Thursday, December 30, 2004

Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

Before I start, a couple of new links on the left which are well worth checking out.
Now...where to begin? Well, why not the start!
I don't think I mentioned my Christmas presents - superb they were. Brian Wilson's Smile, Belle and Sebastian's Tigermilk and Josek K's The Only Fun In Town (with the previously unreleased Sorry For Laughing included on the same CD). I'd be surprised if anyone thought anything other than: "Wow, what a fucking monumental addition to your record collection, Reidski!"
In fact, I'm listening to Smile as I write and it moves me to tears. And brings back memories of two of the greatest gigs I have ever been to - both Brian Wilson, both at the Royal Festival Hall. the first, a couple of years ago with Pet Sounds and the other earlier this year with the aforementioned unreleased gem.
I don't use the term genius for any old musical tom, dick or harry, but I do make an exception for Brian Wilson.
It's been a great year for music, methinks. I went along to some amazing gigs, anyway. I can't quite make my mind up as to what the gig of the year was, though. The already mentioned Brian Wilson at the Royal Festival Hall, perhaps? Richmond Fontaine at the Borderline, maybe? No, while those two were very close to being life-changing events, I'll plump for The Pixies at the Brixton Academy - a great venue for what was a totally mental night of musical perfection.
Some thought really does have to go into my album of year - I'll return to this one at a later date, I think. I would, however, put an early plug in for, predictably, Smile, but there are others in the form of the Futureheads, Richmond Fontaine, Modest Mouse, Steve Earle (which, unforgiveably, I don't have yet), the Zutons, The Libertines and, last but not least, a superb comeback by the Trashcan Sinatras. Talking of the latter makes me think of the award for luckiest bastard of the year. This is shared by The Scottish Patient (he got to see the one-off reformed Fire Engines as they supported Franz Ferdinand) and Ms Ardeelee, aka Life In Print, who got to see the Trashcan Sinatras about 10 million times over the last year. So, well done, those two lucky bastards.
Just finished a rather brilliant novel today. Leviathan by Paul Auster. I've now read around six of Auster's novels and would recommend them to anyone who can read. His writing is quite amazing. Leviathan is the story of a writer who goes off the rail a bit and then ends up being obsessed about the Russian anarchist Alexander Berkman. Berkman, as you can read at the link, was partner of Emma Goldman, who was another Russian emigre based in the US at the turn of the 20th Century. They were then exiled back to Russia in 1916. While both interesting characters, my interest in their story waned after the Russian people won their revolution, which left the likes of Berkman and Goldman to wank off into their personal bourgeois sunset together.
Apart from finishing of this great novel, I had a rather splendid day altogether - although this may change as the boy has just, at the time of 1.10am (yes a.m.) shouted down for a hot water bottle. So here I am back after making hot water bottle.
What was I saying....oh yes, great day. Three of the boy's old schoolfriends from his junior school descended on the house for the day, leaving the Reidski flummoxed as to what he should do. Then a thought came to me - Reidski, do nothing. I obeyed this order. The boys all then left chez Reidski this evening, which allowed me, 'er indoors and the boy to attend local Chinese buffet restaurant. This had been promised to the boy some weeks ago as a result of his marked improvement at school since the mid-term bad report incident. He really did take his time settling in to the big school, but, it looks as if he is now on the straight and narrow. Well, we'll see. Anyway, Chinese buffet food - you know that it is not high cuisine, but it is well tasty and, as for that Tsingtao, I like that very much.
I'm off to research the British Empire Exhibition of 1924, so s'yall again sometime.
Just before I go, the title of this blog was supposed to refer to my thoughts on the anti-war movement over the past few months and, in Britain anyway, how it got caught up in the most terrible sectarianism. I was also going to comment on the Tommy Sheridan resignation, being, in my opinion, the result of the sadly not defunct presbyterian (and other religion's) moralistic bullshit that still runs through the left in Scotland. I'll come back to both these issues at a later date.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

My Wandering Days Are Over

Just back from a few days away from the big beautiful city. Had much fun at the football just before we went - 3-1 win for the Lions against top-of-the-table Ipswich. And a story to tell from the game too as the guy I went along with ended up being the fourth official. While we cheered the Lions on to first-half glory together, he spent the second half telling the managers and coaches not to stray over the so-called technical zone, holding up the boards for substitutions and informing the masses how much additional time would be added on at the end. Very weird indeed. Another victory ensued on Tuesday, with Barry Hayles scoring three goals - all from the head - against Derby.
I feel an end-of-the-year Big Blowdown awards ceremony coming on, will have to wait until after dinner and a visit to the pub to watch Newcastle v Arsenal. Yes, I know I spend far too many hours of my life in the pub, but I like it!
See y'all later, hear.

