Monday, 28 May 2012

Socceraid 2012 highlights

I don't know if you saw SoccerAid last night....

England celebs plus old masters take on a all-star Rest of the World team at a full Old Trafford for Unicef.

Best game of football I've seen for entertainment in ages. No-one on the pitch disgraced themselves, Will Ferrell and and out of condition Mike Myers both seemed to know what they were doing even if they were too slow to do it.. It was surreal as it sounds (England won the game)

Socceraid 2012 highlights
(I remembered a conversation with two local business types in London bar re: the Olympics. They were very pessimistic and sceptical, even more than me. I tried to cheer them up by saying that al least the football would be good.
They said "It's all up North, Whose going to watch them teams in the summer?"
I explained that in the North West June-August you could fill football stadiums just to see dogs chase a football around.)

  • Best singing of Abide with Me heard since FA Cups in the old Wembley
  • Serge of Kasabian's goal, beautiful chip of David Seaman. Clarence Seedorf tried to do similar later, commentator "Only Nayim can do that".. yeah.. and Ronaldinho... and it turns out.. the lead guitar for Kasabian...
  • Roy Keane hits the kid from JLS so hard he does a somersault (Wayne Rooney in studio at half time "It's a good job he's learned to do them flips on stage")
  • Van Der Sar save from John Bishop's great shot
  • Paddy McGuinness squares up to Gordon Ramsey suggesting there is some off the ball stuff happening
  • Sheringham takes out Gordon Ramsey so completely he goes off on a stretcher needing oxygen
  • Will Ferrell backheel to Clarence Seedorf
  • Seedorf running the game for long periods
  • Jaap Stam and Freddie Llundberg running about like Ronaldo and Giggs

Definitely worth a donation to a good cause
Seedorf, Llunberg and Jaap Stam have all still got it. Kevin Philips looked sharp as a razor.

When the stars tired out and it became a core of talented foreigners trying to handle a willing but limited England team it actually started to look like a real international, except that it was actually entertaining, and England won.

You can still donate

Friday, 25 May 2012

6Music radio from an alternate reality

One of the plusses of current work environment is that I've really got into BBC 6 music..

To those abroad who don't know, 6music was the alternative BBC digital radio station set up in tribute to legendary DJ John Peel. It was threatened with closure a few years ago but a listener campaign saved it. It recently won UK station of the year

After an abortive start a few years ago listening to the Adam and Joe Show, I started again with 6music in Feb this year with a bit of Lauren Laverne show (great music, very chilled|),

I'm now listening in the evening as well, particularly to Tom Ravenscroft (initially irritating but brilliantly eclectic, this week featuring Hawaiian guitar heroes from the 50s)

I'd thought, even if I wasn't particularly ..errr.. selective in my musical taste, INXS for instance, I at least knew my way around things...but there is constantly great stuff featured on 6music, that is completely new to me

Hear are two examples in last two days, enormous bands with huge influence I'd never heard of

Am I that musically ignorant? Or - we can't hear these digital music stations on our old radios - are they broadcasting from a parallel dimension with a completely different music history?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Dark Shadows

This isn't from movie
Dark Shadows - loved it in a Royal Tenenbaums Go Gothic sort of way. Be warned though, it is a summary of about 1000 episodes of daytime tv soap opera so subplots appear and disappear as mysteriously as the characters.

Example : the completely peripheral psychiatrist character and her hypnotism? In the tv series that was the plot device that warped the story into long flashbacks to earlier centuries.

Consensus among us was that this new semi-comic film version was the best Tim Burton film since Sleepy Hollow.

