Insane Canadian Black Lips associate King Khan brings his bombastic garage punk essence to the UK with an 11 piece strong band recruited and rehearsed in uber-arty Berlin, comprising of horns, guitars, backing singers, drummers and the very spirit of Little Richard singing Stooges tunes. This is a greatest hits package of the quality work King Khan has been churning out over the last few years and is a fuzzy warm piece of analogue beauty, funky, soulful and punk all in tandem, exploding all over your dancing asses. From melodic and sweet ‘Torture’ to the squeal and sensuality of ‘Outta Harm’s Way’ the mood is rock throb, and the sex is dripping from the squeakers as the guitars and brass tussle for power. This is decidedly retro and each song tempo is upbeat and larger than life. Most of all, it’s fun. And that’s what’s lacking in our posey world of icy stares and arsey haircuts. King Khan brings the funk, brings the bombast and brings the danger back to garage rock with dirt and aplomb. And you know what? Brown boys certainly know how to rock and roll. Somewhere between Little Richard and George Clinton is where Khan pitches his agonisingly sqealish vocals, sounding like Prince once did, like Hendrix once did. The Shrines are an impressive bunch with members of the live bands of Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Sun Ra all make an appearance amongst the other amazing musicians. Nothing is lost in the swirl of guitar spanking solos, free jazz freakouts and pulsing vibrant clattering drums. And yet they are all commanded by the insatiable King Khan. ‘ I Wanna Be a Girl’ sounds like the Rolling Stones trapped in a cellar and forced to practice in a pool of their own sweat. ‘Shiver Down My Spine’ is a dirtier sleazier attempt, slower, like Otis Redding backed by Kings of Leon. ‘Live Fast Die Strong’ is more rnb-ish, exploding and stopping and starting and raising your pulse as well as the roof. There’s some crazy 50s rockabilly and there’s some soulful numbers and the deep dirty garage punk too. Something for everyone. All 16 songs on here are uber-hits, so well put together, so musical, melodic and imbued with raw punk attitude and wrong intentions. And the man puts on an amazing live show. He’s touring London on 3 dates (12-14 December- Dirty Water Club, Old Blue Last, Hoxton Bar and Grill), you need to see him. He’s effing brilliant and batshit crazy and so what if such warm passionate music is put out on the cynical Vice magazine’s own label, this guy f**king rocks.
Recorded over five days by drummer Daniel and keyboarding vocalist David, this is a dirty 4 track jam of epic proportions, drenched in psychedelic white noise, fuzz, dischord and the loose spirit of jazz imbued in its contours. Sometimes disjointed and chaotic, other times melodic and passionate, this stop-start drench of power is an outburst of improvisational greatness, from the squelch and dementia of ‘Xxxmas’ to the gabba destruction urgency of frenetic ‘Sky Burial’. This is a real liveness to everything that makes it feel more pumping, thumping, vital and virile than a studio-honed version could be. This oozes in adrenaline and attack. Check it out. This is dirty fuzz-soaked nocturnal madness in the extreme.
It stands to reason that those lamenting the passing of summer should see fit to imbibe us with the summeriest music they can commit to acetate to get us through the cold harsh winter months. Gothenburg’s pacific! are no different with their panza attack of Beach Boys lushness paraded over the sunniest of electronics. ‘A Tree’ is a paean to lost love and being ‘just friends’ over a shingly thrust of power-pop summer good-time vibes. You can see the sun setting over Malibu beach as these shimmery posters roll their trousers up and get involved with the sea. ‘Do It’ continues in the same mood, employing a weird off-kilter Hawaiian throb and thrust with their guitars and weird 80s basslines skanking away in the background. The Beach Boys harmonies are more in the forefront here, with a cheesy tongue in cheek. If it were warmer this would be resigned to the brie counter, but in the cold Arctic front, there’s a charm to it that pushes on through. There’s also a house remix of ‘A Tree’ by Tobias D. Treehouse.
Shining Bright is a summery slice of sugary power-pop, acoustic and sweet, dripping with nice vibes. It arrives in the cool dawn of winter though and suddenly we're transported to a Californian vista, letting the sea wash over us. These East Coasters, boasting an impressive line-up of stars all lending a hand such as Sarah Silverman and Joan as Police Woman bring a seasonal set of songs full of pensive loss and abandonment dripping in pain and misery and sadness, a contrast to the sacchrine pop of their album. 'Walking Around' is the closest we will ever have to autumnal rnb. It's sweet and harmless enough with a great belief in the power of the singer's emotions but lacks a crutch, something to grab you and pull you into its core. Good but not great.
Snarling charming Video Nasties certainly like their white noise dischords peppering sombre nasty melodies in a fashion similar to good ol' My Bloody Valentine. There's a bullish attempt to be clever and angular by playing around with time signatures and allowing the singer to muddy his vocals to miscomprehension. But the real albatross of hope on this is the dizzying crunching duelling guitars duking it out for supremacy over thudding thunderous beats that pound with the spirit of soar-rock in its very nuclear core, a snarl and a pissed-grimace away from erupting into the kind of earth-shattering optimism that made the Verve vital once.
I feel sick to my stomach this morning. Last night I spent an entire evening flying under the radar of my new boss in my new swanky publishing job as I went around one of our events pushing my own agenda. There were publishers I wanted to push my book to; there were publishers who had rejected my book, ones I needed answers from; there were publishers who were still considering my book I wanted some sort of inkling from. Beer helped. The steady push of support from my colleagues and a friend, all rooting for my self-promotion to pay off in dividends, meant I had to go for it. I started circling my prey, waiting for one to stray away from the pack, then POW I would erupt on her like a talking imposition.
She broke off. I broke off a conversation mid-flow and headed her way. I introduced myself. She introduced herself. Her colleague saw she had made a friend and brought us back into the pack. I was in the inner-circle. I had to talk. I made my play. Hello, yes, I am a writer, would you like to read my book thank you that would be lovely thanks yes it’s great I’m great oh what a character I am yes thank you. My spiel ended on an awkward pause to which one of my prey said, ‘You’re very good at self-promotion, you know?’ I shrugged her an aww shucks as if to say, yes but sod all that, will you read my book? Eventually I tired of trying to keep talking as they had sussed my game out, thus giving me no cause to continue verbalising. I smiled and said I was going to the bar. I walked away, doing the quick glance-back. They were wide-eyed at each other, laughing and darting their eyes back to me and enthusing about my weirdness.
I started obsessing over four representatives of a publisher we’re to date still waiting to hear back from. They were stood in a cliquey circle. I needed to talk to them. I assumed one of them would be the editor looking at my work. I sat on a radiator, obsessing. My friend told me to just go up and get on with it as I had nothing to lose but my dignity, and seeing as I had none left just get on with it.
I went in just as the pack split into two factions. I went in for the two smaller less imposing girls as the factions had split on height. It turned out in the first 30 seconds these girls had nothing to do with editorial. I’d backed the wrong horse. I was about to hang up my network spurs but I persisted with being nice because it isn’t all about speaking to the most important person in the room, sometimes it’s probably good just being nice to someone. We chatted and I endeared myself enough to them that they introduced me to a middle-aged lady who looked like the archetypal white female senior editor. She wasn’t, she was a fellow writer. She was a fellow writer who needed me to promote some work for her. I’d backed the wrong horse and followed it into someone else’s stable. The tallest, youngest girl in the group, a beautifully androgenous Bowie figure circled the outside of our burgeoning circle. The sales girls took pity on me and introduced me to her. She was an editor. She hadn’t heard of me. We talked about how hard it was getting published and sci-fi and music and my book and she gave it her best interested face. She told me she had to leave, I thanked her for not rolling her eyes at me too much. She laughed and walked off. I returned to my group who all celebrated my eventual success. I ran back to the bar to get us a celebration drink. But there she was... She-Bowie hadn’t left at all. She’d relocated to a hidden part of the room to talk to someone else. She’d let me spiel, given me her best attentive ten minutes then moved on. She was dead to me.
