Saturday, 31 October 2015

British Nuclear Bunkers


Luke Haines is all about pop songs. Whether it’s German terrorism or child murders or English wrestling, he has never been anything less or anything more than a great pop songwriter. 

The recently released British Nuclear Bunkers is exactly the sort of electronic album you would expect from Luke Haines. In an alternative Universe, this is mainstream. These songs would be all over the charts and radio in an electronic world of Utopia. Isn’t “Test Card Forever” just a perfect 2-minute pop song for a world hit by a nuclear explosion?

Because that’s what we are dealing with here. Some kind of a nuclear apocalypse and underground shelters in Camden. Gorillas, lemons, yoga. The concept is either pretentious or far-fetched, probably both, but Luke Haines’ agenda seems to be clear enough: when it comes to rock’n’roll, it’s better to be silly than to be boring. 

And British Nuclear Bunkers never is. It’s a brilliant little album, written by a self-indulgent man with great taste and superior songwriting talent. My only regret is that Luke abandoned another record to do this. A relatively normal acoustic-based set of songs that never came to life. I hope it will. I fucking miss that. 


Friday, 30 October 2015

Year by year: 1982


Kate Bush – THE DREAMING




For me, The Dreaming is the Mulholland Drive of music. It triggers and challenges the senses that most other art, however good it is, simply doesn’t. The Dreaming is sexual and disturbing while remaining tasteful all the way through. The Dreaming makes “Army Dreamers” and “Breathing” sound like conventional pop songs. And that should say a lot.

I guess for most people who don’t know much about Kate Bush (or know her for “Wuthering Heights” or, Heavens forbid, that appallingly bland duet with Peter Gabriel) this album will sound deeply uncomfortable. Maybe odd. Maybe scary. Maybe completely out of this world. And it is. There are hooks and there are melodies (“Suspended In Gaffa” is, in fact, almost a waltz), but those are no ordinary hooks and melodies. But if anything – they hit even harder. Her vocals are seductive, overwhelming, gentle, primordial. Vocally, there’s little she doesn’t do here. 

To this day, listening to this album is a lot like having sex with a person who knows every trick. It’s a constant thrill. The powerful growling of “Houdini”, the bizarre neighing of “Get Out Of My House”, the sheer range of “Leave It Open”. The whispers. The goddamn whispers. Phenomenal album. Maybe the greatest of all time.


Thursday, 29 October 2015

Year by year: 1981


The Fall – SLATES (EP)




Choosing the best album by The Fall is pointless (I’m constantly shifting between Grotesque and Country On The Click, though on a certain day I will go for Bend Sinister), but Slates is a fair bet. And it's an EP with just six songs on it. But what an EP this is. So good I don’t mind saying it was the best thing that happened to music in 1981.

Slates is a perfect Fall record. And when I say ‘perfect’, I certainly mean it’s hopelessly ‘imperfect’. Flawed, repetitive, not something you would give to a person who has never heard of Mark E. Smith. Individual songs should not be mentioned in the murky, disheveled context of this EP, but the closing “Leave The Capitol” is something else. Not least because of the wonderful lyrics featuring lines like ‘Leave the Capitol! Exit this Roman shell!’ Priceless. 

Slates is part punk, part rockabilly, part insanity. But mostly it’s Mark E. Smith doing his thing. Lyrically and even vocally, he is in imperious form. 

Which means that he is basically being himself. It’s not so much indescribable as something that does not need to be described. It’s the sort of charisma that should only be expressed in the actual music. Which is why I never cared for how many journalists he punched and how many musicians he kicked out of the band.


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Year by year: 1980


The Soft Boys – UNDERWATER MOONLIGHT




I’d read a lot about Robyn Hitchcock before I actually sat down and heard his music. Magazine articles and encyclopedia entries made him sound like some Syd Barrett-obsessed eccentric playing brittle folk music with abstract lyrics and unwieldy melodies. Then I forgot all about him. Then I got Underwater Moonlight

And then along came “I Wanna Destroy You”.

Underwater Moonlight is brimming with self-confidence. Hooks, attitude, nonsense. Lyrics are quirky verging on obscene (one song is actually called “Old Pervert”), but Hitchcock’s personality and assertive vocal delivery make them sound special and strangely meaningful.

This album has it all. From insane violin (“Insanely Jealous”, obviously) to some of the greatest pop songs ever written (“Queen Of Eyes”, incidentally). Intelligent, gutsy, adventurous, charismatic masterpiece. Later, Hitchcock would emulate this brilliance but never quite top it. 