Just for once Depp gets a cast that it right up there with him, in fact Eva Green almost spirits the movie away on her own. 
From the trailers Depp seemed to be following up his fascination for the Fast Show by doing Barnabas Collins as Rowley Birkin, but thankfully for most of the movie he keeps it relatively straight.  
It opens with the best use of Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin" I can ever remember (and best use of an existing track in a movie since King Crimson's "Court of the Crimson King" in Children of Men), over a sweeping credits sequence that introduces us  to Collingwood and is worth the price of admission alone. The well chosen score swoops in an out of an achingly beautiful movie with early 70s soulless sheen (see also The Ice Storm, Zodiac), making Burton's previous effort, Alice in Wonderland, seem even even more of a pointless computer generated cartoon.
The sartorial comment to vampire Barnabas Collins, "That wierd swinging London thing isn't working", got a big laugh in our cinema on Baker Street. Must say the Everyman cinema is a great little place and the beer does flow well (I'm still sobering up)

Some pub ranting after the movie compared Dark Shadows to The Adams Family and the Munsters. Dark Shadows was originally of course supposed to be serious.  And as it comes later into the cynical 60s and 70s features a far less nuclear, more fractured family. Again Ang Lee's Ice Storm comes to mind.

It perhaps works best as a pilot for another Dark Shadows tv reboot, though with the new Munsters, Mockingbird Lane, on the way (with Eddie Izzard as granpa) that seems unlikely in the short term.

Dark Shadows the original tv series was never shown in UK, the nearest we got to characters in Dark Shadows was trying to suck some kind of second hand menace from David Selby's villian in Falcon Crest. I imagine we never saw it because the cheap fantasy thriller slot in the UK was filled by Dr Who, which had already mutated from childrens scifi show into weekly Quatermass-lite.

With no Dr Who would Hammer studios have been tempted to create their own version of Dark Shadows for domestic UK tv market? What would that have been like? 

Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde meets Acorn Antiques most likely;

<Miss Babbs, totally naked, explores her body in a full length mirror. Mrs Overall enters>

Oh Miss Babbs, your very mysterious twin brother was in very late last night

Yesss.. Mrs Overall...I notice you've gone all hairy again

Yes Miss.. it's that time of the month I've afraid.. would you like a macaroon?

Our Neo Victorian Future

The vast Victorian warehouse space behind Kings Cross station is being hollowed out for use by students of the Creative Arts from all over the world!

Looks fun but somewhat incongruous in a country in the middle of its worst recession (depression?) for nearly a century, with record youth unemployment, half of young black men in the UK unable to get a job and student fees at record levels only available to the rich .

Middle class salaries have not risen with the cost of living for 25 years but at least the children of the international 1%, whose income has gone up 340% in same period and are paying 30% less tax, will think of their time studying in tax haven London with fond memories.
Nearby graffiti on Regents Canal

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Joss Whedon, Avengers Connections

When Buffy The Vampire Slayer ended one of the mainstream critics (in  The Times) was clued in enough to say that with its comedy, charm and martial arts it was the modern equivalent of the  British Avengers tv series of the 60s and 70s.

For those in the know this shouldn't be a surprise. References to the Chris Claremont X Men comics are littered throughout Buffy, notably Willow being decribed as going "Dark Pheonix", and that classic comic storyline itself is influenced by an infamous episode of the Diana Rigg classic.

So it's nicely ironic that the much maligned and mistreated creator of Buffy has just broken box office records with the another Avengers, the American collection of Earths Mightiest Heroes.

Whedon is now effectively God of the Marvel universe (The Watcher?). Studio suits that previously looked at a series of books and thought wow we have three or four stories to wring out of this now have a almost unlimited source of material to adapt. He won't be doing any more tv, so time to savour what he has done. I'm about to start watching one of his interesting tv failures, Dollhouse.

The Filmspotting podcast covering this subject suggested the success of the Avengers is that it plays like a tv miniseries, perhaps as a series finale to this...

"Avengers Assemble"—Evaluating the 9-Hour Cut 

'SnakeCharmer' here has edited together all of the prequel marvel movies (plus connecting scenes) so they play chronologically as
First part of Thor, then
Captain America
Iron Man
Then events of Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor happening concurrently.

.. And apart from odd stylistic juxtapositions they all apparently play better, particularly the bad ones (Iron Man 2), which suffered most from pointless episodic indulgence when released alone.