Then this conversation happened.
ME: Hi, are you [name of author]? MAN: No, I’m [name of biggest agent in country] ME: Oh, shucks, right, hi. I know [author represented by biggest agent in country]. He’s a really good friend. MAN: Yes, terrific talent. ME: Yes, really paved the way for up-and-coming writers like me. MAN: ... ME: Have you read any of the books tonight? MAN: No. MAN: Yes, [author represented by biggest agent in country] is a terrific talent. ME: Yes, really paved the way for up-and-coming writers like me... MAN:... ME: He’s a really good friend. MAN: I’m going to go now. It was nice meeting you. ME: It was really awkward wasn’t it? MAN: Yes.
I hate networking. I hate being the guy with the product and the snappy talk and yet I find myself in this auto-pilot groove where I’m able to spout off oodles of self-promotional gumf about myself. Why don’t I believe any of this stuff in real life? I have no idea. I’m not convinced by how much or how little talent I have and I’m not convinced in a roomful of the most important people in publishers I have any ability to make myself a known entity to them but the whole network is a nasty game of chance, bipolar personalities and the ability to relay your CV in a bullet-pointed two minute format. And free wine.
You know how parents commandeer the conversations to talk about what their kids have done, said or been interested in recently and how hilarious/cute it was? Well, I think that's bad parenting. Ultimately, you're allowing people to build up a brand profile of your child to allow them to do an identity theft on the kid. I mean, Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie is all about that. Imagine if she'd kept her mundane anecdotes to herself, we wouldn't be in this situation. I mention this because not only do parents do the whole 'talk about our kids' thing but they also allow the kids to encroach into your precious personal space in public spaces. They let their kids lean on you, kick your bag, fall into you, jump on your things, talk loudly and giggle as they are tickled by an over-eager father desperate to bond with a child he spends hardly any time with. Well, we at Geek Pie hate your kids. We don't hate any of the kids we're related to. We just hate your kids. We hate that as they grow, they become the targeted demographic for taste-makers, meaning what we like gets pushed to the old-fashioned back. We hate their attention-seeking fickleness, their willingness to only love and adore anyone plying them with sweets and with attention and games. We hate their lack of heritage, their lack of knowledge about Sesame Street and D'Artagnan in favour of Ben 10 and In the Night Garden. We hate them and we hate you for making them encroach into our lives.
Actually, we're just jealous they're able to play with Superman toys and not suffer any recriminations. I think I just feel old.
Having made a career in the music business, John Niven brings us a warts'n'all expose of A&R life in major record labels in the fictional black 'Kill Your Friends'. Set in 1997 against a tide of changing governments and the dying embers of Britpop and the phoenix of girl power rising from the ashes. Steven Stelfox is a coke-shovelling alcoholic empty shell of a man, concerned with looks, larging it, rampant misogyny and filling what should be his dream job with excuses to have it, drink it, snort it, and never fall into the trap of caring about anyone. Relationships, like hits, are disposable. Acts are all deluded pricks. Drugs are easy to come by and the reality of spiralling fictional budgets, excess and complete debauchery play out over a backdrop of real self-delusion, as we see the events that really inspired the action. As Stelfox's hits dry up and his position as an A&R becomes more tenuous, meaning the drug well could dry up and the status could disappear, he resorts to heinous violent murderous methods to preserve his tenuous grip on his job and on reality. This is a music industry American Psycho, he is Patrick Bateman, yet more empty and predisposed to caring about nothing, knowing nothing and feeling nothing for anything, not even the music he's supposed to be an expert on. He's clearly not an A&R for the creative endeavour. He's in it for the status, and he tells you in categoric terms: don't form a band, don't send your demo out. You're all shit and we're waiting to rape you financially and creatively. The interesting reason for dating this in the mid to late 90s means the internet hasn't taken over and changed the game yet; it rumbles in the background, but ultimately, this is when labels mattered and were at their peak, and cuntish A&Rs like Stelfox made and broke bands over lines of coke. While Stelfox is grotesque, evil, deadly and full of self-important coke-ego, there is a childish little boy lost element to him that make his scabarous, lethal rants so amusing and yet so meaningless. While this is a poor man's American Pyscho, it's a great treatise on what happened to the music industry that made it vomit on its own excess when the internet came a-knocking.
This is usually the definitive list of the best albums of this year. I love Rough Trade and much as I don't agree with their favourite album, 4 of my top 5 are in there. 'Slime and Reason' by Roots Manuva is a glaring omission.
Coldplay are world-beating but something seems to be troubling poor Chris Martin. Millions of personal funds, recession-proof maudlin music with vague poetic musings about something that's troubling Martin and a baby named after my computer, and still he's not happy. Lost is one of their more reverential songs on their new album celebrating Ricky Martin's better-known hit. It has a church organ plod throughout while Martin moans about being lost, or not being lost, he seems to change his mind throughout the song. There is a religious feel to the album version here. The stripped piano version is more bearable as it makes Martin less Jesus-like and the lyrics take on a slightly more emotive carriage despite their vagueness and complete lack of attachment to any real event or emotion. The live version is all We Will Rock You handclaps and bluster and doesn't really add anything to the song, even when the religious undertones hit the roof with a chorus of gospel choirage. Quite weirdly, at the end of the EP of different versions of the same song, Jay-Z crops up to deliver a verse of pure panache and class about his struggle, and you know what, you believe him because he has the power of empathy, the power of experience and hey, some actual tangible events to refer you to. Thank the heavens for Jay-Z sometimes. I can't believe I've written so many lines on a one track CD.
Prolific talented Arctic Monkeys side-project number 2. While Alex Turner is off playing with his Last Shadow Puppets, the other Monkeys aren't really resting on their laurels. Here, drummer Matt Helders (also sticksman for indie-hop supergroup Mongrel) chooses some of his favourite after-hours tracks and it reveals him to be a man with eclectic tastes and a firm fandom of the ol' UK hip-hop. Before we get to the content though, let's just say his squelchy funky remix of mid 90s rave classic 'Dreamer' is superlative and Alex Turner's short story is haunting and eloquent. But the choices on this are pretty great. Ranging from dirty garage punking Stooges and Johnny and the Hurricanes to nu-rave forebearers The Rapture, this encapsulates a truly varied taste. This is for the person whose stock answer to 'what music do you like?' is 'eclectic. I like everything.' Matt Helders really does like everything and it all gets a look-in. The mainstay though is the hip-hop and we get classics from US legends Mos Def and Luniz, with the sleazy stoned 'I Got 5 On It' while Big Dada stalwarts, UK's very own TY and Roots Manuva crop up with 'Break the Lock' and the laconic 'Dreamy Days' respectively. There's funk, breaks, beats, dance, punk, hip-hop and electro all carrying forward an immaculate ear for good times music and sleazy late night tales of funk soul and beats. Matt Helders, the Pie salutes your impeccable taste.
Networking I went out this week to a networking event that was by and large a collection of lovely people trying to get ahead. Everyone was attentive and interested in you and what you did, because they were glad it was possible a peer could have your job and because they might need you in the future. It wasn't one of those usual meet'n'greets where you're thrust into a room with 20-30 of the most ambitious people in the world, who'd happily rent their child to Gary Glitter to get ahead, or some other zeitgeisty simile. You get the picture. However, because 99% of everyone was so nice, it thrust the spotlight on to the one wanker of the proceedings, who would have been able to blend in easily, had this been your usual networking event. He was one of those priveliged boys who the world owed £200 to, basking in his completely bumbling persona masking the pungent whiff of self-importance. He could help you, you see, and he didn't need to know your work, he could tell just by meeting you whether you were a generator or a dampener and he chose to bestow his light on me for the entire evening, revelling in all the stories of how he had helped him and her out and she was because of him and he was because of him and after a while it became apparent, this man makes a good coffee, which is why he has a job. He doesn't so much have his editor's ear as the key to his caffeine-intake. Is the most dangerous/useful man to know or a glorified gopher?
I'm still sending him my manuscript.
