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Give me music and give me noise....

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Over the telephone, Podcast #125 (Dec 2015)

God, first Lemmy then Bowie, and also - the youngest and maybe most significant - John Bradbury. Not a great time for veteran musicians.

Then again, it probably never was. And at least modern musicians - or quite a few of them - make it to their sixties or seventies, not 39 like Fats Waller or 27 like Robert Johnson. No longevity there.

Yet, in a rather cruel twist, what's bad for the corporeal body (early death) is often quite good for the music. Otherwise, sad but true, you just have squadrons of over-the-hill-and-not-been-good-for-ages types churning out risible rubbish for decades after their early peaks. It's almost an iron rule: go on for longer than about 15 years and in most cases you'll be delivering sub-standard stuff for a dwindling band of long-suffering fans. Most likely you'll be doing it because ... you simply don't know what else to do.

And as these well-preserved - but artistically moribund - musicians go through the tired old motions, playing the hits (if there were any) and generally phoning it in, it'll be clear they're just delivering music ... over the telephone.

1: Jan Swinburne, NEUROsquirrels
2: Elysian Bailey, They’re coming
3: Han-earl Park, Dominic Lash, Mark Sanders & Caroline Pugh, ? (Lamp Tavern, Birmingham 1/12/15)
4: Achievements, Kids should be delinquents
5: Sometimes, The Ephemeral Man
6: The Vivisectors, Beach boogie
7: Empire Bakuba Et Pepe Kalle, Nadi consoler ngai
8: Capitive Portal, Penny17
9: Whistlejacket, Duck soup
10: Michett, Droids in a bar
11: Shit Present, ? (JT Soar, Nottingham 6/12/15)
12: Over the telephone
13: Pyre, Cursed bloodline
14: Total Unicorn, (o) (o) (o)
15: The Carbon Manual, Ice sleep (rough mix)
16: Chastity, ? (Hare And Hounds, Birmingham 2/12/15)
17: Jeffrey Philip Nelson, Woman around to blame
18: Shadow Of Television, Mayday
19: A crude method
20: Angka, Libka nya
21: Tartine De Clous, Je voudrais être mariée
22: Mozart, The embarrassment
23: J Moss, Slide (improvisation two)
24: Roy Acuff, Jole Blon

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Three Minute Heroes: some rude thoughts ...

Enjoy yourself ... it's a 1982 TV play about 2 Tone teenagers.

Yes, Three Minute Heroes, a BBC Play For Today directed by Michael Custance, is exactly that. A little romp about teenagers of an indeterminate age (15 going on 19) who hang around the centre of Coventry just after the city's ska revival heyday.

Cool times, no? Well, it's definitely ... interesting. You've got bickering teenage girls going on about who they "fancy", complaining about/admiring older lads with cars and - all rather woodenly - discussing their first sexual experiences ("anyway, school Monday", says one after talking about "finding out what it was like").

You've got the two lead characters - "Adrian", good-natured, slightly dreamy, one leg in a caliper; and "Billy", preternaturally street-wise, ironic, kind but disillusioned - who have a bromance with none-too-subtle homoerotic undertones.

And ... well, there are also any number of extra "types" thrown in (many dressed up as supposed "youth tribe" exemplars): a black boyfriend/girlfriend couple who drift about arguing, a rather vacant Hazel O'Connor lookalike, British Movement skins, punks, stiff and arrogant mods, a brothel creepers-wearing Ted, beery straights ... All of life is here, or at least what BBC playwrights trying to capture a youth "scene" probably thought of as a well-rounded representation of it.

Anyway, having just seen an apparently rare screening of a scratched, poor-quality BFI copy at Warwick University, I liked it. The story - essentially the new friendship between Adrian and Billy versus the less-accentuated romance between Adrian and a shy teen-girl admirer "Debbo" - is creaky but still quite touching. The pair develop a rapport through alienation (Adrian as a "crip", Billy as a mixed-race "2 Tone kid") and share a love of arch, self-conscious dialogue. The play ends with the two naked in a large indoor swimming pool at night, swooshing about in a rather lovely scene that filters in a kind of blue-black light. Amniotic fluid? Rebirth?

But hey, I probably wouldn't be writing this fascinating little blogged appraisal of Three Minute Heroes if it wasn't about 2 Tone (OK, I definitely wouldn't be). And so what about the music? Well it's relatively underplayed - the eponymous Selector song, The Specials' (Dawning Of A) New Era, Stereotype, Enjoy Yourself. That's about it. The big hits aren't used and that's probably all to the good - I reckon it would all re-play much less well if it was back-to-back Specials chart songs.

Also, the play uses two Fun Boy Three songs to good effect: The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum) (over a fantasy scene with zombie-ghost figures stumbling about in a dry-ice filled subway), and the FB3-Bananarama It Ain't What You Do cover, sounding extremely good, especially the heavy percussion of the intro. Both songs work well in the play but they're also there to signify the fact that 2 Tone is already over. At one point Billy, the never-quite-completely-sincere 2 Tone scenester, self-ironisingly tears at an old 2 Tone street poster, lamenting the fact it's part of the recent past while perhaps seeing the funny side as only a small corner of the poster comes off the billboard.