Aside from this 8 hour miniseries edit, the "prequel" movies now look much better in context, (though stylistically only Thor stands out) I've just watched Ang Lee's Hulk and even that is 10% better having seen the Avengers, interestingly nothing in the Ang Lee film is particularly contradicted in the official films and I think Whedon re-introduces some of the ideas from it, like Banner only surviving his Gamma accident because of the "other guy" within him.

They and we should be grateful to Ang Lee, if he'd not made such ambitiously arty flop the rights to use the Hulk would never have reverted back to Marvel to be able to use the character in Avengers! (Compare with fate of endless Spiderman/Daredevil/Fantastic Four sequels and reboots)

In the course of returning to what we are now calling "The Prequels" I also watched Daredevil again, the superior Directors Cut even. Don't make the same mistake, unless you subconsciously want to give the whole subject of movie super heroes a serious rest...

UPDATE: re: the Claremont X-Men and the Steed/Peel Avengers, this covers the subject in more detail

Sunday, 13 May 2012


The Windmill in Brixton is, exterior wise, a really nasty looking venue, a small prefab  community centre with a flat roof. Surrounded as we are in London by misused Victorian architecture it seems weird to pay to spend time in a building that could be in any housing estate or project in the western world.

What the Windmill does have though is great bands. Time Out voted Windmill Brixton last year as one of the best music venues in the UK

And it has the famous symbol of the Windmill, Roofdog, who patrols the flat roof above. Inside behind the battered bar is a selection of t-shirts bearing the slogan “I BELIEVE IN ROOFDOG”

Roofdog looks mean.

Roofdog  contains some traces of Rottweiler ancestry but most of his DNA has been recovered from the prehistoric ancestor of the Rottweiler, Candidae Lycano, an animal that roamed the later Cretaceous period ripping the testcicles off Tyrannosaurs. Six feet long and four feet tall at the shoulder I have personally seen airliners flying over London veer off course when Roofdog barks at them.

Night of Black Moth + Black Belles I had arrived typically early and in the apparent safety of the low ceiling-ed venue I saw the Black Belles tune up.

Black Belles were nibbling walkers crisps like spindly crows.

I nervously reassured a Black Belle menacing the bar that I wouldn't take any pics while they were tuning up and got a look of pure evil.
"Yeah because WE'RE TUNING UP"
"You need to be - in the zone – right?"
Then some instinct for self preservation engaged in my head and I was able to shut up and back off slowly.

(So this is why I don’t have any pics)

By the end of the evening after some drinking I came to feel that that Evil Eye look from Black Belle may have turned my foot into that of rabbit, (not an actual rabbit but the foot of a rabbit), but it appeared my foot had just gone to sleep from the way I way balancing on a chair against the bar.
The Black Belles
Nashville Goths managed and promoted by Jack White (of White Stripes, Raconteurs and Dead Weather)

First thing that has to be said about Black Belles is that the promo for. “What Can I do”- (Directed by JW) is massively influenced by Mario Bava's Black Sunday, one of great surreal nightmare Italian horror movies, so they can already do little wrong in my book on principle (Similar status is accorded to Metric, after the promo for Monster Hospital.)

Despite the witchy hats and costumes Black Belles (when on stage) are not scary really, more like Deadite face pulling (Deadites are from Evil Dead). If you want a really scary look from a rock act get up front when Souxsie Sioux is on stage, that woman really knows The Evil The Lurks In The Hearts of Men.

Being Nashville Goths give them a whole heap of kooky charm though, the kind of thing you might get if you bumped into Dolly Parton at Halloween.

Comparing Black Belles with other products of Jack Whites stable, the actual music much more White Stripes primitivism (see BBC’s brilliant doc Motor City Is Burning) than Dead Weather’s superficially similar bad trip swamp rock, and you might go so far as to say Black Belles tunes are even more stripped back than early Jack and Meg. It must be refreshing for JW to come across a band that sounds like White Stripes but makes their last album sound like Yes. (Apparently the Belles are missing a keyboard player which might explain this and their apparent witchy twitchiness)

One area they did obviously stand out from early White Stripes is in vocals, I swear I heard lead Black Belle channel warbles of Pete Murphy Bau Haus amidst the Nashville twang.