Choosing a Band Name An old bandmate and I have been toying with making tunes again next year, after a healthy hunger-inducing 2 years apart. We get each other. We're a good match, kinda like Murtagh and Riggs (second Lethal Weapon reference today), in that we both have our way of doing things and getting things done but together we're a deadly entity, some might even say, a lethal weapon. Which brings us to band names. We've outgrown our old moniker you see, as it aged us by having the word boy in it. So we're looking for something classic, something cool, but something that also says what we're about. Something that's not a generic abstract concept like Blur or Oasis. We want to be something like Pulp or Smog and actually have a name that conjures an image in your head akin to the music you will eventually hear. I want to call us Agent Scully but my bandmate thought it might make people think we're ginger-haired females. He wanted to call us Kem Cho (Gujarati for 'how are you?') but I felt it made us a little too efnik. We discussed The Coloured, Theescunts, The Mike Hunt Quartet, Silver Humps, Humped to Death, The Hunchback of Wiltshire Ham, Shitter, Brick Hithouse, Borstal Boyzz, Twatfunk, Cumfunk, Spanky and the Wank Hankies... But nothing... what's in a band name anyway? More later as it transpires...
Maybe we could just be called 'Too Old for This Shit'.
Meeting weirdos In the first minute of a meeting I had with my new department manager in my swanky new job, she told me of an affair she had with a famous musician, winked at me, told me the organisation I had joined was fundamentally flawed as it had no direction, laughed at silence and told me to 'Stop it! You're making me laugh', told me I had a twinkle in my eye and couldn't wait for me to come out of my shell and stop being shy, awkward and new, complained about my line manager's time-keeping because she had come in an hour early once to leave an hour early, and told me a ghost lived in her attic.
Amazing Spider-man #577 So this is another one-issue special featuring an appearance from everyone's favourite violent dullard, Punisher. It also involves a villain direct from 70s Blaxploitation called Moses Magnum, who feels the need to say his own name a lot. Spidey is trying to drive taxis and stumbles on Punisher who is investigating Moses Magnum and his trafficking of mutant growth hormone. Spidey and Punisher do the unlikely teamup thing and defeat Moses Magnum in style with enough quips and weary sarcastic ribbing and inter-rivalry that you almost feel they're Riggs and Murtagh or Starsky and Hutch or something. Good issue and better-drawn than last week's Hammerhead manga cartoon mess. This was gritter drawn, almost like the Daredevil team.
Wolverine: Old Man Logan #69 (dude) It's a shame that long arcs have a filler before the key episode when you learn the 'secret'. We know it's set in the future; Wolverine has given up the claw and we don't know why it happened and what his problem is. So in this episode, he and Hawkeye escape from Spiderman's psychotic granddaughter, fall down a hole, avoid being eaten by mole-men and then have a bar brawl, before Wolvy decides to tell us exactly what happened on that fateful day. Woeful filler from super-hot Millar.
Batman: Cacophony 1 of 3 This is written by Kevin Smith so I thought I'd pick it up. Why do I keep going back to Smith who is hellbent on destroying any faith I had in him (it's personal- I'm sure...) His mundane podcasts with Mosier are painfully bereft of anything interesting, as they take an hour to tell boring anecdotes and create long numbing scenes out of pointless situations, plus Clerks 2 was a bad revisit to the legacy, unevenly paced and full of silly writing. It was as if the budget ruined it. I quite liked his Spidety and Daredevil arcs but this is just silly. Walt Flanagan's weird Jay Leno version of the Joker is basically Jay of Silent Bob fame, and the plot seems all too familiar to the Spidey plot he did. I just don't know. Must try harder next time, because in 22 pages, I was more intrigued by the adverts than the overwritten panels full of sass and self-reference. Sorry Smith, you had me at necrophilia... but have since lost me.
Detective Comics #850 This was the conclusion to the Hush storyline as we find out what happened to the parents that wanted him to be just like Bruce, so much so that he has had plastic surgery to that effect. As he tries to manipulate the Batcave to his own gain, Batman fends him off as best he can, leading to a tense cat and mouse game before an inevitable bittersweetly triumphant conclusion. Great arc with a chillingly funny coda.
Batman Confidential I read this. It's not worth reviewing. Joker oversaturation has gone wild in the run-up to the Dark Knight DVD release and the only arc worth reading is Joker's part to play in next week's conclusion to Batman RIP. In the meantime this is tie-in filler of the worst proportions. I only with Batman 'dying' next week, they'll start to scale back the ridiculous over-kill of titles featuring him. Probably not... it's an excuse to create new stories for a Bruce Wayne Batman despite whatever happens to him in the main title. Expect lots of 'Untold Stories of the Bat' type stuff next year. Blah.
Chase and Status are a London-based drum’n’bass crew with eyes firmly on their crossover potential, which is why we find them with an album that seems to have something for everybody. They’ve worked with Capleton and Top Cat and have threatened to take over in the past. On this, their debut album, they bring everything they’ve got to the table. Which is good because they’re talented producers and individual songs have been setting the charts and the airwaves alight, but ultimately, this is a collection of songs, a compilation with no common thread, no linking strand, no journey for the listener. Every style is thrown into the pot, successful or not, and what we’re left with is an inconclusive piece of work that doesn’t fully showcase their potential. Whether they are funking things up with the break-heavy ‘Music Club’ or getting Kano laying his decadent but gritty flow over a synergetic grime-beat, they are meticulous in producing every aspect of the song. It’s just it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t mesh together as a collection, as a coherent body of work that takes you on a voyage from the moment you press play to the big finale and climax. Instead, they’re more content to say, ‘Mmmm, let’s do an emo-drum’n’bass track’, or ‘let’s do some Eastern dubstep’. What next what next? Some Gregorian chanting over country banjos and gabba house beats? Who knows? Whatever whim is theirs to take shall surely be taken. And the dance scene has been going nuts for them. Individually the tracks stand up and Plan B’s emotive ‘Pieces’ has crossover success stamped in its core, while ‘Eastern Jam’ is a grimey dub-heavy piece of filth, and ‘Hurt You’ is breakneck dnb at its best. So yes, when you hear a song out of context of the others, you like it, but as one body of work, it doesn’t stand up. It has the ambition but not the vision to match it. ‘More Than A Lot’ should have been more than enough. It’s sad to see a versatile piece of work not meshing like this one, but alas it’s true, which is funny because normally you want a varied dnb album or a versatile dance album, and Chase and Status have tried to broach all genres. In the process though, we’re left with a frenetic sprawling mess of good songs that belong on compilations and individual pieces of wax.
There's been a jail break and Spidey has chased the escapee criminals to Baltimore where they've hit the radar of one Jimmy McNulty and his affable partner Bunk. They're investigating the guy's infiltration into the Bodymore, Murdaland's criminal population. Spidey arrives in town and immediately starts busting heads, including Snoop and Cheese, who run off in defeat. Undeterred they hire Venom and Carnage's symbiotes who turn Snoop and Cheese into rabid savage G-Symbiotes with sideways guns and flat-caps on their musuclar mutilated alien bodies. They attack Spidey who is defeated and slumps off. Meanwhile Bunk and McNulty have tracked the escapee criminal to a warehouse where it turns out he's working for... Doc Ock... yep, Doctor Octopus entrusted this man with the secret whereabouts of a special formula that can make ordinary men grow octopus arms and superhuman strength. Doc Ock gets the formula back and immediately disposes of the escapee man. Spidey teams up with McNulty and Bunk who have issued warrants on symbiote Cheese and Snoop, who are tearing their way through the Western district destroying all the walls so Spidey has nothing to hang on to. Spidey turns up with Hulk and Wolverine and they go to town on the evil gangsta symbiotes. They defeat them and then a rumble hits the ground... They turn round and Doc Ock is standing there with a legion of superhuman octopus-armed corner boys... holding McNulty and Bunk hostage.
TBC - cos then my alarm went off...
I can't work out if this is a really weird fan-fiction or the best dream ever.