P.S. The Affectionate Punch and Searching For The Young Soul Rebels are almost as good, but someone had to be left in the snow. 1980 was some year.


Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Year by year: 1979


Lou Reed – THE BELLS




You could write a book about this album and not even get through half of it. But let’s just mention a few points that would at least in some way explain why this was the best album of 1979.

1. If there comes a moment in your life when you just want to stay in your room for months on end and listen to one album ad fucking nauseam, it has to be The Bells. It’s intoxicating. It’s brilliant. It has a mostly instrumental song called “Disco Mystic”.

2. You have to laugh the first time you hear Reed’s vocals on “With You”. That moment is truly priceless.

3. “City Lights” is better than “Perfect Day”.

4. In a way, The Bells is an even bigger ‘fuck you’ than Metal Machine Music. But it’s an intelligent ‘fuck you’. Musical. Even the tasteful noise of “The Bells” at some point dissolves into a mournful anthem of great beauty. 

5. The Bells was the best answer to punk being well and truly dead. 


Monday, 26 October 2015

Fuck them


Those people who refer to songs as ‘tracks’. 

Those people who refer to albums or groups as ‘projects’.


Sunday, 25 October 2015

Retoryka


Not so long ago I wrote an article about warm-up acts. I talked about how futile the whole enterprise is. How annoying. My key point being – even if they are good, your mind is elsewhere. You’ve come for the real thing. You are underwhelmed.

However, there are exceptions.

I have only just found out about Retoryka, thanks to a London live show from Luke Haines presenting his latest subversive concept album, British Nuclear Bunkers (on which more later). And it’s not that Retoryka is such an entertaining live act. Not at all. It’s just that certain songwriting cannot be denied.

My baby, you sure like to party
Daily Instagram your latte

This is great songwriting in my book. Lyrics come from “The Great Beauty” off the band’s debut EP, Super Maudlin, and God knows I want more. They have a wonderful ability to hit on a lovely melodic groove and milk it in a very intelligent way for 3-plus minutes. 

I guess there will be people who will hear this Super Maudlin and think: “So what?” To me, they have something about them that goes beyond cheap reference points. They have the style and they have the tunes. I genuinely want to know where they go from here. In this day and age, you can only gamble on posterity. I hope they do. 


Saturday, 24 October 2015

Year by year: 1978


The Adverts - CROSSING THE RED SEA WITH THE ADVERTS




For all my unhealthy relationship with Magazine’s Real Life (part love, part obsession), I haven’t heard it in years. I don’t want to be surprised or, worse, underwhelmed. I know it will get back to me eventually, but right now it’s so much easier to keep playing The Adverts’ 1978 debut and forget all about the existential genius of Howard Devoto.

And why the hell not? This could well be my favourite punk album – or whatever it is that I consider ‘punk’. It’s clever, catchy, intense, and while you may stop separating one song from another at some point – you knew you were in it from the start. 


The opening blast is particularly good. “One Chord Wonders” followed by “Bored Teenagers” followed by “New Church” is punk Nirvana of anger, excitement, confusion. You can’t really fault a record with songs like “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” or the closing “Great British Mistake”. It’s a shame TV Smith’s solo career has never done it for me – but this album and Cast of Thousands are absolute stone-cold classics. 


Friday, 23 October 2015

Year by year: 1977


Elvis Costello – MY AIM IS TRUE




I don’t think you can listen to the first ten seconds of “Welcome To The Working Week” and not have a fleeting thought in your head that this might be the greatest debut you’ve ever heard. Which may not be true, granted, and certainly isn’t, but the very fact that you have this thought – does it not make it all worth it?..

A rare album will do that to you, but the excitement that Elvis Costello generates here is absolutely phenomenal. Buddy Holly caught up in punk or whatever it is. And even when he gets too generic in a couple of places (“Mystery Dance”, for instance), you barely even notice it. My Aim Is True is a concise, catchy, brilliantly realised outburst. “I’m Not Angry” still raises my blood pressure to critical levels. 

Of course, little on My Aim Is True is as good as “Oliver’s Army” (nothing is), but overall I would say that on this album he was at his sneering best. And sneering best, well, it is what you’ve always wanted from Elvis Costello. No offence to whatever came next. 


Thursday, 22 October 2015

Year by year: 1976


The Modern Lovers – S/T




I’ve always wanted to like Jonathan Richman. But I never could. I like quirky and I like a memorable tune. I like a person who shuns the idea of being a critics’ darling and abandons the original sound and then hides in the woods for the rest of his career. However, Jonathan Richman has always left me cold.

