Webzine Edition Issue 3

Poetry by Paul Lyalls

paul-lyalls

‘Very, very, very, funny and very very feel-good’
NUS magazine

‘Extremely good poetry but smiles too much’
John Hegley

‘Words of wit, wisdom and intelligence’
Apples and Snakes

Paul Lyalls has  performed at 10 Edinburgh festivals, 1 Eton College, 5 Glastonbury’s and on a 73 Bus, which made the ‘and finally…’ bit of the 6pm national news. He is also one of the stars of BBC2’s ‘Big Slam Poetry House’ and  in 2008 he was Poet for the London borough of Brent (‘London’s 5th coolest borough’) and performed at the new Wembley stadium. In addition to which, for the last 12 years he has  hosted Express Excess, London’s outstanding spoken word night. Whilst he also runs exciting poetry workshops in primary and secondary schools.

This year he has contributed two poems to Penguin’s A-Z of Children’s Poetry and has just published his first full collection of  poems,  Catching the Cascade ( Flipped Eye), from which the following poems are taken.

The Value Of Wales

Its chief contribution to the UK
must be as a unit of measurement,
night after night
a news desk declares
‘An area of Rainforest,
the size of Wales disappears every year’
‘The amount of water
London loses through its creaking Victorian pipes
would fill a swimming pool
the size of Wales’.
Every part of the world has a similar unit of measurement:
in the United States it’s an area the size of New Jersey;
on mainland Europe the reference more often than not
is Slovenia – which appropriately happens to be
98.4 percent the size of Wales.
But just how accurate is Wales
as a unit of measurement?
Just how constant is that land-mass?
It’s worth remembering that at low tide
Wales measures 20,761 SQ KM.
Whereas at high tide, it’s only 20,449 SQ KM
and to really put it into context,
each year coastal erosion erodes an area of Wales
the size of Central Swansea.
For those of you in Europe trying to visualise this,
that’s the equivalent of an area the size of down-town Ljubianna.

Time

Our hotelier pointed out that
all the clocks in all the hotel rooms
all said different times.
So, in some rooms you were late
and in other rooms you were early.
“It’s not a problem”, said the Nuclear Physicist
breakfasting on the next table
“Time actually happens four times slower than
we think”?
“Not round here it doesn’t!” rejoined our hotelier,
“Round here, time happens really fast.”
At which, I gazed out of the window
and surveyed the lifeless two street
regional-coastal town –
which had about as much going
on as a letter that never arrives.
If ever there was an
argument for there not being a God,
this place was it.
“In fact,” continued our hotelier, “you can tell
how much is going on around here
by the all the things that are happening:
in September there’s a Wicker Doll fair,
in October a Poetry Festival and a Science Convention,
in November there’s Bonfire Night
and before you know it,
it’s Christmas.
Right, who’s got time for another cup of tea?”

The Anatomy Of A Bookshop

English Literature
was beside the drinking fountain.
American literature
was over near the vending machine.
Romance,
next to the fire escape.
Philosophy
was between the first and second floors.
Crime
could be found next to the tills.
Politics
was below ethics.
Self-help,
by the mirror.
Making The World A Better Place
was next to books on children’s names.
Religion
was next to Fantasy.
Poetry,
Was down in the basement
with Wines, Beers and Spirits.

Hard Fast And Beautiful

In John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939),
(which raised the Western genre
to artistic status )
she was the ‘saloon girl’ Dallas
who had been forced out of town
by puritanical women.
When ‘The Ringo Kid’ (John Wayne)
proposes to her, she says
“But you don’t know me,
you don’t know who I am.”
“I know all I want to know.”
he says.
Seeing a glimmer of hope
she asks the drunken doctor
(Thomas Mitchell)
“Is that wrong for a girl like me?
If a man and a woman
love each other?
it’s all right,
ain’t it Doc?”

All poems ©Paul Lyalls 2009

Catching Cascades  is available from all bookshops and Amazon priced  £5.99

Paul Lyalls
www.paul-lyalls.com

Express Excess, every other Wednesday, The Enterprise, 2 Haverstock Hill, London NW3
Doors 8.30pm Performances 9pm
Tickets £5/£3 (concs)
Express Excess Facebook page

Plectrum’s profile of Express Excess from issue one:  READ MORE

Paul Lyalls will also be performing poems from Catching Cascades and hosting the Plectrum Live Edition at Express Excess on Wednesday 3rd February MORE DETAILS

And also:

Monday 25th January: Brighton Komedia club with Will Self & Elvis McGonigal
44 – 47 Gardiner St, 7.30pm, all tickets £12.
Sunday 14th February: RONNIE SCOTTS Jazz verse Jukebox, with Fran Landesman, Dorothea Smartt, Winston Clifford
47 Frith St doors 6.30 show 8pm, tickets£6/5
Fri 26th February: Finsbury Arts Festival with Adam Bloom
St Lukes Central St EC1 8pm, all tickets £5
Sat 27th February: Hawth Theatre with JOHN HEGLEY & Niall O’ Sullivan
Crawley, East Sussex. 8pm,  all tickets £12
Thurs 4th March: Haringey Literature Festival
Wood Green Library. Check with library for full details.
Thursday 18th March: Bang Said the Gun
The Roebuck, 50 Great Dover ST, SE1 London, 8PM, tickets £3

Book review: 70s Style & Design by Dominic Lutyens & Kirsty Hislop

(Thames & Hudson) £24.95

Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams

70s-style-design-cover
There is an amazing photograph in 70s Style & Design that wonderfully encapsulates a number of the key strengths of the book. A shaven haired girl wearing a beret, cat’s-eye specs, and a t-shirt which has had its collar roughly hacked away, slashed to expose her breasts, and is held together with a safety pin. Described thus, one would assume it to be a punk image and one thinks of Ray Stevenson’s shot of Johnny Rotten in a beret, shades, and Seditionaries jacket. Though the image also appears to allude to the early 1980s both in the geometric shapes in primary colours on the t-shirt, but also the shaved head, shades, cover girl perfect heavy blusher and red lipstick, and the contradictory mix of overt femininity and androgyny which evokes Jean Paul Goude’s styling of Grace Jones at that time. But in fact the photograph was styled by Pru Walters in 1973, and the t-shirt is made from a Duggie Fields ‘Kandinsky-inspired’ fabric.

Inherent within this is not only that 70s Style & Design contains a host of brilliant photographs and illustrations, many of which are published for the first time, but also the difficulty in appraising the fashions of any fixed period. They do not neatly begin and end with the calendar proscription of a decade, nor was punk as hermetically sealed from what had gone before, despite the proclamation of Malcolm McLaren and Bernard Rhodes’ ‘You’re going to wake up one more morning…’ proto-punk manifesto t-shirt which listed Duggie Fields firmly in the opposite camp to the then Kutie Jones and his Sex Pistols.

Guy Bourdin’s 1979 advertisement campaign for Charles Jordan ©Guy Bourdin/Art+Commerce

Guy Bourdin’s 1979 advertisement campaign for Charles Jordan ©The Guy Bourdin Estate/Art+Commerce

Dominic Lutyens and Kirsty Hislop have resolutely fulfilled their stated intention to overturn the threadbare “platforms and polyester flares”, time that taste forgot  approach to the 1970s. But over and above this, in their celebration and mapping of its rich diversity and multifarious parallel and often overlapping inspirations and influences from across the breadth of culture, including street fashion and high fashion, architecture and interior design, activism and politics, and the arts, and the through flow from the 1960s and flow on into the 1980s, they have pulled off a feat that the majority of other books of this type on this or any decade rarely manage. Which is to unpick what can appear a Gordian Knot and to present the threads (in all their finery), to spot the links, and to chart how they weave back together with a straight forward clarity that is never simplistic, but is always engaging, highly informed and researched, and acutely well observed.