Friday, December 24, 2004

My My, Hey Hey

Classic Posted by Hello

Picked up this CD for a fiver. But, no, I'm not a latecomer to this band. I've got all their albums on vinyl and always thought of them as one of the greatest ever bands. What I'm about to do now is try and get a ticket for their London gig next month - I'll keep whoever's interested at a later date...

I could never do this band justice with my crappy writing, so I'll leave it to the wordsmith of rock n roll, Marcus:

"The Gang Of Four
Greil Marcus, July 1990
The Gang Of Four - Dave Allen, bass, Hugo Burnham, drums, vocals ("It's Her Factory"), Andy Gill, guitar, vocals ("Anthrax," "Paralysed"); and Jon King, vocals and melodica -played their first show in the summer of 1977 in Leeds, England. Burnham, Gill, and King were middle-class graduates of Leeds University: Allen was a working-class musician who answered a bassist-wanted ad for a fast R&B band. They were one of countless groups to spring up in the wake of the promise people heard in the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K.": the rules have changed. Now anything you want, anything that's on your mind, can be made into pop music. It's your move.
There was something on the Gang of Four's collective mind, picked up from books, painting (Manet's especially), movies (notably Jean-Luc Godard's Numero Deux), not-so-fast R&B (George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic), and Leeds street politics (marches against the neo Nazi National Front party that ended with police violence; violent attacks by Front goons on pubs frequented by the likes of the band and their pals the Mekons and Delta 5). What was on their mind was the notion that everyday life-wage labor, official propaganda, the commodity system, but also the way you bought a shirt, how you made love, the feeling you had as you watched the nightly news or turned away from it-was not "natural", but the product of an invisible hand. It was an interested construction, someone else's project, a rulers' project. Some of the rulers were dead, some were living, but all held power. "The attitudes and beliefs that people take as being natural," King said early on, "have been inherited through the social structure they're brought up in. An example is the man who believes that women are by definition more suited to working in the home than to making decisions. The belief in the natural puts all this outside the realm of debate - and unless you have an awareness of your ideas as political manifestations, you won't believe you can change them."
"If you're not aware of the processes and thoughts by which you arrive at a statement about a situation", Gill said of the bands songs, "If you're not aware of that, you probably can't sufficiently analyse the situation". Highfalutin stuff, even after the Sex Pistols had pinned history itself as a "mad parade" and the Royal Family as a theme park, but when I first saw the Gang of Four I didn't catch a word and could have cared less. They were opening for the Buzzcocks in San Francisco in 1979; they'd just released their first album, Entertainment!, in the U.K.: no one in the audience had heard it. They took the stage and held it as if all bets were off. I couldn't take my eyes off Gill, scared, tense, but ready, he looked like an extra from a British end-of-the-world movie suddenly forced to carry the film.
I saw the Gang of Four play many times after that night - in England, in Los Angeles, again in San Francisco, after Busta Jones and then Sara Lee replaced Dave Allen, after Gill and a drum machine (on record) and Steve Goulding (on stage) replaced Hugo Burnham - and the shock of that night, its displacement, was always present. Jon King was hurled around the stage as if by an unseen puppetmaster, as instruments dropped out, leaving holes in the sound, as the wrong man plugged them, leaving holes of his own, you could almost see the puppet's strings being cut, you could certainly hear them. As King jerked, Andy Gill attacked him; Dave Allen upended both of them. Hugo Burnham hammered at all three like a judge. I walked out of that first show before the Buzzcocks came on; I didn't want to know what they had to say. I didn't want anything to break the confusion, the delicious horror, of what the Gang of Four had done.
What had they done? Always, they were talked about as some kind of rebel-rock or agit-prop ("neo-Marxist funk" as one treasured review put it), or as a band bent on the deconstruction of all received ideas, including all received ideas about rock 'n' roll. Even the band members occasionally said such things, but that wasn't exactly it.
The Gang of Four acted out, and out into records, a picture of an individual who had discovered that ordinary life - the gestures of affection and resentment one made every day, the catch phrases one spoke every day as if one had invented them - is in fact sold and bought as grease for shopping and silence, for the accumulation of capital and passivity. The person who has made this remarkable discovery begins to re-examine his or her life, and it begins to look different: "Natural's Not in It." History - "Not by Great Men." A woman in the home: "It's Her Factory."
Life looks different, but it doesn't change. The Gang of Four pursued their subject's discoveries not as if they might lead to some grand general strike, some revolutionary epiphany ("it's a good name," a fan told them, not likely thinking of China's Maoist Gang of Four, "because there are four of you"), but as if, once recognized, those discoveries would remain trapped in the prison of familiarity. Playing everyman on stage, Jon King was never free. He was an explosion of doubt. He dramatized a glimpse of liberation, but simultaneously the wish to conform, to be at home in the only home available, not matter how false.
