the windmills and cormorants guarding the perimeter from the modern day. It's remarkable how it can be so mediaeval and yet still alive; you'll see a wall decorated with memorial medallions, assume they're all centuries-old, then look at the dates and realise that while some are, others come up to the 1990s. Yet still the continuity and style are maintained. In that sense it feels far less stuck in its own past than an ossified city-that-was such as Paris. I can also see exactly why they're filming Wolf Hall
there; accordingly, it made for the perfect holiday read. But of all its strange and marvellous sights, the most remarkable must be the Michaelangelo sculpture. Not because it made its way outside Italy in his lifetime, but because it's a woman who actually looks like a woman. Madness.
Viewing: Anchorman 2
and Hobbit 2
are both much what you'd expect from their predecessors, and of course that works better for the former than the latter, which is still fundamentally a mess. There's simply too much happening, and too much of that jars with the original story even if it's ostensibly part of the same world. The abiding impression is of those stories which, in trying to make the most of a shared universe, instead simply draw attention to its cracks, and leave you wondering why Superman doesn't sort out all those non-powered crooks in Gotham. On the other hand, I also watched the first American Horror Story
and while that's likewise wildly overstuffed with characters and incidents, the effect is much less queasy - simply because they were always conceived as parts of the same whole in the way the Necromancer and comedy dwarves so clearly weren't. Current Mood: catching up
|Sunday, January 5th, 2014|
|Waiting for the miracle
So that was Christmas. Wondering whether to take the decorations down today or tomorrow; will Sunday evening or Monday morning have its inherent melancholy more heightened by the task? There were moments when I felt suitably festive - a binge of spooky BBC festive classics and mulled cider, seeing the Covent Garden lights and the miniature (but still pretty enormous) London made from lego in a walk-through snowglobe, the afternoon party with so much booze and so many small people one could barely move - but it always seemed to dissipate again. I suppose the late getaway, with the added stress of the transport Christmapocalypse, was always likely to shred that careful accumulation of misty goodwill.
I don't appear to have updated on my general movements since mid-October, either. Homerton, for instance, turns out to have some OK pubs and bars now, even if they are fuller still of beards than other areas of East London (the Islamic Republic possibly excepted).
The Museum of Childhood - wonderful, if it didn't have so many live children on the loose. Lots of toys one remembers fondly, at least one I used to have and knew even at the time was a bit shit
, but the item that transfixed me most was that fabulous mother=-of-pearl Chinese diorama, like blue-and-white porcelain's pattern somehow brought into fragile, solid life.
My year's ticket for the Transport Museum has now expired, but I did manage to get in a visit without the Cthulhuchild who - fond as I am of him - does just tend to want to play on the trams and buses. Whereas solo, I can look at vintage posters and disused typefaces and letters from Victorian commuters, which for some unaccountable reason are things of no interest to toddlers.
The Inns of Court in autumn are fabulously autumnal. And do me the service of saving me a trip to Cambridge, because they feel so much like a college I never quite got around to visiting, and so the nostalgia is less pointed than if I went back now to one of the ones I did.
The Earl Haig Memorial Hall in Crouch End has finally opened up, its imperialist trappings intact, but now host to all manner of entertainments for the slightly-less-manic-than-we-were local. Perfect timing, really, given all the attention its namesake will be getting this year.
Lance Parkin, my favourite Doctor Who
writer, launched his very good biography of Alan Moore, my favourite comics writer, with a live interview (and film screening, and so forth). The footage is here
, though I've not listened to it myself in case I am too embarrassingly audible as the one person thoroughly amused by the line "What can Brian Lumley teach us?"
The slightly too pat, but still moderately fun, revenge-on-idiots comedy God Bless America
appears to be the only film I've seen in ages, until I finally got round to Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
last night. Which was...quite good? Fairly amusing, surprisingly engaged with the very real plight of local radio in the 21st century, but not half so side-splitting as I'd been given to understand. There was also the Doctor Who
anniversary, of course, which for all the furious initial back-and-forth on other, more rapid-response sectors of the Internet, seems to have bred a fair degree of consensus. With which I agree: 'The Fiveish Doctors' was amazing, ditto An Adventure in Space and Time
bar Reece Shearsmith. The Day of the Doctor
was a stunning achievement in making concentrated fanwank a coherent and exciting show for die-hard and casual viewer alike, which made the saggy mess of The Time of the Doctor
all the more disappointing. But thank goodness it all came right at the end, and hurrah for Capaldi. Current Mood: melancholy
|Sunday, December 15th, 2013|
|Albums of the Year
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.( Read more...Collapse ) Current Mood: weary
|Sunday, November 10th, 2013|
Didn't quite do anything proper for Hallowe'en or November 5th this year, though there was some dressing up and you can hardly fail to see some fireworks over what's now more like Guy Fawkes' Fortnight (Guy Fawtesnight?) - that's the problem with festival creep, where you can't even quite fix on one of the adjacent weekends as the consensus alternative. Dear world, please stop getting festivals wrong, ta.
