Thursday, December 30, 2004

Beard awards 2004

My albums of the year list is still being refined, so for now, here are the unique Beard awards!

Song of the year: Yeah (Crass version) – LCD Soundsystem

Beard of the Year: Devendra Banhart

Beard and ‘fro combo of the year: Kyp Malone, TV On The Radio

Crappiest beard of the year: David Blunkett

Spellbindingly beautiful gig of the year: Brian Wilson, Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow

Freaky gig of the year: Magic Band/Fire Engines, Arches, Glasgow

Non-reformed band gigs of the year: Wilco, QMU, Glasgow
Sons & Daughters/Delgados, Barrowlands, Glasgow

Festival of the year: Le Weekend, Stirling

Not quite a gig, not quite an installation of the year: Sachiko M & Anthony McCall, Kill Your Timid Notion, Dundee

Dodgy goth bollocks gig of the year: Current 93 at Instal, Glasgow

Most overrated comeback: Morrissey

Most overrated thing of the year: Lost In Translation

Best TV: Peep Show, Power Of Nightmares, Sopranoes, that Gram Parsons documentary.

Best films: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, American Splendor, Incredibles, Hero

What is this shit award 2004: tied between Keane, Razorlight, The Others, The Libertines (bar Can't Stand Me Now).

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Uter-ly brilliant!

These puns are getting worse. No wonder I didn't get that subbing job. Anyway, I've been sent a few records over the past couple of months and have been meaning to get round to reviewing them. I'll rework these for Beard 3, but for the meantime, let's get blogging. More reviews to follow over the next few days, but for now, let's rock with...

Uter
Any band with an umlaut in their name is worth a listen and Glasgow lo-fi electro pop trio Uter are no exception (if only I could work out how to get an Umlaut in Word!) The six track CD I’ve been sent isn’t a commercial release, but it includes the singles Vibrato and Tomorrow’s Clowns, alongside Jesus And Mary Chain and Kraftwerk covers.
Tomorrow’s Clowns, which appeared on Optimo’s OSCaar label earlier this year, sounds like collaboration between New Order and Kevin Shields. Melodic, driving bass and dinky Kraftwerk machine beats underpin a quite beautiful haze of bleached out guitar noise and glassy synth. The 12” is still available from Optimo’s online shop – I’d advise you head over there and snap one up pronto.
My Little Underground is cleverly reworked, with the vocals and synths sounding as if they’ve been recorded through thin walls, while pristine surface of Kraftwerk's Ohm... is dirtied by fuzzy guitar and crescendos.
Vibrato recalls Neu! in their more reflective moments, albeit transported to a post-techno landscape, while Accordination has the sort of rushy synth sequence that could see it remixed into a Detroit dancefloor monster.
Tramapoline has the kind of rinky dink organ line you’d associate with ? & The Mysterions, but far from being a departure into garage punk, this sleekit wee beauty glides off down the autobahn to some gleaming metropolis. And if they never get there? Well, that'll only make Uter’s journey all the more interesting.

Uter are on the excellent new label Asking For Trouble

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Sine of the times

If you've managed to get past that groaning pun, you might have noticed that Beardblog has been updated, with new links and a counter. That's about 60 since the weekend, which is quite a surprise. Thanks for reading, we love you all xxx

Is This Music? sent me off to Kill Your Timid Notion in Dundee last weekend. A festival of experimental music and film, it was quite an experience. Film screenings during the day, including avant-classics like Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising (gay bikers polishing their engines and cavorting orgiastically in a church to the sounds of The Supremes, Bobby Vee and Elvis: tremendous stuff) and Invocation Of My Demon Brother (A bit silly. It might have been sinister in 1969, but now it just looks like a bunch of junkie dilletantes prancing about in daft costumes pretending to be evil nazi satanists). More about the other films in a few days.
The big name was Lee Ranaldo, performing with Text Of Light. The idea is to improvise as Stan Brakhage films are projected onto the exhibition/performance space.
This was my first encounter with Brakhage, but his films were beautiful, bringing out the beauty in everyday life through brilliant use of colours and light. The most affecting film was of a girl on a swing. Some Brakhage buffs have problems with the idea of music being added to the films, and it has to be said that the droney feeback workouts added little to the movies.
Tabula Smaragdin: Jurgen Reble + Thomas Koner wasn't one to see standing up. The trick is to lie down, propping your head up on your jacket and immerse yourself in the minamalist laptop rumble and glimmering, shimmering visuals. As the rumble build to a intense static buzz it was all red stars, with amorphous forms appearing through the haze, like a dancing human figure, or a woman floating by, like the drowned Ophelia. Who needs drugs eh?
What Sachiko M + Anthony McCall did was closer to an art installation than musical performance, but then the whole point of the festival was to blur the lines between the forms. At the centre of the room Sachiko sat hunched over a basic sampler, playing high pitched sine waves that modulated throughout the space, which at first was virtaully pitch black save for a touch of dry ice. Two projectors beamed white light from wall to wall, gradually forming a circle on the surface. You could stand in the beam, which gradually formed a tunnel of light. Everyone just strolled around, waving fingers, and poking heads through the surfaces of the beam. Despite the dark and eerie sine waves the atmosphere was one of relaxation and wonder.

More festival fun in a couple of days. In the meantime, party on and be excellent to one another.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Magazine junkie

In my bid to make this blog halfway interesting, I thought I’d introduce regular overviews of the music press, gigs, TV etc. So here’s my roundup of the latest pop mags.
For a similar exercise, albeit with some priceless quotes from the latest issue of Terrorizer, pop over to Stereosanctity for our buddy Ben’s comments.

Bloody hell, Dylan’s on the cover of Uncut again. Alan Jones really needs to get some fresh ideas. You can choose from two CDs, one of songs from artists inspired by Dylan, and one, rather cumbersomely billed as Dylan songs, covered by artists inspired by Dylan. Well, duh. Scanning the tracklisting I’ll admit there are undoubtedly some gems there, but they did this whole thing two years ago.
It’s a shame Uncut is playing things so safe, cos they certainly have a pool of great writers, including old Melody Maker favourites like Chris Roberts. The Pixies interview in last month’s issue was great, but they should have put them on the front cover. I’m sure it would have attracted far more readers than yet another Neil Young cover.
The current issue does, however, contain one small moment of subversive genius: Bob Stanley awarding the new Girls Aloud album four stars (and quite right too). To paraphrase the Girls, what will the dadrockers say? Next month’s letters page should be a hoot.

The latest Mojo has been out for a couple of week’s, but it’s another cracker, streets ahead of Uncut. The mag has gone quite a long way in dispelling its fuddy duddy image, thanks, in no small part, to them allowing Stevie Chick room to punt new bands. Hell, they even had Lloyd Bradley writing about grime a few issues back, putting it into the context of hip-hop and reggae culture to help readers understand where this strange music comes from.
The interview with Mike Love is a real scoop. Given the opportunity to dispel the commonly held notion that he’s the biggest asshole in pop history, Love puts across his side of the story well enough, but neither the writer or reader is entirely convinced.
Much of Mojo is devoted to a Peel tribute. There’s a lovely interview by Max Decharme, where Peel tells a hilarious anecdote featuring The Bay City Rollers, Tony Blackburn, scores of teenage girls, frogmen and a racing track. He then rounds it off with a withering one liner. It’s classic Peel and another sad reminder of what we’ve lost.

