Category: music

Screen shot 2019-11-17 at 09.51.41I am currently reading Ursula K.Le Guin’s wonderful collection of talks and essays – ‘The Wave Of The Mind’.

One essay, written for her own entertainment in the 1990s, is entitled ‘Collectors, Rhymesters And Drummers’ and contains this quote on the importance of words that I wish I had read as a student of English Literature when I was at school :

“Words, whether in poetry or prose, are as physical as paint and stone, as much a matter of voice and ear as music, as bodily as dancing.

I think it is a major error in criticism ever to ignore the words. Literally, the words: the sound of the words – the movement and pace of sentences – the rhythmic structures that the words establish and are controlled by.

A pedagogy that relies on the “Cliff Notes” sort of thing travesties the study of literature. To reduce the aesthetic values of a narrative to the ideas it expresses, to its “meaning,” is a drastic impoverishment. The map is not the landscape.”


ALDOUS HARDING – Live at the Locomotiv Club, Bologna 15th November 2019

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Aldous Harding – an icy stare and a precocious talent.

By common consensus Aldous Harding is seriously weird; a woman who boldly wears her eccentricity on her sleeve. Watch any of the New Zealander’s captivating videos for evidence of this and her only concert date in Italy this year provided further proof.

She has a distinctive way of gurning and grinning that looks faintly ridiculous but demands attention and manages to communicate by body language alone.

She adopts a theatrical air of aloofness with every move appearing to be considered and/or choreographed even when simply tuning her guitar or adjusting the microphone stand.

Dressed from head to toe in plain black, she gives a sense of being a woman wound so tightly as to be constantly on the brink of throwing a wild tantrum. No one in the audience dares break the silence between songs for fear of being on the receiving end of one of her icy stares.

Her voice ranges from that of a petulant schoolgirl to a hardened femme fatale; a cross between early Joanna Newsom and late Nico. She’s backed by a four piece band but remains the centre of attention throughout.

The theatrical mask never slips; not stepping out of character even when receiving a bouquet of roses from a smitten fan. The mannered stage persona exudes supreme self assurance but the play acting also conveniently distracts from any hints of shyness or nervousness.

Most of the songs in her relatively short set come from the latest album, ‘Designer’, although she ends with ‘Blend’ from her second album, ‘Party’ and for the encore performs a similarly upbeat new song, ‘Old Peel’ . Both these tunes suggest that her music is moving beyond traditional folk towards a playful disco-pop sound.

Whatever direction she takes she has already established herself as a unique talent and I can only imagine her going from strength to strength.

YESTERDAY directed by Danny Boyle (UK, 2019)

yesterday Can this really be the same director who brought us Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and 28 Days Later?

Aside from one of the most unconvincing and sexless love stories ever brought to the big screen, the audience is asked to swallow whole the most lamely contrived plot devices (and holes) in the name of blurry-eyed nostalgia.

If this had all been pitched as a dream, we might have accepted that anything is possible as we do when Alice falls into Wonderland and Dorothy lands in Oz. But here we are in the real world of modern England with Himesh Patel in the part of Jack Malik.


Help me if you can!

He is a struggling singer from Suffolk who is about to quit when an global blackout causes a planetary memory loss of epic proportions.

Following this inexplicable (and unexplained) event we are asked to believe that :
1. Nobody remembers The Beatles.
2. Cigarettes and Coca Cola don’t exist
3. Harry Potter was never written.
4. John Lennon lives to enjoy a contented solitary retirement in a house by the sea.
5. A mediocre ginger-haired singer-songwriter plays a show and fills Wembley Stadium.

All of these are plainly absurd although since the fifth just so happens to be true, I suppose screenwriter Richard Curtis would resolutely defend his corner.

The Ed Sheeran cameo is especially grueling for self-respecting music fans although it could have been worse since rumor has it that Coldplay’s Chris Martin was first choice for this role.

This truly dreadful movie makes even the soppiest of Disney fantasies look like works of gritty social realism.

The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers (Bluemoose, 2017)

Why I read this book

gallowsFirst and foremost I fell in love with the cover art. I know, I know ….you should never judge a book in these terms but it does make a difference.

A naff cover can be off-putting. I cool cover means you can look fashionable when reading in public, something that is not possible with a Kindle.

I liked the image to Gallows Pole because it looks like a subversive Penguin Modern Classic.  It made me think of Weird British folk art; the kind of deranged visions that feed into Wyrd folk music and the cult movie classic, The Wicker Man. Could, I wondered, Benjamin Myer’s writing conjure up the same mood?

What’s it about? (Without spoilers)
The novel is inspired by real events in and around the Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire in the late 18th Century. It centres on the Craig Vale Coiners, a motley assembly of struggling land workers led by ‘King’ David Hartley. The gang forge coins in an attempt to get rich and challenge the oppressive capitalist system that keeps them poor and powerless. Hartley is an anti-hero prone to “delusions of grandeur, extreme hallucinations featuring stag-headed men and supreme acts of cruelty and violence”. Continue reading

EARTH ABIDES by George R.Stewart (1949)

earthIsherwood Williams (Ish) is not much of mixer which is just as well because most of humanity has just been wiped out by a deadly virus.

You might imagine this means the horror of piles of corpses lying everywhere but the dead bodies have either all been buried or we assume that all the victims gathered together in medical centers to tidily expire en-masse.

When we meet Ish, he is laid up in his remote mountain cabin after a snake bite. This poison seems to be the reason he is immune to the pandemic.

When he recovers he finds that civilization as he knows is has disappeared.  Being a pragmatic and practically-minded kind of guy he resolves to cope with the great disaster methodically and logically. He gets a truck, food supplies, weapons and a dog. His trusty hammer becomes both a life saver and a symbol of his enduring strength. Continue reading

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