But that’s after one of the greatest albums of all time. That’s post-1976.

You are not supposed to listen to music depending on your mood, that’s cheap. The Modern Lovers is case in point. I can play it at any moment in my life and find something to make me feel better or, at the very least, worse. That doesn’t even have anything to do with the fact that “Roadrunner” is uplifting, “Hospital” is depressing and “Pablo Picasso” is hilarious (still; I don’t know how). 

It’s to do with the fact there’s nothing in this world like full-blown charisma of a shy artist. It has felt diluted since then.


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Year by year: 1975


Sparks – INDISCREET




It's easy to get lost in this overrated/underrated game, so it’s better not to engage at all. Over the years, Indiscreet has been called many things. Once overrated (according to some), it has lately been considered vastly inferior to records like Kimono My House or even Propaganda.

As you might have already guessed, I disagree. I don’t know how I would compare Indiscreet to Lil’ Beethoven – but it has always felt like their most compelling and entertaining listen prior to the self-styled sonic revolution. It’s business as usual from the Mael brothers: absurd, annoying, witty lyrics and some of the most infectious, hook-filled melodies of the decade. It’s just that this time the songs are… even better. The opening “Hospitality On Parade” is a blast. “It Ain’s 1918” is physically irresistible. “How Are You Getting Home?” (brilliantly used in Holy Motors) could be their best ever. 

Elsewhere, it’s music hall, glam-rock, waltz, vague messages, a song called “Tits”. What’s not to like? Maybe Sparks’ most consistent record overall. I would also recommend a bonus track titled “England”. Which, if you know their history, is even more intriguing than it sounds.


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Year by year: 1974


Cockney Rebel – THE PSYCHOMODO




There are albums which appeal to your mind and then there are albums which appeal to your psyche. The Psychomodo is in the latter category. Whatever I wanted my music to be, Cockney Rebel’s second had it. It triggered every hidden sense and nerve that needed to be triggered without me even realising that. It has never let go.

‘But Desdemona and me
We had a ball in a tree
She read my palm in a moment
It was shocking to me’

In more ways than one, The Psychomodo is an album you could describe as ‘mental’. Yes, you could say these are pop songs. But they are unconventional pop songs. Subversive. They have zero commercial appeal. Title track is glam-rock threatening to fall apart at any second. “Mr. Soft” is Ray Davies writing songs from a mental hospital. “Sling It!” is delirious pop insanity. “Ritz” makes no sense lyrically, but it’s the most charming incomprehension I can imagine. “Tumbling Down” is an orchestrated anthem that is almost too beautiful for this world.

The cover gives you a good idea of what The Psychomodo sounds like. It may not be a classic in the general sense of the word. Rather, it’s a personal classic. In fact, I don’t think you can be as heartless and sane as to not sing along with Steve Harley during that final chant:

‘OH DEAR LOOK WHAT THEY'VE DONE TO THE BLUES...’ 

Again, it makes no sense. It makes perfect sense.


Monday, 19 October 2015

Missing part


There’s always something missing about people you want to write about. It’s something they don’t say and prefer to hold back. The way they look, it never gives you the full picture. The way they smile, cry or remain expressionless. Some detail just isn’t there. Sometimes just a button on their shirt. 

In fact, it's that button that you love most.


Sunday, 18 October 2015

Fourth season


There’s something to the idea that the 4th season of The Wire is the best that television can get (something, not a lot; first season of Twin Peaks is untouchable). Nothing wrong about what came before or even after, but in season four everything adds up in a perfect way.

And you don’t even see McNulty all that much. You get to see him in the priceless recurrent pub scene featuring The Pogues’ “The Body Of An American”, but he is pushed to the fringes. This is about other characters. And mostly it’s about the writing. 

And maybe about education, too. Perfect subject matter for the series and, in a way, for the subversive, dysfunctional streets of Baltimore.


Saturday, 17 October 2015

Worst kind of artist


It’s the kind of artist who tells you that you don’t get his work. It’s okay when a critic or even a fan tells you that, but when the artist gropes for such bullshit, it’s the first sign of insecurity. 

I’m not promoting artistic humility, an artist has no business being humble, but honestly – just do your thing. However you see fit. Disagree or denounce, but don’t say someone doesn’t get it. It’s not self-confident, self-important or pretentious. It’s weak.