Who would have thought that the lead singer of Super Furry Animals and the prog-loving hip-hop producer Boom Bip, famed for his work with Anticon would produce something that sounded anything like Neon Neon? What could have and indeed should have been an experimental psychedelic space-age prog-hop soul power record instead sounds two parts cheesy to one part guilty pleasure, as Neon Neon is the sound of the 80s plumed through contemporary computers, for that trendy sound that everyone from the Mystery Jets to Klaxons is trying to capture. The problem is, I was around the first time around, and I didn’t like it then. But I like Gruff Rhys a lot, and I quite like Boom Bip’s solo work. So what to make of Neon Neon?
The issue with it is musically, it’s all show and bluster, all style and all appearances. It’s capturing the zeitgeists of da trendee yoot, and you’re never sure whether it’s pastiche or not, so it’s hard to gauge a reaction, or even a connection with the songs.
‘Dream Carz’ is a good start with its rnb crunched through a synth vibe and the Gary Numan-esque narrative. It’s funky and fresh, and not too cheesy, while retaining the subtle humour and bizarre obscurity of vintage Gruff Rhys. ‘I Told Her on Alderaan’ is a complete guilty pleasure, all ridiculous 80s synths and searing metallic melodies with oodles of Star Wars references. Afterwards, it starts to dip a little, bringing in Spank Rock, a crime against hip hop, and Har Mar Superblah to try and raise the roof with ‘Trick and Treat’. It doesn’t quite work. It feels too knowing, too self-referential and too navel-gazing to really work. It seems as if Neon Neon are setting their sights on the pop charts. It’s surprising that an album so shamelessly backward-looking and filled with pastiche was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize, especially when the two main players have done much more jaw-dropping work in the past. It feels as if they’ve stumbled on some cool shades, invented a concept around it, bought a DeLorean and can’t figure out how to get Back to the Future. Yes, it’s showy and there’s some great production and Gruff Rhys’ stranged psychedelic voice still sounds special, but they’re coasting, they’re doing this for the kudos and not for the joy of it, or they’re doing this as one big joke on all of us, like Test Icicles did when they tried to make the most ridiculous and pathetic album they could, which then spawned the Klaxons. The album dips and rises and never really rises above guilty pleasure and when that’s the best thing you can say about a piece of work, you have to worry. Which is a shame because they’ve done amazing things in the past separately, they’ve even worked well together. Neon Neon is exactly what it says on the tin: Stainless Style. Effortlessly ‘cool’ but all the worse for it.
Hardeep Singh Kohli can’t quite figure it out. He’s a Glasweigan Sikh living in the British Isles with a huge appetite and a propensity for food pornography. In an effort to figure out just where his head is at, what his identity is and who he feel an affinity for, he sets off around India on a voyage of discovery; the hook is, he’s travelling round India cooking British staples like full English breakfasts, soups and toad in the hole for his ancestral countryman. What appears to be a Dave Gorman-esque comedic voyage of frivolity is given weight by the huge task of self-discovery Kohli takes along the way. It’s a modern view of India, peppered with references to the India of old and how it has developed at an exponential rate over the last few decades, and of Kohli’s own childhood in Glasgow trying to fit in, despite being a clunky chunky hirsute teenager. As he travels through India, flitting between the remote and the metropolitan, he begins unsure, trying to outclever the chefs and stomachs he prepares food for, instead opting for convoluted versions of the staples he intends to bring to India. Surely and slowly, he grows in confidence and comfort and begins to find his feet. The food is the conduit though, and as it is a great leveller, it allows him to meet members of every aspect of Indian society, from Delhi rich socialites, to poor fishermen living hand to mouth on a few staples, from ex-immigrants who have returned, to firm family friends. Through them all, he starts to work out how he fits into this society and where his Indianness begins and his Scottishness ends. Much as there are a plethora of books on the subject of alienation, identity and the British Asian diaspora, Kohli’s adventure is comedic and light, and never up its own arse. It is told honesty and with a lightness of touch, is easy to read and full of mouth-watering descriptions of food that send your tummy rumbling at the mere mention of crackling oil and sizzling onions, of frying garlic and marinating meats. The problems with this book lie in its lightness of touch in terms of the writing itself. Much as the material is accessible and easily readable, and the story more enjoyable than most other weight tomes on identity, it’s the writing that often lets it down. Kohli resorts to ‘really’ ‘incredibly’ ‘completely’ unimaginative descriptions of his food, and tries too hard to be funny, using similes drenched in pop culture references to make his point, referring to Star Wars characters, Eastenders, films and music; you can’t help but feel he’s taking the easy way out instead of trying to tell you what he really feels. The journey is sweet and succulent like the food he cooks and yet the narration, in its simplicity, becomes contrived and trite in places, and never quite redeems itself through charm. Much as he was a clunky chunky teenager, so is his descriptive prose, and this tends to mar what should be a gourmet feast of discussion and anecdote on the very nature of what makes us British. He is best when relaying anecdotes of his childhood and the bizarre contrast of his father uprooting his family to Scotland on a whim. In the present, though, with overly simplistic language, not much actual cooking of British foods (which start to make you wonder whether the premise is misleading) and no real connection with the people he cooks for, this ends up being a set of interesting anecdotes that never really rise above a slight grin. The premise is strong and Kohli himself is likeable enough and the Indian food he eats is beautiful and my personal interest in British Asian identity stories is relevant, but this is not as good as it could have been.
Bit of a weird one this because it contains the MIA seal of approval and has been okayed by global ghetto music champion Diplo who has done some nice tunes but ultimately this is a frenetic album lacking in tunes, high in energy and attitude but containing music I tend to hate out in clubs, made only listenable by the MIA/Diplo association. Is this right? Should I like this more because one of my favourite artists does? Is she just as responsible for latching on to a multitude of styles, pillaging genres everywhere she goes, like Buraka Som Sistema? No, because MIA can write a melody and a chorus and while the energy on Black Diamond is furious and the production is tight, I can't really find much to engage with. Now, this is on headphones, in the privacy of my own home; it probably translates better to a huge system in the middle of a 3am rave when the second wind kicks in and the sweat is palpable.
There are variations all through as Buraka go reggaeton, soca, house, Afro-beat, ghettotech and house. MIA pops up on housey Afrobeaty soca-y 'Sound of Kunduro', which features some of the most blistering Portugese rapping you'll ever here. 'General' is a political march, a revolution of swirling basslines and exploding synths. 'Shank and Move' features another top guestie (his second this month) from London-based Kano. But ultimately, there's something lacking. It's all pace and fury and beats and explosions and while it may sound good in Fabric or Matter on a Friday night, it's not comfortable listening to in the privacy of your own headspace as there's not much melody, there's not much soul behind it. It manages to capture the zeitgeist of global dance music but beyond that, behind the style, underneath the cool garms, there's a bunch of producers and MCs who would stand in good stead playing with melodies and varying the pace a bit more. I can see people loving this and I don't begrudge them it, but ultimately, it's glorified house, rebranded in lieu of the MIA/Diplo connect, and that ain't my bag, Morag.
Yay, our favourite festival haunt all summer was the Disco Shed at Latitude and Big Chill and they're coming to London:
Disco Shed w/ Dr Rubberfunk | J Star, Saturday 29th November 2008 On Saturday 29th November we have a brand new night coming to The Westbury, Disco Shed. The Disco Shed was conceived in a moment of garden party madness by club promoters and long time festival goers ‘Peepshow Paddy’ and Aidan ‘Count’ Skylarkin. Taking inspiration from their actual garden shed, where they have enjoyed countless parties, they set about converting your average 8x6 garden accessory into the must have kit for any festival . Completely mobile and only requiring a power source, the Disco Shed takes all the best elements from clubbing and disguises it amongst all the stuff you would normally find in your dad’s very own garden shed. Hanging baskets and disco balls will be your party partners for the night and the soundtrack to this party will be house and electro all under the watchful eyes of Bridget Fonda, as her workout videos are projected onto the sheds giant rooftop screen. The shed is guaranteed to intrigue the mightiest of sceptics and has to be seen to be believed.
