Friday, 24 June 2016

Exeunt Britons

I was buying old postcards the other day. Late 19th century, early to mid 20th. It's not something I do very often, but there's this strange affinity I've had for more than twenty years now. I like broken images and I like broken words. Polish gardens from 1908. Hungarian greetings from 1927. Soviet streets from the 50s. French inscriptions, undated. There's life there which once existed and shines through even now, more than a century later. And if there are no words, I'm still as enchanted as I was on the day when my father showed me the flickering flame of his cigarette lighter. The frayed feel of the postcard is unmistakable. 

It was a flea market, filled with hundreds of men whose masculinity looked wasted from a mile off. I don't really mind that; the most interesting men you'll meet all have childish eyes. However, they were not children - they were obsessed. And while obsession is responsible for some of the greatest achievements as well as works of art, their obsession was way too nerdy. A bit narrow-minded, if not actually robotic.

Mistaking me for a fellow collector, they kept asking what sort of postcards I was interested in. Paintings? Cities? Buildings? Dogs? "Old ones", I offered. "Okay", said a guy who looked like a benevolent mobster. "But all of these postcards are old". Which, again, made little sense. "I guess I'm looking for the ones that will look good to me". After all, there are millions of things you like that way. Reason has nothing to do with love. 

Which is all to say - I like Britain aesthetically. I like Britain as an idea. In a world where Catalonia wants a separate state, to have four countries within one is wickedly old-school. I admire the cheek. It's a bit like my British friends (mostly from the north of England, granted) saying that the Queen is a parasite leeching off their taxes, and I just grin to myself: "Well, you will not hear me complaining". Rather, you can occasionally catch me humming the lyrics of "Here's To Old England" by Luke Haines.

That said, I was all for Scotland becoming independent. After all, it was a beautiful narrative that had so much history bubbling underneath. Again, aesthetically - it would have been the right thing. Alas, this was not to be, although suddenly it looked like certain legs had too much clay in them.

Ironically, today it feels like certain legs are all clay. Today, when Britain voted OUT for the sake of quixotic integrity and equally quixotic independence, I try to imagine myself as a Northern Irish citizen. Which has nothing to do with their footballing heroics and everything with the fact that last night the clear majority of Northern Ireland voted IN. 

In truth, it's not that easy to imagine myself as a Northern Irish citizen. I was in the country just once, in Belfast, and mostly for political reasons. The politics looked typically gloomy, the weather likewise (worse than in Swansea) and the brightest memory was the famous wall on which I scribbled a somewhat appropriate title of the great Spiritualized instrumental: "No God, Only Religion". Which is to say, I can't imagine myself living there. But I can easily imagine the hurt feelings inflicted by 'Great Britain' not giving a damn about my opinion. Or that of the country I live in, for that matter. 

So now you foresee not just a new Scottish referendum but one in Northern Ireland as well. It would actually be spineless and weak not to have one. However, there's one thing: they will be nothing like the Scottish independence referendum from 2014. Aesthetically, they will just look ugly. 

P.S. Too bad there were no postcards from old Britain in the flea market the other day. I would have bought one, so as to have something to look at while listening to Belle & Sebastian's immortal "Fuck This Shit".   

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Warm nights

In all my experience with various people. Girls, boys, men, women. Periods of art that ranged from boring to fascinating. Periods of life that were by turns sweet, tragic, bitter, ecstatic; maybe all those things at the same time. Great books and terrible books. Stuff that embarrassed me and stuff that did not. 

Memories you dive for happily and situations best forgotten. Jokes that worked at grand dinner parties and jokes that fell flat on sticky bar counters. Terrible songs and Blixa Bargeld doing "Alone With The Moon". Stories I love and stories that should have never been written. 

Good coffee and bad coffee. Worst things in life and a novel by Javier Marias. Late night cocktails that made me sleepy and complex desires that kept me up all night. Loves and infatuations. Bike trips and shaky boats that made me seasick. The rain and the sun. 

In the end, it all comes down to one thing: Sauvignon is better than Chardonnay. There. It's dead simple.  

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Last night

Polka played on a harp. Now I have seen everything. 

But really. In a world where some Primitivist wanker is a classic artist (and has been for years), you can't even pretend to be different. A new language has to be found, a new gimmick, and if that means you will have to push the envelope into the void  so be it. 

Strangely enough, we have long reached the point where playing polka on a harp is the least you can do. So play it as well as you can. And last night, well, it was excellent... 

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Misunderstood Masterpiece

You know what they say? 'Sexy' is not about the looks. 'Sexy' is about enthusiasm. I've always liked that. Enthusiasm can take many forms, and there's no accounting for all of them, but one thing I know for sure: Scarlett Johansson's maligned/ignored album of Tom Waits covers, Anywhere I Lay My Head, is very sexy. 

