Monday, 30 April 2012

Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra

Amanda Palmer has announced her Kickstarter appeal to raise funds for her new record and, at the time of writing this, she's currently raise 129% of what she was asking for in less than a day. She's already exceeded the amount she was looking for to press and promote the album. Not bad, eh? Of course, the more she raises, the more glorious the packaging, the more outrageous the tour to promote the album and the more we will love her.  Naturally.

Here's Amanda announcing the Kickstarter:

I have already, of course, invested in a CD package but I'm mulling over the limited edition art book and the art gallery/gig package. Should I? Can I justify it in these times of austerity? What would I give for an AFP hug? Ah, now there's a difficult question.

Go on people, head on over to Kickstarter and get some art into your life.

Oh, and happy birthday Amanda!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Poly Styrene (Hare Hare)

It's one year ago today since Marianne Elliott Said, also known as Poly Styrene, won her battle to go to higher places and left us a marvellous legacy of music and images. Poly was and is a great hero of mine and I was terribly sad to hear of her illness and then her death. It all happened so quickly while at the same time her album, 'Generation Indigo' was released to critical acclaim. We had the joys of the album and the sadness of her illness and passing all within a short time of a matter of weeks.

I saw a local TV programme interview with Poly sounding breathless but positive about the album and her own health, positive to the end. She always was positive in lots of ways. Not for her the nihilism of many of the punk bands back in the day. Her rebellion was a bit more thoughtful. She cared about things like consumerism, pressures on women (and herself) to look stereotyped and beautiful, about a higher life, about Krishna, about peer pressure, about cruelty, about war and about love. Not for Poly the trembling-lipped love ballad, she gave us a howling bouncy song to love in it's most basic forms in 'LUV'.

Something I have been pleased to see over the past year is not the mourning of fans but the discovery of Poly and the Spex by new fans, by young people who find the videos on YouTube and go on to explore her music. That gives me hope and tells me that her work will continue to be appreciated. You don't have to have bought the singles in 1978 to be a fan, you might just have discovered her last week, downloaded 'Germfree Adolescents' and then searched for more and find 'Generation Indigo'. I love seeing the tweets from people who discover Poly and X-Ray Spex, who post links to videos and keep spreading the word.

A tribute album has been released in America in which bands I've never heard of cover Spex songs - some are better than others as is always the way but I don't care, I downloaded it straight away. I want to hear how bands today interpret 30 year old songs and pay homage to Poly. It's called 'Rebel On The Underground' and is available here.  Go on, buy it and enjoy the music - it's in a good cause.

I suspect Poly would like the idea of the album, like the idea of playing it loudly and bouncing round the room in day-glo socks and celebrating her music, not mourning it. Poly earned her place in music history with her first single with the Spex and went on to do and be so much more. The world is a better place for Poly being in it even though she wasn't in it for long enough.

Namaste Poly.

Maximo Park - 'The National Health', 'Hips and Lips' and Tour

Those Maximo Park scallywags have only gone an made a new record! It's been available for pre-order for a few weeks but I've just realised that I haven't mentioned it at all (shame on me). 'The National Health' is the fourth album from the lads and it's out on 11 June.  The lead single is 'Hips and Lips' that premiered on Radio 1 last night. And, today, tickets for the next set of gigs went on pre-sale so I (obviously) nabbed a ticket to see them at Heaven in London. Tickets go on general sale on Friday 27 April.  Tickets are bound to sell out fast so get in while you can.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Big Polo Mint 2

I've had a few magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans over the years and today I had another one. The worst one yet. They're always a bit claustrophobic but this time I was pressed against the mint rather than close to it - I'm a bit fatter than I was last time!

It was so bad that I squeezed the panic button after less than a minute in the machine and was slowly eased out of the thing. The scanner bloke told me I was shaking. I was. And sweating. I took some deep breaths and went back inside for another 5-6 scans over 15 minutes. I can't remember too well since I was focusing on other thoughts and on the new Amanda Palmer album I knew was waiting for me at home.

I was then eased out of the machine and injected with dye into the back of my hand to make soft and hard tissue easier to identify and put back in for another five minutes...

MRI scanners are loud and scary.  About five feet long and you're pushed inside on a moveable bed so you're trapped inside the thing. That triggers the claustrophobia. There must be a better way of seeing what's happening inside...

The results should be beamed to my doctor at some point next week so I will, hopefully, find out what's happening with my back.

Public Image Ltd - 'One Drop EP'

The first new recordings from Public Image Ltd have finally been released, the 'One Drop' ep that came out on vinyl for Record Store Day at the weekend and, this week, as a digital download. So I've downloaded it. It's available though iTunes, Amazon and all good download stores (although the iTunes bundle includes a video as well).

I'm enjoying the four songs on the ep and they just make me want to hear the album and immerse myself in PiL. My favourite today (although it might change tomorrow) is 'Lollipop Opera'. This is classic PiL. Go on people, download it and have a musical experience you won't forget.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

'God Save The Queen' (Again)

There's a move afoot on Facebook to promote 'God Save The Queen' to No 1 in the singles chart over the Diamond Jubilee weekend. Part of me thinks, 'yeah, let's do it' and another part thinks, 'hold on, it's being issued by a big record label, not by the Pistols'. It's also not 1977.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since 1977 and that boat trip down the Thames that ended with arrests for playing a pop song outside Parliament. The world is a different place now. It also smacks of a campaign not to let the X-Factor Christmas single get to No 1 rather than a positive statement of discontent. That trivialises it, a song that is one of the most powerful sonic statements that fit the mood of a generation, any generation.