The Westbury Address: 34 Kilburn High Road, London, NW6 5UA Public transport: next to Kilburn High Road (London Overground) and across the road from Kilburn Park (tube station) Buses: 16, 31, 32, 189, 316 Hours: Friday – Saturday 12noon-3am Entry free except minimum of £3 before 11pm, £5 thereafter
a superheroic indie group formed, featuring the drummer from the Arctic Monkeys, Matt Helders; the guitarist from Babyshitbles, Drew McConnell; the singer from Reverend and the Makers, Reverend Jon McClure; and fiery youngpup UK rapper Lowkey?
Well, apart from Lowkey and Matt Helders, the rest would be producing the best efforts of their careers...
Lowkey and Matt Helders supplementing their oodles of talents with new sidelines...
I’m playing the new album for the first time in front of a home crowd. Mum’s in the audience, in a position of royalty, on a plastic seat I brought her from backstage so she could rest her swollen feet. Other family members are in the audience. The electricity is palpable. I’m backstage drinking a beer waiting for the rains to come and drive everyone into my tent so I can entertain them and bewitch them with my acoustic strums. I finish my beer and walk into the Portacabin where I replace my empty with another full bottle of Dutch courage. My fingers are stiff and cold. I can’t warm them up. I imagine the first song will be robot strumming.
Rob’s standing next to me for moral support, and free beer. I take a long sip and prepare myself for another pre-gig piss. The stage manager walks past and I smile at him. He glowers and walks over.
‘How many beers have you two had?’ ‘I dunno. Three each?’ ‘You know they are for everybody not just you. We have a lot of acts on today.’ ‘Aren’t seventy per cent of them too young to drink?’ ‘Fair’s fair. If we run out, you have to go and buy me four beers. Understand? I know you’re the artist here but no one takes the piss out of me. Understand?’ ‘Understood.’ ‘Listen, understand this. This day is not about you. Understand? It’s about the community. Yeah? This is a community event. Understand? You are on the community stage. Yeah? Artists on the community tent do not go onstage drunk. Understand?’ ‘I’m not drunk. Don’t question me. I am the key to you sounding good. I’m writing your introduction now to give to the compere. Because, you know what? They don’t know who the fuck you are. Understand? Yeah?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Good. Glad you understand. Enjoy your beer. You’re on in ten minutes.’
‘When you on?’ ‘In five minutes.’ ‘Could I come up and beatbox in one of your tunes?’ ‘Erm… I don’t know. This is the first time I’m doing this material. Maybe in a few gigs time.’ ‘The opportunity is now, bruv. Besides, this is the community stage. Give back to your community.’ ‘I’ll think about it.’ ‘Let me know, yeah?’
‘Next up, we have a very special act. I’m sure you’ve all heard of him. Who here is a fan of Nikesh Shukla?’ ‘…’ ‘Brilliant. He’s going to rock your socks off. Are you ready?’ ‘…’ ‘Excellent. Please welcome him onstage. He used to be known as Yam Boy but now he wants to get married so he’s calling himself Nikesh Shukla so no one thinks he looks like a potato and because he is all man. Put your hands together and welcome your favourite comedy folk poet, Nikesh Shukla.’ ‘…’ ‘Err… hello. Thanks for your warm welcome. Are you ready to folk?’
I play the first song so quickly that no one can hear any of the words, meaning they miss the main conceit of the song that makes the chorus so damned hilarious. It’s hard to write about playing music so averagely without sounding like Flight of the Conchords or Spinal Tap. But when the sheer amount of bands in London outweigh any semblance of fans, it’s important to document the triers and the doers and the deluded and conflicted.
I’m so desperate to impress my mum. The only reason she’s come to see me is because this is one of those cultural festivals that celebrate our combined heritage and she was going to be here anywhere. To have her son perform, on essentially the care in the community stage, is a proud moment for her. She will tell me afterwards that she didn’t understand a word of what I’m saying but I keep darting my eyes over to her to see if she’s digging the vibes. She’s staring at me with a vacant smile to give me the illusion she is paying attention, when really, she’s wondering what time Jay Sean is playing the main stage.
In order of importance from less important to most important, these are the people you need to impress at gigs.
Other bands: they may want to book you to play with them, or collaborate or think of you favourably down the line. Also, if you get famous before them, they’ll remember you and jealously tell all their mates in the pub they blew you off the stage. Of course it works in reverse too. And you’ve got a famous contact to call in. It pays to be friends with all the bands you play with on the off-chance they beat you to the fame spot.
A&R man: you really only need to hold his attention for one and a half songs because the poor underpaid fucker goes to so many gigs, he has lost his attention span completely. He now goes to gigs because he’s heard good things about the band or because he wants to say good things about a band so when they’re discovered, he was the first to hear the good things that were initially said about them that led to more good things being said about them. Also, A&R don’t sign bands anymore. They sign albums. So you don’t really need to impress him that much. Remember your independent spirit, go it alone, sell CD’s outside Topshop. Think of the dividends.
The three fans there for the music: once you get past the fact that the crowd comprises of the other bands’ friends, and you’re slick at playing your songs, you’ll start automatically start scanning crowds for the three real music fans left in the audience and you will turn your entire performance to face them so they can blog about you to their friends and add you on Myspace. Once you’ve hooked them in, you’re waging war on the machine man.
Your brand new girlfriend/potential new girlfriend: watching you gig with maximum confidence will make her want to bone you more. And she’s one more person to convince you’re good, cos once you’ve hooked her in, she’ll start inviting her friends down to see you, and your fanbase increases.
Mum: there’s no one more important in this world than dear old mum. She rues the day she let you buy a guitar instead of an accountancy calculator. You’re doing this for her validation. The better you play, the more she will love you.
By the time my between-song banter has garnered bemusement and I want to berate the audience for leaving in droves or watching me politely and hating me, I notice the tent is starting to thin. The second song is quite stiff, played with a heavy strumming hand and a quiver of nerves in my voice as I mangle words and images into a mess of half-executed messiness. The third song is marginally better, though desperate in tone, wanting to retain the audience I walked in to. Unfortunately, the act before me was a community dance project where disadvantaged kids learned traditional Bollywood dance and now it’s me, singing stupid songs about comics and politics. The shift in tone and content is uneasy, meaning that I am no longer relevant to anyone who came in to see some cutesy Bollywood steps or their children. My mum is looking around at the unrest in the audience and I want to switch her focus back to me. My next song is a well-known but odd cover version, like when Elbow did ‘Independent Woman’ or Travis did ‘Baby Hit Me One More Time’. People know the song and sing with me. I’ve managed to regain their confidence momentarily. At the end of the song, someone shouts to me to ask if I know any Bollywood songs. I don’t, I respond, but instead sing them a song about my favourite Bollywood actress and how she helped me to question my own opinions of identity. It’s a sweet sombre affair and the yawns are now audible. No one cares. And why should anyone care about a stranger’s issues.
By the end, I have run out of energy and enthusiasm. They don’t get me, I decide. All they want to hear is Bollywood and bhangra, not pastoral comedy folk. It’s the wrong festival for me. The wrong crowd. The crowd comprises all the archetypes present in my family, and funnily enough they never come to my gigs unless I’m playing at this particular festival and here I am, and all I can see is the curl of their collective lips. I come to the end of a song and glance at my watch to see how long I’ve got left, I’ve got to the point where I’ve lost perspective on how long I’ve been onstage. I’m not wearing a watch. Half-looking at the idiotic MC at the side of the stage, I ask him if I should do one more. Unfortunately, I forget the amplifying equipment in my face and it booms out over the tannoy.
‘No more, no more, please no more,’ some middle-aged woman sat cross-legged directly in front of my mum’s chair squeals. Mum smacks her round the back of her head. She turns round and screams at my mum. ‘Your son is awful. My son could do better.’ Mum stands up, all 4feet and 8 inches of her and points an accusing finger at the screaming woman. ‘Your son is a wanker,’ she retorts venomously.