Friday, 16 October 2015

Year by year: 1973


John Cale - PARIS 1919




Paris 1919 is a pastoral musical delight, only broken up occasionally by a harder-edged tune like “Macbeth” or a sneaky thought that there had to be something dubious, something unsettling about those songs (an idea confirmed by Cale himself on the recent reissue of this album). But whatever that nasty message could be – you don’t want it. You don’t want to break the spell.

The spell is the songcraft. Not a second wasted, not breath and not a chord. Even the lordly, stylishly white cover looks the part. The music is pure white, too, non-threatening but having the kind of songwriting edge you would expect from Cale. This was the man, remember, who would get to headless chickens on stage in just a few years. “Child’s Christmas In Wales” is so far removed from “Venus In Furs” that you find it utterly intriguing, unintentionally so. And then of course “Andalucia” and the title track and “Antarctica Starts Here”, all completing this breathless masterpiece. 

And it was a totally moving experience – to get this album in Cardiff and then, a few hours later, run into a green-haired freegan, formerly a musician, who once played with John Cale at some 90s session. For me this music whispers and breathes Wales of old. I do not wish to know what lies underneath.


Thursday, 15 October 2015

Year by year: 1972


Steely Dan - CAN'T BUY A THRILL




I used to think it was front-loaded, but not anymore. “Turn That Heartbeat Over Again” is no “Do It Again”, granted, but the general level of quality (musicianship and songwriting included) is exceptional. And Steely Dan, ever so perfect if not too perfect, is not even a band I should like.

But love it I do. I love their jazzy cynicism and the way they defied so much of what was going on around them. It took heart (to say nothing of guts) to release a record as smooth and long-winded as Aja in 1977… Even though their 70s albums were all gold, Can’t Buy A Thrill is the sort of debut you struggle to top and then fail time and time again (The Auteurs’ New Wave is another good example of that). The chorus of “Midnight Cruiser” is unimpeachable and it just doesn’t get any better than the rollicking opening seconds of “Reelin’ In The Years”. 

An album I know by heart, it made sense to stop listening to it a few years ago. But then along came a classic American film (it was fantastic, even in hindsight) and the sounds of “Dirty Work” made me fall in love with it again. Pop culture can still surprise you. 


Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Year by year: 1971


David Bowie – HUNKY DORY




It only took him less than a year… While it’s hard to argue with The Man Who Sold The World (title track and “After All” are all-time classics), several months later Bowie’s songwriting was in a different league altogether. I would actually say that Hunky Dory is an example of one of the greatest quality leaps in pop music.

Much has been said about this album. From anthemic stammer of “Changes” to the epic acoustic charms of “The Bewlay Brothers”, it has all been praised to an extent you might find excessive. The message of “Song For Bob Dylan” has been dissected. The raunchy guitars of “Queen Bitch” have been called proto-punk. Many have wished “Life On Mars?” to be played at their funeral. Etcetera. Etc. 

So what is left but to say that “Eight Line Poem” is this album’s biggest highlight?.. (Not true, of course, but I’ve never had a problem with it.) Really, you may want to be original, as you have every right to be, but do you really need that when discussing Hunky Dory? ‘Bowie’s best album’ wouldn’t begin to cover it. 


Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Year by year: 1970


Syd Barrett – THE MADCAP LAUGHS




Summer of 2006. Early July. I actually remember the day that he died. At that time I thought that no one could love the demented melody of “Terrapin” as much as I did. I had no problem singing along to “Bike” and I had long memorized every second of “Interstellar Overdrive”. But none of it mattered, of course, as we were driving through sunny Southern England and someone said Syd Barrett had died.

Not quite a shock if you had seen those blurry photos from the streets of Cambridge. Too tragic to describe. It became unbearable next time I played The Madcap Laughs and “Love You” started to sound insane rather than infectious. And now, years later, you are just happy to have another chance to delve into the tuneful madness of one man. The experience is both challenging and strangely rewarding. Try not falling in love with Joyce’s poetry after hearing “Golden Hair”. Try falling asleep to “Late Night”

I was once pleasantly surprised reading some Syd Barrett biography. Roger Waters (whatever your opinion of Roger Waters might be) said something to the extent that Syd Barrett is in top three of his favourite songwriters. I have no idea who those three others are, but what does it matter when you have this singular, odd, charming, painfully unforgettable songwriting.


Monday, 12 October 2015

Red Hair


(Do sit this one out.) 