The most luscious of all pop mags, Loose Lips Sinks Ships returns for its fourth issue. The fold out covers feature typically stunning Steve Gullick photographs of Todd, The Hunches, and Har Mar Superstar, the latter draped with fairy lights and, er, preserving his (im)modesty by tucking away his tadger in a Silence Of The Lambs stylee. Zoinks!
Reading Sophie Headwood’s Har Mar interview, I’ve gotta say I really warm to the little fella (if not his little fella). My initial kneejerk reaction to Har Mar was that he was a fashionista in joke, but here, he comes across as an intelligent, sincere artist, disillusioned with the rock ‘n roll lifestyle. The sort of interview that’s all too rare in these PR controlled times. Bravo.
Stevie Chick is on terrific form in his Hunches and Todd features. There’s a lovely line about the “lunatics-are-driving-golf-buggies-all-over-the-asylum mania” of the Roobarb and Custard theme. Apparently Todd’s Sedan sounds like a metal version of that. Well, I’m sold.

Sister publication Plan B is also out, and a lovely thing it is too. Beard’s own Mark Connolly supplies a way cool double exposed Park Attack pic, among other things, while Andrew Clare’s illustration of a ninja slicing some poor chap in half manages to be both wonderfully cute and poignant at the same time. As always, some of the writing strains too hard in a sixth form creative writing manner, but it’s cancelled out by the brilliance of a Neil Kulkarni rant on pop versus rock. He avoids taking a reductive rockist or popist stance, instead aiming his ire at the mediocrities who make music that has none of the joy of pop, or transcendent head-fuckery of metal, punk and the avant-garde. In the process, he uses the adjective “cunting” twice in the space of a paragraph, which can only be applauded, particularly when he’s referring to Robbie Williams and U2. Sorry, Robbie Cunting Williams and cunting U2. Go on, let it all out, you know it feels good.

I intend to update this post with an appraisal of the latest Wire. The latest Wiretapper CD should be worth a listen, while their cover feature on The Riff oughta be good for a laugh. Being Wire, I doubt they’ll be extolling the virtues of Smoke On The Water or Whole Lotta Rosie. In fact, I hear they’ve got an article slagging off metal and punk! Pah! Those gits are welcome to their ridiculous Current 93 records. Let’s rock!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Four nights of rock

In an effort to make more of this blog, here are a few notes from the frontline.

Wednesday.
A friend’s band, Vancouver Deluxe was supporting Pink Grease at the Barfly. So along I went. Lucky me. If you’re unfamiliar with the Grease, you’re pretty lucky really. With their tacky junkshop outfits, poorly applied make up and generic glam rock songs, you can tell they’re itching to be the new Roxy Music or New York Dolls. And oh how they fail. They’re a dismal prospect, lacking any of those bands’ flair, wit, or originality. Everything about them is tasteless and naff – they’re not good or cool enough to pull off the peroxide hair, sleeveless denim jumpsuits or (ack!) rifle-shaped guitars. They even have a Quasimodo like creature lurking in a corner of the stage prodding some kind of giant stylophone replete with huge knobs. I’m making him sound cool. Believe me, he wasn’t.
Vancouver Deluxe weren’t bad though. Alec Empire, NIN, 80s Matchbox…they’re in thrall to all these dark electric fiends, which is no bad thing. Nasty, pummelling beats, chunky guitar and devilish vocals.

Thursday
At some point in the morning I receive a text telling me Jack Rose and Glenn Jones are playing Tchai Ovna, a lovely hippy tea-room by the River Kelvin. If you’ve got the current issue of Beard you’ll have seen my enthusiasm for their post-Fahey acoustic guitar magic. Seeing them again, in such intimate surroundings, was wonderful, especially as we worked our way right up to the front. Jones is more melodic and playful, his Appalachian pickin' infused with elements of blues, Django Reindhart gypsy jazz, and medieval madrigals. Rose is more raga influenced, playing meditative indo-folk on a 12 string. But he did more Americana folky stuff on a lap steel, joined by Jones for one last tune. Together, they fly, fingers dancing, notes tumbling sweetly from their guitars. Support came from Porch Song Anthology, a Telstar Ponies spin off. Touching acoustic loveliness, all sparkling mandolin, brushed drums and lilting female vocals.

Friday
Another last minute announcement – Swedish wonky popsters The Concretes are doing a free show at Mono. So I text a few friends and hop on the train once more. It might have been the coldest night of the year, but The Concretes music radiates warmth. It’s in the heffalump friendliness of the flugel horn, the chiming guitar and fluffy kitten vocals. Gorgeous stuff, from gorgeous Scandinavians.

Saturday and it’s back to Mono, this time to see Lucky Luke and Ohian singer-songwriter Simon Joyner. They’re both great. Last time I saw LL, they were playing a disarmingly pretty acoustic set in the Panopticon, an old Glasgow Music Hall, but this time they rocked. Simon fired off the occasional Richard Thompson tremolo prang from his strat, while the violinist lived out his John Cale fantasies with scrambled, spiralling highs.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Jandeck, Lucky Luke, Beards

Let's play spurious links...

At Sunday I arrived at Instal.04 in Glasgow to find some mysterious figure clanging out dischords on a guitar and singing atonally. He was "a representative of Corwood Industries" and last minute addition to the bill. It was none other than legendary Texan recluse Jandek, playing his first ever gig, unannounced. Avant! Accompanying our hero was Glasgow avant gardists Richard Young and drummer Alex Neilson of Scatter and Lucky Luke.

Lucky Luke are playing an acoustic set at the Panopticon in Glasgow on Saturday. This old music hall was featured in the BBC's Restoration programme and to raise funds for its refurbishment, a day of music, magic and projections is taking place. Other acts include Fence types Pinky McClure, newsreader and Syd Barret fan John Cavanagh and the ghost of a monkey.
To book tickets contact Judith Bower at the Panopticon:
Mob: 07766 775055
E-mail: judith@britanniapanopticon.fsnet.co.uk

Lucky Luke's singer is journalist and zine queen Lucy Sweet. Here's an interview from Ideas Factory!
Also check out her hilarious, award-winning, fanzine, Chica.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Beard #2 update

Beard #2 is now in the shops and available to order from beardmag@yahoo.co.uk

The cheap copy shop job isn't too hot - the photo repro is disappointing to say the least - but it looks sharp nevertheless. I'll throw in decent print outs of the best photos to mail order folks. Repeating the art paper, digital repro job of Beard #1 just wasn't viable with my current finances.

You can see Mark Connelly's fantastic Sons & Daughters pic in all its glory here

Orders are already coming in - one guy even bought one from me in person yesterday, on a whim. Yay!

Monday, October 04, 2004

It's back! Beard #2

Yes, yes y'all, Beard returns with a bigger, better and beardier second issue.

Interviews with Kinky Friedman, Thomas Truax and Lucky Luke.

Appreciations of Weird War, Neil Young's Trans and bad movie dialogue.

Live extravanganza featuring All Tomorrow's Parties, Le Weekend, T In The Park, Damo Suzuki and the Magic Band.

Sonic Youth and Steven Malkmus in comic form!

Top ten pop beards!

Bumper backpage beard fun!

And more, much more!

Only £1.50 from Avalance, Monorail and Missing (Glasgow) and Europa (Stirling).
Or mail order from beardmag@yahoo.co.uk

(Don't worry, I've fixed the email link to the right)

Should be in the shops later today, as long as the useless copy shop have done it. It was supposed to be Friday, but they hadn't done it and "had a wedding to go to". Fuck's sake, you're a business! So my advice is if yr in Stirling and need some reprographics...go to Glasgow.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Busy busy busy all of the time

Beard is almost finished...

In the meantime, I've been a busy boy...

