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August 30, 2006
Sunday 27th August 2006
6.27 Awake with a start from a really really strange dream in which I was trapped by a line dancing demonstration by Hilary Clinton’s 2008 presidential election team. Fall alseep again in attempt to forget.
9.20 Awaoken by the people from last night who have woken up and decided to restart shouting names at random. Every third name is “Hermoine”. Hermoine doesn’t reply.
11.10 Time to dismantle tent.
11.18 It wasn’t this hard last year.
11.24 Get in the bag! You fitted earlier, you bastard!
11.28 Done. Grr. To the arena.
THE 747s (NME Stage) Nice harmonies but live they just seemed a little blah, although it seems like the tent might have done them a disservice.
GIANT DRAG (NME Tent) This is no slander on their music but even during their good tracks like ‘This Isn’t It’ I, and most people there, were waiting for the songs to end so Annie could start talking again. Funnier than most of the contents of the Comedy Tent, she drawled a serious of insane proclamations including one about Chris Issak which could only be described as highly libellous. And yes, the music was pretty good too. Jeez, is music all you people think about?
13.59 I wonder what the football results were? I would ask but around here I think asking how Manchester United did is a one way ticket to a bruising.
14.02 That lamp onstage looks familiar.
14.02.06 Hang on! I own that same lamp! It’s from Ikea!
14.02.45 And that’s not a keyboard stand, it’s an ironing board.
RUMBLE STRIPS (Carling Tent) Ramshackle, brassdriven fun. They played to a slightly unfairly small crowd which was a bit of a bummer.
TILLY AND THE WALL (Carling Tent) Twee but tuneful indie from a band with more good singers than is the norm. And the keyboardist was good… and um… the bassist had a nicely OTT dress… ok, look, there’s no way of not mentioning that they don’t have a drummer, they have a tapdancer! Yes, a woman with fast feet kept the beat. There will never be a review of them which cannot mention this but it sure beats watching someone swathed in shadow, behind the band, hitting things.
BE YOUR OWN PET (NME Stage) Mmm, tricky one. When they’re good, they’re very good. Doubling up ‘Bunk Trunk Skunk’ and ‘Damn Damn Leash’ was a stroke of genius, even if the whole thrilling punk squawk of the two probably just scraped over three minutes. Excellent. But when it didn’t work it was just shouty noise. Of course they are younger than almost everyone else in the world so they’ve got time to grow. Not too much though.
THE FUTUREHEADS (Main Stage) Ah, excellent, the’ve been at every festival I’ve been to in the last three years and this was the best show yet. There’s something pleasingly heavier about the new songs, whilst the older ones are poppy joys. I remain sceptical that they are four people though, there’s no way anyone could be that tight without being controlled by a central mind, surely?
14.20 There’s quite literally a pile of unconscious girls by the Main Stage.
14.33 Huh? Is that burger van really playing Boney M? Do they have any idea of where they are?
DIRTY PRETTY THINGS (Main Stage) Ok, this is strange. Two years ago here I saw the Libertines without Pete. That band was virtually identical to the DPT which are onstage before me, yet two years ago they were better, more exciting, more thrilling. This seems a bit… unmagical. They do have some great moments but it doesn’t quite work overall. Nice Union Jack sling though.
Photo from BBC
THE FALL (NME Tent) Classic Manc indie/punky/rockandrolly mumblings from Mark E Smith who isn’t too grumpy. At least he remembers the words to the songs, something he doesn’t do at Reading I hear later.
CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH (NME Stage) Somehow Alec’s vocals are even less clear than on record. I’m not convinced he uses any actual words for the first three songs. It matters not as the second one, ‘This Home On Ice’ is a fantastic singalong and a weekend highlight. Excellent all round and works well with the chunky live sound.
18.48 The Carling Tent crowd aren’t the crowd I’d expect to see a The Organ gig. Something’s afoot.
19.01 Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo! They’ve cancelled and ben replaced by The View. I try to get excited but can’t and wonder off outside…
19.02 ...where it’s raining. Heavily. Ominous.
19.03 What makes it worse is that I’d rather be in a tent in this rain but it’s Jet in the NME Tent who I’d rather remove my ears than endure. This is really unfair as at this time yesterday I missed Howling Bells because they clashed with Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Why couldn’t they play today?