“Red Hair” was the story everything hinged on. They could bury you with that story, you wouldn’t have minded. It was the story (not the plot but rather its existence) that made you realise death was not the end. It didn’t say one word about afterlife, but at the very least it hinted at some nebulous possibilities.

It was offensively obvious: a young man living along in a grand old house away from the city. In the forest, by the river. And each night there was a girl with red hair, stooped over the river, ready to jump. The man saw her through the window. Desperate to save her, he ran outside towards her only to see her jump into the river and drown. Time after time after time after time. But then of course: one night it had to be different.

This was the holy cow. For years I had been treating it as something sacred that could only be written once. Until one day I saw a picture for a video clip: 


The image was astonishing in that the girl looked exactly the way I had described her. The dress and the hair and even the outlines of her body. And then I suddenly realised that there was nothing special about that story. The mystery might have still been there, but then it was just a story. One of many. One of a billion. And Christ it felt good. 


Sunday, 11 October 2015

Year by year: 1969


Tyrannosaurus Rex – UNICORN




This is such an insane little album. How do you describe it? Sixteen songs of mysticism, eccentric folk melodies and Bolan’s magic? Lyrics dealing with royal crocodiles and wizards and unicorns? Bongos and John Peel reading a short story and Peregrin Took looking like Faramir on the cover?

Total insanity. I guess the best way to be introduced to this album is to hear a pleasantly demented song like “Iscariot” and see if this makes any sort of sense on a purely metaphysical level. Because once you crack it, Bolan’s vocal style and the general mood of this album, you will realise this is something very special.

Honestly. “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” never stood a chance against the unforgettable melody of “Cat Black (The Wizard’s Hat)” and the charming shamanism of “The Misty Coast Of Avalon”. 


*On the issue of trolling and this not being Abbey Road or something. I genuinely believe there is no point in putting a band like The Beatles on any sort of list. Which is not to degrade the utter genius of “Her Majesty”, of course.


Saturday, 10 October 2015

Year by year: 1968


The Zombies - ODESSEY & ORACLE




Tell me Revolver is the greatest album of all time, and I will vehemently disagree. Tell me Odessey & Oracle is the most perfect pop album ever released, and I won’t say one word against. Seriously. You have to be a stone-hearted, tasteless, pretentious slob not to be converted by the first chorus of “Care Of Cell 44”.

Yet there’s something about this album manages to transcend the tragic fragility of “Rose For Emily”, the dizzying infectiousness of “Friends” and the subtle seduction of “Time Of The Season”. It’s the least likely song on Odessey & Oracle. It’s “Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914)”, this album’s brilliant juxtaposition. It features irresistible accordion background underneath the sort of harrowing, brutal lyrics that seem so surreal in the context of this album that you are left awe-struck and wonderfully bewitched. 

It ends up being the album’s highest point and the song that best accentuates the tuneful perfection of the whole record. And whatever bland, irrelevant albums The Zombies may be releasing these days (one is out just now, or so I hear), Odessey & Oracle remains the ultimate Pop Nirvana for the 60s and for whatever came after it.


Friday, 9 October 2015

'Renoir sucks at painting'


It’s getting hotter. Recent action near The Museum Of Fine Arts in Boston makes me look forward to something like ‘Mozart is a fraud’, ‘Joyce can’t write to save his life’ and ‘William Blake is a wanker’. Possibilities are endless. 

Seriously, you have to admire those people. They are romantics. Idiots, too, but it’s nice to have them around. I’m all for questioning the preconceived notions, it’s just that you have to have some taste, too. And campaigning against art is always bad taste, there’s no getting around it.


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Year by year: 1967


Nico – CHELSEA GIRL




Cooler people than myself might prefer The Marble Index and Desertshore, but for me it’s all about Chelsea Girl. One of those albums you buy in an unlikely record store and then treat as your greatest musical treasure.

Chelsea Girl is the folk album that The Velvet Underground never recorded. It’s one of my favourite Lou Reed-related stories, how he played the acoustic version of “Venus In Furs” to John Cale back in 1965. And Cale just couldn’t concentrate as it sounded too much like Joan Baez. With Chelsea Girl, you get some vague idea of that sound. Only it’s a little brighter in places, what with Jackson Browne contributing gorgeous tunes like “These Days” and “Somewhere There’s A Feather”

The slightly disjointed “It Was A Pleasure Then” may have seemed like a nasty splinter at first, but you warm to it, later, as you discover more of Nico’s music. What I still don’t get is why she hated the flute so much. The flute sounds intriguing, as do the lyrics of “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams”. As does everything else on the greatest album of 1967.