Aberdeen student guide - The Herald

Stirling Student guide - The Herald

Juana Molina

Damo Suzuki

The Daily Record's sub-editors have been at my reviews, but they've chopped sentences rather than bucher the prose, so that's alright. Woo-hoo! Me in Scotland's best-selling paper.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

John Kerry and The Electras

What's that wild new sound? That's right folks, it's that happening beat combo John Kerry and The Electras!

Idiot Wind

A superb review ofChristopher Ricks' preposterous attempt to place Dylan amongst the poets and professors.
Ricks's writing is hilarious and baffling in its overheated desire to intellectualise Dylan. The academic allusions are piled on thicker than the gold paint in Liberace's mansion.
A selection: "Or there's the rhyme in [the song] Mozambique of "Mozambique" with "cheek to cheek" (along with "cheek" cheekily rhyming with "cheek" there, a perfect fit). There's always something strange about place names, or persons' names, rhyming, for they don't seem to be words exactly, or at any rate are very different kinds of word from your usual word."
Yeah, like Dylan coined the phrase, "cheek to cheek"!
Compare Ricks' bletherings to Lester Bangs' brilliant excoration of the same song:
"...there are many forms of inverted, benevolent prejudice known to the liberal mentality, and I find a song like 'Mozambique" rather curious...Ah yes, a beautiful, simple people aren't they, Mr Christian? Unfettered by the corrupting complexities of civilisation, no? So primatively pure and natch'l, juck fuckin' and a'dancin' barefoot there on the beach."
Proving just how witty and erudite he is, Ricks even riffs on TS Eliot: "O o o that Dylanesque rag. So elegent. So intelligent. So Dyligent. Never negligent". Dyligent - see what he did there? Bonkers!
From the reviews and excerpts I've read, the book's glaring problem is that it fails to recognise Dylan's genius in the context of Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, hep-cat Lord Buckley, or even John Lennon. And, making the fundamental error of lit crit readings of pop, he fails to explore the words as rock lyrics. One of the great joys of Dylan is his phrasing -the venomous spits, the sarcastic drawls, the stoned cheekiness - and its relationship with the music. Ricks ignores this - it would too easily get in the way of his flights of fancy.
The reviewer, James Wolcott, rightly argues that the book has enjoyed adoration because it flatters the narcissism of the baby boomers.
There's no doubting the brilliance of Dylan's best lyrics, but I find his singular elevation to the level of poet highly iffy. Never minding the likes of Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith or Joni Mitchell, you'd never see a similar book on, say, Gil Scott Heron, Chuck D, Captain Beefheart or Hank Williams. Yet Williams' lyrics cut to the truth in a way Dylan only mastered on Blood On The Tracks. "The silence of a falling star lights up a purple sky/ and as I wonder where you are, I'm so lonesome I could cry." Williams' simple poetry relates a beautiful and touching image of loneliness and longing. And it's in iambic pentameter. The "Hillbilly Shakespeare" epithet might not be so glib afterall.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Joanna Newsom and the Sonic Beard Appreciation Society

Music at the Edinburgh Festival has been absolutely fucking wonderful. Shame about the rest of it. Actually, I saw a very good Tempest and one day of the Book festival was like being at Uni again - discussions of politics, history and the media. I'll maybe do a summary post once I've seen some more book fest turns.
No point blogging each review from Fest. The following are mine: Alisdair Roberts, Thomas Truax, Laura Viers, Wettre, Nymo & Stronen. More to come.

Finally come round to Joanna Newsom's voice. For those of you, yet to experience the lovely Ms Newsom's pixie-folk magic, she plays gorgeous harp and sounds kinda like Victoria Williams crossed with Lisa Simpson. Squawky and squeaky. The songs are clearly lovely, but some people can't get past the voice. But after hearing the melancholy wonder that is Bridges And Balloons I'm sold.

Must update more often - I'm actually doing interesting things. But doing interesting things is kinda tiring. Aw hell, who am I kidding. It's not like I'm going through to Edinburgh and watching three shows a day. I'm still being a lazy git, getting up at 9, watching the OC and wasting many hours on the internet. And not finishing off my Wilco live review for ITM? It was five weeks ago, but I have notes from the time.
Gotta blitz Beard this week - Lucky Luke interview to write up, lay out etc.
Then I can hopefully have it ready for the first of September and hand a copy to Thurston Moore when he strolls into Mono before the Yoof's gig at the Barrowlands. He'll say, "Yeah man, that's a nice zine. Check it out guys." At which point the Yoof gather round transfixed by the magazine magic. And then when they play their triumphant gig they'll announce, "This one's for Stew. Y'all should read Beard, it's totally rad."
Or perhaps not.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

RIP


I'M DEAD, BITCH!

Here's to you Mr. James.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Tigerfest - Sunday Herald

Woo-hoo! It's my Tigerfest article from the Sunday Herald!

Monday, July 26, 2004

Holy fucking shit!

Wow! Beardblog is no longer a one man enterprise. I have been awaiting Neil's blogging debut and he hasn't disappointed me. Yes, yes, y'all, the Ferrell will appear in Beard #2. Neil and myself have long been aware of his genius. He's the only good thing about Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (now there's a good subject for Witness the Shitness - Kevin Smith. One good film and the rest lazy bullshit designed to placate your fanboys). I particularly like an SNL sketch where our hero plays Blue Oyster Cult's cowbell player. Christopher Walken is the producer. Now, if that isn't a recipe for comedic delictation you can go eat a Pot Noodle. While watching Vicar of Dibley. Yeah, motherfucker.
This has thrown me off my original idea for a post and I'm a  bit drunk so I'm not quite sure what it was supposed to be. My apologies. Just back from seeing the mighty Fractal Jack, Glasgow's metal uberlords. They totally, like, fucken rocked, dude! But seriously, they were awesome. Having crossed the extreme noise rubicon that was Borbetomagus, I'm ready for anything. The first band on were fucking lame. They claimed to be trash, but they were feeble. The drummer was rotten. Utterly lacking a sense of rhythm. The most predictable fills - uh, just pish. But the Jack kicked it. The song titles alone should indicate their mightiness - Rock Chocolate, 5 Minute Trash Workout...
I liked the band beforehand. The singer was a diminutive trash goblin, glorifying in his premature balding. And they had a flying V. I even bumped into them on the train home. These boys are from Stirling? Where have they been hiding? They kick ass.
Anyway, my point. I had a point. (Yes, I'm aware I'm ripping off Bill Hicks, so what'cha gonna do, peckerhead. Ah, that's Pryor now. Sorry, I'm being very abusive. But it's all very affectionate. I'm not an aggresive person at all. I love puppies and pretty girls and candy floss, y'know.)
So I left a message on the Giant Sand website where the great Howe Gelb occasionally posts himself. I was simply expressing my opinion that the Sand should come and play Glasgow. They've got a London date scheduled for October, and that's it for these isles. Let's start a campaign. I'm gonna talk to Dep at Monorail about this. An instore Howe Gelb at Mono would be amazing. Maybe Steven Pastel can sort it out. Here's hoping! Power to the people.
As I write I'm playing the beautiful, elegiac Chore of Enchantment. I find it very moving. It's dedicated to Howe's buddy Rainer, the slide guitar genius, and ends with a snippet of Rainer's home recording - just a preciously sweet dobro doodle. Such a touching way to end the album. And in the context of such gorgeous songs as Bottom Line Man, Astonished, Raw, Dirty From the Rain. Howe is a great lyricist. "Something's in the water, besides a moon that don't know when to quit", the bit about the gumspots spelling out your name in Astonished...
Can't wait till the new album in September. The track on the Uncut CD is good, but I'm sure there is more, much more. I wanna go to Arizona! Feel the sand, the dust on my brow... 

