Tuesday, 31 March 2015


Several days ago I was asked about a place where you can’t write. A situation that blocks all creative process and art becomes impossible. I kept thinking about this for a week. After all, when you have to do it – you will do it. There’s no force in Hell or in Heaven that could stop you. You can write when you're exhausted, when you have a fever, when you wake up in the middle of the night and your heart is so heavy you have to play “Higgs Boson Blues” to kill those palpitations.

Art has been created everywhere, in every situation imaginable.

In the streets, by dead people, at five o’clock in the morning, in the gutter, by animals, in prison cells, in freezing cold, on a death row, in labour camps, during periods of desperate depression, by broken-hearted people, by people writing in blood, by children, while making love, on trains destined to be crashed, in the face of inevitable failure, with no money at all, in desolate houses with empty walls, in desolate houses with no walls at all, to the sound of atomic rain and to intense, deadly silence.

Today in the morning I finally got my answer. I woke up, had my breakfast, went out and began walking on the slippery pavement. I saw worms, millions of them. Like tiny red ribbons that were – somehow – alive. I walked carefully, thinking about how not to step on them. After all, they really were alive and how can people walk and not notice. And then I realised I cannot think about anything else. I cannot think about writing or anything remotely connected with art. 

Because there are all these worms, and I can’t step on them.

Monday, 30 March 2015

These New Puritans

Can you say that a song is like a girl? Does it have – as Robyn Hitchcock sang in the 80s – legs, arms and Heaven? Be cynical, dismiss this nonsense all you want, but there is one particular song I can’t stop thinking about.

For all big words and strong epithets, 21st century doesn’t produce much in terms of timelessness. It’s all one big fucking grave. Things die. Things die, and you bury them. When something genuinely timeless appears, you will find yourself covered in doubt. You will need time. Maybe years, maybe decades.

Back in 2013 These New Puritans released an album I dismissed, did not much care for and fell in love with. It was called Field Of Reeds. There’s one particular song lasting over 9 minutes, “V (Island Song)”, and it’s the album’s centerpiece. Decidedly moody, pleasantly long-winded, endlessly intriguing, it is so artsy it should stifle itself to death. Not so. It’s breathtaking.

I’ve heard stories: These New Puritans are pointless live. Poor musicians, bloodless human beings. Truth is: I don’t give a damn. In “V (Island Song)” they created something special. A record that will be spoken of in years to come. It’s something to admire. To contemplate. You would hang it on a museum wall. 

So perhaps not like a girl, no. But a painting. 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Favourite albums vs. favourite albums

I have once read a bizarre article about how your favourite albums are not really your favourite albums. Records you choose for an imaginary ‘desert island’ list or some such thing are a delusion. You think too much about your choices. The choice is corrupted, narrowed down by fake concepts and ideas.

The night was warm and beautiful. The girl smiled. Anything.

Well, what do you think. I had a chance to prove this to myself the other day as I was transferring my CD collection to a new apartment. During my first round I had a chance to take just 10 CDs. I studied my rows of records and tried to think what it was that I most wanted. Interestingly, it only took seconds. I just grabbed them. 10 albums.

Scott 4 by Scott Walker
Grace by Jeff Buckley
Born Sandy Devotional by The Triffids
Pink Moon by Nick Drake
Boatman’s Call by Nick Cave
Bawlers, Brawlers & Bastards by Tom Waits
16 Lovers Lane by The Go-Betweens
Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
Soul Journey by Gillian Welch
The Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks

The exciting bit is that only Go-Betweens and Triffids would feature in what you would call a ‘desert island’ list. 

Well, what do you think. I can’t stop listening to these albums now. The only trouble with a list like this is that you need something special in your life to find out what your real favourite albums are.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

A novel once published

He looked like Kingsley Amis, that’s what caught my eye. British aristocracy dragged through years of drunkenness and bad politics. He told me he was 78.

Peter. Name that didn’t suit him. Name that seemed too tame for him and his velvet jacket and his hair brushed back. In those three evenings we spent together in a secluded pub outside Whitley Bay, he taught me how to drink ginger beer so that I could feel the taste and not my blazing larynx.

I did not say much about myself, but then he never asked. “Linguistics?” he said, confused but indifferent. He didn’t care about linguistics, and frankly speaking, neither did I. He wanted to talk and I wanted stories. I was ready to be his listener, ready to go two extra miles to reach the pub, ready to put up with his awful teeth (rare, black, sharp) and the fact that he was lying.

