Friday, 22 June 2018
I appreciate that here in the UK we don't have too much room to shout at the moment, being led as we by the most incompetent government since the end of the Second World War who are attempting to put into law, by most reckonings, the most disastrous political decision any major western country has taken in the same period. But, as the question at the top of the post asks 'whither goest thou, America?' When Jack Kerouac asked the question in On The Road it was in a different context but still, the question stands.
In the last two weeks alone Trump has-
* legitimised a brutal dictator who uses torture and murder against his own people, orders assassinations of those in his government who he falls out with and who has used forced starvation to bring the population to heel.
* professed admiration for this dictator, praising him as a a man whose people listen when he speaks and said he wants the same form the American people
* removed the USA from the United Nations Committee on Human Rights because it criticises Israeli policies against the Palestinian people
* continued to support a policy that has led to toddlers being imprisoned in cages on the USA's southern border
This is the normalisation of anti-democratic practices by the US government. We know from history where this leads. It's never too late to shout about it. One of the things David Byrne talked about between songs on Monday night was about how at his shows in the US they had a table in the foyer to register people to vote there and then, and about how important it is to get people to engage, to vote in local elections and national ones. It beats 'Hi, how are you?' (response usually a big cheer) and 'this is a new one' (response, a trip to the bar or the toilet). Unless Trump abolishes elections in the next 2 years (as his new friend in North Korea might advise), he is removable and defeatable. Same over here. We've got to rid of these people. The chorus of this 2006 Jarvis Cocker song is truer now than it was when he wrote it...
Running The World
' I mean, man, whither goest thou? Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?" "Whither goest thou?'
In 1997 an album called Joy Kicks Darkness was released, a spoken word tribute to Kerouac by artists including Michael Stipe, Lydia Lunch, Patti Smith, Thurston Moore, John Cale and Juliana Hatfield and also featuring surviving Beats like Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. This track is Joe Strummer and Jack Kerouac together.
MacDougal Street Blues
Thursday, 21 June 2018
Today is the longest day and the summer solstice, where the sun rises earlier and sets later than any other day. Make the most of it. I've never been to the stones at sunrise but if I did the man I'd want beside me would be the arch-drude, Julian Cope himself. Maybe he has the answer about the ancients...
They Were All On Drugs
Wednesday, 20 June 2018
David Byrne played at The Apollo on Monday night and it was quite a night. Byrne had promised in advance that this tour was ambitious and it definitely did things differently in terms of staging and presentation. The stage was completely bare of any of the standard rock 'n' roll equipment- no amps, no drum riser or drum kit. As we took our seats all that was on the stage was a metal legged table and a chair under a single spotlight. At 8.45 he appeared, singing Here to a rubber brain. Dressed in a grey suit and shirt and barefoot, grown out white hair, he looks every inch the intellectual and artist. But things heat up very quickly after this arty intro. My friend, DJ, who got me the ticket, saw the show in Birmingham the night before and said that the crowd remained mostly seated throughout until the encore. From the moment the band hit the opening notes of the second song, his 2002 hit with X-Press 2 Lazy, the Manchester crowd is on its feet and dances until the end.
The band are all, in Byrne's words, 'untethered'. All dressed identically, grey suits and shirts and barefoot, the eleven players are free to move around. The guitar and bass have no leads, the keyboard player has his keys in front of him on a harness, again no leads, there are two hardworking backing vocalists/dancers and anywhere up to six drummers, standing up samba-style playing a variety of drums and percussion instruments. The show is highly choreographed. No backdrop or projections except for a silver metallic curtain and at one point a light as a TV set but the lights change the shape of the stage. Lit from low down hge shadows engulf the back wall during one song, genuinely exciting to look at. At times the eleven band members stand in a line, at times they move in circles or file in and out, some walking forwards as others move back. Lots of this seems to be a visual nod to Stop Making Sense. At the close of one song the lights go out and when they come up again the band are all lying down. On another they all stand on the right hand side and then stagger to the left, as if at sea in rough weather. All of this is very clever and very stylised and could run the risk of being too theatrical were it not for the playing and the songs. At no point do I wish they'd drop the artifice and just play the songs. The songs, the dancing, the show- all add up to something hugely imaginative.