One last thing - Channel Four showed that shitty controversial videos show last night. Hmmph!
That fucking genetic disorder Jack Osbourne thought the Prodigy/Jonas Ackerlund's indefensibly nasty Smack My Bitch Up video was, like, brilliant, and not at all misogynist, 'cos, like, it's a WOMAN that does all that fucked up shit. Such a feeble argument. The fact that the camera/protagonist looks into the mirror to reveal it's a woman who's been snorting, fighting and fucking her way through the whole sordid affair makes it no less misogynistic - in fact, it's all the more misogynistic 'cos it's simply a pathetic male fantasy. Jonas Ackerlund said it was funny. Prick. And has anyone actually seen Jack Osbourne's god-awful, foot-suckingly bad MTV show. Where he bangs on about "chicks with big knockers". It seems that MTV has gone from presenting subversive shows like Beavis and Butthead to celebrating the very idiocy and consumer driven vacuity Mike Judge's great cartoon set out to satirise. I mean, Punk'd? What's that all about? Jeremy Beadle with trucker caps as one commentator put it. Ashton Kutcher can go get fuck'd.

Right, that's enough of my ranting. Night all!

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Ferrelly

Greetings. This is the first time I dip my paddle/wet my beak/shizzle my swizzle in blog-world. I hope it will be a long and self-actualizing experience for us all. While you digest that sentence, bask in the slendour of the  inimitable genius of Mr. Will Ferrell, who is featured in Beard 2.


"And I'm Ron Burgundy. Go fuck yourself, San Diego."

Do not miss Anchorman.

Friday, July 23, 2004

About time I updated...

Yes, it is about time. I've been flitting between business and idleness. Been helping out at the Sunday Herald review a couple of times. No pay, but I got my name in print at least. Look out for my gigs of the week on Sunday. I also liberated a good pile of promo CDs from their big box of rejects. Some interesting stuff too. The new 80s Matchbox single, which is hilarious and groovy, the new Modest Mouse album (pleasant, but no Yoshimi or Deserter's Songs), White Magic (sub Cat Power whimsy), and an Estelle album sampler. The Estelle single, 1980, has been causing some controversy on the Plan B forum. Some people love it, others think it's a big pile of poo. I think it's a cracking wee tune, and being a child of 1980 I can appreciate all the references. The string and vocal loop is swish and Estelle's touches of singing are relatively understated. Unfortunately, the other tracks on the sampler aren't anywhere in the same class. A couple suffer from slick session muso soul backings. It would be a shame to see Estelle follow the Ms Dynamite route of a cracking debut followed by a patchy album. Still, she might have held back the good stuff.
I also picked up a Red Krayola singles collection, which should be interesting...
Beard #2 is coming along nicely. Two big features fully laid out, a provisional front page, some redesigns, and various bits and bobs on the go. We have far more contributors this time, bringing all kinds of goodness to the table.
Oh, yeah - T in the Park. It was a good weekend. For my reviews see Beard #2 and Is This Music?
Great to see a Beard hero get nominated for the Mercury Prize. Yes, yes, y'all it's Robert Wyatt. BEst of all he's said it would be a disgrace for him to win and he's only going for the free meal. What a hero. 

I thought this was rather good. Queer eye for the Franz guy if you will (shoot me now)...

http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0428/sheffield.php

Friday, July 09, 2004

Fancy a brew?

Yay! I'm off to T in the Park. Was summoned at the last minute by Is This Music? The original reviewer pulled out or something, so I was asked to take his place.
What's on my list of must sees? Let's see: Pixies, PJ Harvey, Franz, Uncle John & Whitelock, Sons & Daughters, Wu Tang Clan (I don't hold high hopes though), The Rapture...
Also looking forward to Josh Wink, if only to experience Higher State of Consciousness in a club (hey, I was too young to hear it first time round), Mylo, Ben Kweller, Beta Band, Chemicals, Felix Da Housecat, Dogs Die In Hot Cars... Think I'll also catch a bit of the Scissor Sisters. Camp people romping around to Elton John disco fever can't fail to entertain. I'd like to see Orbital, but it's going to be between them and the Pixies - no contest I'm afraid. Orbital should headline instead of the Strokes man! Perfect way to finish the fest.

Oh yeah - latest Ideas Factory stuff:

Dogs Die In Hot Cars

Merchant City

Thursday, July 08, 2004

High voltage man

Current listening:
Donovan - Season of the Witch
Electric Prunes - Get Me To the World On Time
The Magic Band - Peel Session
Reading:
Bruce Chatwin - The Songlines
Paul Morley - Words and Music
Evelyn Waugh - Scoop


Been a while eh? Ah well, I've been dossing around enjoying my semi-unemployment.
Beard #2 is starting to take shape. At least in my head.
Better still, it looks I'm going to be doing some reviews for the List.
My application for the BBC researcher job is in. Fingers crossed.

Fried my brain on Monday night experiencing the Magic Band at the Arches. An extraordinary gig, one of the very best I've been to. Skronkadelic baby! My review will appear in Beard #2.
THey were much better than Television, who were a little lacking in tension and energy. The playing was immaculate of course - but this is rock 'n roll, not chamber music. That said Little Johnny Jewel, Prove It and Marquee Moon (natch) sounded mighty.

Bought a scanner and spent all last night and this morning scanning in old pics. A trip down memory lane (sniffle) - I've also been able to touch up underexposed pics, or crop pics to improve the composition, which gives them new life.
I realise that talking about pictures without showing them is somewhat pointless. So here's a nice blurry shot from my January trip to Paris.


Le Metro Jan 2004 Posted by Hello


Thursday, June 17, 2004

Man, those Stirling News mooks didn't use my Le Weekend review. Mofos. At least the Tolbooth liked my photies. I'll need to scan some and post them up.

Anyway, here's a little something I did for Ideas Factory: an interview with artist and DJ
Mel Carvalho . It's a good 'un, if I do say so myself.

I'll leave you with a quote from A Mighty Wind, which continues to prove the genius of Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy.
Mitch: I feel ready for whatever the experience is that we will... take with us after the show. I'm sure it will be... an adventure... a voyage on this... magnificent vessel... into unchartered waters! What if we see sailfish... jumping... and flying across the magnificent orb of a setting sun?

It's all in the delivery, alright?

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

My mission to fill the Stirling News with esoteric wittering continues apace. There's another, quite different, and often better, version for Is This Music? Some sloppy bits here, but nice stuff too. I can use the two for the basis of an extended Beard account. I've got piccies too!

