All entries for November 2009
November 25, 2009
Those crazy kids at E4 are at it again, making our disaffected TopShop generation their nonchalant muses. At least, that’s how it appeared in the adverts for new teen-dream drama Misfits or, as I wanted to call it, ‘Skins Series 4.’ We were promised a group of rebel scene-agers causing havoc and having sex with everyone but their parole officer, set to a soundtrack of bands that you’re not cool enough to know yet. The scent of E4 cashing in on the popularity of Skins was almost overbearing and I was quick to write it off before I even saw it. Calling itself Misfits was, and is still, crime enough in my book. I can only imagine the production meeting full of balding television executives trying to find a skewiff enough term for the alienated breed of teenager, skirting over ‘offbeats,’ ‘stray cats’ and ‘ne’er do wells’ before finally lumping for ‘misfits.’
Lazy marketing put to one side, and having exhausted all other possibilities on 4OD (including that god-awful and ill thought out 3D season), I sat down with my mug of piping hot white hot chocolate clearing my throat ready to grumble. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Less a rehash of Skins and more a mash-up of Heroes and Dead Set, Misfits opens its series with a promise of thrill. It is, shockingly, not about five kids who take drugs and occasionally look contemplatively into the distance because life sux, innit, but rather about five kids and their parole officer who are all given superpowers after a freak storm hits The City. Aside from the Irish kid, all the superpowers are revealed in the first episode. Chavvy Happy Slapper can read minds, Moody Runner can manipulate time, Actually Not All That Unattractive Moody Psycho Kid turns invisible, Can’t Do Better In Life Than Become a Parole Officer is some sort of zombie monster chav hunter and Pretty Slutty Girl can make herself irresistible to anyone she touches.
Though Misfits is hardly perfect. Whilst I admire the ingenuity behind Pretty Slutty Girl’s power (it is, if nothing else, original), it is a relatively pathetic plot device constructed solely for the introduction of gratuitous sex scenes. It’s got more plot holes than a Dr. Who Special (seriously; snow in 2059? In London? In November?) that cannot even be justified by saying, ‘but it’s magic.’ When the monster Parole Officer was chasing Chavvy Happy Slapper, he could have easily caught her. This is a creature who had no doubt spent the best part of her life living off of White Lightning and Curry and Chips. A girl who would skip PE to conceive her second baby at the age of 15 in an empty classroom if she went to school, or hanging with the tramps in the park if she didn’t because she’s street like that, yeah? In any case, there is no way that she would have been able to outrun a power-charged blood thirsty monster. Equally as unlikely is the kids’ acceptance of the discovery of a dead body in the locker. Thoughts immediately turned to cleaning and disposing of that body and that of the recently murdered Parole Officer. They had spent the day previous doing a pitiful job of cleaning up graffiti and a mutilated body would surely be enough to make someone be sick or faint or react with something other than a quip. If Misfits steers away from being Skins’ little brother and embraces its sci-fi elements as something other than something that can patch up inconsistencies, I might even enjoy watching it. Shocker.
(Note: this is a live review, not a CD review. Buy the CD anyway...)
I had the opportunity to indulge in my ever-so-grating-and-patronizing tendency of forcing bands so new they’re practically foetal onto my friends the other week when Bowerbirds came to London. After spending a few months asking everyone, ‘oh, do you know Bowerbirds?’, I finally dragged one of them kicking and screaming to the English leg of their European tour promoting their new album, ‘Upper Air.’ Although he really shouldn’t have resisted: we were treated to a magical evening of musical lore and delight.
Bowerbirds are a folk band. Folk is cool. More to the point, Bowerbirds are a very good folk band. They are beautiful in every sense of the word. Their first album, ‘Hymns for a Dark Horse,’ is strung with warm nostalgia for some Bonfire dance or Summer after-party in a luscious forest. Phil Moore sings with an understated wisdom, lacing his bitterly saccharine voice around pointed observations on the intricacy of love. Beth Tacular’s backing underpins the lore of the ‘Hymns’ with a painful allure, made brilliant with the twang of their guitars and the swathed accordian. Their new album, ‘Upper Air’ is a similar branch on the Bowerbirds’ tree, superbly forming the foundations of what I hope will be a lasting musical legacy.