Novel published in 1969? With a story like that? I saw those lies in the way his fingers trembled every time he raised his glass or fumbled for coins. But still I listened to the plot of a book he said he had written years ago. The book was about two lesbians falling for one guy. Lots of twists and turns in the story he clearly knew how to tell. The story was strangely fascinating.

For three days straight, I came to the pub at 7 and left just before midnight. On seeing me, Peter approached my table, sat down, and began talking. “Two ginger beers”, he said. “I’m buying”. Then, after another five-hour session was over (three pints each), he asked me to come again tomorrow. And I went home, slightly drunk but mostly intrigued. Here was an old man telling me stories about two lesbians trying to win love of a straight guy. Bizarre. In those days I fell asleep dreaming of him, of the pub, of those two girls.

And then, on day four, when I came to hear the next few chapters of the story, Peter wasn’t there. The place looked deserted except for a couple of teenagers discussing latest Premier League matches. I must have looked so genuinely frustrated that the pub owner asked me if I was not actually waiting for an old man whose name was Peter. “Yes”, I replied. “I am”. He explained to me that Peter went missing again. Like it often happened. “Here for a week, gone for a month”. Well, I didn't have so much time as I was leaving for London in a few days.

“Ginger beer?” the man asked.

“No”, I said, still trying to cope with my disappointment. “Tell me, did he really write that book?”

“What, you mean the novel? Peter? Yes, he sure did. I read it”.

He noticed my confusion.

“Ah I see. That’s what he was telling you about these past three evenings. Well, that’s what he does. That story. He tells it to anyone who cares to listen. You might want to know that the guy in the book was him”.

“No!” I said, trying to come to terms with what I’d just heard.

“You can still find it in some used book shops around Tyne & Wear”.

“How does it end?” I asked.

“Badly”, he said and poured some more Guinness for the teens. 

I didn’t look for the book. I meant to do that on my way back home, but I must have skipped the bookshop and refused to retrace my steps. Was it like Kingsley Amis, I wanted to know. But I forgot to ask, and that was that.

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Riot Club

Britain, brutality, boys, braggadocio, Bullington club. In a nutshell.


This is a horrifying film. I was genuinely freaked out by a dozen young, pretty, intelligent faces that remain young, pretty and intelligent throughout the whole film. A film that includes a scene so disturbing it will stay in your mind for days, infesting your brain cells and your imagination. 

Horrendous film. I loved it.  

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Canon In D Major

Say! You want to write music but talent hasn’t arrived. Songs feel forced, inarticulate or just plain bad. Don’t throw in the towel just yet – all is not lost.

After all, there’s always Pachelbel. When all human life gets wiped out by the nuclear bomb and dinosaurs come back to haunt these barren lands, Canon In D Major will remain. As a symbol of hope or maybe sarcasm.

Listen to that melody until your ears fall off, rearrange the chords in a million ways, and there you have it. There’s no shame in this, so many artists have done it in the past. Great artists, too. You don’t have to be blatant (DO NOT CLICK!! I WARNED YOU!). You don’t have to rip it off completely. You can be subtle about it. You can be creative. 

I’m not joking. Good songs don’t grow on trees. I honestly wish more artists did that. Canon In D Major, like bad wine, will inspire and persevere. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


Oh it has certainly done its damage. You didn’t think it could, but then look what fucking happened. Quick and empty.

There is no sense in mocking Twitter (one of the reasons being – what if you decide to start your own account in a few days). But my God, I don’t think in a Twitter-free world Luke Haines (whose Twitter page is great misanthropic fun) would be releasing Adventures In Dementia. A decent mini-album, murky and skillful, but just so goddamned unremarkable by this man’s standards.

It happened last year, with the final installment of his psychedelic trilogy, New York In The 70s. It was like he believed that every thought coming out of his head was worth recording. And it felt quick and half-baked, it felt like Twitter. Adventures In Dementia feels like a hashtag. 

Twitter world cheapens art. Deadens it, makes it this much less special. And we do not even notice and just get on with the next tweet. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Ida and Leviathan

There’s basically no reason why anyone should care about Academy Awards. There’s no rational explanation why people keep doing that, guessing, anticipating, watching, forgetting two days later. As ever, Christopher Hitchens said it best: “Try having a nourishing conversation about last year’s Oscar”.

