Friday, 30 September 2011

Modern worlds attention span < my need to write things down

Yes some of these posts are long. To explain in geekspeak


I actually edit them down before I post them up...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

661 miles to Fraserburgh

I'm about to set off from Exmoor for a week long contract for an oil and gas company in Fraserburgh near Aberdeen. It is not quite Lands End to John O' Groats but nearly..... I will blog from Fraserburgh, I'm expecting it to be a bit like LOCAL HERO

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY: Positive review, comparison with BBC version, sequel talk & other Brit spy nonsense

 A conversation happening all over the UK right now
"no I don't think it's a movie for the boys, it will probably make THE SOCIAL NETWORK look like KICK-ASS"  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy adaptations may come along every generation or so just to remind us how getting old really isn't that bad.

 If you thought Micheal Caine's Harry Palmer movies (or even the Jason Bourne films) were the opposite of the James Bond series you've never come across John Le Carre's spy novels and tv adaptations. The central character, George Smiley, is a senior MI6 spymaster waging a permafrost low intensity spy conflict against his opposite number in the KGB, 'Karla', in the early 1970s.

This new movie, directed by the Swede responsible for similarly permafrost vampire romance LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, is the first since a hugely regarded BBC tv adaptation in 1979 a starring a post Star Wars Alec Guinness. The buzz about the 2011 film is already out of control thanks to a magnificent trailer, rave reviews at the Venice film festival and the subsequent decision to delay the release in the U.S. by over a month to place Gary Oldman's performance as Smiley (and a few others) within contention for the next Oscars.

The labyrinthine plot, told with copious flashbacks, concerns the realisation that the upper realms of the British intelligence service, referred to in Le Carre speak as The Circus (the CIA are The Cousins), have been infiltrated by a KGB agent who is now pulling the strings on every operation. Smiley is taken from enforced retirement to spy on the spies.

Just to place my perspective on the new film, I never read the book, I actually started novel but found the whole public school world impossible to relate to. Dune and Ringworld I can relate to, British 'public' school life is like another planet, even to your average Brit. I also actually disliked the BBC tv version of the novel at first watching (massively preferred the similar but much more gritty ITV series THE SANDBAGGERS from the same era). On second viewing I finally 'got' the BBC adaptation, which has a reputation as an incident unpacked glacial spy drama which is second to none.

First quarter of TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY 2011 is very very slow burn, which will, and is, causing some disappointment. The classic TTSS trailer  for the 2011 film, with the brilliant Danny Elfman music from WOLFMAN, is so far from the pace of the actual movie it seems like a fan made YouTube joke.

The movie does reward patience but I am not sure I would have followed it without previous exposure to the tv version. With the creepy production design and low simmering score TTSS 2011 starts like a documentary on the lives of insects (I kept thinking about PHASE IV), with the soon to be iconic the beehive meeting room enhancing this. The interiors used for the BBC version, a suggestion from the author, were actually filmed at the BBC. It looks authentic but for me the fixtures and fittings just look laughably cheap and never convincing

The 2011 Circus (comes from the vicinity of Cambridge Circus near Soho apparently) is an absolute triumph of production design and could be compared favourably to a classic Ken Adam Bond set. Dotted with listening posts/cocoons and a split level allowing views to lower levels of the 'hive', it is as live as any of the actors. I worked in Whitehall for six weeks this year and I can confirm that though it is often claustrophobic and dirty, like the rest of London it does have it's idiosyncratic design flourishes, odd mixtures of the gothic, art deco and the 21st century.

The exterior world of TTSS 2011 is almost Mervyn Peak/Gormenghast, with bizarre characters going through bizarre rituals in a slightly familiar fantasy land. And yet somehow is is very London 1973. It has been compared elsewhere to THE IPCRESS FILE... Actually it would be great to see Micheal Caines character from GET CARTER wander through a scene. It's THAT Britain of the 70s, the vulgar bewildered, inflated, never never land of soft core porn and power cuts shortly to be punctured by Punk and Thatcherism.

In the 2011 version, which obviously has the benefit of hindsight over what was in 1979 contemporary drama, we see a lot more of the political consequences of the plot. In the BBC version it is serious enough that the KGB have penetrated to the top of MI6. In 2011 it is made obvious that the real Russian intention is to use MI6 to get to the real information held by the CIA. This revelation is delivered in a crushing scene by Oldman's Smiley, who pricks the world power pretensions of his government superiors and forces them to see reality.