As with every band I like, I walked into the gig with a terse apprehension. What if they weren’t that great? What if the magic I heard in private didn’t translate in the live arena? The venue itself was so achingly cool it was almost hilarious. There were far too many men wandering about with unnatural looking scraggy beards, checked shirts from East End vintage shops and shiny brown dress shoes. They were the crowd so frequently derided in The Mighty Boosh; I had the impression that if the bearded Phil Moore came out wearing a dirty boiler suit, everyone at their next gig would attend sporting dirtier boiler suits. However, it was a crowd that was more concerned with maintaining their quiffs and keeping the stub of their ticket as proof of their attendance than with actually listening to the music. This guaranteed me a spot at the front of the stage, within touching distance of the band. Hooray!
After vaguely dancing to the support act - I can’t remember their name, but the lead singer looked like a constipated horse and they weren’t that great- I thought that was going to be my quota of dance for the night fulfilled. However, one of the many pleasant surprises of seeing Bowerbirds live was actually noticing their drum for the first time, justifying the cracking out of my awesome moves on the unwitting bar-cum-dance floor for my evening. They opened with ‘Hooves,’ which proved to be a fan favourite. I could see at least three other people singing along to Moore’s declaration that, “you’re the kindling still that burns below my heart, and you’re the hooves that lead me through the forest.” Other stand-out tracks were ‘In Our Talons’, a song that my friend described as folky-polka done good, the rousing ‘Teeth’ and ‘Beneath Your Tree,’ which melted the audience with its opening lines, “I could bleed, bleed, bleed for days but my heart would still beat for you dear,” sung without accompaniment leaving Moore’s voice electrifyingly naked.
They sung as if the bonfire I always envisage them dancing around was there in spirit. They performed as intimately as if they were at a gathering in a bohemian loft at 4AM, soothing their closest friends to sleep. The greatest tragedy of the night was the audience itself. I didn’t have to fight for my place at the front of the stage. My friend even walked to the bar half way through and came back without any hassle. It was a frustratingly muted crowd, one that I hope will grow more voracious as the word of Bowerbirds’ arrival at the top of the nu-folk scene spreads. Hopefully one day I’ll ask someone, ‘oh, do you know Bowerbirds?’ and they’ll say, “why yes, of course!” because the very talented and brilliant Bowerbirds deserve acknowledgment. I bought a T-Shirt at the end of the night from Beth Tacular, she gave me a hug and wished me a good night. Thanks to Bowerbirds, I had one.
drape their fear
empty on the
jest of their love,
knotting our dream
lust in a
Night coos, soft,
prey to his
quilt lies, to his
toes with dry,
wail, in him:
X O X X !
Yielding cold his
November 19, 2009
Spindled fingers fission the skyline,
stretching thin their cluttered web over
startled clouds. We Shiver speckled praise.
Old lovers sit in lust, yearning for
the tree to envelop their crippling,
curling passion with its ink-pool wings,
like it gorged on the bones of the bird,
bracing its better break, in a
strung-out attempt to cure rank romance
Of the malady called fuck. We comfort
The clasp. We monitor heat. We know
When lark littered love is complete.
My brother fled over the river.
I saw his shadow wain soft
Through the mottled glaze of my window.
Patches of Iron heather
strangled my attention away
from his garroted gait.
Only tree. My brother fled.
The stench of age hung
strange on its matted branches.
The river and the bark
mould love on the bank.
We cull romance.
My brother fled, and I followed.
The tree stretched my
The branch twists me.
Still. The branch twists.
Oh, and I fled
over the river, to
the hovering rope swing.