19.09 Wow! A portaloo with loo roll! However there’s racist grafitti in it and I can hear Jet, so it’s not perfect.
THE STREETS (Main Stage) I only catch the end of his set but I wish I’d caught more. It looked like it had been fun and Mike Skinner comes across onstage as a nice guy. Next time…
ARCTIC MONKEYS (Main Stage) They are good. Let no one tell you they’re not. They are not, however, the best thing of all time ever, and seem a little unsure of what to do in front of such a huge crowd. Perhaps I was undone by hype and subconsciously expected more. But what I got was a damn good indie rock and roll show. And who can ask for more?
Photo from BBC
MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSE (Main Stage) And with the last kick of the game comes the bets goal yet. Oh wow. Lights! Fire! Aliens! Supermassive prog sized uber riffs of joy and doom and it was absolutely amazing. Every song was ace, the audience loved it and the histrionics, the solos, the very over the top spectacle was so different from nearl everything else I saw this weekend that it was like having a really sweet, tasty pudding after a lovely yet savoury roast dinner.
Photo fom BBC
What happened next is a bit of a farce. My lift (mis padres) had arrvied at about 22.30 at last year’s festival and I’d left the last act, grabbed my dismantled tent and met them at just after 23.20 and we’d tootled home to bed. This year they went to the cinema first and at 23.05 rang to say they were an hour away. By this stage it was raining heavily and my trainers had let in water on both feet. I had no tent to sit in. In desperation I hid in a welfare tent.
In the welfare tent I met two people who had come with no tents and were just making friends on site and sleeping where ever they could. Both exceptionally romantic and quite quite crazy was my thoughts on the matter. But they were good company trying to salvage one single cigarette from the soaked papers and baccy they had.
Just after midnight my parents called and told me to go to the pick up carpark as my dad would walk there and meet me then we’d go and find mum in the car. I was there within moments and was lucky. It was rammed. The cars weren’t moving and if mum got onto the site we’d take literally hours and hours to get out again. So the onyl fair choice was I had to walk to the road where she was, meeting dad en route, and do a u turn to escape. It took over 45 minutes and must have been at least a mile and a half in pouring rain, with heavy and awkward kit, and leaking shoes. No wonder I had flu like symptoms the next day.
But I’m not moaning. It’s just one of those things and for once it worked, we got home at about 2.00 which wasn’t too bad. Next year they’re gonna have to get the earlier matinee performance…
Quotes Of The Day
Annie Hardy, Giant Drag “Don’t set tens on fire and burn people’s faces. Instead, you should open their tents a little, stick your penis in and pee on the person inside. They won’t like it, but they won’t need to go to hospital.”
Annie, again After spitting on the stage repeatedly and phlegmily “Tell the next act to be careful not to slip on my lungbutter.”
This entry has been published using WB’s new Schedule feature to publish entries without me having to be awak to publish them myself. Hopefully it will go up at 23.05…
Saturday 26th August 2006
10.12 Is it time to get up?
10.45 The Guardian stand are selling Guardians with free cameras. How nice is that?
11.15 Why are the people in the next tent screaming so much?
11.38 To the arena… slowly.
FIELDS (NME Tent) Delayed by half an hour for no apparent reason but despite being armed with the folkiest instruments on show (12 string guitars) they were loud for a folk band. Pretty good stuff. The keyboardist also struggled on bravely despite having a cold after the band tourbus left her behind at a service station for an hour in her pajamas. Aaaaaaaaaaaaah. They also handed out free CDs which was very nice of them.
13.31 Someone’s got a stick with pictures of Monty Panesar and Fieldmarshall Monty on it.
THE LONG BLONDES (NME Tent) A big crowd for this band and the deserved it. They were stylish, witty and inspired more than a few crowd surfers. How the music industry took so long to sign them is a sign of either cloth eared ignorance or blatant sexism.
SCISSORS FOR LEFTY (Carling Tent) Missed some of their set due to the NME tent being totally out of sync with the listed times but SFL were a bit erratic. They had one truly great sounding song, one which was, frankly, arse, and the rest were a little uncertain. Energetic but hard to say if they’ll amount to anything.
FIELD MUSIC (Carling Tent) Oh, the joys of instrument malfunctions. Unfortunately Field Music just couldn’t overcome them and the set was stilted altough there were flashes to suggest that they might be capable of better. They also complained that their completed new album isn’t out until January. It’s just not going their way at the moment, really.