I could spend the entire review here talking about Gary Oldman. I think by some stealthy method he has become everyone's favourite actor. He's played Sid Vicious, Dracula and now George Smiley (and would have deserved at least a nomination for all three) You can't say he doesn't stretch himself.

Among his less appreciated achievements is, along with Christopher Nolan and Frank Miller, is taking someone like Commissioner Gordon and turning him into a character straight out of out of THE WIRE. It says something when Gordon is the character you most want go see again in the new Batman film, especially one that includes Catwoman (Anne Hathayway as Selena Kyle? Are you kidding? She looks more like FerretGirl).

This is heresy in the U.K. but I've never been convinced by national treasure Alec Guinnesses performance in the TV series of TTSS. I never found any of Guinness's generation of actors convincing (Larry Olivier especially, his Hollywood Heathcliffe is hilarious) though if you've always been put off by the standard World War II movie jingoism of BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI I would urge you to check it out. I've seen a million "anti war" movies and never seen one that gets as close to the real insanity of military thinking (keep your unit functioning by err... helping the enemy win the war). And Alec Guinness is very very good in it.

Mark Strong and Tom Hardy's short scenes of Karla's plots in Istanbul and Budapest could all be out-takes from INCEPTION, brilliantly shot, acted and very intense.

TTSS's already famous Xmas party scene, new for the 2011 movie and not in the novel or BBC version, manages to drip with vivid significance like the classic dinner scene in Frank Herbert's Dune novel, while floating timeless and haunted like a lost bar scene from THE SHINING.

The cold war is treated with less sentimentality than the BBC version. The KGB come out of this not as the honourable foes and potential allies of the Bond films but as really nasty pieces of work. Karla has been elevated to the level of scarred Bond villain, in the revelation that he has lost all of his fingernails. Well, not lost, the CIA ripped them out in the 1950s, half a century at least before admission of waterboarding in Iraq.

Peter Guillam, Smiley's right hand man,  gets a bigger role as befitting a crucial character in the plot. He is a weirdly undeveloped functionary in BBC tv series - he has a car, that's about it.
Benedict Cumberpatch's Peter Guillam does a great deal more than Smiley, and bearing in mind Cumberpatch is wowing audiences as BBC's SHERLOCK it easy to make an ironic Holmes/Watson comparison, if you take Watson to be just a functionary foil for Holmes (which he isn't). Guillam/Smiley is more like Bond/M, making you suddenly wonder what would be the most interesting a movie Bond remake told from a management perspective (I would vote THUNDERBALL).

Guillam is gay in the 2011 version. Some have complained about this change, but this 'baggage' does fit the tragic sacrifice being suffered by other members of Smiley's People and provides a good scene for a good actor. MI6 honeytrap seducer Ricky Tarr (Tom Hardy) is on the edge of renegade and ready to quit. His Russian defector Irina and rejected MI6 analyst Connie Sachs are even more tragic than the men.

In the storm of hype around TTSS, Helen Mirren has complained while promoting The Debt that there are not enough women in the cast. The other hugely significant female character in the plot is Smiley's wife Ann, whose serial adultery is the particular albatross hanging around the main characters neck. Interesting that Karla and Ann, the major demons in Smiley's life, are kept just off camera in TTSS, like the shark in JAWS, they are best when left to be conjured by the audiences imagination.

Dame Helen's protest that some of the main cast suspects should have been re-written to be female characters is ridiculous (think about it - the Circus is a perfect example of a seedy old boys club, that's its main weakness and that's what Karla exploits) - but I am a huge Helen Mirren fan and if you were going to cast Ann Smiley she would have been perfect. Perhaps this is what she is so annoyed about.

 Cast comparisons :

GEORGE SMILEY : Alec Guinness v Gary Oldman
I actually prefer Gary Oldman. National Treasure Alec Guiness is more of an avuncular uncle. AG can still crack a smile from time to time. Gary Oldman's Dracula was having more fun than his George Smiley. You never see Ann Smiley and it is a blessing, she could never live up to the billing as such a wretched piece of work. Is Oldman drawn to these characters? His breakthrough role was Sid Vicious.. Is Ann George Smiley's Nancy Spungeon? (Are you considering a Kurt Cobain biopic Gary? Don't do it to yourself)  In Guinness I don't see the pain and wear I see in Oldmans performance. Best Actor Oscar and or knighthood on its way.

