Wednesday, 31 October 2007

You Fat Bastard

No, not *you*, dear reader, that's the name of my new record, an anthology of crackin' tunes from Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine. Big, loud, declamatory songs with a soupcon of rudeness and tongue in cheek fun. I *like* Carter USM.

I have an odd memory of listening to '1992 The Love Album' on my walkman two or possibly three times in a row while stuck on a bus crawling over Lambeth Bridge way back when (in 1992 I suspect). I was intimately familiar with that record - or cassette tape as it was (younger readers should note that "cassette" was an old form of technology).

Over the summer I had a yearning for Carter and was about to plunge into a frenxy of downloading and CD buying when I noticed that a new double compilation was due for release in October. I decided to bite my tongue and wait. I ordered it but the dregs of the postal strike meant that it only finally arrived today so I've been wallowing in loud brashness all evening. It's a great collection and the only disappointment is the absence of 'Suppose You Gave A Funeral And No-one Came', one of my favourites (but I might get '1992' anyway).

There's a fun little booklet written by Jim Bob from which I've now learned that their first records were recorded down the road from me in a garage in Mitcham (I never knew that). You've got to love the scallywags for the titles of the songs - 'And God Created Brixton', 'The Only Living Boy In New Cross', 'Twenty Four Minutes From Tulse Hill' - a south London lad's dream. And, as luck would have it, they're playing a 'farewell' gig at Brixton Academy on Friday and it's sold out (drat, why do I find out about these things so late?).

Anyway, enough words. I'm off to turn up the volume on the stereo...

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Keshagesh

Keshagesh is a greedy puppy, a Cree word for 'greedy guts', and is featured in the chorus of a new Buffy Sainte-Marie song. I know this because she has told me and she can tell you if you'd like to listen.

Buffy undertakes speaking engagements throughout the year and these are sometimes reported in newspapers, so I know that Buffy talks about the absence of colleges of peace and reads a poem called 'The War Racket'. But I've never heard one of her speeches - until this evening.

A couple of weeks ago Buffy was a guest speaker at the national conference of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the union recorded that speech and posted it as an mp3 on its website - click here for a short article about Buffy and the mp3 file (which lasts for 27 minutes).

Buffy has been in the peace business for over 40 years so she's worth listening to. Her analysis is incisive, "war is money-laundering". And you can hear the outrage and disgust in her voice as she says it. She also talks about the Creator, about being a young singer with too much money so she set up an education foundation, about 1492 and native Americans being slaughtered by alcoholics. There is pain in her speech. But there is hope and forgiveness and joy. There is laughter. And lots of applause.

Buffy is a powerful speaker, a very creative speaker, and she takes us on a journey. Take a short journey with Buffy and take a listen.
And thanks to Michael for pointing me in the direction of CUPE.

Monday, 29 October 2007

DiscoGlitterStompf

Y'know that feeling when you need to say something but you just can't form the words? A big admission, that kinda thing? So you just screw up your courage and let it all out like some bloated intestinal gas, y'know? Well... *takes a deep breath* ...

I-listened-to-some-tracks-from-the-new-record-by-Britney-Spears-last
-week-and-today-I-bought-the-album-and-I-quite-like-it-actually-I
-know-I-shouldn't-but-I-do. Sorry.

Twelve relentless tracks of pop-dance-electronica with lots of Britney's trademarked orgasmic 'oohs' sprinkled across the vocals. I can't help but wonder how much time she actually spent in the studio and whether she spent more time at the photo-shoot. Or is that malicious of me? All the songs have the same feel - I suspect it's been produced for the iPod shuffle generation so I'm not sure it's meant to be heard all the way through in one sitting.

The relentless dance beat changes for 'Ooh Ooh Baby' which has a definite Glitter Band stomp circa 1973 so I hope Mike Leander is getting a share of the royalties. The vocal line of that song also rips off 'Happy Together' by The Turtles but the wierd thing is that it actually works.

Anyway, I *like* it. After all, it's Britney, bitch!

But, um, well, there's more I'm afraid. It was involuntary, I swear it. Honest. It just happened.