15.29 There’s a banner over there saying, “Don’t worry, mummy’s here”. No she isn’t, she’s watching this on TV at home.
GOGAL BORDELLO (NME Tent) Talking of my mum, she told me I have to come and see these guys. Cheers mum. Gogol Bordello were ace. There must be somethin innate about this sort of self proclaimed “gypsy punk” as the audience, even those who clearly had never heard them before, were well up for it. Thanks to the mad people next to me who included myself (and as many other audience members as they could grab) in a massive Russian dance to most songs. The madness was only eclipsed by the masness onstage.
16.10 Why do all those branded beach balls keep landing on me?
16.11 Oh, I’m stood next to a man with an Irish flag, that’s why.
16.12 Mmm, beer shower. Clearly anything raised above head height is a fair target. Why anyone would sit on someone else’s shoulders is beyond me unless they are yet to have this epiphany.
16.13 Funnily anough the man with the Irish flag is really Irish. And he’s off to the bar. Hurrah.
PEACHES (NME Tent) In which a 30-something Canadian stomps around stage talking about her sexual prowess whilst removing her clothes yet not appearing to be wearing any less than she started with. The power of layers. Peaches is inexplicably good though, her band are pretty damn good, and not even the inflatable penis seems crass. For the second time this weekend, I am more impressed than I thought I would be.
THE SUNSHINE UNDERGROUND (Claring Tent) Another big-ish crowd in the small tent for these dancey indie types. And again that New Rave tag is bollocks, this lot are simply The Music but a bit more focused and with less OTT songs. This is a good thing. Cowbells a go go.
18.13 I set off for food and decide to give in the to smell of the noodles and try them.
18.18 Damn my unreliable nose, these are clearly inferior to the crepes. No wonder the crepe queue was bigger than the noodle queue.
*BELLE AND SEBASTIAN (Main Stage)*Missed a bit of their set and it’s my bad. The indiest of the indie, turns out B&S are one of those bands (like Super Furry Animals or Ash) who you’d never think of as being the soundtrack of your life but you’ll be gobsmacked by how many of their songs you know. In any case they’ve been together long enough to know how to put on a good show and the girl pulled out of the crowd for ‘Jonathan David’ looked like all her dreams had come true.
18.43 Futher to the big hair comment of yesterday I want all people wearing tweed banned from blocking my view as well.
19.06 The people next to me seem to be arguing in Welsh. I think it’s Welsh. It’s phlegmy and they’re using English words for any concept or invention which is less than 150 years old. That’s Welsh right?
YEAH YEAH YEAHS (Main Stage) Ok, first things first. Karen O is dressed as one of my mum’s cushions. And she’s molesting a bemused and slightly scared looking cameraman. And my god, these are tunes of immense size and power. How the hell they came up with ‘Date With The Night’ I’ll never know but it sounds as huge and I always hoped it would. Rather curely her hairband gets stuck in her hair during ‘Phenomenon’ and she giggles her way through somehow.
Photo from NME.com
19.37 They’re playing The Killers’ ‘All These Things I’ve Done’ from the massive, loud stage speakers. Despite this the audience is singing it badly out of time with both the record and each other. Pay attention choir!
19.48 The people next to me have drawn everyone’s attention to the fact that the Carling papr cups they’ve been served beer in have the Download logo on them. The organisers are useless.
19.50 Colin Murray introduces Chris Moyles who introduces Peter Kaye who introduces…
KAISER CHIEFS (Main Stage) They came dangerously close to overegging their performance with gimmicks and sometimes forced audience interaction, but with a hometown crowd they were never going to lose. Funnily enough, where the album loses steam, live the songs work so much better despite not sounding too dissimilar. It’s hard to say why.
21.07 Festival Highlights footage plays on the big screen. The crowd watch halfheartedly until a girl on screen says “I love the Reading Festival”. Cue mass booing.
21.08 Biggest singalong so far… for the Match Of The Day theme tune.
21.09 Even bigger singalong for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Includes mass moshing. Best song ever clearly.
FRANZ FERDINAND Again, there’s a slight hint of drawing things out to fill the time slot but they carry it off. Borderline preening and strutting are welcome when the songs are good. The massed ranks of drummers at the end was a nice touch as we played “which band are they from?”. All told, a good headlining set.
0.38 Fall asleep to the sound of the people in next tent shouting names at random.Photo from BBC
Quote Of The Day
My brother Drunk “George Alagiah looks like a Welshman.”