CONNIE SACHS : Beryl Reid v Kathy Burke
Kathy Burke Does great cameo. Why they bothered with a lousy sequel to ELIZABETH when they could have gone with a prequel using Kathy Burke's terrifying and tragic Bloody Mary I'll never know. But, in the BBC version, beloved comedienne and fellow national treasure Beryl Reid gets it for me. Like in the case of Ian Bannen as Jim Prideaux, the age of the actors adds to their tragedy. You could cry buckets watching the BBC version of this character.
(FYI Kathy Burke is well on the way to UK national treasure status, though her potty mouth may delay royal recognition until Wills gets the promotion)
JIM PRIDEAUX : Ian Bannen v Mark Strong
I hated Ian Bannen first time I watched the BBC version, he's just such an unsympathetic creep. Having watched it twice now I can see what his Jim Prideaux has become in order to survive. His final act says it all - the man has almost no humanity left, in his single shocking karate death blow he has more in common with the Cybernauts of The Steed/Peel Avengers than an actual human being. Mark Strong is a great actor and his performance is another heartbreaker likely to get him an Oscar nomination, but I didn't believe that level of obvious emotional vulnerability was appropriate for the era. Tears? That generation? You must be kidding. They would surrender their humanity entirely before exposing it like that.

PETER GUILLAM : Michael Jayston v Benedict Cumberpatch
As mentioned in another review (sorry I can't remember who) there is some irony in Benedict Cumberpatch, BBCs most recent SHERLOCK, playing George Smiley's Dr Watson. He gets a much bigger part than his BBC counterpart and makes the most of it with a potential Oscar as Best Supporting Actor. A pivotal character poorly sketched in the BBC version, perhaps the main problem with it.

RICKY TARR : Hywell Bennett v Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy is very good but the under ultised Hwyel Bennett gets it by a whisker. Ricky Tarr, despite his doubts at the end and attempts to get out of the game, really is a seedy manipulative pimp character and Tom Hardy makes him too much of a heartthrob. More lines help.

BILL HAYDEN: Ian Richardson v Colin Firth
Once again BBC version wins. Colin Firth is excellent and a bit more believable than Ian Richardson, who is just such a hive of plutonian villainy you know in any sensible world he would be marched off to a firing squad and buried in salted earth as soon as he used that terrifying smile. Colin Firth is more believable as a seducer of Ann and as an employee of the KGB. Firth makes you believe there was actually something between him and Prideaux. Richardsons character obvously felt something at some point other than lust but you are left with the impression it may actually have been guilt. I think the Gestapo and the Spanish Inquisition would hesitate to employ Ian Richardsons version of this character but I have to admit I preferred watching him. Again more lines makes a big difference. I'm comparing 8 hours of tv to two hours of film.

KARLA : Patrick Stewart vs ?
Patrick Stewart (yes that Patrick Stewart) played Karla without dialog in both BBC tv productions, while Karla is unseen in the 2011 film. Interestingly the Karla of the BBC version, at the height of the reheated Cold War (BBC's nuclear war drama THREADS, which makes THE DAY AFTER look like THE MUPPET MOVIE, came a few years later) is not evil incarnate, merely Smiley's counterpart. Most of his BBC villainy takes place off screen. With the distance of time the 2011 version is given the full threat of an infamous KGB chief. Karla here is obviously a thoroughgoing bastard, and only the knowledge that Smiley *eventually* matches him for cruelty and cunning stops the modern version feeling a bit over the top. I would cast.. Patrick Stewart again (why not?).

Finally there are are a few examples of Le Carre's knack for intriguing detail in both versions;
In the 2011 movie Smiley is munching on Trebor Mints, as if they were the British antidote to the Cold War.

In the BBC version Smiley reveals that KGB mastermind Karla was arrested running a spy ring by the CIA in San Francisco in the 1950s. Did Karla dabble in beat poetry? Did he try recruiting and of Sonny Bargers motorcycle enthusiasts (is that why he was caught?)

At the end of the BBC version Ian Bannen's Jim Prideaux breaks into a secure facility to kill Hayden while the guards are watching a horror film. Smiley jokes bitterly that he doesn't know what the film was... but from the time and era I would guess it was 1970's early evening BBC screenings of Day of The Triffids or Village of The Damned, both very likely to scare, in the vernacular of the time, "7 colours of sh*t" out of habitually spooked MI6 spooks.