Is Le Weekend the best thing to have happened to Stirling? Quite possibly. Some might run screaming at the prospect of four days of experimental music. It's their loss, because this festival was an exhilarating display of the possibilities of art.
Opening the festival Paul Dunmall, Paul Rogers and Hamid Drake cooked up free jazz of tremendous rhythmic energy, Dunmall's saxophone coursing over Rogers' seven string double bass.
Borbetomagus followed with the loudest, most terrifying live performance I've ever seen. Over a relentless guitar roar, two saxophones were blasted through Marshall amps. The gonzoid onslaught of skronk never let up. Bracing, to say the least.
Friday's Weird Folk artists inhabited the point where American roots music meets outer space. Heather Leigh Murray's otherworldly pedal steel improvisations were closer to Venus than Nashville, while Pelt incorporated Indian modes into their minimalist drone. But it was the MV & EE Medicine Show who stole the show, bringing a Beat poet sensibility to Appalachian song.
Saturday was a blast. Music For Buildings was a thrilling improvisation cum sound-installion featuring local musicians. While the band played in the attic their parts were sampled and electronically manipulated before being sent to speakers throughout the building. A glorious cacophony of saxes, strings and digital chaos spiralled up the staircase. An inspired project.
Putting paid to any notions of inaccessibility Haco and Sakamoto Hiromishi combined quite beautiful songs with sonci sculpture. Hiromishi did the business on cleeo and musical saw, while Haco sang and played with her electronic gadgets and china pot.
Equally wonderful were System D, featuring Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger and Senegalese musicians Mollay Sylla and Serigne Gueye. Pizzicato cello provided a spry counterpoint to the sublime African percussion and vocals. But there was a primal side to the music, Sylla's vocals breaking down into a series of grunts and wails at the climax. This was the sort of performance that stays with you long afterwards.
Folk guitarist Glen Jones stepped in for the Loren Mazzacane Connors and Suzanne Langille, who were unable to attend due to illness. Jones's magical pickings were made all the more special when Pelt's brilliant Jack Rose joined on lap steel for a bluesy doodle.
It was left to the Dead C to bring things to a close, and boy, did they rock. Largely instrumental, this was all about texture and dynamics, supple rhythms cutting through crystalline feedback.
Le Weekend is for everyone. I took the plunge and it blew my mind.

Monday, June 07, 2004

unemployed again...

I'm not really into the confessional blog thing, but dearie me, I'm being let go by the Alloa Advertiser once my 6 month probation period is up. So as of July I'll be a free man. It's a blow, but I'm glad in a way - I don't think news reporting is me. It's been valuable experience but my heart is in the arts and my superiors could tell that. I really enjoyed the first couple of months, and doing the Stirling News ents has been great, but lately I've not been so comfortable. But the contacts I've made with the Tolbooth and local arts people needn't be lost. As David St Hubbins says upon Spinal Tap's split, "It's a gift, a gift of freedom".
Now I can do more stuff for Channel four and Is This Music?, devote plenty of time to Beard and do the Fringe for Fest. However, only Channel Four pay me for that. But I can seek out gainful freelance. And read lots. I really miss reading time. But such is working life. Anyone want to give me a job?

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Le Weekend

Stirling's Le Weekend was tremendous. You'll be able to hear my verdict soon, but for now, here's what Neil Cooper of the Herald had to say.
I had a chat with him in the bar. Nice bloke.

The Scotsman went along too.

While I'm at it, here are a couple of my Plan B reviews.

Creekdippers

Another Country

Not my best - been overdosing on the Greil Marcus - but what the hey, it's cool to be involved. The magazine is out soon and I've got a couple more reviews in there...

Monday, May 24, 2004

Current listening - Devendra Banhart - Rejoicing in the Hands
Wilco - A Ghost Is Born
M Ward - Transfigurations of Vincent
Papa M - Whatever Mortal
Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans

Current reading - Sandy Stoddard's bonkers letter in the Herald. The Wagner loving neo-classical sculptor (if, indeed, it is he)talks of Frank McAveety's love of contemporary music which he says is crude, onanistic fodder for immature youth. Hilariously he refers to "Beat Radio" blasting out of the cars of young hooligans and that fact that young men only wish to master two instruments, the guitar (well, fair enough) and the saxophone (eh? My Mum plays sax) because the involve fiddling in the vicinity of the groin. High art is about greater things than lust, he says.
Citing Kant, he states that aesthetics and ethics are linked, thus proving that Frank McAveety is evil cos he likes, ahem, beat music. As do "snooty bitch" art types who go "also listen to contemporary music". But he never specifies what he means by this. You'd think he just means the pop he's heard in snippets, but the sax indicates he's dissing jazz.
Like, lighten up and quit reading that Schopenhauer. It's,like, bumming you out dude.
He may well be taking the piss, but something it's difficult to produce pastiche this bonkers.
Unfortunately the letters page isn't online, so you'll have to rush out and buy a paper.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

What a prick

Read James Traynor's ignorant bilge from the Daily Record and weep.

That's right, dismiss people in the arts as effeminate ponces in their bow ties and tutus, as opposed to rugged working class football loving blokes like our Jim. Thinly veiled homophobia; that's the way to win an argument. Traynor's I'm-a-man-of-the-people-telling-it-like-it-is schtick is deeply phoney. He says arts folk should live in the real world and accept redundancies happen. A bit fresh for an overpaid footie pundit and gobshite tabloid columnist. No nonsense man's man Jim obviously doesn't give a stuff for Scottish Opera chorus members, but what of the hard-working carpenters, technicians and floor staff who could face the chop? What do you know, he seems to have forgotten to mention them. Readers might sympathise with them.
Of course funding the arts has to come second to the essential services, but we're a rich nation and should be able to afford sufficient funding for all these things.
Jim claims that the arts mean nothing to the Real People. That's right, Real Working Class People don't read books or go to the theatre or any of that crap. They have football, the People's Theatre. Fuck off. This is exactly the sort of pig-ignorant thinking that has destroyed the aspirations of millions of Scots for generations. We're working class, we're meant to be stupid. Fuck you Jim. Fuck you and your phoney bullshit.
This cultural attitude is more of a problem than notions of art being inaccessable. What exactly are artists suppost to do to reach out to ordinary people? Spend hundreds of thousand on one of Jack Vettriano's deeply unsexy contrivances? May I point out most tickets to Scottish Opera's La Boheme are cheaper than a good seat at Ibrox. The theatre is even cheaper. And art galleries? Free entry.
He's also quite wrong to say football doesn't get any funding. Maybe not an annual grant, but what about the millions pumped into football development at the end of last year. I have no problem with this, although you could argue that while we're shite at football, we're very good at opera so in terms of international reputation the arts deserve the money.
You're going to take poofy arts types to the mean streets of Scotland, eh? Show them what real hardship is like? Yes, cos you'd know, sitting in your flash car, filing your pompous copy from your top of the range laptop.
It also shows utter ignorance (perhaps intentionally) of what Scottish artists actually do, what they write about and make films about.
So the 55 arts leaders who wrote the open letter to Jack McConnell are pompous and arrogant whingers?
Takes one to know one.

To quote Tim from Spaced, "What a prick."

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Mmmm, see me lapping up some Reel Food

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Why I hate the Streets Caroline Sullivan, who I often disagree with, has read my mind this time.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Trippin' out

My Triptych...
was a good 'un. Went along to Super Furries on Thursday and last night's smorgasboard of musical goodness at the Tramway for Is This Music?
Support at the SFA gig came from Adem, who was good, although not as folky as I expected. Sure, they've got harmonium and dulcimer, but the songwriting is more conventional indie. Not a bad thing, I should add, although there is a hint of Coldplay in the likes of 'These Are Your Friends'. But I'll let that go.
Mountaineers not so good - Turin Breaks or Crowded House with laptops. Saw them last year supporting Sparklehorse, so I didn't feel the need to watch the whole thing.
The Super Furries eventually came on around 10.30, half an hour late and 40 minutes before I had to leave to make sure I got my train. Oy vey. What I heard was good though - Golden Retriever, Rings Around the World and a couple of tracks from Mwung, which they promised to play in its entirety. They also did a bit more techno and drum 'n bass stuff off Guerrilla. My scouts will fill me in on the rest.

