All entries for December 2009

December 11, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Charlotte Hatherley, Night & Day Cafe, 16th September

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.

It’s a sad fact of life that not everyone is allowed to have gig superpowers. Being in possession of a gig superpower can thus confer tremendous responsibilities on the owner. I have one and a half gig superpowers. The half power is height – at 5’ 10” I am taller than the vast majority of females and significant number of males. This makes viewing the stage quite a lot easier than it does for several my regular gig going mates, most of whom appear to be average height females. Unfortunately it only constitutes half a power because I am still below average height for a male and will always suffer when some 6’ 4” lump decides to stand in front of me.

My other power is far more useful – very sharp elbows. Here the responsibility to others kicks in. I can use these dangerous weapons to repel space invaders, but I should try not to use them too often for a bruised rib is no memento to take from a concert. However should lumps barge into mine, or my average heighted friends’, space too much they will find a short, sharp shock awaiting.

My other friends have their own gig powers. Sarah (see “Of Montreal, January):” has free ticket/guestlist acquisition powers. A couple of my Manic Street Preachers loving mates have super-front-row-attraction powers, especially when it’s the front row directly below Nicky Wire. And Cheryl has an unerring ability to meet the band.

And so we went to see Charlotte Hatherley, not realising that we would see her, see her, then see her. Or rather Cheryl would see her, see her then see her. The first sighting consisted of Cheryl’s gig superpower kicking in in its usual location, the ladies’ loo. Not that any words were exchanged.

From here – – someone who was probably stood about ten feet in front of me. Night & Day isn’t a big venue.

The second sighting was the gig itself. There’s a few things which are hard to believe about Charlotte Hatherley, starting with the fact that she’s only barely 30. It feels like she’s been around forever, largely because she has in indie terms. She’s only on her third solo album, and it was this which made up the bulk of the night’s set.

It’s always been a bit of a strange one that Charlotte didn’t write many songs at all for Ash, but when she was a member they produced most of their really good, really poppy stuff. Then she left and Ash got seriously into heavy songs that no one really wanted to listen to so much, whilst Charlotte released two albums of pretty good poppy indie with occasional tracks of really-rather-damn-good poppy indie. Which no one wanted to listen to so much. Fools.

So we scooted on down to her low key tour to promote the new album and see her on a break from her day job, playing guitar and laughing at equipment misfortune for Bat For Lashes.

As the guitarist in a three piece she was certainly taking the starring role, and if it was light on older tracks, it was telling that the ones chosen were the likes of ‘Behave’ or ‘I Want You To Know’, the ones where it wasn’t a simple case of power chord thrash. The new songs lived up to this, they were all little nuggets of guitarwork, sometimes loud, sometimes quieter, which seem rather at odds with the current trend for guitars to be either unimaginatively ploddy, unimaginatively ripping off The Strokes, or subservient to synths. We’re not talking fret wanking solos, just clever little riffs and plays. If there was nothing quite as disorientatingly brilliant as ‘Behave’ then it didn’t matter because, as I said, she played that. And some of the other songs were brilliant in other ways. Wahey!

I’ve long based my ‘girls prefer riffs to solos’ theory on Charlotte’s playing, and on new tracks like ‘White’ (twangy verse, swooshy chorus) or the endearingly stalkerish ‘Alexander’.


Having said all that, it was the power chord thrash of ‘Kim Wilde’ which closed the show, and led to sighting number three. As I waffled to Cheryl about how I first heard ‘Kim Wilde’ (Charlotte’s first solo single) whilst working in a hotel kitchen where I met, you guessed it, Kim Wilde herself, I joked “I should tell Charlotte that story”. Naturally Cheryl’s gig power was working wonders that night for poor Charlotte chose that precise moment to walk past us and was thus subjected to a not particularly interesting story about me, Kim Wilde and ‘Kim Wilde’. On reflection, if I was going to tell her any story from my time working in that hotel then the one where I blew a microwave up whilst melting a tinfoil voodoo doll of the owner would have been a better idea.