As Mr Lydon says on Army of One:

"I would like to very strongly distance myself from the recent stories and campaign to push God Save The Queen for the number 1 spot over the Jubilee weekend. It is certainly not my personal plan or aim.

I am proud of what The Sex Pistols achieved and always will be but this campaign totally undermines what The Sex Pistols stood for. This is not my campaign.

I am pleased that the The Sex Pistols recordings are being put out there for a new generation however I wish for no part in the circus that is being built up around it. I am currently very focused on Public Image Ltd."

John Lydon, April 17th 2012

From my point of view, I'm pleased he's focused on the new PiL album and tour.  It sort of puts two fingers up to people that accuse JL of cashing in via things like 'I'm a Celebrity' and the butter adverts. If money was the object then a fast buck is probably more guaranteed through the re-release of 'God Save The Queen' worldwide but JL's focus is PiL and artistic integrity.

I'll certainly be playing the Sex Pistols as much as ever, but I'm looking forward to 'This Is PiL' and the new music.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Double 'Dare'

The Human League's classic album, 'Dare', is being reissued again in June. I'm not sure how many times I've bought this record but will do so again since this version includes remastered 12" mixes and an expanded version of the 'Fascination' EP on a second disc. Read all about it in This Is Not Retro.

Friday, 6 April 2012

'Carving' by Imtiaz Dharker

A new season of Poems on the Underground has been launched, this time with a World theme to coincide with the Olympics in the summer. I like getting on a tube train and noticing poetry on the walls. The first of the new poems I noticed was 'Carving' by Imtiaz Dharker with some lovely imagery and lines:

Others can carve out 
their space
in tombs and pyramids.
Our time cannot be trapped
in cages.
Nor hope, nor laughter.
We let the moment rise
like birds and planes and angels
to the sky.
Eternity is this.
Your breath on the window pane,
living walls with shining eyes.
The surprise of spires,
uncompromising verticals. Knowing
we have been spared
to lift our faces up
for one more day,
into one more sunrise.

Imtiaz Dharker (see her website) is representing Pakistan since she was born there but her parents moved to Glasgow when she was one year old and she describes herself as a Scottish Muslim Calvanist. She's also reported to be taking part in the cultural events over the summer related to the Olympics, specifically the Poetry Parnassus at the Southbank.

The Southbank site states: 

In summer 2012, Southbank Centre launches Poetry Parnassus. This visionary festival sees poets from all participating Olympic nations come together for a week of readings, talks and performances. Poetry Parnassus marks the first time that so many poets from so many parts of the planet have converged in one place; it is a monumental poetic happening worthy of the spirit and history of the Olympics.

This sounds quite an interesting venture and calling it 'Parnassus' is a nice link to the Olympics as well as well-worn artistic themes. I've been on Mount Parnassus, y'know. I'll watch out for tickets for this event and will need to get hold of some of the works of Ms Dharker.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Geo Wyeth Kickstarter for 'Alien Tapes'

Geo Wyeth has launched a Kickstarter appeal for his new record, 'Alien Tapes'. Geo tells us about it below:

The artwork looks beautiful and, from the sound of it, it's just going to have a physical release on vinyl. You can hear a taster of it and see a rather strange video here.

Go on, support Geo get this record out.  I have.  

Monday, 2 April 2012

Picasso & Modern British Art - Tate Britatin

The big exhibition at the Tate Britain at the moment focuses on Picasso and his influence on British Art in the 20th Century. It's quite a simple premise and it works rather well - hang some Picasso's beside some of the works he influenced by British artists and let us gawp at them in peace.

For some odd reason we didn't take to Picasso as quickly as countries on the Continent so it was left to some of the artists he impressed and inspired to sing his praises. He spent time over here, of course, and designed sets and costumes for Diaghilev's Ballet Russe in 1919, and some of these are on show. I've seen lots of Picasso's over the years but he was a prolific artist in different media and there are always more to see so this is a good opportunity to top up.

There are different rooms to show Picasso paintings alongside his British admirers, a few of his and a few of theirs hung together. I liked the Duncan Grant paintings (especially the one on the right) and the Wyndham Lewis and Ben Nicholson paintings. There was a seductive wooden shaped reclining statue by Henry Moore that I wanted to stroke to experience the curves with my hands. I wasn't keen on the Francis Bacons or Graham Sutherlands but it was good to see the David Hockneys which brought the exhibition to a close. The final painting in a room of its own is 'The Three Dancers' which Picasso sold to the Tate in 1965, the first time he'd ever sold anything to a museum.

The exhibition is on until 15 July 2012 so if you get the chance I'd recommend a visit. I went on a Friday afternoon so, although busy, wasn't as jam-packed as you'd expect at a weekend. As ever, the selection of postcards was poor and didn't even include the painting used on all the posters and on the front of catalogue. Postcards sell - people might not buy a £30 scarf but will buy a few postcards of the paintings they've seen and it all adds up.

Here are a few of the paintings to whet your appetite: