Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Sound & Vision V

It is only fitting that this cultural blog begins with a tribute to the genius that was Lou Reed. Many millions of words will have been spoken in tribute to the man, but I must add my personal thanks to the bloke who, though he didn’t know it, changed my life completely from the moment I heard Waiting for the Man for the first time as a 14 year old. While I never really got his solo stuff, bar the obvious ones like Berlin, I can only say that the first 4 Velvets albums were simply the stuff of legend. To this day I remain in awe of that music. For me though, his finest moment was the version of What Goes On from Live 1969, where the various elements of the band: Reed’s lead and vocals, Cale’s organ,  Sterling’s rhythm and Moe’s drumming come together in the most glorious celebrations of the power of rock music.  Only rarely in my life, in songs such as Where Were You? or Everything Flows or I Heard You Looking, has such a similar wondrous power affected me in a comparably elemental way. If this song was the only thing Reed did, he would live in my estimation eternally, but it wasn’t; he made so much glorious music and for that I will always remember him. Goodbye Lou; you never met me, but you helped to shape me.  


It’s a good job I’ve got plenty to say about music in this blog, as I’ve been very tardy in my reading habits since getting back to work in September, though I managed to interview David Peace for Push and I’m in the process of organising a chat with Roddy Doyle. In the meantime, I’ve only read one book; Rory Waterman’s debut collection of poetry, Tonight the Summer’s Over. Rory’s father Andrew is an accomplished post Movement British poet and was my personal tutor during my undergraduate days, when Rory was a babe in arms. As a postgraduate student at Durham, Rory accompanied me with his father to Mark Toney’s on Grainger Street in November 2005, before the two younger of us took in Dirty 3 at the Academy; fabulous gig it was too. Rory is now a lecturer in English and Creative writing at Nottingham Trent University and a poet of some repute.

His collection is impressive and personal; Waterman junior has an honest, unflinching eye and a superb turn of phrase, especially when talking of such difficult personal subjects as his parents’ divorce and the subsequent custody battle over the infant him. It was a narrative I learned in exhaustive detail from his father and it is one that is fascinating to hear from another perspective.

I enjoyed the collection immensely and will continue to observe Rory’s upward trajectory with interest and admiration. His talent must make his father, also a poet of great ability, immensely proud.

I don’t often go to the pictures; mainly because I can’t sit still and keep my mouth shut for 2 hours. The last time I’d been was to see either The Damned United (daft hair) or The Lovely Bones (sentimental tripe) back in 2009 I reckon; even then, I only went as I’d read the books. The same thing happened when I lashed out £9.30 to be among an audience of 12 watching Filth at Odeon Silverlink on a Friday tea-time. I loved the book but the film, other than James McEvoy’s virtuoso performance as doomed detective Bruce Robertson, was an utter pile of dogshit. Denuded of the novel’s subtleties and nuanced subplot, it was a lame gore fest of ever more tasteless gags and garish innuendo. Worst of all was Jim Broadbent phoning in his performance as a psychotherapist; although it was strange to see an elderly and portly John Sessions for the first time in a decade.

McEvoy has been rightly praised for his acting, but other than that, I could not honestly find any other redeeming feature in the whole film. On that basis, I doubt I’ll be at the cinema in another 4 years. The coffee was horrible too. Bitter.


The last couple of months have been dominated by 3 stand-out gigs that have been incredibly important and enjoyable for differing reasons. Firstly, in September Wire played The Cluny, in support of their fascinating revisiting of their great lost album, Change Becomes Us, which I’ve bought and think is excellent. However, seeing them live with Ben, who got me the tickets for Fathers’ Day, was a joy, as they put in the best performance I’ve ever seen by them. The sheer volume and intensity of performance that these fellas, who are pushing 60 you know, put into this gig was absolutely amazing. In the context of a 250 capacity hall, with a rapt, hardly drinking, equally gender mixed audience, it was an almost euphoric event. Certainly Another the Letter and Map Ref. 41ºN 93ºW have never sounded better. I have long contended that Wire are the most important 1977 English band, in terms of both influence and quality of product; their continuing existence and releases seem to prove me correct. This was an absolutely epochal gig.