August 29, 2006
Friday 25th August 2006
6.00 Why are people shouting? Go away, I'm trying to sleep!
10.50 Mmm, tinned Lidl tuna salad for breakfast. Oh, I wish I had a croissant. Or toast. Or anything really.
10.51. Retraction: the Lidl tinned tuna salad is the nicest tinned tuna salad ever! Who'd have thought it?
11.15 First toilet trip of the day. My sinuses are permanently scarred.
11.30 To the arena. In previous years security on the first day has been overly officious and has delayed people getting in by up to an hour. This year the queue goes really quickly and I'm in within ten minutes. Congrats on the much trumpeted new security company.
THE MARSHALS (NME Tent) First band, playing generic indie rock but not making too bad a fist of it. Certainly a pleasant way to start the festival although the guitarist's hair seems to have been inspired by Dave Hill from Slade, crica 1975…
12.35 Big hair should be banned. Or at the very least those who insist on having big hair should be banned from standing in front of me.
METRIC (NME Tent) Ah, the mildly hyped Canadians appear to a larger than usual crowd for this early time slot. They just about justify the hype, certainly the singer is hyperactive and charismatic enough whether she's bounding around stage or assaulting her keyboard. The guitarist looks a bit like the singer from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
Photo from BBC
13.15 Right, I'm going to do the impossible and meet someone I've arranged to meet, namely Moz. However I've been looking for ten minutes and, unless he's turned into a teenage girl with a pink rucksack, I've not found him.
13.20 Found him.
TAPES 'N' TAPES (NME Tent) Not too convinced to start off with, it all seems a bit generic. However they get better with each song, seemingly as a result of each song being less and less like you'd expect indie to sound. The guitarist is too far away too see what he looks like.
FORWARD RUSSIA! (NME Tent) Moz askes me before they start to describe what they sound like. The best I can come up with is the drummer wants to be in Franz Ferdinand, the guitarist (who looks like fuzzy felt) wants to be in the post punk 1980s, the singer wants to be in At The Drive–In and the bassist just is. As it happens this is a fairly accurate description as they do very loud, very frantic disco beat indie punk and get away with it by playing in front of a home crowd. Not bad.
DRESDEN DOLLS (NME Tent) Ah, the band both me and Moz have been informed we must see. Well, fair play to those who told us to do so as they were great. Just a hugely talented drummer, a hugely talented pianist/singer, and the you have the only band capable of excellent covers of both the Kaiser Chiefs and Black Sabbath. Their own stuff, so–called cabaret–punk, is awesome too. They don't have a guitarist.
HOPE OF THE STATES (NME Tent) Apart from not playing 'Sing It Out' they don't put a foot wrong. Any band who indulge in instrument swapping are already destined to please me. Also, sod guitarists, violinists are the way forward on this evidence.
16.51 My poor sore feet. I've been stood up for nearly five hours.
16.55 I'm not sure but I think I just saw the ghost of Mo Mowlam.
17.17 Shit, it's raining.
17.30 It's stopped. Now stay stopped, you bastard.
17.35 Mmm, crepe of joy. Food of the gods.
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE (NME Tent) I suspect there are few BSS fans in the tent as there's disappointingly little crowd reaction, and no one knows what's going on. Epic indie rock, you gimps! Epic of course being the only way to describe the number of people onstage…
18.42 Someone's dropped their payslip on the floor of the Carling Tent. I don't look at the size of the pay packet as I have no money and seeing someone else with cash with bring out the raging communist in me. Down with capitalists. Crepes for all!
KLAXONS (Carling Tent) Well now, the latest NME hype band, the so–called leaders of 'New Rave'. I stand before them and adopt my best 'impress me' pose. Kind of hard in a crowd this big of course. And the first song does nothing to make me any less sceptical, it's just a noise. But then something happens. They play the rest of their set, and it's not rave at all. Rave is a boring one dimensional drone which you need to be on drugs to enjoy. This is great, it's indie you can dance to, but done really really well. It helps that the crowd are up for it too. New Rave is the emperor's new clothes and this lot deserve better. They could be big.
It wasn't this sort of klaxon.
19.43 Mmm, Nepali corn on the cob. At £2 a cob, this could be the most cost effective food on site.
19.44 Bloody hell, Brian Molko's bald!
PLACEBO (Main Stage) In which Placebo do a set in which they sound exactly like they do on record. But I mean that in a good way, they always do and it's a big enough crowd pleaser for this time of day.
Photo from BBC
21.00 The tent DJ plays 'Milkshake' by Kelis. Indie kids, emo–ers and assorted others dance awkwardly.
21.29 Hi Sophie, didn't know you were here. Random spot one.
HOT CHIP (Carling Tent) That'll be geeks with laptops then. Like Kraftwerk if they were students at a provincial university (say, Warwick) Hot Chip manage to improve some songs live but make others seem a little less exciting than they do on record. It's a strange inconsistency, but in the end it's a good set.