To the spindled branch,
swinging soft on the pink
rope. It rests, taut, around
my view of the stars.
The clouds fled, and I followed.
I cannot taste the moon.
November 06, 2009
Here is my column for The Boar this week.
I hope I’m not alone in saying that I like business based reality TV programs. I shouldn’t be: ‘The Apprentice’ is one of the nation’s least guilty pleasures. People seem to prefer it to hating on John and Edward (who, incidentally, need to win the X Factor), copying Victoria Beckham’s hairstyle (just FYI, it’s a little bit wavy at the moment), voting in elections and other trivial activities. Because everyone cares who that awful man with the pointy finger is going to propel to the dizzy heights of helping run a section of his recession-hit company that I think only makes computers for people who are still living in the 1980s. Correct me if I’m wrong, but every single winner of ‘The Apprentice’ always looks slightly disappointed. If Sir. Alan is the Willy Wonka of the business world, he’s giving the winners some rotten chocolate.
Of course, the contestants are all idiots. They are all infused with the passions of the Gods to achieve their lifelong dream of working with a cranky old man. Which kind of brings me to ‘The Restaurant,’ a program that could not be more obviously filling the Apprentice sized hole left in the BBC’s schedule even if it tried. The similarities are striking: another unlikely dream, another fairly cranky boss and another threat that all their dreams to feed the fat and take people’s money could be quashed at the snap of the ever-so-French Raymond Blanc’s fingers.
Kitchen based TV was always entertaining. I used to love Hell’s Kitchen! I used to love Kitchen Nightmares! I used to be vaguely interested in Ready, Steady Cook! However, I can’t help but feel that kitchen dramas are dying a slow and painful death. I really had no interest whatsoever in Jamie Oliver trying to make chavvy ingrates eat vegetables. The whole Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall loving chickens so much that he’s going to look after them but eat them anyway was, as a vegetarian, a little bit annoying and patronising. Anthony Warrell Thompson, in fairness, has always looked like a fattened, plucked turkey that someone accidentally freed from his cesspit, but that doesn’t mean that I want to see him every Sunday morning telling us how to frisson our porridge. Heston Blumenthal, the newest recruit in the TV Chef roster, encapsulates my growing disdain with his shiny, smug potato head smile. Instead of having a decent cause like not poisoning his customers, Heston decided to ‘save Little Chef,’ that great cornerstone of British civility. He is as greasy and charmless as the full English breakfasts he taught people who already knew how to fry an egg to cook.
However, this is not to say that ‘The Restaurant’ is awful. If anything, I believe that it is Kitchen TV’s last hurrah. A crossbreed of Kitchen Nightmares, Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook, The Apprentice and, improbably, Property Ladder, The Restaurant is much more than the program that fills the gap where the Apprentice wasn’t. On the very first episode, we saw couples try to open tins with knives, a prospect that was already more thrilling than watching Heston criticize pies. On the second there was macho posturing, there was a heartbreaking romance and, most importantly, not one person has mentioned how owning a restaurant is THEIR LIFE. Sure, they all seem fairly excited about working with Le-Blanc, but none of them have the same death-stare intensity as any given Apprentice contestant, which is oddly refreshing. This is Kitchen-Business-Reality TV, a concept so inbred it wouldn’t look out of place adorably grazing in an overgrown field in deepest darkest Somerset. What’s not to love?
November 05, 2009
BASICALLY, this week we were given a list of words and we had to make a poem using only the words from this list, hence why it sounds a little bit skewiff. Brap.
One black breast
(skin, not stone)
rained these ashes
Drink that smoke
(eye white root)
all tongue, two bite
Leaf meat fires
star-fish say 'give
Road burns tooth
Red night, we who
man dies killing
dog dies killing
bird dies killing
earth dies killing
Good says, "Woman,
what I give,
two hearts sleeping
not one black breast
(skin, not stone),
raining these ashes