Saturday was one of the big nights at the Tramway, with three different stages. Caught the beginning of Animal Collective's psych meanderings before heading to Andre Williams. Made the right choice: Williams is the dude, a true showman and star. Perfect r 'n b infused garage rock 'n roll, with Williams' lewd growling and absurd lyrics (a dance called the bacon fat). Despite their Al Capone suits (black shirt, white tie) and hats, his band, the Greasy Wheels (what a name! Genius) were super cool, especially the foxy rhythm guitar player Jan. Andre had a fine outfit himself - a red double breasted suit. Natty.
The only misstep was when Andre tried to hock signed posters for a tenner. It worked in Edinburgh apparently, but to cheapskate Wedgies? Not a chance.
Great banter though. Pure filth ("All the guys who like pussy raise your hands!") but delivered with enough cheeky charm to get away with it.
At the end he takes a lap of honour along the stage, shaking everyone's hand in the front row.
After all this, Four Tet was inevitably disappointing. Beautiful records, but the old problem of doing electronica live raised its head yet again. Kieran Hebden breaks the beats down, cuts things up and adds some glitches and skips, but loses the groove. Good visuals though. Matthew Dear, who follows him, is less memorable musically, but more danceable.
Huge queue to Explosions in the Sky so we only caught the end. Sounded good though.
On paper, the lineup might seem a bit cobbled together, just being a case of whoever they could fit in on the night, but it made for an excellent evening's entertainment.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Product and Plan B

Update: Is This Music? is out now, with a couple of reviews by moi.

ALt. country a-go-go! You can read my review of an alt.country compilation for Plan right here.
Should be another one up soon - I'll keep you posted.

The new issue of Product, a Scottish arts magazine, is finally out. It's been produced (groan) in collaboration with C4 Ideas Factory and I have a couple of short pieces in the Product Placement section.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

It's been a while, huh? Well, I've been running back and forth to gigs the past week or so. Last week saw the inaugural Stirling:Live festival, which I attended in my capacity as Stirling News arts maestro. Had to be nice to all the local bands - it's only fair - but the main acts were quite good. Wreckless Eric was very funny, Martin Stephenson was warm and fuzzy, while Thea Gilmore, a bit earnest on record, was actually quite good live. I interviewed her, which went okay, although I'm hardly Lyn Barber yet. She's a Replacements fan, so plus points.
Also been to see - as a paying customer - Calexico and Blance (molto bene), and the Shins (nice, but shit QMU sound). I'll bash together some reviews for Beard #2, which is starting to come together. We've got some nice illustrations of Kinky Friedman to go with Neil's fantastic interview. Once they're scanned a double page spread can be laid out. That's another two down.
My mission to namecheck as many obscure bands as possible in the Stirling News continues apace. So far I've got in Fugazi, At the Drive In, Sufjan Stevens, Alisdair Roberts - I forget the rest. My favourite preview has been for some shitty Queen tribute act: "With the Darkness straddling the pop world like some hideous four headed gargoyle, you'd think the last thing anyone would want is another Queen tribute band. Think again, because Mercury are here to rock you!" A cheap shot I know, but it brightens up the day.
An exhibition of Alisdair Gray's artwork (bear with me and I'll link this later) is on display at the Smith in Stirling, which meant I could go to town and show off my knowledge of his ouvre. So I've put references to Hobbes' Leviathan and William Blake into a news story in a free paper. And why not?
My Dad, self-styled Zelig figure of the literati, says Alisdair Gray owes him a pair of car keys. He was driving the great man home from a talk my Dad had organised in Irvine. Mr Gray was somewhat worse for wear and threw my Dad's car keys into Irvine harbour. Despite my Dad's best efforts with a fishing rod and magnet the keys were never recovered. Alisdair Gray was forced to stay in Irvine as punishment. (I jest, it's a perfectly decent place)
Alisdair Gray's finest moment is complaining to the staff of a Glasgow chippie about their use of the Daily Telegraph to wrap fish suppers. Were they trying to brainwash the proletariat with right wing propaganda?

Friday, April 09, 2004

Real Shocks

My Real Shocks interview for Ideas Factory. I'm pleased with this one, although the band helped cos they can talk the talk. A shorter, pithier version will appear in the forthcoming issue of Product. They're pretty good actually. And they love Sparks, which can never be a bad thing.

My day off

Being off work on weekday is bliss. I've got a cold, so it justifies my sitting around watching Spaced DVDs and surfing the net. It's not all good, though - I felt too weak last night to go see Jonathan Richman in Glasgow. Boo. Still, he seems to play at least once a year.
Back to my daytime viewing. I hate T4 - it's reduced yoof programming to endless repeats of Friends, sycophantic interviews (June Sarpong and Vernon Kaye in a competition to see who can crawl the furthest up Robbie Williams' fundament) - and the fucking Salon, but the Simple Life is strangely fascinating. It's an MTV "reality" show which places workshy socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie on a Midwestern cattle farm. Witnessing two people who are so utterly dim and removed from reality is oddly compelling. You have to feel sorry for the people trailing in the wake of their idiocy. What did decent, hard-working people do to deserve these two fuckwits?

The Beasties are finally releasing new album. Hello Nasty came out the summer between school and uni, which makes me feel real old. While the Beasties have never been the greatest lyricists, they do have moments of genius, such as Ad-Rock's adaptation of Run DMC's King of Rock to "I'm the king of Boggle, there is none higher, score eleven points from the word 'quagmire'". So it was with a heavy heart last year that I downloaded their anti-war song. "Say ooh-ah, what's the White House doing?" was one of the better lines. I've managed to purge my memory of the rest. It was painful. Unfortunately, their new album apparently continues the political theme. Public Enemy it ain't.
Here are some of the rhymes, according to Pitchfork:

"Since 911 we're still livin'/ And lovin' life we've been given/ Ain't nothing gonna take that away from us/ We're lookin' pretty and gritty 'cause in the city we trust." ["Sonic Reducer"]

"We've got a president we didn't elect/ The Kyoto treaty he decided to neglect/ And still the U.S. just wants to flex." ["Time to Build"]

Eeee.

Good news! I'm getting tried out for some reviews in Plan B, the sequel to Careless Talk Costs Lives, and I've been given a place on a reviewing masterclass, which should hopefully lead to reviewing comedy, theatre and music at the Edinburgh Fringe for Fest mag. Yay! And Beard #2 is gradually taking shape. Very gradually.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

David Stubbs [Mr Agreeable]

Ah ha! David Stubbs [Mr Agreeable] has a website. Great blog entry on getting into Private Eye's pseud's corner for his florid descriptions of Hendrix.

It's also well worth checking the Sacred Cow columns he wrote as "The Reaper". These were a breath of fresh air in a dad rock mag like Uncut. It's the antithesis of their 20 page features on the time Eric Clapton and Duane Allman changed the gauge of their guitar strings from a 10 to 9-44 hybrid. I pastiche, but you get the point.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Good reading...

Cajun music

Sufjan Stevens

Christiania, as featured in Beard #1.Seems like the Man is trying to shut Denmark's commune down.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Another Ideas Factory feature added to Stuff Wot I Wrote. This one is about jazz singer and entrepreneur Alison Burns.

Plagiarising bastards pt.2

What's this? Top football beards in the Daily Record? Sounds familiar...didn't Beard #1 have the top ten literary beards, with such masterpieces such as Hemingway's nautical number and Allen Ginsberg's bristling, priapic and bracingly counter-cultural facial fuzz? (Yes it did, it's a rhetorical question)
But if we have "inspired" the Record I'm more flattered than offended. The writer Andrew McInnes has truly entered into the spirit of beard admiration with his humorous asides. Respect to you, sir.