TTSS 2011 sets up so perfectly for a sequel it is almost the first half of a spy caper movie, with some talented organiser given a mission and slowly pulling a team together At the end not only do we have the motivated team raring for revenge, we have Smiley speaking out loud exactly how he will get Karla in the end, "he is a fanatic and fanatics are always hiding their secret doubts".

My favorite moment in the 2011 movie is Tom Hardy demanding that Irina be saved from the KGB so he can retire with her, because, he says, pointing to Smiley and co "I'm not going to end up like YOU". Not long after there is a montage of what will become Smiley's People, all twisted social mutants who are only super powers away from being the X-Men, (or perhaps the Brotherhood).

Would Patrick Stewart get to play Karla again? Would there be two extra movies? Oldman has said he wants to reunite cast and crew for a sequel but there are actually (at least) two.. the direct sequel to the TTSS novel, The Honourable Schoolboy, has Smiley's reconstituted Circus in a low level plot mostly centered around organised crime in Hong Kong. It only has a fleeting appearance from the real villians but apparently has a lot of action.

The real direct sequel is of course SMILEY'S PEOPLE, about which I'll say little, except that I thought the BBC version was superior to the tv TTSS. Oldman apparently wants the two sequel novels as one sequel film, that could be more of a movie blockbuster but I'd like to see as much of this take on Le Carre as possible.

But how will they emerse us more in 70s Britain than this? Will the Bay City Rollers feature? Or at least Slade? I'd love to see George Smiley adjusting his glasses to Little Jimmy Osmond,s "I'm just your long haired lover from Liverpool", while eating a Vesta curry washed down with Watneys Red Barrel.

I'd like to take this opportunity to confess to an extremely guilty pleasure; despite knowing it is mostly total garbage I have developed a bit of a wierd fascination for DIE ANOTHER DAY, the final completely over the top Pierce Brosnan Bond movie that makes MOONRAKER look like FUNERAL IN BERLIN. And if I can't keep a secret like that getting out I really would have made a crap spy...

Saturday, 17 September 2011

GrossGlockner High Road and Road Trip FAQ

Test post to blog direct from Picassa road trip content

Road Trip FAQ

why? Why do this drive when the petrol price is so high?
I did it because the price is high and getting higher all the time. For posterity and just because.

Don't I feel any responibilty to the environment in burning all the petrol. The TT is terrible on emissions, but it is an old car. I will not support construction and sale of new cars until there is a realistic alternative.

The impending loss of oil will remove any debate from the private car use issue with regard to climate change. From then on the issue will be on eating meat.. as we know that that the vast majority of climate gasses are produced by herd animals bred for human consumption. Do I feel guilty about my energy usage? For six months I lived in Gibraltar breathing in deisel from the shipping berthed in Algeciras Bay. Commercial shipping has no quarms about emissions, it is standard policy on any ship, liners as well as petrol tankers, to leave the diesel engines running for the entire time it stays in port.

Did you do it because of TOP GEAR?
There was a bit of that but I didn't feel good about it. The recent 'sleepy mexicans' rant I think really was the final final straw for me. Chicharito (Manchester United's razor sharp Mexican striker) looks like he is a stranger to the concept of sleep and even standing still for more than a few seconds, making Top Gears latest desperate attempts to look edgy even more pathetic.

Did you do it because of LONG WAY ROUND?
Oh yes, and felt bad rewatching it afterwards that I had sold out and done this by stupid sports car (I would have been very very dismissive of TT only a few years ago). In my defense I had no support team, next to no planning.. well lets be honest no planning.. and had the entire contents of the flat in Gib squeezed into the car. That level of cargo, over those distances by bike was never going to happen

Uploading this material I just happen to be watching BEING THERE, the Peter Sellers film, and it occurs to me the scene where he emerges from a lifetime of being in one house to explore the neighbourhood for the first time is much like how I felt when I drove the car out of Eurotunnel in Calais...

I mean I've been abroad before but always been based somewhere, never FREE...

Peter Sellers as Chauncey emerges into the world for the first time in BEING THERE

What was your camera?
All photos video and audio taken with Iphone 3GS

What was the car?
Car is a 2001 Audi TT, picked up in 2007 with 85k on the clock. It's now done 135k. Your basic TT Mark 1 is little more than a Golf GTi with a retro body shell, described memorably as a "GTi in hot pants", and is more 1930s NSU racer than practical 21st century transport. These aerodynamics have not been cutting edge since the Daily Mail was Herr Hitler's biggest supporter. Rear "seats" are a particular source of amusement to all and are only temporarily comfortable for small children and Time Bandits. Engine would be the standard 1980s GTi 1.8 but this is the 230 bhp version with boosted compression, bigger turbo and extra intercooler.