Can you? No, you can’t. Do you even remember who got it last year? Face it, you have almost forgotten who got it this year. In a couple of months you will say it was either Argo or The Wolf Of Wall Street. The whole thing is that pointless. 

I do remember, however, that Ida got it as the best foreign film, and Leviathan didn’t. I applaud the choice. Leviathan is a brilliant film where brilliant is entirely in your head. It is well-executed, well-acted, well-shot, well-scripted, etc. Same as Ida. But Ida has poetry.  

Monday, 23 March 2015

The House That Jack Kerouac Built

Whenever I’m questioned on the subject of The Go-Betweens, I usually say “The House That Jack Kerouac Built”. I could say “The Clarke Sisters” (which is either poetic or disturbing, probably both), I could say “You’ve Never Lived” (which contains the best, most inexplicable advice given to girls: never love a man who has no sister), I could say “Quiet Heart” (Grant’s lyrics are frankly too much). I could go on.

But I say “The House That Jack Kerouac Built” from Tallulah, possibly the only Go-Betweens album where Forster’s supremacy cannot be questioned.

There's white magic
Bad rock'n'roll
Your friend there says
He's the gatekeeper to my soul. 

The lyrics of this song are beyond any sort of rational epithet. Each line sparkles with charisma and desperation, bursts through Amanda’s violin and the incredible intensity of Forster’s vocal performance. You cannot touch this. It turns everything else into some kind of nothing.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Writing tips

Of course. Not every clown can be in a circus. However, if you are the kind of clown who can, there are lots of tips coming your way. Writing tips. Some are useless. Some are less so.

Some of them are too abstract. Like: always think of yourself as a writer. Don’t flinch. If someone asks what you do for a living, tell them you are a writer. Sitting at your desk, sweating over a new sentence, keep telling yourself you are a writer.

As if that could help. Spoken words don’t make it. Only written words do.

Some of them are too practical. Like: arrange your writing desk in the right way. Some suggest surrounding yourself with familiar objects. Objects you love. Some (Stephen King) suggest getting rid of any distractions.

Bullshit. Now I also like to have it my way. I like a certain font in my Microsoft Word, I like to have certain books on my desk, I like to hear Arvo Pärt in the background. But let’s be honest. If you absolutely have to write, you will do that hanging upside down, with a blunt pencil, on a crumpled piece of paper.

So. While I agree with Oscar Wilde that advice is a useless commodity, these are the three greatest writing tips I know. Hang on to them.

1. Never start two paragraphs in a row with the same word. Unless that’s the idea.

2. Never write a sentence that absolutely anyone can write.

3. Never spend a day without writing anything. If you do, you are out. 

These three things. Everything else comes down to talent.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Inherent Vice

This we know: Paul Thomas Anderson will never make a bad film. He might not be able to trump Magnolia or The Master (can you?), but he is too good now. He is safe.

Inherent Vice. Thank God they still make films like that. Insane, as if spewed out by some screwed-up time machine stuck in mid-70s. Groovy, if you can get in that groove. It’s like they say. In a million years Inherent Vice will be considered a cult classic not unlike a certain film by the Coen brothers.

The most hilarious thing is that some people are actually complaining about the plot. Complicated, they say, incoherent. Oh yeah? This was based on a fucking Pynchon novel, what do you want. Anderson deserves whatever crazy award they can give for recreating the vibe. So do come on. Complaining about this plot is like criticizing Picasso for being unrealistic.

Still. Almost two and a half hours, you will be put to a test. Might not be pretty. 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Chasing Yesterday

This album has physically abused my intelligence. Never again. 

If there’s a rock critic (my foot) somewhere prepared to give this more than 3 out of 10, we are living in very sad times indeed. Because Chasing Yesterday is what happens when you tell a midget that he can fly. And maybe he actually can fly. That’s not the point. The point is that he is still a midget. 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Verse #4. Line #6.

This could mean nothing to you, but I don’t think you can top that line. It’s too imperfect to become any better.

I don’t want to talk about how great that song is, even by Dylan’s mid-60s standards. I don’t want to mention the melody or the lyrics. With Bob Dylan circa 1966, you have to take those things for granted. What you absolutely can’t take for granted, is that sixth line from the final verse.

Because Dylan fluffs it. 