But she didn’t write a song about that so really, it was her own fault.

December 10, 2009

Depressed Handle III

Depressed handle has a political mind!

Now that’s depressing… but this is even more depressing:

If ever a handle wanted to drop to the floor and hide under a rock…

December 09, 2009

Depressed Handle V

Terrible weather joke.

December 08, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Reading Festival

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.
Reading Festival

In haiku format

(Wondering if I
Can keep this haiku mode up –
I very much can)

The Temper Trap

Average indie pop
Singer’s voice a class above
Enjoyable outcome


Angry thrashing noise
Coming from petite females
With drumming boys too

Fight Like Apes

Wave poles and keyboards
MayKay – rock goddess onstage
Pure punk energy

Everything Everything

Epic majestic
Bad luck – we miss half the set
What we heard was great

Faith No More

Play much classic metal
Interrupt hits to surprise with
Eastenders theme tune



New album perfect
For big stage at festival
Emily so bright

Patrick Wolf

Dressed in gimp outfit
Scaling stage and crowd surfing
Scene made, drunken Wolf

Them Crooked Vultures

Unannounced rock show
Heavy groove conquers whole crowd
John Paul Jones triumphs


Soft Toy Emergency

Eighteen months we find
This band supports all we see
Finally they shine


Epic post-rock sound
Balance guitar on chin so
Whole crowd impressed


Weekend’s biggest crowd
Lairy as you would assume
Reflecting the band


When they play songs which
I have heard on radio
Twas surprise good time

The xx

Your dark and moody
Sounds of the urban decay
Still work in large tent

Frank Turner

Billy Bragg 09?
Perhaps but your voice still seems
Your own in humour


Live drummer add on
More power to your toy synths
Geeks inherit earth


Brand New

Inclement weather
Wind steals your sound although
Could have played big hits

Crystal Castles

Oh Alice, you scream
Unintelligible lyrics
As synth dies loudly

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Colour explosion
Sonic explosion follows
Under all-seeing eye


Bloc Party

Live so erratic
This time lively and tuneful
Old stuff still the best


To start with shock ‘Creep’
Follow with anthems and more
Perfect headliner

December 07, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Fever Ray, Manchester Academy 2, 14th July

Writing about web page

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.

This particular review has already appeared at the ace God Is In The TV Zine, go there for some excellent music writing.

Do you have that special pile of CDs, the one mentally labelled ‘summer’ music, destined for car stereos as if the sheer power of association with blazing sunshine can force the clouds from the sky and drag the beams of vitamin D down to this sullen, sopping island? If so then the rain which hammered the streets of Manchester for most of the week around the time of Fever Ray’s invasion of the city could only have been attracted by these purveyors of the most claustrophobic and introverted piece of musical brilliance released this year. For this wasn’t the usual cold rain, whipped along by winds from the chilly Russian plains. This was tight, close rain, drenching the air with humidity even when it wasn’t pouring from the sky. It was uncomfortable and oppressive. It was one extended metaphor for one of the best gigs of the year.

Never lit with more than the most meagre half light, Fever Ray’s live form consists of Karin Dreijer Andersson, the woman who went from frothy Texas light indie pop with the successful-only-in-Sweden group Honey Is Cool, to the evil pop/techno/electronica hybrid which is The Knife, her project with her brother. The Knife managed to be popular in a lot of places by virtue of great songs, and yet they rarely did interviews and almost totally shunned live shows. This is what makes tonight something of an event. No one is expecting any Knife songs, just a glimpse of the woman who voices them.

Fever Ray is The Knife without the beats. The self-titled album is a dense but strangely immediate record, mostly written whilst Karin was gripped with a drowsy postnatal insomnia. In live form, Fever Ray aim to capture this state, where dreams half form to corrupt the reality of what’s around you.