Now of course this album is wrong. Everything about it is wrong. Even the actual idea of Scarlett Johansson recording an album of Tom Waits songs will make your head shake uncontrollably. Her vocals lack an ounce of subtlety. The rendition of "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" is straight from butcher's shop. The record sounds vulgar and tasteless. David Sitek can't save it. Thing is  I absolutely love it.

Maybe an evil coincidence, maybe a cunning plan, but Johansson even chooses four of my favourite Waits songs. "Town With No Cheer", "Anywhere I Lay My Head", "Fannin Street" and the unforgettable "Falling Down". The last two feature – hold your fucking hat! – David Bowie on backing vocals. He may have been blackmailed into this, I don't know, but the edge he brings is unmistakable. 

Now of course Anywhere I Lay My Head is not a 'masterpiece'. Hell, it's not even 'misunderstood'. But I do hope that in a few hundred years someone will recognise it as such. Because it sounds glorious. It has passion seeping through the chords and Scarlett's vocals in a way that is most vulgar and profane. It sounds coarse and romantic. It sounds like dirty sex. It sounds incredible.

Monday, 6 June 2016


Drive. Sometimes good art is about drive. Sometimes you don’t plot and scheme beforehand. What are you going to say. What are you not going to say. You just go with the flow. Good art does not necessarily mean saying things which have never been said before. Rather, good art is saying them in a way that renders everything else obscenely irrelevant.

This song is the world’s greatest cover. It's not just transcendental. It goes beyond that. It captures that feel of a road on a summer’s night. In fact, sometimes it takes a night to understand. That you can’t go on thinking that nothing’s wrong. But you can go on thinking that something is wrong. And that is all there is to it. The big mystery. You can be disappointed, disgusted, happy. All at once, and you can drive with it. Drive with it all. Drive.

Friday, 3 June 2016

May: 5 Albums

WHITE LUNG - Paradise

New Pornographers. Arcade Fire. Silver Mt. Zion. All fantastic Canadian bands, but what are they really worth when put against the ruthless sheen of White Lung? Short answer: not much. Paradise is a matter of ten new songs that sound no less ballsy than the title "Kiss Me When I Bleed". Some say they've slowed it down slightly, but you'd have to resurrect Einstein to call "Below" a ballad. The guitars sound perfect. The charisma is overpowering. "Demented" is demented. 9/10

GABRIEL BRUCE - Come All Sufferers

I loved it that the first five seconds of "Freedom" sound exactly like the first five seconds of "Dark Light, Shine Loud". God knows Love In Arms was one of the best albums of 2013, so this felt like putting on my favourite slippers after years spent in exile. But then it changes. Gabriel has gone through a lot recently, and this album literally bleeds suffering and catharsis. "Metal Soul" is a slow-burning classic. "Hold Me Close, Holy Ghost" is almost as anthemic as "Sermon On The Mount". "Gifts From God" has a chorus to die for. "Jesus Drag Queen" is tastefully repulsive.  Interestingly, this album is so low-profile that rateyourmusic didn't even bother with an update. Lazy fools. It's a brilliant record. 8/10

RETORYKA - Floccinaucinihilipilification EP

Again, I really like this guy. He's got the style and he's got the tunes. In some parallel universe, where Wayne County doesn't have to try to get on the radio, this should be enough. Not here. Not when Miles Kane counts for a songwriter. Which is a shame, because "Arts & Minds" is so smart, "Ice Breaker" is as quality as a demo can get, "Love In A Void" is a Siouxsie & The Banshees cover with an edge and "Are Human Beings Naturally Monotonous?" is one of the best songs of the year (anyone who pronounces the word 'interesting' like that is a winner in my book). Lovely EP title, too. 8/10

RADIOHEAD - A Moon Shaped Pool

In Rainbows > A Moon Shaped Pool > The King Of Limbs. 7/10


Oceans will dry up, mountains will collapse and volcanos will erupt water. Tom Petty will always be Tom Petty. He will always look like Tom Petty, sound like Tom Petty, write like Tom Petty. This is the second album from Mudcrutch, and you just can't expect a better opener than "Trailer". Ups & downs follow. Ups ("Save The Water") are good and downs ("Beautiful Blue") are not too bad. 2 is a fine little album. It would actually be criminal to think otherwise. Still, the effortless genius of "On The Street" seems way out of reach now. 7/10 

P.S. Oh, and The Stone Roses have just stolen the WHOLE FUCKING RIFF from The Fall's "Squid Lord", a few spineless critics will always give Dylan the perfect score, and Destroyer's "My Mystery" is a beaut.