Photo from NME.com
22.26 There's a naked man balancing on his mate's shoulders. Poor mate.
MAXIMO PARK (NME Tent) Ah, the northern headliners at the northern leg. The tent is rammed so I perch on the metal railings just outside and am rewarded with a really really good view. Lucky thing as Paul Smith must be watched carefully as he falls all over the stage, reads a book, and generally poses. In what appears to be a trillby. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but watching and listening to Maximo Park is like seeing Pulp reincarnated. We need this in our lives.
23.02 Stumble home to bed. No stamina. I suck. So glad I have these ear plugs…
Quotes Of The Day
Amanda Palmer, Dresden Dolls (Introducing a cover of Kaiser Chief's 'Everyday...') "Ok, I want you to dance and clap. Do what British people do… throw beer at each other."
Paul Smith (Maximo Park) (Removing his ear plugs) "I was trying to protect me but hearing but I'm going to go deaf with the rest of you. Who wants some more deaf?
Ah, the Leeds Festival, a chance to see bands, stand in a field and indulge in the ritual group shouting of "BOLLOCKS!" Truly I have no greater purpose on this earth. Here follows a true and only mildly hyperbolic account of how I came to have sore calf muscles, a bad cold and a head full of the music. Yes.
Thursday 24th August 2006
The plan was quite simple, get up and be ready to leave for 11.10am. We'd then arrive gracefully and set up our tents before drinking fine ales and recounting stories of a convivial variety. My brother, henceforth referred to as Kyle, as this is his name, thought that 9am would be a good time to get up.
9.15 I am aware of the time but am undecided as to whether I want to get up. I don't.
9.30 Just five more minutes.
9.45 And by five I mean fifteen. But I'm up. Just.
10.15 Time to try on my festival shoes, my Doc Martens boots which I don't seem to wear that much for some reason.
10.15.30 Owwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, the PAIN! Ok, that's why I don't wear them! They hurt.
11.30 Richard, our driver, has arrived and we set off. Hurrah! Now we can sally forth into adventure.
12.45 We are making quite excellent progress.
13.05 Bollocks. Traffic jam of doom.
13.24 More doom.
13.42 Doomy doomy doom doom. Have we even moved since 13.05?
14.36 We throw good manners to the wind and cheat by driving in the wrong lane and going round roundabouts several times to get ahead of the queues. It's unethical but when you've been in the car this long ethics are void.
15.15 We're here! We set off to find the tents that the people who arrived earlier set up.
15.15.10 Where are the others?
15.20 Not here.
15.22 Still not here. This is a big arsed campsite, as this photo that someone else took shows:
I wish I hadn't left my camera in Somerset.
15.41 Seriously, where are they?
16.10 Oh, here they are. Right in the middle of the most crowded campsite. At least you can't smell the toilets from here. Anyway, time to erect tent.
16.25 Done. My slowest tent erection time in years. But at least, unlike Kyle and Richard, I've managed to erect my tent successfully and without delays caused by trying to use components from two differently shape tents. They respond by nicking some of my tent pegs.
16.40 Yey now I have a Greek flag. Kyle points out that a nearby tent to us has the phrase "Greeks get out" written on it in gaffa tape.
17.30 Back to the car for the rest of the stuff. I have my evil Doc Martens and a bag of food. Kyle and Richard have about 28 bags. Each.
19.23 Walk past a tent which is making Street Fighter noises.
19.40 Go to arena for the lowkey first night entertainment. There's a band on in the Comedy and Cabaret Tent. They're called the Quiet Kill and spend the five minutes we watch them ending a song. Or maybe that is the entirety of the song. Or the entirety of the set. Just big, cymbal landen endings. Whatever it is, it's shite so we leave.
20.57 The men in the next gazebo are singing pro–Lancashire songs. They'll be lucky not to get set on by the locals if they keep that up.
22.10-22.25 Search for extra blanket. It's freezing! However I am wearing my torch glasses (like the Orbital wore) and have a great time watching the people I walk past look on in amazement. Or fear. Comments include "It's the Terminator", "Mind the headlights", and one somewhat fearful girl saying "It's coming right for me".
The Orbital glasses in action... on the Orbital.
22.31 The people in the next gazebo have assigned most of our group new names. I am R2D2 for the glasses. There's also Anastacia and Pete Doherty. If this was for real that would be a good party.