With a stage decorated by lamps (a motif adopted from the disorientating video for ‘Triangle Walks’, the second single) the band slip into view almost totally under the cover of darkness. What little light there is doesn’t offer much comfort. Two characters out of a Venetian charivari appear, masked and sinister. A smaller figure arrives dressed as one of the red suited royal guards from the Star Wars films. There’s what appears to be a gorilla with its chest ripped open and its ribs showing. And there’s a huge mound of deer skin and antlers with a freakish shrunken head attached to the front. It’s a million miles from Jonny Borrell titting around in white trousers. Thank god.

It emerges that the mound of mangled deer is Karin. She looms towards the dual microphone in the centre of the stage, and begins to sing the opening track of both her album, and her campaign as Fever Ray, the single ‘If I Had A Heart’. It would have to be a courageous heart. Previously employing her trademark low pitched vocals on The Knife’s albums gave Karin the ability to sing like a man and present subversive ideas on gender and society. With Fever Ray it is used to conjure a twisted alternate reality, substituting ‘If I Had A Hearts’ lovelorn lyrics with a brooding deep voice. Live, it’s just shit scary. Booming to the extent that it’s not even totally apparent that it’s a vocal rather than a particularly deep bass note, she roars whilst not roaring, her physical stillness under that roadkill costume focusing the audience ever more on the rumble. “This will never end/‘Cos I want more/More/Give me more, give me more”. Chills abound.

And at that moment we are boxed in. Fever Ray’s stage show amounted to little more than strange costume, those lamps, and two powerful lasers, beaming from the back of the stage. But from simple components are great things made. As ‘If I Had A Heart’ began the lasers blasted out to the back wall of the room, then fanned out over us. As the dry ice from the stage rose it danced about in the lasers’ paths. The effect was to impose a seemingly liquid roof on the audience, as if we were trapped underwater whilst onstage monsters roared.

We weren’t to be held prisoner there for the whole gig, indeed the mood soon lightened, as did the lighting. Tracks like ‘Seven’ and ‘Triangle Walks’ do have a lightness to them, there was even a degree of dancing, although it was limited and felt more like people were being controlled by the pulsing rhythms of the music rather than any arms-in-the-air rave mood. Karin even took off her roadkill, although she had painted her face with a strange pallor and a black triangle. She sang into a regular mic too, allowing us to hear her rather sweet real singing voice rather than the effects laden rumble. But this did not mean we could relax. The mood of the show shifted almost at random. The calm ‘Leave The Streets Empty For Me’, a duet with the keyboardist formerly dressed as a Star Wars soldier, contracted with the dense rant of ‘I’m Not Done’ (way more terrifying than on record). The set was similar. Lasers would gush over our heads one moment, to be replaced by the warm glow of the lamps the next. It was stunning.

At times it felt more like theatre than a rock gig, the audience politely clapping in between songs, not a sound heard from anywhere until the futile shouts for an encore after the band had vanished from the stage under cover of darkness. And what theatre! If nothing else, music should aim to move, and Fever Ray delivered that and then some. The middle eight of ‘Dry And Dusty’ in particular shone, Karin’s downshifted robo-voice for once calming rather than sinister before suddenly lifting into a crescendo in which, through the digital effects, her own humanity was so very visible.

Use of the word visceral seems confined to music like fast punk rock, but this show managed to be stylistically the total opposite whilst being more deserving of the adjective than any other show this year (and probably most other years). Short but sweet, and perfect.

December 06, 2009

Depressed Handle II

What does it take to depress a door handle?

Especially when the door handle is between you and freedom? Do inanimate objects care about music? The sceptical might point out that handles have no ears. The sceptical also like to point out that ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ is just a load of melodramatic teen angst but they are wrong (apart from season 4 which is a bad as they suggest).

So I tried some depressing music on the door handle.

Now there are some who regard this album, Radiohead’s OK Computer, as depressing. Naturally this fails to account for the anger, satire and humour in the album, none of which is all that depressing really. Perhaps it is too easy to label Radiohead depressing. Anyway the door handle was unconvinced of the lazy stereotype and remain solidly un-depressed.

So I tried an album which actually is depressing, albeit whilst at the same time being very very good.