I was listening to random music on Saturday afternoon when it happened. I struck a pose. I sang. I did interpretative movements. To ... well, you might as well know, to Kylie's 'Your Disco Needs You'! Y'know, the really butch sounding chorus where you just know that in the video, the men would all have their tops off and Kylie would be a goddess centre-screen, singing, 'Your disco.... Your disco.... Your disco.... Your disco needs you!'. That was me I'm afraid. And I believed it, I believed that my disco needed me. Not that I've been in one for an age, but that's not the point.

I don't know what came over me. Now, I do like a bit of Kylie (anything before about 1996 is hideous, but after...) but I've never joined in before. I must've been entrapped or something. I hope my home isn't being bugged by the secret service or the News Of The World.

Britney? Kylie? I need these urges balanced by the new Buffy or Amanda Palmer albums quickly. Should I check into rehab?

The Sex Pistols will save me. I have faith.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Sandra Bernhard at the Shaw Theatre

Saturday evening saw a trip up to Kings Cross to see Sandra Bernhard at the Shaw Theatre.

The night got off to a strange start with an acoustic set that no-one seemed to be expecting and this showed in the reception the bloke got. This included people talking through his songs and an exchange at the back between two people telling each other loudly to 'piss off' and someone trying to get the clapping started before the bloke had finished his song. Very rude behaviour but the bloke kept on playing anyway. Why do acoustic people seem to specialise in slow, dreary songs? A few nice fast sing-alongs would've worked so much better with an apathetic/hostile audience. And what an odd audience. It seemed like half was made up of gay men and lesbians, a quarter were obvious loud media types and the rest were an assortment of older couples.

The main event was Sandra, who appeared at the back of the stalls, singing , 'And I Am Telling You' from 'Dreamgirls' as she slowly and graciously descended the stairs to the stage, picking on one man as her ex-lover from a dirty weekend in the Brighton Novotel and that struck terror in my soul... audience participation. Then she got up on stage telling us of her life as a black woman and how this was a middle class white man's world and the show was off and running.

For the first half hour she paced back and forth across the stage (keeping the spotlight person busy), speaking non stop about what a crazy world we've created, shutting up a heckler down the front twice by pointing out it was her show and she wasn't responding to attention seekers while at the same time telling us stories about her own and Angelina Jolie's children, making a subtle comparison with the fool in the audience. Clever and stylish, I thought. She will enable audience participation, not the audience.

I can't describe what she said, it's all blur of fast talking quips, tales of her life and tales-of-her-life-I-suspect-were-invented, songs loud and quiet and lots of laughter. I loved her story of how she adopted Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and others of that ilk after a near car crach and looked after them for the day, buying paper and crayons and scissors to keep them occupied in the back of her car, taking them shopping and showing them the real world and inspiring Britney to be the star she really is. I *so* want that story to be true.

Sandra then vanished while the band played on (and guess what? the acoustic bloke at the start turned out to be her guitarist) and came back a minute or so later in Madonna pastiche to sing a song clearly inspired by Madonna and Prince. Bows, lots of clapping and exit.

I enjoyed Sandra, her stories about her girlfriend and her daughter, her glamorous, globetrotting lifestyle, her biting political comments and her general stream of consciousness madness. How can someone talk so much non-stop and still have something to say? On the way out I stopped by the merch stand to buy the CD of the show which includes some of the material I heard that night, but not all by any means. If you get the chance, go and see her.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

We Mean It Maaaaaaan!

The Sex Pistols are back! Here's a couple of photos borrowed from Reuters UK from the LA Roxy gig this week. John is as sartorial as ever (naturally). I am so looking forward to hearing what these pictures sound like...


Angie Stone at The Jazz Cafe

On Wednesday Chris took me to see Angie Stone at the ever box-like Jazz Cafe up in Camden. I vaguely know Angie's name but not the music, but she's one of Chris's 'new soul' favourites so should be worth a watch and listen. In a way, it was quite nice to turn up with no expectations, not listening for how she sang favourite songs or worrying that she wasn't going to sing a favourite. I could simply let the sound wash over me.

Angie took the stage and stayed there for just under two hours. I was expecting a big voice and that's what we got, but her's isn't just big, it's rich and very versatile. Backed by a four-piece band and two singers, she played the packed audience like a master, teasing and cajoling, working us relentlessly. The band sounded on top form, two keyboardists, guitar and drums, with one of the keyboard players taking singing duties for duets and the other playing the bass line (her bassist had to go home to sort out some personal stuff).