The same has to be said for Christy Moore at the Tyne Theatre; his third venue for his last 3 Newcastle gigs and, I have to say the best on both counts. The set list was as follows -:

1.How Long
2.Missing You
3.Magic Nights
5.I'm A Bogman
6.Curragh of Kildare
7.Smoke and Strong Whiskey
8.Little Musgrave
9.Farmer Micheal Hayes
10.The City Of Chicago
12.On Morecambe Bay
13.Spancil Hill
14.Dont Foget Your Shovel
15.First Time Ever I saw Your Face
16.Viva La Quinte Brigada
17.Ride On
18.D T S
19.Bright Blue Rose
20.Ordinary Man
21.The Magdalen Laundries
22.Cliffs of Doonen
23.Well Below the Valley
24.Out on the beach
25.Faithfully Departed
26.A Pair of Brown Eyes
28.Before the Deluge

29.Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Not bad for a bloke who is pushing 70 and only has a guitar and his native wit to keep us amused. He was in great form because his side Moorefield had won the Kildare County Final the same afternoon and that’s no doubt why we got The Curragh of Kildare. However, the absolute highlight for me was Spancil Hill, which he dedicated to me as I’d sent him an email asking for it. It is possibly my favourite song of his and it was so special to finally hear him do it live; what an absolute honour. I’ll never tire of hearing Christy Moore.

Same has to be said of The Wedding Present. Switched from Hoult’s Yard to the 250 capacity Think Tank, this was as up close and personal with the band as you could hope to be. Halfway through the third song, Brassneck, we were reminded exactly why we keep coming to see this band. The touching cover of The Velvet Underground’s She’s My Best Friend was appreciated, even if Mr Gedge has gone on record to say it’s the worst thing he’s ever done, but no matter.

While the 1992 Hit Parade singles aren’t as good as, say, Seamonsters , there were still many highlights, such as Come Play With Me and Love Slave. However the house was totally brought down by the closing duo of My Favourite Dress and Pleasant Valley Sunday. Roll on next year, when they’ll no doubt be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Watusi, though the excellent 7” only release Two Bridges shows that the band are still capable of excellent new material.

A couple of freebies this month as well; in Windows I picked up AIM Independent Music Awards 2013 Nominees Sampler. It’s got a heartfelt down home Country & Western crooning love song, Handyman Blues, by Liberal Democrat voter, Baron Bragg of Bridport that I enjoyed as a standout piece; he does love so much better than politics these days. Meanwhile the rest of the collection is by a previously unknown (to me at least) collection of artistes like Gunning for Tamar, Fists, Jessy Lanza, Fuxa, Lola Colt, Money, Iceage, Lord Huron and Oneohtrix Point Never. Having giving the disc a couple of spins, I think they’ll stay this way. At least I got through a listen to the whole thing; a student gave me Well Connected by dull, ageing Tyneside Stiff Little Fingers impersonators The Dipsomaniacs that I ejected after about 10 minutes as it’s bloody awful, though the bonus 3 tracks by Serbian anarchopunks The Bayonets are quite diverting; mainly because they don’t sing in English so I can’t wince at the dull, worthy clichés they espouse, unlike The Dipsomaniacs. File under dated and formulaic.

One great freebie though was A Document of the Last Set by unapologetic slow noise merchants, That Fucking Tank. My pal Dr Jonathan Hope sent me the That Fucking Tank album, which is a raucous, rip roaring explosion of jagged sound. If the band are set to take an indefinite hiatus after a decade or more of such sonic terrorism, this album, bookended by an incredibly camp non-native English speaker acting as MC, will act as a fitting codicil to a career lived noisily on the margins of music. We need more bands like That Fucking Tank you know.

In November, I’ve tickets to see Television, Euros Childs and, on his annual stop off at the Star & Shadow, Vic Godard.  Penetration’s Pauline Murray is playing the same night as Television, but I’m not up for both sadly; the Television gig, £27 a go at the Sage, must take preference as I missed seeing them at the City Hall in 1977. However, I always had my Marquee Moon 12” to fall back on; now, thanks to Tynemouth market, I am the proud owner of the follow up, also on 12” but in green vinyl, Prove It. It is as awe inspiring and multi layered in its glorious textures as I remembered it. The gig is something I will write about in my final Sound & Vision of the year.

Euros Child’s new album, Situation Comedy, is a serious affair; pitched halfway between the pared down, piano driven Ends of 2011 and last year’s mid-70s rock-a-boogie Seaside Special, the latest offering is beautifully embellished by the heavenly flute playing of Laura J Martin, as well as The Wellgreens acting as Euros’s house band. The single Tete a Tete is another gloriously commercial dollop of mid 70s era pop rock, but there’s also a daft Country & Western parody in Daddy’s Girl and a glam rock spoof in Brides in the Bath to enjoy as well. However, there is a serious side to the album; the honest and introspective Holiday from Myself and the exploration of the consequences of depopulation in rural Wales that is Second Home Blues are both thought provoking. The stand out track, the anthemic Trick of the Mind, is a lengthy prog rock influenced tour de force, driven by an insistent piano motif. As ever, Euros Childs has produced a compelling, detailed, richly compiled and immensely sensitive collection of songs. He is an absolute treasure and I’m so looking forward to seeing him at the Star & Shadow on November 23rd.  I’ll write about that one next time as well.

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