The Holy Bible by Manic Street Preachers. A testament to the state of mind of the very depressed lyricist Richey Edwards. Graphic, visceral and hard in parts to listen to, it’s a modern masterpiece of melancholy.

The door handle was unmoved.

Perhaps it really was deaf and cared not for music? Who’d have guessed that blasting music at a door would not result in it opening!?

But wait! What’s this?

Why yes! It’s When It’s All Over We Still Have To Clear Up by Snow Patrol. Most people won’t have heard of this album. That’s because it was made in the old days when Snow Patrol hadn’t yet become the biggest indie sellouts of the decade. I don’t normally care for indie bands selling big as long as it doesn’t change them too much, but Snow Patrol sold out completely after ‘Run’, removing all the quirky and weird and genuinely emotional bits which this album highlights so well. They barely even play any tracks off it live anymore.

It’s depressing because this album stands a document to a top little band, lost in a sea of selling out and X Factor covers. It is a relic of the before-time, before one of my least favourite musical developments of the decade.

Oh look, the door handle agrees! It too is depressed by all this.

Door handles are made of stern stuff but they crack eventually.

December 05, 2009

Depressed Handle

I noticed the other week that the shiny new toilet at work has a most peculiar sign on the door.

“Lift handle to lock – Depress handle to open door.”

The use of ‘depress’ amused me greatly. Whilst technically a perfectly sound use of the word, it did seem like a rather odd turn of phrase. How does one ‘depress’ a handle? If the handle cannot be ‘depressed’ will one be stuck forever in the loo? Especially galling if one only wants a number one.

What does it take to depress a door handle? Are they depressed by the same things humans are?

I find that depressing. It means I am old. But as you can see:

The handle does not find it depressing. This is probably because door handles have very little concept of time and find the human neuroses about aging most incomprehensible. Also chances are this door handle is in fact from the 00s so finds these 90s freshers most ancient.

So in conclusion, you cannot depress a door handle with talk of relative human ages. And thus one remains trapped in the loo.

December 04, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Basement Jaxx, University of Warwick Final Fling, 18th June

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.

And now a collection of recollections from Basement Jaxx’s gig. As we’re all very familiar with their music, this will take the form of the increasingly mad costumes they were wearing. Fashion, darlink, fashion!

I’m sure it made sense at the time… I am an excellent photographer as you can see.

December 03, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Blur, MEN Arena, 26th June

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.




Sorry if you were expecting coherence, but I had waited fifteen years and it was all too awesome for words.

That and I collapsed afterwards with really bad flu (swine-ness unconfirmed at present time).

December 02, 2009

Who Should The Welsh & Scottish Support Now Ireland Are Out?

Right, so Ireland are not going to the World Cup this time. I shall refrain from commenting on the match (let’s face it, I only know how to swear in five languages, it just ain’t enough) and instead concentrate on the most overlooked part of the whole thing – who are Scottish and Welsh people to support? After all, there is no Celtic solidarity left (Brittany alone is not enough, Frenchies), and despite the fact that the Scottish fans love existential pain caused by perennial underachievement, they still won’t support England! So which of the 31 teams left will they go for?

I’ve heard tentative reports from Cardiff and Wrexham that some Welsh might be supporting England. These reports are unconfirmed and startling.

Let’s see who there is:


Good potential here, sufficiently Anglophone to be followed, a nice green kit lest the Scots and Welsh miss Ireland too much, and they have recent form in annoying England. On the down side this is the nation which got in a mard when the UK won more medals at Bejing, especially when one of those medal thieves was Scotland’s hero Sir Chris Hoy, derided for being king of a “sitting down sport”. Still, they’ve never slagged off curling.


An exotic choice perhaps, although an island archipelago with a historical tendency to conquer near neighbours might strike a bit close to home for those Scots and Welsh still in a mood about English behaviour hundreds of years ago (and yes, they exist). Presence of Shunsuke Nakamura might attract and repel Glaswegians depending on colours (although it’s worth noting that Rangers fans will have had more time to choose who to support at this WC as they’d support Ireland only if all other countries were destroyed in a nuclear war, and even then grudgingly).

