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WHITE HILLS IN RAVENNA

WHITE HILLS live at the Bronson Club, Ravenna, Italy – 23rd April 2015

White Hills got a cameo spot in Jim Jarmusch’s Vampire flick ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ and being a cult band in a cult movie is as close to superstardom as they are likely to get.

Undeterred by a lack of mass following, they continue to put out great albums, the latest Walks For Motorists (which I reviewed for Whisperin’ & Hollerin), is well represented in the show tonight. From it, they kick off with the punchy No Will which morphs into the motorik drone of Lead The Way. View full article »

viv_albertineCLOTHES, CLOTHES, CLOTHES. MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC. BOYS, BOYS, BOYS by Viv Albertine (Faber & Faber, 2014)

I started this autobiography expecting a fun but frivolous account of the punk era. It is all that and more.

Viv Albertine was at the heart of the heady period in the late 1970s when the British establishment were running scared. The Slits were one of the many bands that were inspired by the so-called ‘filfth and fury’ of The Sex Pistols; four feisty females who were not about to let a lack of musical expertise hold them back.

Albertine was the guitarist in that band’s early years. I regret to say that I never did see them play live but I treasure the memory of first hearing them on a John Peel session – four tracks recorded in September 1977 that captured their ramshackle brilliance.

The book contains plenty of fascinating insights into the ordinary world that preceded and followed the extraordinary explosion of rebel yells. View full article »

CARRIE & LOWELL by Sufjan Stevens (Asthmatic Kitty records, 2015)

It may be a bit early to name an album of the year but Sufjan Stevens’ elegiac seventh album will certainly take some beating.

It is a painfully sad yet breathtaking beautiful record written for and about his late mother, Carrie, who died of stomach cancer in 2012.

In the words of the opening song, Death With Dignity, “I don’t know where to begin”,  but ,suffice to say, I agree with Dave Eggers’s assessment of it as “an emotionally devastating masterpiece”.
Carrie’s death brought a sense of absence even though she was not a constant in her son’s life. She suffered from depression, schizophrenia, had bipolar disorder and was an alcoholic. On top of this, she also did drugs and had other substance abuse problems. It is not surprising that she was a difficult woman to get close to. Yet while the mother-son relationship was fraught and messy, these are songs of forgiveness not bitterness View full article »

THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt (First published 1992)

 Donna Tartt’s remarkable debut novel begins boldly with a chilling description of the murder of Edmund ‘Bunny’ Corcoran.

We immediately how this young man dies and who kills him. What we don’t know is why he was murdered and what the consequences of this act will be, Book I takes us through the events leading to the crime while Book II deals with the fall out from the killing.

Despite Tartt’s dramatic prologue, I confess there were times initially when I found her claustrophobic narrative style hard going. However, she more than rewards perseverance and once the story kicks in at the beginning of Book II, I was well and truly hooked. View full article »

Piazza d’Unità d’Italia in Trieste

I’m not going to try to bluff my way through Trieste’s historic links to the Habsburg Empire. Still, it is evident even to a historically challenged visitor like myself that the city’s northerly location on the Slovenian border sets it apart from other Italian centres. Travel writer Jan Morris described it as having a “prickly grace”.

The Piazza Unità d’Italia opens onto the seafront and is a splendid centrepiece yet while much of the architecture is similarly impressive and stately, there’s also an unmistakable air of faded glory. Many buildings in the back streets are badly maintained or semi-derelict. Some of the damage is doubtless due to the Bora, a notoriously high wind that regularly blasts through the city at hurricane force. On my last day of a short weekend break it was very blustery although I’m sure locals would classify these as light breezes. View full article »

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