There you have it, when “We have all types of music, Country AND Western”, is starting to assimilate Bau Haus,  when Nashville Grand Ol Opry is sitting down having a cider and black with classic British Glam Goth Opera, you know that you are watching something different even if it isn’t particularly sophisticated at this stage.

Lead Belle gave a nice Nashville twanged shout out 
"great to finally meet Roofdog” (big cheer) “we've heard so much about him" - you might think a coven of multi sized witches in heavy black makeup were saying that about Lucifer or Nyarlothotep but actually it was about the grumpy mutt prowling about the roof of the venue.

(Jack, if you or your entourage get to read this send some flowers or something to Lauren Laverne at 6 Music for gods sake - she's still hurting)

Black Moth
Fresh Faced Yorkshire Supernauts

Totally unreconstructed, soon to be enormo dome conquering teenagers(?), who could have all fallen out the back of a Ford Transit anytime between now and 1968 and obviously are not remotely bothered by it. In direct contrast to the Belles, their total disregard for 'image' was quite refreshing.

High chance the lead singer Harriet Hyde will be the Suzy Quattro/Joan Jett of the 2030s, though though her accent and voice seem to go from Karen O at the start to Micheal Parkinson at the end (great singing voice remained unaffected). Where, in mannerisms, the Black Belles were toned down Country and Western Alice Cooper menace, Black Moths Harriet really owned the stage on her own, with an impressive amount of showman ship and presence from someone so young. Difficult to see others from our vantage but kudos to lead guitar Jim Swainson, pinning the head of the guitar against the low ceiling of the Venue and then playing it like a harp.

Though Black Moths seemed to be technically well ahead of the Belles I suspect the pagan primitivism of the Belles tunes meant they we playing well within themselves.

If the new songs Tony Iommi has been crafting for the Sabbs reunion are half as good as Black Moths set it will make millions of gloomy bastards very happy. The “Mothic” new album, Killing Jar, will be my next purchase.

We've now had several generations of bands influenced by Black Sabbath and it's fascinating to compare them. I only got into Aston’s finest sons via Soundgarden, the 90s grunge, Seattle take on their sound. Since then I’ve found the desert rock variety in KYUSS and Queens of the Stone Age, and the golden poppy upbeat variety of Sabbs riffs in Foo Fighters. You can even see their influence on a band as pop as The Cardigans, who covered a Sabbath song on every album they released.

Still unconvinced about the influence of Black Sabbath? Robert Downey Jnr’s Tony Stark spends half his time saving the world in The Avengers wearing a Never Say Die tour t-shirt.

At the end of the we stood outside the windmill looking up at Roofdog, who suddenly strained to jump off the roof and attack a nearby Porsche which had the temerity to just move down the road slowly past the venue. 

Just as quickly though, Roofdog calmed down and got sleepy, and we realised that when Roofdog goes to sleep, all of Brixton goes to sleep too.
The Grand Ol Opry that is Windmill Brixton Friday night (for the Three Johns), that is Roofdog looking sleepy top left.

“The Olympics, A Movement, And We All Need One, Every Day”

So I'm in London at 2012, why haven't I mentioned the Olympics?

Well there is the certain knowledge that for every poor bastard actually trying to make a living in London costs will go up 100%

Then there is the feeling that, as usual, the rest of the country is being fleeced to spend money in London (the promised net + spend of the Olympics in rest of UK was something like 8bn, transpires via Channel 4 Dispatches documentary it is more like net loss of 4bn from rest of country to London)

Then there is the Olympic only traffic lanes which can't be used by emergency services.

And the London Olympics merchandise, 90% of which is sourced from outside this country.

But my favourite fact, supporting a suspicion this is Olympic project was intended all along for an international 1% elite completely out of touch with reality.

They invited one of the most famously deceased musicians in music, dead since 1978, to play at the ceremony

Great Olympic information can be found in Harry Shearers brilliant Le Show, a new Orleans resident with no regional UK chip on his shoulder, (unlike me) in his segment
"The Olympics, A Movement, And We All Need One, Every Day"