The song is "I Want You", and the line goes like this: And because the time was on his side. But it’s never that simple, is it. There’s a short, half-second hobble before the word ‘because’, and it broke my heart back when I first heard it years ago. One short stumble lasting eternity. Like I say, this could mean nothing to you. Chances are, you wouldn’t even notice. To me, though, it’s what music is about. Raw, imperfect and absolutely wonderful.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

London fields

London would suffocate you in a second. The air, however, is too enjoyable. You can come up with 239,568 short stories by just walking from Leicester Square to Charing Cross. You can die a thousand deaths, you can think of the greatest novel never to be written down. London does that to you.

In London, as Martin Amis put it, “every face tells a story”. It won’t happen to you in any other city of the world. Millions of them, black and white, from Chelsea, from Morocco, from Saturn, talking on the phone, thinking of a way to pay off the mortgage, killing time, clicking cameras, twatting across Fleet Street. They will walk past you while you will eat their faces, lap them up like a hungry dog. 

London liberates your senses by shutting you down. London is your imagination. It’s not about open spaces and open fields. You don’t need an empty house to create something new. You need those people, and they are not stifling if they are not boring. They will give you the sort of ideas you need. Like that girl with a cynical grin on her face, washing her white feet in Diana’s fountain. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Up The Bracket

I’ve missed that feeling. Sidewalking on a sunny day, listening to The Libertines until your ears bleed. Until they shrink to small drops of wrinkled flesh that can only register that incoherent shrieking at the beginning of the title track. Oh what a feeling.

“Vertigo”. A statement of intent if there ever was one.

“Death On The Stairs”. Melodic menace starts here.

“Horrorshow”. This, Lana Del Rey, is how you do Burgess.

“Time For Heroes”. What a tune.

“Boys In The Band”. All subtlety is gone. As if there was any.

“Radio America”. So fucked up you almost don’t notice how beautiful it is.

“Up The Bracket”. Like a seedless watermelon stuffed into your face.

“Tell The King”. Tell him you know how I feel at palace gates. The way Pete sings that.

“The Boy Looked At Johnny”. For years I thought it was about a boy ‘locked’ at ‘Johnny’.

“Begging”. Filler? No.

“The Good Old Days”. Chorus still sounds like the best thing ever.

“I Get Along”. Fuck ‘em

Joy married to chaos married to talent married to sincerity married to a million other things you will not find today.

Monday, 16 March 2015

True Detective

We can tell a red herring when we see one. We have been fooled too many times now, you can’t fool us any longer. We can tell a well-written script from badly thrown together bullshit. After years of watching murders, we’ve become goddamned detectives, all of us.

So where does it leave True Detective? Excellent script. Nuanced, balanced, complicated when it needs to be. You are like a cat chasing a laser, which is exactly the way it should be. 

However, the more I think about it, the more I realise that it’s all just another TV show about a serial killer. With two essential differences, in the form of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. But that’s such a big fucking difference, everything else becomes sort of irrelevant. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Bill Evans

Jazz. Rainy on a dry night. Like mellow morphine, like a nighttime voice from 50s radio, shuffling keys weltering about the piano. Window lights going on and off, randomly, for no reason. Bill Evans, smoking a cigarette that will never end. In fact, I’m afraid it will end, and the music will disappear and the audience will stop clapping. In the meantime, they still do, scarcely, with some sort of oblique passion.

Slick hair, 1961 glasses, stylish suits, old-fashioned pictures in black and white.

Two blond girls, one of them Debby, laugh in the background, but it’s almost inaudible and you don’t mind. You want them to go on laughing, drowned as they are by expensive cocktails and expansive piano notes that go from playful to melancholic in a matter of three, four, five seconds. Double bass is picked with great care, and the drums never threaten. Piano, mostly. 

Everyone starts falling asleep, everything fades. But this is ridiculous, this keeps going. In fact, this could go on for ages.  

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Soul Journey

Christ what a day.

“Do you want some more cheese?” she asked.

“No”, I said. “I want Gillian Welch”.

I didn’t really say it, did I?

This was Birmingham. Well, not exactly Birmingham, but close enough. A local village where everyone wanted to talk about football. I ordered green tea in a pub, some faceless barman laughed at me, and I said I knew nothing about Birmingham FC. At that time I was learning “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock” by heart and wanted to talk about Samuel Beckett. “Daunting”, they said. Fucking country folk.