It is often quite a dull ride (certainly compared to a bike) but the Audi 4x4 system and heated leather seats have come in very handy.

Named Nicola after the great dinner date I went on in Richmond the night after going to view the car (hi Nic !)

For those who are interested, the content currently on Googlemap and Picassa is perhaps a third of the total material. Similar maps based on the road trips Parracombe > Gibraltar Feb 2011 and the return trip Narvik > Parracombe will follow

<PS I had to get to the end of BEING THERE to realise it is primarily about a man who can only relate to the world thru clips from tv, so there is something particularly ironic or tragic about relating to clips from it>


To follow on from the Portishead content in the I'll BE YOUR MIRROR blog here is the review I did of influential Italian soundtrack outfit GOBLIN playing the London venue which was once a shrine to Italian art-house horror movies..

Monday 27th July 2009
Scala, Kings Cross
by Christopher Hodgson
Picture Album

The immediate vicinity of the Scala in Kings Cross is as dingy as ever
but to those more familiar with its previous incarnation as a dingy
80s cinema club it is a shock to see the premises which once sold
hardcore paperback porn replaced by high end estate agents (selling
property porn).

Within the Scala the winding labyrinthine back passages still exist,
but usually lead to uber-trendy bars in the higher reaches of the
building. Scala toilets which once featured exhibited aroma's straight
from Warhols New York now have bathroom attendants who require a £2
tip. At the recent Scandalism club night the curious were treated to
the new version of alternative dance - featuring vintage 80s dance
highlights such as Vanilla Ice and Dead or Alive. If only the
contemporary audience of the Scala had been exposed to this at time
the whole Kings area could have been razed to the ground and the
developers would have got their way 20 years ahead of time.

Still, at least it is not a Methodist church anymore. Back in the day
the old Scala cinema club was the high shrine in London to alternative
cinema and particularly Italian horror cinema. So it seemed
particularly appropriate that the new Scala would host Goblin for its
one and only UK date on its first tour in 30 years.

Goblin were the obscure Italian prog-metal band who defined the sound
of many 70s and 80s Italian horror films (and the occasional George
Romero film - the original DAWN OF THE DEAD). Their obscurity has
lessened since they have been cited as an influence by bands such as
Portishead and Muse.

They are a prickly and awkward listen. Even as a fan it has been a
real chore to get even half way a Goblin compilation album but here is
seemed there is a real effort here to turn them into a 'Show'. The
setlist heavily lent on their best material, from DEEP RED, SUSPIRIA,
DAWN OF THE DEAD and TENEBRAE and the projected backdrops showing
scenes from the films seemed to suggest a goth-ed up Pink Floyd event.

Possibly the new keyboard player Aidan Zammit is behind this. He
seemed more on an obvious onstage presence than the shy and
unprepossessing 'classic' members of the band (Like any decent prog
rock outfit Goblin have been reforming since Morgan Le Fay was at
playschool and if you collected together all of the old members of the
band together for a performance there would be no room for an
audience) It was easy to get the impression that after 30 years of
mysterious soundtrack existence it was the new member that had brought
them out into the stage lights with the set that played to their

The show was for a surprisingly young audience perhaps consisting of
tourists direct from the nearby Eurostar terminal. They particularly
enjoyed the thumping background to the original DAWN OF THE DEAD,
which really did play live like a cut from the last Portishead album.
The climax was of course the theme from Dario Argento's classic
SUSPIRIA, played against the projected backdrop of the fantastically
evil dance academy in Frieburg which is the films setting.

Perhaps that was Goblins prog message for us. If the King of Pop,
Vanilla Ice and Dead are Alive are the new idols of dance then 'Dance'
has Fallen. 'Dance' is EVIL.


The TT is pranged and I'm waiting, housebound in Exmoor, on lots of job interviews. I can only assume they are all on hold because of the financial crisis. Hope to get something soon, if only because the weather is starting to turn.

No longer blog posts until I move onto somewhere different, I'm finishing a short story and trying again to get my book looked at, this time by US publishers.