22.45 Knackered. Bed.
August 10, 2006
I don't normally write reviews, but I don't often read non–history books and I know people don't really want to read about history books. But Calcio: A History Of Italian Football by John Foot is my current read and it is exactly described in the title of this article – it is the most interesting book a football fan can read today.
Like watching Fight Club or The Sixth Sense when you already know the ending, Calcio makes the perfect companion to the current troubles in Italian football. Names which anyone following the hilarious exploits of Juve, Lazio, Fiorentina and Milan will recognise keep popping up in curiously prescient scenarios, from long standing rumours of Juve's power of referees to the schemes and history of Luciano Moggi, the man behind much of the current crisis.
At 500+ pages it seems daunting but it's been written in nice, easy to digest, chapters which present things thematically. As a follower of English football it's also interesting to see how Italians stories meet English ones – from the failures of most British players who went over there, to the fact that Italians regarded England as the big rivalry for a long long time, they are worse at penalty shootouts than we are, and think England cheated in 1966.
I'm not very good at reviewing books so just go and read it, ok?
October 04, 2005
Just sometimes people write huge pieces on something they like that no one else, even those who care, will have the stamina to read all the way through.
You should see the piece Virginia Woolf wrote about 2 Unlimited. Makes me look succinct.
I've been ill on the sofa and decided to watch this DVD all the way through with the aim of recalling the old days when I didn't have the flu. It's not really worth even attempting to read all this unless you love the Manics as much as I do, it's bloody long. I think I'm just in a Manics mood.
I'm not one for reviews mainly because they aren't really read by anyone and there are few reviewers in general (not just on blogs) who are any good. Most of the ones in the national newspapers and music press aren't hugely inspiring. Even my staple, the NME, shouldn't really be exposed to people until they've learned how to read it (a hyped band will never get less than 7 or the NME loses face, therefore avoid any hype band who gets 7 and, even, be careful of 8s; Limp Bizkit/Linkin Park/any uncool nu metallers will get 3 maximum; etc).
But I really want to write about this DVD and I felt this review format needs testing out. And by "really want to write about this DVD" I mean I really really really want to write about it.
I'm crap with DVDs like this. I buy them, and then dip in and out, which I guess is the idea. But this time I watched it all the way through and it was amazing. Basically it is the evolution of the band from 1990 to 2003. 13 years will change anyone just on a physical level, but this had the added dimensions of the ten periods (six albums, plus four stand alone singles) of their career. And what a career! Never will there be a band as wonderfully clever and contradictory. Perfectly designed to piss off everyone and everything.
Motown Junk The first track is a stand alone single and ridiculously cheap. It's basically a badly mimed live performance which is so 'of its time' that you almost can't take it seriously. There are feckin' Madchester pudding bowl haircuts on display for crying out loud. The band look about 12 and have those wonderfully naive spray painted motto teeshirts. It smacks of the balls of total conviction and in it can be seen the reason they made it. Motown Junk is an ok punk song, but it wouldn't have made stars of most people. The stardom is there in the people playing the music. Pouting, eyeliner wearing kids. When all was Shaun Ryder and the lads of the Manc scene you can understand why this band meant something to those who didn't subscribe to the prevailing mood.
Generation Terrorists Seven videos from the debut they claimed would sell seventeen million and be their last. Didn't work out that well but I don't really think they ever meant that. It was hyperbole from a band who knew the value of getting their faces in the press, and did so with brilliant (albeit at times horrifying) effectiveness. In truth Generation Terrorists is six tracks too long and way too self important in parts. But this is the best way to experience it, in small doses of the good songs (of the good tracks on the album only 'Spectators Of Suicide' isn't here).
Ok there are two videos for 'You Love Us'. The first one is ok, low budget and less early 1990s than 'Motown Junk', but it pales so much compared to it's update. 'You Love Us (Sony Music Version)' is quite simply one of the best videos ever made. Pretty much everything of their rhetoric is in there, from their own self belief through to their assertion that "all rock and roll is homosexual". It is wonderfully self parodying and satirical at the same time. In an attempt to piss off as many people as possible they play all the cards certain to annoy the musos of the world – self love, a big arsed guitar solo and heaps upon heaps of homo-eroticism.