‘My mother, ladies and gentlemen,’ I quip and the audience laughs with me, suddenly we’re in unison, we’re working, we’re finally gelling. I’m about to launch into another song, another cover version they’ll all get. But before I can, bhangra-dancing his way on to the stage is my friend, the MC with the worst introduction skills in Christendom, grinning like a happy Larry, bhangra-ing over to me. ‘Who would like to hear one more? Eh?’ he coos to an unforgiving crowd.
Our telepathic goodwill connection is lost. They revert back to hating me. ‘No one. Get him off. Get him off.’
My mum is still standing and turns to face my detractors. No one can see her in the melee of apathy. ‘You leave my son alone.’
‘Haha, mummy darling defending you eh?’ coos the MC.
There’s nothing for it, I decide, and sing a jangly version of ‘Baby Got Back’ by Sir Mix-a-Lot which gets teenagers laughing and giggling, oldies furious and offended and my mum embarrassed she ever spawned me and celebrated my artistry in a field of her peers. I leave the stage and the soundman stifles a laugh as I walk past, telling me to not worry, fuck em, I did a good set, I smile blankly, the MC chases me and tells me I have 5 minutes left if I want to do an encore. He tells me I should be proud of the way my mum defended me and I did a good job but I should have done some Bollywood covers. He follows me as I make my way to the tent containing the rider. It’s still full and we’re near the end of the set. I open a beer, down it and open one more. I place 15 beers in my bag and go to find Rob.
Rob greets me with an outstretched hand. After all I forced him to endure, I owe him a beer right? Mum sits on her chair like the Queen of Sheba. People walk past her tutting. I walk up to her shy and slightly embarrassed about the whole thing.
She looks up at me with an aww shucks, parents just don’t understand look. ‘That bitch is lucky I didn’t beat the fuck out of her,’ she tells me seriously, like I’ve just fluffed lines in the school play. In one fell swoop she has reduced me to teenage panic and esteem.
Listening to this album raises an important point about genres and classifying music into tiny boxes with little labels and streamlining it into ways that make it easier for people to judge whether they will like it without even listening to it. Depsite being put out on the experimental 4AD label, one that has given us Pixies, this is an album built out of strings and is wordless. Is it modern classical music? Is it film soundtrack because of its scope vision and visual impact? To give you my own opinion as to its classification might turn you off listening to this immense ambitious piece of work, so can we agree, it's just music, okay?
Slow, haunting and intimate, this quiet and instrumental album is the second part in Johannsson's trilogy about the American industrial complex. Like Sufjan Stevens, Johannsson is concerned with America and wants to celebrate its good parts as well as discuss its overkill with the rest of the world, its need to be in everyone's faces. The elegaic beauty of the orchestra, from each muttered flute to the dreamy strings and the delicate sprinkles of electronica make this a challenging listen, bursting with subtlety and places to get lost in as the music tends to start slowly and quietly and build into an intense tumult of sombre tensions, quietly descending back down to earth after the machine-shattering crescendos that peak at the songs' climaxes. This is a personal response to teachnology and its obvious obsolensence, inspired by Johannsson's father's work in computer technology. It is soaring and intimate in equal measure, heartbeats away from a sobbing climax. It moves delicately, with the use of swelling strings and piercing vibrations, all resulting in a fascinating and utterly absorbing web of ideas and ambitions.
Kidkanevil is a fine architect of bass-heavy instrumental hip-hop and breaks, immersed in percussion and Eastern mysticism, willing to plough the gamut of the world to build up his wordless beats. From synth-pop to dirty Bollywood sleaze, from grime to electronica, there is a feeling of urgency, of cityscapes erupting with implosions all around as he meticulously builds up some well-thought out, complex hip-hop for our listening pleasure. 'Real Wild' uses a well-known and well-ploughed Bollywood action funk sample and manipulates it to sound fresh as it flanges across speakers while the drums explode underneath it. 'Tokyorkshire' is a simple synth-toy riff build around a squelch of games sounds and vocal samples of children, you feel like you're hearing people playing Mario in the next room, while 'Yuki's Hometown Hifi' is full of bass-driven skankin and reggae goodtime vibes. There are oodles of versatility on the album, a seamless weave of soundscapes from all over the world. By the time, the album goes to that stereotypical beats and breaks instrumental hip-hop and scratching sound, you don't mind as you're midway point through a beautifully well-put together album full of passion and promise. This is a really good album from a talented producer still learning still building and still promising to rival the likes of his influences in years to come, with such versatility, who remembers 'Endtroducing' anyway?
Mumford and Sons - Love Your Ground (Chess Club 2008) Mumford and Sons are purveyors of find acoustic blues folk, seeping with melancholy and aching melodies that haunt and hum on efforts like 'The Banjolin Song' which is a steel-string trip through basic Americana. Opener 'Little Lion Man' is all bluster and strumming feyness. Mumford's gravel voice is somewhere Hootie (of Blowfish fame) and a sad bluesman wearing his heart on his sleeve. The stomps and folky twangs of the banjo are similar to the twee antifolk of Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit but manages to capture none of their subtlety and wry sadness.
Joan as Policewoman (featuring Rufus Wainwright) - To America (PIAS 2008) Rufus Wainwright returns the favour to Joan after spending years as a her taskmaster when she was but a wee star waiting in the aisles playing in his band. On 'To America' the piano plods and strings fiddle fiddly in the background while the sea throbs and pulses with waves. Joan and Rufus sing plaintively to each other over the ocean, crying, yearning, sobbing into their instruments. It's a sweet little love song to loss and to the power of optimism bestowed on weary travellers as they enter America... and as the traveller hits American shores, it erupts into a sleazy jazz showtune with Rufus and Joan reaching a unison of harmony empowering and hopeful, optimistic and dripping with sleaze.
Neon Neon - Dream Cars (Lex 2008) Lex is a label that puts out pretty much what it wants, depending on rainmakers to bring the dividends in to finance pursuing pet projects. Lex usually relied on Dangermouse, who has since jumped ship to proper stardom. Now they rely on the unlikely 80s inspired marriage of Boom Bip, avante-garde hip-hop-prog producer and psychedelic Valley-man Gruff Rhys, in their Delorean guise, Neon Neon, this year nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. 'Dream Cars' is another psych-80's electro adventure, this time, obsessed with Dream Cars, specifically, the DeLorean and its inherent 80s coolness. 'Mr Right' their stomping live track is reinvented as a ballad by Young Marble Giants. There are also remixes by Motor City, a quite spacey housey version, and Dream Drums, containing some strange robot urges and clashing synth bongos and assymetric sounds.
Killer Meters - Dance Move Shake / Black Mountain (Breakin' Bread 2008) The Killer Meters, famed for their 2005 cover versions of Meters tunes, return with their boombastic Karime Kendra, this time opting for a new set of original tunes, released on two 7"s. 'Dance Move Shake' is an instructional Jimi Hendrix-esque squelch of guitar funk and badass girly pop singing, urging you to explode on the dancefloor, start funky but slowly lose control when the jamming guitars take over your eardrums. 'Black Mountain' is slower, sweeter and dirtier, a porno contrast to the urgent fervent A-side. Karime gets sultry and strong over the top, rapping and singing her suggestive baritone moves into your ears. Proper UK funk star. Get those record players dusted off.
Amazing Spider-man 576 This issue finishes off last week's Hammerhead return. It's again drawn like a dark teen comic, contains some clunky 'keep the kids off the streets' polemic about disadvantaged black youths falling into gang culture but being saved by Spidey and a rather gruesome jaw disloaction/relocation scenario. But the storyline is good. Hammerhead is going around the Bronx recruiting gang members into Mr Negative's fold... or else. The consequences are far too brutal to discuss on a family forum but basically, they don't die easily. Spidey prevails and beats off Hammerhead saving the day in his own abrasive way. Brand New Day picks up again after its world beating New Ways to Die arc. I might well go on about this for the rest of my years.