South Korea

One for the Welsh perhaps? The current squad consists of six Lees and six Kims – substitute Lee and Kim for Jones and Williams and the Welsh will feel right at home!

North Korea

Impoverished and overlooked northern neighbour, intent on ideological victories over suffocating southern neighbour? Could the Scots find succour here? Alex Salmond doesn’t quite have the crazy nutter ‘charm’ of Kim Jong-Il, but the promise of a future with nuclear weapons might tempt some of those who think certain parts of England need a good nuking.

New Zealand

Chris Killen plays for Celtic! Who? You know, Chris Killen. Killen. Might be on loan somewhere else now I think about it… Ok, so NZ have the elation of getting there for the first time in decades, there’s lots of sheep, and the rugby occupies people’s thoughts more readily. Oh Wales, look, it’s a match made in heaven. Alas they will crash out in the first round almost certainly, so if NZ are chosen, so must another team to occupy the attention during the later rounds.


There are stories which bounce around from time to time of Patagonian connections meaning high profile Argentine players can speak Welsh – it’s a skill attributed to Gabriel Heinze and Gabriel Batistuta, although the evidence is sadly lacking. But for both Scots and Welsh there’s the reassuring rivalry with England, as well as Lionel Messi’s entertaining genius. Sadly there’s also Maradona’s management style which is entertaining but possibly could result in embarrassment by association.


Oh come on, who wouldn’t support Brazil, even a little? The history! The names! The way we totally overlook the fact that Brazil haven’t been the most exciting team to watch since 1986! The most likely default for many Welsh and Scots, but really it’s just lazy to go for Brazil.


Dark horses perhaps? Let’s face it, were Wales or Scotland to reach the WC that’s what they would be – dark horses. Chile offer all that as well as the ‘Who is he?’ quality which Wales’s team of shiny new players offers them against all non-British Isles teams they come up against. Less suitable for Scotland as their problem is not the “Who is he?” factor but the “Is he still playing football?” factor. David Weir, case in point.


Say it fast. Really fast. Now say it fast in a Welsh or Scottish accent. Now tell me it’s not a brilliant idea.


Say it fast. Really fast. Doesn’t work as well as Paraguay in any accent.


For a team who seem to be systematically sending themselves over the Wigan Athletic one by one it’s quite impressive that they are in the WC. Definitely one for those who fancy a bit of underdog spirit, so the Welsh will feel quite at home with Honduras.


Another country oppressed by association with its big, English speaking neighbour. If more Scots could speak Scottish (more than the fifteen or so who) this might make a nice comparison. As it is some Scots can feel at home with Mexico, if only because living in a drug gang infested, borderline failed state built on the plundering of imperial oppressors has to be preferable to some parts of Glasgow.

United States Of America

They think Scotland was liberated by Mel Gibson and don’t know Wales exists. Unless they are of Scottish or Welsh descent in which case they know the history of Scotland and Wales better than you, in which case avoid also lest you feel inferior.


There’s one thing for certain, they’re probably the only nation out there right now more desperate to beat the French than the Irish are! Worth a follow for passionate entertainment value, they’ve had to fight (literally in the case of their fans) to overcome Egypt to qualify and they haven’t been at a World Cup since 1986. Plus Rangers fans can watch Majid Bougherra in action, something they can’t do at Ibrox since he got in trouble for coming back late from international duty with Alge… oh.


Their last WC appearance was ended by the Irish in the group stage so absorbing potential Ireland fans into their ranks would be very satisfying for the Cameroonians. One of the most successful African teams of recent years, they have the potential to do very well so are unlikely to satisfy the Scottish fan’s need for existential pain.

Ivory Coast

In 2006 Ivory Coast named a WC squad compromised entirely of players who played outside of Ivory Coast itself. This wanderlust approach will feel very familiar to the Welsh, most of whose squad play in England, and those few who remain at Welsh clubs play in the English league. Plus, as you can see, no need to shell out any more cash on flags to replace the Irish ones bought in hope.