Richie and Nicky playing up to the cries of"faggots" that they (both straight) got for being so flamboyant, is a sight to behold. It's something that's repeated in the 'Love's Sweet Exile' video which goes even further with its androgenous duo getting even more suggestive. Both videos manage to escape that early 1990s feel by being something more than their time. Think of those videos you've seen recently. The ones which seem most 'now' will be the ones you will cringe at in ten years time.
The other Generation Terrorists videos aren't as good as this pair. 'Stay Beautiful' Is nicely shot pratting around with paint and a bloody stupid visual metaphor. It, curiously, is the video which is most visually resonant of the late 1970s punks whom the Manic loved. 'Slash And Burn' is typical of the lazy concert footage videos they too often go for. It's not bad for a fan to watch their heros in action, but a video should intrigue the outsider as well. 'Motorcycle Emptiness' skirts close to the unimaginative but it's a jaw droppingly good song (essentially their second best, even people who disagree strongly on the best will name this as the second best) and this rescues the slightly slow moving video. It's easier to appreciate the shots and vignettes when the backing is so awesome.
'Little Baby Nothing' finishes the Generation Terrorist era with a typically Manics move – the 'just the right side of bludgening obvious video'. It's a song about women being mistreated in porn so guess what? It's full of empowered women! Let's face it 90% of bands would make it heavy handed but it's not as bad as that by some distance. Ironically the only heavy handed gesture is a bloody unsubtle reference to the hammer and sickle which is lofted by the least convincing female communist I have ever seen (and you'd be surprised how many I've seen).
So they were young, they had something to say, and they damn well said it. The 'You Love Us' and 'Love's Sweet Exile' should be shown to everyone because I bet they'd still shock even today. And that was certainly the point.
Suicide Is Painless Another stand alone single and frankly a weak performance video. Performance videos have to be something special to be memorable and… well to be honest I've had to put the DVD on to remind myself what happens. Not a good sign.
Gold Against The Soul More mature, less controversy baiting. They look older, James Dean Bradfield actually looking like a rock star and not a hyperactive teenager like in the earliest videos. The first single 'From Despair To Where' tries to replicate the 'Motorcycle Emptiness' formula of visually well shot but not hugely narrative video but the, though good, the song just isn't 'Motorcycle Emptiness'. 'La Tristesse Durera' works better, it's brutal contrast of the old and young giving it something. The removal of the old from the frame of young people's music videos is so all encompassing that to witness their existance in the media is to cause to viewer to consciously step back and note the oddness of it. Now this is not the place for a debate on the way youth culture rejects the old so completely, but it does demonstrate the fact that so few bands are willing to drag it into view. Makes you wonder if maybe Johnny Cash's 'Hurt' video shouldn't be mandatory viewing…
Anyway, the other two videos from Gold Against The Soul again fail to ignite the imagination. 'Roses In The Hospital' is set in… a fucked up hospital. Whilst not as hideously embarassing as most pop videos (where a lyrical mention of, say, a phone, will elicit the appearance of a phone, or possiby some dancers dressed as phones) it's still no classic compared to what surrounds it. As for 'Life Becoming A Landslide', well you know it's the fourth single, you can practically guess before seeing it that it will be a performance montage. Again, something for fans, though it is the first time, in the choreograohed world of videos, that you can see that all is not well with Richie, he's slightly too skinny, slightly too worn.
The Holy Bible Just three videos, who knows what would have been in the video for the unreleased single 'Yes'. Personally I'd have liked to have seen that, the song is so viscerally brilliant that I honestly believe it could have matched 'You Love Us'. Plus the track uses the word cunt in the first few lines which is so daring as to be admired. With every rapper and his dog shouting as many fucks as they can, there are still some words which retain the (frankly ridiculous) power to offend in themselves, not their context. It takes some bravery to even consider a track containing it to be single worthy.
'Faster' is a simple video which combines two formats which should irritate – performance on white background and flashed messages. But it's shot in an almost painfully bright white studio, and shot so as to aid the music. Like a turbo charged 'Motorcycle Emptiness' video? Yes. By contrast 'Revol' is a mess, but it always was their worst single. It looks like it was shot on a disused Bond set then editted on my laptop which explains why it keeps stopping for no apparent reason. I hate my laptop. The CD player has stopped working.
'She Is Suffering' is weird. It looks like they've wandered onto a set designed for some OTT goth poppers (The Rasmus possibly) and decided to embue it with some genuine menace rather than hoody wearing 14 years olds with 'issues'. Everything is slightly wrong. The puppet is the scariest one I've ever seen, complete with scary kid manipulating it. This time the implied homo-eroticism is very very ambiguous (and doesn't involve the band themselves) and slightly disturbing. The only one of the two we can see doesn't look like she's necessarily enjoying the experience. But then no one does in this video. Richie looks really ill and not surprisingly. He disappeared within months.