Halfway through she introduced Omar and brought him on stage for a couple of songs, again, I sort of know his name but that's about it. He had great hair.

A silly thing that pleased me immensely was when, in the middle of a song with Angie chatting to the audience and she said on the count of three everyone should freeze, so on she goes to the chorus and counts down '3-2-1 freeze' and the band stopped in their tracks, arms mid-air, silence, the works... and so did the audience. It was great theatre! A little thing, I know, but I loved it and it showed a bit of Angie's warm, fun personality.

Similarly, after talking about her sisters and getting them to sing along with some songs she started on the men in the balcony (the seated, dining area), squinting against the lights and getting them to stand up, cajoling all her brothers to stand up. She couldn't see the portion of the balcony we were sitting in so we could stay seated but I'm proud to be one of Angie's brothers as she went on to sing, 'Brothas'.

It was a great show and the audience went wild for her. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will have to become far more familiar with her songs.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Suzanne Vega at Cadogan Hall

Tonight was a treat and a half with the tiny trek over to Sloane Square to see the ever marvellous Suzanne Vega at Cadogan Hall, a new venue for me. Minor irritations aside (like the non-arrival of tickets and a last minute reallocation that meant we were sitting almost at the back of the hall) Suzanne brightened the evening and left me wanting to see her again.

That is, once we'd got through a short set from Gary Daly, a name that meant nothing to me until he said he used to be in China Crisis (which still doesn't mean anything to me but I at least know the name). If this is the launch of his new solo career then he needs to do some more work. I'm ashamed to admit that I checked texts early in his set, something I've never done before but there was so little there to keep my attention. I preferred his last three songs to the first lot. Ho hum. Anyway, on to Suzanne...

I last saw Miss Vega in July when she was promoting her new album, 'Beauty & Crime'. She's still promoting the album which is good for me since it means more gigs. She was playing with her band (as opposed to her occasional accoustic tours) and they sounded on top form.

Dressed in a black 'raincoat-dress' (part raincoat and part off-the-shoulder dress) with a black fedora she looked the part, reflecting the album cover. On stage alone, singing a capella 'Tom's Diner' as one by one her four-piece band walked on stage with a mug or a newspaper, so they all were on stage by the time she finished the song. It's a nice, quietly dramatic way to open the show. The DNA dance version of the song closed the show which is a nice motif, all life happening in a diner.

The songs were a mix of favourites and tracks from the new album and, this time, I got to see and hear 'Unbound' from the new album, one of my favourites, so I was a happy bunny jigging along in my seat (and that partly makes up for not playing 'Small Blue Thing'). She also played an excellent version of 'Bound', also from the new album, as the final encore. It's easy to think of Suzanne in the 'singer-songwriter' accoustic category but she writes some powerful music that comes to life with a tight band behind her, and 'Bound' is a good example of that. Both songs were new to me live and I hope to see her perform them again.

Favourites of the evening were 'Blood Makes Noise' (just voice and bass), 'Luka' (still powerful after all these years), 'Gypsy', 'Frank & Ava', 'Angel's Doorway' and 'Zephyr & I' which opened the encore. 'The Queen And The Soldier' was also part of the encore (jokely introduced as a song 'with a long narrative and a tragic end') which always moistens the eyes. The second encore was 'Bound'.

I love Suzanne's voice and could listen to her talk and sing all day. A couple of times during the concert I closed my eyes so I was just listening to that marvellously clear voice. She has a lovely dry wit that every now and then extends in mischievousness in some of her comments to the audience (like speculating about Rod Stewart while introducing '(I'll Never Be Your) Maggie May'). Her songs are excellent, a perfect marriage of words and music, painting pictures and telling tales. I don't think there's a single song of hers that I don't like.

It's always a pleasure to see Suzanne and I look forward to our next meeting.

The Majestic Jane

Isn't this Internet thing fabulous? A cry in the wilderness brings results from unexpected quarters.

What am I talking about? Well, remember my bloggie back in August about the Complete Jane Aire & The Belvederes? It appears that I'm not the only one with a fondness for Jane haunting the blogosphere and the mysterious Mike N. from Herefordshire has pointed me towards Jane circa 2007 in Baltimore. How thrilling is that?

Jane now sings with a band called The Majestics so that early training singing along to a jukebox for Liam Sternberg in a cafe paid off. I hope she's having a good life and having fun with the band.

