Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A busy and sociable few days ended up with me going to see American hopefuls "Band of Horses" at The Thekla last night. I picked up the album at Christmas after catching them on TV via the Jools Holland show and then hearing the record at a friend’s house. It's a time of year when I often get a little bored with music and go on the search for new things, I well remember the winter of 1978 when I finally "got" punk and new wave and then a few years later when I realised that Hip-Hop was fascinating and exciting music.

When I lived at home with my mum, she would have to suffer my latest musical obsessions. What was the poor woman thinking in 1981 when I subjected her to repeated plays of the wonderful "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel" whilst I tried to impress upon her the merits of the revolutionary process of making records from other records. She bore it all with good grace as she did when I discovered the intoxicating world of Bulgarian open throat singing and then moved onto Tom Waits.

Anyway back to Band of Horses, after a week or so of heavy play, I started to turn against the album. There are a couple of terrific songs on it but the overall effect is of a record which promises more than it can deliver. In hindsight I think that I was curious about the way the look of the band - all tattoos, grubby caps and sallow skin beneath the mandatory beards, seemed to be at odds with the sweet sounds they were producing. Although they looked like they would smash you to a pulp with a tyre jack if you wandered into the bar they were frequenting, from the sound of them they would be more likely to buy you a nice camomile tea. Having spent a little time in there company last night, and I was standing so close to the keyboard player that I could have helped him out with any of those tinkly high notes, they appear to be charming fellows, and I can see them being huge in a few years time. However much like the record, they didn't quite work for me.

On Sunday afternoon we ventured out to see the latest film from Michel Gondry "Be Kind, Rewind". As well as directing some of the most interesting music video's ever made he was also the director of the classic "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind" and the glorious "Science of Sleep" probably our favourite film of recent years. I'm not the biggest fan of Jack Black, so was a little concerned that he was in the film and opening 20 minutes or so appeared to be a little forced. Gradually the film relaxed into its wonderfully loopy premise, allowing Monsieur Gondry to bring his marvellous talent for creating brilliant Heath Robinson style low budget effects and heartfelt whimsy. There are some magical moments; I particularly fell for one scene, which shows the locals watching themselves on the big screen in a darkened room. The joy on the faces of the people as they get their moment of fame whilst "the man" waits outside to break all their hearts was very touching.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What a joy it is to have BBC4, last night we the treat of watching 3 fascinating music related programmes, a profile of Jacques Brel, a fascinating look at world of Scottish music which was inspire by the wonderful Postcard Records and finally a show looking at a former star of Postcard, Edwyn Collins and his inspiring battle to overcome the debilitating effects of a brain haemorrhage. How can BBC4 be so good and BBC3 so bad, maybe it’s just my age.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We took the short walk to The Orpheus cinema last night to see Sweeney Todd, the latest cinematic marriage between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, which of course also features Mr Burton’s real wife Helena Bonham Carter. Now I’m a huge fan of the work of Mr Burton but I felt that the claustrophobic nature of the film made it less of a visual treat than is usual for him. That’s not too say that it’s not an enjoyable film, which it is, for me it doesn’t quite hit the magnificent heights of some of his previous works.

A couple of weeks ago the postman knocked on our door early one morning, an unusual moment as along with everybody else I would imagine the vast majority of the post that we receive are slim notes inviting us to avail ourselves of a fabulous low interest loan or to take on more TV channels than any sane person could possibly wish to view. On this occasion though, he was clutching a huge sack of goodies which those nice people at McSweeney’s had sent across the Atlantic Ocean for me.

It was one of their excellent end of year collections of previously published items, it included an old issue of The Believer magazine, one of the regular quarterly collections – which intriguingly came with a free comb! Just the thing for us literary dandies I suppose. Also included was a collected highlight of the early issues of the McSweeney’s quarterlies, some free temporary tattoos and a novel by Yannick Murphy entitled Here They Come. It’s interesting description of a young girl growing up in an unidentified part of New York in the 1970’s.

Chaos and confusion are the order of the day in the novel and it’s a stark reminder of how much the city has changed since that squalid time. Indeed an interesting point was made in The Guardian this week by up and coming NYC band Vampire Weekend. Their music is a million miles away from the rough and tumble of legendary New York bands like The Ramones, The Velvet Underground or even The Stokes, that’s because the Big Apple is now a place that people want to live in as it’s a safe, comfortable exclusive (if that’s possible in a city of over 8 million inhabitants) place in which to live and bring up a family. Sadly that does mean that it may start to lose that frisson of excitement that the slightly edgy street scene used to offer. If everyone who lives there has a well-paid, sensible job where do the innovators live and work?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yes, yes, yes we did come back from Glasgow, although I’ve spent most of the time in bed since we came home.

Glasgow was as ever a wonderful experience 4 great gigs, knowing people wherever we went, great accommodation, great curry, a visit to the GFT to see the gripping “No Country for Old Men, great record shopping what more could we want?

It’s odd that many people in England still give us the “Glasgow! Why would you go there?” look. We just find it be the most fun, friendly, welcoming place, packed with interest and surprise on every corner.

Having arrived back in Bristol last Monday tea time, I didn’t leave the house until Saturday morning, having been struck down, finally, by the flu bug which has zipping around me since Xmas. I finally managed to make it the shops at the round to pick up some bread and a paper, the odd thing was that the road appeared to be about as twice as long as it was previously!

We did manage to catch up with some friends and their excitable child in the picture postcard Cotswold’s yesterday lunchtime before dashing back to Bristol in order for me to DJ at the American Music Club gig on The Thekla. Have to say that the band were in fine form, much improved on their gig at Fiddlers a couple of years ago. Sadly whilst I was ill, I missed the Stars Gig at the same venue, Orynthia still went along and it sound like I missed a pretty good night. Lovely person that she is, she returned home with a flower and a CD for me.

Talking of Orynthia, it’s 21 years ago today that we were married. 21 years, some people aren’t that old you know. How can that be? It’s gone very, very quickly.