Steven Behrens necklace chosen for 1979 De Beers Diamond Collection ©De Beers

Steven Behrens necklace chosen for 1979 De Beers Diamond Collection ©De Beers

In this way, for example, it becomes clear that the D.I.Y ethic which is a fundamental and celebrated facet of punk, was also present in the craft revival from the early 1970s, which promoted self-expression though the ideals of “made by hand with heart,” the craze for customisation (celebrated by Jean Paul Goude in a photo story in Nova magazine in 1970, in which the denims of each model have all been individualised through being ‘cut-off’, bleached, or with the addition of fringing, fabric patches, and button badges),  and also the ‘flat-pack’ furniture pioneered by Habitat. Whilst Lutyens and Hislop also parallel the rise of army surplus and utility chic from the late 1960s into the 1970s, which in turn inspired Yves Saint Laurent’s high fashion pea coats and safari jackets, with the High-Tech interior design style. Which at first utilized genuine reclaimed industrial materials, and was used to great effect by Roger K. Burton in his highly influential design for the boutique PX in 1978, before being appropriated by Habitat in their Tech range in 1980.

Helen Robinson in PX photographed by Sheila Rock ©Sheila Rock

Helen Robinson in PX photographed by Sheila Rock ©Sheila Rock

Over recent years the influence of Biba and Barbara Hulanicki, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren have been increasingly well documented, and as they should  feature here, but placed within the widespread contemporaneous currents their influence and inspirations become yet more fascinating. It is also great to see the less well documented influence of Mr Freedom and the Pop Art, 1950s Americana, and comic strips that it brought to the rich 1970s mix, along the way inspiring Yves Saint Laurent and Elio Firroucci, restored to the prominence it deserves, with the  attendant verve, elegance, and fabulous high colour, with which this book explodes throughout.

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Links

70s Style & Design: www.70sstyleanddesign.com

Thames & Hudson: www.thamesandhudson.com

Guy Bourdin: www.guybourdin.org

Art + Commerce: www.artandcommerce.com

De Beers: www.debeers.com

Sheila Rock: sheilarock.com

Film review: We Live in Public

(Dogwoof)
On release

By Guy Sangster Adams

we-live-in-public-poster

“Andy Warhol was wrong, his view was that people wanted 15 minutes of fame in their lifetime, our view is that people want 15 minutes of fame everyday,” proclaims Josh Harris, the subject of Ondi Timoner’s fascinating, absorbing, and unsettling film, which won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (a prize she also won in 2004 for Dig!, making her the only director in the festival’s history to win the award twice). In the midst of the current cultural dominance of social networking and video sharing websites, interactive talent contests and reality television programming Harris’s proclamation seems an apposite statement of fact. But the fact that he first said it in 1999 imbues his words with the prescience about the internet and the media for which he has been renowned, despite being, as the caption at the beginning of We Live in Public states, “the greatest internet pioneer you’ve never heard of.”

Harris founded the highly regarded internet consulting firm Jupiter Communications in 1986 and then in 1993 founded pseudo.com, the first internet ‘television station’, and to the incredulity of terrestrial broadcasters predicted a time when people would watch their favourite programmes online.  Increasingly through the 1990s Harris moved away from the conservatism of the business world to explore the ways in which new media could and would shape society and fundamentally alter social interaction. His increasingly avant garde, experimental, and conceptual programming and events lead New York magazine to dub him “the Warhol of the Web” and reached their infamous, and highly influential apogee with Quiet: We Live in Public and weliveinpublic.com.

Josh Harris beside the toilets at Quiet

Josh Harris beside the toilets at Quiet

Quiet, which lasted for the duration of December 1999, involved 100 people living in a ‘pod hotel’ in the basement of a disused textile factory in New York, in which all notions and structures of personal privacy were removed. Each pod was equipped with its own video camera and monitor so that everyone could watch everyone else constantly, the only shower was in a transparent, geodesic dome in the middle of the living space, the toilet walls were taken down, and a neon sign constantly reminded the participants ‘we live in public.’ Fittingly, since it pre-empted the cultural shifts of the following decade, it was closed down by the New York Police department on 1st January 2000. They were concerned that it was in reality the headquarters of a cult; for recreation there was a firing range and an extensive armoury of automatic weapons – something which Big Brother has yet to try! But by the time of its closure the behaviour of the participants had become increasingly aggressive and erratic and despite the constant interaction with others many spoke of feeling acute loneliness.

Quiet 'pods

Quiet 'pods'

Following Quiet, for six months in 2000 Harris moved into a flat with his new girlfriend Tanya Corrin which was equipped with motion and sound sensitive cameras covering every conceivable angle – including one in the toilet bowl – so that every part of their life together and every bodily function was under constant surveillance and broadcast on a 24 hour live web feed, with viewers also able to interact with the pair via internet chat rooms. The experiment began with Harris stating that viewers would ultimately watch the couple conceiving their first child live, but ended with Corrin walking out and Harris suffering a metal breakdown.

What Harris was discovering ten years ago, increasingly holds true today, as more and more people trade privacy for intimacy with virtual friends, and the  desire for recognition and celebrity are seen as the gateways both to happiness and to feeling loved, and CCTV surveillance is seen as the key way to create a better society. Both Harris’s projects provide, as does Timoner’s film, a tragic indictment of the price that can be paid for the ever increasing ways in which we live in public. As Harris warns, underscoring this cautionary tale, “The more you know about each other, the more lonely you become.”

Ondi Timoner

Ondi Timoner

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Links

We Live in Public: www.weliveinpublicthemovie.com
Dogwoof: www.dogwoof.com

Great TV Themes by Daniel Pemberton, from Shouting at the Telly edited by John Grindrod (Faber & Faber)

“Proust would have made a great TV reviewer,” writes John Grindrod in the introduction to Shouting at the Telly, the collection of rants and raves about television which he has edited, and which has just been published by Faber & Faber. “He had three key attributes,” Grindrod continues, “firstly he didn’t get out much; secondly, he had a fondness for nostalgia; and thirdly, an appreciation for how the trivial and the profound are inexorably linked.”

shouting-at-the-telly-cover

In the absence of Proust, Grindrod has drawn together an eclectic array of  writers, critics, comedians, actors, and broadcasters, including Travis Elborough, Rebecca Front, Emma Kennedy, Matthew Sweet, and Boyd Hilton, bringing ire, satire, insight, wit, and celebration to every genre of programme, from reality to factual, soap to sitcom, cult to comedy.

Whilst along the way salient questions are answered: Is Freddie from Scooby-Doo a colossal pervert? How do you win America’s Next Top Model? And if you play the theme from Inspector Gadget in a nightclub will people dance? The answer to the latter is to be discovered in Daniel Pemberton’s Great TV Themes, which follows in full below.

Daniel Pemberton is the BAFTA nominated composer behind many of the themes and sounds you hear everyday on TV. His credits include everything from cult comedy series (Peep Show, Suburban Shootout) to mainstream reality shows (Hells Kitchen, Love Island, Bad Lads Army); acclaimed dramas such as Born With Two Mothers (starring Sophie Okonedo and Lesley Sharp) and Vincent Van Gogh biopic The Yellow House (starring John Simm) to BAFTA and Emmy award winning documentaries (Hirsohima , George Orwell – A Life In Pictures); top rated lifestyle programmes (Great British Menu) to big budget family adventures (Prehistoric Park). His ability to jump genres effortlessly yet still bring a unique and recognizable sound to every project saw him named as ‘one of the hottest people working in television today’ by Broadcast magazine, who praised him as ‘a composer prepared to take risks’.

Great TV Themes

I do hope the great TV theme is not a dying breed. It would possibly seem so in today’s modern media environment. While 1960s shows like The Prisoner had amazing title sequences and themes that lasted almost two minutes (!), their modern equivalents, like Lost and Heroes, just have a noise that is over in five seconds. Boring. Or they just use some bland by-the-numbers rock song that really has nothing to do with the show at all. More boring.
The key, I think, to a good TV theme is first to create an interesting sound palette – use an unusual array of noises. Then write a great tune. And then try and get it played as often as possible. If you can tick all three of these boxes then you should have a classic. It’s amazing we don’t have more of them. A lot of TV execs like themes that sound like something else they’ve heard before. Or they want you to do a million different things in ten seconds leaving no space for an actual tune. Or they want it to have a ‘big impact’ ending. You really don’t need a big impact ending – it’s often the biggest false economy there is. But still they persist, making you rewrite something that was great into something that’s not. I’ve been there – many, many times. However every now and again someone slips one through the net and produces some gogglebox gold. Here are my personal favourites:

Grange Hill
Written in an hour by renowned TV composer Alan Hawkshaw (the only man who could not only write the themes to Countdown and Channel 4 News but also the legendary b-boy breaks tune The Champ), Grange Hill originally started life as a piece of library music called Chicken Man that was chucked into a recording session at the last minute. It has since become an icon of British childhood, it’s bizarre funkiness instantly transporting you back to a time of Mr Bronson telling someone off and a sausage on a big fork. Wow. They foolishly changed it in the nineties to some synth tosh that no one liked. Idiots.

