Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Sangria


Other than straw hats, Comet Gain, wild strawberries and bare feet in the white sand, the best thing about summer is Sangria. To make the perfect one, you will need:

1 litre of dry red wine (in my experience, Merlot works perfectly)
1,5 cups of orange juice
1 cup of pomegranate juice
0,5 cup of cognac
1,5 cups of club soda (nothing wrong with a colourless soft drink like Sprite)
0,25 cup of sugar
+ slices of peaches and apples and oranges or whatever else you will find at hand

And music, of course. "I'm Not Worrying" by Clarence Williams & His Kings would be a good start:




Monday, 19 June 2017

travelling notes (xxix)


The day you tell yourself you won't travel somewhere because some sexually unsatisfied Muslim loser will crash a lorry into you - well, that is the day you should stop travelling all together. 


Thursday, 15 June 2017

THE SAME ONLY WORSE by Little Love and the Friendly Vibes


At this point in time it isn't easy to praise music for good songwriting. Harder still is to do it justice. Contemporary art needs a gimmick or at the very least some sort of mass appeal (ironically, modern mass appeal could be nothing more than a gimmick). So - how do you make a case for, say, Little Love and the Friendly Vibes?

I got to this band via the Plimptons and GUMS! - two Scottish bands whose back (there's nothing but 'back' at this point) catalogue is well worth exploring. By turns tuneful and rowdy (and twee - mostly in the case of GUMS!), they were the perfect proof that the amount of good music you will never hear is depressingly huge.

So then. Little Love and the Friendly Vibes (link here).




To paraphrase the excellent album title, it's more of the same - but different. The punk edge is obvious, otherwise it's great melodies drenched in that unmistakably playful attitude you get in the better parts of Scotland. The high points are, indeed, very high, and the insanely catchy 'hits' like "Jealous" and "Talk To Me" will not leave your head for days.

I'm not crazy about the Sex Pistols-lite singing which gets blatantly excessive in a few places (the overly simplistic "Team Leader" comes to mind), but as long as they can write a beauty like "After Hours" or the title song - I'm all right.  Even if that does highlight the fact that this is a bloody talented group of people in search of identity.

In the meantime, you won't convince me that "More Than You Can Stand" has a stronger tune than classic Comet Gain (and I love Comet Gain). Little Love and the Friendly Vibes, however, are more fun than wistful. And try as I might, I can't hold that against them.


Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Beauty of a Blue Jersey


Sitting on the fence is the worst kind of crime. It's not simply that you fail to express yourself and, consequently, make something of your life. It's much worse than that: it's unimaginative. And, as Christopher Hitchens wrote in the great Hitch-22, the biggest sin in the world is to be boring.

I've always been bothered by people who claim they don't care who wins the game. It has always felt like a waste of time, of spirit, of human effort. I'm moved to ask, time and time again: so why do it in the first place? Why watch the game? Why beat the purpose in the dullest of ways? 

Take a side. Express an opinion, for Christ's sake, don't hide behind something as shallow as 'well, I'm doing it for the beauty of the game'. The beauty of the game is its competition. The beauty of the game is someone's victory and someone's loss. And if you lose, well, in the long run you will at least be able to say that you gave it all. Which in itself is a top prize. 

Support is a responsibility. Not even to who you support and, perhaps, not even to yourself. Rather, it's a responsibility to yourself as a tiny little kid who entered the room in the middle of a match and decided, for no particular reason at all, that he would support the team in blue jerseys. 

...And cried afterwards, cried beautifully, when the team in blue jerseys lost. 


Sunday, 4 June 2017

travelling notes (xxviii)


Waking up in a new place is a lot like raising your head after a short midday rest on the grass. For a second or two, the world looks either unfamiliar or strikingly serene. You can lose sanity or you can write The Wasteland during that gap. You can do both. It's a moment of divine intervention for those willing to notice. 


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Album of the Month: IN SPADES by The Afghan Whigs


May. 

It's incredible what passes for good music these days. People are ready to trick you into anything. Some claim Mac DeMarco is a talent of laidback, introspective sort. He isn't. Some say Perfume Genius hasn't committed a career suicide having evolved beyond the raw, piano-based debut. He has. Some bring up Amanda Palmer. Don't. 

May (no pun intended) has been a poor month overall. Slowdive cannot survive on nostalgic memories alone and there's just something lacking about Paul Weller's post-80s songwriting. Some vital chord. Something effortless. Greg Dulli, on the other hand, has that chord tight between his teeth and is writing some of his best songs in these post-reunion days of the 21st century.

Following a whole month of active listening, I would say that In Spades is a better record than 2014's already excellent Do To The Beast. I'm continuously intrigued by the sheer songwriting depth. Raw yet elaborate. Bruised one second, delicate the next, intermittently powerful. You simply cannot deny the wounded ecstasy of "Toy Automatic" or the strings propelling "The Spell" or the understated glory of the piano in "I Got Lost". "Birdland", too, is something else. 




Occasionally it verges on overproduced. Dulli's emotional thrust, however, inflicts the necessary restraint. Quite simply, In Spades is rock music with a tortured edge. 

The Afghan Whigs. There has always been something deeply uncomfortable about that name. The two words are bad enough on their own yet putting them together makes it a fucking mess. Not that Greg Dulli would mind. That or the cheap artwork, blatantly inconsistent with the music. But who would care, or dare to remember, when this is some of the most intriguing songwriting you will hear all year.


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Crazy Clown Time


Strange is not science. Or if it is, it would take more time to handle than the Tower of Hanoi that some tireless priest is still trying to solve. 

It takes finesse. And when it's fake, you know it's fake. Sometimes it comes with blood and robots and bells and whistles, but it's shallow and has to be explained. Westworld wouldn't work if it didn't have to be explained. 

Strange is disappearing because no one wants to be unsettled anymore. Strange has to be based on artistic vision, it has to be compelling, it has to come from deep down and what do you have to offer if deep down you simply do not have it?.. You can't just do it and hope for the best.

Lynch understands what most people (who would probably never get lost in a film like Inland Empire without a wish to get out) cannot allow themselves to understand: if you go strange, you have to go beyond strange. That way, you would at least get a glimpse.

It's crazy clown time, again, one where the clown is also one hell of an artist. I would give a lot for a whole new season of that. It's a miracle I didn't have to.