Daredevil and Captain America: Dead on Arrival This one shot teams Cap with Double D in a macabre tale of death by touch and disappearing bodies. As Daredevil investigates the disappearance of a child and the reappearance of an old foe, The Deathstalker. Strangely, Captain America is on his trail too. In a storyline reminiscent of a Star Trek standard, this takes in temporal anomalies and quantum physics, alternate realities and the possible destruction of the world if your past and future were ever to appear. It's a good story, made with some great fight scenes and funny interplay between Cap and DD. Worth picking up especially for Daredevil fans who don't always get as much in terms of one shots compared to other big Marvel names.
Venom: Dark Origin 4 (of 5) As we near the end of our introduction to Eddie Brock and his initial bonding with the symbiote, we follow him as he develops a sense of twisted justice, as Eddie fights with the bond between him and the symbiote to be complete. The symbiote shows him a glimpse of its own origins. Eddie eventually relents and goes on the hunt for Spiderman. Because, as he soon learns, the symbiote knows everything about our hero. And now we get to see the other side to the iconic image of Mary Jane Parker, frightened half to death by Venom. We watch him torment her as the symbiote and the love interest tussle over who would eventually win the affections of one Peter Parker. Conclusion next month. Definitely interesting stuff.
Weapon X: First Class 1 of 3 We cast our minds back to Wolverine's early times with Professor Xavier at the school. Professor X wants to help Logan unlock the memories that stay hidden from him but can't do it without Wolverine entering his own head and becoming a sort of spirit guide. Wolverine finds some pretty garbled images in his head, some he recognises, others he cannot decipher. He meets his old foe Sabretooth who leads him to where his mind was wiped, where he was turned from a secret agent for the Canadian government into Weapon X. The second storyline deals with Sabretooth, an evil freak who has decided that if humanity will choose to shun him, he shall shun it and give it the freak it thinks he is. He meets Professor X who asks him to help bring in Wolverine to the school. Sabretooth, jealous of Wolverine always being better than him slowly builds himself into a deadly frenzy.
Wolverine: Chop Shop Wolverine investigates organ stealing and beats up a lot of people after he gets chopped up himself. Good, if bunfy.
X-Men and Spider-man 1 (of 3) Kraven, still smarting from his latest defeat at the hands of Spidey, outs him as a mutant to draw him out into the open. Spidey carries on his life, not realising the X-Men are looking for him to help him deal with his mutantry. As they convene at the hip banging (for this is way back when) Coffee bean with Jean Grey, MJ and Gwen Stacey swapping partners, Kraven and the Blob strike, leading to a brilliant retro Spidey and original X-Men team-up before we realise that Kraven was not working alone and Mr Sinister wants something with the precious X-DNA. Brilliantly drawn retro fun.
Produced by Just Blaze. An early version leaked at the begining of the week but here is the Final cut. The efortless delivery from Jay fits so well over Just Blaze's beautiful chords and synths. Bangin!
Off Guitar Center’s Fresh Cuts Vol. 3 (Music By Guitar Center Employees) Compilation CD.
Mark Millar is one of the only reasons (alongside Brubaker's Daredevil) to read Marvel at the moment with his work on Wolverine, Fantastic 4, and the amazing Kick-Ass.
Could he be scripting the next Superman? Could he?? Could be interesting... a grown-up version of Smallville, a retcon update of the first two Reeve/Donner films. If anyone can pull off a decent script of essentially a boring character, it's Millar, despite the hash being made of his Wanted graphic novel. Oh, and I wonder who the mystery director is? If I had to guess, I'd say Kevin Smith.
The Shortwave Set is drenched in sunshine. Originally released in warmer climates, this Dangermouse-produced slice of psychedelic pop is a celebration of Californian gold, sunny America and driving in the blistering cloudless skies with the rooftop down. Dangermouse adds a gleam of 60s revisionist analogue warmth to the proceedings, drenching their drums in the Motown-esque stomps that made his Gnarls Barkley incarnation so brilliant. What's so surprising about the Shortwave Set is that despite their leanings towards power-clattering American pop like the Flaming Lips, they're from South London. Their brand of electronica pop is given a drench of psychedelic guitars and strange and soaring harmonies. This is less garage band than their debut, 'The Debt Collection', it's almost overproduced in places. But songs like 'Glitches N Bugs' offer you a spacey lift-off of soothing proportions, while the 'Downer Song is an electronic almost sombre ending to an optimistic fist-thumping album.
'Glitches N Bugs' is now out as a single and is notable for its inclusion of a cover version of Grace Jones' 'Slave to the Rhythm', subverting the original with mellotrons and haunting drum machines.
Thank god Foreign Beggars are back. With Roots Manuva, they blaze a trail through the UK hip hop scene, with the most talented vocalists, beat makers, beat boxers and DJs in their immense Dented stable of greatness. However, listening to ten consecutive remixes of the filthy 'Hit that G@$h' does leave you feeling like a violent sex pest donkey-punching your way out of the room. The original version is an electro-disco house filth monger of a bit with Orifice getting freaky with the oodles of g@$h throwing themselves at him. French hip-hop crew Rouge a Levres crop up on the guest duties, spitting some French pornography with panache, sleaziness with sophistication and European charm with increasingly decadent alarm. To discuss the lyrical content would be to ruin the whole point of this brilliant single catchy dirty tune. It is what it is and it's funny, freaky and dirty. The 9 remixes, imaginatively named (Big Willy's Bukkake Bashment, Salad Toss Off) run the gamut of styles and approaches that make Foreign Beggars such a versatile band, so much more than a simple hip-hop crew. In-house producer, Dag Nabbit gives them a big beat explosion while D-Code laces the tune with some menacing near-drum'n'bass. Seemore Productions get ethnic and dubsteppy while DJ Primecuts gets downlow, bassy and grimey. Dubbledge, Kyza, Inja and Chester P crop up in various guises and guiles to brandish their own brands of filth. This is a monster hit with enough for everyone on it. Through disco house, electro, straight up hip-hop, grime, dubstep and drum'n'bass, Foreign Beggars are truly a band to be reckoned with. United Colours of Beggartron, their third album, should be out early 2009.
David Simon's superlative police procedural book is given a reprint by the UK's coolest publisher in the wake of the Wire's current cult status as must-have boxsets. Thanks to Charlie Brooker, the UK is now going ga-ga for the intensely intricate Wire, and now thanks to Canongate, no stranger to starting cults of their own, has handily brought the book out that started it all off, and quite kindly made the cover similar to the cover of the season 1 Wire boxset. They have done the same with The Corner, Simon's other book that directly spawned The Wire, which Canongate promise to reprint in April 2009. Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets actually became Simon's first attempt at TV, as Homicide: Life on the Streets, starring Richard Belzer, Yaphet Kotto and an enigmatic Andre Braugher.
The book, originally released in 1991 and not feeling dated in the slightest, follows Simon shadowing each unit with the Homicide department of Baltimore's busy police department. Simon is able to watch over the shoulders of the police as they go about investigating the multitude of murders occuring every hour on the Baltimore streets, most related to the decaying city's drug trade, others 'stone-cold whodunnits'. Simon is unafraid to talk in jargon and banter but is careful to explain all the terms. His writing style is clear and concise, unfaltering in its journalist's eye, taking in everything like an ink-filled sponge. Each aspect of the Homicide departments laws, codes, morals, procedures and investigative methods are meticulously documented for the reader. Despite the oodles of detail and character study, it never gets boring, zipping along at a quick pace, bouncing between ongoing cases, showing the real-life processes of solving murders, from waiting for lab-reports to the laborious paper-filling to the daylong interviews with suspects and endless canvassing of endless scenes. The amazing bits are where you can see stories and characters that have ended up in Simon's shows. You suddenly find yourself confronted with characters' real-life versions and you start to realise just how close-to-the-truth Simon's spell-binding TV is. Sergeant Jay Landsman is exactly as he is in real life, masking his jadedness in humour and ribbing. McLarney feels like an incarnation of McNulty, committed, better than everyone else, slight alcohol dependency. Murders that haunt the detectives in real life have haunted their fictional counterparts on Homicide: Life on the Streets. Write what you know, they say, and Simon knows police procedure.