And after all those silent years, here is Jane >>>>


Thanks Mike, that's a pint I owe you!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Rummage

I've had a rummage in the bottom of the Plastic Bag to see what's found it's way into the corners...

Flaars

One of the saddest things is to see a flower on it's way out, a once proud bloom flaunting its shapely shape and its gorgeous colour become droopy and wilted. A vase of the poor creatures doing that together is even sadder.

Last weekend I was the recipient of a lovely bouquet carefully wrapped in green tissue paper and then in brown paper and tied with string (how Edwardian, I loved it). I've tried not to wear them out by looking at them too much but they've turned and it's time to say farewell. Luckily for you, dear reader, I had the foresight to take a few photos of them in all their colourful glory and here is a montage of those photos for you to admire with green eyes.

Chair

I am pleased to report that my employer loves me. They (corporately) must do since they've bought me my very own chair and had it moulded to my body (well, my bum and back to be precise).

The ergonomics people came to assess me when I got back to work and said I needed a special chair, a special cushion, my desk raised 1" and a plastic thing for the top of my desk. Shortly after the order went in I had to choose the colour of the fabric and I chose rainforest green so it would be a bit unusual and easily spotted amongst the range of blues, reds and blacks we usually have for chairs (the colour doesn't come out properly in this photo). The ergonomics lady came back this afternoon to 'fit' it for me and, voila, instant comfort. I need to learn how to use it properly (it feels odd saying that about a chair) and make sure no-one plays round with the various levers and pumps to alter the settings.

And the cushion? I used that today for the first time and it actually made a huge difference. I was chairing two meetings so couldn't fidget and move in my seat the way I normally do (which would have been terribly unprofessional) and I could feel the pressure building in the small of my back so that as soon as the meeting ended I stood up, moved around and pressed my back against a nice firm wall for relief. For this afternoon's meeting I thought I'd put my embarrassment aside and carry the wedge-shaped cushion into the meeting room and sit on it and I'm so pleased I did. It was odd at first but made a huge difference. I'd still reached the end of my tolerance by the end of the meeting but not as badly as without the cushion. So that cushion will go with me everywhere in future (well, not really, but you know what I mean).

Marianne Faithfull

Somehow I omitted to mention that I met Marianne Faithfull a week or so back. Well, when I say 'met' what I mean is I attended a signing for her new book at Waterstone's on Piccadilly. She was very animated and chatty but I had my moment in the sun and wasted it. I'd thought all day about what I would ask if I had the opportunity - what do I really want to say to or ask Marianne? I decided to ask why she chose to record 'Working Class Hero' all those years ago on 'Broken English'? Her version is a classic and regularly played live to great effect, but why that song? Of course, the person in front of me was chatting away ten to the dozen about her last gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and how Anita Pallenberg was eating crisps and was given a white rose and all sorts of stuff (yes, you know who you are) so I missed my opportunity. I got a signed book though.

Sandi Thom

It's been a while since we've heard anything from Sandi but a new album is being finished for our delight. She has so many songs for it that some, that won't make it onto the album, are being given away through her website. I've already downloaded the first track, 'Dancin' With The Ghost Of Stevie Ray' and I quite like it. I'm quite looking forward to the album.


Saturday, 20 October 2007

The Blood Of A Tranny

A strange mind-shift took place last night from the glories of Siouxsie in the West End to the less salubrious environs of Vauxhall on a Friday night for Dawn Right Nasty's MisterSister club with guest stars from Trannyshack, San Francisco. I have no idea how Dawn lured the assorted trannies to her club (doubt it was the money) but this was a sight I had to see.

We were promised four trannies - Heklina, Kiddie, Fauxnique and Holy McGrail - but were short changed since we only had three. Shock horror in the gender delusion camp to learn that Fauxnique is *really* a woman! Gasp.

Anyways, like everyone else, I got my camera out when they finally came on stage at half past midnight except I forgot that I had the flash turned off... o dear. Still, here is a record of the evening as witnessed by yours truly:

Heklina, leader of the troupe:

Fauxnique, very 'Bladerunner' and scary:




Holy McGrail, post-op and proud, playing with various root vegetables:


Kiddie - after that performance, she needs no more introduction:




Movement was key to what I saw last night, the first three performers bounding all over the stage in fits and jerks, with Heklina leaping from the stage and marauding around the club. They each did one performance, miming to the music, dramatic poses aplenty and giving us lots of photo opportunities. I recall seeing Heklina in the Peaches Christ films Dawn played at the launch of her minizine, 'Tranny Hag' (copies available here) a year or so back (she played the nice tranny and she seemed nice last night too). This was Holy's first time out of America and she seemed to be enjoying herself.

