Wednesday, 30 March 2016


Charlie said that day, lying in bed, sick to his guts, that if he were to die from this illness - he would die without ever seeing The Godfather. He actually asked me if it was physically possible - to never see The Godfather during one's lifetime. 

I said it was not. He smiled. He actually smiled. His eyes flickered: suddenly we both knew he was going to pull through. We saw the world differently back then. But maybe it was a different world.

Saturday, 26 March 2016


He saw her just once, and then he was off to war.

Truffaut is full of stories. You can cut a two-minute episode out of his film and get yourself a perfect short story. Or even a novel. Jules et Jim is one such film. It contains a short story that is a beautiful tragedy worth telling.

You could call it 'Letters'.

It involves a man writing letters to a girl he only saw once. It's the First World War and these letters are the only way he can communicate with her. Very tentative at first; all he can say is that he enjoyed her company. She replies. He says he likes her. She replies. Gradually he becomes more forward. Suddenly his letters are a lot more intimate. At some point he writes about her breasts and how it feels touching them. He then kisses her whole body. He then proposes to her. In his letters he now treats her as his bride. He sometimes gets cross because he feels she did something wrong or else her reply was vague and cold. Then one day there's a vicious attack from Germans, and he dies.

This is classic Truffaut. It's over in a flash, but it's that perfect combination of provocative and sweet, sentimental and perverted that makes him so good. For me, it's one of the greatest stories never written, and it's the sign of a true master when all you can get is the slightest glimpse.

'A cosmic rhythm with each stroke'. 

Vijay Iyer's new record is indeed called A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke. Which would be a title unbearably pretentious were it a rock singer or a pop band. As it is, you give in to the subtle interplay between the piano and the trumpet filling your head with otherworldly stories you've never heard before.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

London's Burning

Having unzipped a huge duffel bag, I threw a handful of CDs into the black abyss. A girl looked on, incredulous. Getting rid of it all. It was so sweet.

By that point, my music collection was vast and I had to go several rounds to complete the job. I was determined not to get too sentimental even though something quivered inside when I reached for Live At Leeds. "Heaven And Hell". "A Quick One While He's Away". "Magic Bus". Cost me a tenner back in 2003. But... enough is enough. I'm done with music. I'm done with the material side of it. All my CDs were supposed to end up at the parents' house of the girl who looked on. Incredulously.

All very surreal. In fact, one of the most surreal episodes of my student years. And it only came back to me a couple of days ago when I read that Joe Corré is planning to publicly burn his entire collection of punk memorabilia (records, clothes, etc.) worth five million pounds. On the 26th of November, 2016. On the 40th anniversary of "Anarchy In The UK".

Watch it, John Lydon. Watch it and weep. Weep your guts out. Because this is the best thing to happen to punk since late 70s.

1976 could only happen once, and the farther we get away from it, the harder it is do anything that would bring it back. London Punk doesn't stand a chance. It's as bland and irrelevant as a Sex Pistols reunion. As depressing as a Ramones box set. Heritage culture is anti-art, it's pissing on history. Honestly, I don't care how much money Joe Corré has. I care that he has a point.

So in Camden, in late November, punk is going down in flames. I hope it is, for everyone's sake. In a world where art is getting digital and people are getting materialistic, it's the kind of kiss-off it deserves. You applaud the artist who drowns his masterpiece before it can reach the kitchen wall in the country house of a chubby art collector. 

Back in 2009, the reasons for getting rid of my music collection may have been different. The more I think about it, however, the more I realise that I got it right. I may have been acting on an impulse, on a sheer whim, but there's art that dies on the shelf.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Черно-белый Кларк Гейбл

Все города мира делятся на две категории: те, в которых возможна Турангалила Оливье Мессиана, и те, в которых она невозможна.