Monday, March 15, 2004

a c u n t c o m p e n d i u m

Wonderful stuff. The adventures of TV Go Home's London meeja wankstain Nathan Barley brought together as a c u n t c o m p e n d i u m

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Plagiarising bastards

It's been a few days. I've been churning out articles for Ideas Factory and the next issue of Product magazine (yay!) and being lifted and renewed by Brian Wilson's gorgeous Smile gig in Glasgow last week.
Got my first front page on the Alloa Advertiser - not bad going for 9 weeks in the job - and it's been picked up by a few nationals. Yes, I'm talking about a Clackmannanshire councillors's invitation to Elton John to marry his partner David Furnish right here. The P & J picked it up alright. They barely even bothered to change my copy. They even nicked a collaborative joke piece about possible venues that took the piss out of celebs. Now that's dirty. The P & J are notorious for this sort of thing. Bastards. The Herald actually bothered to get their reporter to do his own version from scratch. Don't mind that, but to lift the lot and not credit it - that's just rude. Suppose I should get used to it. Oy vey.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

The Observer go wild forThe Fiery Furnaces. And why not?

Friday, February 27, 2004

Splendid stuff from The Onion this week:
If Al-Qaeda Had A Hockey Team, We'd Kick Its Ass!

And everyone's favourite stoner, Jim Anchower aka The Cruise, is back...fuckin' a.

holy fucking shit!

Bloody hell, rockcritics daily have picked up on my rockism post. We're famous! Shame some of my other posts are a bit iffy (my Parisian ramble springs to mind). That said, if there are any influential people reading, don't hesitate to check out "stuff wot I wrote". Have I no shame?

email us: beardmag@yahoo.co.uk

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Getting more and more excited about Brian Wilson's Smile

Interesting to note that the "Beach Boys" are touring later in the year, visiting many of the same venues as Brian Wilson. As Mike "Fucking asshole" Love bought the band name a few years back he can bill his tribute act as the real thing, when it's simply him, Bruce Johnson (I've no beef with him: he wrote Disney Girls and has provided many hours of amusement thanks to his uncanny resemblence to Melvynn Bragg) and some hired hands. But it's kinda like Ringo going on tour with his mates and calling it the Beatles. And at least Ringo is a nice guy and a talented musician...

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Fiery Furnaces were terrific at King Tut's on Saturday. Eleanor Friedberger is a real cool frontwoman - poised and charismatic without having to resort to rock chick cliche (hello Brody!). She spins out surreal yarns about the King of Spain and the Millenium Dome while brother Matt grooves behind his organ or fires off hot scrappy guitar licks. Plenty of Moog too. There was a glut of strong new material, while the songs we know and love were given a new vitality.
On Sunday I attended Brian Irvine's Filmworks at the Tolbooth in Stirling where the fruits of a week long project where six budding composers worked with the big man to produce soundtracks for short films were unveiled. Impressive results - review for the day job and Brian Irvine feature for IFS coming up...

And another thing...Just over a week until Brian Wilson performs Smile in Glasgow. I'll be there, can't wait. Won-won-wonderful news: the completed Smile album is now slated for an autumn release.
Do you like worms?

Monday, February 23, 2004

It's the biggest thing in music blog land. So big the word has been registered on Google. Yes, yes y'all, we're talking about ROCKISM Thanks to the efforts of rockcriticsdaily.com, a whole bunch of articles with references to rockism can be read here.
This whole rockism thing is more than an internet in-joke. In fact, it's sparking off a classic and much needed debate on the nature of popular music criticism. The ever-astute Simon Reynolds makes some particularly good points on his superb blissblog. He discusses how popists such as Paul Morley use a great, colourful and sexy pop moment such as Kylie's Can't get you out of my head as a club to bash dour rockists. All good fun, but do we really need to take sides, Reynolds asks. Damn straight.
Rock crit daily also lists an article on how Common and the Roots are not at all innovative, but rockist. I.E. they compromise hip-hop by approaching it like 70s rockers did, making "serious", conceptual albums. Humourless and preachy, lacking fire and funk. I got over the indie backbacker thing when I realised how dull most of it is - the same old jazz breaks, the same old rhetoric about the "elements" and respecting hip-hop tradition. But as with any musical genre, trying to preserve styles in aspic only stifles creativity. There was a split in backpacker circles when El-P et al arrived. Those offended by Company Flow's still startling 'End to End Burners' (undoubtedly one of the greatest hip-hop 12"s ever - the relentless abstract churn of that distorted sample, the disturbing lyrics and vicious scratching...oh man!) were like the hip-hop equivalent of old hippies dismayed at punk, or to be more apt, rockist Pistols fans gaping in horror at the dubbed out grooves and angularity of PIL.
And when the mainstream can produce greatness in the form of Outkast and Timbaland et al, the validity of the whole indie rap purism thang crumbled for me. All these stoned guys nodding along to the latest DJ Premier (although, to be fair, on form Premier is great cf. Nas's Illmatic) seemed to forget how funky and colourful all the old-skool guys they claimed to be keeping the flame for were.
Anyway, I'm going on a bit, and I've got articles which I'll actually get paid for to write. Oh, and I have used the word "rockist" in a review before, long before it became a blog buzzword. Attempting to reappraise Neil Young's electro-folly Trans, I queried whether its infamy was simply a knee-jerk reaction by Ol' Shakey's more rockist fans. I wrote this for the first Beard but held it back. A revised version shall appear in issue two, however. Whenever that comes out...

Got to get it in your bowl...

I was listening to Mingus's Ah-Um yesterday. Absolutely incredible. Here are the great man's tips on how to toilet train your cat. This is for real, I shit you not.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Is This Music? #9

...is out now. There are some reviews by my bad self, but don't let that put you off, cos there are features on Franz Ferdinand, the Magnificents and Future Pilot AKA. Excellent free CD too. Click the ITM? link to the left to find out more.

Shitty ol' Brits

I suppose I shouldn't have expected much, but this year's Brits were dull as Milton Keynes ditchwater.
The overall tone of blandness was established from the start, with Cat Deeley trying to be all Kylie-sexy stradling a giant champagne bottle, but coming across like a holiday rep with highly paid stylists. "The booze is back!" she grinned, but the following two hours remained more subdued than a Christian Union disco. What's happened to Cat Deeley? Has she had a lobotomy? Back in the days of Chums and SMTV she was a sweet and funny foil to idiot man-boys Ant and Dec. Hardly Lucille Ball, but more likeable than her dead-eyed, cooing self.
Andre 3000 stole the show effortlessly, jigging about in his skeleton costume to Hey Ya. Shame it was curtailed for a perfunctory Beyonce performance featuring an entirely lame attempt at cheeky Benny Hill goes to Brixton humour, whereby a buff young man in a dirty mac flashes Beyonce to reveal Union Jack boxers. As he shook his thang, his manhood quite clearly rose and fell beneath the cloth. Beyonce actually looked a little shocked. Fair enough. It was awfully badly judged - a blatantly staged attempt to raise a Janet nipplegate style brouhaha in the tabloids.
Alleged "jazz" musicians Jamie Cullum and Katie Melua teamed up for a duet. As is wont to happen in these awards show pairings, the individual artists fight for attention, rather than do a real duet. The utter lack of chemistry wasn't helped by the fact they could barely see each other - JC was at his piano and KM right up front. Her weedy voice was no match for Cullum's graceless mugging or the parping horn section. This had more in common with weak tea than jazz.
Talking of weak tea...Dido! Need I say more?
Wack version of Kiss, with none of the sass and slinkiness of Prince's original, starring Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani and Missy. Much as I love Missy, I can't pretend she was any good. Fluffing inane lyrics, making yet another tiresome reference to her buddy Michael Jackson...c'mon girl, work it.
As for Duran cunting Duran...I can't believe some people are trying to pretend their ridiculous, preening, coke sprinkled ouvre represents great British pop music. It's clear the Brits are running out of potential lifetime achievement candidates. It's almost got to the stage where - heaven forbid - they might give it to someone on merit rather than record sales. Someone like John Cale, Robert Wyatt, Elvis Costello, Kate Bush...
What the fuck???!!! moment of the night was Lemar winning best UK urban. What, over Dizee Rascall or even Amy Winehouse? You could see the daggers launching from Ms Winehouse's eyes when the camera briefly cut to her. And who could blame her? I'm not a great fan, but at least she seems to have a personality. As Lemar made the most dull of the evenings many dull thankyou-to-my-manager-producer-mum-god-biggie-Jordan speeches, presenters N.E.R.D, particularly a toothpick-chewing Chad Hugo, looked bored to tears and not a little peeved. They know Dizzee is the boy. I mean, he's old school like Happy Shopper.
Another year, another boring Brits. Oy vey.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Chicken, chicken, marry my mouth