The book is bigger than the police it is close to. The book is about the death of an American city, where the politicians play power-games with each other, their eyes on the Senate, using the decaying city as a political stepping-stone, moving their pawn-police around imaginary boards on their every whim. Meanwhile the ghettoes of Baltimore implode with drugs, rival gangs and lack of education, father-figures and a way out. There's a Baltimore claustrophobia lurking on each street corner, giving you the impression that these obsessed detectives, desperate to solve their cases, never leave and the criminals never leave except in a body bag or a prison bus. The detectives play the statistics games, fall under media scrutiny when 'red ball' high profile cases hit, and live and die by their clearance rates.
This book, undated and unflinching, is a startlingly brutal and honest voyage into the heart of the last bastion between the po'houses and the courthouses, the complete and utter unsympathetic life on the killing streets of Baltimore. This is more than a police procedural, it's full of heart and honesty and colourful characters on which television caricatures are built, as their lives are consumed by dead bodies and turning names from red to black and solving murders in one of the most violent and deadly cities in America. So recommended I might burst telling you again and again... Essential. Truly simply amazingly brilliant.
Chris Morris's "ON THE HOUR" double CD Boxset is to be released on Warp records - 24th November 2008
After a sixteen year wait, one of the most highly acclaimed radio programmes of the nineties, featuring a uniquely talented combination of acclaimed comedy writers and actors, is finally released on Warp Records.
As well as featuring the first appearance of Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge, this hilarious satirical comedy (originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4) formed the basis for TV show ‘The Day Today’ and was described by the Independent on Sunday as “the most brilliant radio comedy to emerge in the last ten years or more” for it’s savage dissection of news and current affairs programming.
Each box set will feature one full series (six half hour episodes). In addition an hour of bonus material will be spread between the two box sets, including the pilot episode and previously unheard Alan Partridge improvisation.
I've blogged this before but this is one of the best clips I can remember from it...
BBC Radio 1 DJ and Shiva Soundsystem spearhead Nerm is a dear friend of Geek Pie. Recently he made a documentary for Asian Network about his swastika tattoo and reclaiming a subverted sacred Hindu image for his people. Thought-provoking stuff...
TRAIN DRIVER (over tannoy): It has been brought to my attention that there are beggars operating on this train. Please do not approach them. Please do not give them any money. They are linked to an underground ring of thieves, drug dealers and prostitutes. MUM: They should stop the train. SON: Why? MUM: Get these beggars off the train now. SON: Right now? MUM: Right now. SON: We're between stations. Surely that would slow everyone down. MUM: Doesn't matter. Stop the train. Get them off. Let them wonder this network of tunnels till they get their comeuppance. They'd never find their ways out. It'd clean up the streets. SON: Mum... please. (Pause) MUM: I can spot them you know. SON: Spot what? MUM: Beggars. I can see them. I can smell them. Wherever they are, I know they're there. I should do something. SON: Can you see one right now? MUM: No. But they should stop the train and let me walk through the carriages, I'd wheedle them out. You could throw them out of the train. Tough boy like you. SON: Mum, please... MUM: I'm not being harsh about pestilence. You lead a certain lifestyle, you come to expect being treated a certain way. And my eagle-eye never fails me. SON: Mum, you're being embarrassing. MUM: I'm just saying what's on all of their minds. They don't want to ride in the same trains as the homeless either. What next? Free medical care for these rats?
This is a prologue to my diary of gigging in the last year.
The Year of Gigging Dangerously
‘So, there’s no PA system, no stage, no microphone stand, and nowhere for me to plug in my guitar?’ ‘What do you expect man? This is a coffee shop in India, not Wembley Stadium.’ ‘Yes, but when you booked me for the concert, you told me you had everything I need.’ ‘Most performers bring their own equipment.’ ‘Oh.’ ‘So make the music.’ ‘On what?’ ‘You understand music, you will work out what to do.’
This is my moment to shine. This is my moment in the sun. I am an international troubadour. I am a wandering minstrel. I can get through this.
‘Do you know any Bollywood covers?’
I try to erect a microphone stand out of the materials before me. I watch Blue Peter. I watch the A Team. I am prepared for anything. I can get myself out of tight spots. I look around for something, anything that might act as a microphone stand. The only thing that might work is a hookah. I grab it and wonder whether I can balance one on top of the another. Not going to work. I take a table from the corner and put the hookah on it. It’s the perfect height. I balance the microphone precariously on top of the hookah. It rolls around a little. I ask for gaffa tape. Surely they have gaffa tape. The owner looks at me and arches an eyebrow.
‘You break it, you buy it.’ ‘How much are they?’ ‘£200 each.’ ‘It’s cheaper to buy a microphone stand.’
When the gig comes around, I ask him what time I should go on. He tells me whenever I’m ready. He won’t introduce me though. I should be professional enough to do that. Ultimately, when the time comes, all the people sat drinking lattes and devouring cakes see is a man with an acoustic guitar stand up and launch himself into a song about how monkeys will one day take over the world. Bemusement doesn’t quite accurately describe the mood. Especially as four bars into the song, the microphone cuts out.
The microphone one of those cordless radio mics, prone to receiver signals from mobile phones, taxi ranks and anything with an electronic signal. The receiver of the microphone is plugged into the back of one of those colourful JVC hi-fi systems that you buy for your teenager because it has lots of flashing lights and digital screen prompts on it. The JVC hi-fi is my PA system. It’s connected to the speakers on the veranda where the performance is taking place. The guitar has no microphone. Thus, anyone sitting inside the café can just hear my singing. The microphone is too far away from the receiver to work effectively so sizzles and fizzes with staccato syllables making no sense. The audience loses interest and returns to cake and coffee.
A helpful granny sat nearby eating an ice cream sundae with her fingers smiles at me dumbly and calls me over.
‘Walk around. Play. Walk around. Play.’ She smiles. I smile back, turning back to the audience who has instantly forgotten those vital first four bars I have already played. I try the microphone once more but it’s still cutting out. People look up at the staccato sound bursts wondering what’s causing them. At no point do they pay me any attention. At this point in time, my ego is buzzing, crying out for attention and the old lady’s advice seems the best. I launch into my most uptempo song, imagining myself as a mariachi man, serenading tables with my song about superheroic justice, political intrigue and Machiavellian pets. People start to tear themselves away from the vice in front of them and listen to me for the few seconds I arrive in their radar. As soon as I’ve moved to another area, I’ve lost them. Cake and coffee, cake and coffee. I can hear the buzz and thump of the speakers gurgling with input and suddenly, a house beat reaches out of the hi-fi system and into people’s ears. They start tapping their feet and smiling. Normalcy has been resumed. I stop playing, my cheeks burning, and my fingers strumming lighter and lighter. Looking inside, I can see the manager of the café sipping an espresso behind the counter reading a newspaper. I de-strap my guitar and walk in, arms aloft in the universal sign for ‘what the fuck man!?’
‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I thought you’d finished. That first song you played was weird.’
Hello and welcome and yeah... in an oversaturated blog-o-glob... we throw our 2 dubloons in.
Avocado Picker: 28, author, journalist... specialist subjects include: the Wire, the post X-Files career of Agent Scully, Bollywood music 1950-1970, Spider-man, Dare Devil, The Sopranos, British comedy 1990-present, the complete works of Chuck Palahniuk and Aniruddha Bahal, Arnie films pre- True Lies, and different uses for cheese in culinary situations.
The Mystery Voice: 30, software engineer, time waster... specialist subjects include: Linux (etc), C++ & PHP (and other animals, yawn), Physics (blah), British comedy past and present (yay), grand master Mornington Crescent (huh?), the incomplete works of Douglas Adams and Bill Bailey (wtf?)