Accidentally let my Netflix subscription run over after Breaking Bad
was done, but regardless of how the US version has a lot more stuff* there was still plenty I'd been vaguely meaning to watch on the UK site. The Friends of Eddie Coyle
, for instance, with Robert Mitchum exuding the shabby grandeur of a moth-eaten lion, or the gloriously absurd and none-more-eighties Lifeforce
, in which a mission to Halley's Comet unwittingly unleashes a zombie plague (complete with Prefab Sprout posters visible in the background as they devastate London). The most notable casting is probably Patrick Stewart, who (SPOILERS) gets possessed by the sexy naked lady space vampire and so proceeds to do some gaying up (although it's shot in a way which would probably disappoing anyone going into the film just for that). Seven Psychopaths
is the thoroughly meta and possibly even better follow-up to the delightful In Bruges
, and more meta still is A Film With Me In It
, which manages a surprising amount of bloodshed for something starring Dylan Moran. The Cabin In The Woods
, on the other hand, I'd dismissed as a slasher movie with a twist (and Whedon dialogue), until I heard one recommendation too many to ignore. First surprise: the twist isn't, it's there from the start. And what that enables, and what lies behind it - that's utterly ingenious. Add me to the list of recommendations. Which is not something I can really say about Don Johnson in Harlan Ellison adaptation A Boy and his Dog
; post-apocalyptic black comedy it may be, but I found the whole thing just a little too queasy, and not always in a manner that seemed intentional.
Ian Hislop's dramatisation of the story of trench samizdat The Wipers Times
. As with Blackadder
, the horror of the Great War always hits hardest for me when it's presented with the gallows humour of the Tommies intact. Doctor Who: The Web of Fear
- a story which, this time last year, I would never have expected to see in my lifetime. And it stands up a lot better than most classic Who
that runs past four episodes, helped by the claustrophobic, iconic location - running down a corridor feels so much more satisfying when that corridor is part of an identifiable tube station. Victoria is still a dreadful companion, mind.
Idiotic horror White Noise: The Light
, which xandratheblue
and I watched on the simple grounds that Katee Sackhoff and Nathan Fillion would be suitable casting to play us in any film of our incredibly exciting lives. Sadly, it turned out to be a bad Final Destination
riff - but with more dodgy theology! And nonsensical numerology! And lots of RUNNING REALLY FAST. Repo Man
, which remains as profoundly peculiar and entertaining as ever (and I can't believe it never gets mentioned as an influence on Lebowski
). The Blu-ray extras are deeply rum, and include Harry Dean Stanton talking about life for 15 minutes before singing 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat', and Alex Cox showing the deleted scenes to the real-life inventor of the neutron bomb.
And on the big screen - Thor: The Dark World
. Certainly not the best of the Marvel films, but I find it oddly reassuring that they can stumble now without falling flat on their faces, and still produce a fairly entertaining picture which will fill up a cinema with casual viewers (you can tell them from the geek hardcore so easily, because they're the ones who don't even stay for the first credits scene, let alone the very end). Also, pleasing show of public right-mindedness in the way that everyone in the auditorium, regardless of class or race, agreed that the family with a screaming baby should take it the fuck out of the cinema - and rather than grumbling passive-aggressively, fetched ushers to enforce that verdict. See! Superhero films encourage viewers to take more responsibility for making the world a better place. *Such as Bob's Burgers, which I saw round the house of a friend who's hacked the relevant bits of science to watch the US menu. Like its fellow H Jon Benjamin animation Archer, this is allegedly on Freeview channels, but gets thrown away in graveyard slots. Baffling, given how funny both are at their best. NB: do not look for H Jon Benjamin's face online; you'd expect him to be less attractive than Sterling Archer, but I think he may even be less attractive than Bob. Current Mood: nights drawing in
|Monday, October 21st, 2013|
|Moments seized in the shadow of the beast
Been playing Space Crusade
again, after a gap of a couple of decades. Back then, I imagine people thought it would lose its appeal once I worked up the courage to talk to girls. More fool them. Align
is a tricky one to classify; not quite a play, nor a lecture. Call it a performance, it's probably as close as we'll get. Taking place, perfectly, mere yards from the actual Bridewell, it is a story of London's sacred geography which never gets too swivel-eyed, is far more 'wouldn't that be interesting?' than making foolhardy statements about what is or isn't true - and yet feels none the less mystical for all that. Rather than hang around afterwards, I feel driven to strike out along the Strand Ley about which we've just been hearing, and it's all delightfully numinous until I hit the smell of a freshers' event at the LSE. I doubt the bacchanals of our ancestors were any more fragrant, but I can edit that detail out of my daydreams.
Also tricky to classify: Neil Gaiman reading his new book Fortunately, The Milk
, with Chris Riddell illustrating it live. Already a little multimedia, but then you have it being acted out and sung and generally turned into something quite its own creature through the assistance of TV Smith, Tom Robinson, Mitch Benn, Lenny Henry, Tori Amos' daughter, Andrew O'Neill, and Faith from 'Jimmy's End' (who is much less haunted when she's playing a pirate queen, so that's handy).
Lots of gigs by the people whose gigs I see a lot - to whose ranks the Soft Close-Ups were temporarily restored when augstone
was briefly allowed back in the country. Neither show was quite as melancholy as the Sunday afternoon show a few months back, but still, when on a wet Wednesday night they played their adaptation of that Housman poem about death (tautology, I know), any plans I had for a straight edge gig crumbled. Good suppors at both shows, too - Parenthesisdotdotdot, aka Tim from Baxendale dressed as the chap from Dr Caligari
, and Marcus Reeves, who is essentially my friend dr_shatterhand
playing Marc Almond. At the latter show they also had me returning to the wheels of steel for the first time in some years. I always did prefer playing quieter sets. ( Read more...Collapse )
Other shows have been further from my usual orbit:
Martin Newell playing his annual show in a converted Colchester church in the shadow of the appropriately-named Jumbo water tower
, bearing a curious resemblance to William Hartnell as a Teddy Boy pirate. He's a charmingly shambolic raconteur, an occasional ranter, and a mostly mediocre poet, but once he's singing, oh, the songs.
A violinist plays Bach in another church, this time right on the border of the City. I conclude that Bach may be the music to whose condition art is said to aspire.
A distinctly white trio, playing the hipster pub sat incongruously opposite the East London Mosque, play a nameless and heavily highlife-influenced jam. Against all odds, it works.
In a bar inexplicably decorated with biscuits stuck to bricks, a jazz band have one singer who thinks Seasick Steve is a role model rather than a terrible warning about the gullibility of authenticity bores. But the other singer sounds far more like Billie Holiday than any modern Briton has a right to.
(And because you can't win them all, there was also the act who appeared to be Jack Whitehall fronting Reef) Current Mood: strangely lively
|Sunday, October 6th, 2013|
Not only for length, and permanence, but because here, unlike Facebook, there's no risk of a spoiler popping up on someone else's page and causing upset. I was a latecomer - I think I watched the whole thing over almost exactly a year. And maybe it's because I didn't live with the characters for as long as a lot of people, but while I liked it, that widespread temptation to give it The Wire
's pedestal? I don't see it. Not least because fundamentally it's one plotline from Babylon 5
with all the aliens removed so as not to trouble the viewing public, who may have been able to handle Battlestar Galactica
but that was just humans and robots. ( spoilers follow, obviouslyCollapse ) Current Mood: Sunday
|Tuesday, August 20th, 2013|
|While I wait for the Jimmy's End Cycle to download:
Just finished reading The Thin Veil of London
, a book loosely concerning the great Arthur Machen, and a companion to a walk I went on a couple of Sundays back. Elements which could have felt like am-dram instead felt like they were genuinely ruffling the surface and some Thing might chance through at any moment, as we walked streets I'd never seen within ten minutes of where I've been working for two years. And Machen's grandson was there, now old enough to resemble the great man's jacket pictures. Truly an experience to treasure.
Other London adventures:
- Victoria Park, which I have passed but never entered, finally visited. Would be lovely if it didn't have so many wasps and men who think they're it.
- The Archway Tavern has now become a tiki bar, and not in the half-arsed manner one might expect - there's even an indoors water feature. Also tequila girls and bog trolls. They come with the venue. The night, being loosely glam, had attracted a bafflingly mixed crowd, including some full-on townies and what looked like US-style good old boys as well as the obvious. Most terrifying, though - one man who looked like a seventies TV presenter, and one girl wearing the classic 'sexy school uniform' look. In defiance of all laws of comedy, they didn't seem to know each other.
- I've never sat in Greenwich Park and not faced the view North before. Around the bandstand it feels like another park, less London, older. I like it.
Saw Menswear again on Friday; I say 'again', last time it was Johnny Dean and the Nuisance band, but a rose by any other name would smell as Britpop. When I wear a suit, I can even confuse other nineties indie celebrities into thinking I am him.
I was dimly aware Art Everywhere
was coming, but it was very much background knowledge until I glanced at a billboard and thought, hang on, what the Hell are they trying to sell with John Martin's fire and brimstone? And they weren't; it was just saying 'Hey, look at John Martin! Isn't he good?' Second one was Samuel Palmer. I don't go to a lot of single-artist exhibitions, but I've been to see both of them. Approved.War of the Waleses
is, by its dramaturge's own admission, 'sillier and nastier' in its current version that first time out. I can see how the shorter version, with fewer actors, is much better suited to the practicalities of Fringe life, and making any play crueller about Princess Di is fine by me (the new line about her "simpering sedition" absolutely nails it), but I miss some of the Shakespeare resonances lost - especially when it comes to John Major and the vanished John Smith. The comparison of the two takes set me thinking - Major was our Yeltsin, wasn't he? By which I mean, a very long way from perfect, and you can entirely understand the pisstaking at the time, but it was a brief glimpse of doing things a slightly different way before the ancien regime reasserted itself, more dickish than before in so far as that dickishness was veiled around with a new insincerity.
I'm up to the end of Breaking Bad
's third season, whose pacing and tone seemed a little off - too often the show overegged the comedy, before slipping into mawkishness when it pulled back from that. Too much old ground was re-covered in the tension between the leads. And then I saw an interview with Bryan Cranston where he claimed that other TV shows were about familiarity, about seeing the same character each week, and nobody on TV has ever changed like Walter White. And I thought, no. Absolutely take your point about most network crap, and even some very good shows, but never say never. Because Babylon 5
had Londo and G'kar, and they changed like nobody's business. So this nudged me back towards my paused rewatch of B5
's second season, and I realised, it wasn't just the general principle of a character who changes: Walter is Londo. He's a proud man, feeling his time has passed, staring the end in the face. So he makes a deal with the devil and at first he's thrilled by the power, before realising that he has become something he hates, and there's no way to get off the ride. He even has a conflicted relationship with a younger sidekick possessed of a certain inherent haplessness!
Other television: Justified
got a fair few articles this time around about how it deserved more attention, which is more attention that it used to get, but still not as much as it deserves. I'm intrigued by the way other characters were built up this time out, especially among the Marshals - it could almost survive without Timothy Olyphant, I think, not that I'm in any hurry to see it try. The Revenants
was good, even if it did cop out a little by going to a second series WHICH HAD BETTER BLOODY ANSWER EVERYTHING. Speaking of cops, French police uniforms suck. I did love how unashamedly Gallic it was in scattering sexy superpowers around the populace. And BBC4 continues to brutally beat down every traitor who ever dissed the holy BBC. Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter as Burton and Taylor was a suitably meta final outing for their big dramas; just as Cleopatra
marked the end of Hollywood's grand era, so this brought down the curtain on BBC4's days of riches (at least, until I rule the world, when the accumulated wealth of the entire Murdoch mob - and the proceeds from sale of their organs - will all go to bolster the licence fee). But they still have their documentaries, the sort of shows other factual broadcasters pretend they're going to make, before wheeling out a load of gimmicky recreations, recaps and silly music. Consider the recent show about Ludwig II of Bavaria; I'm by no means unfamiliar with him, but there was so much here I didn't know. His grand castle Neuschwanstein is the basis for the Disney castle - but I had no idea it was itself a theme park, with modern architecture and engineering hidden behind the scenes, council chambers which were never used - essentially a private playpen. All this was the work of a constitutional monarch conscious modelling his private realm on absolute monarchies - yet at the end they talk to young citizens of Bavaria who acclaim him as too modern for his time. Most broadcasters would be unable to resist a honking noise then, a reminder of the mistake, but BBC4 trusts us to make our own connections. Current Mood: ecstatic
|Saturday, July 27th, 2013|
|Has not been read back, may make no sense at all, but let's live in the moment
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 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 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. Current Mood: recumbent