Then we came to her place, and straight away I could see she was a Bruce Springsteen fan. “The Boss” was everywhere. On posters, on CDs, in her carefully chosen words. I didn’t care for Springsteen, nor for her dodgy record collection. Soul Journey by Gillian Welch caught my eye, and I tried to remember why. Album of the month in some centuries-old British rag? Could be. I recognised the cover.

She was fond of cheese. She knew everything about cheese, and she invited me to her kitchen where Cheddar and Brie and Camembert were all cut into small pieces and served on a number of plates, trays and bread-boards. We began eating and talking. Mostly talking. “Take one CD from my collection”, she said. “But just one”. Well, there was one. Also, I liked the idea.

“Do you want some more cheese?” she asked.

“Yes”, I said.

The cheese was good, though not nearly as good as Soul Journey by Gillian Welch whose “One Monkey” remained my favourite song in that long-gone August and many more years to come. 

That night, I lay in bed reading Wasteland. Thinking Christ what a day. 

Friday, 13 March 2015

2 Days, 1 Night

Marion Cotillard is exceptional.

I was expecting dreary French cinema for tough critics and depressed audiences, but this one has a near-comical twist to it. A woman who is about to lose her job has to go from door to door to persuade her co-workers to vote for her staying and not for a hefty bonus they will get in case she leaves.

But do hang on. Nothing comical about the circumstances. She absolutely has to keep her job for her family to survive, she has just gone through severe depression and overall France looks nothing like Paris. 

There are two moments of catharsis here. First, when you hear Van Morrison’s “Gloria” desperately sung in a car. Second, the bittersweet ending that seems inevitable, depressing, joyful. 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Crawl Babies

In Brisbane there’s a bridge dedicated to the Go-Betweens. Greatest Australian band (screw ‘Australian’) gets honoured in their home city, what a grand gesture. Thoroughly deserved, too. Not sure how Robert Forster feels about the idea, but you just don’t see him complaining.
I’m more into other kinds of bridges though. In Glasgow there’s a Pastels bridge. It’s not much. Short and not especially presentable. Best part is that it isn’t even the Pastels bridge. It has never been called that away. No one in their right mind would dedicate a bridge to some forgotten indie band from Scotland. However, this is the place where Stephen Pastel sang “Crawl Babies” back in 1987. 

The Pastels bridge. You’ll know when you see it. Sometimes all you need is a cheap, blurry video and a good tune.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Johnny one time

Part of world’s demographic that will never stop fascinating me – people who never rewatch films. Any films, even films they supposedly have lots of time for. I mean, what the hell. Is it like your favourite actor will not turn up this time? Is it like they will screw up the ending? Or is it that you are simply so clever you get it all after the first time?

And God knows there are films that should never be watched twice (most, of course, should have never been made in the first place). But the increasing number of people who grope like blind drunks for one title after another and never go back (despite the quality or the feelings that are stirred), is truly staggering. 

Interestingly, those are the very same people who can survive a whole week on a one-song diet.  

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

American Psycho

There’s a particular sensation that happens to you when you write. When you do art. It is almost sexual, and like all best sensations – it doesn’t last long. It is here and then it’s gone, and you try to cram all your skill and your talent and your stamina into that indecently brief 2-hour span (that could make you wake up with spittle dried on your face). That is a moment of rare creative frenzy that makes it all worth it. Failures and writer’s blocks and bad moods. Everything might as well fall away, crawl into its pathetic hole and die. 

You can do anything. You don’t type, your fingers do, possessed by a million quicksilver signals oozing from your brain. Each metaphor a handjob, each epithet a blowjob. This, brilliantly, is the way Bret Easton Ellis writes all the fucking time. It’s like he managed to inflate that moment, that sensation, into chapters and novels. It’s the way best books are written. It’s the way American Psycho operates.   

Friday, 6 March 2015

Art of walking

Art of walking is dying. 

Walking for the sake of walking – who does that anymore? People waking up in the morning, walking through the fog casually breezing through the streets and the bridges, thinking of all sorts of irrelevant things that have an alcoholic whiff of genius to them. People going out in the bland afternoons, bleak evenings, drunken nights and just walking around for no purpose. Alone. Slurping through the snow, waltzing through the rain. Not thinking of what they are supposed to be thinking. Not even thinking of what they are not supposed to be thinking. Yet thinking hard.

Where are those people?

Well, don’t you know. They are checking time on their mobile phones, like it might change.