So all subsequent videos walk in the light of being the work of a three piece, not a four piece. Here they changed, stopped being the idealists who thought they could change the world and became three men trying to make sense of a world they couldn't change, one which they couldn't even affect in a small way, like keeping a friend. In such light, shines…
EVerything Must Go Ok, I think 'Design For Life' is the best song ever. No question. None. And the video is perfect. It is perfectly shot, beautifully dirty in its presentation of everything they stand for being attacked. False optimism in the form of 1950s images of happy families. The truth of the collapse of the leftist project in the 1980s. And the band looking so different yet so much the same. They don't wear the makeup and fur of their youth but they do wear the looks of determination. It's a truth we need to know. We do change as we age, outwardly in the main. But it doesn't have to change who we are and what we believe.
The other videos off this album get contrasting treatments. 'Australia' smacks of last single symdrome, it looks good but doesn't really do the band justice. 'Everything Must Go' and 'Kevin Carter' are both good though. 'Everything Must Go' looks beautiful, all billowing blossom and adventurous camerawork. It plays more cinematically than anything before or since. 'Kevin Carter' by contrast manages to make the song's theme more obvious without overdoing it (no phones when the lyrics mention phones… metaphorcally of course, no phones were mentioned in the course of this song). The tyranny of the photograph rarely looks so potent. It also marks the move towards more slick videos is almost complete. Not that they make it easy, the flashing lights could give some people handaches. Typical really, even when bordering on conventional they don't quite make it.
This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours And so the cinematic thing continued. 'If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next' is another advance on 'Everything Must Go'. The people with no faces, the blood all over the white scenery, the harshness of the white. This isn't the work of someone who wants you be comfortable with your viewing. It's up with the best I've ever seen just because it's so disconcerting and yet reassuring at the same time. There's nothing scary, only the unfamiliar. Why fear that?
'The Everlasting' isn't great, it's a nice shot (James bursting into flames in time with the music) which isn't really given much room to expand into somehting more exciting. 'You Stole The Sun From My Heart' is rescued from being jsut another performance video by being well shot though th animated bluebirds are just fucking stupid. 'Tsunami' belongs to the 'Suicide Is Painless' school of not memorable despite being stylisticially very similar to 'Faster' (performance + slogans). It is a sign of just how much more vital a song 'Faster' actually is.
The Masses Against The Classes An impassioned live performance but I don't buy live DVDs for the simple reason that even films of gigs I've been to just don't engage me. You have to be there. Seriously.
Know Your Enemy The crap album but the videos do drag the notable songs (minus 'The Convalescent') into a better light. 'Found That Soul' makes more sense with its claustrophobic video, even if the reading list supplied halfway through is probably the most heavy handed thing they've ever done. It's not a bad thing (we should read more) but the shots of books thoughout the video show it can be done more subtley than focussing on a pile of books laid out to inform us of what book group manic will be discussing next week. Maybe I'm just annoyed because I feel that I've invested enough in a difficult band to be given some credit for my intelligence. God, I'm getting fussy.
'So Why So Sad' is darkly funny. Uber cinematic, the sight of a beach beauty waving sweetly as soldiers go flying in every direction behind her is pure genius. It's a message, and not a subtle one, but it's entertaining depicted and is probably more effective than Green Day's similar 'Wake Me When September Ends' because it has a sense of humour. The humour of this band has often been lost in everything else but they are clever enough to realise that sometimes the best way to get something across is to be funny.
By contrast 'Ocean Spray' is the opposite, perfectly acted by a man not acting, it rests entirely on James. Bringing out emotion over a backing track when you're not an actor is bloody hard. Any number of melodramatic videos featuring overemoting eyebrows and exaggerated lip movemnts can be found on every music channel. This is the real deal. He's singing about his mother dying and the simple direction, the contrast between internal pain and the rest of the world continuing as usual is almost painful to watch. It works better than the other honest-but-simple video for 'Let Robeson Sing' which fails to get a good visual hook to utilise in its, no doubt, depiction of young American blacks getting on in the arts.
There By The Grace Of God And then the last video. In a Manics-y move the people in the street here are doing their own thing and being ignored. No conversion a la Radiohead's 'Just'. Just people doing their thing regardless of the rest of the world. Remind anyone of any bands?