Listening to Grails, WU LYF, The Desert Sessions with PJ Harvey and still - Black Keys. Today I hope to have a crack at making Mojitos, I've been living off White Russians for nearly a month :-)

This is the first blog entry I have typed straight into the blog, going to try and use the 'Essay' app on my Ipad from now on. There is a need for some sort of App that posts straight to blogs..

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

I'LL BE YOUR MIRROR, Alexandra Palace, July 2011

Picasa picture album

Nearly three weeks into serious London contract I finally got a copy of Time Out .. and not for the first time was buying tickets before I fully new what I was doing, 

ILL BE YOUR MIRROR is the first of a London reflection of ALL TOMORROWS PARTIES, the alternative music version of Glastonbury Festival (remember when that was Glastonbury itself?). I've always meant to go to an ATP event but never got around to it.

I was as blown away by the venue as much as I was by the lineup. For those exposed to the coolness of Luther Arkwright, it was as if Bryan Talbot redesigned Glastonbury for a paralell Imperial Britain 2011.

I would pay 20 quid just to get this much access to Alexandra Palace, the north London counterpart to the long lost Victorian Disneyworld that was Crystal Palace. Ally Pally, (as nicknamed by Gracie Fields) was used as a BBC studio studio for first tv broadcasts (Quatermass was filmed live here) and used for crowd scenes in the movie adaptation of 1984.  I've been here before, it is used as exhibition space and is a great venue for the London Bike show inh freezing Jan-Feb every year.

We had the run of most of this, a fabulous piece of large scale Victoriana, incredible setting for a music venue and strange for summer as it could work even better in mid-winter <surely better than Minehead Butlins, the usual venue in the west for ATP>

The amount of wide open space was staggering, with the attendance probably limited by the local transport infrastruture,(the tiny nearby tube station) rather than the size of the venue itself. For those struugling with the vast penned in mobs at the major festivals this place is a very sureall dream. Drinking mojitos in a leather armchair with a vast glass and ironwork ceiling far above is not part of my usual Festival experience. In the Panorama room there is even enough room to have an area dedicated to previous music events at Alexandra Palace.

Music early on looked pretty challenging so I avoided it.
Having staggered around taking picture for the first hour or so I found myself in the cinema room, a tall anti-room of drapes and classical statutes showing the John Ford classic Western,The Searchers. ATP events are typically curated by the headline act so this would have been a Portishead choice, and a good one if you know westerns, The Searchers covers racism and the Indian war with a sophistication way beyond that of the average John  Wayne film.

The next film, Treasures of Long Gone John, was a typically eclectic art documentary by way of Bristol tastes, in that it was fascinatging and seriously lacking in the pretension you might find throughout London art subjects.

To follow the  Bryan Talbot steampunk theme, the latest PJ Harvey sound could be mistaken for a Bryan Talbot soundtrack in it's folky yet cynical steam punk. She could be playing Womad or Download with it, it's so unlike anything else I can think of. (More Peej raving can be found in my previous post).

PJ Harvey's new look is kind of the daughter of David Warner's character in The Time Bandits. She was Evil's spawn, mocking Englands military record with slicked up and out alien queen hair, cenobite dress design and playing a lyre or some other form of twisted wind (or maybe winged) instrument.
Pic ripped off from

It was a stunning setting for Let England Shake. Even late in the day light was streaming through the huge victrian iron glasswork above and through the vast stained glass window at the rear of the main hall. She did a smattering of old stuff but nothing I thought older than Stories From The City. I was a big fan of Polly's initial 'angry vagina' music, but lost interest in the mid 90s when she, as a Yeovil native, came out on the side of the Countryside Alliance in the field sports debate. The set included lots of stuff from the new album and it is very rare that new material is preferred by the audience so much over old. Her band, John Parish and co, got a massive reception and require further investigation. 

After a further explore I was able to witness Portishead materialising on stage to play their set.
To finish off my rant from previous posting (M-Shed), right now Bristol is a creative hub in the way that Manhattan was pre gentrification and London is now only in the East. Bristol a scaggy alternative mess that throws out creativity like the big bang with an amusing accent. Real art comes from edgy places not from cozy museums.

Going back to the band, likely the main reason the Festival was happening at all, I thought I'd seen Portishead in the past but I'm probably getting mixed up with Goblin, who I saw at  the Scala two years ago (Ill post that review, my return to the Scala) up here at some point.

Within about two minutes I'd realised I'd not seen Portishead before.