Yeah, in the end Three Minute Heroes is a play with pretensions toward seriousness, not a musical along the lines of the one (of the same name) recently staged in Coventry. (Thank god for that).

Custance's little drama is fascinating in the same way something like Horace Ové's Notting Hill-meets-Jamaica film Pressure is. It's a game attempt to create a believable drama, capture a scene, throw in some music and even elevate the whole thing with actual artistry. For me the best scene in Three Minute Heroes is the first of the two "fantasy musical" ones, where the characters suddenly transform into guests at a nightclub watching some high-kicking skinheads dancing to The Specials' excellent and under-appreciated (Dawning Of A) New Era. It's entertainingly surreal, with touches of A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick's masterpiece also probably filters through to some of the Coventry "concrete jungle" scenes, the city's multi-storey car park ramps and shopping precincts standing in for Kubrick's South Bank).

Dawning of a new era, indeed. Much-maligned Coventry looks good in the film, rebuilt after the blitz and - just about - managing to balance civic sobriety with demands to build shops and roads everywhere.

In New Era a particularly rabid-sounding Terry Hall fires out some ominous nonsense about walking a chicken factory worker girlfriend home through "Area 6". During my own teenage years nightclubbing in Coventry during this period I never got to go to Area 6. Where is it? Sounds frightening ...

Friday, 8 January 2016

Monday, 4 January 2016

Planet of headbreakers, Noisepod #6 (Dec 2015)

When travellers from a distant galaxy finally make it to Earth in future centuries, they'll take a look at the general devastation - the melted polar ice-caps, the polluted forests, the traffic-strewn mega-cities - and they'll wonder why they bothered coming all this way. They'll note the preponderance of religious hatred, the wilful ignorance, the mass consumerism, and ... they'll despair. These superior beings had expected a peaceful planet of artists and musicians, writers and thinkers, a wonderfully complex planetary eco-structure based on mutual inter-species interdependence. Instead, they'll have stumbled on a madly out of control place, a planet of headbreakers ...

1: Fist Of Fury, Inserted rage
2: Pyre, Far beyond the unknown
3: In Cold Blood, Straight flush
4: Unit Pride, Eminent front
5: Castle Freak, Caught in a casket
6: To raise children
7: Mordant, The sick rose (fuck the bad rose club)
8: Frau, Orca
9: Shade Circle, Last drop
10: Putrisect, Better to burn
11: That loney
12: Iron Reagan, Drop the gun
13: Bricks, Culture of sterility
14: Methodist Centre, Thumb in bum and mind in neutral
15: No Negative, Bone law
16: The Love Below, Fuck you up and get you high
17: Ridiculous Trio, No fun
18: Siberian Ass Torture, $15 haircut
19: Sex Pistols, Problems
20: Sidetracked, Second to none
21: Dixie, Into the death - Kumagawa spacy grinder
22: No Form, Barrier
23: Stanley headbreaker
24: Negative WorM, Destroy everything
25: Mass Grave, President's dick
26: Warxgames, Sick inside
27: Good Throb, No taste
28: Pressing On, What we believe
29: Crass, Time out
30: Death Pedals, Bored of youth
31: Shit Eagles, Girls in school
32: Queer'd Science, Nazifucker
33: xDELOREANx, The blacksmith must die

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Marching all to die, Dubpod #12 (Dec 2015)

Another year begins and we all inch closer to death. Yes, we might fool ourselves by humming a little tune as we go, but really we're marching all to die ....

1: The Skull, Black slavery days
2: King Tubby's, African tribe dub
3: Rod Taylor, The lord is my light
4: The Abyssinians, I and I
5: Errol Thompson & Clive Chin, Extraordinary (version)
6: Marching all to die
7: Junior Murvin, Cool out son
8: Augustus Pablo & The Upsetters, Babylon police chief dub
9: Jo Jo Hookim, Moses dub
10: Alton & Hortense Ellis, When I'm down
11: Kevin Mills, Reverse dub
12: What an ass
13: The Eclips Band, Vision
14: V.Smith, Poor and clean (version)
15: Lloyd Young, High explosion
16: Tommy McCook & The Observers, Psalm 9 to keep in mind
17: Al Campbell/Bunny Lee, You're mine (version)
18: Judah Tarafi Eskender, Rastafari tell you
19: Carl Bryan, Cover charge
20: Count Matuchki, It is I (Matchuki's cooking)
21: Mighty Diamonds, I need a roof
22: Cornell Campbell, Follow instruction (version)
23: Electro lab
24: The Upsetters, Bad draw
25: Mikey Dread, Raggamuffin dubstyle
26: Scientist/Culture, Black hole
27: The Fleetwoods, Unchained melody