Excellent weekend in Aberdeen where I caught up with Uni pals and was persuaded to spend cash money on records by the staff of the Cavern, Belmont Street's superb vinyl basement. Damned good records, though - Townes Van Zandt's first, which includes the absolutely stunning For the Sake of the Song and Waitin' Around to Die, not to mention Be There To love me, as covered by Norah Jones, who surely couldn't do it justice. Also got Gene Clark's Roadmaster. Lovely stuff.
Also saw Explosions in the Sky hanging around the morning after their gig, which, unfortunately, I only realised was on too late (Instead I went to horrible rock club Moshula and got royally drunk with my good friend Hugh before eating foul curry and chips and waking up with my mouth stained yellow - a good night then).
But highlight of the trip was catching the Granite City's finest garage-punkers, King Liar & the Brutes at the Lemon Tree. Headlining over much fancied, but quite painful classically influenced indie bods Cayto (or is that [cayto] or [wank]?), King Liar were highly entertaining. With his gold cape, massive crucifix and gravity defying quiff, Project S.A.M. is a great showman, who rides on the neanderthal power of his band. Ferocious guitars and rinky dink organ make ditties like 'Ghost Cop in my House' and the inspired 'Chicken chicken, marry my mouth' the best silly punk songs you've heard in a long time.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Grey Album

DownloadDanger Mouse's Grey Album - a Jay Z/Beatles bootleg mix - from illegal.art before EMI shut it all down!

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Coldplay...zzzz

Here's a feature I wrote with Mark Robertson with Coldplay's boring bassist for the Sunday Herald. Mark did his best with the interview, but bassist bloke just wouldn't give up any goss on Gwyneth. The sub-heading says it all: "not the furious rollercoaster ride you might have expected."
Not one of my best, but that's my fault for being hungover when I wrote it. Us journos - crazy huh?

Monday, February 09, 2004

John Kerry's Record: One You Can Dance To (washingtonpost.com)

Frankenstein's monster lookalike and Democrat presidential frontrunner John Kerry's garage rock past He'd get my vote, if I was American.

This Charmless Man: the genius of Larry David

Here's a good article by Joy Press on America's greatest comedy show, Curb Your Enthusiasm. We'll have to wait a while for season four over here, but it sounds genius. So read it, Larry, you bald fuck!

And while you're at it, here's Clark Collis (remember him from Select back in the day?) reviewing Curb Season 1 on DVD. Let's hope it gets a region 2 release.
This one's from Blender, Felix Dennis's Maxim-as-music-mag venture soon to launch over here. It's a shame about all the lad-mag crap and glistening hotties 'cos it's picked up some of the best British writers (various ex-Q and Select chappies) and is pretty lively without being NME-dumb.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Merci les musiciens

With the Evening Time's most promising young photographer, Kieran Dodds, in tow (actually, it should really be the other way round) I went off to Paris two weekends ago to work on a feature about musicians in Metro stations. Kieran came up with the idea, booked cheap flights, and organised an interview with the man who auditions and looks after all the accredited Metro performers. His photos are fantastic. What a star.
Our friend Simon acted as translator at the interview, which was just as well, as I only got a C for Higher French. And that was about 7 years ago.
So we've got some pics, an interview with the main man, contact numbers for musicians and an invite to the auditions in March, where I can do my reportage thang. We're pitching it to the Herald magazine, so let's hope they like it and pay for our next trip (ha ha!).
I managed to fit trips to the Pompidou Centre and Musee D'Orsay in. And I'm really glad I did. The Pompidou is an incredible place, with its inside-out structure and colour coded pipes winding around. The modern art gallery inside is quite simply the best of its kind I've been to. It's shamelessly intellectual but playful too. If you want a crash course in 20th century art it's peerless. You can see how Cubism evolved, with Picasso and Braque breaking down form and using multiple perspectives, or how abstract art developed through Kadinsky to Pollock.
And there's all manner of playful recent stuff: a room lined with rolls of grey carpet and a solitary grand piano in the corner; a short film called Lasoe where a girl watches an oblivious boy practicing his rope tricks; a canopy of amber glass lampshades; right back to Duchamp's readymades, urinal and all.
Orsay was almost too much - even the most casual art lover would recognise at least one painting per room. Monet, oodles of Degas, Van Goch, Renoir (dance at rue Gallette with the handsome boy getting all the attention from the girls and his geeky mates trying to look like they're part of the conversation) and Whistler's Mother, which really is wonderful.
As you can tell, I'm no art expert, but, hey, I had fun.


Monday, January 19, 2004

Tha Flava on Ideas Factory

Another article by my bad self on the Ideas Factory website. It's about Aberdeen hip-hop collective Tha Flava.

Click the link to the left to check out the whole site and all the good things it has to offer.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Poetry corner

This Is Just To Say - William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Thursday, January 08, 2004

March to folk

My interview with Mudhoney guitarist turned folky troubadour Steve Turner from Beard #1 can now be read online at the splendid diskant.net
Touch me, I'm a link

Monday, January 05, 2004

Beard's musical highlights of 2003

In no particular order and by no means complete...

ALBUMS
Bonnie "Prince" Billie - Master & Everyone
Fiery Furnaces - Gallowsbird's Bark
Cat Power - You Are Free
The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow (go buy it on import, go on, go on!)
Gillian Welch - Soul Journey
Evan Dando - Baby I'm Bored
Manitoba - Up In Flames
White Stripes - Elephant
Robert Wyatt - Cuckooland
Outkast - Speakerboxx/The Love Below
Sadies - Stories often Told
Dizze Rascal - Boy In Da Corner
Super Furry Animals - Phantom Power
My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves

SINGLES
Crazy in love and Hey Ya of course. Also Missy's Pass the Dutch. Justin Trousersnake's Rock Your Body - don't give me no indie-schmindie bullshit, it's a slinky neo-Quincy Jones extravaganza. Still, it's not as good as the genius new Kelis single. Franz Ferdinand: Darts of Pleasure. Shopping for Blood is a great b-side too - the Fall hit the merchant city. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Maps. Rapture - House of Jealous Lovers.

GIGS
Gillian Welch, Renfrew Ferry; Evan Dando, Glasgow Uni; Calexico GU, Yeah Yeah Yeahs QMU; Franz Ferdinand, Sub Club; Jad Fair & Teenage Fanclub at Mono; Daniel Johnson at Stereo; My Morning Jacket soaring out of King Tuts; James Yorkston, King Creosote, Unpoc at KT; Evangeline, Glasgow Grand Ole Opry; Flaming Lips, Barrowlands.
Half genius/half car crash award: Cat Power at Mono. Chan Marshall was tired and emotional. But we still love her.

"And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line."