Это очень просто. Она возможна в Токио и в Нью-Йорке (где недавно игралась в Линкольн-центре), в Праге и в Сиднее. Но никак нельзя представить ее на крупной сцене Гаваны или Минска. И дело не в том, что нет такой сцены, которая бы ее выдержала. И даже не в том, что нет таких людей, которые способны были бы оценить и не выбежать из зала в середине первой части. С негодованием хватаясь то за голову, то за Библию, то за сердце.

Есть и другие вещи. Есть Гольдберг-вариации Баха, сыгранные канадским пианистом. Есть Филип Гласс. Есть, в конце концов, Пятая симфония Малера. Есть все, что угодно. Но что было в двадцатом веке безумнее и грандиознее провокационного максимализма одного французского композитора? Да к тому же орнитолога?

Просто невозможно себе представить. Нет такого воображения. И нет в городе такого духа, который впустил бы ее на свою главную сцену. Это тот самый дух, который позволил бы вывесить триптих Босха на главной площади и ничего при этом на нем не прикрыть (как это делается теперь в Москве). Вслух зачитать рассказы Хармса на самой людной улице.

Минск - это просто не тот город, где этому духу найдется место. Здесь не сыграют мессианскую симфонию в ближайшие двадцать лет... И все-таки даже здесь есть места, где она возможна. Турангалила. В этих местах не жаль денег. Здесь хочется быть. Ради этих мест город должен существовать, чтобы однажды этот свободный дух просочился наконец на тротуар или на мостовую. 

Но это однажды. А пока, сейчас, я вижу лишь сигаретный дым и черно-белые кадры забытого голливудского фильма. Кажется, это Кларк Гейбл. Кажется, 50-е еще даже не начались.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Holy Motors

Accordion scene in Holy Motors. Funny how you can pin down one particular moment in the past and say that it was the exact very point in life when it all started to go insane. I can even smell the air. Can't go back in time though.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Красное и черное

В Москве было страшно. Вокруг серого бюста стояли люди с цветами и о чем-то плакали. Кажется, плакали о чем-то своем - но если подойти и спросить, то плакали о Сталине. Оказалось, прошло 63 года со смерти. Ровно 63. Странная цифра. Правда, подходить и спрашивать не очень хотелось. Было ощущение, что если смотреть на опадающие гвоздики, красные, одинаковые, то можно себя усыпить. 

И представлять, что они не скажут ни одной глупости. Или, например, что это сцена из фильма. Или шутка. Или шизофрения. Но кто-то подходил и спрашивал. И они, черт бы их побрал, говорили про войну и про порядок. Истеричным старушкам хотелось простить все на свете, но школьников хотелось убить. Правда, 2016 год. Не 36-й. Нельзя.

Все это сильно напоминало "The Old Man's Back Again" Скотта Уокера, а в голове проигрывалась сцена из культового фильма Сергея Соловьева "Черная роза - эмблема печали, красная роза - эмблема любви". Одна из лучших сцен советского кино. Человек просыпается утром и включает аудиозапись от 5 марта 1953 года. Трагический голос сообщает стране о смерти Сталина. Человек встает, одевается, встречает день. 

Под эту запись он просыпается каждое утро… А ты все стоишь и смотришь на бюст, который несколько лет назад, по глупости, искал на блошином рынке в Одессе. Но тут Москва, 5 марта 2016 года. Люди все подходят. Страшное зрелище. Черный юмор 1989 года тонет в скучных красных гвоздиках, которых уже не сотня и не две.