When Hugo Burnham sings "It's Her Factory", he speaks conversationally about a news item he's encountered; he's sardonic but direct. When Andy Gill recites the theory behind "Anthrax" or the monologue of "Paralysed" when he momentarily takes over "Damaged Goods" or any of the other tunes in which he's immediately evident (his grainy voice has none of King's wail in it), he's no less naturalistic. Both men get to the point, and both are a bit forbidding. But King is the Gang of Four's patsy - and the world's. In almost every song, you can hear a very specific struggle: the struggle of the person who has heard the bad news to love it. He always fails. He realizes everything he does is second-hand, a waking dream, a dream someone else has dreamed for him - when he walks into a pub and greets friends with a line he's half-consciously lifted from last night's sit-com, he's an advertisement. He hears himself and he feels tricked, humiliated, so he smashes into his friends, into the other members of the band, as if he's never seen them before but knows they mean him no good. Screaming, he insists that he's happy.
Dave Allen, Burnham, and Gill work as the singer's bad conscience. Most pointedly it is Gill, along with King co-author of almost all of the band's lyrics and co-designer of their hilarious sleeve art. On stage he was by far the most intense and willful of the actors. He remains the locus of danger in the songs. While King splatters himself across the music, Gill is watchful, the man who knows too much; he communicates terror because he has an idea what's coming. As a guitarist he is also the narrator, to the degree that the Gang of Four, their words not much less cut up than their sound, used one. The rhythm section can frame the singer's absurdities, but not keep up with him; Gill is the musician who communicates the value of form, of one-thing-leads-to-another, even when what has to be said demands that ordinary narrative be abandoned, demands that the urge to speak, or the impossibility of making oneself understood, be dramatized rather than any message or thought. Allen, Burnham, and Gill may be the singer's bad conscience because as they play they make irrevocable choices, and fix their value; he can't.
You could see this happen on stage, and you can hear it in the music; you don't have to follow any lyric sheet. From "At Home He's a Tourist" to "Capital (it Fails Us Now)" to "I Love a Man in a Uniform" the Gang of Four's music was always about resistance, but it was not the resistance of the rebel against the ruler. It was about the resistance of the rebel against him or herself. Most of the time, most intensely, most dramatically, the struggle ends with a raging acceptance, a rage that can't find its target: that's what happens in "Damaged Goods" with its many puns echoing off THE CHANGE WILL DO YOU GOOD, a supermarket slogan, the promise of a new life summed up in a few pennies less for eggs and cheese; that's what happens in "To Hell with Poverty" and "The History of the World." Occasionally, as with the quiet mumbled "Paralysed" a person faces oblivion, in this case what unemployment is so chillingly called in the UK, "redundancy". Rage becomes meaningless, and the acceptance you hear takes on a new form: self-hate.
The Gang of Four offered no anthems, no tunes of right and wrong. They were interested in constructing a drama in which each listener found his or her place as a new historical subject, set free from all certainties, all forms of common sense and obvious conclusions set free in a convulsion you can hear in so many of the numbers on this disc, perhaps most fiercely in "Return the Gift". It's a little tale about how an individual shrinks - how one becomes not a subject but merely an object of history -when he or she wins a radio give-away contest.
It's a song about the way the winner exchanges the multitudes of a unique personality for Capital's reductive prize, fear. That terrible chant from the winner's psyche: "Please send me evenings and weekends/ Please send me evenings and weekends ..." in King & Gill's voices and the stuttering beat of the band you hear the fear that, having accepted a symbol of a good life (evenings and weekends to the contrary, the top prize in "Return the Gift" seems to be an inside shower) as a substitute for the confusions of your own self, you will cease to exist.
In this fixed game if you win you are the king, your home is your castle, but at home you 1 feel like a tourist. Return the gift, the song is shouting, give it back before it's too late!
It's always too late in the Gang of Four's songs of acceptance: you know perfectly well that nothing in "Return the Gift" is going back. But even when the band insisted on refusal, they reached the same pass; there is a way in which everything the Gang of Four did is caught in "We Live As We Dream, Alone," from their third album, Songs of the Free, released in 1982. Here there is no acceptance, but also no rebellion, only isolation. To see through the mystifications of the natural is to be free; it is also to face a kind of exile, to be exiled among everyone else, everyone who passes by a supermarket, sees the banner shouting "THE CHANGE WILL DO YOU GOOD" and doesn't get the joke.
The Gang of Four played their last show at a college north of San Francisco in 1984. They got the joke, they made a brief career out of it. Sometimes, though, the career they made out of the joke, the show they put on, was so violent that when Jon King jumped all out s body, as Andy Gill aimed guitar notes at him, as Hugo Burnham refused to let anyone stop, ve Allen twisted the story far beyond their chance to understand it - his head hit the eiling of the nightclub where, on that night, the show was on. You couldn't hear the words, the people in the crowd had already learned them. The crowd moved like a centipede on its back. "