Knight Rider
Knight Rider. What a fucking amazing ahead-of-its-time tune. Obviously everyone else now also realises this which is why it has been sampled to death by everyone from Timbaland and Busta Rhymes to So Solid Crew and their contemporary Crazy Frog. The tune was written by Stu Phillips and the show’s creator Glen A. Larson. I’ve always wondered whether Glen A. Larson actually did anything at all on it or whether he just wanted a slice of the action because it was his show (much like Simon Cowell and his ‘songwriting’ credit on The X-Factor theme) and thus he could do what he wanted. If anyone knows Glen A. Larson please could they find out as this one has puzzled me for years.

The South Bank Show
I agree it is not often you get to read someone citing Andrew Lloyd Webber as an influence. But his theme tune to The South Bank Show is awesome. Taken from his crazy classical rock mash-up album Variations, the reclaiming nostalgia from tv theme tunes theme is based on a piece by Paganini and it still sounds good today. I know it’s really uncool but I do wish more people would make records like that today. I secretly love them.

The Krypton Factor

This was one of the few TV themes written by The Art Of  Noise. Like much of their commissioned work (also listen to the rather patchy soundtrack of the Dan Akroyd Dragnet film) it seemed to use exactly the same noises as their records of the time. Namely lots of sampled horn blasts and that ‘dum dum dum’ noise that was all over Close to the Edit and the drums from Beatbox. Maybe Trevor Horn had just bought some expensive new glasses and didn’t want to spend any more money on memory for his Fairlight sampler. We will never know. Anyway it’s one of those made-in-the-eighties tunes that has aged remarkably well. But whatever happened to the show’s
spooky host Gordon Burns?

Inspector Gadget
Do-do-do-do-do Inspector Gadget. Another fantastically groovy TV tune that you are probably humming to yourself right now. But did you know that the theme is pretty much a rip-off of the classical tune In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg? Work it out on the piano to see what I mean. I used to love watching the show not just for this but also for its super funky moog synthesiser underscore. I even once tried to DJ it at a night in Shoreditch many many years ago. I had previously convinced myself that this was going to be a massive dancefloor filler and send the crowd into a frenzy. It didn’t. It cleared the room. Oh dear.

Treasure Hunt
Helicopters. In the 1980s helicopters seemed to be on TV all the time. Helicopters and motorcycle display teams. Where are they today? One show that used them heavily was Treasure Hunt. The theme tune was a super pomp synth rock monster that built to an epic crescendo. The music said ‘this could be the most exciting thing you will see on TV all year’. The show said: ‘Oh look here’s Kenneth Kendall and a married couple who look like they last had sex seven years ago, standing about in a room full of fake books’. What a swizz.

The Great Egg Race
I don’t know how many of you remember this show but it has got one of the most killer theme tunes of all time. I tried to seek it out again researching this piece and I was shocked at how fresh it still sounded – a tight punky kinda beat with some horribly catchy Moog drops on top. It got me wanting to dance round my studio in about two seconds flat. If someone like Simian Mobile Disco sampled it up they’d have a massive hit on their hands. A gem waiting to be rediscovered.

Tour de France
Again this is a bit of a personal choice but the old theme from the Channel 4 version of this was ace. It wasn’t – as many believe – Kraftwerk’s track of the same name but a rather spacey sounding synth tune by some bloke who used to be in The Buzzcocks that somehow managed to incorporate French kids’ tune ‘Frère Jacques’ and still sound cool.

Doctor Who
Not much more needs to be said about this. Originally written by top TV composer Ron Grainer (who also did classic themes to The Prisoner and Tales of the Unexpected), it was warped into crazy electro freakout territory by Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Grainer, apparently so impressed at what the now legendary soundsmith had done with his track, offered her half the royalties. Ludicrous BBC staff guidelines, however, meant, sadly, she couldn’t accept them. The current arrangement, by the normally superb composer, Murray Gold, is, in my opinion, no match for the original whatsoever. Boo hoo.

Roobarb and Custard
A viciously funky weird theme tune that sounded like a Fender Rhodes put through about six different distortion and filter pedals. In my various TV works I have tried to rip the sound off more times than you care to mention. It fitted the jaggedness of Bob Godfrey’s visuals perfectly. Best not to think about the rather dodgy rave version knocked up in the nineties by the blokes from Global Communication before they were cool.

© 2009 Daniel Pemberton

Shouting at the Telly: Rants & Raves about TV by Writers, Comedians & Viewers
Edited by John Grindrod
Faber & Faber £9.99

Links:

Daniel Pemberton
www.danielpemberton.com

Shouting at the Telly
shoutingatthetelly.blogspot.com

Faber & Faber
www.faber.co.uk

Live Review: Echo & The Bunnymen

at the Roundhouse, London, 15th October 2009

by Guy Sangster Adams

Ian McCulloch ©Alex Hurst 2009

Ian McCulloch ©Alex Hurst 2009

As the dry ice that completely obscures the stage at the beginning of Echo & The Bunnymen’s set feathers out through the audience it is as though it makes manifest all the highly charged thoughts and emotions, memories and expectations of all those gathered. There is quite literally something in the air tonight, a very tangible sense of right time, right place. Touching shoulders, touching souls, sending involuntary shudders around the architectural majesty of the Roundhouse, weaving about the iron pillars, before swirling up to the domed roof. Where, up lit from the stage, it highlights the suspension of belief that has gripped the auditorium.

Is it a dream? It is still impossible to make out anyone on the stage, but the sound majestically echoing the building coalesces with the dry ice, reaching everywhere it reaches and further. It is surreal, as though one is hearing long cherished memories for the first time, whilst the heart sores the head is trying to compute whether it can be real. Did Echo & The Bunnymen always sound so phenomenally good? My confusion is furthered having read some very disparaging reviews of the new album, The Fountain, earlier in the day saying that Ian McCulloch’s voice is shot and that the middle-aged band are just going through the motions. It won’t be until later in the set that they play Bring on the Dancing Horses and McCulloch sings the line “shiver and say the words, of every lie you’ve heard,” but by then, indeed from the word go, they have resolutely trounced those criticisms.

Three songs in the dry ice has cleared to reveal that the iconic scene one’s mind’s eye has been imagining is real: McCulloch is centre stage, sunglasses and overcoat on, periodically clutching the stand and rolling his forehead over the microphone, like Jim Stark and his milk bottle; the loner played by James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. He looks out, he looks back to drummer Nick Kilroe and keyboard player Jez Wing, he looks left to Gordy Goudie on guitar and Stephen Brannan on bass, but he never looks to his right,  where in splendid isolation stands Will Sergeant, who in turn plays head down, only looking up to change the succession of different guitars, whilst at the back of the stage a myriad of projections filmed by Sergeant play across the screen, from clouds, to religious statuary, to psychedelic oil patterns, harking back to The Roundhouse’s brief tenure as home to the UFO club in 1967.

Ian McCulloch & Will Sergeant ©Alex Hurst 2009

Ian McCulloch & Will Sergeant ©Alex Hurst 2009

The venue and all the references it is imbued with thoroughly suit Echo & the Bunnymen. “It’s great to be at The Roundhouse,” announces McCulloch, “The Doors played here!” before introducing their cover version of People Are Strange. The Doors’ Ray Manzarek played keyboards on The Bunnymen’s recording of the song for the film The Lost Boys, and has remained a fan, and the sweeping grandeur of McCulloch’s vocals, akin to Jim Morrison in his ability to mix rough edged rock with mirror finish croon, is in full force tonight.