Kiddie was the exception. No miming. No rushing round the stage. Quiet and menacing, with a fan and a bowl on the stage in front of her. Slowly disrobing and de-wigging, werewolf hair attached to her arms, looking most peculiar. And the music changed, becoming frantic and the strobe lighting started as she slowly went mad, covering herself in blood. I don't know what I was watching but it wasn't drag. A nightmare had come to town and it had a personality disorder. Kiddie was spectacular and I was stunned.

I was also spattered in blood. Being at the front (through no design of my own, I really should have moved when the show started) I had an excellent view of the stage but it also meant I was spotted from Kiddie's bowl of blood when it went flying.

The show was over by 1am when it turns into party time so I left. It was nice chatting to chums and finding out what's been happening (or not, as the case might be). On the way out I saw Kiddie was chatting to some people so went over and rudely interrupted to tell her that her show was spectacular and that I'd enjoyed it. I also found Dawn grinning from ear to ear having lured her Trannyshack heroes to her own club. And out into the cold Vauxhall night, walking down South Lambeth Road with Gareth until I hailed a taxi for the ride home...

... time to log off and take my jacket to the cleaners now ...

Siouxsie at Astoria2

Last night was the long awaited chance to see Siouxsie, relaunched and looking good after the release of 'Mantaray'. I've never been to the Astoria2 before (under any of its previous names) so was delighted to find myself in a large cellar painted black and totally lacking in any atmosphere. O joy.

First up were the support act, The Violets, and after the first song I was stunned. Not at how good or how bad they were, but because they were clearly just the Banshees circa 1979 except the singer had blonde hair, not black, and was dressed like she'd just left the office. What was that all about? I suspect some amusement was had behind the scenes about that. Moving on...

Siouxsie came on stage to rapturous applause and launched into 'Israel' followed by 'Arabian Knights', and that was the gauntlet thrown down right there and then. She is Siouxsie and has a back catalogue to die for. That established the tone for the rest of the set, mixing Banshee classics with songs from the new album and that approach worked exceptionally well, new and old songs seemlessly meshing. The only thing missing was anything from The Creatures but that might be down to the absence of Budgie.

Siouxsie strutted across the stage, arms weaving in dramatic gestures, legs kicking high, hands slapping her thighs in time to the drums, throwing back her head one moment and leaning in to tease the front of the audience the next. She knows how to work a crowd and, let's face it, everyone there last night was part of her crowd. She was in great voice and the band was tight. She looked good in a harlequin body suit kind of thing, slender and lithe, scarlet lips and black on black wild hair. Siouxsie is back and, judging from how she was last night, enjoying herself.

She was on stage for around 1 hour followed by two encores of two songs each. For such a soulless venue the sound was excellent, so full marks on that score. Highlights for me were the wonderful 'Dear Prudence' (which was preceeded by Siouxsie saying, 'do we have to do this one?'), 'Nightshift' (one of my least favourites but nice to hear it live), 'Here Comes That Day' (the new single), 'One Mile Below' and 'Sea of Tranquility' (from the new album). The set closed with a great version of 'Into A Swan' (obviously set to be her new anthem after launching the album).

While waiting for the encore I joked that she'd come back with 'Hong Kong Garden' and guess what happened? O yes, the marvellous 'Hong Kong Garden' opened the encore (I bought the single 29 years ago) followed by the spectacular 'Spellbound'. I had a big grin going on during those two songs, singing along not quite word perfect. A second encore treated us to the moody 'Swansway' and 'Hello, I love you' (the Doors song). I hung on hoping for a third encore but when the lights came on I took the hint. Phew.

Siouxsie was triumphant.

The audience was an interesting mix of old punks and former goths since she is a luminary in both camps, a surprising number of smartly dressed women, a smattering of wierd and wonderful haircuts and piercings (I liked the woman with a huge mass of lime green hair in the middle of the crowd) and the usual mob of fat, middle aged, drunk men getting too boisterous in the name of their own enjoyment at the expense of everyone else (especially unpleasant when they smell of stale sweat and beer). At such a gathering of the clans I suppose that's to be expected.

