Sunday, 19 November 2017

Axes out

I'm just wondering... These people who dismiss the new album by Morrissey with such self-important vigour - are they the very same ones who call you sick if you say Kevin Spacey is a great actor?

Because I think they are.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

travelling notes (xliii)

There's a lot to be said for Riga. The wine in the record store. The hidden corners of the river. The Soviet past, lovingly assimilated. Etc. And yet - forget about the trivia. In actual fact, it's all about The Left Door Bar and its Alchemical cocktail. Without a shadow of a doubt - the single most perfect drink I've had in my life.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Four-Letter Word

Just how did it happen, exactly? And why?

Ten years ago, when you used the word 'hype' (and you rarely did, because it's one of the most tasteless words in existence), you meant bullshit. You meant crap. You meant overrated rubbish. 

These days, every poor soul with seven followers to their name puts the word in pointless caps, adds a million exclamation marks and, crucially, means something totally opposite. 

This offends me. Nothing screams louder about the sheer insincerity of our times than this four-letter word. 

Ten years ago, you appealed to the content, and thus decried everything that may have looked presentable and well-advertised but had a huge hole inside. Like those albums by Razorlight that were on every wall in London in the summer of 2006 (people actually gave a damn about Razorlight, at some point). These days, you appeal to the shell. Presentation is all that matters and so hype is good since the actual content pales in comparison with the blandest of Razorlight records. 

As Ian McEwan puts it in his latest novel Nutshell, "These are new times. Perhaps they are ancient". The phrasing here is phenomenal. Because 'ancient' doesn't mean 'old'. It means 'primitive'. 

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Album of the Month: KEN by Destroyer

Meanwhile, in a world of unicorns and tooth fairies... 

Things are like people. You have to live with them first to have an idea of what they are worth. Otherwise, you could either miss out or make a fool of yourself. Maybe both. Which is why I have always viewed it as tragic - how quickly people are losing the art of living with a record. 

Dan Bejar is a man who doesn't bother with immediacy. He dropped the notion back in 2011, amid the jazzy, narcotic heights of Kaputt, and hasn't looked back ever since. By my count, only the 'old-school', infectious "Cover From The Sun" could find its way onto Streethawk: A Seduction or, whisper it, a New Pornographers album.

Everything else doesn't care if you like it or not (a rare quality in this day and age), but reveals itself anew with each listen. Take your time, give it a glass of wine, and God knows what free-form lyrical delights ken will throw up. Melodic swirls, too. Moody undertones. Even "Sky's Grey" will grow on you, which is some feat for a song that is perfect to begin with. 

Also, I loved it that Dan Bejar was inspired by Suede's "The Wild Ones" to record this album. Apparently, the original title for one of England's greatest ballads (Bejar's words, and who would argue) was "Ken". Inspiration works in mysterious ways, but as long as the 'working on the new Oliver Twist I've been' line is so deliriously majestic... It's a line to live with, not simply to pass by.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

travelling notes (xlii)

I look at Chinese tourists with bemusement. Wherever they go, they drag their Chinese bubble with them, and stay inside, and never leave it. They eat their noodles in the wine-smelling streets of Toledo. They queue to Metropolitan, then click before looking. They never walk alone and they always walk through you. They are ghosts - I like to think that so as not to get completely bored by them. 

Friday, 20 October 2017


These days, it doesn't happen too often that a song strikes me as perfect. Good? Yes. Great? Maybe. Perfect? Don't delude yourself. In the whole of 2017, only Jarvis Cocker's "The Other Side", Peter Perrett's "Hard To Say No" and Destroyer's "Sky's Grey" would qualify. 

And Morrissey:

"Jacky's Only Happy When She's Up On The Stage" is perfect, which is all the more impressive because the sound quality is understandably poor (in fact, it pains me to imagine how good it will sound in late November).

The song itself is vicious pop music, with Morrissey relishing every moment. There is no mystery as to who Jacky is, and if you have any doubts, the final chant will leave no room for imagination. Frankly, it doesn't get much better than this.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Скетчи про Минск. Комплексы.

Есть города, которым наплевать на то, что вы о них думаете. Париж, например. Лиссабон. Вы можете любить их, вы можете их ненавидеть, но каждое лицо из вагона метро и каждый фонарный столб на пути в отель будут говорить: "Ну, это ваше дело". 

Помню одну русскую пару, которую зачем-то встретил в Версале (русские пары всегда встречаются "зачем-то"). Они кисло ходили по дворцу и кисло повторяли: "У нас, в Петергофе, лучше". Было забавно. Как забавно то, что многие всерьез воспринимают вопрос французского бармена о том, понравился ли им фирменный коктейль. На самом деле, он знает, что понравился. Он знает, что сделал его хорошо. Или ему просто все равно. 

Минск - другое дело. Этот город не уверен в себе и страшно закомплексован. Ему не наплевать на то, что вы о нем думаете. Он как мнительный музыкант - приходит домой, бросает флейту под стол и нервно читает рецензии на себя. 

Но слушая живого Кшиштофа Пендерецкого на прошлой неделе, я вдруг понимаю, что ничего подобного не услышал бы ни в одном другом городе мира. Безумный авангард его Концерта для фортепиано с оркестром бьется о стенки скромного зала и валторнами вырывается наружу. Париж проглотил бы все это в один вечер, с красным вином или без него. 

А тут...

Это мимолетное чувство, и совсем скоро оно забудется. Из-за моста появится иностранец и по-английски спросит, куда пойти в этом городе, и ты не будешь знать ответа. Пендерецкий больше не приедет в Минск. Любое лицо в вагоне метро будет расплываться немым вопросом: "Ну как? Ну как? Ну как?" Любой фонарный столб будет краснеть от смущения. Это мимолетное чувство, но мне кажется, что оно было.