Reporters of the demise of McCulloch’s voice should be here; if it’s shot, it’s shot through with power, drama, and emotional intensity and the ability to propel one out of oneself. Indeed, as the set draws to a close with a phenomenal rendition of Killing Moon, the first time he sings the line “Fate, up against your will”, “fate” rockets beautifully to the roof and spines tingle, the second time he sings it, the word again goes to the roof taking the whole auditorium with it, the third time we are through the roof running the rings round Saturn.

Twenty-five years after Killing Moon was first recorded, indeed 31 years after Echo & The Bunnymen first played, you might be forgiven for, as Michelle the girl next to me says, “expecting less, but this is more; how have they become more?!” She is spot on; to appropriate the line Morrison sang at the Roundhouse in 1968, “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher.” Cascading around McCulloch’s voice like a Catherine wheel, Sergeant’s innovative, highly influential, and much emulated guitar playing is equally on perfect form, ascending and transcending the space in the most beautiful, kaleidoscopic spirals and dazzling shimmers.

Ian McCulloch ©Alex Hurst 2009

Ian McCulloch ©Alex Hurst 2009

The furthest reaches of their back catalogue, Rescue and Villiers Terrace, are played with the panache, verve, and excitement more normally associated with showcasing new songs. Whilst the same adjectives equally fit the first single from The Fountain, Think I Need It Too, with which they encore, followed by an outstanding Nothing Lasts Forever segueing into Walk On The Wild Side, which McCulloch amusingly concludes with “take a walk on Merseyside!”

With the two concluding dates of this tour in Liverpool sold out – a third has just been added – the band’s home town clearly already knows what everyone at the Roundhouse discovered, from the fifteen year old girl with saucer eyes breathlessly clutching the set list to her chest in the foyer, to the fortysomethings excitedly asking for autographs outside, that in the grandest style Echo & The Bunnymen are both igniting the rites of passage of a new generation, whilst reconfiguring the formative years of previous generations. For whom, it is as though the band reclaimed our memories for an hour and a half before handing them back Collagen enhanced, Stardust encrusted, with an extra gloss of new inspirations, leaving as sweet a taste as the last track of the night, Lips like Sugar.

Kiss whoever you must to do so, but go see Echo & The Bunnymen on this tour!

Echo & The Bunnymen are currently playing dates in Canada and the USA, before returning to England in December to play Oxford, Newcastle, Leeds and Liverpool. For more details: www.bunnymen.com

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Last call for entries: Momiji Couture Contest

by Guy Sangster Adams

Momiji Couture Contest launch at the New Designers Show

Momiji Couture Contest launch at the New Designers Show

Be quick! The deadline is fast approaching for entries to the Momiji Couture Contest which closes 30th October 2009.  Momiji are the hand-painted collectible message dolls, launched three years ago from the English village of Henley in Arden (previously best known for its ice cream!) since when through their collaboration with the freshest design talent they have attained international cult status.

The Momiji Couture Contest competition launched at the New Designers show at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London,  in July, calling for entries from fashion and textile students & graduates as well as the global crafting community, to fulfil the challenge of creating their own exquisite, fabric Momiji doll.

Royal/T

Royal/T

The competition judges include Barbara Hulaniciki, founder of the highly influential Biba, Pip McCormac the commissioning editor of the Sunday Times Style Magazine, Beth Smith deputy editor of Selvedge Magazine, and Susan Hancock the owner on the innovative and quirky Royal/T in Los Angeles.

The Contest’s shortlisted ten finalists will be showcased in a special exhibition at Royal/T, which imaginatively fuses a 10,000 square foot gallery and retail space with Los Angeles’ first Japanese inspired maid café.

Royal/T café

Royal/T café

For a full design brief for the contest and details on how to enter, go to:
www.lovemomiji.com/couture

Links
Royal/T: www.royal-t.org
Selvedge Magazine: www.selvedge.org

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Single Review: Sometime Around Midnight – The Airborne Toxic Event

Mercury Records
On Release

By Guy Sangster Adams

tate-cover

Shooting straight out of the sleeve and grabbing one simultaneously by the neck and the heart with such a passionate intensity there is no time for fear nor love, but only to release one’s soul to the last gasp climatic thrill, by rights the single Sometime Around Midnight should already have been as big a hit in this country as it was in the US. Originally released in the UK in February, this re-release remixed by Cenzo Townsend (whose extensive discography of collaborations includes Bat For Lashes, Babyshambles, Kaiser Chiefs, Primal Scream, and U2) magisterially reinforces a great song that showcases these Californian indie rockers’ diverse influences and talents.

Named after the second section of Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise, TATE founder Mikel Jollett (vocals, guitar, keyboard) also writes fiction, recently contributing a short story to McSweeneys, and in the autobiographical Sometime Around Midnight he brings his literary articulacy to lyrics that recount a chance meeting with an ex-girlfriend who although she has moved on he realises just how much he is still in love with her. Jollett creates an everyman tale, capturing how men feel gripped with a welter of passion and aggression, abject hurt but still with the need for reassurance from the lover who has spurned them, and how often they are happiest to express those feelings against the background of a fist in the air Springteen-esque “last chance power drive.”

Jollett’s voice which is capable of being at once brooding and seductive, vulnerable and menacing, in the manner of Brandon Flowers, and TATE’s musical cohesion of the classically trained Anna Bulbrook (viola, keyboards, tambourine, backing vocals) and the jazz schooled bassist Noah Harmon with the more traditional rocking combination of Steven Chen’s lead guitar and Daren Taylor’s drums, propel a lyrical journey that might be headed for melancholy or introspection, into a sound that makes one want to love again, and again, like one’s never been hurt. Sometime Around Midnight is almost a call and response to The Killers’ When You Were Young and should indeed be similarly lauded.

tate

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The Airborne Toxic Event: www.theairbornetoxicevent.com

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Single Review: Jackie, Is It My Birthday? – The Wolfmen feat. Sinéad O’Connor

(Howl Records)
On Release

By Guy Sangster Adams

jackie-is-it-my-birthday-cover

Beginning with a crescendo that immediately disorientates, is this a finale without an overture? Or as Chris Constantinou sings in a voice cut with the ages of rock, “Jackie, is it my birthday, or am I dying?” Marco Pirroni’s backwards guitar sideswipes like a pendulum across a drum beat so solid it might be an ionic column, but still you wonder am I looking down or looking up? Is this my future, or is this my past? Until Sinéad O’Connor enters the duet with a clarity so sharp, sculpted from the whitest marble, you  suddenly imagine you can see the geometric beauty of individual snowflakes, as she pitches question against question, “Do you ever feel like you’re posing, posing like an angel?” Whilst Pirroni’s now spiralling guitar throws you willingly from your pedestal into an helical orbit that scintillates and inspires. Fuelling an iconic sound that puts the sea back into ionic as the fixed point becomes a lighthouse and Constantinou and O’Connor’s revolving vocals merge as though you are simultaneously  illuminated and cast into darkness, doubts are dispelled, as in a moment you know all, but in the same moment you forget everything.

Surreal, transcendent, glamorous pop; as the track fades the need for another fix is immediate, repeat upon repeat.

The Wolfmen © Tina Korhonen

The Wolfmen © Tina Korhonen

Links:
The Wolfmen: www.thewolfmen.net

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Book Review: Manchester – Looking for the Light through the Pouring Rain

Kevin Cummins
(Faber & Faber) £30.00

Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams

manchester-cover

Beneath the title, Morrissey in silhouette standing on a ledge against a grey sky looks down on a view unseen, though in one’s mind’s eye one sees a Manchester skyline. Cummins’ photograph evokes Bruno Ganz’s Damiel, one of a group of trench coated angels who listen to the tortured thoughts of mortals and try to comfort them (which does sounds like an allusion to Joy Division and The Smiths…) in Wim Wenders’ 1987 film Wings of Desire. Shot by the Rochdale Canal in 1989, industrial architecture looms over Morrissey’s head and his shoulders are hunched as though he carries Manchester’s past, present, and future upon them; never to escape his oft repeated refrain from Suffer Little Children, the closing track from The Smiths’ debut album, “Oh Manchester, so much to answer for.”