The venue is awful, a warren of little corridors and steps up and down all over the place, bar staff disinterested but still expecting a tip (the best tip I'd offer is serve your customers with a smile). The lighting was rubbish, loads of lights at the back of the stage and only twelve (I counted 'em) pointing at the stage so we saw lots of sillouettes of Siouxsie prowling the stage but not much of her. I've now found a venue even worse that the Shepherds Bush Empire (but at least the floor wasn't sticky...).

Be that as it may ... Siouxsie was fab.

I'm *so* looking forward to seeing her at the Roundhouse in a few weeks time (where I'm upstairs seated so should have a great view of her antics on the stage).

Friday, 19 October 2007

'Running For The Drum' by Buffy Sainte-Marie

I can hardly believe my ears - I've just heard half of Buffy's new album, a full six tracks:

AIM Elijah
Cho Cho Fire
When I Had You
Bet My Heart On You
Blue Sunday
America The Beautiful

I'd read about 'AIM Elijah' and 'Cho Cho Fire' in a review of Buffy's New York gigs over the summer and heard 'Blue Sunday' a couple of weeks ago on DJ Slim's radio show. Hearing six tracks played back to back is just like hearing the album - except I was listening through tinny little speakers on the laptop.

Well, this morning I dutifully tuned into DJ Slim's 'Mystery Train' show on Kaua'i Community Radio to play in the background while I did some work. I waited patiently to hear a new Buffy song and I was astonished when, after playing 'AIM Elijah' Slim started playing another and another and another track back to back, and played six in total. How lucky am I?

'AIM Elijah' (which I assume refers to the American Indian Movement to which 'Starwalker' was dedicated) is top notch powwow rock with some heavy duty powwow singing in the background. This could be a great single and get people in to do remixes for the clubs which could open up a new audience for Buffy (yes, I am getting over-excited).

'Cho Cho Fire' is another powwow rock song, strong guitar up-front and would be a great concert opener to get people on their feet. Some great powwow drumming and singing, rock guitar ripping it up, very up and good-time fun which will be great played live.

'When I Had You' slows the mood right down to blues-central and you can almost see Buffy in a dark, smokey blues club sitting alone on stage in the spotlight in front of her piano being all sultry and moody.

'Bet My Heart On You' is a simple rock'n'roll/rockabilly song, stripped right back to basics. Buffy's voice sounds great in this track, strong as ever, almost doing an Elvis impression but 100% Buffy.

'Blue Sunday' is the song I heard a couple of weeks ago, rockabilly with the lovely extended 'bluuuuuueeeee'...

'America The Beautiful' is Buffy's version of the American anthem but delivered with a native American twist.

These are all great songs and yes, ok, I'm biased, but they really are great. When I think of some of the second-rate derivative dross that's around at the moment that record companies put their money behind and yet we've got class material from someone with the pedigree of Buffy still not released... grrrr! DJ Slim mentioned that the album is due in March so that's a positive step. I just hope the record company gets the marketing campaign right - it's a long time since Buffy last released a record and the world has moved on since then. The recent viral marketing for Siouxsie's album using networking sites like MySpace seems to have been effective so maybe an approach like that could work? or work as part of a wider campaign?

Oh and, of course, there must be gigs. I've already planned out the stage set for the Royal Albert Hall gig (which must also be filmed for DVD, of course). I've had a busy morning so far, y'know!

I'm delighted to have heard the six tracks today. There's always that slight fear that it won't live up to expectations... but it does! I want more and I want it now! Pretty please?

I've no idea what the album cover will be like but here's my version of it (ok, I've used that photo lots of time before but I *like* it):

Amanda Palmer - 'Guitar Hero'

Amanda played this at Bush Hall back in the summer and it's going to be on her solo album due in the New Year. She's looking and sounding good - and I'm pleased that the flowers-on-the-front-of-the-keyboard have returned!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Three joys

Three unexpected musical joys in the space of 24 hours ain't bad.

Maximo Park 'Like I Love You'

The lads have recorded J Timberlake's 'Like I Love You' for a covers album celebrating 40 years of Radio 1. Now, I've never heard the original, but I lurve this cover! The lads do "r'n'b" to a tee and I have to wonder whether Paul's taking the piss when he does the white-boy r'n'b squeal thing - y'know, when they screw up their faces and say things like 'o baybee' in a high-pitched voice as a demonstration of their strength of feeling, y'know what I mean? I love it!