I hope you people stayed the course for this, by the way, I thought it was well worth it!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Left To My Own Devices

Very very good indeed! Posted by Hello

I seem to have done nothing but have fun over the last week or so - well, apart from have a (physical) fight with 'er indoors and the boy on Sunday morning, but let's not go into too much detail on that one!! Other than to say it was all rather undignified for everyone.

Had a rather wonderful Christmas lunch out with my departmental colleagues last Thursday in a superb Italian restaurant. Drinking started at around 12 midday, which resulted in one colleague making a complete fool of himself. For some of us it was a case of: "Yes, it wasn't me this year!" The stories of what he got up to will be retold and retold and retold for at least another 12 months. Nevertheless, it in no way spoiled a great day out. In fact, it added to it. After our lunch, we met up with colleagues from another department and had a really jolly evening in the pub, with the Reidski and a couple of others spending much money on the quiz machine and being too drunk to answer many questions. And a brief snog with a (female) colleague was about as embarrassing as it got for Reidski - nothing compared to past shameful episodes, it must be said!

Saturday was work. Yes, we have a Saturday shift, which means that, with eight of us in the department, we each do six Saturdays a year - hardly a hardship! I then followed up my shift with a trip into town to do some Christmas shopping, followed again by a night in the pub. I don't normally go to the pub on a Saturday evening, but I knew 'er indoors was wasted in bed at home and the boy was at the cinema with friends. I visited two of my favourite local pubs, the first of which I got spend a very enjoyable couple of pints with a Hibs fan I drink with now and again and followed this up by going to the pub at the end of the street with a couple of my neighbours and got completely stoshus.

Sunday was MENTAL - apart from the fight. Went to drive the boy to his football game only to find that the car wouldn't start. Tried to jump start it without any success whatsoever. With no other parents having turned up to drive the players to the game, meant no joy of getting to game by that method. So, the boy and Reidski get taxi - taxi driver didn't have a clue how to get to the park where the game was being held (there is logic to knowing your way around the city if you are a taxi driver, me thinks) and Reidski had to check the map for directions. Eventually got there and paid the guy £9 - this for a journey of around 3 miles. Turned up to find half of the boy's team-mates there, with the coach's missus making another journey to collect the other half after having dropped the first lot off. No sign of any opponents at this stage, by the way. Other half turn up (with one having to spend the journey in the boot), but still no opponents on the scene. So we waited and waited and waited.......and then decided to go home. The boy and Reidski walk home, which was tiring, but very nice. And then...

...what an unbelievably brilliant Sunday evening we then had. We had invited some neighbourhood friends round for Christmas dinner - some are leaving for Iceland this week and some leaving for Edinburgh. 'er indoors cooked a wonderful roast beef dinner. Apres dinner it was full-on disco, with a fine selection of vinyl and CDs being played. There was much dancing and, when the punk came on, much moshing.