If there is a charge to answer in being a key component in establishing and iconicising both the first wave of highly influential Mancunian bands from the mid 1970s into the mid 1980s and then from the late 1980s until the present day doing the same for the second wave (who had been inspired not only by the music of the first wave but also by his photographs of them) then Cummins must plead guilty.  He has been at the centre of the story since witnessing the two Sex Pistols gigs at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976. Gigs whose audiences also included Howard Devoto, Pete Shelley, Steve Diggle, Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Mark E. Smith, Morrissey, and gave rise not least to The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Fall, Magazine, New Order, Factory Records, and The Smiths, all of whom feature in this book. As the music and the drugs changed, Cummins stayed on it photographing The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, and Oasis, whilst also capturing the divergent splinter projects Electronic, Black Grape, and solo Morrissey.

The story that Cummins’ photographs document, along with essays by Paul Morley, Stuart Maconie, John Harris, and interviews with Johnny Marr, Peter Hook, and Mark E. Smith conducted by Gavin Wright, is as contradictory and contrary as the city and its citizens; elegiac and uproarious, as full of braggadocio as it is introspective, as given to high flown erudition as it is acerbic to perceived pretension, as serious as it is funny. Ian Curtis angular in performance, broods, and reflects in repose, but stays forever young; Shaun Ryder from clutching a giant E of the rooftop signage of the Hotel Subur Maritim in Sitges, Spain at the height of the Happy Mondays, seems to have aged 20 years photographed in a barber’s shop in Havana in 1995; The Stone Roses awash with paint as though brought in with the melting tide from John Squire’s Jackson Pollock-esque cover for their eponymous album; the Gallaghers never crack a smile; Morrissey stays handsome.

Ian Curtis, Joy Division, Futurama, Queen’s Hall, Leeds.  September 1979 © Kevin Cummins

Ian Curtis, Joy Division, Futurama, Queen’s Hall, Leeds. September 1979 © Kevin Cummins

Cummins’ work continues to inspire new generations; two cutting edge examples of whom are Darren Wall, whose Wallzo design studio designed the book, and Richard Milward, who wrote the Foreword. Wall spent his teenage years pouring over Peter Saville record sleeves, and the book has the uncluttered elegance of a Factory artefact, whilst the sky blue of the Manchester City FC home strip of the section separating pages and cover, both looks great and adds an extra layer of association. Whilst Milward captures the chord that Cummins has struck in so many, “For years now, Kevin’s photographs have watched over me and my pals, like debauched religious figures, inspiring us to get intoxicated, wear parkas, pick flowers, and listen to records. Their familiarity is blissful.”

Manchester during the period covered by the book has gone, for better or worse, from post-industrial, post-Blitz dereliction reenergised by Punk, into the international buzzword of Madchester, to regeneration into Manhattanchester. Much has been gained, much has been lost, much has stayed the same; the opening photograph in the book is of a mural painted for a 1977 Silver Jubilee party in a cobbled street of bricked up terraced houses, whilst the closing photograph is of a razor wire topped wall spray painted with a Union Jack slashed with the slogan: ‘There’s no future in England’s dreaming: John Lydon of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here fame.” The latter is preceded by a photograph of Ian Curtis’s crave inscribed with his name, the date of his death, and “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, and is followed by the equally, achingly poignant, blank white page where Tony Wilson’s Afterword would have been, should have been. Whilst on the facing page the message he left for Cummins three days before he died: “Kevin, sweetheart.  Sorry I haven’t sent the piece to you yet. I’ve just had to go back into hospital. It’s all in my head though, darling. I’ll download it as soon as I come out.”

Gallagher brothers, Oasis Sly Street, East London 21 February 1994 © Kevin Cummins

Gallagher brothers, Oasis Sly Street, East London 21 February 1994 © Kevin Cummins

Much has been gained, much has been lost, but what remains is the spirit of Manchester. One of the last performance photographs is of Noel Gallagher alone, presciently as it would now seem, playing at Teenage Cancer Trust gig in Manchester in 2007, possibly playing The Smiths song that he covered that night, which perhaps acts as a far better response to the title and a refrain for Cummins’ portrait of the city and its people; through the pouring rain, There is a Light that Never Goes Out.

In short, Manchester: Looking for the Light through the Pouring Rain; the pleasure and the privilege is ours.

Links:

Kevin Cummins www.myspace.com/kevin_cummins
Faber & Faber www.faber.co.uk

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Exhibition: London Creatives Polish Roots

Museum of London
1st October – 1st November 2009

by Guy Sangster Adams

Adam Ficek photographed by Grzegorz Lepiarz

Adam Ficek photographed by Grzegorz Lepiarz

Londoners listening to travel news on the capital’s local radio stations will be overtly familiar with hearing that rush hour traffic is stretching back past the Polish War Memorial on the A40; one of the main routes into London. But in that familiarity how often do listeners hearing the name, or those using it to give directions, actually specifically register the words they are hearing or saying – that it is Polish and that it is a war memorial – or, for the post war generations particularly, the significance of those words, such is the degree that this West London landmark has been assimilated into the city. But in fact the memorial does more than commemorate the specificities of its name it also bears witness to all the political upheavals and changes of the last seventy years of Polish history, and many of the different routes and reasons that have brought Poles to live in London.

The Polish War Memorial, which commemorates the 1902 Polish airmen who lost their lives in World War II fighting as part of the Polish Air Forces in France and Great Britain, was not government sponsored, rather it was erected with the help of contributions from the British public by officers from the Polish Air Force Association, who were among those that had been evacuated from Poland in 1939 following the Nazi-Soviet invasions of Poland, and who could not return to their homeland post-war due to the Soviet occupation. It was designed by the sculptor Mieczyslaw Lubelski who had survived internment in a concentration camp following his role in the Warsaw Uprising. It was not until after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the subsequent fall of the communist regime in Poland and the birth of the democratic Third Polish Republic that a Polish president, Lech Walesa in 1991, visited the memorial, whilst the second presidential visit, by Aleksander Kwaśniewsk in 2004, was in the same year that Poland joined the European Union. As a coda, the British Government’s official memorial to the 500,000 Polish military personnel that fought under British command in World War II and constituted  the fourth largest allied army in the fight against Nazi Germany was unveiled on 19th September this year.

Waldemar Januszczak photographed by Grzegorz Lepiarz

Waldemar Januszczak photographed by Grzegorz Lepiarz

The dichotomy inherent in the Polish War Memorial, of being both an intrinsic part of the fabric of London whilst also tacitly representing successive layers of Polish national and cultural identity is at the heart of the exhibition London Creatives: Polish Roots. Conceived by the London based Polish creative practitioners photographer Grzegorz Lepiarz and filmmaker Bartek Dziadosz, and Anna Tryc-Bromley the Deputy Director of the Polish Cultural Institute in London, the exhibition is presented in conjunction with the Museum of London where it runs from 1st October to 1st November 2009. The exhibition features black and white portraits and accompanying video interviews with the growing number of Londoners of Polish origin, or Poles living in London, who play a key role in the cultural identity of the city, and explores how London and their Polish identity have affected their creativity and  approaches to life and work in the capital. As Wanda Koscia Rostowska, a BBC producer and director specializing in history and current affairs who was born in London to Polish parents says in the trailer for the exhibition,”it’s this culture of tolerance and art, of living alongside each other and compromise, that sets the tone for London and the parameters in which all this variety can thrive and survive.”

Michael Nyman photographed by Grzegorz Lepiarz

Michael Nyman photographed by Grzegorz Lepiarz

The process of being photographed and interviewed for the exhibition also lead the subjects to question their identities. As Adam Ficek, drummer with Babyshambles, who has just released the first album from his solo project Roses Kings Castles, writes in his blog, “it’s quite odd, I’m not Polish, or am I? How do you know? Blood? Place of birth? Parents? I have never considered myself Polish to an extent but I have always had a healthy interest in where my grandparents were born and raised.” Whilst composer Michael Nyman, who was born in the East End and whose grandparents on both sides were Polish Jews who had left Poland for London at the turn of the last century, says in the trailer, “I don’t know how Polish I feel, I don’t know how Jewish I feel, I don’t know how English I feel.”

Featuring three generations, the exhibition also by extension reflects the changes that have brought the subjects to London, be it fleeing persecution by the Nazi’s and the Soviets, the search for freedom of creative expression during the Cold War, or the freedom to study, live, work and collaborate with different nationalities across the member states that accession to the EU has brought.