I can't help but grin when Paul does the talky thing at the end of the track when he says something like, "I used to dream about this when I was a kid, growing up in Billingham, and used to put on me mam's records, and my favourite moment was when that bloke went 'Ch-Chaka Khan'..." with a big echo.

Brenda Holloway 'You're Walking Out With My Heart'

I got the new 'A Cellarful of Motown Vol 3' this evening and disc one opens with a drum roll followed by Brenda in full mid-60s swinging mode with one of her up-tempo specials, and wonderful it is too! And, for good measure, there's another Brenda track on disc two plus the bonus of a Brenda and The Supremes track - yes, Brenda backed by The Supremes in 1966! There's some heavy irony in there.

Brenda has a double anthology and half a dozen or so tracks on other compilations so, at some point, someone should actually search the Hitsville vaults properly and pull them all together on a lavish boxset with lots of photos and a full biography. Yum.

Sex Pistols 'Pretty Vacant (Guitar Hero Version)'

I bought the original 'Pretty Vacant' 30 years ago and I've bought this version to celebrate the anniversary. It's a great version too, manic guitar, pounding drums and John's leering vocal - 30 years later and they still give it some heavy welly. I love the sound of John's voice shouting out '... and we don't care!' - that's a rallying cry if ever there was one.

I remember the first time I heard that song. I was sitting at the kitchen table having a breakfast bowl of Cornflakes absently listening to the Saturday morning Kid Jensen show on Radio 1 when I heard that opening guitar riff followed by the drums and this angry voice calling out to me through the radio. I was entranced. I finished my breakfast and got the next bus into Newcastle to track that single down, I had to have it and I had to have it now. That was the first song I ever heard by the Pistols and I was an instant convert.

It still sounds angry and powerful. I am *so* looking forward to seeing them in November. I'm seeing them once for every decade since I got the bus on that Saturday morning...

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Sex Pistols - Guitar Heroes III

You need to click here to see a short trailer about the re-recording of 'Anarchy' and 'Pretty Vacant' for the new 'Guitar Heroes III' video game. John is very animated and it's nice to see Steve with a beard, so I won't be the only hippy at the Brixton gigs...

STOP PRESS

Both tracks are available for download from iTunes at the obscene price of 99p each (look for the 'Guitar Hero Version'). I have already downloaded, naturally. Fabulous to hear John's long scream of "... and we don't care!", still powerful after all these years. Download both tracks now and play them loud. It's the LAW.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Maximo Park at Brixton Academy II

It's Friday so that means more Maximo Park! Yes, dear reader, I did see them last night but I wanted to see them tonight as well. It's the law to see the Maximos twice whenever possible (I think it's enshrined in the regulations underpinning the 2006 Going to Gigs Act or something).

They were most excellent and played lots of songs and Paul ran round the stage like a thing possessed and Lukas plonked away at the keyboard and Archis totally wigged out a couple of times when he got off his podium and Tom went thump thump thump and Dunc played big riffs and they had a great lightshow and yes, they were excellent (have I mentioned that?). That's my objective review.

As ever, the Maximo lads are very generous and share their fans with other bands. There were two support acts each night with the Good Shoes being the main support and Theoretical Girl taking the opening place last night and Blood Red Shoes taking that spot tonight. I have to say I preferred the junior bands to the Good Shoes. Theoretical Girl reminded me of the Slits (but she's very different, really) and Blood Red Shoes seemed like a cross between early Fall and The Dresden Dolls, not that either were copy-catting or anything, and I did enjoy both bands. The Good Shoes were boring, lacking any stage presence, and the singer was unintelligible - I thought it was a bad sound mix last night but he was the same tonight so it must just be the way he sings (or shouts) since the others were ok. Not impressed with them, but I'd be happy to see the other two bands again. On the last tour the Maximos introduced me to Art Brut so they obviously have good taste.

The main event was Maximo Park and they were seriously good on both nights, a tight, class act playing off each other as only a well rehearsed band can. They played mostly the same set with the only difference that springs to mind was playing 'Wasteland' last night and playing 'Nosebleed' tonight (I don't think I've heard them play either live at previous gigs).