'er indoors and the boy had a night out last night, so Reidski decided to have one of his own. First up after work was a trip to the cinema to see the absolutely brilliant Comme Une Image (Look At Me). It was hilarious at times, but also absolutely sad. I would recommend you see this one, but, of course, not being a Hollywood blockbuster, this may prove difficult for some of you non-metropolitan types. Then, surprise surprise, I was down my local watching the footie and watching a group of the most drunken women attempting to chat up every bloke in there - except me, sad to say.

My cinema trip followed two recent cinema trips to see I Heart Huckabees, which ranks as one of the best and funniest films I have seen in a long time. Tremendous acting, great storyline and wonderful look - this really is film-making at its best. I came out of it thinking that the core message is that gobbledegook new-age thinking is a load of old bollocks - and made me think that I must read Francis Wheen's book How Mumbo Jumbo Took Over the World ( or something like that). We live in an age where people actually take things such as feng shui seriously - totally bonkers, mate! For crazy ideas and beliefs, try this story out.

Anyway, I'm going on a bit tonight, time to shut up...

Before I go, some great sounds coming out of the Reidski's deck tonight - we've already had Morrissey and we're now on The Delgados, while I may give Wire or Wedding Present a spin afterwards.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Sorry For Laughing

Tee hee hee hee hee Posted by Hello

Yes, I know it's petty of me, but when I hear thousands of people singing God Save The Queen and songs which contain lines such as "up to our knees in fenian blood" I think what every right thinking person thinks: Fuck 'em.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

I'm Not Down

I'll bounce back! Posted by Hello

Hi folks. So who thought I had died and gone to the great big blogger in the sky, then? Certainly not tnr - and, before I go any further, I cannot be bothered doing the links, okay? - who has been too busy buying a brand spanking new computer, running around Irvine theatre land (yes, you people, such a thing exists). Certainly not my anonymous friend (who doesn't have her own blog, by the way) but who has been too busy at Sohemian discussions, office parties and badminton - great serve, it has to be said! Certainly not Kev W, who, in between appearing on radio and television and shamefully plugging his own work on his blog has been enjoying what I believe is the welcome resurgence of the Hibees - except for that great result when they played the Tic. Inveresk Darren - no wait, he has been doing fuck all, by the looks of it. And, last but by no means least, there is Ardeelee (Life In Print). Ardeelee puts the most amazing photos on her blog and (grrrrr grrrr, I'm jealous) she has recently mentioned a visit to her home state of California by the Trashcan Sinatras. She then posts a comment in support of the death penalty but cannot handle the criticism she received. Ardeelee, I do say directly to you, it is an opinion you have. You are fully entitled to that opinion. People then disagreeing with you are entitled to their opinion. It is not that you are right or wrong or that they are right or wrong, it's just simply that you disagree. Just like I disagreed with you. Have the conviction of those opinions and keep blogging away about them. Differing views are what make the world an interesting place. That is not to say that we should all come out with some dodgy racism or fascism ..... but I hope you all know what I mean!
I, myself, don't really get involved with discussions about what is left-wing or right-wing views these days, because I find the lines aren't as clear cut as they might seem - I may return to that one at a later date! Only to say that I find the Spectator to be one of the most readable and best written and humorous journals being published these days, while the Guardian is usually filled with anti-union liberal pro-EU superstate garbage. And I don't know which one is the most left wing or right wing!
Right, why the sad image above? Well, Reidski's football team got beat tonight. No, I don't mean the team that Reidski supports, but the one he plays for. It was a floodlit, astroturf, eight-a-side job. Reidski played up front on his own for the first half. High balls came in every time - they weren't successful, as the defence mopped them up because the Reidski had not a lot of support. Change of tactics in the second half meant I played a bit deeper and this resulted in an imporovement in the performance for the whole team. For a 40-year-old alcoholic I impress myself at my work rate, and I was happy with what I done in the second period. But it didn't stop us from getting beat 4-1. But, the bottom line for me on these occasions is that I enjoyed every minute of it and got plenty of exercise. On the subject of my football playing, we had a game on Sunday (yes, a mere 48 hours before tonight's game) when I thought I couldn't get a sniff of the goal - although I did score one beauty. Their players told me afterwards that, as a result of them watching the way I played the last time we met them, they decided to man-mark me out of the game. I take that as a compliment! Particularly as the team we were playing against were all at least 10 years younger than me.
Before I go, a word about the boy's side. They suffered their first defeat after eight victories in a row last weekend. The team they played are destined for top spot at the end of the season as a result of their games in hand, but the boy's team are still top as I write. More on this at a later date!
Oh, it's good to be back.