Zbigniew Pelczynski, emeritus Professor of Political Science at Oxford University who taught the future US President Bill Clinton, was as a teenage volunteer in the Polish Home Army and fought in the Warsaw Uprising, but as a result of the members of the Home Army being demonised by the Soviet Union was not welcome in post-war Poland. Whilst Mira Hamermesh, the award-winning documentary film-maker, writer and artist, was one a group of Jewish teenagers who managed to escape Wilno-Vilnius in World War II for Palestine before coming to London to study at the Slade School of Arts; both her parents died in the Holocaust.

Iwona Blazwick photographed by Grzegorz Lepiarz

Iwona Blazwick photographed by Grzegorz Lepiarz

The representatives of the baby boomer generation born in London to Polish parents include Iwona Blazwick, the director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery, art critic Waldemar Januszczak, and Andrew Czezowski who ran the infamous Punk club The Roxy, before going on to create The Fridge in Brixton.

Andrew Czezowski photographed by Grzegorz Lepiarz

Andrew Czezowski photographed by Grzegorz Lepiarz

Whilst artist Slawa Harasymowicz is indicative of a new generation, as are Lepiarz and Dziadosz themselves. Harasymowicz grew up in Krakow, before coming to London to study at Royal College of Art, from where she graduated in 2006, and has continued to live and work in London. Lepiarz moved to London in 2002 and has since worked with BBC3, Royksopp, Gotan Project, Emiliana Torrini, Storm model agency, and LMVH. With the exhibition he was equally interested in stripping away the layers people project around themselves, as he says, “In the creative fields of music and visual arts, the branding of the person, their ‘image’, becomes an integral part of their life. I wanted to capture the essence of a person’s individuality, within the soulful moments of their silence. I believe that these moments, the ones behind the glamour, are the portraits worth registering.”

Illuminating, intriguing, reflective, and moving, London Creatives: Polish Roots is also both a wonderful celebration of the enduring dynamism and openness of London’s cultural identity but also the resurgence of Polish creative expression that has followed the birth of the new Polish republic, and of course the excitement and innovation of the coalescence of the two; entirely fitting in the build up to the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

London Creatives Polish Roots runs from 1st October to 1st November at Museum of London, London Wall, London EC2

The exhibition is part of Polska Year, running from Spring 2009 to Spring 2010 featuring over 200 projects which showcase contemporary Polish film, theatre, architecture, design, music & fashion.

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London Creatives Polish Roots  www.polishcreatives.org
Grzegorz Lepiarz  www.photogl.com
Museum of London  www.museumoflondon.org.uk
Polish Cultural Institute  www.polishculture.org.uk
Polska Year
www.polskayear.pl

Book Review: Memoirs of a Geezer

The Autobiography of Jah Wobble
Music, Mayhem, Life

(Serpent’s Tail) £12.99

Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams

memoirs-of-a-geezer-cover

Jah Wobble, as he has been dubbed since Sid Vicious’ drunken slurred attempt at saying John Wardle, is one of the infamous ‘four Johns’ who met at Kingsway College of Further Education in North London in 1973. The other three were John Lydon – meeting whom Wobble describes as one of the few “Stanley/Livingstone moments” in his life – Vicious, whose own transformation from John Beverley had come courtesy of Lydon who in turn became Johnny Rotten, and John Gray.

Of the three that became defined by their nicknames, Wobble has been happiest within the skin of his, “the ‘jah’ was  perfect because I was such a big reggae aficionado,” he writes, “I thought that it was perfect, it stood out, and I knew people would never forget it.” Whilst post-Sex Pistols, Lydon’s right to use the name ‘Rotten’ became part of a protracted legal battle with Malcolm McLaren, which was only resolved in Lydon’s favour in 1986, and it could be argued that it was Vicious’ submersion into the character of his nickname, of which Wobble writes, “in terms of twentieth-century iconography Sid’s cartoon-like image is right up there,” that contributed to his untimely end.

Which is not to suggest that the first 50 years of Wobble’s life covered in this book have been plain sailing, as the subtitle underscores they have been full of music, mayhem, and a life very much lived oscillating between the highest highs and lowest lows. The key formative trigger for Wobble to play bass guitar, for which he is most well known, was seeing Bob Marley & the Wailers at the highly influential gigs at the Lyceum in London in 1975, and in particular the rhythm section of Aston and Carlton Barrett. Wobble bought his first bass in 1977, but it was a telephone call early the following year that instigated his musical career when Lydon asked him to join his new band, Public Image Ltd.

PiL (c)Janette Beckmann/Redferns/Getty Images
Martin Atkins, John Lydon, Jah Wobble at Lydon’s Gunter Grove flat  ©Janette Beckmann/Redferns/Getty Images

He played on the first two PiL albums, First Issue and the highly innovative and continuingly inspirational Metal Box, before leaving the band in 1980 to embark on a prolific solo career which has included his bands The Invaders of the Heart and the Human Condition, the album Rising Above Bedlam which was nominated for the inaugural Mercury Music Prize in 1992, losing out to Primal Scream’s Screamadelica. Though Wobble had also played on the latter as part of an equally extensive and eclectic list of collaborations he has undertaken including Sinead O’Connor, Can, Bjork, Baaba Bal, and Brian Eno.

Over the last thirty plus years performing, recording, and writing as a bass player, singer, composer, poet, music journalist, and also through founding his own record company 30 Hertz Records, Wobble has been for better and at times for worse exposed to every facet of the music industry and Memoirs of a Geezer is as much an insider’s story of the seismic changes the industry has been through from Punk to Rave to digital downloads, as a cautionary tale as to how to keep your head above the water of its whirlpool. Which isn’t to say there haven’t been moments when the tide has engulfed him – though he’s been sober now since 1986, his alcoholism contributed to a suicide attempt and the breakdown of his first marriage.

Jah Wobble (c)Graham Jepson
Jah Wobble  ©Graham Jepson

Burnt out by the music industry and in attempt to stabilise his life in 1986 Wobble worked briefly as a cab driver and a courier before getting a job on London Underground – amusingly announcing to a packed rush hour platform at Tower Hill, “I used to be somebody, I repeat, I used to be somebody.” An allusion to the film that is both a favourite and one that he draws parallels with, On the Waterfront,  and Marlon Brando’s character Terry Malloy a promising boxer who is forced to take a dive, and ends up working as a docker surrounded by corruption on all fronts. As this book illustrates Wobble has always stood his ground when faced with anyone or anything with whom he disagreed, in younger days he did not pull his punches and though in later life the punches have become metaphorical they are no less iconoclastic in Memoirs as he tells it exactly as he sees it from Punk, Sex Pistols, McLaren and his PiL band mates through a host of other music and literary figures including Richard Branson, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Iain Sinclair.

It is not only the reverberations of Wobble’s passion for the bass guitar that flow through Memoirs of a Geezer, but also London, and more specifically the East End, his birth place.  Which for forty years, despite a few forays ‘up West’, was not only his home but also provided him with inspirations, challenges, and wake up calls in equal measures, and despite the dramatic changes that it has undergone since the war, which Memoirs vividly charts, a point of stability until eventually that too was irrevocably hindered and he moved to Stockport with his second wife and children. There are flashes throughout Memoirs of a Geezer of another great documenter of London and, if one likes, another dandy geezer, Julian Maclaren-Ross, and in its sense of place and reflection of both sides of the coin of Maclaren-Ross’s most well known and influential writings, Memoirs of the Forties.

Memoirs of a Geezer is an engaging and salutary tale of taking the knocks but refusing to be cowed, a reflection both on the creative processes of making music and the inherent battles in getting that music to wider audiences, and a fascinating and highly evocative cultural history, of people and places many of whom and of which have now changed beyond recognition. But part of the book’s strength is that it is written by a man whose intention is not to document the past and sit back with his pipe and slippers, but whose life has already been so full, that in order to embrace the next half century he needed to download the last, in order to give him a blank canvas, free reign, or what you will, for whatever comes next, which is certain to be just as full of music,  mayhem and life.