Monday, 7 March 2016

February: 5 Albums

BARRY ADAMSON - Know Where To Run

Soulful, groovy, tasteful, funky, sexy, diverse (the romantic, old-fashioned "Claw & Wing" sitting side by side with the astounding sax-horror of "Texas Crash"). "Evil Kind" is one hell of a tuneful closer, and I could listen to the chorus of "Up In The Air" until the end of times. 9/10

PETE ASTOR - Spilt Milk

Oh the wonders of having a great taste. Astor is a rare kind. I've already written my piece on Pete's latest, but let's just add that "Perfect Life" (pure tears of joy) beats his own "Perfect Crime", and "My Right Hand" sounds like a cross between "Some Kinda Love" and "She's My Best Friend". Fittingly enough. Get back to me if you can write a melody as good as the one in “Very Good Lock”. 8/10

LUCINDA WILLIAMS - The Ghosts Of Highway 20

Ah give me the fucking scissors. Lucinda's latest goes on forever. Songs like "The Ghosts of Highway 20" or the tortured, haunting "Death Came" are masterful to the point of you not remembering how any of Car Wheels On A Gravel Road went, but the double album format is frankly stretching it. I think I could live with the 13-minute long "Faith & Grace", but I'm not sure I need the clichéd melodies of "Bitter Memory" or "Doors Of Heaven" or the sparse and annoying "Factory". Her songwriting skill is not in question, but the monster should have been chopped a little. 7/10   

NONKEEN - The Gamble

Whatever 'my music' even means, on Spotify or elsewhere, this shouldn't really qualify. Nervy electronic music interlaced with abstract jazz and pretty piano lines courtesy of Nils Frahm. That's the way I would describe it. Quite ignorantly, no doubt. This is very skittish, but there's meat here that will get you engaged. Wondrous album that will soundtrack any February. 7/10

THE FALL - Wise Ol' Man EP

This is cheating from Mark E. Smith, but who cares. This EP lasts like a short full-length album, but what do we get? Two new songs (both brilliant, both better than most of the cranky, clunky, clattering Sub-Lingual Tablet stuff) with their cut/altered instrumental versions and a few alternative takes on 2015 songs. The typical oddball move is that you get to hear the immortal "No Xmas For John Quay" at the end of "Facebook Troll". Whatever, but I'd take Smith's whatever over everyone else's. 7/10 

P.S. Oh, and Animal Collective still can't write a goddamn melody, Kula Shaker still exist (huh?) and PJ Harvey's new single is fantastic.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

A Comedy of Errors

My very own Elliott Smith memory has to do with black and white TV. A big bulky 1970s piece with a protruding screen. A green transistor box underneath, which you had to tinker with to make the image less grainy. From the scariest X-Files episodes to that Michael Owen goal that sent me whooping around the room, I saw it all through that screen. In an old country house that probably doesn't exist anymore. 

And, miraculously, there was Elliott Smith. It was 1998 (same year that England played Argentina in that memorable World Cup match), and it was an Academy Awards ceremony that was destined to be a blowout. And it was.

Not that I could complain. I had just seen Titanic for the second time (in the intimate and bizarre setting of a tiny village cinema with the audience laughing randomly and making obscene jokes) and, again, loved it to bits. I was sentimental before there was anything to be sentimental about. And so I rooted for Titanic to win it all, and felt terrible pain for the two leading actors who were so cruelly snubbed.   

Best picture, best cinematography, best score, best special effects, best screenplay and, of course, best song.

The song that you could not deny. You can deny it now, easily, like you can mock the humourless Canadian star who sang it. But not then, not in 1997. And certainly not at the end of March in 1998 when she performed it on some stage which, according to my old TV set, could be in Los Angeles but could equally be anywhere else.

In her long dress (grey, of course, I will probably never find out the true colour), she did it well. And so she had to win. Obviously there was no chance she could lose to this ridiculous little man in an oversized white suit (I would later discover that he borrowed it from Beck) performing in that brittle voice a very slight tune that may have been charming but was in all honesty a travesty of a competition. Lush orchestration couldn't help.

And that is my Elliott Smith memory. Ironically, years have passed and for me it is the only Academy Awards performance that counts. A few good songs here and there, a few surprises, but Elliott Smith awkwardly performing "Miss Misery" on that overblown stage - that's all that matters.

This is the performance, in all its coloured glory:

P.S. Madonna, apparently, was a fan. Was that half a smile from her?..