Paul was all over the shop, not standing still for a minute, running from one side of the stage to the other, jumping, pumping the air with his arms, whipping up the crowd and jumping on the two podiums and leaping off them. He even did his trademark jumping-leg-split a few times. Where does the energy come from? So much energy flowing from the stage. He's an excellent showman. Actually, they all are, periodically getting together in wig-out mode and, from the looks of it, enjoying every minute!

Duncan had a brief problem with one of his guitars tonight when the sound vanished and it was nice to see him calling over to Archis who then did the short solo on his bass while Dunc sorted out the guitar. It's things like that that show how tight they are, it's not a problem because they can step in and cover things. I also liked the pounding drum sound, dynamic and relentless.

They played an excellent set with something there for everyone, all their favourites and certainly all of mine (except for 'A19' - will I ever see them play that song?). Highlights were opening with 'The Coast Is Always Changing', 'Apply Some Pressure', 'The Unshockable' and 'Parisian Skies' with the lovely closing words of 'this is the way the porcelain cracks'. Top marks for the madness of 'Limmasol', the glory of 'Going Missing' and the ferocity of 'Our Velocity' - total wig-out time! They have some top tunes indeed, and it was nice to hear Paul comment that even though they only have two records out 'Going Missing' feels like 'a big song' - it *is* a big song, a great song, and it fits in perfectly on the soundtrack of 'Stranger Than Fiction'.

I love Maximo Park - it's official. My photos are a bit rubbish but here they are anyway...

Maximo Park at Brixton Academy

O yes. I've been thoroughly Maximo'd.


Thursday, 11 October 2007

'The Country Wife' at The Theatre Royal, Haymarket

After an early evening repast at the Val Taro with Chris, we walked round the corner to the Haymarket theatre for 'The Country Wife' by William Wycherley, a Restoration comedy from 1675. I vaguely recall 'doing' Restoration comedies at college all those years ago but remember very little other than I had a collection of four plays in one book and on the cover was a painting of a man in a big wig. Useful, huh?

Anyway, the blurb tells us:

One of the greatest and funniest comedies of the Restoration, The Country Wife tells the story of Horner, a notorious and lascivious man - about - town and his ingenious scheme for the rampant and mass seduction of the women of London society. By spreading the false rumour of his own impotence, he gains the sympathy of the husbands of the town and, more importantly, free access to their wives. Meanwhile the newly-married Pinchwife desperately attempts to keep his na├»ve country bride from the clutches of predatory London bachelors. When she and Horner meet, events spiral out of his control… Award-winning actors David Haig, Patricia Hodge and Toby Stephens lead the company in Wycherley’s dazzling comedy. Joining them is exciting young actress Fiona Glascott in the title role.

That should give you a flavour of the play which revels in the bawdy humour you'd expect. It has the standard elements including the young rakes about town, the lascivious older women, the wit and word-play, the innocent being corrupted, social commentary and hypocracy of the characters, etc etc. The unlikely premise of a young man feigning impotence (as a result of the 'French disease') in order to get close to the ladies is an odd one but it's fun to see what Wycherley does with it and how it all ends happily for some of the characters and less so for others.

I loved the set and staging, the colourful frock coats of the rakes with the details of trailing hankies from pockets mixing with them wearing jeans and modern shirts, while the women all wore period costumes. It was colourful and brash and kept me engaged. The sound didn't work during the first half (and the play started 20 minutes late when the stage hands decided they couldn't fix it in time) so it was odd to suddenly have music and sound effects in the second half of the play. I think I preferred it without the sound.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. David Haig played the manic middle-aged character he does so well (he played the same character in the farce, 'Donkeys Years' a couple of years ago) and Patricia Hodge was great as the lead lady wanting to get into Horner's pants (the lead rake) provided it didn't besmirch her honour with some lovely lines reflecting the double standards of the age where anything goes so long as you're not found out. I liked it.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Wack Off Material

It appears that, somehow, top secret photos of Amanda Palmer that will be used to promote the new album next year have found their way onto the internet. Disaster. Amanda and the Dolls have put round a note to the faithful asking them not to circulate the photos.

In signing off, Amanda commented, "If anyone downloaded the photos of me naked in the tub I grant full approval for using the photos for wack off material. Thanks, and have a great night."

She is just *so* kind.