Lazy is bright and breezy, full of bounce, and followed by I, Zimbra, monumentally funky and African influenced. They follow that with Slippery People. At this point I'm pretty much in David Byrne gig heaven- his voice is strong, his dancing energetic (and at times wonderfully in sync with his backing dancers) and the band are playing fully realised versions of the Talking Heads songs you want played at a gig. He throws in songs from other projects he's had along the way, one from the album he did with St. Vincent and one from his record with Fatboy Slim and a few from solo records (Like Humans Do). The songs from the current album American Utopia slip in seamlessly, less arch in concert than on disc. Anyone else who had written something as influential and massive as Once In A Lifetime would play it as an encore. David Byrne plays it at about the half way point, a single spotlight following his jerky dancing along the lip of the stage. It's all astonishing stuff- loud, clear, full of energy and the band and David are clearly enjoying the songs as much as we are. The set closes with two Talking Heads songs, first a blistering version of 1988's Blind, a song I hadn't expected and have loved since the day it came out, and then a red hot dance through Burning Down The House, the stage drenched in red light. To top this the first encore gives up The Great Curve (to join Remain In Light's Born Under Punches, played earlier), groundbreaking funk in 1981 and still ahead of the curve now. The group then stand in a line and play a cover of Janelle Monae's Hell You Talmbout, minimal drumbeat and chanting voices- essentially a list of black men killed by white Americans. The tour is sold out. David is bringing the show back in December, to arenas. My advice, if you want to see someone doing something other people don't or can't and doing it as well as you can imagine, is to get a ticket. The heat goes on, as he reminds us forcefully in Born Under Punches, the heat goes on.
Tuesday, 19 June 2018
From northern England yesterday to New Jersey today. I've posted some Yo La Tengo but make no apologies for putting some more up. In 1993 they released Painful, an album combining their love of ambience and atmospherics with melodic guitar and noise. The noise on From A Motel 6 is there at the start and comes in ecstatic bursts afterwards. Motel 6 is a nationwide chain of budget motels. I always imagined someone similar, Teenage Fanclub say, writing a British equivalent about Travelodges or Premier Inns in reply.
From A Motel 6
Monday, 18 June 2018
Somehow this beautiful, surprisingly noisy piece of northern rock is eighteen years old. I played it yesterday and was struck by how it manages to be both melancholic and uplifting. I have it on 10" but curiously it didn't find its way into the recent 10 x 10 thing on Twitter. The waves of sound it rides in on and the slow paced bang of the drums are built for cities in the summer, especially this one, even before the tears-in-your-beer howl of the chorus.
The Cedar Room
Sunday, 17 June 2018
Up in Edinburgh John Vick and Davie Miller have taken their time putting together an album as Finiflex, working in a subterranean studio in Leith, putting in early morning shifts from 6am until 9am when the paying customers arrived to use the studio. The album, Suilven, came out on Friday and while I'll have to wait until payday to get a copy it is sounding very much like a end of year list-maker already. Suilven has the fingerprints that made Finitribe such an unexpected groovy treat in the 80s and early 90s but updated for 2018. Familiar multitracked vocals, bleeps and bloops, chuggy rhythms and a sense of openness and possibility. I've posted the 2 singles that preceded the album Ta Ta Oh Ha and Bonus Freaks before, back in October last year and March this year, both of which I've played repeatedly. The title track Suilven is a joy and a tribute to a mountain in Sutherland, Scotland. You can buy Suilven here (the album not the mountain).
Saturday, 16 June 2018
Sad news to wake up to this morning- as well as what looks like a catastrophic fire the beautiful Glasgow School of Art building- is that Nick Knox, the longest serving drummer of The Cramps, died yesterday aged 60. Nick started his tenure with Lux and Ivy in 1977 and played on at least 4 classic Cramps albums before leaving in 1991- Songs The Lord Taught Us, Psychedelic Jungle, A Date With Elvis and Stay Sick! plus songs and singles on the essential compilations Off The Bone and Bad Music For Bad People. That's your full Cramps set right there. RIP Nick Knox.
I was asked to dj at a friend's 45th birthday party in Sheffield a few years ago, a party with guaranteed dancers and folk who would enjoy a good shindig. Which was very much true. Except with this song, which cleared the floor. Sometimes you've got to scare them away to bring them back again.
Bikini Girls With Machine Guns
Johnny Marr posted this photograph on his Twitter account yesterday with the caption Kylie Fucking Minogue. It got me thinking that I would definitely pay good money for an Imaginary Collaboration Album, Marr and Minogue covering songs from their respective back catalogues. Johnny and his current band with Kylie singing How Soon Is Now and Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me, Kylie cooing her way through Getting Away With It, The Beat(en) Generation and Still Feel The Rain by Stex and in return Johnny blazing his way through Can't Get You Out Of My Head, finding a new slinky guitar version of All The Lovers and a jangle version of I Should Be So Lucky. Come on, make it happen.
Johnny Mar's new solo album came out yesterday to uniformly good reviews. I'm not getting it until tomorrow (Father's Day innit). This single came out a month ago and sounds like a song he meant to record with his most famous band but never got around to until now.
And some Kylie. In 1994 everyone loved Kylie.