Even live they are like nothing else at all, broadcasting live from a phantom zone of pure damnation from where they have been banished  for millenia, since before the big bang. They have always been out there playing their live set and always will be.

When the band came on the video backdrop wasn't the direct live video feed you might see at with a normal band or music festival but but their live feed distorted with doomed black and white feedback video, producing a performance discovered by long lost members of the BBC radiophonic workshop. It was a live performance which seemingly has haunted old tv studios for the last 40 years.

Most of the material seemed to be from the third album (influenced by  80s soundtracks <hense Golbin has recently reformed>) and very roundly received by a very young crowd.

Actual highlights for me were the songs from the self titled second album. Whatever part of Hell the material from Portishead by Portishead came from, it must be a postcode that even the devil tries to avoid. Check out the amusingly skeletal wiki entry Portishead | PortisheadThe first album, Dummy, now sounds like Amy Winehouse in comparison.

Portishead | Portishead.
The title itself is a doom laden feedback loop :-)

Emphasising their cold otherworldly isolation the the video backdrop before the band came on was the BBC 70s test card. As if it wasn't wierd enough for me the girl in the vintage BBC test card always reminds me of my sister.

I left early because I didn't think Ally Pally could handle a mass festival exit. The perfection of the place as a festival venue was so total I was expecting a disaster somewhere, and I judged that would likely be in the after hours transport links, Alexandra Park tube station being barely big enough fo 30 people. I was also aware that I had to be working the next day (Sunday) on the UK Department of Energy Smart Meter specification.

To Sulveg, the Oslo archeologist, if you are ever reading this I hope I brightened up a pretty depressing Saturday...

Mojito bar sadly missed in 2013 

illbeyourmirror pics

Thursday, 8 September 2011

History Rhymes : PJ Harvey and 9/11

At the end of my blog on the riots (Schools Out For Summer) I jokingly suggested Ghost Town by The Specials would be the hit song of the moment as it was during the 80s riots.

Now it's September, with the ten year anniversary of 9/11 approaching, and after last nights Mercury Music Prize we now know what the sound of the moment will be. It's PJ Harvey's amazing Let England Shake.

As the first artist to win the award twice, she admits she is especially proud as exactly ten years ago she was prevented from picking up the award in person for Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea as, among other things, she was staring at a burning Pentagon through a hotel window.

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme." said Mark Twain

Ten years ago this Sunday I was watching 9/11 from news websites slowly freezing into shock in an office in Barnstaple. Working on technical support for the newly Peter Goode-less Castlelinks Ltd we had hardly a moment to check news websites, but as the younger tech types slowly got more insistent I paid more attention.

Those buildings are going to collapse? Give over! New York, a city surrounded by about 5 busy airports, is going to have the modern skyscraper that would collapse if hit by one plane? Don't be ridiculous.

Ten years ago next Monday I listened again to the new winner of the 2001 Mercury music prize, PJ Harvey for Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, and was shaken to the the core at how prophetic it seemed. An album written in and about New York months before 9/11 seemed to predict events in the same city only a few months later.

Sample lyrics from Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

"Look out ahead I see danger come
I wanna' pistol I wanna' gun
I'm scared baby I wanna' run
This world's crazy Give me the gun"
(Big Exit)

T"hrew my bad fortune Of the top of A tall building "
(Good Fortune)

"How could that happen? How could that happen again?
Where the fuck was I looking When all his horses came in?
And he built an army Of kamikaze
Ten thousand willing Pilots flying Interfacing Space and beyond
Built an army To come and find me"

 And afterwards living in my lonely cottage in Kentisbury I caught some of the fever that would overtake the U.S. I rang my friend Mike and predicted what  would happen next. "if they finally sort out Saddam and the Taliban it can be a good thing" I said, meaning that the world could finally end up respecting he United Nations, after Rwanda, Srebrenica and the humiliation of the UN weapons inspectors in Iraq.

What I (and evidently the entire Blair government) didn't realise then was that the new Bush/Cheney Presidency would do more to undermine the UN than the Taliban or Saddam could even dream of. If the U.N. was a sad disappointment in 2000, it really is a sad joke now.

"Let me take my problem to the United Nations!"

This is a bitter and climactic lyric from PJ Harvey's latest album, Let England Shake, which last night won the Mercury Music prize exactly ten years since she won for Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.

I'm already worried about her album for 2021.

I saw PJ Harvey live only six weeks ago at the I'll Be Your Mirror Festival in London. Report plus link to photo album will follow in next post on this blog.