Tag Archive: Manchester


UNKNOWN PLEASURES by Peter Hook (Simon & Schuster, 2012)

joyPop-pickers of a certain age and diehard hipsters out there surely won’t have missed that the title of yesterday’s post on Ricky Gervais’ ‘Afterlife’ featured a quote from the Joy Division song ‘Heart And Soul’.

This track, from their second and final album ‘Closer’, includes the tortured lines: “Existence, well what does it matter? I exist on the best terms I can. The past is now part of my future. The present is well out of hand”.

Anyone pausing to reflect on such lyrics would probably conclude that the author was either a) deeply troubled or (b) that he had been reading a little too much outsider fiction. Both of these were true of the band’s tortured lead singer Ian Curtis who hung himself on 18th May, 1980. Continue reading

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ENGLAND IS MINE directed by Mark Gill (UK, 2017)

England_is_MineIn the British Indie music scene the meeting of Marr and Morrissey is comparable in importance to that of Lennon and McCartney. Nevertheless, this biopic of Steven Patrick Morrissey is not about this alliance or indeed any aspect of the music the two made together with The Smiths.

Instead, the movie seeks to piece together the details of Morrissey’s life before he became famous. It explores the surroundings and events that inspired his amazing songs and made the band so unique. The title comes from the lyrics to the song ‘Still Ill’ : “England is mine, it owes me a living, ask me why and I’ll spit in your eye”.

We see the young Morrissey as a shaggy-haired lost soul sucked into deadend jobs and living in the grey suburbs of Manchester, a city significantly drabber and less dynamic then than it is now. The early 1970s was a grim period and that’s just the way it looks.

The key relationships for Morrissey were with strong women – a platonic girlfriend named Angie, budding artist Linder Sterling and his mother. When he complains that he can’t fit in anywhere his mother wisely advises him to “Create your own world”. Continue reading

RENEGADE : THE LIVES AND TALES OF MARK E.SMITH by Mark E. Smith with Austin Colling (Penguin Books, 2008)
markesmith_renegade

I can visualise ghost writer Austin Collings lining up the pints of beer and whisky chasers in a Manchester pub then setting up a recording device in front of Mark E.Smith.

I doubt that any overly active conversational skills would have been required since one gets the distinct impression that his subject operates best in monologue/ranting mode.

In more or less chronological order, Smith catalogues his life and times as chief hirer and firer of The Fall “for people who are sick of being dicked around”. Continue reading

MORRISSEY ON SUCCESS AND SELF TORMENT

MORRISSEY AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Penguìn books, 2013)

"There is no self-discovery in a safe life"

Steven Patrick Morrissey has, to some extent, always courted equal measures of praise and ridicule. The mean-spirited criticism by the NME and other hacks within the music press was less evident while The Smiths were still together mainly because only those with cloth ears would have dared criticise the band’s four magnificent studio albums and peerless run of singles.

As a solo artist, however,  he has become fair game for the haters so he is not exaggerating too much when he complains that “all I ever read about myself is one of intolerable egocentricity and dramatized depression”.

Carole Cadwalladr’s ridiculous Guardian article (‘Morrissey, You’re A Fraud’) exemplifies the kind of feeble-minded reporting he tends to generate these days. Cadwalladr effectively blames him for all the ills of modern Britain and writes that “he is the very definition of old news”.  If this were true, character assassinations like hers would be rejected as irrelevant but the reality, as she well knows, is that the man remains newsworthy and, moreover, is still greeted with adulation from millions of fans.

Of course, for someone with such a well-developed martyr complex, Morrissey sets himself up to be knocked down.

Morrissey’s outspoken opinions have always been designed to grab headlines and ruffle feathers so he rarely troubles to use temperate language. Likening the treatment of animals to child abuse and their slaughter for food to the holocaust is deliberate exaggeration for effect. The mass media are only too happy to rise to the bait presenting these statements with fake outrage while attracting a sizeable readership in the process.

Just one of Morrissey’s excellent solo albums.

One might argue, with some justification, that his best work is behind him but too many are quick dismiss all Morrissey’s post-Smiths work as second-rate. This judgement is one of blind (deaf?) prejudice which ignores the consistently high quality of his song writing. Morrissey acknowledges that Kill Uncle (“recording something for the sake of recording”) was a mistake but his evident pride in fine albums like Vauxhall & I, Your Arsenal and You Are The Quarry is wholly merited.

There is a rush to dismiss his autobiography in the same terms that I went out of my way to avoid reading any reviews or spoilers before reading and I think long time fans or foes should make up their own minds before being so hasty in their criticism. Continue reading

BLACKOUT HITS BBC

BLACKOUT – BBC One 

Booze is god but takes Daniel Demoys (Christopher Eccleston) on a one way ticket to hell (and back again).

If you want gritty Northern drama,Christopher Eccleston is a go to actor. In Blackout he convincingly plays alcoholic Daniel Demoys embroiled in a web of violence and deception largely of his own making.

He’s a corrupt local councillor who is supplementing his income by selling information about tenders for  lucrative service contracts.  This extra cash funds his heavy drinking and occasional whoring. When he’s not on the dark side he is a loving father and devoted husband. Redemption is on hand but comes at a cost.

This is an entertaining three parter directed by Tom Green and written by Bill Gallagher who clearly fancied working on something meatier after his adaption of Lark Rise To Candleford.

The brooding ambient soundtrack, constant rain, noirish photography and stylised aerial shots all conspire to give a Bladerunner quality to the unnamed metropolis. The actual location is referred to only as ‘the city’ but ,as it’s somewhere ‘up North’  with awful weather,  the smart money is on Manchester. Continue reading

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