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Year by year: 1966


The Byrds – FIFTH DIMENSION




There’s a sprawling double album featuring a curly-haired man with a trendy scarf on its cover that hangs like a fateful ghost over this year, but come on. Fifth Dimension is a classic, and the best proof that only The Beatles could rival these Americans for going to places nobody had explored before. Fifth Dimension is folk-rock pushed to spacey extremes.

But you get bored talking about what is groundbreaking and what is not. It’s the songs that matter, and I don’t think I know too many albums that can beat the seven-song stretch that opens this album. From the jangly title track to the space-rock epic “Eight Miles High”, this is all phenomenal quality. And somewhere in between I lose it completely to the David Crosby-sung “What’s Happening?!?!” that has a vocal melody that should be lazy but oddly isn’t. 

Not that what follows is any less fascinating. “Captain Soul” is a groovy instrumental that takes you places, and that vacuum-cleaning last track is, you will one day discover, a perfect ending for an acid trip. ‘Fascinating’ is indeed the only word here. 


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Year by year: 1965


Donovan Leitch – FAIRYTALE




There was an interview with Donavan a short while ago in which he openly described himself as a great songwriter. I don’t have a problem with that. Even in mid-60s he was so much more than a Dylan imitator or someone who contributed a line to “Yellow Submarine”.

In 1965, his best (A Gift From A Flower To A Garden) was yet to come, but right from the start he knew his way around a great melody. Songs like “Jersey Thursday” are pleasantly mysterious and I’d take “Little Tin Soldier” over “Sunshine Superman” any day of the week. Even the disarmingly silly “Circus Of Sour” is a charmer. 

When it comes to 60s folk music, Donovan has always been my wet dream. Good songs all around, but it’s the soothing, floating jazziness of “Sunny Goodge Street” that makes Fairytale such a special album in the year of Highway 61 Revisited and Rubber Soul


Monday, 5 October 2015

Good art, bad art


Good art is entirely the creation of the artist. He does it all, from foundation up. He invents the ingenious plot, complex characters, clever twists and brilliant ending. He is impeccable, with his half-hanging scarf and with that wistful expression in his eyes. You are his audience. You are there to admire him. 

Bad art, however, is different. It’s not just about the artist. Bad art is about you. Because as you watch an appalling film or listen to a stomach-churning symphony, your whole body writhes and turns at every failure. So that you carry the burden, the gift, you take part in creating that monster. In other words – the artist failed, but you are his accomplice.


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Walkman started to melt


I was thinking of a way to describe those who film at concerts, ballets, operas. A biting social comment on how brutally they butcher the whole experience – for others and for themselves. And all to make a video that will never be watched, not even once. But then I guess Johnny Marr said it best: ‘People who film at concerts are dicks’. A phrase as perfect and succinct as the guitar playing on “Bigmouth Strikes Again”. 


Saturday, 3 October 2015

Point of no return


In every story there is a point of no return. It’s a point where nothing can go back. The events of the plot are lined up in a way that is not so much perfect as final. Up to that point things can change. Dialogues can take a left turn and characters can survive a fatal car accident. After that point – it’s all set in stone. 

There are two interesting aspects to this. First, the point of no return comes regardless of how good it is. The story could be dumb, brilliant, mediocre. Second, you hardly ever feel it as you write the story. The realization comes late. Maybe never. In fact, it’s much easier to feel it as a member of the audience who suddenly whispers to himself in the humming darkness of the cinema: “Ah, but that’s how it had to go”. Face it. If it was any other way – well, it would be a completely different work of art.


Thursday, 1 October 2015

Ballad Of The Talking Dog


Even a seven-word review can hit you if the words are right. The words were right and dealt with the hugely uncomfortable art of Mary Hampton. The album was My Mother’s Children and the year was 2008.

My Mother’s Children was singular, deeply disturbing folk music that could appear oddly appealing if you were in that kind of disturbed state of mood. Certainly this was not an album to be played to a bunch of friends at a dinner party. They wouldn’t understand and probably freak out during the strikingly non-ballad-like “Ballad Of The Talking Dog”. 

At the time when bearded folkies were annoying you with their fake, washed-out confessionals, this was the slightest waft of fresh air. And the cover, too, was either funny or (more likely) bewildering. The record felt sparse and just plain wrong. But reassuringly so. Then, three years later, along came Folly and the music was just as good and just as uncomfortable… Hopefully, a new one is on the way.