Links

Jah Wobble www.30hertzrecords.com
Serpents Tail www.serpentstail.com

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Album Review: Poetry of the Deed – Frank Turner

(Xtra Mile Recordings/Epitaph Records)
On release

By Guy Sangster Adams

poetry-of-the-deed

The promo video for The Road, the rousing first single from Frank Turner’s third studio album, records his successful attempt to play 24 gigs across London in 24 hours and wryly underscores his relentless and extensive worldwide touring schedule over the last two years, supporting The Gaslight Anthem and The Offspring, his numerous festival appearances, and his headline tours which have seen him playing ever larger venues. Predominantly filmed performing in the homes of fans and friends, the video also highlights not only Turner’s amiability and accessibility but also the camaraderie and affection that his nigh on perpetual touring has brought him.

Though, judging from the lyrics of the first half of the album, the success and acclaim that both Turner’s talent and sheer hard work are quite rightly bringing him, are also bringing him criticism from those who feel that he has betrayed his ‘punk’ roots (he was originally the vocalist for hardcore band Million Dead) or negate his right to champion the common good. For me, Poetry of the Deed, as it would released on vinyl, divides into two sides; such is the accomplishment, strength, innovation, of tracks 7 through 13, and such is the rush that one gets listening to what is effectively side two, that it made me need to backtrack as to why the first half did not quite match. In part it is because the lyrical thrust is to angrily rebuff his critics by directly addressing their criticisms, which though that may be valid, doubters are so firmly blown out of the water by the songs of the second side which have a far broader and inventive lyrical sweep, that I cannot help thinking that there is far more mileage in silencing criticisms by, in the words of the title track, “putt[ing] our art where our mouth is.”

frank-turner

Sons of Liberty and The Road are glorious rebel marching songs, exhortations to deconstruct the unreconstructed, and unlock personal freedom by being open to the widest vistas of not only your own but the experiences of others, and not to give up; as the mandolin backed reprise of The Road has it, “I face the horizon everywhere I go, I face the horizon the horizon is my home.” Of course, depending on which way one looks the horizon can be as much where one’s come from as where one’s going, and the James Taylor-esque, Faithful Son is a  beautiful and poignant reflection on living up to, or turning away from, the dreams and designs one’s parents put on one’s life, and in turn those that one puts on one’s own life; a song that is surely set to become a standard. Richard Divine is a real stylistic surprise – but one that definitely works – darkly gripping flash fiction, that joins the canon of third person songs; Eleanor Rigby, Arnold Layne, David Watts… Whilst the allusion filled Our Lady of the Campfires, and Journey of the Magi, which close the album equally underscore that when Turner’s passion, erudition, and musicality coalesce, it is poetry indeed, broadening all our horizons.

Links
Frank Turner
www.frank-turner.com
www.myspace.com/frankturner

Xtra Mile Recordings/Epitaph Records
www.xtramilerecordings.com
www.epitaph.com

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Film Review: Slacker Uprising

(Optimum Home Entertainment)
DVD on release

By Guy Sangster Adams

slacker-uprising-pack-shot

Predominantly due to the reputation smearing advertisements organised by the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth (a coalition of Vietnam veterans formed entirely with that objective) and John Kerry’s delay in responding to their allegations, the lead in the opinion polls that he had enjoyed over George W. Bush throughout the campaign for the 2004 US presidential elections had been completely eroded in the closing months. With five weeks left before polling day filmmaker Michael Moore, fearing four more years of the Bush administration, set off on the Slacker Uprising Tour. Through which, with events on college campuses in 60 cities across 20 key battleground states, he aimed to motivate as many of the 50% of the electorate who do not normally vote to register to do so, and in particular 18 to 29 year old Slackers.

With his well judged promotional tool of giving out packs of Ramen Noodles (Slacker sustenance) and Fruit of the Loom underwear (for Slackers too slack to do laundry) to anyone registering to vote, Moore’s tour not only quickly hit the headlines but also lead the Republican party in Michigan to attempt legal action against him, alleging that he was attempting to bribe voters; a lawsuit that was thrown out by the District Attorney’s office as they decided Moore was encouraging people to vote, not telling them who to vote for.

But the serious heart of the tour, and by extension this film, is Moore’s desire to reaffirm, reassert, and protect the rights enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution – freedom of belief, of the press, of speech, and “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Which he felt that in the wake of 9/11 the Bush administration had seriously undermined, not least with the Patriot Act, as he evocatively explored in Fahrenheit 9/11: The Temperature at Which Freedom Burns. As Moore passionately declares in Slacker Uprising, there is a “reason why the founders of this country called it the First Amendment, because without an informed public the democracy ceases to exist.”

slacker-uprising-ramen-noodles-2

In seeking to redress the balance, Slacker Uprising is also rich in impassioned and poignant erudition from the array of musicians and actors (including Steve Earle, Eddie Vedder, REM, Joan Baez, and Roseanne Barr), diplomats, military personnel returning from Iraq, and the families of those who did not return, who joined the tour. As the tour gathered momentum it is fascinating to see just how troubled the Republican Party became by it (but then the Bush administration had been stung by Farenheit 9/11); Republican businessmen in various states attempted to inhibit the tour by offering colleges anything from $25,000 to $100,000 to cancel Moore’s events.

Watching Slacker Uprising now, even though one knows that as Moore says it “is the story of one filmmaker’s failed attempt to turn things around,” it is impossible not to get caught up in the momentum of the battle – to really believe that Bush would be voted out of office in 2004. Though undoubtedly some of the ability to relax whilst watching the film stems from it now being less than a year since Obama ousted Bush, and hope reignited remains largely intact. Equally it is clear that although Moore terms it a failed attempt, the Slacker Uprising Tour played a large part in engendering the beginning of the end by motivating disillusioned sectors of the electorate, and highlighting that change was achievable; 54 of the 62 stops on the tour went to Kerry, a record 21 million young people voted, and the Republican victory was the smallest in US history: one state (Ohio) and one hundred thousand votes.

slacker-uprising-michael-moore2

But Slacker Uprising carries a message that should be borne in mind not only across US politics, but also by other nations, most eloquently expressed in the film by actor Viggo Mortensen: “When we as Americans see ourselves as different and superior to peoples from other nations as George W Bush with his go it alone agenda would have us do, we are not freeing ourselves or anyone else, we are not respecting ourselves or anyone else, we are rather enslaving ourselves by willing building the wall of our own prison one ignorant brick after another. It’s not a question of being liked by the world, it’s a question of belonging in the world.”

Links

Michael Moore: michaelmoore.com
Optimum Releasing: www.optimumreleasing.com

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extract from The Migraine Hotel by Luke Kennard

luke-kennard2

Luke Kennard is a poet, critic, dramatist and pugilist. He is compassionate, but prone to anxiety and bleak introspection. Many have called him polite and quite funny, but add that he suffers from a tendency towards constant nervous laughter and an apparently involuntary rictus of disdain. His poetry and criticism have appeared in Stride Magazine, Sentence, Echo:Location, The Tall Lighthouse Review, Reactions 4, Orbis, 14 Magazine, The Flying Post, Exultations & Difficulties. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 2005 and was shortlisted for Best Collection in the 2007 Forward Poetry Prizes. He is quite tall.

Computer Club, a new, previously unpublished work of short fiction by Luke Kennard may be read in issue 3 of the print edition of Plectrum.

The Migraine Hotel is published by Salt Publishing

My Friend

My friend, your irresponsibility and your unhappiness delight
me. Your financial problems and your expanding waist-line are a
constant source of relief. I am so happy you drink more than I do
and that you don’t seem to enjoy it as much. When I hear you
being arrogant and argumentative, my heart leaps. Your nihilism
is fast becoming the richest source of meaning in my life and it is
my pleasure to watch you speaking harshly to others. When you
gossip about our mutual acquaintances I sigh with satisfaction.
Your childish impatience delights me. The day you threw a
tantrum in the middle of the supermarket was the happiest day
of my life. Sometimes you say something which reveals you to be
rather stupid – and I love you then, but not as much as I love you
when you are callously manipulative. Your promiscuity is like a
faithful dog at my side. When you talk about your petty affairs,
you try to make them sound grand and important – I cherish
your gaucheness and your flippancy. At times it seems your are
actually without a sense of humour : I bless the day I met you.
You bully people younger and weaker than you – and when others
tell me about this, I am pleased. Sometimes I think you are
incapable of love – and I am filled with the contentment of waking
on a Saturday morning to realise I don’t have to go to work. I
often suspect that you do not even like me and my laughter
overflows like water from a blocked cistern.