Qualified for five consecutive Olympic football tournaments before reaching a WC for the first time, for the Scots this will be familiar – recognition and success under the IOC not replicated much under FIFA is a common theme. Also one of their squad plays for King Faisal Babes, the best named team in the world after Peru’s Deportivo Wanka.


Slightly fallen from grace in recent years, but historically one of Africa’s strongest teams… almost writes itself really! A nation recently reduced to stereotypical, internet-based, mockery courtesy of a few dodgy emails, there’s also lots of natural energy resources just waiting to be utilised. So yes, Scotland with nicer weather.

South Africa

MacBeth Sibaya, midfielder and holder of fifty two caps, as well as king of Scotland. Can’t be nutmegged by any man of woman born.


Responsible for France’s biggest ever footballing defeat (a 17-1 shellacking), whilst it is unlikely they will ever repeat such a satisfying performance again, it is nice to dream and as fellow Celts it would be much appreciated if the Scottish and Welsh could give a little love to those who have so comprehensibly smashed the French football team. It takes more than a handball to overcome a 17 goal handicap. Evil laugh


Just no. Apart from anything else they are taking Domenech with them as coach which should ensure, if not a first round exit (always possible), certainly a second round capitulation.


England’s biggest footballing foes, there are probably lots of good reasons why it’s worth supporting the Germans (they play quite nice football these days despite all stereotypes) but let’s face it, being England’s bete noir is enough.


Which Celtic fan doesn’t love the slightly ineffectual flappings of Georgios Samaras? Greece suffer for being really rather boring to watch, but as the unexpected (to the power of ten) winners of Euro2004 they stand as the shining beacon of hope for the smaller teams in a world where big nations seem to win everything. And they have really long names which anlgophones find hard to get their tongues around, although not quite to the extent of Welsh!


Y’know, they weren’t all that in qualifying. Qualifying in a group featuring Ireland. Who really should have showed the spirit they showed against France in which case it would have been Italy in the qualifiers and then all hell would have broken loose. Which would have been funny. One for those Scots with surnames like Macari, Ancona and Spiteri.


For Rangers fans with long memories, here’s Gionvanni van Bronkhorst’s team. Yes, he’s the captain. I know, I can’t really believe it either. Definitely one for the Scottish, not only does Orange (sic) complement blue perfectly, they can also relive the colossal infighting which did for Bonnie Prince Charlie, Mary I, James I, James III, John Comyn, and quite a lot of the other monarchs, claimants, regents and general nobles of Scottish history. It’s unlikely that any of the Dutch players will meet the same fate as Henry Darnley the notion of Nigel de Jong blowing up Ryan Babel is hilarious.


By repeatedly knocking out England on penalties, the Portuguese have done everything necessary to incur undying Celtic (the race, not the football team) love for ever and ever, amen (both a Catholic and Protestant amen).


Željko Brkić? Dragan Mrđa? Vladimir Dišljenković? Look at all those consonants! Look at the relative lack of vowels! Insert really obvious punchline about who they’d be ideal to support.


Living the dream – split from Czechoslovakia in a manner which the SNP loves to cite as an example of what they want to see happen (ignoring the obvious problem of only a minority of their countrymen wanting independence really), so for the Alex Salmond fans out there, the answer’s right here.


The only non-seeded team to get through Europe’s qualifiers, supporting Slovenia would involve making the point that the seeding was unfair and ridiculous as mere FIFA rankings cannot truly indicate how good a team is (does anyone really believe that Australia are better than Sweden, or that Wales are inferior to New Zealand?), and besides, why do some teams deserve seeding? Of the four that were, one lost, one had to cheat, one was boring and the other will probably live to knock England out on penalties for the third showing in a row. Sorry, I said I wouldn’t rant… Support Slovenia!


Glory hunter.

I’ll be following them too, once England get knocked out.


Is it wrong to want them to crash out because Sepp Blatter is Swiss? No. No it is not. One for Rangers fans and no one else.

December 2009

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