The Dusty Era

for S.F.

One day he was walking behind her with several colleagues
from the Embassy when the hairgrip fell out of her hair
(bronze, decorated with three parrots) and clattered to the
pavement. It was Stockholm, and high winter. She was deep
in conversation with a girlfriend and didn’t hear. His colleagues
chuckled and continued to admire her legs.
They walked five blocks before she noticed her hair around her
shoulders, patted the back of her head and stopped walking.
She turned and looked first at the pavement and then up,
where she caught his eye. She looked hurt, as if something in
his face had apologised for conspiring against her with lesser
men (he responded with an apologetic grimace) then she
took her girlfriend’s arm and walked on, hurriedly.
Two summers later, looking for cufflinks for the reception, he
found the hairgrip in a pawn shop in Östersund. An event
Grabes describes as, ‘One of those overdetermined little
moments that gradually conspired to snap his reason like a
chicken bone and force him into organised religion, more
credulous than even the altar boy.’ (ibid, p. 136) It should be
noted that Grabes was one of the men walking with him that
winter evening in 1956, and that he was, in all probability,
quite attracted to E. himself – a fact that throws Grabes’s
more spiteful observations into relief.
He stood with a hip-flask, complaining in the port, a parcel of
Christmas presents under one arm. Each day contains a hundred
subtle chasms. You can betray someone by not smiling,
murder them by not saying ‘Mm,’ at the appropriate points
in the conversation.
Years later he sat on the swingset in the playpark, an unopened
letter from his daughter in his inside pocket. He was throwing
pine-cones at the rusty ice-cream van. ‘You should be
banned from describing anyone,’ he said out loud in the condensation.
Two of his would-be future biographers crashed
into each other on the autobahn and were killed instantly.
One of them was me, hence my omniscience.
The Embassy was dustier after that – it came to be known as the
Age of Dust or the Dusty Era. A fault on the line made the
intercom pop sporadically like a man about to say something
difficult.

Variations On Tears

I realise you never cry because the last of your tears have been
anthologised as a Collected and you can’t stand the idea of appendices.
But what am I to make of the demonstrators playing cards
with your daughters ? Have they betrayed your estate ? Go tell
the children to gather their strength for the inevitable backlash.
I realise you never cry because each one of your tears contains a
tiny stage on which a gorgeous, life-affirming comedy is always
playing and it cheers you up the minute you begin. But what am
I to make of the bare interior of your house ? You’re waiting for
inspiration, right ? Go tell the children to gather dust on the
shelves of archive halls.
I realise you never cry because to do so would be to admit defeat
to your harlequin tormentors – wringing their hands at the sides
of their eyes and making bleating sounds – and you don’t want
to give them the satisfaction. But what am I to make of the Make
Your Own Make Your Own ______ Kit, the first instruction of which
is ‘Have a good idea for something’ ? Could I have not worked
that out for myself ? Go tell the children to gather followers for
our new religion.
I realise you never cry because you are a total arsehole who cannot
even muster enough compassion to feel sorry for himself. But
what am I to make of your red, blotchy eyes when, as your pharmacist,
I know for a fact you are not allergic to anything ? Have
you, after all, been crying ? Go tell the children to gather my
remains from the ditch and look out for the white bull who, I’m
told, is still at large.
I realise you never cry because the last time you cried four separate
murders were reported on the evening news, each one more
grisly and inexplicable than the last, and you incorrectly assume
there was a correlation. But what am I to make of this terrifying
breakfast ? Are you trying to get rid of me ? Go tell the children
to gather the farmers from their taverns to gather the new crop
of thorns.
I realise you never cry because when you do, you are beset by
birds with long tails and brightly coloured plumage and sharp,
hook-like beaks who are uncontrollably drawn towards salt. But
what am I to make of your statement, ‘The world is not built on
metaphors’ ? What exactly do you think the statement ‘The
world is not built on metaphors’ is ? Go tell the children to
gather in the clearing and await further instruction.

And I Saw

A false prophet slapped in the face by a wave ;
A woman screaming at her clarinet,
‘What would you have me do, then, drown you, too ?’
Remaindered novels washed up on the shore.
A cat, baffled by a drowsy lobster, jogged
Over the pebbles towing a little carriage.
And the cat didn’t say anything – because
It was a cat. And the carriage was not full
Of tiny men, a watermelon or an
Assembly of diplomatic mice
Because the carriage was an example
Of man’s cruelty in the name of research.
The cat belonged to a behaviourist
And had been raised in an environment
Of only black horizontal lines. So
It saw my sprinting across the beach
To dismantle its harness as a whirl
Of fenceposts and orange rubber balls
And was gone faster than the better idea
You had a moment ago. Leaving me
Only the seagull’s dreadful anthem :
‘I just want to tell you how sad we all feel.’
The airplane trail made the cloud a wick –
I thought I saw it starting to burn down
And I knew we had been lucky to avoid
Disaster so far. I shared a bench with
A man who wanted to redefine us
As victims of one kind or another
Instead of whatever names we’d chosen :
Steven Victim, Jenny Victim, Franklin
Victim. I disagreed but couldn’t speak.
He ate raw mushrooms from a paper bag.
In fact it was a computer game called
The Enormous Pointlessness of it All III.
When you are raised on computer games
You grow accustomed to saying ‘I’m dead,’
Several times a day. Which is not to say
We are the first generation to feel
So comfortable with our mortality.

© Luke Kennard 2009
Plectrum – The Cultural Pick

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Poetry by Kieron Winn

Kieron Winn photographed by Eleanor Sepanski

Kieron Winn photographed by Eleanor Sepanski

Kieron Winn was educated at Tonbridge School, where he later briefly taught, and at Christ Church, Oxford, where he was awarded a doctorate for a thesis on Herbert Read and T. S. Eliot. His poems have appeared in magazines including Agenda, The Dark Horse, The London Magazine, Oxford Magazine, Oxford Poetry, Poetry Review, The Rialto and The Spectator, and in a short film about his work on BBC1. A selection of his poems appears in the Carcanet anthology Oxford Poets 2007. He was awarded the University of Oxford’s English Poem on a Sacred Subject Prize in 2007. He lives in Oxford, where he is a freelance teacher.

Read a selection of new, previously unpublished poems by Kieron Winn in issue 3 of the print edition of Plectrum.

A British Veteran

A hand that held a rifle on the climb
To Passchendaele now bears a bubbling flute.
His hand is strong and rubicund, his frame
Mobile and actual as he toasts his eight

Australian great-great-grandsons; woollen cloth
Is covering his body now as then.
That hand will soon slip under the stream of myth.
No one thinks Agincourt was fought by men.

(Author’s Note:  The poem is based on Harry Patch, the last British soldier of World War I, who died on July 25th 2009; and on Claude Choules, a former mariner, who lives in Australia and is now the last surviving veteran of the British forces in World War I.)

© Kieron Winn 2009

Youth

(remembering West Kent Youth Theatre)

Springy, with bright but half-inhabited skin,
Scarcely in time, still waiting to begin,
Travelling half a dozen to a car,
Heading towards some vague but certain star,
We ran together with a single nature,
Unset, with fewer props, as if one creature,
And after every party fell asleep
In house or barn in a sprawling animal heap.
Our charm to adults was the hope of some
Lineless utopia that will never come.
Now almost all of us have sprung apart,
And rich but private chambers form each heart.

© Kieron Winn 2008, originally published in The Interpreter’s House number 38 (2008)

The Great Old Poet in Bermuda

Swimming, as ever, helps with all my ailments.
My tender wife is singing in the bedroom.

I have become a classic. I look at my book
And contemplate changing the species of a crab.

The spirit sleeps in such places. Let me enjoy
My yellow silk pyjamas, I am no Dante.

My heart is going: I would enjoy some sherbet.
Later today we may go out to buy some.

In this afterlife I need not exert myself.
Now I have done my work. I whistle and live.

© Kieron Winn 2006, originally published in Oxford Magazine number 248 (2006)